Every year, there is some rookie that jumps out and is welcomed with open arms to the NFL. Over the last few seasons, guys like Odell Beckham Jr., Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott have come to the league and made an instant impact.
But, something is in the Gatorade jugs this year. Just about everyone in The Shop league drafted a young stud running back with hopes that he might make a splash at some point in the season. Now they’re trying to find ways NOT to play them because they’re carving out their own identities early.
Consider the following players and whether they would be in your lineup or on your bench:
Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey – He leads the Panthers in total yards – rushing 21 times for 57 and catching nine passes for 72 yards. They’re modest numbers, but the Panthers are finding ways to get him touches and eventually he’s going to have his blow-up game.
Chicago’s Tarik Cohen – His 79 rushing yards on 12 carries is 20 more yards than highly-valued Jordan Howard – on 10 fewer carries. He also leads the Bears with 16 receptions. He has earned his spot as more than just a change-of-pace guy and is getting the attention of more fantasy owners all the time as someone they might want on their roster.
Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon – He hasn’t done much to prove himself worthy of playing on a fantasy team – who has in Cincinnati? – but he has the most rushing attempts and most receptions of any Bengals running back and that disparity will get bigger if he has a breakout game soon.
Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette – He has 40 carries in two games – Chris Ivory is second with just 15 – and he leads all Jacksonville running backs in receptions with five. It is clear that the Jaguars are willing to give him the rock and be the centerpiece of the offense. Once he gets defenses worse than the Texans and Titans he faced in his first two games – and scored a TD against each – his numbers could spike.
Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt – He has 30 carries for 229 yards and three touchdowns and has caught eight passes for 126 yards and two more TDs. No other running back on the Chiefs roster has more than one rushing attempt or one reception. He’s the whole damn show and, with five touchdowns and 355 total yards in two games, the clear frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook – In two games, he has rushed 34 times for 191 yards. Nobody else has more than six carries. He has taken the starting job over and, with a 5.6 yard-per-carry average, isn’t going to give it up anytime soon barring injury.
New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara – He hasn’t done much of anything yet, but it seems clear that Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram are fighting it out for the “featured back” position, but this is a Drew Brees-led team and just as Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles have carved out key fantasy roles with Brees, Kamara looks like the safest bet moving forward in NOLA.
Seattle’s Chris Carson – A guy a lot of thought had a legitimate chance to win Pete Carroll’s affection. He has 26 carries for 132 yards through two games. Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise have combined to carry 14 times for 18 yards. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that math.
Washington’s Samaje Perine – In a game they had to win, Perine stepped in for Fat Rob Kelley and, while his numbers have been modest at best (21 carries for 67 yards), it seems obvious he has made enough of an impression on the coaching staff that Kelley needs to be legitimately concerned about playing time.
The NFL is a young man’s game, but things are getting crazy this season, as one team after another is handing over roles in their offenses to rookies in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. By midseason, all of these guys may be starting for someone – and we didn’t even mention Indy’s Marlon Mack or Houston’s D’Onta Foreman.
- Not all the newsmakers are young. If you saw the Arizona-Indianapolis game, you have our apologies, but it featured a record that may be hard to match at any point in the future. The two kickers in that game where Phil Dawson and Adam Vinatieri. Between them, they are 86 years old and have a combined 40 years of NFL experience. That will be hard for anyone to surpass.
- Cudos go out to Joe Thomas, who was in the draft class that brought the NFL Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately for Thomas, he ended up with Cleveland, where wins are hard to come by. On Sunday, he set an ironman milestone that will be just as hard to beat as the Dawson-Vinatieri matchup. In his 11th NFL season, Thomas not only has never missed a game, he’s never missed a snap. He went over the 10,000 consecutive snap mark Sunday. He may be one of the rare Hall of Famers who never played in a postseason game.
- I’ve been known to bust a move every now and again on the dance floor, but my man Marshawn Lynch just passed his audition for “Dancing With the Stars” Sunday. He got the dumpster fire known as Oakland Alameda Coliseum rockin’ along with him. It even got me moving a little bit.
- All of us at The Shop want to send out some serious love to J.J. Watt. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, Watt decided to step up and try to raise money for the cause to help out people. He hoped to raise $200,000, which he thought was an aggressive goal that might be hard to meet, especially considering that there wasn’t going to be government or corporate money kicked in. When they shut down the website last Friday, the final total was $37,132,157. We may have a lot of differences, but it’s nice to see so many people come together for the common good like that.
The razor’s edge
- Play It Again, Sam – In Week 1, Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Six days later, he was a spectator with a swollen knee. The results couldn’t have been more different. Case Keenum is a backup quarterback for a reason and he showed why in a lackluster performance against the Steelers.
- When is 2-0 a Cause for Concern? – The Carolina Panthers have taken care of their business in their first two games, allowing just six points. But, there is reason for concern. Cam Newton has been pedestrian at best and, when your defense is playing so dominant – much less against teams like San Francisco and Buffalo – you should be blowing people out. If not for a drop by a diving Zay Jones in the final seconds of the Panthers’ home opener, they could (and should) be 1-1 right now. Cam Newton doesn’t look healthy and looks much older than his driver’s license would tell you. The Panthers get Drew Brees and Tom Brady in the next two weeks. Let see how that works out.
- Green and Gold are Black and Blue – The Green Bay Packers have had a long history of offensive line injuries over recent years, often cause centers to move to guard and guards to move to tackle. But, Sunday night’s game had to be a little disconcerting. Not only were the Packers without both of their starting tackles, they lost Jordy Nelson to a quad injury, Randall Cobb to a shoulder injury Mike Daniels to a hamstring injury and Davon House to a quad injury. With their next two days coming in the span of five days – Sunday vs. Cincinnati and Thursday vs. Chicago, the Packers will need to get a lot of healing done in hurry.
- Misery Loves Company – Few teams that came into August with playoff hopes look as awful as the Cardinals and Colts do right now. The Cardinals came out with an ugly 16-13 win in which you almost felt sorry for the fans who paid good money for tickets when they went on sale with the expectation to see Andrew Luck and David Johnson. Instead, they saw a couple of offenses that looked like bad college offenses. These two teams had division title aspirations when training camp opened. Now more people are looking at them as having lottery picks in next April’s draft.
- How ‘Bout Them Cowboys! – There is no shame losing in Denver. A lot of teams do it. But, the domination that the Broncos put on the Dallas Cowboys Sunday was epic for a team that finished 13-3 last year and look to be better this time around. Zeke Elliott was held to eight yards on nine carries, Dak Prescott threw the ball 50 times, Trevor Siemian threw four touchdowns and the tandem of C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles went off for 164 yards on 34 carries. It was a beat-down in every phase of the game. Fortunately for Dallas, it doesn’t hurt their record in the division or their conference, but it sent a loud message that Dallas is a great front-running team, but, when pressed to come back from a double-digit deficit, they may not have the makeup required to make a big comeback. We’re not blowing TAPS on Dallas, but that was a rude awakening for them all.
- Same Stuff, New Day – If you were to strictly look at the offensive numbers for the New York Jets, you would have thought they had won the game. Their running game averaged five yards a carry on 25 rushes and Josh McCown threw two touchdowns and had a passer rating of 113.1, but they gave up 31 points in the last 31 minutes to the Raiders and suffered a 25-point blowout loss in a game where their offense did just about everything it could to win the game. They weren’t supposed to beat the Raiders, but when your offense shows up like that and you still get knocked out, even the blind judge in the Canelo-Triple G fight could tell you this team may not win a game all season because the offense isn’t going to execute to that level very often…and they still lost by 25 points!
- What Did You Sign Up For? – It’s the end of Week 2 and guess what? The Saints are 0-2 and already digging themselves a hole that will be difficult to get out of. Adrian Peterson has been running his mouth that he didn’t sign up to be on the field for nine snaps against Minnesota and things didn’t get much better in Week 2 against the Patriots. At least he was on the field for 16 of 65 snaps. The fact of the matter is that, while Peterson still believes he is the dominant running back in the NFL, the Saints aren’t built around him. They’re built around Drew Brees. As long as the Saints have a God-awful defense that is likely going to produce its second Offensive Player of the Week for the opposing team in two games, Peterson is miscast in a supporting role. I love what Peterson has done for the game, but, right now, if I had to choose the two running backs I’d want to go forward with this season in New Orleans, I would take Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The Saints should give Arizona a call and see if they’d give up a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft to get A.P. out of town.
- Not Koo, Dude! – The Los Angeles Chargers can’t even fill up a soccer stadium that only holds 30,000, but this is a team that could just as easily be 2-0 instead of 0-2. They made a furious comeback in the Sergio Dipp game on the Monday night opener and had the chance to send the game with Denver to overtime. Koo missed the field goal, which was blocked. Sunday, he had a chance to win against Miami with a 42-yard field goal but hooked it wide left. No team has been more snake-bit in close losses since the start of the 2016 season than the Chargers. They’ve had a record of 5-13 in that span, including 11 one-possession losses and six losses by three points or less. They’re a fun team to watch if you’re not a Chargers fan, but they are the Heartbreak Kids of the NFL.
- Chickens Coming Home to Roost – We pointed out the arrogance of the Seattle Seahawks, who still have arguably the best defense in football, haven’t invested nearly enough in the offensive line and it’s starting to be a glaring weakness that makes it hard to imagine them making a serious run for the Super Bowl. Through two games, Russell Wilson has managed just one touchdown drive, has been sacked six times, has run for his life on most of his 14 carries and been forced to throw away a dozen passes because of pressure that blows up a play. Seattle can still win games 12-9 like they did on Sunday and hold a powerful offense like Green Bay to just 17 points on the road in Week 1. But, with an offensive line made up of retreads, low-round draft picks and undrafted guys isn’t getting the job done and there doesn’t appear to be any help on the way coming anytime soon. The best thing Seattle has going for it now is that it plays in the most offensively-challenged division in football, which should get them into the playoffs…even if they don’t stay in for long.
- WCRAP In Cincinnati – The Bengals have been one of the most consistently good franchises in football the last several years. They had made the playoffs almost every year – they never made it out of the first round, but they earned an invitation to the dance – but that may already be in jeopardy of being over. They opened the season with two home games and haven’t scored a touchdown – losing 20-0 to Baltimore and 13-9 to Houston. They now have to look for their first win on the road in Green Bay, where hopes of road wins typically go to die. The Bengals already made offensive coordinator Ken Zampese the fall guy and one of the earliest in-season firings in league history. They have talent on both sides of the ball, but it just isn’t showing up and when three talented running backs can’t run and the Ginja Ninja has a passer rating of 47.2, this franchise is quickly heading back to the Bungles days old.