NFL Power Rankings: Robert Griffin III and the Top 10 Rookie of the Year Candidates
Back in October I wrote an article listing the top 10 rookie of the year candidates in the NFL. Considering so much has changed since then, I figured we can reexamine the candidates and even come up with some new ones (which I did).
How can you not be excited watching Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III play this season? Both are two of the most exciting players in football right now, turning around their franchises and putting both right in the center of the playoff picture. You hate to see teams invest so much in a player and the pick not pay off, but the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins found two of the best young quarterbacks we've seen in a long time.
And don't forget about what Russell Wilson is doing with the Seattle Seahawks, either. He's got them at 7-5 and in prime position to lock up a wild card spot, or even win their division. No one gave Wilson a shot in the NFL due to his height, but he's proving all the doubters wrong and putting up good numbers in the process.
You also can't ignore the success of rookie running backs this season. Alfred Morris, Trent Richardson and Doug Martin will all likely cross the 1,000 yard barrier, and we could be seeing a passing of the torch in the NFL. Morris may be the best story of the three. He was a sixth round pick this year and won the starting job in training camp. He is certainly making Mike Shanahan look like a genius.
So here are the top 10 rookie of the year candidates thus far. Feel free to comment below if you disagree.
10. Casey Hayward CB, Green Bay Packers
Stats: 41 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes defended, one forced fumble
Team Record: 8-4
Green Bay Packers rookie corner Casey Hayward is an incredible young talent and having a great season. He should be in the running for defensive rookie of the year. The Packers struggle on defense at times, but Hayward has been a bright spot and should be one of the top corners in the league shortly. He has a nose for the football and his instincts are off the charts.
9. Luke Kuechly LB, Carolina Panthers
Stats: 114 tackles, one sack, three fumble recoveries, one interception, three passes defended
Team Record: 3-9
The Carolina Panthers have a questionable defense, but their problems start and end with the defensive front four. Luke Kuechly proved to be a terrific selection and is all over the field for the Panthers. He's a tough, hard-nosed player who will be the leader of this defense, if he isn't already.
8. Ryan Tannehill QB, Miami Dolphins
Stats: 57.9 % completions, 2,559 yards, nine touchdowns (two rush), 12 interceptions, five fumbles, 72.3 QB Rating
Team Record: 5-7
Ryan Tannehill has to work on his turnovers, but he's been better than most expected before the season started. He broke Dan Marino's rookie record for passing yards already, but his touchdown to turnovers ratio has killed the Miami Dolphins at times. That said, he has a bright future.
7. Chandler Jones DE, New England Patriots
Stats: 34 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles, two passes defended
Team Record: 9-3
The New England Patriots needed to shore up their pass rush, so they took Chandler Jones in the first round this year. He's been playing great so far and a perfect fit for the Patriots defense. He has missed two games to injury and his presence was missed. They have a huge test with the Houston Texans next Monday night, easily their biggest test of the season so far.
6. Trent Richardson RB, Cleveland Browns
Stats: 229 carries, 827 yards, seven touchdowns, 44 receptions, 339 yards, one touchdown three fumbles (0 lost)
Team Record: 4-8
The Cleveland Browns had two first round picks this year and took Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. There is no question Richardson has been more important for this offense, and he's well on his way to being one of the best running backs in the NFL. He truly can do it all and the Browns use him as such. It is fun to watch Richardson run due to his combination of speed, power and strength. He punished defenders.
5. Russell Wilson QB, Seattle Seahawks
Stats: 63.4 % completions, 2,344 yards, 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions, five fumbles, 95.2 QB Rating, 66 carries, 298 yards
Team Record: 7-5
Russell Wilson's journey is one of the best stories you'll find in football. He had to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin, had a terrific year there but was not considered an NFL caliber quarterback due to his height. The Seahawks had signed Matt Flynn in the off-season to a hefty contract and he was the presumed starter, but Wilson outperformed him in camp and won the job, despite being just a rookie.
Many questioned Pete Carroll's decision, but it was clearly the correct one as Wilson is playing great football and putting up veteran-type numbers. I hope the Seahawks make the playoffs so we can see what this guy is capable of on the biggest stage.
4. Alfred Morris RB, Washington Redskins
Stats: 230 carries, 1,106 yards, six touchdowns, three fumbles (two lost), 10 catches, 42 yards
Team Record: 6-6
With all the warranted hype around RGIII, Alfred Morris has gone generally unnoticed by casual fans. This guy is one of the best offensive players in the league. He was just a sixth-round pick this year but is playing like a top 10 guy. He is tied for third in the NFL in rushing yards, behind just Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. That is some talented company to keep.
3. Doug Martin RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 236 carries, 1,106 yards, nine touchdowns, one fumble (one lost), 32 receptions, 374 yards, one touchdown
Team Record: 6-6
Probably the only thing separating Doug Martin and Alfred Morris is Martin is much more of a threat in the passing game. They are actually tied for third in the league in rushing yards. Astonishing to think so many rookie running backs are already having this kind of impact in the NFL. Martin's signature moment came when he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders.
2. Robert Griffin III QB, Washington Redskins
Stats: 67.1% completions, 2,660 yards, 17 touchdowns, four interceptions, 10 fumbles (two lost), 104.4 QB Rating, 105 carries, 714 yards, six touchdowns
Team Record: 6-6
What? Robert Griffin III is not the top candidate right now? Look, I understand he has mind-blowing stats, but you'll see why I believe the next guy is more deserving of the award right now. RGIII is electric and a better version of Michael Vick. He's arguably faster than Vick and a much better passer. He's deadly accurate and Kyle Shanahan has designed the perfect offense to suit Griffin. They are closing in on a playoff spot, and I know no team in the NFC wants to play RGIII playing the way he is now.
1. Andrew Luck QB, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 55.5% completions, 3,596 yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, nine fumbles, 76.1 QB Rating, 44 carries, 215 yards, five touchdowns
Team Record: 8-4
If you're going on stats alone, I think it is safe to say RGIII has been more impressive. His QB rating is almost 30 points better, he rushes the football at an elite level and he takes care of the football. But so much of why Andrew Luck is the better choice is his leadership qualities and how he wills his team to wins. He was having an awful game against the Detroit Lions this weekend, but pulled off a miracle comeback by scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes. He hit Donnie Avery for the game-winning touchdown with no time on the clock.
It was his second miracle win this season, as they also came from 18 points down to upset the Packers earlier in the season. They have rallied around Luck and they are having a season that absolutely no one could have predicted. Luck is the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall to have eight wins in a season, and he has four more games to keep that record going.