Early NFL Rookie of the Year rankings
We're just four weeks into the 2020 NFL campaign, but a number of first-year players are already making their marks on the league.
Here's a look at the top five offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year candidates for the early portion of the season.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
5. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
It's hard not to be impressed with Herbert after his first three NFL starts. A prospect whom many believed needed more polish before taking the field, the former Oregon standout was thrust into the Chargers' starting lineup following Tyrod Taylor's medical setback.
Herbert has flashed plenty of promise despite injuries to L.A.'s receivers and offensive line. He already has the deep game working, as only Russell Wilson has scored more touchdown passes on attempts traveling at least 20 yards through the air. The 2020 sixth overall pick is also demonstrating plenty of natural accuracy, especially on timing routes, completing 72% of his pass attempts so far.
Overall, Herbert's first three pro starts have been successful ones: Head coach Anthony Lynn and the Chargers' front office couldn't have hoped for much more than 931 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. Herbert even nearly defeated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road this past Sunday.
4. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
On a Cowboys offense featuring a plethora of weapons for Dak Prescott to choose from, Lamb is making his presence felt. With at least five catches in all four games this year, the dynamic pass-catcher is consistently finding ways to get open.
Lamb ranks second among rookie receivers with 16 catches and 309 yards, and he scored his first two NFL touchdowns in Week 4. Prescott has a 134.4 passer rating when targeting Lamb, who's doing damage on contested targets and after the catch. Expect them to keep developing their connection as the season progresses.
3. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
The fifth receiver selected from an incredibly deep 2020 class is the cream of the crop at his position thus far. Running routes primarily from the slot at LSU, Jefferson is displaying an advanced game for a Vikings squad that was desperate for a secondary option opposite Adam Thielen.
Jefferson leads all first-year receivers with 348 yards, 14 first downs, and 21.8 yards per reception after breakout performances against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. He's found the end zone just once so far, but he's a polished route-runner for his age and dangerous after the catch. If his first two outings had been as strong as his most recent pair, Jefferson would have a legitimate claim to the No. 1 spot.
2. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
This year's first overall pick is certainly living up to the hype early on. Battered and bruised behind a suspect offensive line, Burrow has led the Bengals to a 1-2-1 record through four games.
The former LSU star ranks seventh in the NFL with 1,121 passing yards, adding six touchdowns to just two interceptions. Burrow has shown plenty of poise under pressure, and his ability to scramble and make defenders miss in the pocket is an underrated trait.
Burrow appears to be leading a turnaround after Cincinnati posted the league's worst record in 2019. Even if the Bengals aren't competing for a playoff spot by season's end, the talented passer will be a top candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year if his squad displays enough improvement.
1. James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Who would have thought an undrafted free agent would be the player to beat after four weeks?
Robinson has been a revelation for a Jaguars team that waived Leonard Fournette prior to Week 1. His 285 yards on the ground rank seventh in the NFL and he's hauled in 14 catches for 161 receiving yards. The former Illinois State star leads all rookies with eight runs of 10 yards or more and is averaging 3.2 yards after contact per attempt, according to PFF.
Though he's thriving to the surprise of many at the head of Jacksonville's offense, the powerful tailback will need to up his game against top competition if he's to keep hold of the No. 1 spot. For now, Robinson is the league's most productive offensive rookie.
Honorable Mentions: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs), Jonathan Taylor (Colts), Antonio Gibson (Washington)
Defensive Rookie of the Year
5. Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers
Drafted as a safety out of FCS Southern Illinois, Chinn has primarily played his snaps at linebacker since the Panthers selected him in the second round this past April. The move appears to be a success thus far, as the athletic defender presents a favorable matchup in space against opposing tight ends and running backs.
Chinn leads Carolina with 35 tackles and is playing well enough in every phase of the game to carve out an increased role moving forward. He's been an excellent complement to Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead.
4. Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears
Thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie opposite stud cornerback Kyle Fuller, Johnson is making the Bears look as though they came away with a second-round steal.
Johnson has already been targeted 26 times through four games but only allowed 12 catches. That rate, along with his 13.4 coverage snaps per reception, leads all rookies at his position, according to PFF. Johnson is making plays on the ball as well: Only James Bradberry defended more passes than the former Utah star in the first quarter of the season. Chicago got a good one at a key position.
3. CJ Henderson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Henderson's arrival should make Jaguars fans feel slightly better about the team trading away Jalen Ramsey. Henderson hasn't been perfect, but the Florida product's strong performances against the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans to kick off the year place him among the early rookie standouts.
The speedy defender intercepted a pass in his NFL debut and has since proven a tricky matchup for opposing receivers. He's defending passes and appears to have improved his tackling abilities - something experts knocked him for leading up to the draft. Henderson has allowed just 23 total yards after the catch in primary coverage, and four of his 15 tackles have come at or behind the line of scrimmage.
2. Chase Young, Washington Football Team
A groin injury has forced Young to play only three games thus far, but he hasn't needed much time to make his presence known around the NFL. The second overall pick has notched 2.5 sacks in his first three contests - the most recent of which he left with the injury - illustrating why he was viewed as the top overall prospect in his class.
Able to beat veteran left tackles with power, technique, and athleticism, Young pressured the quarterback at a consistent rate before going down. Once he returns to the lineup, the star edge rusher should continue to dominate and remain a favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
1. Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evaluators are somewhat loose with the phrase, "All over the field," but Winfield is truly impacting every phase of the game as a rookie. He's yet to intercept a pass, but the first-year safety has forced a handful of incompletions and is thriving in run defense.
Winfield's resume through four weeks speaks for itself: 25 total tackles (with just one miss), one forced fumble, and two sacks. Whether in the box or as a deep-lying defender, the 2019 All-American is proving to be the last piece of the puzzle for an already stout Buccaneers defense.
Honorable Mentions: L'Jarius Sneed (Chiefs), Patrick Queen (Ravens), Javon Kinlaw (49ers)
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