Detroit Lions: Why Larry Warford Is the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

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Detroit Lions: Why Larry Warford Is the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
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Larry Warford is the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

I don't care who actually wins the award. That's just a bunch of blowhard media types (kettle/pot joke here) glorifying some skill position instead of determining the best first-year player to ply his craft.

Because this award should only answer one question: Who is the best new employee? Regardless of the highlights or misleading statistics, the winner should be the person who was the best at performing his duties. 

That's it. 

Well, the position should have an every-down impact as well. Kickers and punters are too specialized for this discussion. Their job rarely has them matched up physically with someone, so we're throwing out the special-teamers

When you look at the big picture, Detroit's right guard has done his job better than any other rookie. Just check out his superior 90-day review.

 

Duty: Run Blocking

The scouting report on Warford was a massive mauler that many thought would step in and start plowing lanes into opposing defenses. Those people have been proven pretty smart.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Warford has posted only two negative run-blocking grades en route to a stellar 7.9 Pro Football Focus grade so far. Furthermore, the Lions run for 4.7 yards per carry behind him, which is almost a one-half yard better than the team average. 

For those who aren't experienced with PFF's grades, a 0.0 is average, so Warford's grade isn't just good for a rookie. It's phenomenal for any offensive guard considering he rates as the sixth-best run-blocking guard in the entire league.

That's right. We're not talking about Warford as one of the best in his class. He's in the discussion as the league's best and we can still measure the length of his career in months. 

Assessment: Excellent

 

Duty: Pass Blocking

It was less known how Warford would hold up in the passing game. All of the preseason hemming and hawing about the Lions offensive line centered on whether the replacements would be able to keep quarterback Matthew Stafford clean enough.

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Well, Warford has done his part. He has yet to allow a single sack as Detroit heads into Week 14. 

In fact, his pass protection has been so out-of-this-world amazing, he ranks third in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency. PBE takes the total number of sacks, hits and hurries an offensive player allows and measures it against the snaps the lineman has played.

Warford checks in at 98.1. The leader? 99.0.

Warford is so far ahead of his blocking peers, that he already ranks as one of the top-five players at his position. If he were to become a free agent after this season, he would probably walk away as the highest-paid guard in the league based on performance and youth. 

Assessment: Outstanding

 

The Competition

There are a few other players who are worthy of mentioning, but none can match Warford's consistently elite performance. 

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy has had some stellar games and is even the league's ninth-leading rusher with 822 yards. However, his average is a relatively weak 4 yards per carry, which is the 24th worst for running backs.

Giovani Bernard, the Cincinnati Bengals running back, has been more electric, as he has some breathtaking highlights that fans and writers tend to remember. But his 4.4-yard average is easily overshadowed by his light 119-carry workload. He's not expected to do big things every week.

San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is the only other player with a say here. He has been a revelation with 58 catches for 843 yards. Yet, he's only notched three touchdowns.

I'm nitpicking a bit, but that's the point. We're looking for the best of the best. 

The competition has too many flaws. Whether it's consistency, responsibility or falling just short of elite; every one of the above falls short.

Not Warford. He excels every Sunday, Thursday or Monday, without turning in a performance that has talking heads like myself saying things like "he's just a rookie" and "these things will happen." 

Warford just simply goes out every week and dominates. He doesn't call in sick, miss a deadline or fail to close a deal. He's the best new employee in the company. It's time he got the respect he deserves. 

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