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Rookie of the Year watch: Todd Gurley comes alive!

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Last week's victory over an outstanding Cardinals team had to be the most inspiring of the Jeff Fisher-Les Snead era in St. Louis.

The Rams' A+ performance was the culmination of nearly every high-profile move made by Fisher and Snead over the past few years. They traded up for Tavon Austin, who scored twice and stressed Arizona's defense with his speed and elusiveness. They dealt former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford for Nick Foles, who made money throws to Austin and Stedman Bailey. They invested heavily in a defensive line that hit Carson Palmer nine times.

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The blueprint didn't come together, though, until No. 10 overall pick Todd Gurley produced the greatest fourth quarter by a Rams running back since Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1984.

Similar to Adrian Peterson, Gurley just looks different than other backs with the ball in his hands. They have the easy combination of power and speed that makes arm tackles disappear.

Gurley salted the game away with 106 yards on nine carries in the final 12 minutes. He had as many runs of 20-plus yards in the second half of Week 4 than any other back has had in all four games combined. In fact, he already has as many runs of 20-plus yards as former No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson has managed in his entire career to date.

"He's everything that he was supposed to be, as good as advertised coming into the league," NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said on Monday's edition of the Move The Sticks Podcast. "You thought he would lose some of the stuff in terms of his speed, physicality, his toughness coming off the injury where you'd think you would see a tentative player. Not at all. This guy is a big-time player. A guy who brings all of the skills that you look for at the position. And he's workhorse, he's everything I thought he would be in the National Football League and I'm surprised he was able to catch on so quickly and become that player."

Gurley isn't the only greenhorn impressing. Here is Around The NFL's latest Rookie of the Year watch for Week 4:

1. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans quarterback: Mariota has risen to No. 11 -- just behind former Super Bowl MVPs Eli Manning and Drew Brees -- in Gregg Rosenthal's weekly QB Index. Coming off a bye week, he'll be tested against Rex Ryan and the Bills' fearsome foursome up front.

2. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders wide receiver: Did Odell Beckham raise our expectations for impact rookies? Cooper is on pace for 96 receptions, 1,356 yards and eight touchdowns, which would be one of the greatest rookie campaigns of all time even if it's not quite on OBJ's level.

3. Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams running back: "He just runs with an attitude. He reminds me a lot of Hyde and Adrian and Marshawn," Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said this week, via the Green Bay Press Gazette. "It's hard to explain, but they run with an attitude and they're looking to finish. Some running backs are more agile than others and looking to make you miss, but these guys do both."

4. Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills cornerback: Darby will have to cut down on his penalties, but it's hard to quibble with a young cornerback allowing a 31.4 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus.

5. Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints linebacker: One of eight rookies on Rob Ryan's defense, the second-round pass rusher has either a sack or a forced fumble in every game so far. He has also recorded the most total tackles (26) of any player with three sacks or more.

6. Leonard Williams, New York Jets defensive end: Williams destroyed the Dolphins' overmatched interior O-line, hitting Ryan Tannehill a handful of times in London. With 2014 Pro Bowler Sheldon Richardson coming off suspension, the Jets have an embarrassment of riches on their defensive line.

7. Henry Anderson, Indianapolis Colts defensive end: The third-round pick has quite simply been the Colts' best defensive player. An impact run defender the first two weeks, Anderson has collected 14 quarterback hurries in the past three games.

8. Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons pass rusher: "My speed is my best gift," Beasley recently told The MMQB. "If I am able to get even with the tackle, the majority of the time, I can get around and eventually get sacks." Those sacks are coming.

9. Damarious Randall, Green Bay Packers cornerback: The Packers have one of their best defenses of the Mike McCarthy era, ranking third in points allowed, eighth in total defense and seventh in pass defense. The difference is major contributions from players who were either non-factors or not on the roster last season, such as Randall, B.J. Raji, Jayrone Elliot and Nick Perry.

10. Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker: I docked Hicks for a couple of mistakes in his first game as a starter, but he's been excellent the past two weeks. The Eagles haven't missed Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks with Hicks impressing as a run defender, pass rusher and coverage linebacker.

Watch list: Ameer Abdullah, Marcus Peters, Tyler Lockett, Damarious Randall, Jameis Winston, T.J. Yeldon, Matt Jones, Melvin Gordon, Karlos Williams, Stephone Anthony, Shaq Thompson, Rodney Gunter, Duke Johnson, David Johnson

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