Unless you’re a New England fan, you’re probably ready to move on from the dynasty that is the Patriots led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. However, now that Brady is 40 years old and playing in what could be his final Super Bowl, there is a handful of young promising players who are primed to become the new faces of football.
Luckily, the Rookie of the Year awards shed some light on who can possibly carry the torch that will enthrall NFL audiences for years to come. This season saw a variety of first-year players explode onto the scene and immediately make an impact for their teams.
This year’s nominees include Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Panthers RB Christian McCaffery, Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt, Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette, and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. It’s a very tight race as each finalist boasts a strong case, but let’s take a closer look at who will actually be this season’s Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
This running back out of the University of Tennessee has made a name for himself during his rookie campaign. Kamara was a nightmare for opposing defenses and provided the Saints with a reliable weapon they’ve needed for quite some time.
Not only did the 22-year-old lead all rookies in total touchdowns (14) and total receptions (81), he also led the league in yards per carry (6.1). He also made history on several occasions when he broke the Saints’ record with a 106-yard kickoff return touchdown and was first player since Herschel Walker in 1986 to record more than 500 rushing and receiving yards in his first 11 games.
His efforts earned him a spot in the 2018 Pro Bowl while helping lead New Orleans back to the playoffs after the team fell short last season.
Rookie of the Week awards: 7
Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints
Moving on to Kamara’s teammate, the steady cornerback was also a big reason for the Saints’ success this season. His prowess on the defensive end made it challenging for opposing offenses to establish any sort of rhythm.
The former Ohio State Buckeye tied for fifth in the NFL for most interceptions with five and completed the season with 52 tackles, 18 passes defended and one forced fumble. However, what’s most impressive is that not a single touchdown was scored on Lattimore’s watch.
Lattimore will be joining Kamara in Orlando for the 2018 Pro Bowl. It’s also worth noting that if he doesn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, he is pretty much a lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year as he’s the only defensive player in this slate of candidates.
Rookie of the Week awards: 4
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fournette was playing beyond his years during his first season in the pros. Despite the Jaguars losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, the team wouldn’t be anywhere without the LSU product.
The 23-year-old put up some big numbers as he led all rookies in rushing touchdowns (nine) and rushed for a total of 1,040 yards in 13 games played this season. Adding to his case, he scored four rushing touchdowns in three playoff games.
It will be interesting to see if falling one game short of the Super Bowl will affect his chances at winning the award.
Rookie of the Week awards: 0
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Considering all of the hardships the Panthers have endured the past couple of seasons, it’s nice to have struck gold with this running back out of Stanford. McCaffrey managed to mesh well with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, helping lead the Panthers to an 11-5 record.
Coming in right behind Kamara, McCaffrey tallied a total of 80 receptions this season. The 21-year-old set a franchise record as well, recording 1,086 scrimmage yards.
Rookie of the Week awards: 0
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Last but certainly not least, Hunt took the NFL by storm as he shredded opposing defenses week in and week out. His talents were evident right out of the gate, becoming the first player with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven games as a pro.
The running back’s 1,327 rushing yards on the season were first in the league. He was the first Chiefs player to win the rushing title since Priest Holmes back in 2001.
In six games this year, Hunt rushed for at least 100 yards to go along with a total of eight rushing touchdowns and a rookie-leading total of 1,782 scrimmage yards.
His sensational first-year campaign steered Kansas City to a 10-6 record. However, the Chiefs were bested by the Tennessee Titans in the wild card matchup.
Along with a Pro Bowl selection, Hunt was already able to snag a Rookie of the Year recognition a couple weeks back by the Professional Football Writers Association.
Rookie of the Week awards: 1
Each of these nominees had a fantastic season in their own right but upon further inspection, it’s clear that this is more of a two-horse race. Kamara and Hunt are the two that shine the brightest from a statistical standpoint.
Both players put up impressive numbers but Kamara was arguably much more consistent and played a bigger role in his offense than Hunt did. The Saints flourished so much behind Kamara’s playmaking abilities that many speculated him to be in the MVP race.
This is further emphasized how the Saints offense went stagnant after Kamara left with a concussion early on in their Week 14 loss to the Falcons. That is why we pick Kamara to win the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year along with the Offensive Rookie of the Year.