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November NFL Rookie Report

From Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates to players being labeled a "bust", here's everything going on with skill position rookies.
Rookie Report

We’ve reached a point in the NFL season where there won’t be too many surprises from here on out. Teams in the playoff picture will continue to battle, while lesser teams are already shifting focus to 2024. This applies to the rookie class, as well, now that they’ve had enough time to show what they’re capable of.

Redrafting the 2023 Rookies

Quarterbacks

The vibes in Carolina are terrible, and it’s due to the lack of progress from #1 pick Bryce Young. Nobody expected this team to be good, yet they’ve still underperformed. Neither the coaching staff nor the players are helping their rookie quarterback. The lack of support around Young was exemplified by the firing of head coach Frank Reich after 11 games. It’s a dysfunctional situation, but Young needs to improve by the end of the season to give fans hope.

It’s a night and day difference going from discussing Carolina to Houston. Like the Panthers, the Texans had low expectations entering the season, but what’s transpired couldn’t be any different. C.J. Stroud is nearly a lock for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Houston’s rebuild is multiple years ahead of schedule, and it’s because of their franchise quarterback.

Will Levis burst onto the scene in his NFL debut but has been unspectacular since then. Tennessee’s offense has been as bland as ever, making it difficult to tell if Levis is “the guy.” Levis rarely has sufficient time to throw, and his receivers aren’t doing him any favors. Still, he’s looked competent enough that the team should look to build around him for 2024.

A lot changed for the Las Vegas Raiders in November, including the man under center. Aidan O’Connell, a 4th round pick from Purdue, officially took over as the starting quarterback. This change coincided with Antonio Pierce taking over as the interim head coach. O’Connell looks comfortable, and the team has rallied around him and Pierce. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Raiders drafted a quarterback this year, but O’Connell has made that decision difficult.

In other rookie quarterback news, Lions 3rd round pick Hendon Hooker is coming off injured reserve soon. The former Tennessee Volunteer has been rehabbing a torn ACL since last November.

With New England’s benching of former 1st round pick Mac Jones, Malik Cunningham is a name to monitor. Cunningham, an undrafted free agent from Louisville, received reps with the starters in practice this week.

Running Backs

Arthur Smith was doing Arthur Smith things at the end of last month with Bijan Robinson. Robinson wasn’t getting as many opportunities as he should’ve been, but things are back to normal. He’s impactful in the running and passing attack and has become a go-to player in critical situations.

Jahmyr Gibbs has officially arrived. He finished October with a 152-yard performance and has been efficient and explosive with his opportunities since. He’s making the Lions look less foolish for drafting him as highly as they did with every passing week.

After a four-game stint on injured reserve, De’Von Achane returned to the Dolphins lineup this month. It was a short-lived return as he tweaked his knee injury after two touches and hasn’t played since. Achane is dynamic when healthy but has suffered multiple injuries early in his career.

Seahawks tailback Zach Charbonnet got his first NFL start in the absence of Kenneth Walker on Thanksgiving. He wasn’t thankful that this came against the 49ers and their stout defense. Charbonnet isn’t a game-changer, but he takes what’s available and punishes defenders whenever possible. He’ll likely start again this week in another difficult matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

Wide Receivers

In hindsight, concerns about Puka Nacua’s role diminishing with Cooper Kupp in the lineup are laughable. Nacua is out-producing Kupp weekly and is effectively the Rams┬átop wide receiver. If not for the existence of C.J. Stroud, Nacua would likely be taking home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award this season.

Speaking of C.J. Stroud, one of the top beneficiaries of his play has been fellow rookie Tank Dell. Against all odds, this undersized mid-round pick has been a problem for opposing defenses. He’s on pace for well over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.

There aren’t many negatives regarding either Jordan Addison or Zay Flowers. The Vikings and Ravens seemingly hit on their first-round selections this year. Addison and Flowers are neck-and-neck statistically and consistently help their offenses move the ball. It’s safe to project both as perennial 1,000-yard receivers in the coming years.

The top receiver selected in this year’s draft, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, has been very okay. The Seahawks ramped up Smith-Njigba’s workload after their bye week, and he’s shown periodic flashes. He deserves a pass since he entered the season with a wrist injury, but it’d be nice to see a big game or two from him by the end of the year.

Quentin Johnston has been so disappointing that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Despite injuries to two starting receivers on the Chargers, Johnston is a ghost most weeks. If we’re trying to remain positive, he was a raw, developmental prospect entering the league. The hope is that his team is willing to stick with him for a year or two and endure the growing pains.

Rashee Rice, Josh Downs, and Jayden Reed are in the same boat as good-not-great rookies. They were all day two draft picks by the Chiefs, Colts, and Packers, respectively, and have been solid contributors. None of them are re-writing the record book, but they’ve exceeded expectations and should finish around 800-900 yards.

It might not sound like much, but rookie Demario “Pop” Douglas is the Patriots’ best receiver. The sixth-round selection has climbed his team’s depth chart rapidly. He leads New England in receiving yards with 410 but is looking for his first touchdown reception.

Tight Ends

Sam LaPorta has continued his dominance as one of the better rookie tight ends in NFL history. He’s as dependable as they come and rarely disappoints when he’s called upon to make a big play. Expect LaPorta to have a very long, successful NFL career.

The Buffalo Bills drafted Dalton Kincaid in the first round, hopeful he’d be a pseudo-slot receiver. Over the last month or so, Kincaid has shown he can do just that. Buffalo fans have to feel great about the role he’s settling into midway through his rookie season.

Former Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer was the most well-rounded prospect at his position this year. His skill set could be a net negative for fantasy football, as he has blocked assignments frequently. Nevertheless, the Raiders can’t complain about this. They’ve found a young tight end who helps their team in more ways than one.

Last but not least is Luke Musgrave from the Green Bay Packers. The former Oregon State Beaver is now on injured reserve, and it’s unclear if he’ll return this season. If not, his rookie campaign will consist of 33 receptions for 341 yards and a touchdown.

Main Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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