Two rookies from the FCS and the Missouri Valley Football Conference are making an immediate impact in the NFL.
Jacksonville running James Robinson, an Illinois State alum, and Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn, a Southern Illinois alum, have quickly become standout players at their positions. The 2019 HERO Sports First Team All-Americans have risen when it comes to the odds for winning the Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year awards.
Chinn’s early success was more expected than Robinson’s. The second-round draft pick’s versatilty is on full display for Carolina’s defense. Chinn leads all rookies and is tied for No. 7 overall with 44 total tackles.
“He acts and does things a lot older than his age,” defensive coordinator Phil Snow said. “You would think he’s a veteran. I think that’s a tribute to how he’s been raised and brought up — at home and in football. I think the college coaches did a great job with him.”
Robinson was one of the best offensive players in the FCS last season. It was a surprise when he went undrafted. After earning the starting job before Game 1, he’s now a known name in the league.
Robinson is 11th in the NFL with his 333 rushing yards. He has scored three touchdowns on the ground while also catching 19 passes for 183 yards.
Just five players since 2000 have had 90+ scrimmage yards in each of their first four career games: LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley and James Robinson.
“What you guys are seeing now is probably what I’ve been seeing all of camp,” coach Doug Marrone said. “Just a real steady, good football player. If there’s something there, he’s going to find it. He’s not going to make mistakes and lose yardage for you, and [he’s going to] try to keep the chains going. He’s a tough runner.”
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.