4. Sony Michel, 2018
Sony Michel’s selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (31st overall) raised quite a few eyebrows, but despite dealing with injuries through the first week of the regular season, Michel wasted no time proving his worth. During the regular season, Michel appeared in 13 games and registered 209 carries for 931 yards and six touchdowns, all but establishing himself as the go-to ball carrier for the Patriots’ offense. The Georgia product’s best work, however, would come in the postseason. Thrust onto a national stage where even the most veteran players choke, Michel came running through with 242 yards and five touchdowns on 53 attempts through the divisional and conference championship rounds.
His five postseason rushing touchdowns are the most by a rookie in NFL history according to ESPN Stats & Info (the feat has not been accomplished by any NFL player since Terrell Davis did so with the Broncos back in 1997).
In Super Bowl LIII against the Rams, the then 23-year-old rookie added to his crowning achievements by scoring the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter — his sixth of the winter. Doubtlessly buoyed by a strong Patriots offensive line, Michel nonetheless became the first rookie in NFL history to score six times in a single postseason. If his stats aren’t enough for you, listen to what Brady had to say about Michel’s performance that game:
"“[Sony] ran hard, broke some big runs when we needed it,” said Tom Brady in a post-game interview. “He’s done an incredible job. There wasn’t a lot of space at times but [he] fought his way through.“"
Big praise from the GOAT himself. Winning a Super Bowl was the cherry on top of Michel’s very sweet rookie season, and he deserved it.