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Updated: March 10, 2023
Four games into the 2017 NFL season and already a number of first-year players are making their mark on the league. It is never easy making the jump from college to the National Football League. However guys like Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson have made it look easy. Here’s a look at the top NFL rookies in the league so far this season.
One of the big reasons why the Kansas City Chiefs are the lone remaining unbeaten in the NFL has to do with a third-round draft pick out of Toledo named Kareem Hunt. When Spencer Ware went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason, it was Hunt who would benefit. The Chiefs lead the NFL in rushing averaging 163.5 yards per game which is a large part of the league’s No. 2 scoring offense. Kansas City averages 30.5 points per game.
Last year, it was Dallas QB Dak Prescott who took over for an injured Tony Romo and proceeded to earn the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. This year, it’s Houston rookie Deshaun Watson. The former Clemson star who led his team to a national championship a year ago took over for Tom Savage and has put up some big numbers. In a 57-14 win over Tennessee, Watson threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score. The week before, he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns against the New England Patriots. It was Watson’s 49-yard run that helped the Texans beat Cincinnati. He has only attempted 114 passes in three-plus games, but if he continues to be efficient and the Texans keep winning Watson could contend with Hunt for that Rookie of the Year award.
Cooper Kupp won the Walter Payton Award which is given annually to the FCS best player. In his four-year college career, Kupp never had a season with less than 1,400 receiving yards. He is the FCS all-time leader in career touchdowns with 73. Still, there were questions about Kupp playing against big-time competition. Those questions have been answered and the rookie wide receiver has 14 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He is an important cog in a Rams offense that leads the NFL in scoring averaging 35.5 points per game through four games. Kupp gives quarterback Jared Goff a reliable receiver who can do a little of everything.
A year removed from an 11-5 season and an NFC wild card, the New York Giants are watching the wheels slip off of their bus as they have started the 2017 season 0-4. Despite having one of the game’s most dynamic wide receivers and a veteran quarterback who has two Super Bowl wins, the Giants’ offense is horrible. They are 30th in scoring averaging a lowly 15.0 points a game. The running game? Absolutely horrendous. The Giants are averaging just 59.3 yards on the ground per game. The one bright spot on an otherwise dismal offense has been first-round pick Evan Engram. The versatile tight end has 19 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown. If the Giants run game continues to falter, Engram may see even more balls come his way as the season progresses.
One thing the Buffalo Bills defense is not is awful. The Bills, surprisingly, have the NFL’s top scoring defense giving up just 13.5 points per game. New head coach Sean McDermott and company are 3-0 thanks to back-to-back wins over Denver and last year’s NFC champ Atlanta. One of the keys to the Bills’ defensive success has been the play of Tre’Davious White. The 5-foot-11-inch, 192-pound White was the 27th overall pick in last year’s draft and he brings a confidence to the cornerback position that has allowed Buffalo to load the box on running downs and blitz on passing downs. White is tied for the NFL lead in passes defensed with eight. He has been on the field for 256 snaps, the second-most among defensive NFL rookies this season. Teams have repeatedly tried to challenge White because he is a rookie and he has answered every time.
The New York Jets might not be tanking the 2017 season after all. The sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, Jamal Adams, has helped ignite the Jets’ defense to two straight wins. Adams, a safety, is extremely versatile and has allowed Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers to utilize him in a variety of roles. So far, Adams has 16 total tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and two pass break ups. Adams is a star in the making on a defense that otherwise would be awful.