PFF All-2000s Team: The best NFL players born in the 2000s

2T7BD6M New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) against the Las Vegas Raiders in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Las Vegas, NV. Raiders defeated the Jets 16-12. (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)

• A bevy of 2023 rookies make the cut: C.J. Stroud, Bijan Robinson, Puka Nacua and Sam LaPorta, among others, earned spots on this list after excellent first-year campaigns.

• Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr. and Trent McDuffie form an elite CB trio: Each former first-round pick has morphed into a star for their respective team.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Seeing an NFL player’s birth year start with a “2” often results in a double-take.

To borrow an oft-used phrase: Want to feel old? We put together the best possible team of NFL players born in the 2000s.

QB: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Stroud burst onto the scene as a rookie after Houston selected him with the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He finished with an 83.1 PFF overall grade, which ranked 13th in the NFL. Stroud had ranked sixth with an 86.6 overall grade after 12 weeks before he struggled with an injury and missed some time.

The Ohio State product established himself as one of the best deep passers in the NFL, as his 99.3 PFF passing grade and 142.5 passer rating on deep passes both led the league in 2023.

RB: Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons

Admittedly, the selection of Robinson is based just as much, if not more, on what he showed before entering the NFL as during his rookie season. Still, he flashed ability in 2023 and proved why he was a top-10 pick a year ago.

While ball security was an issue, highlighted by his five fumbles, Robinson earned an 84.9 PFF rushing grade on non-fumble plays, which ranked ninth among running backs. He also played the fifth-most snaps at the position.

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WR: Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

While we have seen more and more impressive performances from rookie wide receivers recently, they rarely come from fifth-round picks. Regardless, the BYU product took advantage of Cooper Kupp‘s missed time with injury and put together a record-breaking rookie season: his 105 receptions and 1,486 receiving yards are both the most ever by a rookie.

Nacua also recorded 2.75 receiving yards per route run last season, which ranked fourth among all wide receivers.

WR: Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Although Chase was born in 2000, he has already logged more than 3,000 snaps in the NFL, including the postseason. That comes with 83.0-plus PFF overall grades in all three of his seasons in the league. His resulting 90.5 overall grade over the past three years ranks eighth among 45 qualifying wide receivers.

Quarterbacks have recorded a 10.5.5 passer rating when targeting Chase over the past three seasons, placing him seventh among 72 qualifying wide receivers.

WR: Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

While Wilson lacked stability at quarterback over the first two seasons of his career, he has already established himself as one of the best young wide receivers in the league. Despite experiencing a sophomore slump in 2023, he still earned an 83.0 PFF receiving grade over the past two seasons, ranking 20th among 82 qualifying receivers.

Once Wilson gets better quarterback play — the hope is that comes from Aaron Rodgers in 2024 — he is expected to put up better numbers. The Jets' passing game revolves around him, as he has been targeted on 24.2% of pass plays since 2022, which ranks 15th among wide receivers.

TE: Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions

While it usually takes time for young tight ends to adjust to life in the NFL, LaPorta hit the ground running during his rookie campaign. He finished the season with the sixth-highest overall grade (77.0) among tight ends, while his 81.8 receiving grade ranked fourth at the position.

LaPorta ended the regular season with 1.76 receiving yards per route run, which also ranked sixth at the position.

LT: Ikem Ekwonu, Carolina Panthers

The former sixth overall pick was thrown into action immediately and has not missed any time since then; his 2,166 snaps over the past two seasons are tied for the seventh most among offensive tackles.

While Ekwonu is still a work in progress in pass protection, he took a big step forward in run blocking last season. His 77.0 run-blocking grade ranked 11th among 81 qualifying offensive tackles in 2023.

LG: Tyler Smith, Dallas Cowboys

Smith is already among the best offensive linemen in the NFL, bringing proven positional versatility after making the Pro Bowl at both left tackle and left guard during his first two seasons in the league.

Continuing to play at left guard will most likely only make Smith better. He already ranked 11th among guards in PFF overall grade and seventh in run-blocking grade in 2023.

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C: Tyler Linderbaum, Baltimore Ravens

Some may point to pass protection as being a weakness in Linderbaum’s game after he earned a 53.5 pass-blocking grade as a rookie in 2022. However, he followed that up with a very impressive 2023 season in which he led all centers with a 78.3 pass-blocking grade. He went from allowing 28 pressures in 2022 to giving up just 16 in 2023.

Linderbaum was the only center in the NFL to earn pass-blocking and run-blocking grades both above 78.0 last year.

RG: Peter Skoronski, Tennessee Titans

Due to the lack of options at right guard, this lineup will feature two left guards, as Skoronski flashed enough ability during his rookie season in Tennessee. Overall, it was a rollercoaster season for Skoronski, who was also battling an injury in the first part of the season. But he had a stretch of solid play, earning a 79.2 pass-blocking grade between Weeks 10 and 13, which ranked fifth among guards.

RT: Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions

Sewell already has a case to be considered the best offensive lineman in the NFL, especially when it comes to run blocking. His 95.1 PFF run-blocking grade in 2023 led all NFL offensive linemen, and his 91.5 overall grade since entering the NFL ranks second among offensive tackles over the past three seasons.

While Sewell has already played more than 3,500 snaps in the NFL, he will not turn 24 until October.

EDGE: Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions

Hutchinson burst onto the scene as a rookie, making plenty of flashy plays and earning an 81.4 PFF overall grade. He became more consistent on a play-by-play basis in his second season, which led to a 91.4 pass-rushing grade that ranked fifth among edge defenders.

The Michigan product's 110 total pressures during the 2023 regular season also ranked second among all edge defenders.

EDGE: Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans

While an ankle injury slowed Anderson in 2023, stopping him from finishing the season strong, he showed enough during the first part of the year to earn a spot on this team.

Whereas rookie defensive linemen can often struggle against the run, the Alabama product was one of just nine edge defenders in the NFL in 2023 to earn both run-defense and pass-rush grades above 76.0. His 82.8 PFF overall grade ranks sixth among 75 rookie edge defenders over the past 10 seasons.

DI: Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles

One of the biggest steals of the 2023 NFL Draft, Carter stood out as a rookie in Philadelphia. While he somewhat slowed down after a very strong start, he still finished the regular season with an 85.9 PFF pass-rushing grade that ranked sixth among interior defenders.

Carter also beat his blocker on 17.2% of pass plays, which leads all rookie interior defenders over the past 10 seasons.

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DI: Alim McNeill, Detroit Lions

Although he missed time due to injury, McNeill put it all together in his third NFL season. He improved especially in run defense, as his run-blocking grade failed to reach 60.0 in either of his first two seasons but he earned a 79.3 mark in 2023, which ranked seventh among interior defenders.

On top of that, McNeill picked up a pressure on 10.1% of pass plays in 2023, while his previous best was 7.9% in 2022.

LB: Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings

Pace burst onto the scene in 2023 as an undrafted free agent. He picked up five total pressures on 15 pass-rushing snaps over the first two weeks and remained an asset as a pass rusher throughout his rookie campaign, as his 109 pass-rushing snaps ranked sixth among linebackers.

His 77.1 PFF overall grade ranked 16th among all linebackers in 2023.

LB: Nick Bolton, Kansas City Chiefs

Although Bolton went through a rough stretch during the playoffs and 2023 was a down year for him, partially due to injuries, he has shown enough over his three NFL seasons to earn a spot on this team.

Despite the weaker 2023 season, Bolton still ranks 12th among linebackers in PFF grade over the past three seasons (76.2), and his 85.1 run-defense grade ranks 15th.

CB: Sauce Gardner, New York Jets

Arguably already the best cornerback in the NFL, Gardner has posted a 91.2 PFF overall grade over the past two seasons to lead all cornerbacks.

He has allowed a 60.8 passer rating over that stretch, which ranks second at the position, as well as 0.52 receiving yards per coverage snap, which not only leads all players at the position, but the gap between him and the second-best cornerback is the same size as the gap between the second-best and the 15th-best player.

CB: Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs

One of the heroes of Super Bowl 58, McDuffie was able to build on a strong 2022 season and had a breakout campaign in his second year in the NFL. He has demonstrated versatility in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme, playing the second-most pass-rushing snaps among cornerbacks during the regular season and leading the position with 16 total pressures and three sacks.

McDuffie also stood his ground in coverage, as his 81.5 PFF coverage grade in 2023 ranked 11th at the position.

CB: Derek Stingley Jr., Houston Texans

Injuries impacted Stingley in his first two NFL seasons, but this past year he showed why he was the first cornerback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. His 85.3 PFF coverage grade ranked fifth among cornerbacks, as he allowed just 0.87 receiving yards per coverage snap (18th). Stingley also intercepted 12.5% of passes that went his way, the highest rate at the position last season.

S: Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Hamilton did not need much time to get used to the NFL’s speed, as he ended up as the highest-graded safety in the NFL as a rookie (87.6). He finished lower in 2023 with an 86.4 overall grade, but he remains one of the best at the position in multiple areas.

Hamilton led all safeties last season in PFF pass-rushing grade (92.8), and his coverage grade (90.1) ranked third at the position.

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S: Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins

Although he played a career-low 707 snaps in 2023, Holland made a handful of big plays, which contributed to him being the third-highest-graded safety in 2023 (90.4). His three forced fumbles after the catch led all safeties and helped him earn an 89.9 coverage grade, which ranked fourth at the position.

The Oregon product was one of just four safeties in 2023 to earn both coverage and run-defense grades above 82.0.


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