Yesterday, we took a look at the leading candidates for defensive rookie of the year, and now it’s time to take a closer look at the first-year standouts on the offensive side of the ball. There are a lot of great candidates for this award, but we’ve narrowed it down to the top five.
Keenan Allen, San Diego – In a tight and crowded rookie of the year race, Allen may be one of the few players that is starting to stand out. The Chargers needed somebody to step up at wide receiver and Allen responded, as he has become San Diego’s leading receiver with nearly 1,000 yards on the season and eight touchdowns. Few rookie receivers are able to make a big impact, but Allen has made a seamless transition from college to the NFL, and that has put him in good position to be offensive rookie of the year.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati – Bernard is only playing part time, but he has taken that part time play and carried it a long way. The Bengals drafted him to be a change-of-pace back, but he’s nearly in equal to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in yards, while averaging 4.3 yards per carry. What has separated Bernard from a lot of the other rookie running backs has been his pass catching ability, as he’s the team’s third leading receiver with 51 catches for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. He may not have enough carries or played a big enough role on his team to win the award, but he’s been a great addition to an offense with a lot of playmakers and has shown great promise during his rookie season.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston – His team’s terrible record will probably prevent him from garnering serious consideration for the award, as will some of his inconsistencies, but Hopkins has made an instant impact for the Texans as a nice complement to veteran Andre Johnson. Hopkins has nearly eclipsed the 800-yard mark this season and is averaging 16 yards per reception. His chances to win are hurt by the fact that he only has two touchdowns on the season, but compared to other rookie wide receivers, Hopkins has had a good season and made a difference, even on a bad team.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay – Lacy is most likely Allen’s biggest competition for offensive rookie of the year. He has gone over the 1,100-yard mark and found the end zone 10 times, while averaging nearly 80 yards per game. Most importantly, he has helped carry a team that has been without its starting quarterback for half the season. Lacy has had no trouble adjusting physically to life in the NFL, even against teams stacking the box against him. Perhaps most importantly, he’s only fumbled the ball once, so he’s taken care of the football and his team has been able to rely on him, which should carry him a long way in the rookie of the year race.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis – Stacy was my pick before the season as a rookie running back that could come out of nowhere and make an impact, and now he’s a dark horse to win rookie of the year. He didn’t start playing regularly until October, and yet Stacy still has 958 yards rushing on the season, making him second only to Lacy among rookies, and giving him a chance to eclipse 1,000 yards in what would essentially be three-quarters of a season. If his stats could be extrapolated to a full season and his team was better, Stacy would certainly be among the top two or three candidates for the award and have a real chance to be rookie of the year.
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