We’re eight weeks in and our Race for Rookie of the Year is starting to take shape. Sheldon Richardson has led the race for the past few weeks but is seeing increasing pressure put on him, especially with the Jets’ defense getting steamrolled by the Bengals.
So, could he stand up to the heat, or would one of the challengers push him down a spot? Well let’s see, shall we.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +13.9
He just about earned a positive grade for the week but it was by far his least convincing performance, and one that earned him his lowest grade against the run. The whole team struggled so he’ll be looking to bounce back immediately.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +11.1
Closes the gap with Richardson having a poor week. Has picked his game up in the past couple of weeks and remains one of the best defensive tackles against the run (ranked third in the league). Challenge is for him to maintain.
3. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +7.7
After faltering in recent weeks was better against the Cowboys, even if he did allow two hurries. A more consistent display with his run blocking earns him a bump in the rankings.
4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: +8.1
We do like Bernard, though we’d like it if he contributed more with his rushing.His 287 yards on the ground isn’t really enough to complement the work he’s doing catching passes out of the backfield.
5. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +5.5
Would grade better but for his poor return on numbers of blitzes to pressure on the quarterback. Remains our fourth-ranked coverage inside linebacker with four interceptions, highlighting his playmaking ability.
6. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +7.7
It’s getting harder and harder not to move Mathieu up. The versatile talent started at safety this week though saw more action covering the slot. Walked away with his second pick and almost had another in his highest graded performance as a pro.
7. Eric Reid, S, 49ers: +5.4
Has calmed down on the early season missed tackling and has settled into providing the kind of deep safety play the 49ers need out of their defense. Team really has to be happy with how he’s adjusted to the NFL.
8. Marcus Cooper, CB, Chiefs: +9.0
Perhaps the most surprising name here, Cooper has been a revelation since working his way into the Chiefs’ heavily used sub-package lineup. You could say he benefits from those around him, but so far he’s picked off two balls and broken up another six while allowing 36.7% of throws into his coverage.
9. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: +6.0
The workhorse. Lacy and his ability to keep on earning the tough yards has added a new dimension to a Packers’ offense intent on making life easier for its star quarterback. Has caused 15 missed tackles already on the year.
10. D.J. Fluker, RT, Chargers: +3.4
No action this week, but will be hoping a return to the right side of the line will help him solidify his place in the Top 10.
Desmond Trufant, DB, Falcons: Kept the streak alive with his seventh pass defense in as many games, but his worst grade of the year flung him from the main list.
Five To Watch
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Arguably would be getting more attention from us if not for a fumble he was lucky to recover.
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: Still in the mix, but needs to up his game to get more spiel.
Nickell Robey, CB, Bills: Nickell by name, nickel back by nature. Robey has made that place his own for the Bills in impressive fashion.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Made the kind of immediate impact Chargers fans were hoping for. Now, can he do more?
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: Those two drops are what stands between him and a spot in our Top 10. It’s coming.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled