The longer the season goes on, the more it looks like the Race for Rookie of the Year is one to be fought by the defensive class of 2013. Last week Sheldon Richardson took advantage of a Carolina Panthers bye week to bypass Star Lotulelei at the top of the leaderboard. But with Lotulelei back in action could he retain his spot? Or would both men be jumped by the impressive Kiko Alonso?
Find out as the Race for Rookie of the Year exits Week 5.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +10.5
Our number four ranked 3-4 defensive end on the year, Richardson added another sack to his season total but as ever it was his work against the run that added to his already impressive overall grade. Of all 3-4 defensive ends only J.J. Watt has more stops against the run.
2. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +8.5
Our second-ranked inside linebacker on the year, Alonso has adapted to life at the NFL level without any problem. Four picks go some way to explaining his grade, but it also fails to do justice to his week-to-week improvements in the run game.
3. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +7.5
A quiet week back, and after a strong start to the season Lotulelei is starting to slip down the leader board. He was a non-factor against the Cardinals for the most part with a negative in the run game and just the solitary hurry.
4. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +8.3
A quiet week for the third-round pick who has so far made a mockery of his draft status. Sits second on the year in our right guard rankings but will need to deliver more consistently in the run game to move up there, and to move up here. Just two quarterback disruptions allowed in pass protection.
5. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals: +4.9
Saw his playing time reduced based on the Bengals offensive game plan but is still our third-ranked running back on the year.
6. Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: +3.5
Initially I worried about Frederick, who was poor in preseason and started the season slowly. Now, however, he’s our top ranked run blocking center and it’s only his constant problems in pass protection that are holding him back. They’re not big enough to keep him out of the Top 10 but something to monitor.
7. D.J. Fluker, RT, Chargers: +4.4
As weird as it may seem, it wouldn’t hurt to see more of Fluker in the run game where he hasn’t really delivered as expected. Instead it’s been his work in pass protection that has been the pleasant surprise.
8. Tyriann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +2.8
The versatile Mathieu is splitting time between starting safety and slot cornerback and, despite the demands of two positions, is holding up more than adequately. Off-the-field problems aside, looks like a find in the third.
9. Akeem Spence, DT, Buccaneers: +4.0
On his own bye week, Spence had graded in the green in the three previous weeks and will look to continue that trend going forward.
10. John Jenkins, DT, Saints: +3.5
Didn’t have the best of times against Chicago, as he failed to generate any pressure and was caught out on more than one occasion in the run game. After a good showing a week earlier will be looking to get back to his best sooner rather than later.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: With his first two weeks a thing of the past, Hopkins has now graded negatively three games on the bounce.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions: The sacks keep coming, but it’s the other 98% of plays where more needs to happen. Was anonymous for most of the NFC North clash with the Packers.
Five to Watch
Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins: Each week we seem to say the same thing, “Needs to see more playing time”.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Has the look of a back who will really add something to the Packers’ rushing attack — once he proves himself able to stay healthy.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Is putting himself on our radar with two strong outings on the bounce.
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Has 10 quarterback disruptions in limited playing time. Making himself a valuable backup and situational player.
J.J. Wilcox, S, Cowboys: Came out of a tough task against the Broncos without his reputation shredded. A lot of more experienced defensive backs would take that.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled