Race for Rookie of the Year, Week 4
Two weeks ago was the tease. Now we’re starting to get serious as the Race for Rookie of the Year starts to take a more solid shape.
So it’s only right that our fortnightly update goes ahead. Two weeks ago this fledgling contest had Sammy Watkins sitting atop the pile. But with the Bills losing two games and Watkins having more than one question asked of him, there was no chance of him holding onto that top spot.
Who would replace him? Let’s see.
1. Khalil Mack, OLB, OAK: +11.0
There might be a tendency to judge edge rushers like Mack by their sack numbers. Look past that and you’ll see a guy capable of generating pressure and excellent at the edge. Standout so far.
2. Aaron Donald, DT, SL: +6.7
The bye week of the Rams and his status as a second stringer hurts Donald who has done enough in his 83 snaps to justify this ranking. Prone to a big drop if he can’t keep making his snaps count as much as he has.
3. Joel Bitonio, LG, CLE: +5.1
Another one who got a rest this week which ruined any chance he had of making a move to the top spot. Its most encouraging that he has had a big impact on the run game in Cleveland. Strong start.
4. C.J. Mosley, LB, BAL: +5.9
A bit of a rollercoaster but Mosley climbed high into the air this week with one of the top performances of any linebacker during our seven and a bit years grading. Already proving a force against the run while looking the part of an every-down defender.
5. Kyle Fuller, CB, CHI: +3.9
Top spot was his for the taking after his homage to Charles Tillman propelled him to the top of our cornerback rankings. Unfortunately, Aaron Rodgers came into town and worked over him a little and he’s just holding onto a spot in the Top 5.
6. Ja’Wuan James, RT, MIA: +3.1
We’re not hearing the name of James called an awful lot and for a rookie linemen that is, as ever, a good thing. Holding up nicely.
7. Anthony Barr, LB, MIN: +2.8
Handling the increased responsibilities of being an every-down linebacker who the team is asking to do it all. As you’d expect, looks a lot better coming forward than on his heels in coverage, but given how raw he was supposed to be in that phase, even that has been a pleasant surprise.
8. Jack Mewhort, LG, IND: +2.0
The Colts’ line needed a boost on the inside and Mewhort (along with the improved play of Hugh Thornton) has certainly provided it. The team might want more punch from him in the run game but he’s making life easier for Andrew Luck.
9. Jason Verrett, CB, SD: +2.9
More playing time and more plays will push him up this list. For now he’s doing a good enough job as a sub-package defender. Will need to do more if he’s to stay here.
10. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR: -0.6
He’s not short on volume with only six receivers thrown more balls. The upshot is a healthy amount of yards and three touchdowns, but there’s an element of consistency missing from his game. Until that is fixed he won’t challenge the top spots.
Five to Watch
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN: If he plays like he did against Atlanta for the rest of the season he might very well win the whole thing.
Trai Turner, RG, CAR: Decent amount of action, but a right guard rotation needs to be overcome to crack the big boy list.
Aaron Lynch, SF: He looks ready, but needs more playing time. Shown an ability to get pressure.
Calvin Pryor, S, NYJ: Up and down. More up and then he won’t just be one to watch.
Chandler Catanzaro, K, ARZ: It’s hard for a kicker to break into the Top 10. Credit Catanzaro for his perfect season to date.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled