Can it be that we have but six weeks left of the regular season?
That means the Race for Rookie of the Year is entering a critical stage where every performance can cement your status one way or another. Take our returning leader Sheldon Richardson who has enhanced his prospects with his best performance of the year, whereas the formerly fourth-ranked Marcus Cooper has dropped all the way out as he struggled to contend with the Broncos’ receivers.
That’s how close it is at the top and how tense things are getting.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +18.4
Returned to action and looked better for the rest, earning his best grade of what has been an incredibly consistent first year. Ended the game with five defensive stops to give him 27 on the year.
2. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +13.9
Given how Warford has taken to life in the NFL you wonder what teams were watching that he fell as far as he did. Looks built for the game at this level and, like Richardson, is coming off his best game of the year. A legitimate contender for Pro Bowl honors.
3. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +12.2
A second sack of the year and three tackles on a solid showing on Monday Night Football. Still, not enough to make a run at the top spot when others raised their game.
4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: +13.6
Quiet against the Browns by his standards and while the positive grades keep coming his work from Thursday Night Football a couple of weeks back seems more the exception than the rule.
5. Kiko Alonso, ILB, Bills: +7.0
Only Daryl Smith has a higher coverage grade than Alonso who has firmly entrenched himself as an every-down player from Day 1. A big get for the Bills.
6. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +10.5
One of the most polarizing picks in April is now one of the most productive rookies this year. He plays the slot and he starts at safety, but whatever is asked of him he makes plays. Ten games in he has graded positively nine times, with seven of those being in the green.
7. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: +8.4
Was shutdown for most of the game against a Giants unit that knows how to take the wheels off a running game.
8. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: +10.3
Moves up as others move down. Reed played only 33 snaps before a concussion ended his Sunday afternoon and placed doubts as to whether he can maintain his third place ranking in our tight end grades.
9. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: +8.7
After his five big games have come two slightly underwhelming affairs where he’s seen his targets dwindle (his 11 there match his 11 versus the Redskins in Week 9). Productive when the opportunity presents itself even if he’s playing hurt.
10. Eric Reid, S, 49ers:+5.6
Back on the field and back in the Top 10. Reid has pushed himself to eighth in our safety rankings despite his 10 missed tackles. That tells you something about the rest of his game.
Marcus Cooper, CB, Chiefs: He was that bad against the Broncos that he went from fourth to out of it all together. A real wake up call.
Five to Watch
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: Will be looking to impose himself on this race when he returns from his bye week.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Looks dangerous whenever the Cardinals get the ball in his hands. Dreadlocks or not.
Sio Moore, LB, Raiders: Has found himself a role in the Raiders’ defense.
Nickell Robey, CB, Bills: In the modern age a slot cornerback is likely to play nearly half of his teams snaps. Robey is a godsend in that regard.
Kayvon Webster, CB, Broncos: The loss of Champ Bailey has been less noticeable with Webster seeing his grade rise week on week. Real nose for the ball.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled