SANTA MONICA, Calif.
— New Orleans Saints running back Jonathan Stewart is among the NFL’s 20 best rookies for the first time since his rookie year.
The Saints, who have not yet announced the return of their starting quarterback Drew Brees, have yet to announce the replacement of their other quarterback.
It will be Stewart, the Saints’ second-round pick in 2016 who will play alongside Brees on Sunday.
Stewart is the first rookie to have the first five picks in the NFL draft.
New Saints coach Sean Payton has said that he will call the first game at Soldier Field.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Stewart will be named the starting quarterback and Brees will be benched in favor of rookie Alvin Kamara, who was named the backup.
Kamara has started three games and is completing 64.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Kamara is the Saints starter.
Brees will have a limited role.
He has not played in a regular-season game since Week 1 because of a sprained MCL in his left knee, which is the same injury that kept him out of the final six games of the 2016 season.
He will miss at least the first three weeks of the season, with a second knee injury possibly sidelined him even longer.
Brees is averaging 29.9 yards per game.
He is also completing 56.2 percent of passes.
A few weeks ago, the 49ers, the team with the No. 1 overall pick, were planning to select Stewart in the first round.
The Saints took him with the pick in April.
Stewart’s emergence has not gone unnoticed by NFL Network’s Bill Williamson.
He tweeted Sunday that the Saints had to do a lot of things right to get Stewart, but Stewart had “the most impactful rookie season in Saints history.”
I was impressed with his play last year, even though he had the injury.
The biggest difference was he had to be the lead blocker on his way to being the leading rusher.
He also showed an ability to make plays down the field.
He ran for 3,955 yards and 19 touchdowns last year and has a long way to go to match that.
He is an extremely gifted athlete.
Stewarts biggest asset is his athleticism, Williamson said on NFL Network Sunday.
I thought that he was a tremendous athlete in the 4.4s, but I don’t think he was the greatest at the NFL level, either.
He has all the tools to be a great player, Williamson added.