This was supposed to be a week where Sheldon Richardson was challenged by all those around him. Instead, his rivals failed to make the kind of plays that would prevent him opening up a bigger gap as the Jet cements himself the top rookie from 2013.
Outside of him we saw a running back make plays in space, a center continue to prove the doubters wrong, and a safety justify a teams offseason moves. Just another week for the first year guys in our Race for Rookie of the Year.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +13.1
While others struggled, Richardson once again delivered the goods. He’s our third-ranked 3-4 defensive end on the year with a healthy 18 defensive stops thrown in for good measure. His play against Pittsburgh saw him grade above +2.2 for the fifth time this year.
2. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +5.4
Rewarded by a hometown scorer who gave him an assist for being in the general vicinity of a downed runner, Alonso actually had his lowest grade of the year versus the Bengals. Still, he was excellent before this game and has proved a real find so far.
3. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals: +7.9
In the modern NFL it’s not just about what running backs can do taking hand-offs. Bernard has a healthy 4 yards per carry but it’s his work catching the ball out of the backfield that has pushed him to third overall in our running back rankings.
4. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +8.6
We’d like to see a little more in the running game from Warford, who has peaked with some fine performances (see Week 4) with a lot of average ones. That’s still a great return and an upgrade for the Lions, but won’t help him move up from here.
5. Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: +4.9
For the fourth game in a row Frederick graded in the green, even if his Week 6 showing wasn’t as impressive as his other outings in that period. Some rookie linemen seem like they’re in the lineup as much for where they were drafted as anything. Frederick is not one of them.
6. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +5.2
Has been very quiet since his first two games of the year and it has culminated with his worst grade of the year against the Vikings. Trending downwards right now.
7. D.J. Fluker, RT, Chargers: +5.1
After the tough 2012 the Chargers line endured it’s been refreshing to see how stable Fluker has been at right tackle, especially given the play of some of the other rookie linemen.
8. Eric Reid, S, 49ers: +4.9
Have the 49ers felt the loss of Dashon Goldson? Not so much with how Reid is developing. Our eighth-ranked safety on the year has cut back on the early-season missed tackles and making plays when the team needed him to.
9. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +4.3
The versatile Mathieu let himself down with a silly penalty but continues to make plays and show a nose for the ball. Proven well worth the third-round pick already after a much scrutinized process from draft prospect to NFL starter.
10. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: +4.7
Two games on the bounce over 100 yards as Allen establishes himself as the kind of receiver Philip Rivers desperately needs. 12 targets were his most of the year as his role and impact continues to grow.
Akeem Spence, DT, Buccaneers: Everything that could go wrong against the Eagles for Spence seemed to.
John Jenkins, DT, Saints: Drew a blank on his 19 snaps against the Patriots, with their fast tempo and three receiver sets not built to get the best out of him.
Five to Watch
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Only playing time prevents the playmaking Ellington make the list.
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Added four more quarterback disruptions to his season total as he creeps closer to making the main section.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: The more he plays the harder it is to leave him off the Top 10. Added something to the Packers’ offense.
Corey Lemonier, LB, 49ers: With Aldon Smith potentially out for the year is taking advantage of the playing time to make a name for himself.
Marcus Cooper, CB, Chiefs: Is really impressing right now and stood up to the challenge of filling in for Brandon Flowers with very little dropoff.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled