As the NFL begins the second half of the 2017 campaign, leaders have emerged across all positions to claim to be the best among their peers. Some of the featured names from Week 9 are continuing strong campaigns. Others are bouncing back from a frustrating performance earlier in the season. Others still are quietly becoming key cogs for their teams this season.
These are the five best rookie performers from Week 9 in the NFL.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
With Leonard Fournette suspended for this week and Deshaun Watson on injured reserve (more on them tomorrow), it was up to Lattimore to hold serve as the only “regular” on the list to play each week.
Lattimore did not disappoint in a big matchup with Mike Evans, a powerhouse of a receiver who bullies his way to separation and success as a receiver.
Evans was targeted six times and logged just one catch for 13 yards, which was his lowest yards per target of the season (2.17) and the third-lowest figure in his career. Lattimore continues to play at a rare level as a rookie, but faces stiff tests after next week against Buffalo.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Don’t let them tell you McCaffrey is a bust as a running back just yet. The No. 8 selection in 2017 showed the most life in his legs to date, notching a career high in rushing yards (66) and logging his first rushing touchdown.
Yes, the start of McCaffrey’s career hasn’t been ideal, but the rushing attack in Carolina has been bad all around. McCaffrey showed signs of life, bouncing an interior run off the right side for a chunk gain to set up Carolina for a score.
If McCaffrey continues to create the needed extra crease to break some chunk gains, it could open up the entire offense in Carolina. That will be sorely needed, since the Panthers have leaned on QB Cam Newton to shoulder much of the load.
At least for one week, the Panthers and McCaffrey seemed to find balance. It earned them a well deserved “W.”
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Kamara embarrassed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend with two touchdowns and over 150 total yards from scrimmage.
The resurgent Saints have found success with most of their rookie class, which has to have New Orleans excited for the future. When was the last time the Saints had a dual threat in the backfield of this caliber? Reggie Bush comes to mind.
Kamara picked his way through Tampa’s soft defense on a long touchdown, making defenders look silly in the final few yards to shake free of contact and finish a big play. With 652 offensive yards from scrimmage and five TDs through eight games, Kamara is quietly putting together one of the strongest resumes of the 2017 rookie class.
Nazair Jones, DT, Seattle Seahawks
Recently acquired DT Sheldon Richardson was inactive for the Seattle Seahawks in their loss to the Washington Redskins, but Nazair Jones didn’t seem to get the memo that he was supposed to be a step down.
Jones has quietly been a terrific steal for the Seahawks. It didn’t take him long to make a splash against the Redskins.
Jones already has an interception and a touchdown to his name (Green Bay in Week 1), but he was able to add to his resume with a quality performance this weekend. Jones logged his first career fumble recovery on a run up the middle, enabled by his quick penetration and ability to get into the backfield. Jones, on top of tying a career high in tackles (3), was able to log half a sack on the day.
Reuben Foster, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Foster’s season has been a frustrating one: Everyone knows just how gifted Foster is. Yet injuries continue to hinder the defensive stalwart from fully coming into his own throughout his rookie season.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday. Foster tallied 14 total tackles (13 solo) to lead all defenders in the NFL. Watching Foster play football at Alabama would lead to no surprise that he’d be logging leaderboard tackles some day. But Foster has played in only three of the team’s nine contests to start a miserable campaign in the Bay, so it’s great to see him coming into his own and playing as the standout he has the potential to be.
Here’s to seeing Reuben on the list again in the coming weeks!