Week XI

According to just about every analyst out there, the 2014 draft was supposed to be one of the best in recent years. However, it was hard to justify that theory based on the eraly returns from this year's rookie class few of whom made much of an impact in the first half of the season. Indeed, there were several weeks early in the season when it was really hard to find any rookie whose productivity was even close to being legitimately worth a rookie of the week award. That was then, though, as in recent weeks, members of this year's rookie have really started to take off. And that in itself tends to run counter to accepted NFL thinking which is that rookies, who seldom played more than a dozen or so games in their college careers, tend to start hitting the proverbial wall in the final 6-8 weeks of their first pro season. Obviously, someone forgot to tell this year's rookies as for there were again any number of really solid first-year performances that would have walked away with weekly rookie honors earlier inthe season. In no particular order, this week's top rookie performers include:
  • San Francisco LB Chris Borland: Last week's rookie of the week was back for more this past Sunday as he racked up 13 more tackles and picked off a couple of passes - including the game clincher on a 4th down at his own two-yard line with less than 4 minutes to play - in the 49ers' tough 16-10 win over the Giants that kept San Fran's playoff hopes alive. For the record, Borland's baker's dozen tackles this week gave him a remarkable 48 total tackles in the 3 games since he took over from the 49ers' star ILB Patrick Willis afte he was IRed with a toe injury.
  • Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans: The 7th player selected this past May, had 7 catches for over 200 yards and two TDs - of 56 and 36 yards - to help the Buccaneers win just their second game of the year 27-7 over Washington. And Evans is perhaps exhibit A of first-year players who were a little slow off the mark early in the season, but have really picked up the pace in recent weeks. Indeed, with his output against Washington, Evans became the first rookie receiver since Randy Moss in 1998 to post three straight 100-yard receiving games that also included a TD. In fact, Evans has 25 catches for 536 yards in the past 4 weeks, the most of any receiver in the NFL over that span.
  • Cincinnati RB Jeremy Hill: Hill, the Bengals' 2nd round pick this year who was won GBN rookie honors three weeks ago, had another 152 yards on 27 carries to help power Cincinnati to a huge 27-10 win over New Orleans.
  • Houston RB Alfred Blue: In fact it was a pretty good week for former LSU backs as Blue, a 6th round selection this past May, ground out 156 yards on 36 carries to help the Texans defeat Cleveland 23-7.
  • St. Louis RB Tre Mason: Mason, the Rams'  3rd round pick in 2014, churned out 113 yards on 29 carries in St Louis' stunning 22-7 win over Denver.
  • Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin: The Panthers' first round pick this year had another 9 catches for 109 yards in a tough 19-17 loss to Atlanta.
  • Philadelphia WR Jordan Matthews: One of the few Eagles to show up in a dismal 53-20 loss in Green Bay, Matthews, Philadelphia's second round pick, had 5 receptions for 107 yards and a TD.
  • Giants' WR Odell Beckham: And speaking of dismal, Beckham, the 12th player taken at this year's draft, has been one of the very few bright spots for the Giants so far this year as he caught 6 passes for 93 yards in that loss to the 49ers.
  • Cleveland WR Taylor Gabriel: Continues to be one of the league's top undrafted rookie free agents as he hauled in 5 passes for 92 yards in the Browns' loss to Houston.
  • Tennessee MLB Avery Williamson: Most of the attention was on Titans' rookie QB Zach Mettenberger who was making the start in their game with Pittsburgh on Monday. And Mettenberger wasn't bad as he completed 15 of 24 passes for 263 yards and 2 scores after having his first pass of the night returned for a pick-6 in a hard-fought 27-24 loss - but the Titans' best rookie may been MLB Avery Williamson, who had 8 tackles including a couple of sacks and another tackle for loss.
In the end, it was a tight, tight vote with Tampa Bay's Evans edging out the 49ers' Borland for this week's GBN Rookie of the Week.

Previous Weekly Winners:

Week I:   Denver CB Bradley Roby
Week II: Chicago CB Kyle Fuller
Week III: Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin
Week IV: Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater
Week V: San Diego RB Branden Oliver
Week VI: Dallas OG Zach Martin
Week VII: Buffalo WR Sammy Watkins
Week VIII: Arizona WR John Brown
Week IX: Cincinnati RB Jeremy Hill
Week X: San Francisco LB Chris Borland

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