The Associated Press annually picks two Rookies of the Year, one on offense and one on defense. But the Talk of Fame Network will stick to just one. And that’s the subject of our poll this week – who is the NFL’s Rookie of the Year? Is it a runner? A receiver? A blocker? A passer? A cover corner? We’re going to give you eight options – and they range from first to fifth rounders from the 2017 draft. Keep an eye on the third round – there was gold in that round last April. Here are your candidates:
Jamal Agnew, KR, Detroit. A fifth-round draft pick out of San Diego, Agnew became the primary punt returner of the Lions and is the only NFL player to return two kicked footballs for touchdowns this season. He returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants and another 74 yards for a score against the New Orleans Saints. Agnew leads the NFL in punt returns with an average of 16.0 yards. He also is averaging 17.8 yards on 11 kickoff returns and has yet to fumble in 52 touches.
Pat Elflein, C, Minnesota. A third-round draft pick out of Ohio State, Elflein became a walk-in starter for the NFC North champions. Even though the Vikings have been playing since September without their starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) and since October without their running back (Dalvin Cook), the Vikings still have a Top 10 offense and the NFL’s eighth-best rushing attack. Credit a rebuilt offensive line that includes two unrestricted free-agent additions and Elflein. Minnesota is 12-3, but 12-2 with Elflein on the field. He missed the Carolina loss with an injury.
Kareem Hunt, HB, Kansas City. Another third-round draft pick out of Toledo, Hunt exploded onto the scene with 148 yards rushing and one touchdown and 98 yards receiving and two more scores in his NFL debut on the Thursday night season opener against the Patriots. He’s been a season-long starter for the Chiefs and ranks second in the NFL with 1,292 yards rushing. He also ranks seventh in the NFL in touchdowns with 10, seven on rushes and three on receptions. He’s had six 100-yard rushing games and long touchdowns of 78 yards against the Patriots, 69 yards against the Chargers and 53 against the Eagles.
Alvin Kamara, HB, New Orleans. Another third-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Kamara has started only three games but has shared the backfield load with Pro Bowler Mark Ingram. Kamara has rushed 111 times for 684 yards and caught 75 passes for 742 yards. His 1,426 total yards rank eighth in the NFL and his 12 touchdowns (seven rushing, five receiving) ranks third. He had a 100-yard rushing game against Buffalo, a 100-yard receiving game against the Rams and a 10-reception game against Miami for the 11-4 Saints.
Cooper Kupp, WR, LA Rams. Yet another third-round draft pick out of Eastern Washington, Kupp has started only six NFL games but has given QB Jared Goff a reliable third-down receiver, ranking sixth in the league with his 23 catches and four touchdowns. On the season, Kupp has caught a team-runnerup 62 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns for the NFC West champions. He had a 116-yard receiving game against the Saints and and a 118-yard game against the Eagles.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans. The 11th overall choice of the draft out of Ohio State, Lattimore became a walk-in starter for the NFL’s 11th ranked defense, a jump of 21 spots from a year ago. He has intercepted five passes and defensed 17 others. Lattimore returned one of his interceptions 27 yards for a touchdown against Matthew Strafford and the Detroit Lions. He also has forced one fumble and made 50 tackles. Only three wide receivers have managed 100-yard games against the Saints this season.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans. The final pick of the first round out of Wisconsin, Ramczyk became a walk-in starter at left tackle, then moved to the right side after an injury to Zach Strief. Blockers from Wisconsin excel in the running game and Ramczyk has given the Saints all they expected and more. New Orleans has become a Top 5 rushing attack this season, a leap of 11 spots from a year ago, and again are in the hunt for an NFC S0uth crown with an 11-4 record. In addition, QB Drew Brees has been sacked once or less in 10 of the Saints’ 15 games thus far.
DeShaun Watson, QB, Houston. The 12th overall pick of the draft out of Clemson, Watson did not open or close the season as the starting quarterback of the Texans. Even though he started just six games, he’d be impossible to leave off this list. No rookie had as spectacular a six-game run as Watson before a knee injury ended his season. In those six games, he passed for 18 touchdowns and rushed for another. He threw for 402 yards against Seattle and 301 against New England. He passed for five touchdowns against Kansas City and four against Tennessee. The Texans were 3-3 with Watson as their starting quarterback but 1-8 without him.