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Top 5 Rookie Performances of Week 17

Here are the 33rd Team’s standout rookie performances from Week 17:

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

(2nd Round, Wisconsin)

The Colts needed a big performance to get into the playoffs and Jonathan Taylor delivered. The workhorse from Wisconsin had his season highs in both carries and yards per carry, leading to an incredible 253-yard and two touchdown performance. Taylor was well-rounded in his performance and put it all together in this weekend’s game against the Jaguars, showing patience and burst in his runs.

He joins Edgerrin James as the only Colts running back to cross the 200-yard threshold and is the third rookie running back in Colts history to exceed 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns – joining Hall of Famers James and Marshall Faulk. His 253 yards in this week’s game is tied for ninth-most all-time in a regular-season game, so the record-breaking Badger will be leaned on heavily going into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. Five of the other six teams in the AFC playoff bracket are teams that play in northern, outdoor stadiums, so a strong running game with Taylor is going to be crucial for Indy to make a deep playoff run.

Justin Herbert, LB, Los Angeles Chargers

(1st round, Oregon)

Say hello to your 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year! Herbert has been a staple in The 33rd Team’s weekly assessments of Top Rookie Performances this season and he ended his 2020 campaign with a big performance. Yes, the Chiefs were resting players. Still, Herbert threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for another while completing 71% of his passes for over 300 yards against the defending champs. Sunday’s performance not only solidified his case as the obvious choice for OROY, but it provides the Chargers with some much-needed momentum going into the 2021 season.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

(2nd round, Ohio State)

The Ravens decided that passing wasn't in the game plan for Sunday’s game against the Bengals, rushing for over 400 yards as a team. The lead back in the stable was J.K. Dobbins, who had a career high in yards and touchdowns, and broke a career-best 72-yard rush in the third quarter to put an exclamation point on the Ravens win.

Dobbins had more total yards than all of the Baltimore receivers combined and helped secure the Ravens playoff ticket in what was essentially a homecoming game for the former Buckeye. The Ravens will face their first playoff test against the Titans next weekend in the wild card round, but they will need Dobbins to put up similar numbers in Nashville to advance to the divisional round.

Antoine Winfield Jr., Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(2nd round, Minnesota)

Winfield is an absolute weapon in Tampa’s aggressive defense that operates on all three levels of the defense, and this week was no exception. He had a pass deflection from the safety position, was third in tackles for the team with 7, and recovered a fumble in the backfield that was nearly returned for a touchdown.

Winfield is one of the players that should probably have made this list sooner, but he stepped up in a big way this week when the Buccaneers defense was missing two of its defensive superstars, Devin White and Shaq Barrett. The rookie class in Tampa is arguably the best in the league thanks to Winfield and OT Tristan Wirfs both showing All-Pro ability, so look for them to be pillars of the Buccaneers for the extended future.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos

(1st round, Alabama)

Jeudy hasnt had the same consistent success this season as other rookies in his class, so it’s interesting that he had his best game just two days before another Alabama receiver, Devonta Smith, won the Heisman Trophy. Jeudy had a massive performance Sunday. His 7 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown against Vegas was the best performance of his young career and his incredible 92-yard reception in the fourth quarter will no doubt be a permanent fixture in his career highlight video. Jeudy will look to replicate his 2020 season finale going forward into next season as the No. 1 target for Drew Lock.