NFL Rookie of the Year Watch: Trio of rookies pacing NFL

By Hayden Bonine

Sports Blogger

@HaydenBonine

 

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, 160 carries, 630 yards, four touchdowns, 21 receptions, 255 yards

(Brandon Blanchard, Flickr)

First player in NFL History – that is a title any player covets. Hunt achieved the feat by becoming the first player in NFL History to start his career with six consecutive games with 100 yards from scrimmage. After allowing 181 yards to Leonard Fournette, the Pittsburgh Steelers were committed to defending the run. It worked, Hunt had only 21 rushing yards. What the Steelers did not game plan for was Hunt catching the ball out of the backfield. He torched their defense for 89 yards receiving on five catches. Hunt holds the NFL lead in rushing yards, rushing yards per carry and rushing yards per game. He should be afforded ample opportunity to pad his stats against the 26th ranked Oakland Raiders defense on Thursday Night Football.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 130 carries, 596 yards, six touchdowns, 15 receptions, 136 yards, one touchdown

Powerful running back Leonard Fournette has had his way with defenses in the last two weeks. After an astounding 181-yard, two touchdown performance, Fournette followed with 130 yards and one touchdown. His dominance has propelled him to second in the league in rushing yards and to the top of the league in rushing touchdowns. He now sits merely 34 yards away from fellow rookie and the league’s leading rusher Hunt. Fournette could surpass Hunt’s mark when he faces the Indianapolis Colts, holders of the 30th ranked rushing defense.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans, 107 of 174, 1,297 yards, 15 touchdowns, 202 rushing yards, two touchdowns

Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to defy the rookie quarterback norms. Interceptions and losses are commonly associated with and even expected of rookie quarterbacks. Watson has done a magnificent job of avoiding both. He leads the NFL in passing touchdowns and quarterback rushing yards. His outstanding decision making and excellent leadership have guided the injury-plagued Texans to a .500 record to this point. That may sound unimpressive, but Houston’s defense is missing nearly all of its playmakers, JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing and Kareem Jackson to name a few. Watson faces the tall task of making up for his defense’s misfortune. He has a bye week this week, giving him more time to prepare for defenses he will face in the future.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers, 38 carries, 104 yards, 37 receptions, 293 yards, two touchdowns

Christian McCaffrey provides a dual threat as a runner and a pass catcher. McCaffrey, 21, recorded 10 catches on Thursday. He now has 37 receptions, tied for fifth in the NFL among receivers and running backs. He has the second-most receiving yards for a running back. As his numbers indicate, McCaffrey is primarily a receiver out of the backfield. His abysmal 2.7 yards per carry will limit him considerably in the race for Rookie of the Year. However, McCaffrey’s strong showing on Thursday Night Football should not be ignored. That performance not only affords him extra rest but also gives him confidence heading into this Sunday’s matchup with the Chicago Bears.

ozone@ocolly.com

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