Chris Ivory was undrafted out of Tiffin University when he signed with the Saints. Sitting behind a host of running backs on the depth chart, Ivory wasn't expected to see the field much this season. In Pro Football Weekly's 2010 Draft Preview book, Ivory was ranked 56th among running backs. But when the injury bug mauled through the Saints' backs, the no-name rookie got his chance.
In the preseason, backups P.J. Hill and Lydell Hamilton suffered season-ending injuries. Starters Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush both got hurt early in the regular season. The Saints have acquired veterans Ladell Betts, DeShawn Wynn and Julius Jones so far this season, but no consistent running game was established, and the Saints suddenly did not look like the defending champs. That is, until Sunday's pummeling of the upstart Bucs, when Ivory busted out for a huge day.
Ivory ran for 158 yards on 15 carries, good for an average of 10.5 yards, including a long of 33. That catapulted him to the top of rookie running backs. Ivory's 277 yards are second among rookies, trailing San Diego's Ryan Mathews by just five, and he has the best average with 6.3 yards per carry.
When Thomas and Bush get healthy (Thomas will likely return soon), Ivory will see his carries decrease significantly. The Rookie Meter rewards players on potential as well as their early returns. With little movement on this week's Meter, Ivory doesn't make the top 10, as he won't finish the season among the more productive rookies. But Ivory's big game put the defending champs back into the discussion, and he deserves notice around the league.
1. Rams QB Sam Bradford (first round, first overall)
Last week's ranking: 2
Against the Chargers' top-ranked passing defense, Bradford was efficient, going 18-of-31 passing for 198 yards and a TD to his new target, fellow rookie WR Danario Alexander. Bradford avoided mistakes by not throwing a pick and allowed his running back, Stephen Jackson, to carry most of the load in the Rams' upset victory. The Rams have now exceeded last year's win total and are finding that their No. 1 overall pick is paying immediate dividends.
2. Lions RB Jahvid Best (1, 30)
Last week's ranking: 1
Best saw one of the league's better defenses on Sunday and was shut down, rushing for just 16 yards on 12 carries against the Giants. He did have six catches for 31 yards and leads all rookies with 31 receptions. He is still the top rookie with five overall TDs, but if Best can't show more consistency, he could lose more ground on the Meter.
3. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (1, 12)
Last week's ranking: 3
Chargers fans got another glimpse of why Mathews was their team's top pick in April's draft as Mathews had a couple of big runs on the day, rushing for 64 yards on 12 carries. He added three receptions for 12 yards. Mathews was held out of the endzone but seems healthy and should continue to get more carries. Mathews now leads all rookies with 282 rushing yards this season.
4. Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 4
Williams could not match his big Week Five output against the Saints as the entire Bucs offense was shut down. Williams managed four catches for 45 yards on nine targets, as he remains QB Josh Freeman's top weapon. Williams leads rookies with three receiving TDs, but we saw on Sunday what can happen to his stats if the Bucs can't get their offense going, and that could keep him from taking home the hardware.
5. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 5
The No. 2 overall pick had another monster game, totaling 1½ sacks and two tackles for loss with three QB hits against the Giants. Suh leads all rookies with 4½ sacks and has the most sacks in the league by a defensive tackle. Suh closed the gap between himself and Williams and Mathews on the Meter after Week Six.
6. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Last week's ranking: 6
Heading into Week Six, Hernandez had caught just about every ball targeted at him. And then in overtime against the Ravens, he had not one, but two drops, both because he turned to look upfield before bringing the ball in. He finished the day with four catches for 61 yards on six targets, finding himself wide open at times, showing he can still be productive without Randy Moss on the team.
7. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki (3, 93)
Last week's ranking: 7
Moeaki had a relatively quiet game against the Texans with two catches for 21 yards on three targets. Chiefs QB Matt Cassel found success through the air with WR Dwayne Bowe and didn't need to rely on Moeaki as much as he had this season. With the Jaguars' passing defense coming up in Week Seven, Moeaki could have a big game.
8. Eagles FS Nate Allen (2, 37)
Last week's ranking: 8
Allen recorded five tackles in the Eagles' win over the Falcons in Week Six and helped their defense hold the Falcons to just seven first-half points. Allen is still tied for the rookie lead in interceptions with three and ranks second in passes defended with nine.
9. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: NR
Bryant hauled in his first career receiving TD on a 31-yard throw from QB Tony Romo. That was his only catch of the day, and he didn't do much on punt returns (just three yards on two returns), but he had a big return called back. Bryant tiptoed along the sideline to set up great field position for the Cowboys before the penalty brought it back.
10. Raiders MLB Rolando McClain (1, 8)
Last week's ranking: 9
McClain did not rack up many tackles on Sunday, recording just two, but one was a solid open-field tackle and the other a tackle for loss. He added a pass defended on the day. McClain has not had the production the Raiders expected when they drafted him, especially after a great preseason. He is still second among rookies in tackles and has shown his potential roaming the middle of the defense.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically)
Jaguars DT Tyson Alualu (1,10)
Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham (1, 21)
Saints RB Chris Ivory (undrafted)
Chiefs WR-RS Dexter McCluster (2, 36)
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Bills RB C.J. Spiller (1, 9)
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas (1, 22)
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)
Browns FS T.J. Ward (2, 38)