Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
Top NFL Rookie of Week Eight: Arizona Cardinals' RB Andre Ellington
Many NFL draft enthusiasts will remember the 2013 class as the first in 50 years to not produce a single first round running back. Savvy talent evaluators will note that regardless of where the runners were selected, rookie ball-carriers have enjoyed significant success this season.
The final week of October was especially kind to the young backs, as Ellington (154), St. Louis Rams' Zac Stacy (134) and Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy (94) finished 1-2-3 atop the NFL's rushing totals for running backs in Week Eight.
Whereas Stacy and Lacy pounded their opponents Ellington used his vision, great lateral agility and impressive acceleration to pick up chunks up yardage against the Falcons, averaging a gaudy 10.3 yards per attempt (15 carries). Stacy and Lacy, by comparison, averaged 5.2 and 3.2 yards per carry against the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.
Much of Ellington's production came on one snap, as he took a handoff from Carson Palmer with 7:36 remaining in the second quarter for an 80-yard touchdown that ranks as the third longest in Cardinals' history.
Ellington's run was designed to go up the middle but veteran defensive tackle Corey Peters beat Cardinals' guard Daryn Colledge to the inside, forcing Ellington cut to his left. Ellington's jump cut caught Falcons' rookie linebacker Paul Warrilow flat-footed and he found a clear avenue to the outside, taking advantage of seal blocks from tackle Bradley Sowell and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Once Ellington got to the corner, his acceleration took over. He pulled away from the Falcons to race down the left sideline for the next 70 yards untouched to give the Cardinals a 14-6 lead.
Though Ellington's long touchdown was certainly his most important play of the game, it was hardly his only impressive run. The rookie's 22-yard jaunt on 2nd and 11 from the Arizona 19 set up the Cardinals' first score of the game (a Fitzgerald touchdown reception). Further, he converted both runs and receptions on third downs into new series to continue Arizona drives.
Ellington is one of those backs who plays faster than he timed during workouts (4.54 seconds), demonstrating great burst to throw off defenders' angles. He also possesses a terrific jump cut, especially to his left, which kept would-be Atlanta tacklers off-balance.
These are traits which helped Ellington rack up 4,586 all-purpose yards at Clemson and a 3rd round grade from NFLDraftScout.com. Slower-than-expected workout times, workload concerns and questions about his durability all contributed to his falling to the sixth round, where the Cardinals made him the No. 187th overall selection of the 2013 draft. He has largely languished as a backup to veteran Rashard Mendenhall over the first half of his rookie season but the breakout performance in his first career start could prove Ellington more than just a rotational back for the Cardinals.
Rookie of the Week Archives:
Week One: Carolina Panthers' DT Star Lotulelei
Week Two: Houston Texans' WR DeAndre Hopkins
Week Three: New York Jets' QB Geno Smith
Week Four: Buffalo Bills' ILB Kiko Alonso
Week Five: Green Bay Packers' RB Eddie Lacy
Week Six: Detroit Lions' TE Joseph Fauria
Week Seven: Washington Redskins' TE Jordan Reed