Can it be that there are just three weeks left of the regular season?
That also means that there are just three weeks left in our Race for Rookie of the Year, a race that has by and large been dominated by a Jets defensive end. While Richardson has taken control of this from the outset, that’s not to say he’s got this wrapped up with the continuing excellence of Keenan Allen providing the kind of tantalizing finish we’ve come to expect of all things NFL.
Let’s take a look at the top 10.
On the Lead Lap…
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +28.2
The negative grade for pass rushing has kept in within striking distance but he’s so good against the run (only J.J. Watt has a higher score of 3-4 defensive ends) that he’s built a solid lead. Already a big contributor to the league’s most stingy defensive line.
2. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: +13.8
Now the owner of our sixth highest receiving grade of all wide receivers with his sixth positive grade in a row. Added two touchdowns to his total and is now just 98 yards away from a debut 1,000 yard season.
3. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +19.1
Our third ranked right guard on the year, Warford has just the one negative grade to his name all season. That speaks to the consistency of the Lion who didn’t let a little thing like snow slow him down this week.
4. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: +15.2
After his struggles on Thanksgiving responded exactly as the Packers would have hoped with a big outing against the Falcons despite picking up an ankle injury. Up to fourth overall in our running back rankings.
5. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: +15.5
Coming off the back of his biggest rushing game Bernard has been the kind of change of pace back the team hoped for, and if the team can get him in space he’s likely to make the opposition pay.
6. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +14.2
It was a tough night for the Panthers but Lotulelei didn’t let his team down as the front four were at least able to slow down the Saints rushing attack. That’s what he has done all year and it’s a huge reason for the teams improvement.
7. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +15.5
The shame is that this is as high as Mathieu is, an ACL injury means it won’t get any better for the rookie defensive back who acclimatized so well to life in the NFL.
8. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +6.9
A hot start to the year faded and a middling middle portion saw him fall behind in this race. The good news is he picked up his first grade in the green against the Buccaneers with his coverage once again being the reason why.
9. Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons: +6.9
In a bad year for Atlanta the play of Trufant bodes well for the future. No pass break ups this week but the team will be happy with the 13 he has managed so far.
10. Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: +12.2
Another reason why the Panthers have to be happy with how this year has gone. Has added depth to the defensive interior and some penetration in their sub package defense.
Five to Watch
LaAdrian Waddle, RT, Lions: Just seven snaps this week but it doesn’t offset the work he has done since coming into the lineup.
Justin Pugh, RT, Giants: The highest rated tackle from those taken in the first round. Who saw that coming?
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: There’s a lot of negativity around Dallas but they can at least be positive about their first round pick.
Eric Reid, S, 49ers: Has replaced Dashon Goldson seamlessly. The 49ers will be happy with that but will likely expect more as he develops.
Kenny Vacarro, S, Saints: Earned his fifth positive grade in six appearances this week. After a slow start has cut out the bad plays and is a real valuable asset in the Saints defense.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled