2014 PFF Offensive Rookie of the Year
While the top spot in our Offensive Rookie of the Year race was pretty certain, the battle for the two through five spots was a good one. Rookie wide receivers made their mark on the NFL this season as even those laden with inconsistencies still likely provide more value than they take away (looking at you, Kelvin Benjamin). All across the league, the wide receivers made a big impact and their progression will be closely watched in the years to come.
We also saw some impressive work in the trenches, particularly at guard where first-year players often struggle. This season, six rookie guards played in at least 10 games and posted positive grades, while Colts OG Jack Mewhort came close at -0.2. To put this in perspective, from 2007 to 2013, only seven rookie guards posted positive grades, so this influx of interior linemen could become a special group in their own right.
As for the quarterbacks, there were some bumps along the way for this class, but one rose above the rest with a strong second half, while the usual “jury-is-still-out” caveat applies to the rest of the group.
Here’s a look at the Offensive Rookie of the Year race for 2014.
4th Runner Up
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Perhaps going unnoticed beyond Bucs fans and his fantasy owners, Evans quickly emerged as one of the league’s top deep threats despite a shaky quarterback situation in Tampa Bay. He graded at +10.2 on the season on his way to tying for the league lead with 18 catches on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air. He ranked third in the league with 575 deep ball yards and tied for second with seven touchdowns on those deep passes. He was also a quality red zone option as he totaled 12 touchdowns on the season to tie for fourth among all wide receivers.
In a league that is emphasizing big-bodied receivers who can win at the catch point more than ever, Evans fits the mold perfectly. He makes life easier for his quarterbacks and he has the ability to turn average throws into big gains.
3rd Runner Up
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
After a typically slow start to his rookie season, Bridgewater showed great improvement in the second half, finishing at +11.0 over his last five games to lead all NFL quarterbacks. Perhaps it’s an arbitrary timeframe, but for a rookie quarterback, it’s an encouraging sign of improvement after the typical early-season growing pains.
Bridgewater did his best work at the intermediate level where he graded at +13.3 while sprinkling in a few deep passes to the tune of a 46.3 percent accuracy percentage that ranked 10th in the league. Perhaps most impressive was his league-leading 75.2 percent accuracy percentage under pressure, though his -1.9 grade when pressured is probably a better indicator of his performance in those situations. Regardless, a low negative grade under pressure is actually pretty good when compared to the rest of the league.
Despite throwing 12 interceptions, Bridgewater was one of the league’s best at protecting the football. Rather than look at interception totals, we like to focus on the actual throws that he made rather than the results, and when looking through that lens, Bridgewater was among the league’s best at avoiding “turnover-worthy plays,” ranking among the likes of Alex Smith, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger. Combine that with the improvement he showed as the season progressed and Vikings fans have to encouraged by Bridgewater’s future.
2nd Runner Up
Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys
As mentioned, rookie guard play was impressive this season and Martin’s year was right there with first runner-up Joel Bitonio’s. He graded at +21.6 including a +13.3 pass blocking grade than ranked second among all guards. He allowed only two QB hits and eight hurries on 517 attempts, good for a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 98.5 that tied for third at the position.
Martin also posted a +4.8 grade in the running game as part of the Cowboys’ top-ranked offensive line, and he was a big part of their offensive re-focus on the running game that led them to the NFC East division title. He started every game and posted only five negatively-graded games along the way to go with eight efforts of +2.0 or better. Martin made the Cowboys look smart again as they dipped into the offensive line pool for the second straight year, with excellent results.
1st Runner Up
Joel Bitonio, OG, Cleveland Browns
Bitonio got the nod over Martin due a better all-around effort as he graded at +22.4 overall including a +10.2 grade in pass protection and +11.7 in the running game. He ranked eighth in pass blocking efficiency at 97.9, surrendering a sack, three QB hits, and 11 hurries on 550 attempts.
Like Martin, Bitonio was consistently good from start to finish, posting only three negative grades and only one was worse than -1.0. The Browns had our sixth-ranked offensive line, and Bitonio stepped right in next to LT Joe Thomas to form one of the best left side duos in the league. Not only was Bitonio the best rookie offensive lineman, but he earned a spot as the first-team left guard on the PFF All-Pro team and he figures to be a cornerstone in Cleveland for years to come.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Odell Beckham JR, WR, New York Giants
It’s hard to put into words just how impressive Beckham JR was in his 12 games. Despite his late start, he still ranked fourth among wide receivers at +20.4 overall, while his identical +20.4 receiving grade ranked second. His impressive debut earned him PFF All-Pro status. Like Evans, Beckam JR has the ability to go up and make catches down the field but he pairs it with outstanding after-the-catch skills as well. Surfing through our signature stat pages show that Beckham JR is the total package:
• QBs had a passer rating of 127.6 when throwing his way, third-highest in the league.
• His drop rate of 2.15% was fourth-best in the league as he only dropped two of his 93 catchable passes.
• Perhaps the best wide receiver stat is Yards per Route Run and Beckham JR ranked third in the league at 2.74.
• Even with his four missed games, he still ranked 10th in receiving yards with 1305 and ninth in yards after the catch with 481.
Beckham JR’s versatile skillset puts him among the best wide receivers in the league and his selection as Offensive Rookie of the Year was an easy one.
See the other awards we’ve handed out this week:
2014 PFF All-Pro Team
2014 PFF All-Pro Special Teams
2014 PFF Stephenson Award (Best Player)
2014 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Matthews Award (Best Offensive Lineman)
2014 PFF O-Line Rankings
2014 PFF Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Offensive Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Rookie of the Year
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