NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

May 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm (Sports) (, , , )

Everyone is looking for the next star in the NFL, and while winning Rookie of the Year doesn’t mean you’re lock to be the next big thing (ask Cadillac Williams), it is a step in the right direction, since 15 of the last 19 ROYs have been to the Pro Bowl, and Sam Bradford isn’t far from going there himself.  So let’s take a look at who was a good shot at winning it this season.

The Panthers have no talent on the offense outside Cam Newton, so if he can win, it'll be on him.

Cam Newton may be the odds-on favorite, since he was the #1 overall pick.  But, let’s look at the talent around him.  There is none.  DeAngelo Williams is all but gone.  Johnathan Stewart has become injury prone.  Steve Smith is getting older.  And Jimmy Clausen was… well, is Clausen-like a word?  Needlessly to say, he’s going to have to make a lot out of a bad situation to get the ROY.

A.J. Green has a good shot, at least if Andy Dalton is anything I’m hoping he is.  I personally think that these two’s careers will be intertwined.  If one succeeds, the other will.  But I’ll talk more about Dalton later.  For now, I like A.J.’s chances, but I won’t lock him down just yet.

Atlanta gave away a few too many draft picks for Julio Jones, but who knows. Maybe he'll come through.

The Julio Jones trade was one of the most publicized moments of the draft, with Atlanta trading away five draft picks, including two first-rounders.  Did Atlanta go overboard with their picks?  Yes.  Will Jones be worth two first round picks?  Probably not.  Will he make an immediate impact on the team.  Probably.  A case could be made that he has the best combination of personal talent and talent around him.  But, for the time being, he’s behind Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and maybe even Michael Jenkins early on, so he’ll very much be in a secondary role.

Jake Locker is my odds-on favorite to win this thing, but it's really hard to predict these things, some guy in the fourth round might end up winning it.

If Jake Locker can win Rookie of the Year, his path to the award is going to be eerily similar to Sam Bradford’s rookie season.  A high draft pick going to a struggling team with an excellent running back, and one (und precisely VON) wide receiver who could be a star if he could stay healthy.  But, if Locker can win this thing, people are going to make comparisons to Sam Bradford for years.

I could tell you about Blaine Gabbert’s chances to win, but it would be just as easy to copy-paste the last paragraph here.  I’ve noticed something, a good running game is becoming more of a luxury.  To win, you need to throw the ball.  Just look at all of the teams with great running backs that drafted potential quarterbacks of the future this season:  Tennessee, Minnesota, Jacksonville, San Francisco.  Four examples should do.

The surprise of the draft, but I think it will pay off for the Vikings. They may have just drafted their quarterback for the next thirteen years.

I think that a sleeper for the award could be Christian Ponder.  Because, he has talent all around him.  The only thing the Vikings need is a quarterback, and Christian Ponder is a damn good quarterback.  Plus, if Ponder (or Kyle Rudolph or Stephen Burton) win the Offensive ROY, he’ll be the third Viking to win it in the last five years. (Adrian Peterson in ’07 and Percy Harvin in ’09).

The next offensive skill player drafted was Kansas City’s Jonathan Baldwin, and I’m not a huge fan of him.  He seems more like a do-it-all player.  Good at everything, great at nothing, kind of like Brad Smith.  I don’t even think that he’ll do what he was brought in to do, which is to draw double teams off Dwayne Bowe.  I just don’t see him as a huge threat.

Mark Ingram will be stuck in New Orleans' committee system, so it might be difficult for him to stand out. But, he has the talent to do so.

Mark Ingram may have a chance, but it’s going to be a challenge, since he’ll be behind Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush (if he’s still there), and maybe even Chris Ivory.  That’s a lot of ground to cover, and odds are the Saints will stick with the committee system, so Ingram will have a hard time standing out.

Let me just say, I freakin’ love Andy Dalton.  Dalton wins pure and simple.  He’s a leader for any team he’s on, and if he can do to Cincy what he did to TCU, the Bengals are in great shape.  Plus, his red hair matches the Bengals’ helmet perfectly.  Focus, Nick, focus.  Anyway, Dalton is the one I hope wins it, but I won’t put money on him.

Who would you pick a career disappointment like Alex Smith, an unconsisent runner like Troy Smith, or a highly touted draft pick out of a quarterback friendly system like Colin Kaepernick. I'll take Kaepernick.

I was convinced that Jim Harbaugh was going to stick with Troy Smith as his starter.  But, thankfully, San Fran’s new head coach decided to not drive his team into the ground, and he drafted Colin Kaepernick.  He’s a big guy, who is still very much a project, but if you asked me who’d I rather have starting for my team right now, I’d still take Kaepernick.

As a fan of the Boise State Broncos, Titus Young intrigues me.  And he got drafted by an intriguing team.  Detroit is becoming a solid team, and even though they didn’t fix their problem in the back seven, everything else is getting good.  Young could be a contributing member of the team sooner rather than later.

New England probably should've picked up a pass rusher, but instead they went O-line, corner, and two running backs in their first four picks. Shane Vereen is one of the more highly tauted RBs this season, so Belichick probably has plans for Vereen.

You know how awesome the Patriots are?  They had a four running back committee at the start of last season (Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris), and they’ll probably have a completely different four running back committee this season (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley), and no one has noticed.  Change is immune to the Patriots.  They have become sentient.  They will take over the world soon, we’re all doomed.  OK, I need to calm down, where’s my coffee.  I think that Vereen will end up being a solid part of the running game, but I’m not as sure about Ridley.  He seems like he was a bit of a reach, but you never know with Belichick, he might just turn Ridley into the next NFL star.

Even though, the Lions didn't get a linebacker or a corner with a high draft pick, they did improve their running game with Mikel LeShoure.

Mikel LeShoure + Jahvid Best = sweet running game.  Honestly, we are going to see the Lions in the playoffs soon.  Oh my Jebus.  The NFC North is quickly becoming the best division in the NFL.  They have the Super Bowl champions in the Packers, the amazing defense (and luck) of the Bears, the rebuilt Lions, and the Vikings with a quarterback that isn’t in the AARP.  As a Bears fan, this is going to be a tough season.

The Browns chose a pick to fix their wide receiver blues, but since they waited until the second round, they had to settle on Greg Little.  Not sure if he’s going to be the answer that the Browns have been looking for, but there aren’t many people in front of him on the depth chart, so he’ll probably get enough playing time to make an impact.

On paper, the Dolphins have a great running game, but paper is a flimsy thing that becomes see-through if you put a little water on it.  (Now, where did I put my point.)  But, with both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown potentially leaving (and even if they don’t leave, I don’t think they’re good enough to start), Daniel Thomas has a good chance to start Day 1.  He may not be any good, but he could still start Day 1.

OK, so that’s all of the big prospects of the first two rounds.  My five projected finalists are A.J. Green, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Mark Ingram, and Andy Dalton.  And the winner will be Jake Locker.  Thanks for playing along.

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