Race for Rookie of the Year, Week 16
Back in Week 1 there was only one quarterback everyone was talking about. He caught the attention of all with a quite sublime performance, and has since followed that up with a level of play that as stunned and excited many fans.
That man was Robert Griffin III and until today he had led my Race for Rookie of the Year from the moment the season kicked off. Only now, the race that he seemed to have in the bag isn’t quite so. Instead he’s facing the challenge of a third-round rookie too short for the NFL who right now is playing as well as anyone.
Has Russell Wilson overcome RG3? Let’s find out.
1. Russell Wilson, QB, SEA (+33.1)
I remember talking about Wilson with Neil Hornsby during preseason. He came away convinced he was pretty special, to which my cynical response was let’s see how he would do during the regular season. Well, the cynic in me dies a little every time I see Wilson, instead I’m stunned by his play. He was superb against San Francisco and his form, especially in the second half of the year, makes a mockery of the fact 74 players were taken ahead of him in any draft class. There aren’t 74 players in the league I’d take over him.
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS (+31.8)
This week RG3 attempted only 24 passes, yet his adjusted accuracy percentage of 95% should tell you how on target he was. A good performance with him not really testing the Eagles’ secondary, and with Wilson playing so well he drops from the top spot for the first time. Play well and win against Dallas though and it will take some performance to keep him from the top spot.
3. Andrew Luck, QB, IND (+3.5)
The Chiefs’ defense is no pushover, so it should probably relieve a lot of Colts fans that it’s the best Luck has played for quite some time. His accuracy still concerns me, but I’m looking forward to seeing him in the playoffs.
4. Casey Hayward, CB, GB (+22.9)
A quiet day for Hayward with the Packers trouncing the Titans in a game that became meaningless quickly. He did exhibit some nifty work in the run game around the line of scrimmage and is the clear defensive rookie of the year in my mind.
5. Matt Kalil, LT, MIN (+16.0)
I’ll hold my hands up. I disagree with the idea of taking an offensive tackle as high as the Vikings took Kalil. But if you’re going down that road, you’ll struggle to get more initial bang for your buck than Kalil has given.
6. Bobby Wagner, LB, SEA (+14.4)
Our top ranked 4-3 middle linebacker quickly became an every-down player for the Seahawks and just keeps on making plays. How the Seahawks continue to knock their drafts out of the park amazes, and puts the rest of the league to shame.
7. Alfred Morris, RB, WAS (+12.9)
Each week I keep expecting him to slow down, and each week he proves me wrong. Morris broke five more tackles to surpass the 50 mark (rushing) for the year. He’s far more than a product of the Redskins’ system.
8. Lavonte David, LB, TB (+10.3)
Nobody has more tackles than David. I know Luke Kuechly is quoted as having more but in our retrospective system David has four more with six more defensive stops. Also leading the league in tackles for a loss, David is already one of the most disruptive linebackers in the league.
9. Kevin Zeitler, RG, CIN (+12.4)
Before Week 16 the greatest strength of Zeitler was that he was going relatively unnoticed. Far from dominating, but never dominated, he looked like a seasoned vet out there. Not so against the Steelers, as he was given a rough ride in a physical AFC North encounter. Will he learn from this?
10. Luke Kuechly, LB, CAR: (+6.7)
When people quote the tackle numbers of Kuechly, my mind zones out. When Kuechly puts in one of the best performances from any linebacker this year, like he did against Oakland, then I start to take notice. He shouldn’t be your defensive player of the year, but the strides he’s made since moving to the middle linebacker spot are hugely encouraging for the future.
Mitchell Schwartz, RT, CLE: Schwartz did very little wrong, and in fact did an admirable job while handling Von Miller. But somebody had to make room for Kuechly.
Five To Watch
Doug Martin, RB, TB: I like Martin a lot, but he’s not been able to do enough running the ball to ensure Josh Freeman isn’t trying to do too much throwing it.
Dont’a Hightower, LB, NE: Has played like a rookie with a lot of potential. Some flashes here, some tentative play. But overall he’s been an asset to the Patriots’ defense.
Harrison Smith, S, MIN: Are we looking at the next elite cover safety? There are some issues to be ironed out, but his playmaking doesn’t so much as shout for your attention, as smack you in the face a couple of times to get it.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA: Think of it this way, Miami fans. He hasn’t been as good as some of the other rookies but he’s been a whole lot better than some of those ‘developed guys’ from 2009.
Mike Martin, DT, TEN: One of the few Titans to come out of Week 16 with any credit to his name.
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