Andrew Luck and 10 NFL Rookies We Trust Most in the Clutch
Talent means nothing in the NFL if you can't perform when the game is on the line. No one cares if you can throw the ball a country mile if you also miss open receivers as the clock hits zero.
For rookies, it often takes time to adjust to the speed of the NFL and to translate their ability to perform in the clutch from college to the pros.
For the following 10 guys, that issue has been nonexistent—they are the rookies we trust the most in the clutch.
10. Janoris Jenkins
Cortland Finnegan has earned all the praise graced upon him since signing with the St. Louis Rams this offseason, but Janoris Jenkins has been just as impressive.
The beleaguered rookie out of Florida and North Alabama has played well in every game this season, registering at least three tackles in each.
His 34-yard interception return against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 was a strong sign of his ability. Jenkins has put his off-field troubles behind him and ensured opponents have to worry about all facets of the Rams secondary.
9. Alshon Jeffery
Alshon Jeffery's statistics are not going to jump off the page. Many people may even wonder what place he has on this list.
Jeffery, however, is always there when Jay Cutler cannot get the ball to Brandon Marshall. Marshall's 35 receptions are the seventh most in the NFL, but Jeffery is a solid No. 2 option who is quickly building chemistry with his QB.
Cutler has found Jeffery for two scores already this year, including a 42-yard strike in Week 1. It is unfortunate he suffered a hand injury in the Bears' 41-3 romp over Jacksonville, because he was building real momentum. Jeffery is a big and skilled wideout with good hands and great positioning. Once back from injury, he will undoubtedly build on that momentum.
8. Russell Wilson
Is Russell Wilson's "clutch" ability tainted?
After all, his game-winning Hail Mary against the Green Bay Packers was less a feat of skill as it was luck. However, Wilson has been consistently impressive all season, and his ability to assume the starting job and lead Seattle to a winning record is a showcase of his overall clutch nature.
The Seahawks have played in four games decided by a touchdown or less, and won two of them. Wilson was a third-round selection who gets better each and every week. Seattle is a serious threat in the NFC West, and their rookie signal-caller is a key cog in the offensive machine.
7. Morris Claiborne
Shutdown cornerbacks are a dying breed in today's NFL, but Morris Claiborne is a testament to their existence.
When the Cowboys need to stop a receiver from taking over a game, they turn to Claiborne. He rendered Hakeem Nicks useless in Week 1, limiting him to just 38 yards and zero touchdowns. Claiborne was beat for his first touchdown in Week 5 against Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears, but that was more an aberration than anything else.
Claiborne has been a bright spot on a struggling Dallas squad, and that should continue all season.
6. Bruce Irvin
Bruce Irvin has just five tackles through five games.
Rather pedestrian numbers, right? That is, until you consider that 4.5 of those tackles are sacks. When the Seattle Seahawks need someone to get to the quarterback, they call on Irvin.
This former West Virginia Mountaineer exploded onto the scene with two sacks against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, and he is erasing any doubts about his draft value.
Irvin caught up with Cam Newton twice in Week 5, showing off his immense skill and considerable speed. Seattle's defense has been among the best in the NFL this season; Irvin is a huge reason why.
5. Alfred Morris
Who saw Alfred Morris coming?
Honestly, few expected him to assume the starting role in the Washington Redskins backfield, and even fewer expected him to excel as much as he has.
Washington's sixth-round selection in April, Morris has 491 yards rushing and four touchdowns through five games, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has delivered consistently big runs and has perfectly complemented Robert Griffin III within the Redskins offense.
Demanding 20 carries a game and getting better each week, Morris is a RB who steps up when it matters most. Washington's record may not yet reflect his clutch gene, but over time Morris' solid play will lead the 'Skins to many wins.
4. Robert Griffin III
The rumors are true: Robert Griffin III is every bit as good as advertised.
Put Drew Brees in front of him in Week 1, and he outplays him. Ask him to be a dual-threat option but protect the football, and he does it. RG3 has over 1,100 yards passing and 241 rushing yards through five games. He has also scored a total of eight touchdowns.
Griffin can make any play and has already shown he can make smart reads. In the Redskins' closest battle, a Week 4 showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he threw for over 300 yards and propelled Washington to a win despite not finding the end zone himself.
No moment seems too big for Griffin III—a clear sign of his clutch nature.
3. Justin Tucker
Justin Tucker has converted 11 of 12 field-goal attempts this season, including two of 50-plus yards. Even though he is just a rookie, the Baltimore Ravens know he is a player they can count on in even the most difficult of situations.
Tucker has made fourth-quarter kicks, he has made long kicks, and he has converted all 13 of his extra-point attempts.
It is essential for a kicker to be clutch, and Tucker is capable of handling any kick in any environment. He would be the best rookie kicker in recent memory if it weren't for this next guy...
2. Blair Walsh
Wow. Blair Walsh, you are ridiculous!
Walsh has made 12 of 13 field goals he has attempted this season. He exploded onto the scene in Week 1, sinking a 55-yarder to send the game to overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Walsh then proceeded to win the game with a 38-yarder.
It is so far clear he has one of the strongest legs in the league, and is already a consistent presence for the Minnesota Vikings.
1. Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is not just one of the rookies we trust most in the clutch, he is among the best in the NFL already. Yes, that may seem overly optimistic for a player with only four games to his credit, but Luck is not a typical rookie.
In Week 5 he went toe-to-toe with MVP Aaron Rodgers and led the Indianapolis Colts to a victory. When Luck needed to step up in the fourth quarter, he did. He finished the game with 362 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Luck has made Reggie Wayne look elite again and ensured that Indianapolis is always in close games. There are still other players you would rather have under center, but not many.
Andrew Luck is the rookie we trust the most in the clutch.
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