It looked like Sheldon Richardson was running away from things at the top of our Race for Rookie of the Year. He’s not. His weakest performance of the season to date allowed others to close the gap, and as we near the mid-way point we’re gearing up for a fantastic finish in a very closely fought race.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 to see how it’s playing out.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +12.1
Slipped to seventh in our 3-4 defensive end rankings in large part due to his inability to generate pressure. That has held him back a tad this year, but his run defense has been so good you can continue to look past it.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +9.3
After three so-so outings I was among many wondering if Lotulelei was beginning to slow down after a hot start. Well the Rams (and everyone else) found out that wasn’t the case. A big performance that saw a third of his run defense snaps end with him making a defensive stop.
3. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals: +8.6
A quieter day from him where again his best work was done in the receiving game. So very dangerous in space.
4. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +5.0
Down to sixth in our inside linebacker rankings, the tackling machine was quieter this week and didn’t help his cause by negating some good play with a couple of missed tackles.
5. Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons: +4.7
We don’t spend a lot of time speaking about Trufant, and that’s a good thing. Has missed just 19 snaps all year and has broken up one pass in every game. Has fitted in nicely.
6. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +5.6
A step back for Warford who, in getting beat for two hits and four hurries, had his worst day in pass protection while also posting a negative with his run blocking. Not quite ready for the ferocious Bengals front four.
7. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +5.4
The versatile Mathieu has graded positively in every area of the game, while proving up to task as a stand in safety and crucial slot cornerback. A very handy player to have.
8. Eric Reid, S, 49ers: +4.8
Quiet day against the Titans, and that’s the way it will be for him at times. Still, when the team looks at the tape and then compares him to how Dashon Goldson is playing they won’t have any complaints.
9. D.J. Fluker, OT, Chargers: +3.4
Allowed two hits and two hurries. Suffice to say he’s better suited to life on the right side of the line and his grade took a hit when asked to fill in on the left side.
10. Marcus Cooper, CB, Chiefs: +7.2
The only thing keeping Cooper down is his playing time. He’s been a revelation since being picked up by the Chiefs, with two picks and six pass break ups highlighting his worth, while only 37% of passes into his coverage have been complete.
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: A big step back as his run blocking got exposed by the Eagles’ front.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Not a bad day but just didn’t advance himself as much as others around him.
Five to Watch
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Made a couple of big plays this week but also went quiet for large spells. A little bit more consistency and he’s getting his own little section.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: It can be hard sledding behind the Packers’ line, but we’d like to see Lacy do a little bit more to crack the main list.
Geno Smith, QB, Jets: If he was more consistent he’d be on this list. He’s not, but that he’s not a million miles away from making it should show how well he has played at times.
Corey Lemonier, LB, 49ers: Coming along very nicely in the Niners’ sub-package defense. Plenty of time to be had there.
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: Has already proven himself a playmaker and now it’s just repeating his achievements that stands in the way of a spot in the Top 10.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled