Race for Rookie of the Year: Situational Star

| December 7, 2011

If you’ve read Pro Football Focus over the past three months you’ll have noticed we have been somewhat impressed by Von Miller. We’ve handed him accolades like it’s going out of fashion and my colleague Sam Monson felt compelled to write about it at great length.

So now that I come to writing my weekly, race for rookie of the year, I feel a little lost in the knowledge that Miller missed the Broncos’ victory over Minnesota with a thumb injury that may require more time out.

Fortunately, such has been the high level of talent of the rookie class this year, that I can turn my attention to a number of other guys deserving of the internet ink, waxing lyrical about how great they’ve been. That’s the plan anyway. As we near the end, let’s look at our Race for Rookie of the Year.

 

 

1. [1] Von Miller, OLB, DEN: +51.2 (701 snaps)

He didn’t play this week and yet there was more evidence of his excellence. The Broncos defense looked a shadow of what we’ve seen without him, giving up points and yardage to a Vikings team that had struggled against many. The standout candidate even if he doesn’t play another snap.

 

2. [2] Cam Newton, QB, CAR: +38.4 (835 snaps)

Reinforced his second spot with a cool, calm and collected performance against the Buccaneers. Broke the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, but his poise remains as impressive a trait as any physical skill.

 

3. [4] Tyron Smith, RT, DAL: +14.5 (813 snaps)

Tackles don’t come into the league and look as good as Smith has. Had no problem against Arizona and seems to be developing as a run blocker before our eyes. Kid looks special.

 

4. [7] Aldon Smith, OLB, SF: +20.9 (368 snaps)

Had a lot of fun against the Rams as he took his season totals to 41 combined sacks, hits, and hurries. That kind of form could have made him a serious contender to Miller if he wasn’t stuck in a situational role.

 

5. [5] A.J. Green, WR, CIN: +7.6 receiving (672 snaps)

With the inconsistent displays of his quarterback, he’s rapidly becoming the true star of the show in Cincinnati. Added another touchdown to his growing tally, as well as moving up to 14th overall in the receiving yardage table.

 

6. [3] Andy Dalton, QB, CIN: +18.5 (779 snaps)

If there’s a defense that has brought Dalton’s limitations to light, it’s the one the Steelers own. They’re just a bit too much for him at this stage, but that shouldn’t take away from a series of impressive performances.

 

7. [9] Jurrell Casey, DT, TEN: +11.6 (479 snaps)

The big man for Tennessee just makes life easier for those around him. Currently fourth of all defensive tackles in defensive stops, Casey has a motor as big as him.

 

8. [8] Richard Sherman, CB, SEA: +9.1 (509 snaps)

Injury forced him into the lineup and talent will keep him there for a long time. Allowed just 50% of balls thrown his way to be completed.

 

9. [7] DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL: +8.8 (381 snaps)

Is hanging on to his spot a tad after a number of performances that have failed to build on his incredible breakout stretch of games. Perhaps I’m just greedy and want more of the same.

 

10. [-] Pernell McPhee, DT, BAL: +16.4 (258 snaps)

I’m not going to ignore McPhee any longer. The Baltimore defensive lineman may be used in a mainly situational role but is generating pressure at a ridiculous rate. Four games in a row he has earned at least a +2.2 grade. Great find for the Ravens.

 

Dropping Out

J.J. Watt, DE, HOU: Didn’t do much wrong against Atlanta but needed to do more to keep his spot.

 

Five To Watch

Jabaal Sheard, DE, CLE: I still have my doubts about Sheard given how hot or cold he has been this year, but really took Michael Oher to task.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, TB: Had some joy rushing the passer against Jordan Gross. That’s easier said than done.

Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, WAS: A nice rookie year from Kerrigan, but doesn’t bring the pressure like some other pass rushers on this list.

Marcell Dareus, DT, BUF: I don’t know if a rookie has disappointed me more in recent weeks. I’ve seen him do it previously so why has he suddenly turned into the invisible man?

Denarius Moore, WR, OAK: He didn’t play this week but should return in week 14 so he makes this list. Has the ability to put up big yardage quickly.

 

 

Follow Khaled on Twitter @PFF_Khaled and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed @ProFootbalFocus

 

  • keim8604

    Speaking of rookies, I noticed that FB Bruce Miller of the Niners has the second highest run block rating among fullbacks. Also, it seems like his first game against Cincy really pulled down his rating, but since then, he’s been anywhere from decent to excellent, with no games in the red for run blocking. Ignoring Rookie of the Year, does he have an outside chance at your All-Pro team?