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Top 2023 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates: 3 Houston Texans players in the mix

We’re now 11 weeks into the season and the top NFL Rookie of the Year candidates on each side of the ball have started to separate themselves from the pack.

Of the three first-round picks at quarterback, C.J. Stroud has stood above the other two. Anthony Richardson of the Indianapolis Colts is out for the season. Bryce Young has struggled with the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, there are surprise rookie receivers doing their thing in Southern California and Minneapolis.

On defense, Philadelphia Eagles star younger Jalen Carter has been absolutely dominant this season. The same thing can be said about another Texans rookie in that of edge guy Will Anderson as well as a certain cornerback in the NFC West.

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Without further ado, let’s check in on our top NFL Rookie of the Year candidates heading into Week 10.

2023 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates (offense)

Honorable mention

  • Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens
  • De’Von Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins
  • Sam LaPorta, TE, Detroit Lions
  • Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Related: NFL power rankings heading into Week 12

5. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions

nfl rookie of the year: jahmyr gibbs
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Jahmyr Gibbs stats (2023): 512 rushing yards, 5.2 average, 37 receptions, 259 yards, 771 total yards, 5 TD

Gibbs takes over for fellow rookie Bijan Robinson at No. 5 in our most-recent NFL Rookie of the Year rankings. A lot of that has to do with Atlanta’s inconsistent usage of Robinson. However, Gibbs stepped up big time over the past four games (532 total yards, 5 TD)

With Gibbs likely to see more consistent touches than his counterpart moving forward, he’ll remain on this list for the remainder of the season.

4. Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings

nfl rookie of the year; jordan addison
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jordan Addison stats (2023): 48 receptions, 647 yards, 7 TD, 66.7% catch rate

This rookie from USC has been simply sensational in the six games that All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson has missed to injury. All he’s done during this span is record 29 receptions for 398 yards and four touchdowns. It has been needed with quarterback Kirk Cousins lost for the season and a newly-acquired signal caller in Joshua Dobbs replacing him under center.

Even with Dobbs tossing him the rock, Addison has played pretty well. It has Addison on pace for 74 receptions, 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Typically, this would make him a top-end NFL Rookie of the Year candidate.

3. Tank Dell, Houston Texans

tank dell, nfl rookie of the year
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tank Dell stats (2023): 42 receptions, 659 yards, 6 TD, 62.7% catch rate

Dell makes his first appearance in our candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year. C.J. Stroud pushed for Houston to select him in the 2023 NFL Draft, and it has worked out swimmingly. Over the course of the past three games alone, Dell has recorded 20 receptions for 319 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not a coincidence that the Texans are 3-0 during that span. The kid is special with a capital S.

2. Puka Nacua, WR, Los Angeles Rams

nfl rookie of the year: puka nacua
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Puka Nacua stats (2023): 69 receptions, 897 yards, 3 TD, 66.7% catch rate

This rookie fifth-round pick from BYU has seen a downtrick in production over the past few weeks. But a lot of that has to do with situations out of his control. That includes Matthew Stafford’s injury and Cooper Kupp’s return from injury.

What we do know is that Nacua projections are still insane (117 receptions, 1,524 yards). These numbers would equate to one of the best performances from a rookie wide receiver in NFL history. The question now is whether Nacua has tapped out a a rookie. He’s put up less than 50 yards in three of his past five games.

1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

nfl rookie of the year: c.j. stroud
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

About NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Let’s just hand it to Stroud without any further question. The kid is coming off a record-breaking Week 9 performance in which he threw for 470 yards with five touchdowns in a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stroud has simply been sensational this season.

If the Ohio State product was playing for a better team, we would be talking about a potential NFL MVP candidate. That’s not hyperbole. Unfortunately, Stroud did throw three interceptions in his last outing despite Houston winning a third consecutive.

Related: Predicting NFL Playoff teams and Super Bowl winner

2022-23 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates (defense)

Honorable mention

  • Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Washington Commanders
  • Jack Campbell, LB, Detroit Lions
  • Keion White, EDGE, New England Patriots
  • Tuli Tuipulotu, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

5. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

nfl rookie of the year: joey porter jr.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joey Porter Jr. stats (2023): 27 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 INT

The son of former Steelers great Joey Porter, most saw greatness out of this cornerback dating back to his days with Penn State. While Porter Jr. has started only four games this season for Pittsburgh, he’s more than proven himself as a top-five DROY candidate. Porter Jr. has allowed just 16-of-33 passes thrown in his direction to be completed for a 70.4 QB rating. More than that, he’s giving up just 7.3 yards per target. Elite-level stuff here.

4. Brian Branch, S, Detroit Lions

NFL: Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs
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  • Brian Branch Stats (2023): 43 tackles (7 for loss), 5 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 TD

We’re still trying to figure out how Branch fell to the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Chiefs were, too. In addition to recording a pick-six of Patrick Mahomes in the opener, this safety allowed a mere 40% completion rate. He’s continued to play at a high level when on the field since, yielding just 189 yards on 36 passes throwin in his direction for an average of 5.3 per. The kid is already an elite all-around safety.

3. Will Anderson, EDGE, Houston Texans

NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
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  • Will Anderson stats (2023): 33 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, 3 sacks

Anderson’s numbers are finally catching up to what we’ve actually seen on the field. He recorded two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a sack in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. It’s one of the primary reasons Houston was able to overcome a three-interception performance from C.J. Stroud to win yet another game. Anderson is also stellar against the run, pretty much making him a three-down player for a surprisingly good Texans defense under DeMeco Ryans.

2. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks

nfl rookie of the year: devon witherspoon
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Devon Witherspoon stats (2023): 52 tackles (3 for loss), 13 passes defended, 3 sacks, INT, TD

Witherspoon might have been the best player on the field as Seattle ran roughshod over the New York Giants by the score of 24-3. back in Week 4. He sacked Daniel Jones and recorded an absurd 97-yard pick-six of the struggling quarterback. It’s just the continuation of some brilliant play from Witherspoon after missing the opener due to injury. Quarterbacks are completing just 55% of the passes they throw in his direction with Witherspoon holding them to a 77.3 QB rating. They are also averaging just 4.9 yards per target. For comparison’s sake, last season’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Sauce Gardner, gave up 5.3 yards per target. Just some food for thought.

1. Jalen Carter, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles
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  • Jalen Carter stats (2023): 19 tackles (5 for loss), 7 QB hits, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Carter was seen as the top defensive prospect in the class until shortly before the 2023 NFL Draft. An off-field issue coupled with the former Georgia standout showing up to his Pro Day out of shape dropped him to Philadelphia at nine. What we do know is that he’s an elite on-field talent. Carter has shown that through 11 weeks. That includes two big forced fumbles and seven QB hits and 18 pressures. His ability to hold up against the run has been big, too.

Revisiting the 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year

nfl rookie of the year
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Two New York Jets teammates in that of wide receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Sauce Gardner earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors last season.

Wilson, the No. 10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, recorded 83 receptions for 1,103 yards despite disastrous QB play in Jersey.

Meanwhile, Gardner shockingly earned All-Pro honors at cornerback as a rookie. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 54% of their passes with a QB rating of 62.7 when targeting him.

Past NFL Rookie of the Year winners

  • 2022: Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner
  • 2021: Ja’Marr Chase, Micah Parsons
  • 2020: Justin Herbert, Chase Young
  • 2019: Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa
  • 2018: Saquon Barkley, Shaquille Leonard
  • 2017: Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore
  • 2016: Dak Prescott, Joey Bosa
  • 2015: Todd Gurley, Marcus Peters
  • 2014: Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald

When is the NFL Rookie of the Year announced?

The 2023-24 NFL Rookie of the Year will be announced during the league’s annual awards show on the weekend of the Super Bowl, February 11.

Who will emerge as the early ROTY candidates during the 2023-24 NFL season?