The 2013 NFL season was an exciting one, in no small part to the contributions of many first-year players. Two of those standouts are going to be recognized on Saturday night during the league’s third annual NFL Honors award show.
There are many worthwhile candidates on both sides of the ball who could make a case for the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, but two have truly emerged as stars and should be taking home the hardware in New York.
Let’s take a look at who the candidates are and project some winners.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
|Top Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates and Predicted Finish|
|OROY||Keenan Allen||WR||San Diego Chargers|
|Runner-Up||Eddie Lacy||RB||Green Bay Packers|
|Third Place||Giovani Bernard||RB||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Fourth Place||Cordarrelle Patterson||WR||Minnesota Vikings|
It’s a tough battle here between Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen, who both turned in monster rookie campaigns for playoff teams.
Lacy was the top rookie rusher in 2013 with 1,178 yards on 284 carries. He found paydirt 11 times, while also doubling as an asset in the passing game with 35 receptions for 257 yards.
However, Allen gets the edge for helping turn around the career of Philip Rivers and becoming the top option for a team that managed to finish with a respectable 9-7 record, plus win a Wild Card Game, coming out of the loaded AFC West.
Allen wound up finishing the year with 71 catches and was the only 1,000-yard (1,046 to be exact) receiver on the roster. He proved to have a nose for the end zone and a knack for the big play, as he hauled in eight touchdown passes and made 16 grabs of 20 yards or more.
The third-round pick had extremely reliable hands, as he only dropped five of the 105 looks he received on the year. Don’t be surprised if Allen continues to improve on these numbers and only becomes more dangerous in the coming years.
Giovani Bernard and Cordarrelle Patterson deserve to be in the discussion this year as well. The former developed into a dual-threat runner/receiver and compiled 1,209 yards from scrimmage, while the latter led the league in kick return average and made the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
If the Minnesota Vikings continue to get him more involved in the passing game—likely by finding a reliable quarterback this offseason—Patterson should reward them as a home-run threat.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
|Top Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidates and Predicted Finish|
|DROY||Kiko Alonso||LB||Buffalo Bills|
|Runner-Up||Sheldon Richardson||DT||New York Jets|
|Third Place||Star Lotulelei||DT||Carolina Panthers|
|Fourth Place||Kenny Vaccaro||S||New Orleans Saints|
This race should be equally as tight, with Sheldon Richardson just losing to Kiko Alonso on my ballot. However, it would hardly be surprising if the result goes the other way during the NFL Honors show.
Richardson is the more complete player and can completely shut down the run with his 6’3”, 294-pound frame. He’s going to be an All-Pro player for years to come and has no shortage of confidence, telling Kimberley A. Martin of Long Island's Newsday that he should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year:
"I am the defensive rookie of the year. That's just how I feel. If anybody has an opinion about it, they can always state their opinion. It's just me. [I] wasn't a bust. That's the only thing I tried to do is not be a bust and live up to my first round [draft selection]."
Alonso has an argument to make against that statement, as the Pro Bowl snub is looking to take home some hardware for his efforts in 2013.
The Buffalo Bills rook ranked third in the entire league in tackles (159) and was equally as effective when dropping back into coverage (four interceptions). He’s capable of guarding receivers and tight ends, making it a nightmare for quarterbacks to attempt to throw to his part of the field.
As per ESPN’s Mel Kiper (subscription required), the star linebacker played almost 1,200 snaps this year, an incredible number for the young man out of Oregon.
It’s going to be a close vote, but Alonso is most deserving of the DROY award for the sheer amount of time he was on the gridiron and the amount of impact he had on each one of those snaps.