Browns: Rookie guard worthy of recognition
The Cleveland Browns made a splash on the first day of the 2014 NFL draft, picking up cornerback Justin Gilbert, quarterback Johnny Manziel and an extra first-round pick for 2015. However despite concerns over the availability of star receiver Josh Gordon, the Browns opted to ignore the receiving talent available at the top of Round 2, and instead drafted Joel Bitonio, a guard out of Nevada University.
Amidst a lot of noise in Cleveland, Bitonio has quietly put together one of the best seasons by a rookie offensive lineman in recent years, earning a starting spot in the 2014 PFF Pro Bowl Selections. He is the only first-year Browns player to start every game this season and has done so with the poise of a veteran; his +25.0 overall grade is the second-best of any guard this season. Bitonio has excelled in both facets of his role, with a +14.2 grade as a run blocker, and an +11.1 grade in pass protection. Bitonio has allowed zero sacks and 11 total pressures for a 98.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency, sixth-best among all guards.
Since its inception, the Offensive Rookie of The Year award has never been won by a lineman, but Bitonio is playing well enough this year to merit serious consideration at the very least.