After the draft, it’s easy to look at where some rookies landed and predict a big first year. But that isn’t always the case. Isaiah Simmons for example has yet to play more than 29% of a game’s snaps on defense in a given game. Yet he made a game-saving play on one of the five snaps he received against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night.
James Robinson went undrafted, yet it can be argued he’s been one of the best rookie running backs this year. Chase Claypool lasted until the second round despite having freakish size and speed.
Then of course, injuries and COVID-19 have prevented other rookies such as A.J. Terrell from seeing the field as much. The NFL is unpredictable. Sometimes we can look at an ideal situation like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and say, that’s a perfect fit, he’s going to have a big year. Other times we look at a situation like Tua Tagovailoa and predict he’ll start once Ryan Fitzpatrick quickly fizzles out. You just never know.
Around the NFL, defenses are struggling to keep up with offenses. Whether that is due to a lack of preseason, training camp tackling or something else, it has led to less rookies dominating early in their first year.
Narrowly missing the list this week are great players such as Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray Jr., Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson and more.
Both rookie quarterbacks performed admirably, improving their rankings. One running back shot way up the list after his best game yet. Keep scrolling to discover how each rookie’s performance impacted their weekly ranking for Rookie of the Year.
10. Antoine Winfield Jr., safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Beating out several other rookie defenders for the 10th spot, Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off his first pass as a pro in Week 7. Using his high football IQ, Winfield has put himself in position to make many great plays already, just seven games into his NFL career. Thus far, he has tallied 37 tackles, two sacks, four pass defended , a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and an interception.
9. Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 10)
After not getting any catches in Week 1, Tee Higgins has been making plays ever since. In Week 7, he caught all of the passes thrown his way for the first time since reaching the NFL on his way to five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Through seven games Higgins has compiled 27 catches for 410 yards and three receiving touchdowns. It looks like Cincinnati Bengals fans can proudly wear their No. 85 jerseys again.
8. Chase Claypool, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 5)
A competitive game for the Pittsburgh Steelers led to Chase Claypool having his least productive day yet as a rookie and fumbling for the second time in his NFL career. Through six games, Claypool has 333 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. The Steelers are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL through Week 7. As their leading receiver, Claypool is a big reason why.
7. CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys (LW: 3)
Ouch. A Dallas Cowboys Week 7 dud led to CeeDee Lamb laying an egg, with zero catches on five targets. If Andy Dalton can’t start this week, Lamb is likely to struggle again. However, he couldn’t do much worse than last week. The Cowboys will have to get more creative in order to get the football into the hands of their incredibly talented 21-year-old rookie. A strong start to his season leaves Lamb with 497 receiving yards and two touchdowns through seven games.
Related: NFL Week 8 schedule, predictions
6. Justin Herbert, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 7)
In his fifth start, Justin Herbert got his first win in the NFL. Finally. While the wins have been tough to come by, Herbert has rarely looked like a rookie. Since at least 1970, Herbert is the only player to have 1,500 passing yards and a 100-plus passer rating in his first five games in the NFL. He is fourth in the entire league, with 308.4 passing yards per game.
5. Chase Young, defensive end, Washington Football Team (LW: 6)
Sometimes, the box score doesn’t tell the full story, especially for pass rushers. So far in 2020, Chase Young leads all rookies in total pressures with 14. Not to mention he had to miss a game due to injury in Week 4 and played only 13 snaps in another. For the season, Young has 19 total tackles, five tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He has a great chance to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
4. James Robinson, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 9)
Coming off his worst game as a pro, James Robinson ended up getting a career-high 26 touches in Week 7. With 119 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, he had his best performance yet in the NFL. In seven games, the undrafted rookie has 481 yards rushing and 225 receiving yards to go with a combined six touchdowns. No undrafted rookie has ever gotten 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in their first year.
3. Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings (LW: 2)
Surely after such a hot start, there had to be a week where Justin Jefferson slowed down. A Week 7 bye did just that. No longer fifth in the NFL in receiving yards, he still has 537 yards and three touchdowns through six games. Three 100-yard games in four starts suggests that even with all the problems the Vikings are having, Jefferson is doing his job, and then some. A strong finish could lead to him having a real shot at winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
2. Joe Burrow, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 4)
On Sunday, Joe Burrow threw for 407 yards, the most for a rookie since 2017. He also became the only rookie QB in NFL history to have 400-plus passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game. Burrow is currently on pace for 4,624 passing yards, blowing past the all-time rookie record set by Andrew Luck. However, he is still a rookie so there have been some growing pains. With eight fumbles, he has the most in the league. The porous offensive line of the Bengals hasn’t helped. Through seven games, Burrow has been sacked 28 times, tied for most in the league. Still, with his positive numbers, he has a great chance to end up as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Related: NFL Week 8 odds and point spreads
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, running back, Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 1)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t have his best performance in Week 7, but he didn’t have to, as the Kansas City Chiefs crushed the Denver Broncos. While he received the least touches (9) of his young NFL career, part of that may have just been due to the 43-16 score getting out of hand. Still, with 551 rushing yards in the first seven games of his career, CEH is well on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.