Sometimes things take a little bit of time. For some of the newcomers on this week’s top rookie performers list, there have been hints of an upcoming breakout. Others have ridden a surprising wave of consistency into higher expectations each and every week.
These are the five best rookie performances from the NFL Week 13 schedule:
Ryan Switzer, WR/KR, Dallas Cowboys
This is what the Cowboys signed up for when they brought in Switzer. Of course the long-term plan involves a likely shift to a younger version of Cole Beasley as slot receiver, but Switzer came out of North Carolina widely regarded as the best return specialist in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Switzer showed why on Thursday night, blurring his way through the Washington kick coverage team on his way to an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown.
It was Switzer’s first career touchdown, a breakthrough after consecutive weeks of eclipsing 100 return yards in the kicking game. Should the diminutive receiver continue to find space and create field position for the Cowboys over the next few weeks, it will go a long way in keeping the team competitive in the absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
What, you expected someone else? Kamara has developed a stranglehold on the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, continuing his torrid pace of production over the last 10 weeks of the season. The award feels official despite there being four weeks until the end of the scheduled season.
The Saints’ running back now has over 600 yards of both rushing and receiving to his name, one of just three players in NFL history to eclipse those figures as a rookie. One other first-year NFL player, Herschel Walker, also accomplished the feat after several seasons in the USFL.
That’s how good Kamara has been. By running his “100+ yards from scrimmage” streak to five consecutive weeks, the Saints are in position to be one of the biggest threats to the NFC in January.
Pat Elflein, C, Minnesota Vikings
The second half of the season has been incredibly kind to Elflein, and a strong effort in the middle against a speedy Atlanta Falcons defense was a key piece of the Vikings’ 14-9 win.
The assignment of Grady Jarrett is a handful for any center, but Elflein did well handling Jarrett’s initial quickness. He used effective hands to win body positioning and wall off portions of the line.
An athletic piece of a protection and blocking scheme, Elflein is proving his value as a 2017 draft day steal.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
It didn’t take Engram long to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Week 12. With seven receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown, Engram accounted for nearly half of all the throwing yards Geno Smith accounted for in the contest.
The Giants lost this game by a 24-17 margin, but don’t cast an ounce of blame Engram’s way. With a one-handed catch in traffic, Engram had one of the best plays of the weekend with a top rookie performance.
Engram has now caught 51 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Those would be great numbers for a full 16-game slate, yet the Mississippi product can grossly pad those numbers over the final month of the season.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers
It’s been a tough first season for Jamaal Williams, but the bruising power back is finally making the most of his opportunity to showcase his skills in the Green Bay backfield. The window for the Packers to slip into the playoffs is diminishing, but getting consistent, hard-nosed running between the tackles from Williams will go a long way in any late-season push.
Against Tampa Bay, Williams carried the ball 21 times for a total of 113 yards rushing (5.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. It was easily Williams’ best effort of the season, fresh off the heels of a 135-yard effort the week prior.
Green Bay has some tough run defenses ahead on the schedule with the Browns, Panthers and Vikings, so it was likely now or never for the BYU product to find his way onto the top rookie performers list.