With 2023 now here, the 2022 NFL season is officially winding down. Only one week of regular season remains, and we have a clear picture on who the true contenders are. A common theme this season has been the emergence of rookie players, and some have already established themselves as stars in the league. Below, we’ll do some NFL Rookie Power Rankings.
Obviously, the first year doesn’t define a player’s entire career, but it is important to get off on the right foot. These players look like future cornerstones of their teams, and some of them already are. The teams who selected these players have to feel good about their performance so early in their young career.
With that said, here are the NFL Rookie Power Rankings as we hit Week 18 of the 2022 NFL season.
1. CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, New York Jets
Whenever a team nabs a starting-caliber cornerback in the draft, it’s a successful draft already. Whenever that cornerback becomes arguably the best in the NFL in his rookie season, it’s a complete home run. That’s exactly what Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has been for the Jets this season.
Gardner has locked down opposing receivers all season long. He leads the NFL with 20 passes defended, five more than the next-closest players. The Jets have held several star receivers, including Ja’Marr Chase and DK Metcalf, to season-low marks in receiving yards, primarily because of Gardner.
18 passes defensed. Most in the NFL.
⭐ @iamSauceGardner#NYJvsSEA on FOX pic.twitter.com/a9ycZwxl2X
— New York Jets (@nyjets) January 1, 2023
Gardner may only have two interceptions on the year, but that’s because most teams have avoided throwing to him. When a cornerback instills that kind of fear in opposing offenses as only a rookie, that’s a truly special player, and it’s why he sits on top of these NFL Rookie Power Rankings.
2. WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
New York didn’t just get one incredible player in the top 10 of the draft, but two. It has been a while since the Jets had a true threat at wideout, as their last 1,000 yard receivers were Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in 2015. With Garrett Wilson, the Jets now have the star receiver they’ve been sorely missing.
In his rookie season, Wilson has 74 catches for 1,014 yards and four touchdowns. He is 15th in the entire league in receiving yards, and the list of players behind him includes several established stars. Wilson has done all of this with a revolving door at quarterback, so just imagine how great he can be if the Jets find consistency under center.
First season, first 1,000-yard season. pic.twitter.com/WTcmqBHkU2
— New York Jets (@nyjets) January 1, 2023
3. EDGE aidan hutchinson, Detroit Lions
Many hailed Michigan native and former Wolverine Aidan Hutchinson as a hometown hero from the second the Lions drafted him. So far, he has lived up to the hype and then some. Hutchinson has 7.5 sacks this season, the second-most of any rookie and only half a sack behind his Lions teammate James Houston.
Hutchinson’s freak athleticism also allows him to play well in coverage, something few other linemen can do. He has three interceptions this season, the most by a rookie defensive lineman in NFL history. For context, some other players with three interceptions are Trevon Diggs, Marlon Humphrey and Denzel Ward.
.@aidanhutch97's three interceptions are the most by a rookie defensive lineman in NFL history 😤 pic.twitter.com/lw1lnXq3bP
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 2, 2023
Hutchinson has become an absolute star in his first NFL season, and it’s easy to see why he’s one of the favorites for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
4. RB Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have dramatically outperformed expectations in 2022, and it’s largely due to a stellar rookie class. Seattle drafted two starting offensive tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, plus a stud cornerback in Tariq Woolen. Out of all of them, though, Kenneth Walker III might be having the most impressive season.
The former Michigan State running back took over the starting role after Rashaad Penny suffered a long-term injury in Week 5, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. In 14 games, Walker has rushed for 936 yards and nine touchdowns, both in the top 15 in the league. He is second in rushing yards among rookies, only trailing Dameon Pierce by three yards.
1000 yards on the year and more to come. 🏃♂️💨
Keep on pushing, @Kenneth_Walker9! pic.twitter.com/jfI78F9BYe
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 1, 2023
5. QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
Brock Purdy is unique on this list in that he hasn’t been around for the entire season. The 2022 Mr. Irrelevant took over the starting quarterback role after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an injury in Week 13, and he has played at a shockingly high level. Purdy has the best passer rating in the league since taking over, and he has already climbed to the third-best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, per FanDuel.
Brock Purdy has the highest passer rating in the NFL since he took over as starter (112.7) 👀 pic.twitter.com/YA6qBAJVyf
— PFF (@PFF) January 2, 2023
This season, Purdy has completed 66% of his passes for 1,196 yards, 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The 49ers are undefeated since he took over and are scoring 32.6 points per game. Despite being Mr. Irrelevant, Purdy has been very relevant as the 49ers make their Super Bowl push, giving him a spot on these NFL Rookie Power Rankings.