At the middle of the 2015 NFL season, it looks like rookie running backs, at least, are running back into favor after being on the outs for a few years.
In a poll of reporters covering each team for The Sports Xchange, nine running backs were chosen as the club's Offensive Rookie of the half-season.
Heading that list of runners, it says here, is Todd Gurley, whom the St. Louis Rams drafted No. 10 overall despite a significant knee injury at Georgia last season that required major surgery.
After not playing in the first two games of the season and only sparingly in Week 3, Gurley has 664 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.6 yards per attempt.
The offensive rookie selections also included 10 offensive linemen, a kicker, kick returner and one blank ballot from Philadelphia where, it seems, nobody was deserving.
Top among the rookie wide receivers is Oakland's talented Amari Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft whose smooth style has netted 45 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns, tops among rookie receivers in the league.
At this pace, it appears Gurley and Cooper should be prime candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.
Here is a look at the nominations from each team (teams listed alphabetically):
ARIZONA CARDINALS: Running back David Johnson.
--There are not too many candidates, only Johnson and receiver J.J. Nelson. Johnson lost two fumbles, but he also has two receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown. He is the team's third-down back.
ATLANTA FALCONS: Running back Tevin Coleman.
--Coleman opened the season as a starter and must be used increasingly down the stretch as the Falcons must run between the tackles more. He's a stronger and more powerful runner than Freeman.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Running back Buck Allen.
--One of the areas that hampered the Ravens this season is the lack of production out of their rookie class. First-round draft pick Breshad Perriman has yet to take the field because of a knee injury. Tight end Maxx Williams, a second-round pick, has also been hampered with injuries. This leaves running back Javorius "Buck" Allen, a fourth-round pick, as the most productive rookie on offense. Allen has steadily improved throughout the season and has been an effective complement to starter Justin Forsett. Allen has 163 yards on 37 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
BUFFALO BILLS: Running back Karlos Williams.
--Williams missed three games due to a concussion, but when he played, he as tremendous. He topped 100 yards in both games against Miami, and scored at least one touchdown in all five games in which he played.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: Wide Receiver Devin Funchess.
--Funchess did not do much until he broke out in Week 9. The second-round pick finally flashed his talent when he boxed out a Packers' defender to haul in a 52-yard grab. He later scored his first career touchdown. Funchess has only 10 receptions for 161 yards through eight games, but he's the only Carolina rookie getting playing time on offense.
CHICAGO BEARS: Running back Jeremy Langford.
--The fourth-round draft pick from Michigan State had only a small role early, but a season-ending injury to Jacquizz Rodgers and Matt Forte's knee sprain have allowed him to put on display the versatility he showed in college. Langford is much like Forte in his all-around abilities, although his running style is more the one-cut approach than Forte's. Another game or two of high productivity by Langford might get the Bears to consider letting Forte leave after this season when his contract expires.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Offensive lineman Jake Fisher.
--Cincinnati doesn't have a rookie starter on offense, although Fisher, out of the University of Oregon, made a name for himself not only as a dependable lineman on the depth chart but also as a receiver.
When Fisher's No. 74 is announced as eligible, fans sit up in their seats. Fisher had a 31-yard reception earlier this season and often lines up in a receiver position in some of coordinator Hue Jackson's multitude of formations.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: Running back Duke Johnson.
--Taken in the third round, Johnson started slowly because of a hamstring injury. He is a dual threat as a running back and receiver out of the backfield, and is shifty in the open field. Johnson is third on the team with 35 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Mike Pettine said the Browns must get Johnson more touches the rest of the season. He has 59 carries for 179 yards and is the only offensive draft pick to have any impact. Offensive lineman Cameron Erving is a backup, fullback Malcolm Johnson plays mostly on special teams and tight end Randall Telfer is on the reserve/non-football injury list with a foot injury.
DALLAS COWBOYS: Guard La'el Collins.
--Collins replaced Ron Leary as the starter at left guard and the running game has taken off in three games since he was inserted in the starting lineup. Collins is big, physical and enjoys the pancake block.
DENVER BRONCOS: Left tackle Ty Sambrailo.
--Sambrailo was the season-opening starter and showed incremental progress in the first three weeks before he sustained a torn labrum. He went on injured reserve last week after attempting to practice through the injury, but still appears to be the team's long-term option at left tackle after a trade for Joe Thomas collapsed at the last minute before the Nov. 3 deadline.
DETROIT LIONS: Fullback Michael Burton.
--Although he hasn't impressed statistically, with only three carries for two yards and two catches for nine yards, he is a reliable blocker. A fifth-round pick this year, Burton averages about 15 plays per game, mostly as a lead blocker in heavy packages, and did well to clear spaces on some of the Lions' longest runs this year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: Wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
--The third-round draft pick from Stanford has been the only contributor of note from Green Bay's defensive-heavy draft class. When healthy, Montgomery has been a playmaker, showing off his open-field speed with 15 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, as well as averaging 31.1 yards in seven kickoff returns. However, an ankle injury kept Montgomery from playing the last two games.
HOUSTON TEXANS: Wide receiver Keith Mumphery.
--Mumphery is providing solid work as a reserve receiver. The fifth-round draft pick doubles as an effective kick returner.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
--Dorsett showed the ability to be the Colts' best offensive rookie in 2015. While he hasn't caught a lot of passes and is currently sidelined with a broken left ankle, he gave Indianapolis another deep threat in the passing game. Dorsett's potential arrow is up when he is able to return.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Running back T. J. Yeldon.
--Yeldon has shown a lot of potential while running 115 times for 470 yards and a 4.1 average. He is still a work in progress -- his longest run of 45 yards came against the Jets -- but the Jaguars like his potential for the future.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Center Mitch Morse.
--The offensive line has been a disaster in the first half of the season but Morse, the Chiefs' second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, has developed into a solid contributor. He has also handled the line calls and had to work with an ever-changing group around him due to injuries and poor play. Morse is the only offensive lineman who has started all eight games.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: Right guard Jamil Douglas.
--This is the best of a bad group. Douglas lost his starting job after four games. But wide receiver DeVante Parker, the first-round pick, has been disappointing with his four receptions for 49 yards, and running back Jay Ajayi spent the first seven games on the injured reserve list. Honestly, this category should be vacated. The rookies, especially the draftees, haven't done much on either side of the ball.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
--After a head-turning preseason, the fifth-round draft pick was inactive the first three regular-season games. But he burst onto the scene in Week 4 with 87 yards on six catches at Denver and then back-to-back 100-yard games and a 95-yard game. Since Week 4, Diggs has 11 catches of 20 yards or more and is the best player in a deep receiving corps.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Guard Shaq Mason.
--Mason was supposed to be the more raw, project of New England's two rookie guards, the other being Tre' Jackson. Coming from the option attack at Georgia Tech, the idea was that Mason would struggle with New England's pass-first approach and his protection of quarterback Tom Brady. But Mason started four of the six games he played and is an impressive force in the middle of the New England line.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Kick returner Marcus Murphy.
--Even though he has fumbled three punts -- losing one -- the Saints' seventh-round draft pick dazzled after winning the kick return job during an impressive preseason. He ranks sixth in the NFC with 9.8 yards per return and a 74-yard touchdown, and ranks ninth in kickoffs at 25.0 yards per return with a long of 35.
NEW YORK GIANTS: Left tackle Ereck Flowers.
--Functioning in the New York market can be intimidating enough for any rookie, but when a player has to do so at left tackle, a critical position on an offense, it takes a true warrior to handle that kind of pressure. That's exactly what the 21-year-old Flowers has done, taking the media spotlight in stride while growing into the left tackle position he will likely anchor for years to come. Of particular note, Flowers, who has had some bumps along the way, has stood up to some of the league's best pass rushers, such as Greg Hardy and Cameron Jordan, handling those pass-rushing threats with aplomb. Flowers also established himself as a future leader on the Giants with his now- famous sideline outburst during the loss to the Eagles, a game in which a visibly angry Flowers didn't hold back on his feelings, erupting on the sideline at anyone who was in the vicinity because, as he said: "I hate to lose."
NEW YORK JETS: Wide receiver Devin Smith.
--Smith wins this because he's the only contender. There are no rookies along the offensive line and quarterback Bryce Petty has yet to take a snap, so Smith wins despite having only six catches for 60 yards and missing three games due to injuries, including rib and lung ailments that cost him most of training camp. It will be next season before the Jets have an idea whether or not Smith's big-play deep-threat skills translate to the highest level.
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Wide receiver Amari Cooper.
--Cooper is providing everything the Raiders could have hoped for with the No. 4 overall pick. His 45 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns have him as the leading rookie at his position in all categories.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: None.
--The Eagles don't have an offensive rookie who made any kind of significant contribution. They hoped first-round wide receiver Nelson Agholor would have an immediate impact, but that hasn't happened. He has only eight catches and missed the last three games because of an ankle injury.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva.
--The Steelers don't have a rookie playing a prominent role on offense, but Villanueva, a first year offensive lineman, stepped up and played well at left tackle after Kelvin Beachum went down because of a season-ending knee injury. Villanueva, who spent last season on the practice squad, has done a nice job in the running game.
ST. LOUIS RAMS: Running back Todd Gurley.
--The expectations are now so high for Gurley that when he rushed for 89 yards on 24 carries against Minnesota Sunday, it was viewed as an off game. The only thing missing were the explosive plays that accentuated his first four starts. Still, after not playing in the first two games of the season and only sparingly in Week 3, Gurley has 664 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He showed unusual rookie savvy against the Vikings by sliding from right to left in front of quarterback Nick Foles to pick up a blitzer.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Kicker Josh Lambo.
--In a gutsy move, the Chargers went with Lambo over the veteran Nick Novak out of camp. But Lambo has delivered, hitting a game winner in one contest and missing but two of his 19 field goal attempts -- from 60 and 47 yards. He has also been the lone bright light on special teams coverages with his deep kickoffs
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Offensive tackle Trent Brown.
--It hasn't been a banner year for 49ers rookies. Brown earns top honors simply for having been a part of the offensive line's best effort of the season in the Week 9 win over Atlanta. Was it just a coincidence that the seventh-round pick got his most playing time in that game? We will surely find out in the second half of the season, when he could very well become the club's starter at right tackle.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
--This multi-purpose player recorded a kick return touchdown, punt return touchdown and receiving touchdown already this season. He is only the second player in franchise history to have a touchdown in all three disciplines in a single season -- joining Nate Burleson -- and only the second NFL rookie since 2000 to accomplish the feat (Randall Cobb, 2011).
TAMPA BAY BUCANNEERS: Guard Ali Marpet.
--The second-round pick from Hobart College has paved the way for a rejuvenated running game with features running Doug Martin and Charles Sims. He still needs improvement in pass protection.
TENNESSEE TITANS: Quarterback Marcus Mariota.
--The first-round pick appears to be mature beyond his years. Yes, there have been plenty of mistakes and growing pains, but his unflappable nature and his ability to stay calm while going through adversity give him the look of a franchise quarterback. He already has completed 131-of-200 passes for 1,610 yards in only six games, missing two due to a knee injury.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder.
--The fourth-round pick out of Duke is only 5-foot-8, but he plays so much bigger. He is able to get consistent separation, made several clutch catches and took veteran Andre Roberts' job. Croders also is the primary punt returner. This looks like another draft hit for general manager Scot McCloughan. Crowder has 38 receptions.
--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Material in this report was contributed by The Sports Xchange's NFL network of reporters.