It’s time to rank the top rookies in the NFL after Week 15. The New York Giants got a big game from 2022 No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux in a big game with playoff implications vs. the Commanders.
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants, Edge
The former Oregon Ducks star has come on strong in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-happy scheme. Blessed with incredible lean and bend on the edge, Thibodeaux wreaked havoc all night in the Giants’ 20-12 road win over the Commanders. In the game, he totaled 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a return for a touchdown. He kept getting into the Commanders’ backfield, either blowing up the play himself or letting another teammate play.
Kayvon Thibodeaux’s strip sack was 2.5 seconds, tied for the 13th fastest sack in the NFL so far this year. This was not an unblocked sack. This was Kayvon showing why he was a top 5 pick in the draft with power and speed. pic.twitter.com/LBSkt162ru
— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) 19 December 2022
Thibs said this in the press after the game:
“Every team talks about it, we’re a family. Come on man. Everybody ain’t a family. But we are.”
2. Brock Purdy, Niners, QB
Purdy is known as “Mr. Irrelevant” for being the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But after a pair of stellar performances in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy isn’t irrelevant to NFL defenses. The former Iowa State star was sensational in the Niners’ big road win in Seattle last Thursday night, passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his command of the huddle and offense that impressed the most. His play helped San Fran win the NFC West title. In two starts, he has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, along with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
— San Francisco 49ers – x (@49ers) 16 December 2022
3. Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs, RB
When you think Pacheco, you think toughness and determination. That’s what the former seventh-rounder out of Rutgers brings to the Chiefs’ offensive juggernaut. In Sunday’s hard-fought 30-24 overtime win over the Texans, the rookie rushed for 86 yards on 11 carries. He also had two catches for 15 yards, both resulting in first downs.
Over the last six games, he has let loose on starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire by rushing for 546 yards and averaging 5 yards per carry. Pacheco has burst onto the scene and found an important role in one of the NFL’s best offenses. His tough, hard-nosed running is vital to KC’s playoff success.
4. Kaiir Elam, Bills, CB
When the Bills took Elam, the former Gators tight end corner, they hoped he could play behind starters Tre’Daviuous White and Taron Johnson. Fast forward to the season, and Elam is the best corner on the roster, with White looking like a shell of his former All-Pro self and Johnson playing underwhelming. It has been Elam who has drawn the top task weekly, and he has more than held his own in the corner.
His play allows defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to still bring intense pressure weekly.
Kaiir Elam vs Dolphins:
• 18 cover buttons
• 4 goals (2 receptions allowed)
• 11 yards allowed
• -2 YAC allowed
Bills rookie CB even had a GAME 👀 pic.twitter.com/imrssjQwYw
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) 18 December 2022
5. James Houston, Lions, Edge
The “problem” has been a problem for opposing offenses since Lions head coach Dan Campbell inserted the former Jackson State star into the starting lineup. Playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2 in 2022, Houston has collected five sacks in just four games. But see, he has 17 pressures in these games too.
That’s a sign of his real impact as a pass rusher, not just sacks.
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