Biggest Standouts from the First Week of the NFL Season

Biggest Standouts Week 1?

I’ve decided to highlight some of the best players from Week 1 of the NFL regular season. Unfortunately, I can’t include all the players who played great because there were so many. I had to be more selective and tried to choose the best of the best while not eliminating some truly great performances.

James Conner RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

135 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 5 receptions, 57 receiving yards

If Conner keeps playing like this the Steelers might feel comfortable moving on from Le’Veon Bell. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d type, but it’s true. Besides one fumble, Conner played like the Steelers best offensive weapon Sunday, and that’s saying something.

T.J. Watt LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

11 combined tackles, 4 sacks

T.J. looked more like the old J.J. against the Browns. The second year pass rusher has several big games last season, but nothing like this. To put Watt’s league high four sacks in perspective, neither Fletcher Cox, Gerald McCoy, nor Ndamukong Suh had more than six sacks at the end of last season!

Denzel Ward CB, Cleveland Brown

6 combined tackles, 3 passes defensed, 2 interceptions

Ward either got slammed or ignored this offseason for being the “less exciting” of the Browns two first round picks. But he was the only one to make several key plays on Sunday, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger twice and batting away three more passes.

Rob Gronkowski TE, New England Patriots

7 receptions, 123 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

Gronkowski might have contemplated retirement this offseason, but the Patriots better be glad he stayed. There’s no tight end in the game better than Gronk, who’s basically a 6-6 unstoppable juggernaut.

Ryan Fitzpatrick QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

21/28, 417 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, 156.3 rating

If you had told me Fitzpatrick was going to post these numbers against the Saints, I would’ve called you a liar and a lunatic. But the old wily Harvard man did it. He’ll be hard pressed to repeat his performance, but if he did does Jameis Winston ride the bench for the rest of the season?

DeSean Jackson WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 receptions, 146 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

Jackson has had an up and down career. Last year was one of his down seasons, but he tends to bounce back. At age 32, we could be looking at one of the final great years of Jackson’s career. Also, he’s now less than 400 yards away from the 10,000 career receiving yards mark.

Mike Evans WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7 receptions, 147 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

Evans had a bit of a down year last season, but he’s started off 2018 strong. He’s another young receiver who is vying for a place among the top five receivers currently in the NFL. If he repeats his Week 1 performance, he’ll earn the honor soon enough.

Drew Brees QB, New Orleans Saints

37/45, 439 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 129.5 rating

When it comes to statistics, Brees is on his way to becoming the league leader in every all-time major passing category. The entire Saints universe revolves around him and his incredible accuracy and efficiency.

Alvin Kamara RB, New Orleans Saints

29 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 9 receptions, 112 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

Kamara looked more like a wide receiver that a running back on Sunday. He only carried the ball 8 times which, despite his incredible receiving numbers, just isn’t enough to diversify the Saints offense.

Michael Thomas WR, New Orleans Saints

16 receptions, 180 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

Thomas is quickly emerging as one of the league’s top receivers. People were beginning to toss his name around in the top five debate last year and his performance in Week 1 only helps his fame grow.

Harrison Smith S, Minnesota Vikings

8 combined tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery

Smith has elevated to become the best safety in the league. He earned that title last season and reaffirmed it on Sunday, producing an all-around complete game for the Vikings. Smith flew all over the field, making big plays left and right.

Tyreek Hill WR, Kansas City Chiefs

7 receptions, 169 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, 2 punt returns, 95 return yards, 1 return touchdown

Hill is the swiss army knife of the NFL. If you get the ball in his hands he’ll find a way to score, as the unfortunate Chargers found out on Sunday. Since Devin Hester retired, Hill has become the best return man in the league.

Reshad Jones S, Miami Dolphins

7 combined tackles, 2 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 80 interception yards

Jones’ place in the NFL’s hierarchy of safeties is always controversial. With his week one performance he made a statement as to why he shouldn’t be passed off as a second tier player.

Von Miller LB, Denver Broncos

7 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery

Miller ate the Seahawks offensive line alive on Sunday. He tallied the second most sacks among players on the day and proved once again he’s a Hall of Fame caliber pass rusher.

Aaron Rodgers QB, Green Bay Packers

20/30, 286 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 130.7 rating

Down 20 and injured, inly Rodgers could possibly lead a stalling Packers offense to victory. And he did it in the face of immense pressure, with a poor running game, and all while hobbling and jumping around on one leg. His legacy will only continue to grow as he starts off his MVP candidacy strong.

Khalil Mack DE, Chicago Bears

3 combined tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown

Mack seems to specialize in versatility. He’s the only player since the turn of the century to record a sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and defensive touchdown in a single game twice. The only other two players who accomplished that feat (both once) in the same time span: Charles Woodson and Brian Urlacher (per NFL Research).

Darron Lee LB, New York Jets

7 combined tackles, 3 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 1 defensive touchdown

This is the kind of production the Jets were hoping for when they drafted Lee in the first round of the 2016 draft. Lee literally did everything for the Jets on Monday. In his third season could the Ohio St. product finally be blossoming into a Pro Bowl playmaker?

Todd Gurley RB, Los Angeles Rams

20 carries, 108 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 39 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

With Le’Veon Bell holding out, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys struggling, and David Johnson coming back from a season lost to injury, Gurley is the best running back in the NFL as of Week 1. On Monday he displayed the versatility and effectiveness that won him the Offensive Player of the Year award last season.

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