Assessing Rookie of the Year Outlook for St. Louis Rams First-Round Picks
The St. Louis Rams were fortunate enough to land the offensive rookie of the year in 2010 after drafting Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick, but is there any chance the current rookie class can bring the award back to St. Louis?
During the 2013 NFL draft, the Rams acquired prime real estate in Round 1 by doing some wheeling and dealing, resulting in ownership of the No. 8 and No. 30 overall picks, which were used to draft an electrifying receiver in Tavon Austin, as well as a punishing linebacker in Alec Ogletree.
With two premiere rookies added to the roster, both of whom may easily be the best at their position from this rookie class, is there a chance St. Louis can obtain one if not both Associated Press Rookie of the Year awards?
When the award was first established in 1967, the Detroit Lions secured both offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. Since then, no team has ever won both awards in the same year.
Postseason awards are not nearly as sweet as division titles and playoff wins, but earning both rookie awards would be a solid indicator of good things to come in St. Louis, and it would be a sign that this regime truly knows how to pick difference makers on draft day.
So do Austin and Ogletree really have a shot at being the top rookies of the 2013 season? Lets take a closer look.
Tavon Austin Can Outshine Weak Quarterback Class
While quarterbacks have dominated the offensive rookie of the year award as of late—winning it six times in the last nine seasons including the past three years—there does not seem to be a top-notch passer from this rookie class.
Buffalo's E.J. Manuel was the only quarterback selected in Round 1 of the draft and is basically the only rookie passer who'll be handed a starting job, but he's extremely raw (to put it kindly) and will undoubtedly experience growing pains.
As for Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, they'll have to dethrone established veterans David Garrard and Michael Vick before they even get an opportunity to see the field. There's a great chance that neither will play a full 16-game season, which will hurt their chances.
Can the Rams realistically win both AP Rookie of the Year awards?
Even if all three passers are immediately crowned as starters, it's far from guaranteed that a quarterback will win the award. In fact, despite recent trends, the quarterback position has only won the award seven times in its 46-year history.
If the quarterbacks fail to impress, the award will be scooped up by the top rookie playmaker, which could very well be Austin.
Austin will be a Week 1 starter as the slot receiver, which happens to be quarterback Sam Bradford's favorite receiver to target (just ask Danny Amendola, who has averaged 5.4 receptions per game since 2010). This means Austin will have plenty of opportunities to get his hands on the pigskin.
Also, with promising second-year receiver Chis Givens on the outside, combined with big-time free agent Jared Cook at tight end, the Rams will have several talented weapons running routes, which will make it difficult for opposing defenses to narrow in on Austin with double coverage.
Additionally, Austin has the ability to make highlight reels as a return man, giving him an advantage over rookie receivers and backs who lack return skills.
Out of all the rookie receivers from the 2013 class, it's hard to picture any of them touching the ball more than Austin this season. And since there's not a dangerous quarterback or running back from this class, he has to be the early favorite for offensive rookie of the year.
Alec Ogletree Plays an Ideal Position
If you think quarterbacks have dominated the offensive side of the award, that's nothing compared to linebackers owning the defensive rookie of the year award in recent years.
Linebackers have won the honor nine times in the last 10 years and have taken home the award 25 total times over 46 years.
That's not overly surprising since there's at least three starting linebackers on each NFL roster (meaning more job openings for rookies), but it tells us where the voters tend to focus their attention.
Unlike with defensive backs and defensive linemen, who must master complicated techniques, the linebacker position is not traditionally difficult for rookies to learn, which will not only provide Ogletree with an opportunity to start Week 1, but it will allow him to instantly perform at a relatively high level.
Ogletree will also be playing behind a defensive line that led the NFL in sacks last season and will be surrounded by a solid secondary that can make plays, meaning he has a supporting cast that will allow him to shine.
Additionally, he has the luxury of playing right next to one of the more intelligent middle linebackers around in James Laurinaitis, who will constantly make sure Ogletree is lined up in the proper spot and knows his assignment.
Last year, Tampa Bay rookie linebacker Lavonte David was third among rookie in tackles (139) just behind Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner (140). Both players were in the mix for rookie of the year. If Ogletree can record a similar number of tackles to go along with a pair of sacks and interceptions, he'll easily be in the discussion.
As long as he isn't forced off the field too often in favor of an extra defensive back, he could be in an ideal position to run away with the award.
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