The 2015 NFL season was friendly to several first-year studs, but Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters stood out above the rest and took home the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards at Saturday night's NFL Honors.
The NFL confirmed Gurley's achievement shortly after the show started:
2015 Offensive Rookie Of The Year: @RamsNFL RB @TG3II! #NFLHonors https://t.co/hxniiHAOP52016-2-7 01:15:31
Another famous Rams running back chimed in with some praise for the rookie rusher:
Eric Dickerson @EricDickerson
Congratulation to @TG3II on winning offensive ROY at tonight's #NFLHonors Much deserved! @NFL @nflnetwork #LARams2016-2-7 01:16:21
The Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman relayed the final vote count:
Greg Auman @gregauman
Per @AP_NFL, Todd Gurley got 27 first-place votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Bucs' Jameis Winston got 17 to finish second.2016-2-7 01:28:38
It would have been fair to temper expectations for Gurley, who was coming off a gruesome knee injury at the University of Georgia, but the 21-year-old came out of the chute and didn't take it easy on defenses.
In 13 appearances, Gurley rushed 229 times for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Among all qualified players, Gurley ranked No. 8 overall with 4.8 yards per rushing attempt—better than the likes of Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Devonta Freeman.
Gurley also rushed for 566 yards in his first four starts, which broke Billy Sims' longstanding record of 539 yards, according to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner.
"I keep bringing up that 'S' word, which is 'special,'" Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, according to Wagoner. "I've been saying that he's special. Again, credit him to get to this point, and credit the guys around him. ... He's obviously getting a lot of people's attention."
Gurley's Rookie of the Year credentials were also bolstered by the fact that he went up against eight- and nine-man fronts every week.
"A lot of times, a running back has a better opportunity to be special when there's a bona fide quarterback on the team, but the Rams didn't have that, so defenses packed it in to stop Gurley," NFL.com's Gil Brandt wrote. "Still, he managed five games of 125-plus rushing yards. Gurley also did a fine job as a pass protector and receiver."
Now ready to shine under the bright lights in Hollywood, Gurley is primed for an explosion with a full 16-game slate at his disposal.
On defense, Peters beat out a field of worthy competitors that included Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak, but the Kansas City corner proved to be a runaway winner after recording a league-high eight interceptions and two pick-sixes.
Mike Rodak @mikerodak
Bills CB Ronald Darby received 4 of 50 votes for AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Marcus Peters wins with 45 votes.2016-2-7 01:48:31
The University of Washington product also led the NFL with 26 passes defensed, edging out the likes of David Amerson, Davon House, Jonathan Joseph and Darby for top honors. As if that wasn't good enough, his 280 return yards off interceptions also ranked No. 1 among all defenders.
2015 Defensive Rookie Of The Year: @Chiefs DB @marcuspeters! #NFLHonors https://t.co/hmApfF9JJd2016-2-7 01:46:47
Brandt summarized the corner's year:
Marcus Peters tied for the league lead with eight interceptions. Last year, as a team, the Chiefs only had six interceptions. Peters ranked fifth among defensive backs in lowest burn percentage, getting beat on just 62 of 134 throws (46 percent). For a comparison, the Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman was burned 49 percent of the time.
Peters added 53 solo tackles and a forced fumble to his impressive list of statistical feats while emerging as a force on the outside of a vaunted Chiefs defense.
"Cocky is not the word," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said, per ESPN.com's Adam Teicher. "Confident, I'd tell you is the word. Competitive is probably a better word. He never thinks he's out of a play. He's going to challenge people around him. He's not afraid to do that."
By embracing that attitude, Peters had no trouble cementing himself as one of the most feared corners in the league while laying the foundation for a prosperous second year with the ascendant AFC West contenders.