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NFL midseason awards: Kerryon Johnson finishes 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting

The Lions running back is getting some national attention for a solid start to his NFL career.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been the year the Detroit Lions have wanted quite yet, but if there’s one promising aspect of the team, it’s their 2018 rookie class. Detroit has been getting continued production out of three of their first four picks, and while it’s Da’Shawn Hand that has been getting the highest grades from Pro Football Focus, Kerryon Johnson has drawn all the headlines.

Johnson has already set a ton of franchise marks and helped turn around one of the worst rushing attacks in the league into an above-average unit (eighth in the NFL in yards per carry). Johnson quickly dispensed of the Lions’ 100-yard rusher drought, then put up one of the best performances by a Lions running back in nearly 30 years.

As a result, the Lions running back is getting some national praise. The SB Nation FanPulse national Questions of the Week surrounded midseason awards, and Johnson was up for Rookie of the Year, alongside Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Here’s how the voting turned out:

It’s understandable that Barkley would run away with the vote right now. Despite a cast of horrible players surrounding him—including a well below-average offensive line—Barkley is putting up massive production. Here are his stats alongside Johnson’s:

Barkley: 111 rushes, 519 yards (4.7 YPC), 5 TDs; 58 catches, 497 yards, 2 TDs
Johnson: 77 rushes, 466 yards (6.1 YPC), 1 TD; 21 catches, 158 yards

While Barkley has certainly had more opportunities than Johnson, that’s what potentially makes him a more valuable player. The Giants want him to be that bell-cow back, while the Lions may not want that from Johnson—at least this early in his career.

As for the quarterbacks, they’re always going to get the attention of these awards, even if their statlines are mediocre. Mayfield and Darnold are perfect examples:

Mayfield: 58.3 % completions, 6.6 Y/A, 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 78.9 passer rating
Darnold: 55.2% completions, 6.8 Y/A, 11 TDs, 10 INTs, 74.5 passer rating

Neither of these two quarterbacks should really be considered among the best rookies of the year, but they will continue to get the praise simply for being a starting rookie quarterback in the NFL.

We’re only halfway through the season, so if Johnson continues to see his playing time increase, and he continues his amazingly efficient production, he could challenge Barkley for the postseason honors, especially if the Lions, as a team, can get it together and make a playoff run.

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