Deshaun Watson’s ACL injury gives Kareem Hunt clear path to Rookie of the Year

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Deshaun Watson
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Deshaun Watson /

After Deshaun Watson went down with a tragic ACL injury in practice, the Offensive Rookie of the Year race should now focus on one player: Kareem Hunt.

For the first month of the season, Kareem Hunt was the rookie du jour, the talk of the National Football League after setting several high marks within his first few games as the Kansas City Chiefs running back. Then came Deshaun Watson, who finally got his chance to start some games for the Houston Texans, and it’s been a serious race ever since.

Watson burst upon the scene in impressive fashion, making quick work of any competition for the starting job and making Bill O’Brien and company look foolish for even holding him out from holding the keys in Week 1. Watson was a championship winner, team leader and very productive player at Clemson and it seemed the NFL was simply an extension of his college days during these last few weeks.

Watson has the Houston Texans leading the NFL in scoring at the midpoint of the season—the Houston Texans. This is a franchise that’s rotated Tom Savage, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden in the last two years. They were ranked No. 28 in points per game just a season ago, which shows just how dominant Watson has been for Houston.

Unfortunately, Watson’s productivity is finished here, at least for 2017. With news that he tore his ACL in practice and that it is a season-ending injury, Watson will have a finished stat line of 19 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 103.

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From here, this means that Hunt will likely be able to coast to the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award without Watson present for the rest of the season. It was already a race, but quarterbacks tend to put up the sexiest numbers and Hunt had also slowed his production in recent weeks. The tide was definitely shifting from one camp to another, but if Watson only starts six games on the year, then that debate should be over.

It’s not as if Hunt has taken a nosedive either. He still leads the NFL in rushing yards and has since the very beginning, standing out among a draft class that included more heralded prospects than the previous several years like Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and more. Hunt has 763 rushing yards on only 146 carries, giving him a Jamaal Charles-esque 5.2 yards/carry average. He also has 307 yards receiving and leads the NFL with 1,070 yards from scrimmage.

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Perhaps Hunt would have won the award anyway given the impressive season he’s having on his own, but there was no denying the excitement on a regional and national level for Watson’s rookie season. Barring some rookie surprise or Hunt hitting a wall of his own, the Chiefs running back should be earning some hardware at season’s end.