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With two first-round picks and a potential franchise quarterback, this year’s Rookie of the Year award is as wide open as could possibly be.
If Geno Smith secures the starting job early in the season and has shows promise as a franchise quarterback, he will be a shoo-in to win the job. However, based on the fact that he has yet to beat out the incumbent Mark Sanchez is hardly indicative that he will enjoy a Russell Wilson-like season as a rookie.
Cornerback Dee Milliner, the Jets’ first selection, has a chance to become a future star in the NFL, but Alabama players—particularly cornerbacks—have generally not fared well in the NFL since Nick Saban took over the program.
Saban is known for running a physical program all the way down to the last week of the season, which wears out his players by the time they get to the NFL. Milliner, who has already undergone five surgeries, was also never taught how to backpedal at Alabama and it may time him extra time to adjust to NFL coverage techniques.
This leaves Missouri product Sheldon Richardson as the favorite to win the award. With the ability to move like a linebacker at the size of a defensive tackle, Richardson should be able to provide a pass rush from a multitude of alignments right off the bat.
Given Rex Ryan's track record with defensive lineman shown by his development of Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson (Ryan was the defensive line coach with the 2000 Ravens), Sheldon is going to put but in the right position to succeed rather than be forced to learn a system that does not suit his skill set.
Richardson will certainly have a lot of pressure on him as the player chosen with the “Darrelle Revis pick,” but he has enough athletic ability to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
WINNER: Sheldon Richardson