Rookies making an impact out of the gate is one of the most exciting aspects of a new NFL season. With that said, the true test is sustaining success. Can they keep making an impact even after there is game film that reveals how they are going to be used, how they win and where they have deficiencies?
Kudos to these five rookie standouts but seeing where they fall in a few weeks will be the true test. Let’s examine the five best offensive rookies in the AFC through the first four weeks of the season.
5. Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
The fifth spot on this list was difficult for me to settle on with so many options to consider. I settled on Sutton because of the big play ability he’s already showcased this season. With four catches of over 20 yards, Sutton has solidified himself as the Broncos No. 3 target behind established veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Not only has Sutton flashed his size, physicality and ball skills to win in contested situations, but his route-running has also been impressive. Sutton is being targeted in the intermediate and deep portions of the field and there will be more explosive plays in his future.
4. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianpolis Colts
Nelson hasn’t been instantly dominant for the Colts, but he has stepped into a starting position and played well for a rookie. He’s surprisingly been more consistent in pass pro than the run game but his overall flashes give indication that he’s settling in nicely, with his best football still ahead of him.
It’s rare to see offensive lineman step in right away and be productive and it’s exciting to consider the direction Nelson is headed after a stellar career at Notre Dame.
3. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
Pairing with fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay, Freeman is part of a one-two punch in Denver that is second in the entire NFL in rushing yards. Tallying 219 yards on 44 carries, Freeman has found the endzone on three occasions in the first four games of the season.
Freeman provides the Broncos with a physical runner that wonderfully complements the elusive traits it has in Lindsay. The rushing attack in Denver is quickly becoming its identity and Freeman is a key catalyst.
2. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos
Just like we all thought…
Becoming the first ever UDFA to total at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two games, Broncos’ rookie RB Phillip Lindsay’s had an unbelievable start his career. Lindsay now finds himself as the NFL’s 10th leading rushing with 267 yards on 45 carries for an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.
At 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds, Lindsay is a pocket rocket runner but the dude packs a powerful punch and is an explosive runner. It sure feels like Denver has its RB tandem for the foreseeable future in Freeman and Lindsay which looks to be capable enough to lead one of the top rushing attacks in the league.
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland
My goodness is Baker so much fun. The way he ignited a bumbling Browns offense has been unbelievable. After leading four scoring drives to engineer a come-from-behind 21-17 victory against the Jets in Week 3, the Browns’ Mayfield-led offense put up 42 points on the Raiders in Oakland. The Browns offense hasn’t produced 42 points since 2007!
It’s a new day in Cleveland and all signs point to Mayfield FINALLY solidifying the QB position. All things considered, he’s been the best offensive rookie in the AFC so far and I cannot wait to watch him continue to resurrect the Browns as the season continues.