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Lions DT Da’Shawn Hand is PFF’s highest graded rookie

Da’Shawn Hand: Rookie of the Year?

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like every week, we gush about the job Da’Shawn Hand is doing. This week will be no exception, as the Detroit Lions’ fourth-round pick is coming off another fantastic week of play. Though he didn’t show up much on the stat sheet, the Lions defensive tackle/end was consistently in the backfield giving Brock Osweiler fits.

Now through seven weeks, Da’Shawn Hand isn’t just having a pretty solid year for a rookie, he’s having the best year of any NFL rookie. Move over, Saquon Barkley. Take a seat, Baker Mayfield. According to Pro Football Focus, no rookie has been better than Da’Shawn Hand.

This week, PFF published two articles just on Hand alone. The first, entitled “NFL Secret Superstars – Week 7,” talks about his superb performance in Miami.

“Hand logged a career-high eight total pressures (all hurries) against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, earning an elite 90.0 pass-rush grade in the process,” PFF’s Austin Gayle wrote.

But if graphics are more your thing, check this out:

Granted this is only for Week 7, but any time you can post better statistics than Aaron Donald—in a week that Donald won NFC defensive player of the week—is a good day.

PFF’s second article, which is exclusively about Hand, is full of a bunch of goodies, but here is the bombshell from Evan McPhillips:

Hand has an overall grade of 89.6, which ranks eighth among qualifying defensive interiors, and is the highest-graded rookie in the NFL through Week 7.

What’s perhaps even more impressive is that Hand has been doing it with a ton of playing time. This isn’t just him making the most out of limited opportunities. He’s getting worked hard and isn’t taking any plays off. As PFF notes, Hand didn’t play much at all in college at Alabama. He logged 310 snaps in 2016 and 435 last year. With the Lions, he’s already at 242 through just six games.

Just as impressive is Hand’s balance as a pass rusher and run defender. Per PFF, he’s logged 15 pressures already and has 13 defensive stops, both numbers higher than he ever had in a full college season.

“Among qualifying defensive interior players, Hand is ninth in run-stop percentage (10.8), 12th in run stops (T-11th) and eighth in pass-rush productivity (6.7),” McPhillips wrote.

Now, you can’t help but wonder if Hand will be even more productive now that the Lions will be reportedly trading for Damon Harrison. There’s a chance Hand’s playing time sees a bit of a dip, which may actually be good for the young player. But when he’s in there alongside “Snacks,” you have to think he’s not going to draw quite as much attention, and teams won’t have the ability to scheme double teams to slow him down. Maybe, just maybe, this is the renaissance of Detroit’s defensive line.

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