Getty Images

The 14 playoff teams have been finalized, and while the vast majority of those clubs have relied on veteran quarterbacks, edge rushers, receivers, and players at other positions, rookie classes have been leaned on as well by these successful teams.

What do you think the Texans record would be without C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr.? How about the Packers if you removed some of the key first-year pros from their massive 2023 draft class? 

With that in mind, it's time to rank the most impactful rookie classes for teams in the playoffs.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Diaby, a hybrid outside rusher from Louisville who had absurd testing numbers at the combine, has translated to the pro game respectably in Year 1. He's fourth on the team with 24 quarterback pressures in 277 opportunities and has eight sacks. While Palmer has been restrained in the downfield pass game much more than the preseason indicated, he's caught 37 passes for 375 yards with a score. 

In the trenches, Kancey started his rookie campaign injured but has come along nicely, although he's often gotten washed out against the run. He's quietly second on the team with 32 pressures. Mauch has struggled but has played the entire season as the starting right guard. It's a solid albeit unspectacular draft class in Tampa Bay that's made a reasonable impact on this club's playoff hopes. 

7. Buffalo Bills

While Torrence hasn't been Ruben Brown at guard as a rookie, his calm demeanor and sturdy play have been a godsend to Buffalo's blocking unit and offense altogether. The right guard spot had been a liability during the Josh Allen era, and the former Louisiana-turned-Florida product has been a steady force at that position all season. 

Kincaid has set a Bills rookie tight end record with 66 receptions, and he's gone over 40 yards in seven separate games to date. Beyond that, he's forced seven missed tackles on those grabs. 

Williams hasn't played much, but when the linebacker group was ravaged by injuries in the middle of the year, he stepped into a full-time-ish gig nicely with five tackles and a pass breakup against the Jaguars and a 10-tackle performance in the narrow victory over the Giants. Buffalo looks to have landed two future vital pieces to the offense with its first two selections in the 2023 draft. 

6. Kansas City Chiefs 

Quality over quantity here, and this group is mostly anchored by Rice, who's currently the NFL's leader in yards after the catch with 654. He only has three drops on 102 targets and has scored seven touchdowns. Morris has stood in for injured left tackle Donovan Smith recently with mixed results. He did allow a total of just two pressures in back-to-back contests in Las Vegas and at Green Bay. 

Conner's seen more playing time lately and has shown promising glimpses. The explosive safety has an interception and 28 tackles, two of which have gone for a loss, on 22.5% of the defensive snaps. Of course, the Chiefs lean on their veterans, but this trio has its place on this AFC West-winning club this season.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Benton and Porter Jr. were born to play on the Steelers defense. They felt like classic Steelers selections in April. While T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Alex Highsmith snag most of the headlines on Pittsburgh's defense, Benton has been a blue-collar stud on the interior who brings his hard hat to the field every week. He plays with brute strength at the point of attack and has thrived as a pass-rushing nose tackle with 21 pressures on 260 opportunities to date. 

Since inserted into the full-time lineup, Porter Jr. has been nearly as lockdown as he was 2.5 hours northeast of Pittsburgh during his collegiate days -- 10 pass breakups, an interception, and only one touchdown allowed on nearly 500 coverage snaps. His length and athleticism combo has been a nightmare at times for veteran receivers. Jones has played both left and right tackle, and while the former Georgia bulldozer hasn't dominated, he's provided an upgrade at those spots for the Steelers. The impossibly large Washington has been a rock as a pass-blocker on the almost 500 snaps he's played entering the regular-season finale in Baltimore.

Herbig essentially ended the game against the Seahawks in Week 17, and has seven pressures on 64 pass-rush snaps this season. As per usual, the Steelers drafted well last April. 

4. Detroit Lions

Vital rookies: TE Sam LaPorta, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, S/CB Brian Branch
Key contributors: LB Jack Campbell

GM Brad Holmes delivered a magnificent youthful trio to the Motor City. LaPorta looks like one of the top 5-7 tight ends in all of football. I mean that. He's fourth at his position in catches with 81, sixth in yards with 860, and ninth in missed tackles forced with 11. The latest Iowa monster at tight end has been a foundational element to Detroit's pass game this season, along with Amon-Ra St. Brown, of course. 

Gibbs has been as advertised, and the Lions have deployed him in a smart, calculated way. Haven't run him into the ground, mostly gotten him in space on outside runs and as a receiver. The rocket of a back has 1,231 scrimmage yards entering Week 18, and his 5.6 yards per touch is fifth among all qualifying running backs. 

Campbell was slowly brought along and has played more within himself recently, with five contests of five or more tackles in his last seven games. Rather quietly, the intimidatingly large off-ball linebacker has 83 tackles on the season on just 56.8% of the Lions defensive snaps. 

3. Green Bay Packers

The year after selecting three receivers, the Packers went even more bananas at offensive skill-positions in the 2023 draft. Love their acknowledgement of the increasing value of players who catch the football. Reed not only leads the team in receptions with 60 but was integral in a mid-season rebound for quarterback Jordan Love. Wicks averages nearly 16 yards per grab, which isn't completely surprising for a 6-foot-1 wideout with serious explosiveness -- he posted a 39-inch vertical and 130-inch broad jump at the combine.

Then there's a litany of first-year pros who've proven to chip in here and there on each side of the ball in Green Bay. Kraft has been a moose on the tundra of late, with a hefty 7.7 yards-after-contact-per-catch average on 28 grabs after Musgrave's injury. Valentine has played over 650 snaps, and while he doesn't have an interception, the Kentucky alum has defended eight passes. None of Brooks, Van Ness, nor Wooden have been stars yet collectively have registered 50 pressures and around 530 pass-rush snaps, and they've played up and down the line. Hats off to a variety of hits in an enormous draft class for Packers GM Brian Gutekunst and his staff.

2. Los Angeles Rams 

The Rams streak of not having a first-round pick continued in 2023 -- and it's a streak that started in 2017 (!). Despite that, GM Les Snead and Co. knocked it out of the park on draft weekend. Armed with 14 picks, the Rams started with Avila in the second round, and all he's done is lead the team in snaps this season playing center. The TCU product has been steady as a pass protector and mostly held his own in Sean McVay's zone-blocking scheme. Young in Round 3 was an impactful add. While he hasn't routinely flourished in one-on-one scenarios, he's been a menace on stunts and enters Week 18 second on the team with 46 pressures on 478 pass-rush chances. 

After that came Turner, who has nine sacks at defensive tackle and has played with some Aaron Donaldian vibes in terms of closing speed to the quarterback or ball-carrier. 

Then there was Nacua, the gem of the class. He's been outstanding in every way in his debut professional season. Making plays down the field, creating separation at all levels, after the catch, and when Matthew Stafford's given him opportunities to flash his ball skills. Nacua will get Offensive Rookie of the Year votes at season's end. Evans is currently ninth in overall punt-yard average. 

1. Houston Texans

The Texans won seven games in the 2021 and 2022 seasons combined and won 10 contests in 2023 thanks in large part to the selection of Stroud at No. 2 overall and the bold decision to trade up to snatch Anderson with the next pick in April. 

Stroud is the justified Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. He's been awesomely efficient -- Stroud's 8.1 yards-per-attempt average ranks third in all of football -- and his 9.4 average depth of target also ranks third in the NFL. He's kept his foot on the gas pedal all season. While injuries have been scattered throughout Anderson's rookie campaign, he's managed a hefty 57 pressures on a mere 394 pass-rushing snaps. He's added 10 tackles for loss, too. 

Before a broken leg prematurely ended his rookie year in pro football, Dell was a blur as a route runner and down the field. He had 47 catches for 709 catches with seven touchdowns in 11 games. Despite his small frame, Dell actually led the team in contested-catch win rate at 60%. 

Then there's Scruggs and Patterson who've played respectably inside at guard and center respectively, and To'o To'o made some key plays early in the season. While other classes had a larger assortment of contributors, the impact Stroud, Anderson, and Dell have had on the 2023 Texans was seismic.

NOTE: This story has been updated, so statistics are through Week 17