The 2018 NFL MVP race is a rather narrow one.

Between New Orleans Saints sage Drew Brees and Kansas City Chiefs gunslinger Patrick Mahomes, the league's highest honor is bound to end up in a quarterback's arms, even if Todd Gurley deserves at least a courtesy nod.

But what about Rookie of the Year honors?

There is a clear-cut favorite there as well (see: New York Giants running back). But there are also more than a dozen first-year players who could probably make a case for Offensive or Defensive Rookie of the Year recognition this season. Here, we've ranked the top 15 of 2018, nonspecific to the actual awards but in terms of front-runners, contenders, sleepers and deep sleepers.

Some notable changes to the list since midseason: Saquon Barkley has returned to the No. 1 spot ahead of Darius Leonard and looks like a lock to stay there for the remainder of the year -- so long as Pat Shurmur doesn't keep forgetting to use him in second halves (stream Bears-Giants and all the games Sunday on fuboTV, try it for free, and stream the CBS games on CBS All Access). Two new faces have entered the top 15 in the form of Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. And New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has fallen all the way off the list after a hot start to the season.


Season stats: 11 games, 829 rushing yards (4.8 per carry), 8 TDs, 71 catches, 581 yards, 4 TDs

This guy could have a quiet game and still go off for 100 on the ground. Plain and simple, he is a game-changer. Imagine if, some day, the Giants are operating with a competent staff and consistent quarterback.

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Season stats: 10 games, 114 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 1 INT, 4 forced fumbles

Now that the Colts are actually in the national spotlight a little bit, Leonard should get even more love. The guy has been all over the field and all over the ball all season long.

Season stats: 11 games, 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 9 pass deflections, 2 INTs

The Chargers would've been happy if James was just decent this season. Instead, he's been dominant. And that can't be taken for granted at a position that's often devoid of consistency around the NFL.

Season stats: 11 games, 41 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble

One of the fastest risers in our Rookie Rankings, Chubb benefited early on from a multiple-sack game and gets to play opposite Von Miller. But steady pass rush is a premium in the NFL, and he's giving them just that.

Season stats: 9 games (8 starts), 2,242 yards (62.7 completion percent), 17 TDs, 7 INTs, 93.2 rating

Oh yes we did. Baker is now the one and only quarterback on this list, and he might even deserve to be higher. The Browns have coasted against some easier defenses of late, but you can't deny how poised this guy looks. He has "it."

Season stats: 11 games, 780 rushing yards (5.8 per carry), 6 TDs, 24 catches, 187 yards, 1 TD

It says something that, even in a league featuring Barkley, this Colorado product still deserves to be in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. He's been a big-play threat on the ground all year. The future is bright.


Season stats: 11 games, 663 rushing yards (5.4 per carry), 6 TDs, 9 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs

Now we all understand why they were quick to part with Carlos Hyde at the deadline. For a rookie who's only now finding his groove as a full-time starter, he sure looks like a keeper.

Season stats: 8 games, 586 rushing yards (4.6 per carry), 5 TDs, 6 catches, 43 yards

It's a testament to his abilities that even amid injuries and playing for a Patriots offense known to rotate backs, Michel has thrived when given the opportunity.

Season stats: 10 games, 641 rushing yards (5.4 per carry), 3 TDs, 32 catches, 213 yards, 1 TD

Theo Riddick steals a lot of his thunder in the passing game, but it's obvious he's got workhorse potential. Who knows what the future holds for Detroit's core, but Johnson has the makings of a top-15 RB1.

Season stats: 11 games, 43 tackles, 1.0 sack, 7 pass deflections, 4 INTs, 1 forced fumble

The Panthers aren't a hot team right now, and their secondary has gotten torched on multiple occasions in recent weeks. But there's something to be said for forcing big plays, and Jackson's done that quite a bit.

Season stats: 11 games, 46 tackles, 11 pass deflections, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble

The Browns can absolutely take pride in knowing they took him so early. He'll be a key piece for the long term.

Deep sleepers

Season stats: 10 games, 78 tackles, 1.0 sack, 7 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles

The best thing Bills fans can take away from Edmunds' productive rookie season is that he's still super young. If there's room for growth, there's room for Pro Bowl-caliber seasons.

Season stats: 11 games, 93 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 2 INTs

A new name on the list, Vander Esch probably deserves Pro Bowl consideration after steadying the middle of the Cowboys defense. If he keeps up his current pace, he'll rise up our rankings pretty quickly, too.

Season stats: 11 games, 47 catches, 625 yards (13.3 per catch), 8 TDs

Any other year, these numbers would stand out more. His touchdown pace trailed off a bit, but eight is still an extremely solid mark for a guy who plays with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and so forth.

Season stats: 11 games, 85 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 3 INTs, 1 TD

The Bengals are sliding big-time, as is their defense. But Bates has given them reason to have hope for the future.