Injuries and other players’ struggles have opened the door for Kamara to win Rookie Of The Year.
Through the first seven weeks of the regular season, it looked like the NFL Rookie Of The Year race was going to come down to Kareem Hunt, Deshaun Watson, or Leonard Fournette. They were all off to terrific starts. Hunt had just broken 1,000 scrimmage yards, which was 236 yards ahead of the second most at that time, and the Chiefs started with a 5-2 record. Then there was Watson, who after not starting Week 1, had burst into stardom with an astonishing 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Lastly, Fournette, who had nearly 600 rushing yards, had led the Jaguars to first place in their division through that point in the season.
All three of their ROY campaigns have halted, albeit for very different reasons. Watson’s season was tragically cut short by an ACL tear during practice, effectively ending the Texans’ hope of making the playoffs. Hunt’s amazing start to the year has disappeared with his struggles over the last six weeks. He hasn’t broken 100 yards rushing since Week 5 and hasn’t scored a touchdown since week three. The Chiefs’ relied on Hunt’s production, sliding to 6-6 after losing four straight games. Fournette, like Watson, got injured, which caused him to miss a game. Then there was the incident where he violated team rules and was suspended for another game, which significantly hurt his stats.
The loss of Watson, the collapse of Hunt, and Fournette’s misfortunes have opened the door for other players to step up and win Rookie Of The Year. Alvin Kamara has taken full advantage of this opportunity. Since posting back-to-back poor performances to start the year (Pro Football Focus had him finishing with grades of 44.8 and 47.4 in those games), he has put together one of the most impressive stretches by a rookie in NFL history.
PFF) November 29, 2017
Not only is he leading the NFL in elusive rating, he has also forced 40 missed tackles on just 131 touches, which is amongst the highest in the league. Additionally, he is leading the NFL in yards after contact with 4.03. He has helped the Saints recreate their identity as the third-best rushing team in the league, which has led them to an impressive 9-3 record.
When the Saints decide to throw the ball, he makes just as big an impact as he does in the rushing attack. He already has 616 receiving yards (more than his 606 rushing) and is second amongst running backs in yards per route run average with 2.60. His performance is one of the main reasons the Saints have been able to have such a successful season.
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Kamara’s 600-600 season so far is something that hasn’t been done by a rookie since 1980. He is playing so well it sparks a debate of whether or not he would’ve won this award regardless of Watson and Hunt’s dropoff. Fournette is still alive in the Rookie Of The Year race, but unless he has a huge final four games, it’s going to be tough for him to make up ground.
What makes this stretch so impressive is that unlike Fournette and Watson, Karama didn’t go in the first round of the NFL draft. He was so underutilized at Tennessee that it allowed him to slip to the third round and be one of the biggest steals in last year’s draft.
Kamara’s success statistically has translated into wins for the Saints. He and Mark Ingram have formed arguably the best two-headed rushing attack in the league, which paired with their much-improved defense, makes them a team no one should want to see come playoff time. Kamara’s team success combined with his eye-popping individual statistics make him a virtual lock for Rookie Of The Year.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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