The NFL rookie race has been a two-man deal with Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons the clear game-changers on each side of the ball. Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris and New England Patriots QB Mac Jones have made very strong late runs, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Week 18 counts. A number of team and individual accolades are still at stake.
1.Ja’Marr Chase (Good Hands People, Cincinnati Bengals)
For a while it looked as if Ja‘Marr Chase had hit a rookie wall. Well, that proverbial rookie wall be damned, after his 266-yard and three-touchdown performance against the Chiefs. That performance, along with Joe Burrow passing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in consecutive weeks gave the Bengals their first AFC North title since 2015. Chase started the season on fire, producing more receiving yards in his first seven games than any player in NFL history.
Ja’Marr Chase 72 yards to the HOUSE.
Chase with his 11th receiving TD this year.
Showing off the wheels.#NFL | #RuleTheJungle | #Bengals pic.twitter.com/54ehMTUYsy
— Brandon Carr (@bcarr_13) January 2, 2022
Chase’s unique blend of speed, power, acceleration and catch radius make him a tough out for any defense. He set a rookie record for receiving yards in a season. Offensive Rookie of the Year should be his. Only Mac Jones can change that, and that’s only because of the league’s fascination with QBs.
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Season Stats: 79 catches for 1,429 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns
Micah faces no real competition for DROY, and he even has an outside chance at DPOY. For the season Parsons has 84 tackles, 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
Parsons has entered team Covid-19 protocols on Wednesday.
Updates | @SleepNumber
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) January 5, 2022
Parsons won’t have a chance to add to those stats in Week 18, as he’s entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
The powerful center by way of Oklahoma is used to protecting investments; while at OU he protected Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts.
Season statistics for Jones look like this ….
Breaking rookie records. pic.twitter.com/B54nueA5MV
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 4, 2022
332-491 for 3,540 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
The Pittsburgh Steelers landed the running back bell cow of the 2021 NFL draft in Najee Harris. The former Crimson Tide tailback has been productive all season despite a shoddy offensive line not consistently opening running lanes for him. On Monday night Harris broke the franchise rookie rushing record held by Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl champion Franco Harris since 1972.
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His 188-yard performance also kept the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive heading into the first Week 18 in league history. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Harris has made some grown men look like they’re playing youth football with his physical running style.
Harris has rushed 296 times for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also a great receiver out of the backfield, having tallied 70 catches for 440 yards and three more touchdowns. Only Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has more yards from scrimmage among running backs this season.
Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins) — The stud receiver has 99 catches this season. He needs three more to break the rookie record held by Anquan Boldin, set in 2003. He’s done this with no other consistent receiving threat for the Dolphins.
Season Stats: 99 receptions for 988 yards and 5 TDs
Kyle Pitts (Falcons) — Pitts is the only rookie tight end to have at least 60 catches and 900 yards receiving in league history. He needs just 128 yards to pass Mike Ditka for most receiving yards by a rookie tight end.
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Season Stats: 66 receptions, 1,018 yards and one touchdown. At 6 feet 6, his numbers for touching pay dirt should be higher.
DeVonta Smith (Eagles) — The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has been good for the surprising playoff-bound Eagles. He quickly ascended to their No. 1 receiver and has been solid all season. His ability to separate at the top of his route is elite. His hands are dynamite and his toughness is underrated. He and Jalen Hurts seem to have a connection that stems from their days together at Alabama.
Season Stats: 61 catches for 875 yards and 5 touchdowns in a run-first offense is great numbers.
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