Here are the standout rookie performances from Week 11:
Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers (2nd round, Notre Dame)
The Steelers have proven their ability to draft and develop wideouts with a resume that includes guys like Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Emmanuel Sanders all within the past decade. Chase Claypool has shown glimpses of being the next man up in a long lineage of Steelers pass-catchers. While he has only eclipsed 100 yards in a game once this season, he caught his 10th touchdown on Sunday against Jacksonville. He is only the fourth receiver in NFL history to catch 10 TDs in his first 10 games and the first to do so since 1960.
Claypool’s touchdown came right before halftime and gave the Steelers a lead they would hold the rest of the game. Claypool’s stats would be even more impressive, but his best opportunity at another long TD was taken away by a desperate pass interference from a Jaguars DB that was obviously burned. Pittsburgh and Claypool stayed hot in Week 11 and hope to continue their winning ways on Thanksgiving against AFC North rival Baltimore.
Julian Blackmon, S, Colts (3rd round, Utah)
For those of you not familiar with the up-and-coming safety for the Indianapolis Colts, it’s about time you correct that problem. Blackmon’s play recognition quite literally saved the Colts in their game against the Packers this weekend, as he recognized a screen in overtime from the second play of the game and forced a fumble that resulted in the Colts kicking a game-winning field goal. The athleticism required to split two Green Bay blockers was only matched by the level of football intelligence it took to identify the play in the first place, as he came flying in and punched the ball out. The third-round pick is thriving in Indianapolis and could be a darkhorse for Defensive Rookie of the Year, despite suffering an ACL injury in December of last year and not being able to practice until September.
Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers (1st round, Oregon)
All the Twitter hate for his new haircut didn’t seem to bother Justin Herbert. Herbert continued his streak of putting up huge statistical games, but finally had the support around him to secure a win against the Jets. While the Jets have obviously struggled this season, it is a huge confidence booster for Herbert to finally secure a win for his team after playing some great football for most of the season. Herbert went 37 of 49 for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns, but arguably almost as impressive as his 75% completion rate was the fact that he went without throwing an interception for only the fourth time this season and continued his bid for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts (2nd round, Wisconsin)
Taylor is off to a hot start in his NFL career after an historic collegiate career. Finishing his career with the Badgers sixth on the all-time career rushing yard list and finishing in the top 10 of Heisman voting in all three of his years in Madison, Taylor is proving to be the type of player that Indianapolis can build an offense around. Taylor’s well-rounded skill set was on full display in Week 11 against Green Bay, with over 100 all-purpose yards. Despite all of Indy’s touchdowns coming off of Philip Rivers’ right arm, Taylor had a great game with 90 rushing yards and another 24 yards through the air. He has 745 yards from scrimmage this season and is looking to be a perfect fit for the Colts and their hard-nosed, physical offense.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Cardinals (1st round, Clemson)
Last but not least is the rookie standout from “Thursday Night Football.” Simmons recorded the highest-graded performance by a defensive rookie since Week 6 with a grade of 84.3 against Seattle. Thursday night was his first game with double-digit tackles (10), and he notched his first career sack, so Simmons proved worthy of an expanded role as a replacement for De’Vondre Campbell. Simmons played 135 snaps against the Seahawks after only having played 140 snaps in the previous nine games. Look for Simmons to continue earning more reps in the coming weeks as his role continues to expand.