The NFL regular season has ended, which means that soon the annual NFL awards will be announced.
Each year writers from around the country vote for the NFL's annual awards, and we wanted to give the experts at Bleacher Report a chance to voice their opinion on who they believe should win these individual honors, focusing specifically on the offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year here.
The voting was done by Bleacher Report’s group of lead writers, lead bloggers and featured columnists.
Lead writers and bloggers were allowed to fill out a ballot which consisted of votes for offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year. Featured columnists collectively voted on a separate ballot for their input.
Our Bleacher Report panel of experts for this vote (each received one ballot):
Bleacher Report NFL Featured Columnists
The results are listed based on how many votes each player received.
Coming in third place in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft has certainly lived up to expectations. His 4,374 yards in the regular season set a new rookie record after surpassing Cam Newton's previous rookie record of 4,051 yards.
Perhaps even more impressive, is the fact that he led the Colts to the playoffs this year. Indianapolis was coming off a 2-14 year and Luck was able to completely change the culture and propel the Colts to an 11-5 record in his rookie year.
In any other year Luck would probably win this award; it is a true testament to the two players above him of how special this year's class of rookies was.
It's been a long season for Russell Wilson, who would have never been in the consideration after a rather poor start to the season. However, he has surged at the end of the year and came one vote shy of beating Robert Griffin for this award.
Wilson has the benefit of playing on perhaps the best team out of all of the rookie quarterbacks, but his performance should not be undersold. Over his past 10 games, including last weekend's Wild Card win, Wilson has thrown for 19 touchdowns, rushed for four touchdowns and has only thrown three interceptions. The Seahawks are 8-2 during that 10-game stretch.
Nate Dunlevy had this to say on Russell Wilson's candidacy:
If this was an award for the best rookie, it would go to Andrew Luck, hands down. I vote on who had the best season, and Wilson's season was better. I'd still take Luck first overall in a draft by a wide margin.
Nate makes a valid point. It can certainly be argued that Wilson had the best season out of all of the rookies. Consider, he tied Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdown passes and he has his team in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The winner of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award presented by our panel of experts is none other than Robert Griffin III.
After becoming the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the 22-year-old Griffin has become a revelation of sorts. His combination of track-star speed, throwing accuracy, pocket presence and a rocket for an arm has made him one of the most successful rookies the NFL has ever seen.
The accolades and records for Robert Griffin piled up this season:
- Two-time Offensive Rookie of the Month
- Two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Week
- Seven-time NFL Rookie of the Week
- 2012 Pro Bowler
- Rookie passer rating record (102.4)
- Lowest interception rate by a rookie in NFL history (1.3 percent)
One could argue that if it were not for a knee injury that hobbled him throughout most of last weekend's loss to the Seahawks, the Redskins would be in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Griffin, it will be difficult for him to build on his rookie numbers next season, as Griffin was forced into surgery from a damaged ACL and torn LCL in his knee during last Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of any player on this list, Burfict went from potential top-10 pick to undrafted free agent before becoming a starter on the Bengals defense this season.
It's not just the fact that he's a starter on a playoff defense that has impressed fans and writers alike, but it's also his staggering production as a rookie linebacker.
His 127 total tackles ranked him 15th in the NFL, fourth amongst all rookies.
Janoris Jenkins was once thought of as a surefire first-round pick, but fell to the second round in last April's draft due to character concerns. I'm pretty sure the St. Louis Rams are happy that they took the risk, as Jenkins has turned into one of the NFL's best cover corners.
In his rookie year, Jenkins intercepted four passes and ran three of them back for touchdowns. He also recovered a fumble that he ran back for a touchdown. His four defensive touchdowns led the league.
Tying for third place in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting is Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.
The second-round pick out of Utah State is a true thumper who likes to punish running backs who enter his path. His 140 tackles ranked second amongst all rookies and, like Burfict, he is a starter on a playoff-caliber defense.
The undersized Wagner (6'0") has also been a factor in the passing game. His three interceptions led all rookie linebackers.
Tying with Bobby Wagner for third place is Tampa Bay Buccaneers OLB Lavonte David. Coincidentally, like Wagner, Lavonte David fell in the draft due to size concerns. At only 6'1", 233 pounds, many questioned if he'd be able to maneuver around NFL blockers the way he did in college.
David has proven that he can do that and so much more after compiling 139 tackles, two sacks and recording an interception on the Bucs defense.
The good news for Tampa Bay fans is that David continued to get better as the season progressed. His two sacks and interception all came in the final five games of the year. Expect him to continue to be a force in the middle of the Buccaneers defense for years to come.
The first runner-up in the Defensive Rookie of the Year rankings is Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly.
The 21-year-old Kuechly started slow by compiling only nine total tackles in his first two games, but took off after that, accumulating 156 tackles in the succeeding 14 contests.
The tackling machine from Boston College was criticized early for making too many of his tackles down the field rather than attacking running backs behind the line of scrimmage. He started the year as the Will linebacker in Carolina's front seven, but a midseason switch to middle linebacker suited him perfectly, as he was able to play more of an attacking role.
His 165 combined tackles not only led all rookies, but also led the NFL, period.
It was a great rookie year for Kuechly, who fell short of winning the award by only one vote.
And the winner of the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by Bleacher Report's panel of experts is... Casey Hayward, cornerback for the Green Bay Packers.
Amazingly, Hayward won this award without even earning a starting job until Week 6 after multiple Packers defenders went down with injury. But it was the surge he went on after becoming the starter that propelled him to win this award. In his first three games, he intercepted four passes and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in October.
The rookie out of Vanderbilt could not have landed in a better situation. He's a ball-hawking corner who can play both man and zone coverage adequately, which is just what defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme asks him to do.
Hayward ended the season with 21 passes defended and six interceptions. The six interceptions ranked top amongst all rookies and was tied for fifth in the NFL.
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Votes Received|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Votes Received|