Race for Rookie of the Year, Week 4
Four weeks in it’s time that this race starts to shape up.
Guys benefiting from one performance are now being found out, while the cream of the crop rises to the top. Our clubhouse leader from Week 3 was the Carolina Panthers’ Star Loutulelei, but with his team on it’s bye week would this be the chance for someone to overtake him?
Or would the pressure get to his rookie peers and he be allowed to keep his spot?
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets: +8.3
And there is! Richardson hasn’t wasted any time in making a big contribution to the Jets’ defense, pushing himself to fourth overall in our 3-4 defensive end rankings and amassing an impressive 10 defensive stops against the run already. What’s more, he added some pass rush to his game this week… he’s getting better.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers: +7.7
No blame for Lotulelei in dropping a spot, but with the team back in action next week he’ll want to get back to his run-destroying best.
3. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals: +5.4
Our third-ranked back currently, Bernard is seeing more and more playing time (up to a season’s best 73.5% this week) and it’s easy to see why. He adds a much needed element to the Bengals’ offense with the ball in his hand.
4. Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills: +3.9
There’s a skill to being in the right place at the right time, and Alonso seems to have perfected that in a way Bills fans haven’t seen since the rookie year of Jairus Byrd. Most rookie linebackers struggle in coverage, but Alonso looks right at home and it’s pushed him to fifth overall in our inside linebacker rankings.
5. Larry Warford, RG, Lions: +4.5
Looks at home in the NFL where his power and ability should have made him more coveted in the draft. Has allowed just two quarterback disruptions and is finding his feet with his run blocking.
6. John Jenkins, DT, Saints: +5.2
With Brodrick Bunkley injured after seven snaps, Jenkins has been thrust into more playing time than any expected. The results have been extremely positive with Jenkins getting some push up the gut and making more than his share of plays against the run.
7. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions: +4.3
More is being asked of him now and he shows no signs of being unable to cope with that. Up to a healthy 14 hurries on the year, while he’s actually higher graded against the run. Good work Detroit.
8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: +3.1
Things have cooled down these past two weeks for the Texan, netting just 87 yards on the nine balls thrown his way. He’ll have easier tests than the Seahawks’ ‘Legion of Boom’ to show himself.
9. Akeem Spence, DT, Buccaneers: +4.0
The team made him a starter because he could do things like he did against the Cardinals. Stout against the run, he didn’t generated any pressure this week but still stood out nonetheless.
10. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: +2.3
The versatility of some players can often mark their importance to a team. Mathieu, a slot cornerback who can play safety (or a safety who can play slot cornerback), has already proved himself valuable to the Cardinals by holding his own however the team has used him. A real handful.
Geno Smith, QB, Jets: When you play that bad what do you expect?
Kyle Long, RG, Bears: Didn’t have the best of times against Ndamukong Suh, but may also consider himself unlucky to not hold onto his spot in the Top 10.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: Dropped the first ball of his NFL career and has failed to make a sufficient impression to warrant a Top-10 placing.
Five to Watch:
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Looks like a dangerous weapon, but will need more snaps and targets to make the leap.
Joplo Bartu, LB, Falcons: Sometimes the best thing you can say about an undrafted free agent is that the “undrafted” part really doesn’t show.
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys: After a rough start has put his pass protection woes behind him and let his run blocking start doing the talking.
Robert Woods, WR, Bills: With a little bit of help from his quarterback he’d be in position to make the kind of plays to propel him onto the main list.
Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins: After dominating against the Falcons, was kept quiet versus the Saints.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled