If you think the NFL’s Rookie of the Year is a two-horse race between Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, you are wrong. There are plenty of rookie candidates vying for the NFL’s top honor. Here’s a look at a few.
Michel had a three-game stretch at the beginning of the season (Week 4 through 6) where he totaled 316 yards and four touchdowns. Then, he got hurt. He came back after the bye and gained 133 yards and scored once in a win over the New York Jets. Michel has 586 yards and five touchdowns and will likely play a big role in the final quarter of the season if he can stay healthy.
Michel’s backfield mate at Georgia, Chubb forced the Browns to trade Carlos Hyde. Since Week 7 of the season, no running back has gained more yards than Chubb. The 5-foot-11, 227-pounder has 663 yards and six touchdowns. His only problem with becoming Rookie of the Year is that he does play in Cleveland.
Another rookie running back, Lindsay has been a pleasant surprise for the Denver Broncos. Lindsay, who went undrafted, has gained 434 yards since Week 7 and has averaged 5.86 yards per carry. The former Colorado star has 780 yards and six scores and is a big reason why the Broncos still have a shot at the postseason. He gained 110 yards and scored once in last week’s upset of Pittsburgh.
Mayfield took over the Browns starting QB job but struggle with a completion percentage of just 58.3 and a Total QB Rating of 37.7. Then, the Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson. In the four weeks since Jackson has been gone, Mayfield is the third-highest rated passer in the NFL with a Total QBR of 87.5. The two guys ahead of him? Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. Mayfield has completed 73.9 percent of his passes and is averaging 8.8 yards per completion. Like Chubb, his problem is that he plays in Cleveland.
The Offensive Rookie of the Year will likely be Barkley who is on pace with some of the game’s greats. If he keeps his current pace, Barkley will hit 2,051 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. The only guys that have produced those kinds of numbers recently are Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. In his last two games, Barkley has rushed for 243 yards and caught nine passes for 51 more. He also has five total touchdowns. This is Barkley’s race to lose.
On the defensive side of the ball, James is emerging as a very special player. Last week, he registered seven tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception in a win over Arizona. The Chargers have used James in a multitude of capacities including as a pass rusher when DE Joey Bosa was out with an injury. James has 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups this season.
LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH
After graduating high school in Idaho in a class of 11 students, Vander Esch starred at Boise State and became a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys. He has not disappointed. Vander Esch is a tackling machine and has 93 for the season. He also has two interceptions and seven pass breakups. The rookie linebacker is one of the big reasons why Dallas is a top ten defense in 2018.