NFL Rookie Watch: RG3 or Luck?

Nolan Vasan@NFLDraftGeekContributor IOctober 10, 2012

NFL Rookie Watch: RG3 or Luck?

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    It is always interesting to see how a Draft Expert's projections turn out, and we here, are very intrigued by this year's class of NFL rookies. Every week we give you the top 5 players in the hunt for NFL Rookie of the Year on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. 

    It's looking like a two horse race on the Offensive side, but on Defense, it's totally up for grabs!

    Kyle Howe: NFL Draft Geek

1) Robert Griffin: QB Washington Redskins

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    RG3's picture perfect season hit a bit of a snag when he went down with a concussion against the Falcons this past weekend.

    This was always our biggest concern with RGIII. With his slender frame, we were always unsure as to whether he would be able to hold up against NFL defenders, especially with his style of play. Before going down with the concussion, Griffin passed for 91 yards completing 10 of 15 passes. Nothing spectacular, it was very efficient, especially for going up against a revamped Falcons defense.

    While the Redskins and Mike Shanahan claim RGIII is “okay” and that it was only a “mild concussion”, you still have to be concerned, especially with the league’s strict concussion policy. It looks as if he'll be good to go this week however, and he should be able to pick right back up where he left off.

2) Andrew Luck: QB Indianapolis Colts

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    There wasn't a better story this weekend than the Indianapolis Colts coming back to beat the Packers.

    Going into what looked to be an impossible matchup after finding out their head coach, Chuck Pagano, was diagnosed with Leukemia, the Colts came out and battled it out like it was the peak of the Peyton Manning Era. Coming back from a 17 point halftime deficit, the Colts, guided by Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne, led one of the most impressive comebacks in recent memory.

    Luck went 31-55 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. He also had 6 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Many people don't realize it, but Luck has more passing yards and more touchdowns than RGIII in one less game played.

    With an easy schedule ahead of them, the Colts could surprise some people, and Luck can continue to roll. It should be known that this team is not only ‘Chuckstrong’, they’re also ‘Luckstrong’! 

3) Alfred Morris: RB Washington Redskins

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    When fellow rookie Robert Griffin III went down with a concussion, Alfred Morris continued his surprise season, with yet another strong performance.

    Morris carried the ball 18 times for 115 yards, and had it not been for Kirk Cousins’ two interceptions, the Redskins very well could have beaten the undefeated Falcons.

    If RGIII is out for any length of time, Morris could have some big performances. This could be his time to show everybody he is the real deal, and not just a product of having a talented quarterback take pressure off of him. 

4) Trent Richardson: RB Cleveland Browns

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    It started out as the surprise of the weekend when the Browns came out to a 14-0 lead over the defending Super Bowl Champs. Led by rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, the Browns looked like they were going to beat the Giants.

    Richardson had yet another strong performance, carrying the ball 17 times for 81 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. With Richardson getting healthier, Brandon Weeden is starting to progress (although not nearly enough to call him a starting QB in this league).

    While the Browns failed to get the W on Sunday, Richardson proved once again he is the key to the future for the organization and one of the few running backs in the league a franchise can be built around. 

5) Matt Kalil: OT Minnesota Vikings

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    Somehow, the Vikings continue to keep on winning. After an off-season that included very few upgrades outside the draft, the Vikings are off to a terrific start. Adrian Peterson appears to be 100 percent after tearing both his ACL and MCL last year, and Christian Ponder looks like a whole new player after what was an atrocious rookie season.

    The most logical reasoning for the Vikings being much improved this season is the improvement of the offensive line. With Matt Kalil protecting Christian Ponder’s blind side and opening holes for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings offense is no longer quite as stagnant.

    Kalil is already an elite left tackle in this league, and he is only 23 years old. In a division filled with pass rushers, the Vikings have no concerns about Kalil being able to hold his own. 

1) Chandler Jones: DE New England Patriots

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    New England had a big matchup against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Foxborough this past weekend. With Manning coming off a big week against Oakland, the Patriots were in for a tough matchup.

    While the Pats only got to Peyton Manning twice, the pressure was on him all day. Chandler Jones only recorded one tackle and a pass deflection, but he was applying pressure on Manning throughout the game, and going up against Ryan Clady as a rookie is no easy task.

    Next week when the Patriots head to Seattle, expect Jones to feast on a very sub-par Seahawks offensive line. 

2) Janoris Jenkins: CB St Louis Rams

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    The biggest story of this year’s rookie class is without a doubt Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has played like the top 10 talent he is, and so far, without any off-the-field issues.

    On Thursday night football, Jenkins had a phenomenal game against a red-hot Cardinals team. Given the task of covering Larry Fitzgerald, Jenkins rarely looked outmatched or overwhelmed. Recording 4 tackles and 3 pass deflections in the game, Jenkins looked like an All-Pro.

    Each week, he continues to progress and continues to have no run-ins with the law, he continues to prove all of his doubters wrong.

3) Luke Kuechly: LB Carolina Panthers

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    Finally, a Luke Kuechly sighting on our ‘Rookie Watch’!

    After what was a slow start to his rookie season (at least for Kuechly standards), Luke Kuechly had a huge game this past week against the Seahawks.

    Recording 11 tackles and an interception, Kuechly played like the Top 10 pick he is. While Cam Newton continues his sophomore slump, Kuechly and the Panthers defense progress each week.

    Before the season, we said he would be a top 3 candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and as long as he continues to play the way he has been these past couple of weeks (he leads all rookies in tackles), there is no reason he won’t be. With a few more performances like this past week’s game, he could find himself atop the Rookie Watch.

4) Bruce Irvin: DE Seattle Seahawks

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    After the Packers game, everybody felt that Bruce Irvin had finally shown up, and was about to show why the Seahawks drafted him 15th overall this past April.

    Irvin failed to record a stat against St. Louis the next week, but came up big once again this week against the Panthers. Irvin had 2 sacks and a forced fumble, as he once again leads all rookies in sacks.

    While Irvin may be an elite edge rusher someday in this league, his downfall will be his one-dimensional style of play and his inability to be effective against the run. He very well could end up with double digit sacks this season as a rookie, but it is highly unlikely he will win Defensive Rookie of the Year because he fails to produce in any other areas.

    Either way though, he’s a talented kid that deserves to be on this watch as long as he continues to tally sacks.

5) Vontaze Burfict: LB Cincinnati Bengals

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    Another player who put his character concerns to rest, and is playing some tremendous football is Vontaze Burfict. Burfict continues to be a force for the Bengals defense as he shuts down running lanes.

    This past week, the Dolphins came to Cincinnati and upset the Bengals. But to no fault of Burfict's! Burfict led a defense that held the Dolphins rushing attack to just 1.9 yards per carry, as he tallied 7 tackles.

    It appears the Bengals are committed to Burfict, and with his character in check, he is living up to his full potential, and is making a lot of people forget about what brought him down last season at Arizona State.