It’s impossible to hand out complete NFL Draft grades the day players are picked, as full context — multiple seasons’ worth — is needed for an exercise like that. However, we can do our best to chart progress along the way.
Which brings us to our All-Rookie Team at the midpoint of the NFL season. Our NFL Draft staff voted, position by position, on the standouts to this point from the 2023 class. Who’s leading the way for the first-year players?
Quarterback: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans*
Maybe the easiest pick of the exercise. Stroud was the obvious choice before this past weekend, and his remarkable performance Sunday (which included an NFL rookie-record 470 passing yards and a game-winning drive) added a few exclamation points. He has more touchdown passes this season (14) than Dak Prescott (13), Joe Burrow (12) or Trevor Lawrence (nine).
Stroud also has just one interception on 279 pass attempts. The only other quarterback who comes close to that efficiency is Lamar Jackson (three interceptions on 253 attempts). With his poise, rhythm and accuracy, Stroud has been as advertised and then some. — Dane Brugler
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Running back: Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons*; Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions; De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins
Robinson’s earning another unanimous nod (as he did after the season’s first quarter) is no surprise. He’s leading all rookie backs with 103 attempts, and he’s averaging a tick over 5 yards per carry. He’s also seeing an eight-man box on 37 percent of his rushes but has still produced 12-plus yards 12 percent of the time.
We knew Gibbs would be an asset in the passing game from Day 1, but he had a significant breakthrough as a runner in Detroit’s last game against the Las Vegas Raiders. He wasn’t just finding hidden yards out of draws and spread running schemes, either. His best moments came when he pressed the line of scrimmage and worked through traffic as a downhill runner. If that’s something Detroit can develop, Gibbs’ value will skyrocket.
It’s been about a month since we last saw Achane’s breakaway speed in action, but the other backs haven’t done enough to make up ground. Achane still boasts the league’s highest explosive rush rate (24 percent) and averages over 7 yards after contact. — Diante Lee
Wide receiver: Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams*; Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens*; Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings*; Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts*
Despite having just two touchdown catches, Nacua continues to rank in the top five among all players — not just rookies — in targets (91), receptions (64) and receiving yards (827). He is also tied with Tyreek Hill at 16 catches of 20-plus yards.
Flowers, Addison and Downs are the only other rookie receivers with 40-plus catches and 460-plus receiving yards this season. It’s no mystery why these four receivers earned honors here. Addison’s seven TD receptions have him tied with Stefon Diggs for second in the NFL, one shy of Hill.
One more nugget: There are four NFL receivers with at least 40 catches and zero drops this season. Addison and Downs make up half of that group. — Brugler
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Tight end: Sam LaPorta, Lions*
LaPorta recently broke Detroit’s franchise record for catches by a rookie tight end (43). His current 17-game pace: 91 catches, 922 yards and eight touchdowns, which would still leave him shy of Mike Ditka’s incredible 1,076-yard rookie season in 1961.
LaPorta is no longer clearly the best rookie TE in the league, though, because Kincaid (23 catches for 221 yards over his past three games) is also on pace for at least 80 catches with the Buffalo Bills.
We all told you this tight end class would be special. Despite some fits and starts, it has been. — Nick Baumgardner
Offensive line: O’Cyrus Torrence, Bills*; Darnell Wright, Chicago Bears*; Dawand Jones, Cleveland Browns*; Jarrett Patterson, Texans; Anthony Bradford, Seattle Seahawks
It’s been a wild ride for the Bears this season, but Wright has provided at least one silver lining. The Tennessee product has been the most consistent run blocker in this class, regardless of position, and looks like a true keeper at right tackle. Wright’s work as a right tackle-only prospect made him a bit of a trickier evaluation in a very close offensive tackle stack last spring. Great work by Ryan Poles to pinpoint him as a potential foundational piece.
A new arrival on our list at the halfway point is Bradford, who didn’t debut until Week 3. The fourth-round pick from LSU has flashed an outstanding blend of power and athletic balance at guard, both in pass pro and the run game. We’ll see if he can stay healthy.
The biggest surprise remains Patterson. A sixth-rounder from Notre Dame, he has started eight games at center for the Texans, and while it doesn’t always look pretty, it has been effective. Patterson has yet to allow a sack, and he has given Stroud a steady presence over the ball. — Baumgardner
Edge: Will Anderson Jr., Texans*; Byron Young, Rams*; Tuli Tuipulotu, Los Angeles Chargers
We’re not hearing much about Houston’s risky trade-up for Anderson anymore, are we? At the halfway point, Anderson is second in QB hits and fourth in total pressures among rookies. His motor is paying huge dividends in the run game, too, as he’s second among rookies in tackles.
Short of Stroud’s incredible performance, Young is running away with the “best draft value” award in this class. The 77th pick leads all rookies in defensive snaps, pressures, QB hits, sacks and forced fumbles. Young is 25 and maybe topped out sooner than most, but this is what you’d hope to get out of a player near his peak.
And Tuipulotu is the walking definition of “taking advantage of opportunities.” He likely came into the season expecting to be more of a rotational piece, but he’s seventh among all rookies in defensive snaps and ranks second among edge rushers in pressures and sacks. — Lee
Defensive line: Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles*; Keeanu Benton, Pittsburgh Steelers; Bryan Bresee, New Orleans Saints
What a coup it’s been for the Eagles to replace Javon Hargrave with a player who’s just as productive, if not more so. Carter has shared time in the rotation with the ageless Fletcher Cox and former Georgia teammate Jordan Davis, but he’s been better than both combined (29 pressures and four sacks). The best overall football player in this class looks the part.
Benton, meanwhile, saw a spike in his snap count last week — he logged two tackles and three pressures in 44 plays. The overall numbers aren’t gaudy (13 total pressures and one tackle for loss), but he’s proved an agile mover against zone-blocking schemes and just enough of an anchor against the run.
Bresee’s stats are helped by his great performance against the Carolina Panthers a month ago, but he’s been a value add for New Orleans’ run defense. — Lee
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Linebacker: Ivan Pace Jr., Vikings*; Henry To’oTo’o, Texans
Honorable mention: Jack Campbell
It was hard to get super excited about the linebackers in the 2023 draft class, and so far we’ve seen why.
With 53 tackles, To’oTo’o is the only first-year linebacker to have 35-plus tackles at the midseason point — although he also has the second-most missed tackles among all NFL defenders. Pace’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but he has been the best all-around linebacker among the rookies with his ability as a blitzer and in coverage.
Campbell has seen more snaps for the Lions in the past few weeks. He could easily gain the top spot before the season’s end. — Brugler
Cornerback: Joey Porter Jr., Steelers*; Devon Witherspoon, Seahawks*; Emmanuel Forbes Jr., Washington Commanders
Since his up-and-down NFL debut in Week 2, Witherspoon has not allowed a touchdown or catch of 25-plus yards over his past six games. He ranks second among rookies in pass breakups (six) and has been one of the better run-defending corners in the league.
Porter has locked down his side of the field, allowing a meager 28.6 percent reception rate when targeted. Forbes has had his share of low points this season, but he leads all rookies in pass breakups (seven) after an awesome performance against the New England Patriots on Sunday. — Brugler
Nickel/safety: Brian Branch, Lions*; Christian Izien, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Branch has been slowed a bit by an ankle injury, but he remains the pick here after a hot start.
Izien is another holdover from our quarter-mark all-rookie team. He, like Branch, has had his share of hiccups in coverage, but he’s also flashed some top-shelf stuff. A seventh-rounder from Rutgers, Izien has two picks from the slot already this season and has performed as an active run fitter.
One of our honorable mentions, Battle, has performed mainly in a reserve role. He has also been asked to carry heavier loads (notably, versus the run) in multiple games, though, and has performed well on each occasion. — Baumgardner
Special teams: Marvin Mims Jr., Denver Broncos*
Mims (11 receptions for 246 yards and a TD) wasn’t far from landing as an honorable mention at receiver, too. The Broncos have to keep finding ways to get him the football because he’s a home run threat whenever he touches it. Look no further than his 99-yard kick-return TD against Miami or the 20.3 yards he has averaged on seven punt returns — if he had enough chances to qualify for the NFL’s leaderboard, he’d rank first in that category. — Chris Burke
Kicker: Brandon Aubrey, Dallas Cowboys
Grupe is tied for the NFL lead with 23 made field goals, but Aubrey (19-for-19) has yet to miss an attempt. Aubrey pulled an extra-point attempt early in his debut, a 40-0 Cowboys throttling of the New York Giants in Week 1, but he’s also been perfect there ever since (19-for-20 overall).
The former soccer player-turned-USFL kicker could wind up in the Pro Bowl conversation. It’s been a remarkable first half for him. — Burke
Punter: Bryce Baringer, Patriots; Ethan Evans, Rams
We had a tie in the punter voting. Baringer, a sixth-round pick, has the third most attempts in the league (46) and has averaged 46.9 yards while pinning 22 punts inside the 20-yard line; Evans doesn’t have the same volume (33 punts), but he’s averaging 48.4 yards per attempt. — Burke