Race for Rookie of the Year, Week 8
Last time out on the PFF Race for Rookie of the Year it was Joel Bitonio who led the way. Part of a fantastic line in Cleveland, he was riding high working between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. But with Mack going down, but a lineup change up slow down his sprint to the win?
Would one of the defensive standouts nipping at his heels surpass him? The likes of Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald and C.J. Mosley have used the past two weeks to make plenty of noise with their on the field play. Now let’s find out where it sees them land after eight weeks of action.
1. Khalil Mack, LB, OAK: +23.0
We have a new top dog. With zero sacks to his name there are those thinking that Mack isn’t getting the job done. But with phenomenal work in the run game and a very healthy five hits and 17 hurries, Mack is delivering on high expectations.
2. Aaron Donald, DT, SL: +16.7
Would Donald be winning this race if not for spending more time on the bench than on the field until Week 6? We can speculate about that, but there’s no speculation as to how well Donald is playing. His ability to penetrate the run really is something to watch.
3. Joel Bitonio, LG, CLE: +10.9
The entire Cleveland line (except for the wonder that is Joe Thomas) has taken a back step in recent weeks and Bitonio is no exception. Now that doesn’t mean he’s played poorly, but he’s not wowing as was.
4. C.J. Mosley, LB, BAL: +11.7
How happy do you think the Ravens are with Mosley? Linebackers can come into the league and pad stats without making a consistent impact. Mosley is not that guy. Our top-ranked inside linebacker on the year now.
5. Zack Martin, RG, DAL: +10.1
Has used the past two weeks to close the gap to Bitonio in the “Who is the best rookie guard” contest with now five green grades on the bounce. A vindication of the Cowboys’ efforts to improve up front.
6. Anthony Barr, LB, MIN: +7.3
Strip sack come overtime touchdown aside, Barr is still playing very well. Indeed, he’s much more than that one play, proving an effective defender against the run on early downs and generating pressure when given the chance to rush the passer.
7. Jason Verrett, CB, SD: +8.1
Team missed him when he left injured against the Broncos. That’s been the drawback to Verrett where he’s been limited to 230 snaps, which for a corner is always going to keep you away from the top spots.
8. Taylor Lewan, LT, TEN: +6.1
A new entry and one that is quietly making a very good impression. The Titans may be struggling at the moment but the adjustment Lewan has made is a big positive.
9. Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF: +0.9
Has the potential to shoot up this list. Is on something of a hot streak now after a cold opening, benefiting from more consistent quarterback play. Really a case that if you eliminate some of his struggles in the first four weeks of the year he’d be pushing the Top 5.
10. Corey Linsley, C, GB: +6.9
Won’t move up until he gives up less pressure, but his work in the run game ensures him worthy of a spot in the Top 10.
Branden Oliver, RB, SD: Someone had to make way for Lewan and Watkins. Oliver may struggle to get his spot back once the Chargers’ backfield becomes crowded with those returning from injury.
Aaron Lynch, OLB, SF: Has seen his playing time increase but will that last with Aldon Smith returning?
Five to Watch
Jarvis Landry, WR, MIA: Worth keeping an eye on to see if his role can grow. Doesn’t hurt that he contributes well on special teams.
Brandon Linder, RG, JAX: The Jaguars have to like the immediate upgrade Linder has provided. His game is getting better week on week.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR: Talent is unquestionable and his ability to make big plays eye-catching. Just needs to tidy some things up to back-up the numbers.
E.J. Gaines, CB, SL: Coming off his roughest game as a pro but if he can rebound then he’s not far off the Top 10.
Derek Carr, QB, OAK: Highest-graded rookie quarterback. That he’s playing as well as he is (mistakes and all) on a subpar Raiders team bodes well for the future.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled