Menu Close

Rookie Impact: Analysis Of The Top NFL Rookies Entering The League In 2023 And Their Expected Impact On Their Respective Teams

NFL Wilson Ball

Some young players can go through growing pains when they first enter the NFL. Learning a new playbook on the fly is no easy task, especially when they have to focus on getting their body acclimated to the speed and size of the professional game at the same time.

It isn’t easy, sure, but that doesn’t mean that some players aren’t able to make the jump from college to the NFL with relative ease, whether because of freakish athleticism or adequate polishing at the collegiate level. 

Here’s a look at some rookies who could be primed for a breakout debut this NFL season.

First on the list is Will Anderson Jr., an edge rusher out of the University of Alabama who the Houston Texas selected with the No. 3 pick.

I’m picking Anderson over fellow Texans draft pick C.J. Stroud, who went a pick earlier at No. 2, because of the difference in pressure between being an edge rusher and being the face of a franchise at quarterback. 

The Texans are a mess from the top down, and it’ll be a big task for Stroud to step in and help them figure things out. Star edge rushers typically translate to the NFL far better than star quarterbacks do, and Anderson is a 6-foot-3, 253 pound monster who started for all three years in Tuscaloosa.

He has long arms, explosive athleticism and is already an excellent technician, though he could stand to add a few wrinkles to his pass rushing arsenal: if he isn’t able to beat opposing linemen early in a rep, he’s struggled to counter.

Next on the list is Bijan Robinson, a beastly running back out of the University of Texas.

Like Stroud, Robinson may suffer a bit from joining a shaky team. Without an excellent quarterback on the Atlanta Falcons, he could get asked to do too much (in the same vein as Najee Harris in his first two years with the Steelers), but he’s also a much better prospect than Harris was, and head coach Arthur Smith knows how to get the most out of his running backs: take a look at Derrick Henry’s numbers during 2019 and 2020 when Smith served as the Titans’ offensive coordinator.

Robinson is a bowling ball who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 215 pounds. His 4.46 second 40 yard dash time isn’t the fastest for a back of his size, but his versatility to either lean into contact or slither his way out of it makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders trying to figure out how to commit to a tackle.

Robinson has excellent hands, which adds to his value in an offense that could use easy targets. With receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts drawing the eyes of safeties and linebackers, Robinson could become a game breaker out of the backfield. 

Right now, many sports betting apps have Robinson as the favourite to win the offensive rookie of the year award, listing him at or around +300 to do so. Odds and promos can vary quite a bit depending on which app you use, so make sure to shop around first to ensure you’re locking in the best possible odds of winning big. 

I’ll round this list out with Jalen Carter, who the Philadelphia Eagles selected one pick after Robinson at No. 9. Despite being NFC Champions last season, the Eagles got to pick in the top ten because of a 2022 trade with the New Orleans Saints. As such, the rich became richer as one of the best defenders in the draft slipped to a team already loaded with talent up front.

Carter has some character question marks because of his involvement in a drag racing-related car crash that claimed a pair of lives in January.

The good news is that Philadelphia is the perfect place to help him mature: with a locker room full of established veterans there to take him under their wing, one would hope that Carter can learn from his mistakes. 

Similarly, the Eagles’ loaded defensive line (with standouts like Fletcher Cox and fellow University of Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis) will provide the perfect environment for him to thrive.

Both Cox and Davis can eat up multiple blockers apiece, leaving Carter to feast with limited attention placed on him. His combination of talent and a perfect situation mean that he’s an excellent breakout candidate from day 1, assuming he’s able to get playing time… although playing amidst a rotation could help him stay fresh, rotating in against tired offensive lines to make a game breaking play.