A multitude of NFL rookies have taken the league by storm this season, but only a few of them have played well enough to earn consideration for 2013's NFL Rookie of the Year awards.
Injuries opened the door for several rookies to get increased playing time this season, and a few of them have largely exceeded expectations. In fact, it's already fair to say that they have turned out to be a few of the biggest steals on draft day.
These first-year players will need to finish out the season strong to solidify their candidacy for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, but they are already well on their way to earning consideration.
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
If the season ended today, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen would be the most deserving candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Through Week 15, Allen has hauled in 63 passes for 931 yards with seven touchdowns. A season of 75 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdown receptions is well within the realm of possibility for the University of California alum and third-round pick.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has quickly made Allen his favorite target. An injury to Malcolm Floyd opened the door for Allen to step in, and he has not disappointed.
A career season from Rivers has helped Allen torch defenses with short slants and quick slash routes, but Allen himself is an explanation for Rivers' improvements.
Even if Allen doesn't reach those attainable projections of 75 catches and 10 touchdowns, he's the most deserving candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
In an offense that can no longer pick apart defenses through the air, the presence of a ground game has suddenly become invaluable for the Green Bay Packers.
Rookie running back Eddie Lacy has provided stability on the ground and as a safety net in the flat for quarterback Matt Flynn, and he's well on his way to a 1,000-yard campaign.
On 227 carries, Lacy has racked up 887 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also picked up 206 yards on 27 receptions.
Lacy was drafted 61st overall by the Packers, and the expectations were for him and James Starks to shoulder the load on the ground. Starks has just 346 yards on 65 carries this season, though, as Lacy has solidified himself as the feature back.
A guy with his mentality as a bruiser and speed to get into the open field will be an asset to the Packers for years to come. Unfortunately, not even his great numbers can trump Allen's.
Sheldon Richardson, DE/DT, New York Jets
There are several quality rookies on the defensive side of the ball, but none of them can hold a candle to New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
Sure, Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso has turned heads with his four interceptions, but Richardson has turned the Jets defensive front into a force to be reckoned with.
He has 66 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks on the season, and the pressure he routinely puts on opposing offensive linemen has allowed the Jets to make plays in the backfield of opposing offenses.
Richardson recently told ESPNNewYork.com (via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus) about where he thinks he would go in a redo of the NFL draft.
"Probably No. 1, most likely," Richardson said.
The kid is confident and is playing like one of the top linemen in the NFL. There's nobody else more deserving of Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.