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NFL Rookie of the Year 2013: Young Stars Most Deserving of Top Honor

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24:  Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the San Diego Chargers turns up field after catching a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half on November 24, 2013 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  San Diego won 41-38. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIDecember 15, 2013

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

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:   Keenan Allen #13 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradfo
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

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

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 08: Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers is grabbed on a run by Corey Peters #91 of the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on December 8, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Falcons 22-21.  (Photo by Jonathan D
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 27:  BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the Cincinnati Bengalsruns with the ball while defended by Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets during the game at Paul Brown Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by And
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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.

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