It’s no secret that offenses are blowing the bulbs out of the scoreboards these days, as 22 quarterbacks have already topped 1,000 yards passing after five games and 30 quarterbacks have completed at least 50 percent of their passes.
And four teams are averaging at least 30 points per game after no teams averaged 30 points per game in 2017, just one averaged at least 30 in 2016 and two in 2015. You get the idea.
But through all of that, the biggest rookie impacts so far are being felt on defense.
From game analysis and discussions with personnel evaluators, here’s a look at the top 10 rookies so far this season:
Top 10 (stats are Weeks 1-5 combined)
1. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
Stats: 31 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 6 PD
Previous ranking: 3
James already has more sacks than any safety in the league had in 2017. Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden compared him to Rodney Harrison -- “he’s good in any generation.’’ James, through five games, has also shown his versatility, lining up at free safety, slot cornerback and as a linebacker.
2. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns
Stats: 25 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 TFL, 1 FR
Previous ranking: 4
Ward played 103 snaps in the team’s loss to the Raiders -- 92 on defense, 11 on special teams -- and followed that with 92 snaps in the win over Baltimore (87 on defense, five on special teams). He personally wiped out 10 potential points this past weekend when he intercepted Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on the goal line in the second quarter and then blocked a Ravens field goal on the last play of the first half.
3. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Stats: 308 yards rushing, 3 TDs, 274 yards receiving, 2 TDs
Previous ranking: 5
Only five teams have scored fewer touchdowns than the Giants this season, but Barkley continues to be the most reliable option, scoring five of the team’s 10 on the season. He’s 10th in the league in combined yardage this season as well.
4. Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 32 tackles, 2 INTs
Previous ranking: NR
His late interception against the Miami Dolphins this past weekend helped push the Bengals to their fourth win of the season -- the Bengals scored 27 unanswered points after trailing 17-0. No one’s asking why the Bengals released safety George Iloka in training camp now that the Wake Forest product has taken over.
5. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills
Stats: 38 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, 5 PD
Previous ranking: 7
Edmunds has played every snap for a Bills defense that has forced a league-high 10 fumbles and recovered the second most with six. Edmunds is active and consistently shows his preparation as he plays without much hesitation.
6. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 19 catches, 302 yards, 6 TDs
Previous ranking: 8
It’s easy to forget, given his five touchdowns over the past three games, but Ridley didn’t have a reception in Week 1 and was targeted just twice in the opener. He leads all rookies with six touchdowns and is the only wide receiver among the four players with at least six touchdowns this season.
7. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 54 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR
Previous ranking: 1
Leonard missed Week 5 with an ankle injury but is expected to play this week against the Jets. Leonard has had a bumpy ride on the learning curve in pass coverage, but he is the only rookie among the 18 players with at least four sacks and is consistently asked to be the do-it-all guy in a defense that desperately needs every play he can make.
8. Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 46 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 PD
Previous ranking: 2
Like Leonard, he has had some bobbles in coverage, but overall continues to be a bright spot in a defense that needs one. Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals was the first game this season that Warner didn’t record double-digit tackles.
9. QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Stats: 63-of-107 passing, 838 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
The Browns, who won one game in the previous two seasons combined, have gone 2-1 in games Mayfield has played in this season. He also uncorked his first 300-yard effort -- 342 yards in a win over the Baltimore Ravens, who lead the league in scoring defense.
10. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Stats: 294 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 4.4 yards per carry
Previous rank: NR
Michel’s workload is trending up, and he appears to have convinced the Patriots coaches he should have the ball more -- he has 210 yards rushing in the past two games, both Patriots wins.
Close, but not quite (totals are for five games)
Houston Texans WR Keke Coutee (17 receptions in past two games); New York Jets QB Sam Darnold (4 TD passes in past two games); Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (18 tackles, 1 INT); Seattle Seahawks DB Tre Flowers (26 tackles, 3 PD, 1 FF); Detroit Lions DL Da’Shawn Hand (19 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 FF); Cleveland Browns LT Desmond Harrison (five starts at LT, 161 snaps in past two games); Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay (sixth in the league with 470 combined yards); Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch (40 tackles); Genard Avery, LB, Cleveland Browns (10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FF); Miami Dolphins S Minkah Fitzpatrick (34 tackles, 1 TFL); New York Giants G Will Hernandez (five starts); Carolina Panthers CB Donte Jackson (3 INTs).