We're approaching the time of the season when we see the rookies who are making a consistent impact. Some are first-round picks, but a few are midround steals. It's time for an update of my rankings of the top rookies in the NFL. I'm going 30 deep on this one, and I'm including where each player landed on my final top 300 prospects list before the 2017 draft.
Here are the parameters (same as always):
This is a measure for all games played this season -- not just last week.
Total snap count matters. Staying on the field is a measure of value.
Positional value matters, but overall performance and impact on the team matter more.
Relative value matters. I ask: Would this player be a starter on most teams or on a good team?
1. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Previously ranked: 1 | Final 2017 Big Board rank: 82
It wasn't always going to be easy for Hunt, who had six total touchdowns in his first three games but hasn't scored in his past three. He's still on the fringe of the MVP race. Hunt leads the NFL in rushing yards (630) and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, which ranks second in the league. What I liked about the third-round pick from Toledo is that he was involved in the passing game in college; he had 41 catches for 403 yards in 2016. He has 21 catches for 255 yards and two TDs in Kansas City. The Chiefs have a tough month ahead, with games at the Raiders, Cowboys and Giants, plus a divisional home game against the Broncos.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Previously ranked: 3 | Final 2017 Big Board rank: 34
What, exactly, did Texans coach Bill O'Brien see in Tom Savage to start him Week 1? Watson has been electric since taking over for Savage at halftime of the opener. He ranks No. 1 in Total QBR (80.7) and leads the league in touchdown passes with 15. Watson had one of the best games of any quarterback this season in Houston's 57-14 win over the Titans in Week 4, with five total touchdowns (four passing) while completing 73.5 percent of his passes. He was constantly evading pressure, too. Watson did have one interception when he tried to force a throw into the end zone at the end of the first half, but he's young, and he's going to make some mistakes. I had a second-round grade on Watson because he could be erratic at times -- he has four interceptions in five starts -- and I had him going to the Texans at pick No. 57 in my two-round mock draft in April (he ended up the 12th overall pick). He has the potential to be a superstar, and he's keeping the Texans in the AFC South race.