Who Are Five Rookies Shining in the 2023 NFL Season?

The 2023 National Football League (NFL) season is past the halfway stage, with each of the 32 franchises having played 10 of their 17 scheduled regular season games. It has been a season of mixed fortunes for the young athletes selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, with some hitting the ground running for their respective teams and others left waiting for their big chance to shine in American football’s elite competition.

The 2023 NFL Draft took place less than seven months ago and saw 259 players that used to feature in the best sites to make NCAAF bets online selected by the various NFL teams. The following five former college stars have been making waves during their rookie seasons with their new NFL teammates.


C.J. Stroud – Houston Texans

Quarterback C.J. Stroud played his college football for Ohio State, where he gained a reputation for being one of the brightest prospects the college had ever produced. Stroud threw 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2021 and another 3,688 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2022. Those impressive figures had scouts predicting Stroud would be the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the Carolina Panthers selected Bryce Young first, leaving the Houston Texans to pick Stroud second overall.

The Texans wasted no time making Stroud their starting quarterback, and it has since proven to be an excellent decision. Through ten games, Stroud has thrown 2,962 yards and 17 touchdowns, with the Texans 6-4 at the time of writing. 

Stroud has set two NFL records and is currently tied for two others. He holds the record for most passing attempts without an interception (192) and most passing yards in a single game by a rookie (470). Stroud is tied for most touchdown passes in a single game by a rookie (5) and most games with at least 350 passing yards by a rookie (3).

Jalen Carter – Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Carter plays as a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles after the Eagles selected him as the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The former University of Georgia has yet to start a game for the Eagles but has featured in nine of their ten regular season games.

During those games, Carter has two forced fumbles, 11 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, and four sacks, the first of those sacks coming on his debut against the New England Patriots.

Carter has shown a mental toughness that belies his age. Carter was involved in a serious car crash in January 2023 and has legal issues circling in the background, including being given 12 months of probation and 80 hours of community service; despite this, Carter is performing like a true NFL star on the field.

Puka Nacua – Los Angeles Rams

Makea Nacua, known by his nickname “Puka,” is a wide receiver playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Nacua played college football for Washington between 2019-20 before heading to BYU for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. It is fair to say Nacua’s college statistics were not stellar, which is probably why the Los Angeles Rams waited until the 177th overall pick to add him to their roster.

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Nacua made his Rams debut on September 10 against the team’s arch-rivals, the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams roster was blighted by injuries, allowing Nacua to play in the NFL earlier than expected. Nacua made ten catches for 119 yards in an impressive display. The following week, despite a minor rib injury, Nacua broke the record for most catches in a single game for a rookie wide receiver when he enjoyed 15 catches for 147 yards against the San Francisco 49ers.

Nacua has played eight games, had 61 catches for 795 yards, and two touchdowns.

Devon Witherspoon – Seattle Seahawks

Defensive players do not always receive the same attention as their offensive counterparts, but Devon Witherspoon has bucked that trend. Witherspoon plays as a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted the former Illinois star as the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Witherspoon was known for his over-confidence and trash-talking during college, but he backed up his mouth with incredible performances. Now, he is performing at the highest standard in his rookie season. Through nine NFL regular season games, Witherspoon has recorded 34 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, three sacks, and one interception, and it shows why the Seahawks were so keen on adding him to their roster.

De’Von Achane – Miami Dolphins

De’Von Achane makes it into our list of the five best-performing NFL rookies despite having played only five games for the Miami Dolphins. Achane played as a running back for Texas A&M from 2020-22, racking up 2,376 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. 

Achane is known for his blazing speed and great inside running, but he fell in the draft due to his size. He stands at 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 188 pounds, which is small for a running back. However, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds, the fastest of any other running back in the draft.

Achane has two starts and five games; injuries have hindered his playing time. During his time on the field, Achane has 39 carries for 461 yards and five touchdowns. His yards per carry is an incredible 11.8 yards; the current NFL record is 5.4 yards! If Achane can get back to full fitness for the latter part of the season, he should break all kinds of rookie running back records.


The five youngsters featured in this article have hit the ground running and will likely become NFL stars of the future. It is early days for all of them, but the initial signs are good. Several other rookies narrowly missed out on their time on these pages. They include Brian Branch of the Detroit Lions, Christian Gonzalez of the New England Patriots, Sam LaPorta of the Detroit Lions, Bijan Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons, and Will Anderson of the Houston Texans.

Some football fans may wonder where Bryce Young features among the 2023 rookies. Young was the first overall pick, and the Carolina Panthers selected the talented quarterback. Although Young’s figures are decent, the Panthers are 1-8 and seriously struggling, so it is unfair to include Young here.