So as I promised recently, I'll be going over my choices for the PFWA awards as I am figuring them out and walking you through the process.
The PFWA awards are actually more thorough than we'll go through here—for example, there's an All-Rookie Team—but we'll go over the "big" awards which is more what you care about anyway.
Today we're talking about the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now, let's allow for the fact that we have two more weeks of games and someone could do something to put them over the top.
But for the most part, the choices are virtually set for me.
There have been some incredibly productive rookies on both sides of the ball this year.
I hit up twitter to get a few ideas of what you guys (and others) thought as well.
Going to be writing some thoughts on my Offensive and Defense Rookies O the Year - love to hear your thoughts on both
— Andrew Garda (@Andrew_Garda) December 20, 2013
And here are some defensive thoughts from Twitter.
I think this guy might like Kiko Alonso.
— Uncle Gazpacho (@Cala_Lesina) December 20, 2013
Those are everyone else's thoughts. Here are mine.
There are several offensive rookies worth mentioning—Zac Stacy, Gio Bernard, a late push by Cordarrelle Patterson—but my top two are Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Both appear to be steals in the 2013 NFL draft. Injury issues were the cause of both players dropping in the draft—Lacy to the late second and Allen to the mid-third—and in both cases the concerns are largely proving to be unwarranted.
Both did miss one game—Allen missed Week 1 and Lacy missed Week 3 due to a concussion—but neither has been dealing with the endless issues teams appeared worried about.
The case for both is really strong.
Lacy has topped 1,000 yards and carried the Packers offense for the better part of seven weeks—since Aaron Rodgers went to down.
He frequently faces stacked fronts since defenses don't seem to care who is throwing the ball as long as it's not Rodgers and he's also been very productive receiving the ball.
Lacy runs hard every down, overcomes some occasionally poor run blocking and has even shown some pass blocking skills.
He has been contained against several teams, including against a poor Atlanta defense but for the most part he's been incredibly good.
You can argue that the transition from college to the NFL is fairly easy for running backs (and it is) but otherwise Lacy has a lot to offer voters.
So does Allen.
After a missed game and two poor starts, Allen went on a roll, topping 100 yards five out of 11 starts. The last two games have seen Allen score a pair of touchdowns per game and he put up huge games against both Kansas City and Cincinnati.
He does this with no real weapon around him to draw coverage. Antonio Gates isn't what he used to be and Malcom Floyd went down for the season after Week 2. The backfield has helped, but it's been inconsistent as well.
Rookie seasons are notoriously difficult on receivers and the transition of playing against college defensive backs to NFL-caliber defensive backs is something that tends to make rookie receivers almost irrelevant.
You might argue that in a passing league, it's much easier to put up numbers like Allen's and that's not wrong. However, it is still uncommon for rookie receivers to carry an offense the way Allen has the Chargers'.
Both players have incredibly strong arguments for winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and, frankly, this is going to go down to the wire for me. I can give you my current choice, but a strong pair of games by the other player or a very bad pair for the one I tap now could change it.
Right now, I have Allen just ahead of Lacy. I have been enormously impressed with both players and when I fill out the "All-Rookie" ballot, Lacy will be the #1 running back and Allen the #1 receiver. It won't even be close.
However, what I have seen from Allen, given the position he plays and the lack of talent around him—it's just a bit more impressive.
Keep in mind also that while Rodgers is out, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin are not. While teams stack the box against Lacy often, when one of those three receivers gets on the field—or all three—defenses have to take notice.
As of now, Allen's overall year has impressed me more. But as I said, it's close enough for me to be watching the next two weeks closely.
That's not the case with the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
As you could see above, there were some good choice but one stands out above all the others.
That's New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
I wasn't sold on the pick in April—the Jets already had a solid group of defensive linemen—especially at tackle.
Richardson was a great prospect—but don't the Jets have more holes.
They did and they do, but as it turns out Jets head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik knew what they were doing.
Richardson has been absolutely dominating this season, disrupting pass and run plays both and showing a keen nose for the play.
Hey, he even scored a rushing touchdown last weekend.
His speed, his power, the various moves he can throw at offensive linemen—all are impressive.
Guys like the aforementioned (or Tweeted) Kiko Alonso and Tyrann Mathieu are certainly in the mix and should be.
But Richardson blows them away every weekend. Considering those players, that's saying something.
In a season where Jets fans have had nothing to hang their hat on, Richardson has given them hope and made sure that opposing offenses don't get a clean field to march up and down on each week.
So those are my two choices for rookie awards—at least right now.
I think the offensive category is one of the toughest I've seen, though last year had some great players as well.
I'm sure readers here will have something to say about the offensive category but I'd love to hear your thoughts on defense as well.
I'll see you next week when we talk about the offensive and defensive players of the year and the comeback player of the year.
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