With the NFL regular season coming to a close, there was a lot learned. With a ton of new playoff teams emerging, break out players helped boost teams from a year ago. Who were the best offensive rookies this season?
Quarterback: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Stats: 1,699 Passing Yards, 8.33 YPA, 19 TDs, 8 INTs, 269 Rushing Yards, 7.5 YPC, 2 Rushing TDs
Deshaun Watson’s season got cut short with an unfortunate injury but he was absolutely electric when he was in the starting lineup for the Texans. The Texans averaged over 35 points per game when Watson started. If Watson can get back to being healthy next season; the Texans will be legitimate contenders.
Running Back: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: 1,327 Rushing Yards, 4.9 YPC, 8 Rushing Touchdowns, 53 Receptions, 455 Receiving Yards, 3 Touchdowns
Hunt got off to a hot start in Kansas City and despite a midseason lull, he remained a high volume part of the offense. He ended up being a steal in the third round for Kansas City and is going to be a three down back in that offense for a long time.
Running Back: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Stats: 728 Rushing Yards, 6.1 YPC, 8 Rushing Touchdowns, 81 Receptions, 826 Receiving Yards, 5 Touchdowns, 1 Kick Return Touchdown.
Alvin Kamara was as electric a player as there was in the NFL this season. With over 1,500 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns; Alvin Kamara was a huge part of the new-look New Orleans Saints. With his role likely growing in the future, it will be exciting to see the growing legend of Alvin Kamara.
Flex: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Stats: 437 Rushing Yards, 3.7 YPC, 2 Rushing TDs, 80 Receptions, 651 Receiving Yards, 5 Receiving Touchdowns.
Christian McCaffrey took a few games to really start making an impact for the Panthers, but he grew into a nice offensive weapon despite not being the featured back on the team. He was incredibly important in the team’s passing game and had nice moments running the football. McCaffrey’s workload is set to increase next season and it will be exciting to see him get more opportunities.
Wide Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 58 Receptions, 917 Receiving Yards, 15.8 YPC, 7 ReceivingTouchdowns, 1 Kick return Touchdown.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has immediately become a weapon on the prolific Pittsburgh offense. What is so crazy is that he only turned 21 years old halfway through the season. With Martavis Bryant hitting free agency this offseason, Smith-Schuster is going to see a lot more targets next season.
Wide Receiver: Cooper Kupp, LA Rams
Stats: 62 Receptions, 869 Receiving Yards, 14 YPC, 5 Receiving Touchdowns
The Rams were a pleasant surprise this season on offense and Cooper Kupp immediately connected with Jared Goff; leading the Rams in receiving yards this season. Kupp is an incredibly savvy player and it would not be surprising to see him maintain his spot as Goff’s favorite target in the future.
Wide Receiver: Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars
Stats: 42 Receptions, 748 Yards, 17.8 YPC, 3 Touchdowns
Keelan Cole was another receiver who led his team in receiving yards. The undrafted free agent broke out for the Jaguars and was part of the reason they’re now in the playoffs for the first time in years. He was a fantastic big play threat and it will be interesting to see him develop with such a young offense.
Tight End: Evan Engram, New York Giants
Stats: 64 Receptions, 722 Receiving Yards, 11.3 YPC, 6 Touchdowns
While the Giants had a disastrous season; there is some solace to be taken that they're first round pick is a damn good football player. Engram was a chess piece in the passing game. He lined up in the slot, in-line and out wide; making an impact everywhere. Going forward, he is going to be a very nice player in New York for a long time.
Offense Tackles: Cam Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars and Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints
Despite being a second round pick, which was a surprise to me, Cam Robinson immediately made an impact for the Jaguars. While the former Alabama player had some rough spots; he flashed the dominance you want from a young offensive lineman. As he gets better; the Jaguars have edge protection for the next decade from Robinson.
Ryan Ramczyk was a great pick by the Saints at the back of the first round. He started all 16 games in his rookie year and played a big part in the Saints becoming such a dominant rushing team.
Offensive Guards: Dan Feeney, Los Angeles Chargers and Ethan Pocic, Seattle Seahawks
In what was an underwhelming year for rookie guards; Dan Feeney was among the more promising in the group. The Chargers had more success on the offensive side of the ball than they had in the past and Feeney had moments where he played a big role in their success. Hopefully consistency will come with experience; but there is no doubt Feeney has the ability to emerge as a steady player in L.A.
The Seattle offensive line was as bad as usual, but Ethan Pocic is a young guy who had some bright spots during the season. The former LSU center is growing into a new role and could grow into a nice player on that line. God knows they need that development.
Center: Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
Despite dealing with some injuries; Pat Elflein was excellent for the Vikings in his first season. The former Buckeye was a steady presence in the middle of the Minnesota offensive line and was a key player in their offensive resurgence. Once he gets healthy; Elflein will continue to be a stud blocker for the Vikings.
Quarterback: Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Running Back: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Flex: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wide Receiver: Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
Wide Receiver: Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tight End: OJ Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive Tackles: Garrett Bolles, Denver Broncos and Dion Dawkins, Buffalo Bills
Offensive Guards: Taylor Moton, Carolina Panthers and N/A
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
It feels like a clear cut choice that Alvin Kamara is the best offensive newcomer this year. While Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette were more productive rushers and Deshaun Watson had some of the most impressive peaks (at the most important position); Kamara’s sustained efficiency over the course of the season mixed with his game breaking ability makes him an easy choice. Kamara is a weapon like the NFL has not seen in a while with upside on the levels of David Johnson or Leveon Bell in terms of being a multi-faceted threat on an offense. It’s incredibly exciting to think about what Kamara will be able to do in his career going forward.
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