Sure, it’s early. But what fun is football if we can’t get overly excited about our team’s rookies — regardless of how small the sample size may be.
Week 1 of the NFL season saw plenty of fresh faces shoot out of the gates and put up some impressive stats in their first pro football game that actually means something.
With that in mind, here are some of the most exciting rookie performances from the season openers, and why we’re already looking forward to seeing what they do in Week 2.
QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Tom Savage was the Texans’ starting quarterback for all of two quarters of the 2017 season before he was yanked at halftime and replaced by 12th-overall pick Deshaun Watson in what turned out to be a flat season opener for the Texans against the Jaguars.
Watson completed 12 of 23 pass attempts for 102 passing yards and threw a touchdown in his first drive of the game, but he’ll need the offensive line to play a little tighter as he was sacked four times in two quarters of football.
.@deshaunwatson is tossing TDs!
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2017
His play was strong enough to earn the nod to start Thursday’s game against the Bengals — on his 22nd birthday — according to NFL Network insiders Ian Rapoport and James Palmer.
QB DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
The Browns had plenty of rookies in the lineup on Sunday against the Steelers, including Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku and Trevon Coley, to name a few. But the real Week 1 star in Cleveland was first-year quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Though the Browns lost 21-18, the 21-year-old kept them in the game and showed plenty of poise and promise, completing 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, and snuck in a rushing TD of his own, too.
As expected, he’ll need to work on getting rid of the ball more quickly in high-pressure situations — he was sacked a whopping seven times, though he threw just one interception. But the overarching sentiment following the game was that there’s hope in Believeland. He even earned some pretty high praise from his opponent, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“We’re both from northwest Ohio, both wear No. 7,” Roethlisberger said on Sunday, via Cleveland.com. “I thought he played a great game. He did some great things against a defence that gets after it, but I told him afterward, ‘What an awesome start.’ I know it’s not getting a win, but just to play the way he did, I was proud of him.”
Up next is another division battle, this time in Baltimore.
As for another highly-anticipated rookie debut, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see Myles Garrett in action as the No. 1 pick suffered a high ankle sprain last week and will continue to sit out this Sunday against the Ravens.
RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
No one could slow down the Kansas City Chiefs in last Thursday’s season opener — not even the dynastic New England Patriots — and running back Kareem Hunt was a huge reason why.
After fumbling on the first carry of his pro career, Hunt rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown, then showed off his versatility as a pass-catcher with five receptions and two more TDs, including an incredible 78-yard effort.
His 246 total yards set a new league record for all-purpose yards in an NFL debut.
It’ll be tough to top a game like that, but we’re certainly excited to see him try when they host the Eagles this Sunday.
RB Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
It may have been his first NFL game, but Sunday wasn’t Leonard Fournette’s first time playing football in the home of the Houston Texans.
Though he didn’t post numbers like we saw in the 2015 Texas Bowl during his time with the LSU Tigers, he definitely put up a noteworthy performance to the tune of 100 rushing yards and a touchdown against what was supposed to be a pretty formidable Texans defence.
The Jaguars still have plenty of questions at quarterback, but they now have a reliable run option to ease the load off the passing game.
RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings appear to have transitioned nicely from the Peterson era thanks to running back Dalvin Cook, who carried his pre-season momentum into an impressive debut.
A historic one, too. The second-round pick tallied 127 rushing yards in 22 carries to help the Vikings to a Week 1 win over none other than Adrian Peterson’s new team, the New Orleans Saints. He also broke the team’s record for most rushing yards in an NFL debut (Peterson set that record back in 2007 with 103 yards in 19 carries).
WR Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
It’s a tough task to try and fill the shoes of Megatron, but rookie Kenny Golladay looked like he might just be up for the challenge.
Air Golladay pic.twitter.com/rgOZVNgent
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) September 11, 2017
The 23-year-old third-round pick hauled in four catches and had two touchdowns to help the Lions overcome the Cardinals on Sunday. With Matthews Stafford’s arm and Golladay’s wings, Detroit should have plenty of highlight reel-worthy plays on the big stage on Monday night in New York against the Giants.
WR Cooper Kupp, L.A. Rams
Much to the surprise of many in the football world, the Rams put up some big offensive numbers in Week 1 (albeit, against the Colts’ troubled defence). Rookie receiver Cooper Kupp was a big part of that, registering four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
One of those catches was a real beauty:
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 11, 2017
We’re sensing some serious chemistry between Kupp and sophomore gunslinger Jared Goff, so look for some more tosses going his way when they face Washington in Week 2.
LB T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t realize T.J. Watt was a rookie. He certainly didn’t look like a first-year pro against the Browns on Sunday.
J.J. Watt’s little brother was a huge force for Pittsburgh, tallying two sacks, seven tackles, and even getting an interception off DeShone Kizer.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 10, 2017
You know you’re a talented rookie when you can make Pittsburgh think twice about James Harrison’s role on the team.
RB Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Last year, Bears running back Jordan Howard enjoyed a breakout season (and got picked up by all the smart fantasy owners early on). This year the Bears appear to have another dynamic addition to the run game in Tarik Cohen.
The 22-year-old carried the ball five times and put together some fun runs, totalling 68 yards. He also had eight catches, including one for a touchdown, and factored into special teams with punt returns.
Fourth-round steal? He just might be.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 10, 2017