Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon made a big move into the NFL Rookie Rankings this week.
While the NFL Rookie of the Year race sees to be coming closer to a resolution on one side of the ball, it continues to change consistently on the other.
Defensively, four players have set themselves apart from the pack (see the top four slides in this week’s Rookie Rankings). New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson continued to try to set himself apart from even that pack in Week 12, leading the Jets with nine tackles and three defensive stops.
Offensively, however, no one has set himself apart as a clear-cut winner. Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford and Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy have been among the most consistent offensive standouts in the rookie class, but players like San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen and even Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon are making notable pushes.
All of those players are among the 25 rookies who are attempting to hold their place in Bleacher Report’s NFL Rookie Rankings with five games remaining in the season.
Note: All advanced statistics and snap counts, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Pro Football Focus' premium statistics database (subscription required).
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans — Last Week: No. 17
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys — Last Week: No. 20
Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots — Last Week: No. 22
Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints — Last Week: No. 24
All four of these wide receivers have suffered from inconsistent play in recent weeks, and none of them were impressive in Week 12, as they combined for four receptions and 40 yards.
All four of them have made big plays this season, but none of them have not been able to remain consistent weapons on their teams’ respective offense to warrant holding a spot in this week’s top 25.
Justin Pugh, RT, New York Giants
Last Week: NR
The unpopular offensive line selections that came outside of the top 10 of the 2013 NFL draft have been more successful thus far than their highly-touted, top-10 draft pick counterparts, and Justin Pugh of the New York Giants has been no exception. Pugh has started all 11 Giants games this season (10 at right tackle, one at left guard) and has only allowed three sacks all season.
Sam Martin, P, Detroit Lions
Last Week: NR
Sam Martin has made a few costly rookie mistakes and has the lowest percentage of punts inside the 10-yard line of any currently-employed NFL punter this season. For the most part, however, he has been one of the league’s better punters, ranking fourth in the league in gross punting average (48.4) and fifth in net punting average (41.7).
Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
Last Week: Honorable Mention
Kawann Short has been very solid off the bench in a rotational role at defensive tackle for the Panthers. He has been especially good in his past two games, against the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, coming up with two quarterback pressures in each game and scoring a combined PFF rating of 5.6.
Logan Ryan, CB, New England Patriots
Last Week: NR
Logan Ryan’s role in the Patriots defense has increased significantly in recent weeks, in large part due to starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard battling injuries. However, he has truly taken advantage of his opportunities. Ryan has two interceptions (one returned for touchdown), five total passes defensed and 1.5 sacks (including a strip-sack) in his past five games.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: NR
Bell is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry, but he has been a workhorse back for the Steelers ever since returning from a Lisfranc foot injury that kept him out for Pittsburgh’s first three games. He has received at least 18 touches in all eight games that he has played in for the Steelers and ranks fifth among all rookies with 711 yards from scrimmage.
Last Week: No. 14
Marcus Cooper had a spectacular run going for the Kansas City Chiefs from Weeks 4-9, but he has been picked on in his past two games.
In that previous six-week span, he only allowed 15 catches for 207 receiving yards while coming up with 14 total passes defensed. In just his past two games, however, he has allowed 12 receptions for 274 yards while failing to defend any passes.
The Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers have found Cooper’s weaknesses and exploited them, as both teams have gone deep against him with success. He has been targeted 21 times in the past two games and has allowed a whopping average of 3.425 yards per coverage snap.
All rookies are expected to have slumps, and the Chiefs will hope that Cooper, who had been standing out in both a starting and nickel-corner role, is going to bounce back quickly. Doing so in Week 13, however, will require finding a way to better defend the Broncos just two weeks after they burned him for 128 receiving yards.
Last Week: NR
For the first time all season, Cordarrelle Patterson caught more than three passes in a game,as he caught eight for 54 yards on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Patterson did not make any huge plays, but he finally had a day with some consistency. Meanwhile, he continues to lead the league in yards per kickoff return (34.0) after returning four for 126 yards, including a 57-yard return, against the Packers.
One of the biggest concerns coming into Patterson’s rookie season was his ability to catch the ball with consistency, but that has not been much of an issue this season, as he has only been credited with one dropped pass on 45 targets.
Patterson had a potential game-winning touchdown pass go off his hands in the end zone in overtime of last week's game, but that pass was tipped by a defender and required a major adjustment from Patterson.
Though that catch prompted me to make note on Twitter of why DeAndre Hopkins may have been drafted ahead of Patterson—as Hopkins has already proven his ability to make difficult adjustments to the ball—Patterson’s added value as a kickoff returner has actually made him more productive than Hopkins to this point.
With a league-leading 1,088 kickoff return yards, Patterson leads all rookies with 1,340 all-purpose yards.
Last Week: No. 19
A promising run for Washington rookie tight end Jordan Reed as both a pass-catcher and run-blocker took an unfortunate hit in Week 11, when he suffered a concussion in a loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. Reed did not play on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
While the injury has quelled Reed’s momentum, he still ranks second among all rookies with 45 receptions and fourth with 499 receiving yards. He has been the most productive and dynamic rookie tight end in the NFL this season and a bright spot in what has been a bleak season for Washington thus far.
When healthy, Reed has been Washington’s second-best receiving option this season behind Pierre Garcon. He has also exceeded expectations as a run-blocker, where he has been solid and proved himself capable of being an every-down player.
Last Week: Honorable Mention
After Week 11’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first game all season in which Falcons rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant did not record any passes defensed, he made up for it with a season-high three passes defensed against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12.
Trufant has been a solid starter for the Falcons all season, but Thursday’s game was one of his best of the year. He allowed four receptions for 50 yards on eight targets, but he made his strong share of plays, including five total tackles.
All in all, Trufant has 13 passes defensed, the second-most among all rookies. While those opportunities have come in part by being targeted frequently, he has only allowed 1.14 yards per coverage snap this season.
Last Week: No. 25
Paul Worrilow has been a tackling machine for the Atlanta Falcons since taking over the starting middle linebacker job. Though he only had nine tackles against the Saints in Week 12 after having three games with 16 or more tackles, he continued to be productive, adding a tackle for loss for a third consecutive game.
The biggest area of Worrilow’s game that needs improvement is his pass coverage, as he has allowed receptions on 21 of the 24 times he has been targeted this season. As a run defender, he could take better angles but is a rangy athlete who consistently makes tackles and gets in position to make plays.
On a defense that has been awful, for the most part, Worrilow has quickly taken a starring role as its most active playmaker, leading the team in tackles in each of the past four weeks. He should continue to improve as he solidifies his technique, especially when the defense around him likely improves in 2014.
Last Week: Honorable Mention
Tavon Austin only had five total touches for the Rams against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, but that was enough for him to prove that his breakout Week 10 performance was not a fluke in terms of his ability to make big plays happen.
Austin got the Rams off to a hot start on their opening drive when he took a pitch in the backfield, did a spin, then used his elite speed and quickness to take off to the races for a 65-yard touchdown (see video).
This was his third play of 65 or more yards in a two-game span. It also made him the first rookie in NFL history with touchdowns of that length on a rushing, receiving and on a punt return play in a single season.
Austin's recent efforts earned him the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month award for November.
Austin has not yet received a consistent share of touches on the Rams offense, but his big-play ability has now been proven at the NFL level. His big plays have played a significant role in victories against the Bears and Indianapolis Colts, and he should certainly be prompting Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to try to find more ways to get him on the field.
Last Week: No. 16
Although Andre Ellington has been outstanding at times, he has apparently not shown the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff enough to become the team’s starting running back outright ahead of Rashard Mendenhall.
He had a solid performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, averaging more than 5.9 yards per touch, but he only received 12 touches in total. He has only received 15 or more touches in one game this season, which came when he ran for 154 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.
Ellington has been productive when he has had the ball in his hands, with a season average of 6.8 yards per touch, but his game against Atlanta was the only time he surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage this season. Nonetheless, he still ranks sixth among all rookies with 688 yards from scrimmage.
Last Week: No. 13
The positive momentum that the Chicago Bears offensive line came into the season with has diminished over the course of the season, and although right guard Kyle Long has continued to be a strong suit of that line, he struggled, as did the rest of his unit in Week 12.
In a game hyped up as a battle of the Long brothers, it was older brother Chris Long and the St. Louis Rams defensive line who won the battle and, ultimately, the game.
The Rams brought heavy pressure throughout the game, and PFF credited Kyle Long as having allowed two quarterback hurries. The Rams also held the Bears to just 80 rushing yards, and Kyle Long received a minus-2.4 rating as a run-blocker from PFF.
Overall, Long has been arguably the best player on the Chicago offensive line, and he played better than some of his linemates on Sunday.
He is worthy of the praise that he has received from many this season, and he has shown the potential to be one of the league’s best at his position. But he, like the rest of the Bears offensive line, must continue to improve to provide adequate quarterback protection and open up the Chicago rushing offense.
Last Week: No. 21
Zac Stacy has been as consistent and reliable as any rookie running back this season, and he continued to be in Week 12—at least when he was on the field.
Stacy ran for 87 yards on 12 carries, including a 35-yard run and a one-yard touchdown. He also gained 10 yards on one pass reception, compiling an impressive 7.5 yards per touch for the game. Unfortunately, Stacy had to leave Sunday’s win against the Chicago Bears early due to a concussion.
Stacy has averaged 88.6 rushing yards per game over the past seven weeks and ranks fourth among all rookies with 731 yards from scrimmage. While he may not make many dazzling plays, he is a reliable back on all three downs who catches the ball well. His vision and toughness make up for the lack of explosive measurables that dropped him to the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Last Week: No. 23
Xavier Rhodes has been a solid top-three cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings all season, but he came into Week 12 needing to bounce back from a rough performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11.
He answered with arguably his best game of the season to date. After recording just two passes defensed in his first nine games of the season, he had four against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. All the while, he continued to be solid in coverage, allowing just 40 receiving yards on 39 coverage snaps.
Rhodes left Sunday’s game with a concussion, which, if it keeps him out for any future games, would be a big loss for a secondary that already lost Josh Robinson to a fractured sternum. All in all, Rhodes has held his own in coverage this season, allowing an average of just 0.92 yards per coverage snap.
Last Week: No. 15
After forcing three fumbles and returning an interception 98 yards for a touchdown in his first six games, Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree has done none of those things in his past five games. He has still been productive, however, through his ups and downs and less big plays.
Ogletree had a season-high 11 total tackles against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, along with a pass defensed, which was his fourth in the past three games. Overall, Ogletree has 75 total tackles and eight passes defensed this season.
His biggest issues have come in coverage, in which he has allowed 46 receptions for 577 yards, and in missed tackles (10). He was solid in both of those areas on Sunday, however, allowing just 41 receiving yards and not missing any tackles.
Ogletree needs to cut down on his mistakes as he gains experience, but he has still been a key playmaker for the young St. Louis defense.
Last Week: No. 12
D.J. Fluker made his second consecutive and third overall start at left tackle on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He continued to struggle away from his natural position of right tackle, however, allowing five total quarterback pressures.
Those struggles came even in a game where the Chiefs’ pass-rush was significantly weakened by mid-game injuries to outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Thus far, the transition to left tackle has simply proven to be too much for Fluker.
His performance at right tackle, the position he also played at Alabama, has been much better. While he has allowed 36 quarterback pressures and has a minus-3.0 overall rating from PFF this season, he has only allowed 21 pressures and has a 4.4 overall rating in his seven starts at right tackle.
Last Week: Honorable Mention
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three consecutive games after starting their season 0-8, and one reason for their quick turnaround has been the progression of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
This has been especially true in Glennon’s last two games, in which he has completed 77.2 percent of his passing attempts for 478 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions to lead the Buccaneers to victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions.
Even with struggles in his early starts, Glennon’s stat line is very impressive overall for a rookie quarterback. In eight starts, he has passed for 1,782 yards and 13 touchdowns, while he has completed 62.5 percent of passing attempts with only four interceptions thrown.
Glennon's recent efforts earned him the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month award for November. His passer rating of 91.6 is the NFL’s ninth-best, ahead of many notable quarterbacks including Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Tom Brady.
Even though the Buccaneers lost his first five starts and he did not play in Tampa Bay’s first three games, Glennon could make a late push for Offensive Rookie of the Year if he continues to perform well and put Tampa Bay in a position to win games.
Last Week: No. 18
After missing one game with a concussion, Kenny Vaccaro returned to being a leading impact player on the New Orleans Saints defense on Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Vaccaro recorded a season-high nine tackles, recorded a pass defensed for his third consecutive game and played all 68 defensive snaps of the game for New Orleans. He did not have a great game in coverage, giving up a season-high six receptions, but his overall activity resulted in his third-highest PFF rating of the season (1.3).
Vaccaro has been making plays all season while lining up everywhere from linebacker to strong safety to slot cornerback, but he seems to be getting more efficient in making those plays when he has opportunities. Either way, he continues to be a threat in everything from run-support to playing the ball in coverage to blitzing the quarterback.
Overall, Vaccaro has recorded 54 total tackles, six passes defensed (one interception) and three total tackles for loss (one sack) this season.
Last Week: No. 11
Nickell Robey does not always play a majority of the Bills’ defensive snaps, but when the undrafted rookie has been on the field this season, he has been one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks.
Although he has played less than 55 percent of Buffalo’s snaps this season, Robey has been a crucial piece of the Bills’ nickel and dime packages. He has been exceptional in his playing time, allowing just 0.63 yards per coverage snap and only one reception per every 13.3 coverage snaps.
For perspective, the only other cornerback who has played at least 50 percent of his team’s snaps who has allowed a lower percentage of a yards per coverage snap is Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis, widely considered to be the league’s best cornerback.
Robey has made plays on the ball this season with eight passes defensed, and he has also been a playmaker in run defense and against screen passes, with four tackles for loss.
Last Week: No. 9
Playing in front of most of the football-watching nation when the Dallas Cowboys played the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, center Travis Frederick did not do much to stand out.
Frederick did not have one of his stronger games of the season as a run-blocker, and he was personally beaten for a sack for the first time since Week 2.
Nonetheless, he continued to provide much more stability than any of the Cowboys’ centers could last season. It is very impressive that his sack allowed was the first he gave up in nine games, and overall, it was his first quarterback pressure allowed in four games. PFF also still ranks Frederick seventh among NFL centers this season with a cumulative run-blocking rating of 6.8.
Frederick has gone from widely panned first-round pick to one of the NFL’s best centers as a rookie.
Last Week: No. 6
Star Lotulelei has been dominant at times this season but unspectacular in some other games. His performance on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins fell more toward the latter.
Overall, however, Lotulelei has had an impressive rookie season. He has had a number of dominant performances and looked fantastic as both a run-stopper and interior pass-rusher. PFF rates him as the NFL’s 14th-best defensive tackle this season, while he ranks second in the league with a 12.8 run-stop percentage (19 stops in 149 run snaps).
Lotulelei needs to improve his stamina and endurance to play at his best more consistently and for more snaps in a game, but overall, he has had a huge impact on the Panthers’ defensive success this season. He leads the Carolina defensive tackle rotation and is the biggest playmaker of the group.
Last Week: No. 8
Coming out of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Week 12 bye, running back Giovani Bernard will be one of the top Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates to watch.
Bernard has not consistently received a great deal of touches out of the Cincinnati backfield; though he has received more than 20 offensive touches in two games, he has received less than 15 touches in seven games. But with 5.6 yards per touch, Bernard has taken advantage of his opportunities for 809 yards from scrimmage, which ranks second among all NFL rookies.
With the quickness to make defenders miss but also the strength to bounce off contact, Bernard has broken big plays as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He continues to lead all rookies with seven touchdowns scored.
Last Week: No. 10
While many rookie wide receivers dropped off the list this week as they failed to sustain their performance, Keenan Allen only strengthened his position as the San Diego Chargers’ best wide receiver and as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Allen had a fantastic performance against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, catching nine passes for 124 yards. The game was his fourth 100-yard receiving performance of the season.
Allen now holds significant leads over the rest of the rookie class with 50 receptions and 737 receiving yards. He also ranks third among all rookies with 737 yards from scrimmage.
Some draft analysts considered Allen to be a steal as a third-round draft pick, and so far, it appears his supporters were correct. While detractors (including me) felt Allen lacked explosion, he has shown plenty of big-play ability in San Diego, all the while aggressively attacking the football with his size, physicality and sharp routes.
After Week 12, Allen stands out above the rest of the rookie class as its top wide receiver thus far.
Last Week: No. 7
A workhorse back who can wear out a defense over the course of a game, the Green Bay Packers utilized Eddie Lacy early and often in their five-quarter tie with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Lacy took advantage of the touches, rushing for 110 yards on 25 attempts and adding 48 receiving yards on six catches out of the backfield.
From bruising runs between the tackles to making plays with his quick feet on outside runs and receiving ability, Lacy has shown that he can do it all—and do it for fairly consistent yardage—this season.
Even though he left one game after one carry and missed another game this season, Lacy leads all rookies with 964 yards from scrimmage. He ranks seventh among NFL running backs with 80.6 rushing yards per game and has scored six rushing touchdowns.
Lacy must continue his consistently strong play, but if he does, he remains the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year as the league’s most steadily productive offensive rookie performer at a skill position.
Last Week: No. 5
A guard has never won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and it is unlikely that will change this year, but Detroit Lions right guard Larry Warford may truly be the most deserving candidate for the award thus far.
Having played all 11 of Detroit’s games, Warford has yet to allow a sack this season while giving up just 12 total quarterback pressures. Meanwhile, he has also done a fantastic job as a run-blocker, asserting his size (6’3”, 333 lbs.) with strength and using his feet well to drive defenders off the line of scrimmage and open up holes for the Lions rushing offense.
While two guards actually were top-10 selections in the 2013 draft, Warford looks like he should have been one. He has been an immediate standout as a rookie and is cumulatively rated by PFF as the league’s fourth-best guard.
Last Week: No. 2
Eric Reid has not made as many big plays as the top-three Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates, but he has continued to be a consistent presence in both run-support and coverage at free safety for the San Francisco 49ers.
Excluding the two games he has left due to concussions, he has played nearly every defensive snap in San Francisco’s other nine games. His play has warranted keeping him on the field throughout each game, week in and week out.
San Francisco’s transition from an AP All-Pro in Dashon Goldson to a rookie free safety has not had a negative impact on its defense, as Reid has been an upgrade in coverage while still being as solid of a hitter on the back end.
Overall, Reid has recorded 51 total tackles, defended eight passes (three interceptions), recovered two fumbles and allowed just 0.55 yards per coverage snap.
Last Week: No. 3
Kiko Alonso has not missed a defensive snap for the Buffalo Bills this season.
Alonso has stepped in immediately at middle linebacker this season to become the defense’s leader and play-caller. He has also been a rangy playmaker, ranking second in the NFL with 112 total tackles.
He has not recorded any passes defensed since having four interceptions in the first three weeks of the season, but he has continued to play well in coverage. He has been blowing up plays in the backfield, recording at least one tackle for loss in each of his last eight games.
With his consistent production and presence on the field for the Bills defense, Alonso has risen as a star in Buffalo with athleticism, aggression and instincts.
Last Week: No. 4
The Arizona Cardinals’ decision to take a chance on troubled defensive back Tyrann Mathieu in the third round is quickly looking like it may have been the smartest decision of the entire draft. Mathieu has stepped in this season to not only make big plays immediately, but he has also become a consistent performer while splitting time between two positions.
After starting the season out as a situational player, Mathieu has emerged as a player who is too good not to be on the field for the Cardinals. He continues to play at slot cornerback, where he excels, and in nickel and dime packages, but he also takes over at free safety on other plays.
As a result, Mathieu has played all but three snaps in his last four games, and he has excelled in doing so in both run-support and coverage.
With four total tackles and two passes defensed, Mathieu had another strong performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12. He received a rating for the game of 2.8 from PFF, which was his best rating of the season to date but also the eighth consecutive game in which his play received a positive rating.
His statistics for the season include 65 total tackles (62 solo, five tackles for loss, one sack), eight passes defensed (two interceptions) and one forced fumble. He has allowed just 0.90 yards per coverage snap.
Last Week: No. 1
By the nature of their positions and statistics, Kiko Alonso and Tyrann Mathieu may receive more publicity for their play than New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. But as far as the rookie class goes, Richardson’s play has been at a level all its own.
With nine total tackles in each of his last two games and 59 total tackles for the season, Richardson has been incredibly productive for an interior defensive lineman, let alone a rookie. Three of his nine tackles on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens were tackles for loss, bringing his total in that category up to 11 on the season, while his three quarterback pressures brought him to 23 in that category.
Richardson leads all NFL interior defensive lineman in total tackles and only trails Patriots defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones among all defensive linemen. He is rated as the NFL’s fifth-best 3-4 defensive end this season by PFF, and he has formed an elite interior defensive line for the Jets with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison.
Richardson has looked every bit worth the No. 13 overall pick the New York Jets used to select him. He has recorded superb statistics for a 3-4 defensive end, but even on plays where he has not made a stop himself, he has often used his quickness, size (6’3”, 294 lbs.) and strength to disrupt opponents by penetrating the line of scrimmage and/or occupying blockers.
Richardson, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, holds the best PFF rating of any rookie position player in the league.
Last week here at Bleacher Report, I took a closer look at Richardson’s game and how he has been the best rookie in the NFL this year.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.