Four weeks into the NFL season we are starting to see which teams and players are becoming the most elite and dominant. Among some of the top players are rookies Deshaun Watson, quarterback of Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Through their performances in four games of this young NFL season, Watson and Hunt are each making a huge case to be the 2017-2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson
Watson was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the twelfth pick out of Clemson. Watson was expected to be the Texans franchise quarterback at some point in the near future. Though Watson has a fantastic training camp and pre-season, Tom Savage started the season for the Texans against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Watson did play even without the start and completed 12 passes on 23 attempts, for 102 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The Jaguars would shock the Texans in Week 1 with a 29-7 score.
The Texans named Watson as the starting quarterback after the Week 1 loss. Since then, Watson has thrown for 811 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, and has accounted for an 81.9 QBR. Watson has also rushed for 148 yards on 19 rushing attempts for two touchdowns and eight first downs. Before the Draft, one of Watson’s best attributes as a passer was his accuracy when throwing into tight windows. While still learning and adjusting to the NFL game flow, Watson has been a very reliable passer in the middle and in deep coverage.
In the Week 3 matchup against the New England Patriots, Watson proved to be highly efficient and did not falter to the tough exterior of the Pats defense. Watson passed for 22 completions (out of 33 attempts) for 301 yards on an average of 9.12 yards per completion. Even though the Texans lost to Tom Brady and their impressive offense 36-33, Watson had his best game of the season so far in terms of passing yards and average yards per completion. The following week against the Tennessee Titans, the Texans implemented more of their passing game and trusted Watson with throwing the ball more. Watson passed for 283 yards, a 73.5% completion rate, and also rushed for a touchdown in the commanding 57-14 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt is very likely the biggest surprise of the 2017-2018 NFL season, going from a third round rookie drafted from Toledo by the Kansas City Chiefs to becoming the NFL’s leading rusher. In the third preseason game, starting running back Spencer Ware tore his PCL and other areas in his knee, leaving the rookie as the starter.
In the very first game of the season, Kareem Hunt made his statement very loud by rushing for 148 yards on 17 carries (an average of 8.7 yards per rush) and a touchdown and also caught 5 receptions for 98 yards for 2 touchdowns in the huge 42-27 win over the New England Patriots. Since then, Hunt has been one of the most dominant and consistent running backs in the NFL, rushing for 502 yards on 68 carries (an average of 7.4 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Hunt has also been influential in the passing game under quarterback Alex Smith by accounting for 13 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
With Hunt as the main runner, the Kansas City Chiefs are the top rushing offense in the league with an average of 163.5 yards per rush and are third in the league in points per game (30.5). The Chiefs are also the only undefeated team in the NFL. Hunt is on pace to account for 2,000+ rushing yards, which hasn’t been done since the 2012 season when Adrian Peterson did so. There have only been seven rushers throughout the history of the NFL to rush for 2,000 yards.
The Offensive Rookie of the Year award down to Watson and Hunt?
When thinking about the impact both Watson and Hunt have had on their teams, you can’t help but think that they have already made a big headway for the 2017-2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Both of these players have a certain edge in a category that makes their case for the award.
For Deshaun Watson, the simple conclusion that he is a quarterback and he is getting better week-by-week is exciting for Houston Texans fans to think about. Watson is the center of attention on the Texans, and is the best rookie quarterback in the league right now. Watson was also named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week last week in the win over the Tennessee Titans. Watson is sixth in the league in passing touchdowns with seven and thirteenth in total QBR with 91.7. The Houston Texans are fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (193) and fourth in points per game (27.5) through Watson’s playmaking ability and leadership.
Kareem Hunt is a player who might not only get the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. If Hunt keeps playing the way he is, he might win the 2017-2018 NFL MVP award. Hunt is first in the league in total rushing yards (502), first in rushing yards per game (125.5), second in rushing touchdowns (4), and second in (qualified) rushing yards per attempt (7.4). If Hunt does rush for over 2,000 yards, it will be hard to go against him for the award of Rookie of the Year and the NFL MVP. The Chiefs are currently first in the NFL power rankings playing in an AFC West division against a tough Denver Broncos (3-1) and the Oakland Raiders (2-2).
There is still plenty of time for both Watson and Hunt to provide more success to their respective teams and for other players to compete in the race for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. With so many of the rookies dominating on defense, it leaves more room for players on offense to enter in the race. Minnesota rookie RB Dalvin Cook was escalating highly with 354 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns but suffered a torn ACL last Sunday and is out for the season. With 12 games still left in the 2017-2018 NFL season, watch for RB Kareem Hunt and QB Deshaun Watson.