Chris Ivory—RB—New Orleans Saints
There were 255 players selected in the NFL Draft. Chris Ivory was not one of them. So in my opinion there hasn’t been a more surprising rookie performer this year than Ivory. The undrafted free agent from Tiffin University continued his stellar play on Sunday versus Cincinnati compiling 117 yards on 15 carries with 2 touchdowns. That’s 7.8 yards per carry for those asking. Not too shabby. Furthermore, Ivory is 2nd amongst rookies in rushing attempts (123), 1st in rushing yards (636), and tied for 1st in rushing touchdowns (5). All this after not playing the first 2 weeks of the season.
LeGarrette Blount—RB—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t know what to make of the fact that the 2 leading rookie rushers in the NFL are undrafted free agents. Perhaps it’s a case against drafting running backs early. Perhaps it’s just dumb luck. Whatever it is I’m buying it because Blount, like Ivory, looks like the real deal. The undrafted free agent from Oregon was at it again on Sunday versus Atlanta with 20 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown. Blount leads all rookies in rushing attempts (134), is 2nd in rushing yards (599), and is tied with Ivory in rushing touchdowns (5).
Sean Lee—LB—Dallas Cowboys
Lee hasn’t had much playing time this season in Dallas, as since-fired head coach Wade Phillips chose to go with more experience in his nickel package. That could all change after Lee’s performance on Sunday versus Indianapolis. Given more playing time by Jason Garrett, the 2nd round pick from Penn State came through with 5 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 2 interceptions, one of which was returned 31 yards for a touchdown. This game was a bright spot in what had otherwise been a disappointing rookie season for Lee. But perhaps we can chalk it up to the ineptness of Wade Phillips, and hope that Lee continues to have an impact for Dallas.
Javier Arenas—CB—Kansas City Chiefs
It’s really no surprise that Arenas is a Kansas City Chief. He’s a classic New England Patriot. And since an old New England Patriot is running the show now in Kansas City in Scott Pioli, this was a match made in heaven. The Patriots throughout the years have placed an emphasis on versatility, and that’s exactly what Arenas bring to the table. He’s been great this year a kick returner, a punt returner, and a nickel corner, and on Sunday versus Denver showed he can rush the passer as well. The 2nd round pick from Alabama had 3 tackles against the Broncos which included 2 sacks. Yes 2 sacks. The Chiefs had an excellent draft in 2010 with Arenas being a big part of it.
Joe Haden—CB—Cleveland Browns
Interceptions in 4 straight weeks tend to get you noticed. That’s exactly what Joe Haden accomplished this past Sunday versus Miami. Along with the interception, Haden’s 5th of the year which places him 2nd among all rookies, the 1st round pick from Florida also totaled 6 tackles and 4 passes defended. His season total of 15 passes defended places Haden 4th in the entire NFL in that category, not just rookies. Haden is playing like a veteran and has the stats to back it up. Don’t be surprised if this rookie earns a Pro Bowl berth at the end of the year.
Shout-Outs To: Chris Maragos, DB, San Francisco 49ers (1st career tackle), John Skelton, QB, Arizona Cardinals (1st 6 career pass attempt and 3 completions), Chris DeGeare, G, Minnesota Vikings (1st career start), James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (1st 18 career carries), Josh Gordy, DB, Green Bay Packers (1st career tackle), Logan Paulsen, TE, Washington Redskins (1st career catch), Nate Allen, S, Philadelphia Eagles (1st career forced fumble), Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, Philadelphia Eagles (1st career tackle), Brandon Spikes, LB, New England Patriots (1st career interception), David Nelson, WR, Buffalo Bills (1st career touchdown catch)