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Arrowhead Pride Midseason Awards: Offensive and defensive rookies of the year

We’re continuing our midseason awards by shining the spotlight on the Chiefs’ top rookies.

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NFL: New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve handed out three midseason awards so far: the special teams co-MVPs, the most improved Chiefs and the most valuable assistant coach. On Friday, we will announce our MVP, offensive player and defensive player honors.

In this post, we will highlight the most valuable rookies to the team on each side of the ball — as voted on by all eight Arrowhead Pride staff members.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

A clean sweep for Clyde Edwards-Helaire — who is the only rookie on the offensive side of the ball that has taken more than a handful of snaps. Undrafted rookie right tackle Yasir Durant made his debut this past week against the Carolina Panthers.

As obvious as it is that he deserves the team’s offensive rookie of the year, he needs to have more consideration for the league award.

I understand the emergence of rookie quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa makes it impossible for Edwards-Helaire to win. That being said, other rookies like Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool have better odds or the same odds to win the award as the Chiefs running back.

They’ve all had great debut seasons, but let’s look at Edwards-Helaire’s season at the halfway point:

  • 586 rushing yards (fourth in the NFL)
  • 4.7 yards per attempt (12th among qualified running backs in the NFL)
  • 27 tackles avoided in the run game, per PFF (sixth in the NFL)
  • 15 10-plus yard rushes (seventh in the NFL)
  • 224 receiving yards (seventh among NFL running backs)
  • 8 yards per reception (seventh among NFL running backs with at least 20 targets)
  • 9 tackles avoided after receptions, per PFF (fifth among NFL running backs)
  • 810 yards from scrimmage (fifth in the NFL)

Among NFL rookies, he is:

  • The rushing yards leader
  • Second in yards per attempt among qualified running backs
  • The leader in avoided tackles on rushes, per PFF
  • Second in 10-plus yard rushes
  • Second in receiving yards
  • The leader in tackles avoided after receptions, per PFF
  • The leader in yards from scrimmage

It’s a very talented class of rookie running backs and wide receivers, but I believe Edwards-Helaire should be considered the top rookie behind the three impressive quarterbacks.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton

Others receiving votes: Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed

Undrafted rookie Turk Wharton received six votes to claim the award — while injured rookie L’Jarius Sneed earned two votes for his three-game stretch at the beginning of the year.

Wharton has played a role all season — but recently, he has become one of the biggest contributors on the defensive line. He’s played the fourth-most snaps among Chiefs defensive linemen in the past four games. Of that group, he has the third-most pressures and the second-most run stops in that span, per PFF. He’s also the only defensive lineman to force a fumble in that stretch.

He seems to make at least one big play a game, and that has translated into having one of the most impressive defensive rookie seasons in the NFL this year.

It is worth the reminder that Wharton was playing football at Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla, Missouri at this time last year. He dominated that level, but no one predicted that he would impact the Chiefs defense the way he immediately has. The COVID-19 pandemic kept Wharton a secret through the offseason and in training camp, but it’s obvious that general manager Brett Veach found a gem and should receiver proper credit.

With star pass rusher Chris Jones looking as disruptive as ever, defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi, Mike Pennel and Wharton have all proven to be trustworthy on the interior. The depth the Chiefs possess on the interior defensive line is important for the last half of the year, but injuries have impacted their defensive end depth.