2023 NFL All-Rookie Team: Stroud, LaPorta, Witherspoon lead the way

The 2023 NFL regular is in the books and after taking a little extra time to evaluate this past draft class, it is time to start giving some recognition to the rookies that hit the ground running.

All stats are from Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise noted.

LaPorta set several records for rookie tight ends in his unmatched debut season.
LaPorta set several records for rookie tight ends in his unmatched debut season. / Nic Antaya/GettyImages
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QB - C.J. Stroud

This should come as no surprise. Stroud faced very little competition for this spot, and even if he had, he would likely still have claimed it. He threw for the third-most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, trailing only Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert. His TD-INT ratio was an impressive 23-5, posting the lowest interception percentage in the league. There are still some areas for growth with Stroud. His completion percentage of 63.9 percent was 22nd in the league. Even for a player who throws downfield as much as Stroud does, that number will need to come up for him to enter the conversation with the league's elite passers. Through one regular season though, it sure seems like the Texans have found their next franchise QB.

RB - Devon Achane

I was splitting hairs with this pick. Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs both had great seasons. However, Achane was a legitimate difference-maker all season long. All three of them could have put up even bigger numbers if given the chance. Each of them saw significant competition for carries this season. Diving into some of the advanced metrics though and you will find that Achane had a season unlike many we have ever seen. He rushed for 800 yards on 103 carries, which is an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. That's the highest mark we have seen (min. 100 carries) since 1948. It would be easy to say he has great blocking or a great scheme, but Achane also averaged 2.9 yards after contact per attempt, which far and away led the NFL for players with at least 100 carries. Gibbs was second at 2.3. His 11 total touchdowns are tied with Gibbs for the most in the league by a rookie as well. For only having played 11 games this season, these are incredible numbers.

WR - Puka Nacua

One of just four rookies elected to the Pro Bowl this season, Nacua went from being a relative unknown entering the season to posting the greatest statistical rookie season we have ever seen. He set new marks for most receptions and receiving yards by a rookie receiver. He became Matthew Stafford's favorite target in Cooper Kupp's absence and still found ways to flourish after he returned. Digging a little deeper, Nacua is a huge threat with the ball in his hands. He picked up the fifth most first downs and had the sixth most yards after catch in the league. The next step for Nacua is improving his hands. Pro Football Reference had him with the most drops in the league this season at 12.

WR - Tank Dell

Despite only playing in 11 games due to injury, Dell wowed fans all season with his knack for making big plays. Dell ranked 15th in average depth of target and 9th in yards before the catch. He became a headache for opposing defense and C.J. Stroud's go-to target when he needed a big play. Stroud's passer rating of 113.7 when targeting Dell was 11th in the league among receivers to see at least 75 targets. Dell also only dropped four passes this season and scored seven touchdowns. The Texans' receiving corps suddenly looks very strong moving forward with Dell, Nico Collins and John Metchie III all under contract for next season.

WR - Jordan Addison

This came down to Rashee Rice vs. Addison for the final spot. I gave the nod to the former Belitnikoff winner. The Vikings dealt with some brutal injuries this season. First Justin Jefferson went down, missing extended time, followed a few weeks later by Kirk Cousins, who did not return this season. Through all of it, Addison emerged as a reliable target to fill the void. He put up a healthy 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those 10 receiving touchdowns were tied with Sam LaPorta for the most by any rookie this season. Imagine the numbers he could have put up with a full season of consistent quarterback play.

TE - Sam LaPorta

Another slam dunk pick for this team, LaPorta dominated the NFL from the word go. The former Iowa standout broke the record for most catches by a rookie tight end. He also finished with the fourth-most receiving yards and second-most touchdown catches. For a position that notoriously takes a few seasons to get acclimated to the speed of play and responsibilities that go into playing the position, LaPorta's immediate success is nothing short of remarkable. Dalton Kincaid, who was the other tight end in this conversation, finished 116 yards and eight (!) touchdowns shy of LaPorta's numbers for the year.

OT - Darnell Wright Jr.

It was not a great year for rookie offensive linemen. Many of the top picks struggled, and Wright was no exception, but he had some great moments and did enough to make it onto this list. He had his struggles, PFF has him with 11 penalties and seven sacks allowed this season, both of which rank in the bottom 15 for tackles this year. Wright was thrown into a tough position though as a Day 1 starter on the right side for a scramble-heavy passer. It was far from perfect, but he put together a strong base to build off moving forward.

G - Peter Skoronski

It was a bit of a shaky season for Skoronski, who was also a Day 1 starter. He missed a few weeks in September with an injury, but returned and started the final 13 games of the season for Tennessee. He struggled at times with bigger, stronger interior defensive linemen, making the switch from offensive tackle in college to guard in the NFL. He was only tacked with one penalty this season, which is pretty impressive for a rookie.

C - Joe Tippmann

I cannot stress enough how underwhelming this draft class of offensive linemen was in their rookie season. Tippmann wins this spot mostly by default. Jarrett Patterson played better this season but only featured in seven games. Tippmann's only other competition was his New York counterpart, John Michael Schmitz. PFF grades are not everything, but Tippmann earned a 61, while Schmitz finished with a 41.4. I don't mean to bash Tippmann, he fared well all things considered. He was supposed to spend most of the year learning, instead taking over early at guard and eventually center due to injuries along the Jets offensive line. His play improved in the second half of the season and he should be on track to start for New York next season, this time a bit more prepared for the assignment.

G - Steve Avila

Avila was one of my favorite interior line prospects in the 2023 draft. He was a big part of TCU's championship run, keeping Max Duggan clean and opening holes for Kendre Miller. He avoided mistakes all year and plugged in nicely for a Rams offense that desperately needed to get younger across the offensive line. Avila played the third most snaps of any guard this season, according to PFF, allowing only two sacks and committing two penalties. Additionally, he did not miss a snap all season. Consistently being available and playing at a starting-caliber level is a great way to justify being drafted in the top 50.

OT - Dawand Jones

This final spot actually came down to two former Buckeyes in Jones and Paris Johnson Jr. While Johnson played every snap for the Cardinals offense this season, he allowed eight sacks and committed a whopping 12 penalties. Jones played more than 400 fewer snaps, taking over only after Jack Conklin got hurt and then having his own season cut short by injury. However, he impressed when he was on the field. PFF has him with just three sacks allowed and two penalties committed. In the end, I decided to go with quality over quantity, giving Jones the edge.