The NFL season is winding down, and the playoff picture is starting to come into focus. I have followed the rookies for the whole year on both my site and this one, keeping a close eye on those who stand out as top of the class. With the offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year award, there are a few contenders that are at the forefront of the discussion. Many of these rookies have won at least one of the Upper Deck Rookie of the Week awards, and there are still three weeks left for the others to jump on board.
First, I want to discuss my thoughts on the offensive side of the ball, as these are the players that usually receive the most attention. Each of these candidates has meant a great deal to their team (some of which have even won games single handedly). They’ve also had some of the better rookie seasons in recent memory, and the exclamation point will be on the way for two of them come February.
If there is one player that has redefined the word “electrifying” this year, Percy Harvin is him. In addition to catching six TD passes from Brett Favre, he also has run back two kicks for touchdowns as well. He leads all rookies in plays over twenty yards from scrimmage, and has been Favre’s favorite third down target for the whole year. He has also functioned as a running back in some cases, carrying the ball out of the Wildcat and motion formations (some of which went for good yardage). He is pretty much the complete package, but the problem of migraines late in the season may hamper his run for this award. He has already missed one game, and is on track to miss at least one more. Regardless, his odds are still pretty good to come home with the trophy.
Denver has always been famous for churning out great running backs, and Moreno is no exception. He leads rookie running backs in yards, attempts, yards per carry, touchdowns, and has put together a very nice rookie campaign. Denver started off as one of the three undefeated teams into the middle of the season, and Moreno was a factor in those wins. His five touchdowns are tops on the team, and he is primed for a 1,000 yard season with 837 yards and three weeks to go. Moreno also looks like he will be a force in the years to come, as the Broncos running game has drastically improved with his arrival. His drawbacks are few, but the ones that stick out in my mind are a few key fumbles in key situations. However, this shouldn’t hurt him too much: if Harvin falters and misses the last few games, Moreno is probably the favorite.
Before last year, rookie quarterbacks were never expected to put up good seasons due to the time needed to develop into an efficient playmaker. Stafford was drafted by the Lions to take over the reins as soon as possible and has done that effectively. He brought the first two wins in the last two years to the team, one coming on the last play of the game with a hurt shoulder. He also set the rookie record for touchdowns and passing yardage in a single game, making a good case for his winning the award. But the problem with Stafford all season has been injuries, as he missed a number of games with knee and shoulder problems. Stafford has done his best to make us forget those weeks, but at this point he will need some big numbers to convince us that he deserves consideration.
This season has been about as big of a roller coaster as it could be for Sanchez, starting very high and going through some twists and turns. Right now, the roller coaster is probably at its lowest, with Sanchez having missed the last game, but the team record could do a lot more for him when compared to Stafford. Sanchez has also thrown a lot of interceptions, but those came on the back of some great performances early in the season. I’m not sure how much of a chance he has right now, but he still has some time to make his case.
Although he started off slow, Wells has slowly become the running man in Arizona, putting up touchdowns in the last few games. He has also performed above expectations with yards per carry average, and has done a very good job in getting the struggling Cardinals running game on track. It used to be that the Cardinals would come in and hit you with the gruesome wide receiver twosome, but now there is an added element with Wells carrying the ball. I like Wells’ potential in years to come . . . but as for Rookie of the Year, he is a longshot.
I think Hakeem Nicks has quietly put together an awesome rookie season. He leads the rookies in receiving yards and is tied for the lead in touchdown receptions, but hasn’t received the same kind of attention as someone like Harvin. He definitely has a shot if the Giants can put together a nice run to get into the playoffs, but it will take some major convincing to dethrone the people ahead of him.
When it comes to defensive Rookie of the Year, there are really only two names in the discussion, mainly because of how well they have performed in their team’s overall defensive arrangement.
Cushing is the only rookie to have put up 100 tackles, and has also had 2.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and a few interceptions. He has truly been a one man wrecking crew, and his credentials are top notch for Defensive ROY. I would say that Cushing is basically the end all and be all of this award, but the overall Texans defense has been less than stellar.
Matthews has been a freaking beast for the Packers in their 3-4 defense. He has 8.0 sacks and has put together an awesome season. He may only have 40 tackles, but he did rip away a touchdown from Adrian Peterson when the Packers played the Vikings early in the season. Its going to be him or Cushing, and that is a no doubter.
With that, my picks so far are going to be Percy Harvin and Brian Cushing, but there is still a chunk of season left to play. Many of the rookies are going to be playing on teams that are fighting for their lives, and that may lead to some changes in the rankings. Who knows: once the season comes to an end, we may have someone new altogether.
Also, be sure to continue to enter the codes from all of your favorite Upper Deck cards, as you still have the chance to win great prizes if your code matches the Rookie of the Week. Of course, it couldn’t hurt to bank on these guys, as they are mostly all past winners. You can also win an autographed football of all the rookies who attended the 2009 Rookie Premiere, giving you another reason to diligently follow the Own The Rookies site.
Adam Gellman runs the collecting blog Sports Cards Uncensored, and has been a collector of all things sports for over 15 years. To see more of his work, visit www.sportscardsuncensored.com (warning: strong language!).