The Race for Rookie of the Year: It’s an NFC West thing

| December 3, 2010

While there should be no surprise who remains the top dog in our Race for Rookie of the Year, the gap between one and two isn’t insurmountable.

The excellent play of 49ers guard Mike Iupati has gone largely unnoticed as the team has struggled, but he’s really found his rhythm in recent weeks and is already looking like one of the best run-blocking guards in the entire league. In fact, if it wasn’t for the quality of guards in the NFC (I’m looking primarily at Carl Nicks, Josh Sitton and Harvey Dahl), I think I would swing my Pro Bowl seal of approval in the direction of Mauling Mike.

Still, it’s going to take more from him (and the rest) to catch up and surpass Sam Da’ Ram.

1. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (+23.8, 804 snaps)

Still No. 1, and while you can keep waiting for him to slip up it just isn’t happening right now. He’s not playing as well as Matt Ryan did as a rookie, but he’s had a similar impact. Last week:1st

2. Mike Iupati, LG, 49ers (+9.7, 730 snaps)

Iupati is already one of the most dominant run-blocking guards in the league and just seems to be getting better and better. Our fifth-ranked guard regardless of side. Last week:3rd

3. Koa Misi, OLB, Dolphins (+13.3, 415 snaps)

Another big game for Misi, who didn’t have a great day on the stat sheet but did make a nice play in coverage as he starts to look like the kind of all-around player at outside linebacker to work alongside Cameron Wake. Last week:5th

4. Joe Haden, CB, Browns (+8.0, 485 snaps)

Haden got the start and responded with what should have been a game-clinching interception. Allowing just 55.6 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. Last week: 4th

5. Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs (+7.2, 640 snaps)

Returned from injury and showed no signs of rust with a touchdown and another impressive display with his run blocking. Sixth overall in our tight end rankings. Last week:6th

6. Devin McCourty, CB, Patriots (+6.0, 795 snaps)

With a higher pure coverage grade (and making more plays on the ball), McCourty moves above Alterraun Verner after a two-interception display. Makes mistakes but no doubting the talent. Last week: Not ranked

7. Alterraun Verner, CB, Titans (+6.5, 655 snaps)

Isn’t making the plays in coverage he was at the start of the year but making up for it with some good plays elsewhere (even as an occasional nickel blitzer). Last week:7th

8. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions (+5.5, 678 snaps)

The six penalties against him hurt his rating, but there’s no denying how active he is with 28 quarterback disruptions all year. Starting to justify the hype with good all-around play, and considering his raw numbers and highlight-reel stuff, will almost certainly be the writers’ choice. Last week:9th

9. Gerald McCoy, DT, Bucs (+6.1, 623 snaps)

On the surface, a two-sack display should probably push him up the ratings. Unfortunately, that was pretty much all McCoy managed to do versus Baltimore. He’s not there yet. Last week:8th

10. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (+4.3 RR, 410 snaps)

Didn’t have a great game against the Saints as he looked frustrated by the opportunities (or lack thereof) presented to him. Never good to be targeted five times, not catch a ball but drop one. Last week: 2nd

Dropped Out: Brandon Graham (Eagles)

In The Mix: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots), Jermaine Cunningham (Patriots), Rolando McClain (Raiders) and Eric Berry (Chiefs)

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