Is Miami Dolphins rookie running back De’Von Achane going to have a Hall of Fame career? Maybe or maybe not, but like L.A. Rams rookie Puka Nacua he’s having a first season for the ages. Both players were selected outside of the top-80 picks in this year’s draft and both are among the NFL leaders in several key categories and both are trying to break records set by Rams.
According to NFL stats and research, Achane’s nine touchdowns in his first six starts are the second-most ever by a player to start his career. The most ever was Eric Dickerson, who scored 10 touchdowns during his first season with the Rams in 1983.
And Achane has been held back by injury, as he only played in six or fewer snaps in two of his six games this season. In the Dolphins’ 45-15 win over the Commanders on Sunday, Achane had 17 carries for 73 yards and two rushing touchdowns, giving him season totals of 56 rushing attempts, 544 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns. Achane also has 101 receiving yards with two more scores. He is averaging almost 10 yards per carry and he’s not even Miami’s starting running back.
When Dickerson was selected with the second overall pick in 1983 out of SMU, he was picked to be the Rams franchise back from the beginning. In his first six games, Dickerson had 149 rushing attempts, 787 yards, 10 touchdowns and he averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. He had 146 receiving yards.
So Achane is scoring a touchdown every 7.6 touches, while Dickerson scored a touchdown every 16.8 touches in 1983. That’s not to say that Achane is tracking to be a better running back than Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, it’s just appreciating how unique it is that he’s doing this, especially as a third round pick.
Just as we can appreciate what Puka Nacua is doing as the last pick of the fifth round.
Nacua set the franchise rookie record for receiving yards and he’s currently at 77 catches and 1,029 yards with four touchdowns on the season and there are still five games left. The NFL rookie record for receiving yards is 1,473, set by Bill Groman in 1960. In the Super Bowl era, it is 1,455 yards, set by Ja’Marr Chase in 2021, followed by 1,400 by Justin Jefferson in 2020.
The rookie record for receptions is 104, set by Jaylen Waddle in 2021.
If Nacua remains healthy, he should have no problem with the receptions record. The receiving yardage record will require a little more production per game, but is within his reach now and if Matthew Stafford really wanted to get him there, he could do it. He’s already helped Calvin Johnson and Cooper Kupp make NFL history at receiver.
Nacua is even more unique among receivers drafted after the first round. Anquan Boldin holds the non-first round records at 101 catches and 1,377 yards. But Nacua is close to setting the record for catches and receptions for rookies drafted after the second round: Amon-Ra St. Brown had 90 receptions in 2021 and Bill Brooks had 1,131 yards in 1986.
Those could be broken within a couple of weeks.
As for Achane, he won’t rush for 1,808 yards like Dickerson did in 1983, but he could finish off a very unique rookie season. Or season for anyone for that matter. The highest yards per carry average for a rookie with at least 100 carries is 6.8, but that was quarterback Robert Griffin III. Among running backs, Paul Lowe had 6.3 with the Chargers in 1960. Achane could clear 7.0 yards per carry with what he’s managed to do so far and in the Dolphins offense. He could score a lot of touchdowns despite splitting the backfield with Raheem Mostert.
The NFL is having a very special season by rookie players. On both coasts.