After Injuries opened the door, rookie Keenan Allen has thrived in San Diego.
"He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder."
This simple phrase has become a wildly popular way to describe an athlete's ability to prove doubters wrong and achieve unexpected levels of success. It's often used to describe Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and other NFL standouts who were drafted in later rounds.
"Being a third-round pick is definitely motivation for me," Allen said, via John Breech of CBSSports.com. "I want to get out there and show everybody I can play."
He's done a lot more than that; he's done enough to be the front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
After season-ending injuries to Chargers' receivers Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, Allen has flourished in the San Diego offense and has quickly become one of quarterback Philip Rivers' favorite targets, per ESPN.com. Through Week 13, he has 58 receptions for 843 yards.
To put Allen's statistics in perspective, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com notes that he is just 159 receiving yards short of breaking the Chargers' rookie receiving record of 1,001 set by John Jefferson in 1978. He is also just two receptions short of breaking the Chargers' rookie record set by the great LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001. And he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark a remarkable five times this year.
Talk about an impressive rookie campaign.
Joining Allen in the debate are running backs Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers and Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals. Bernard has proven worthy of his high draft selection and has added an exciting element to the Bengals offense, contributing to the team's passing attack and the running game. However, he's remained in a supplementary role behind lead back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and he hasn't impacted the offense as heavily as Allen has in San Diego.
Lacy deserves a ton of credit for establishing the Packers' strong running attack this year. He's added an element that Rodgers had been missing throughout his storied career, as opposing safeties and linebackers have been forced closer and closer to the line of scrimmage. He'll be a force in this league for a long time.
But we see rookie running backs succeed every year.
Allen is one of the most impressive rookie wide receivers we've seen in the past decade, and he deserves the 2013 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Who should win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award?