The midway point of the 2023 NFL regular season is here. Actually, to be technical, it's halftime of Week 9, so feel free to read this article then. Of course, the selections won't change based on first-half play Sunday.
This is your first half of 2023 All-Rookie team. This year, we're running "12 personnel" on offense -- one back, two tight ends and two receivers -- and a nickel look on defense -- two linebackers and five defensive backs.
Nice little half-speed layup to start here. Stroud has, rather easily, outplayed the quarterback who was selected one pick in front of him, Bryce Young, to date to this season. Now, he hasn't been unbelievable. But he has mostly operated Houston's offense like it's been his offense for years. His Big-Time Throw Rate (2.8%) exceeds his Turnover-Worthy Play Rate (2.2%). That dynamic is always a positive for a quarterback, and it's especially encouraging for a first-year passer.
Achane getting selected by the Dolphins was a match made by the Football Gods, and before Achane's injury a few weeks ago, we saw that the Football Gods do no wrong with these type of pairings. Now, Achane was running in probably the most complex, hard-to-decipher offense in the NFL with the Dolphins -- hat tip to Mike McDaniel -- but this is not a "product of the environment" situation. Achane is averaging 12.1 yards per carry! That's the same amount of yards Christian Kirk averages per catch entering Week 9. My word. Achane, too, has forced 15 missed tackles on his 38 attempts. Preposterous! I'm not doing honorable mentions here, but I have to give a shout to Broncos undrafted rookie runner Jaleel McLaughlin, who's been a dynamic weapon in Denver's offense.
Nacua did his best Cooper Kupp impression during the All-Pro's injury absence to start the season, running as the true No. 1 in Sean McVay's offense and making play after play after play. Now some of his productivity has come from the high-volume role he found himself in to begin his NFL career, yet in the four games since Kupp's return, the former BYU star has 22 receptions for 294 yards with a touchdown.
Addison has done a marvelous job stepping into the No. 1 wideout role in Minnesota after the serious hamstring injury Justin Jefferson suffered weeks ago. He has seven touchdowns on the season and has worked diligently to improve his separation ability against press coverage that hampered his productivity in September. Addison also has not dropped a pass entering Week 9.
I'll admit I dislike pace statistics. Once you're at the halfway point of a season, they have some credence. Keith Jackson currently holds the all-time rookie tight end record with 81 catches for the Eagles in 1988. LaPorta's on pace for 91 grabs. Mike Ditka's 1,076 yards has long been the rookie tight end receiving-yard record. LaPorta's on pace for 922 yards. He's been a focal point of Detroit's springy offense and rocked individually, winning on 7-of-10 contested-catch opportunities and forcing five missed tackles. The George Kittle comparisons look legit.
Kincaid's forced seven missed tackles on his 30 receptions, a spectacular rate for a tight end. He missed a game with a concussion but upon returning has 13 snags for 140 yards and his first professional score in Buffalo's past two contests. Kincaid, who was blessed with massive mitts, hasn't dropped a pass from Josh Allen either. He's been as fluid with the Bills as he was at Utah.
Jones has played much like he did at Ohio State. He's an entire mountain range of a man who's simply impossible to get around -- or through -- before the quarterback releases the football. At his size, with his natural strength, and stunning balance, Jones looks like Trent Brown 2.0, and he's bigger. Jones has only surrendered 12 pressures on 261 pass-blocking snaps in Cleveland to date.
Torrence has been a steady, smooth operator at right guard in Buffalo. He's transitioned to the pro game as seamlessly as he did going from Louisiana to Florida in 2022. Blessed with long levers, a wide and powerful frame, along with impressive feet for his size, Torrence has allowed 14 pressures on 341 pass-blocking snaps and has been an assignment-sound run-blocker, helping Buffalo to clearly improve on the ground from where its rushing attack was a season ago.
I wasn't sure if Skoronski was going to be able to handle the power he'd immediately see inside at guard when moving there from tackle at Northwestern. And through the first half of his debut NFL season, Skoronski has held up relatively well against NFL-strong bull rushes at guard on the Titans offensive line. He's given up nine pressures on 152 pass-blocking snaps. Solid start for the first-rounder.
Wright started slowly -- particularly in pass pro, where he excelled at Tennessee -- and has slowly but surely come into his own getting downhill as a lane-paver for the run game. Harrison's had the opposite experience. He started outstandingly in pass pro and has fallen on some hard times of late. But his "wins" protecting Trevor Lawrence have been very encouraging. Balanced and powerful.
Stroud and Anderson, have at least momentarily, made Texans fans forget about the massive price Houston paid to be able to draft the two marquee prospects in April. Has Anderson had a Micah Parsons or Nick Bosa impact as a rookie? No. He's been damn good, though, with 25 pressures on 202 pass-rush snaps and plenty of splash plays against the run.
Tuipulotu has taken full advantage of rushing on the same defensive front as Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. A relatively small percentage of his 22 pressures have come on stunts or been due to tight coverage downfield. But every pressure counts the same in the stat book. And at 6-3 and 265 pounds, Tuipulotu has been a rock on running downs for the Chargers.
Carter has cooled off lately after a Hall of Fame start yet he is still tracking toward a second-team All-Pro distinction as a rookie with his 28 pressures on 164 pass-rush snaps -- that 16.9% pressure-generation rate is massive for any defensive tackle, much less a rookie. It's almost as if Carter was the best prospect in the 2023 class and slipped in the draft due to off-field concerns.
The No. 1 overall recruit flashes have been bright for Bresee early in his Saints career. He's a tall, thick, powerful game-wrecker when attacking up the field, and he tracks laterally like an experienced defensive tackle when getting to outside runs. He's second among all rookies with 17 quarter pressures and already has knocked down four passes to go along with three tackles for loss
The rookie class of linebackers doesn't have a true stud halfway through 2023 -- except a second-level defender who wasn't drafted at all in Pace. The blitzing extraordinaire has been too good for Minnesota to keep him off the field to begin his NFL career. He's logged the third-most snaps among rookie linebackers and has easily been the most consistent in all phases of playing the position. Pace has registered nine pressures on 55 pass-rush snaps and has only missed two tackles. So much for being too small.
The Lions have brought Campbell along slowly -- which, frankly, has been rather weird -- and although the former Iowa star hasn't been tremendous in coverage, he's yet to miss a tackle in the NFL and has accumulated 34 tackles on just 266 snaps through eight games.
An early-season injury delayed the Witherspoon breakout. Since he's been on the field, he's been an instant star in Seattle, with eight pass breakups, a 97-yard house call on an interception against the Giants and 33 tackles. He has missed four tackles but many of his takedowns have been of the highlight-reel variety, just like they were at Illinois.
Another rookie cornerback who was slowly brought along in September, Porter Jr. has now finally settled in a full-time role and has played like he should've been there all along -- three pass breakups and a pick along with just three catches allowed on 14 targets in his coverage area. Receivers haven't been able to shake Porter Jr. early in his NFL career in Pittsburgh.
A safety by title during draft time, Branch has manned the increasingly important slot defender role in Detroit like he's playing the "star" position at Alabama. He's been ubiquitous for the Lions, with 33 tackles, four of them going for a loss, an interception, and four pass breakups as the marquee playmaker on the backend.
The safety class has yet to have a real emergent star, but Howden's been the steadiest of the bunch in New Orleans, playing next to Tyrann Mathieu. Only one missed tackle and three pass breakups entering Week 9.
It's been a roller-coaster start for Brown, who's recently been inserted into the full-time lineup in Philadelphia. He was awesome against Tampa Bay, when he logged his lone pass breakup to date, but otherwise has been relatively inconsistent in coverage and as a tackler.