The top two overall picks in last year's draft, rookies Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, are taking over most of the talk of the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year award—and rightfully so, as they've torn up their inaugural campaigns. But let's not forget some studs who also are staking their claim as elite rookies this season.
Though RGIII and Luck are the first two that come to mind, rookie sensation Russell Wilson has quarterbacked the Seattle Seahawks to a surprising season that has them on the hinges of a playoff berth.
But there are plenty of other solid options to vote for other than these three QBs, and they're all getting ignored due to the stellar play of these gunslingers.
Let's take a look at three dark horses that should be getting more credit for the upcoming NFL Rookie of the Year award.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Entering the season, most of us expected the Tampa Bay running game to live and die with LeGarrette Blount carrying the load.
That's been far from the actual story. The Bucs decided to roll with first-round pick Doug Martin immediately, and it's paid huge dividends. The Boise State product has carried the ball 18 times or more in 10 games this season.
Martin's season stats are 1,250 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, and he's made his presence known on record books with four touchdowns in one half, tying the record.
His 251-yard, four-touchdown performance on the road against Oakland in early November was his official coming-out party, although we knew long before of his potential and ability.
It's a travesty that Martin isn't receiving more attention in this race. Without the plethora of top quarterbacks in this class, Martin would likely be a shoo-in for the award.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Rookie running back Alfred Morris wasn't even sure he'd gain a roster spot on the Redskins after being drafted in the sixth round, but it turns out that should have been the least of his worries.
With a deep corps of running backs, but none who stood out from the pack, the job was his to take, and he wasted no time taking it. In the season's opening game against New Orleans, Mike Shanahan gave Morris the opportunity to stake his claim. He did so, with 28 carries for 96 yards and two scores.
Although RGIII is getting all of the credit for the Washington offense's resurgence this season, it would be nothing without Morris. His ability to pound the ball between the tackles and sustain drives has taken the pressure off Griffin, who has more space to show off his incredible dual-threat ability.
With 280 carries for 1,322 rushing yards on the season and nine touchdowns, Morris is not only a top rookie, but a top running back in the league. His efficiency in the Redskins offense will continue for years to come.
Morris won't win Rookie of the Year, but he'd win rookie MVP if there was one. Without him, RGIII is having a mediocre season at best.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Former Alabama prodigy and third overall pick Trent Richardson came into the league with sky-high expectations, and he's met those as he proves to be one of the league's future star ball-carriers.
On a team that almost never has the lead in games, Richardson has still found a way to carry the ball 258 times for 897 yards. He has three 100-yard rushing games on the season, two of which came in losses.
He's also been a force through the air for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. The rookie running back has 352 receiving yards on the season, which is among the most for backfield players in the league. He has eight games with at least 23 receiving yards.
The best way Richardson has made his mark this season has been with his ability to get into the end zone. He has 11 rushing TDs on the season to go along with one additional score on a reception.
If Richardson were on a team that had more leads, he would literally be running away with this award. Instead, he's showcasing that he can still be a force on one of the NFL's most hapless teams.
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