Midseason rookie rankings: Baker Mayfield gains on Derwin James

Some of the league’s current division leaders, like the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, have gotten quite a bit from their rookies.

On the flip side, the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots each had just two rookies in uniform.

It shows the differences in how teams see their rookie classes, where those players fit and how things have unfolded on the injury front.

From game analysis and discussion with personnel evaluators, here’s a look at the top 10 rookies at the midseason mark:

Top 10 (stats are Weeks 1-9 combined)

1. S Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

Stats: 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT

Previous rank: 1

James was on a bye in Week 8, but he was credited with 11 tackles in the Chargers’ win over the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend. Evaluators continue to point to his instincts and effort, and the video continues to show a high-motor player who offers premium versatility.

2. CB Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns

Stats: 40 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FR, 3 INTs

Previous rank: 2

Ward played just eight plays on defense this past Sunday before leaving the Browns' loss to the Chiefs with a hip injury. But the Browns have asked him to perform like a player well beyond his years. He’s had some breakdowns, but he has rebounded from mistakes and lined up, with confidence, against some of the league’s best, including the Steelers’ Antonio Brown in Week 8.

3. QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Stats: 252.6 passing yards per game, 10 TDs, 7 INTs

Previous rank: 5

There is a degree of difficulty in all of this. Mayfield has played a rookie’s most demanding position through a change in head coaches as well as offensive coordinators in a football-mad city that hopes he can lift its team from its decades-old football doldrums. Through all that, he has still largely played with composure and an improving awareness.

4. LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Stats: 88 tackles, 3 FF, 4 sacks, 2 FR

Previous ranking: 3

The Colts had a Week 9 bye, but in Week 8 Leonard continued his high-output work. His three forced fumbles are among the best in the league – and behind only front-line pass-rushers Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack and Dee Ford, who all have four forced fumbles this season.

5. LB Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos

Stats: 30 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PD

Previous ranking: 9

Chubb leads the Broncos’ pass-rushers in snaps played and has been on the field over 75 percent of the defense’s total plays thus far this season. He has 6.5 sacks in his last four games and is becoming an increasingly bigger problem for offenses trying to do whatever they can to keep Von Miller away from their quarterbacks.

6. S Jessie Bates, Cincinnati Bengals

Stats: 60 tackles, 3 INTs, 4 PD

Previous ranking: 8

The Bengals were on a bye this past Sunday, but Bates had his first career pick-six in Cincinnati’s Week 8 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He leads the Bengals in tackles and is tied with Shaun Williams for the team lead in interceptions.

7. RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Stats: 519 yards rushing, 497 yards receiving, 7 total TDs

Previous ranking: 4

Barkley is a bit of a victim of the Giants’ offensive struggles overall, but his 1,016 yards from scrimmage still put him behind only Todd Gurley and James Connor. He also has more receiving yards than the likes of the Saints’ Alvin Kamara and the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt among running backs.

8. G Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts

Stats: Colts have three consecutive games with no sacks allowed

Previous ranking: NR

A week-to-week look at his game video has shown both power and savvy. He’s been one of the best of a big group of rookie linemen around the league who were tossed into the lineup right from the start of the regular season. Nelson has been smooth moving in and out of double teams as he consistently makes the right move.

9. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

Stats: 591 yards rushing, 5.4 yards per carry

Previous ranking: 7

The Broncos have had to lean on Lindsay more since fellow rookie Royce Freeman suffered an ankle injury and missed the past two games. Lindsay is one of only two backs in the league -- the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon is the other -- with at least 100 carries who is averaging more than 5.0 yards per carry.

10. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

Stats: 62 tackles, 2 PD

Previous ranking: NR

Vander Esch had left the Cowboys’ Week 7 loss to the Redskins with a thigh injury, but he was able to recover enough in the team’s Week 8 bye to tie Jaylon Smith for the team lead of nine tackles in the loss to the Titans on Monday night. His production with just three starts this season shows his ability to have impact with the snaps when he is on the field.

Close, but not quite (totals are for nine games)

Panthers CB Donte Jackson (36 tackles, 4 INTs, 7 PD); Falcons WR Calvin Ridley (33 catches, 463 yards, 7 TDs); Packers CB Jaire Alexander (28 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PD); 49ers RT Mike McGlinchey (nine starts for No, 2 rush team); Lions DL Da’Shawn Hand (23 tackles, 2 FF); Lions RB Kerryon Johnson (503 yards rushing, 24 catches); Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds (62 tackles, missed Week 9 with concussion); 49ers LB Fred Warner (72 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR); Browns LB Genard Avery (16 tackles, 2.5 sacks); Redskins NT Daron Payne (26 tackles, 3 sacks); Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (17 catches, 358 yards, 21.1 yards per catch); Bears LB Roquan Smith (54 tackles, 2 sacks); Dolphins CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick (49 tackles, 4 PD); Steelers S Terrell Edmunds (28 tackles); Chiefs LB Breeland Speaks (22 tackles, 1.5 sacks); Broncos WR Courtland Sutton (19.1 yards per catch).

Kickers need love, too

Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders is 5-for-5 in his past two games and overall has hit six kicks of at least 40 yards, including a 47-yard game-winner in overtime in the Dolphins’ win against the Bears.