As the 2010 NFL season approaches its three quarter mark, teams are jockeying for playoff position, while individual players are beginning to make their cases for the numerous individual awards.
In the battle for offensive rookie of the year honors, it has quickly become a three man fight. Sam Bradford, Dez Bryant and Mike Williams are all worthy candidates, but only one can walk away with the prize.
Sam Bradford was the first overall selection in this years NFL draft, and coming off an injury shortened season at Oklahoma Bradford's durability was a major question mark. The Rams, not having a winning record since 2003, selected Bradford to be their new franchise leader and quarterback of the future.
If the present is any indication, the future looks bright in St. Louis. Through 11 games, Bradford has already led the team to five wins, which is already more than they have had in any season since 2006, and they currently sit in a first place tie with Seattle atop the weak NFC West.
Since 2002, Bradford is just the seventh quarterback selected in the first round to start at least 11 games in his rookie season joining Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Ben Roethlisberger.
Bradford currently sits a very respectable 14th in the league in passing yards at 2,466, and his 17 touchdowns rank 13th. Bradford has only turned the ball over a total of 10 times—or less than one turnover per game—which is also quite impressive considering he has thrown the ball 413 times this season, which is fifth most in the league.
Dez Bryant is also making a case for rookie of the year honors. Bryant came in to this years NFL draft touted as one of the most talented players available. Bryant's stock fell due to some off field questions, as well as missing his final season at Oklahoma State due to ineligibility issues.
Bryant has proven all of the nay sayers wrong in his first season in the NFL. Through 11 games, Bryant has recorded 44 receptions, which is third among rookies, for 547 yards, which ranks second among first year pros.
Bryant has also caught six touchdowns which is tied for first among rookies, and tied for 14th overall.
He has also made his mark on special teams. Bryant is just one of two players with more than one punt return for a touchdown, and his 14.3 yard per return average ranks third among players with at least 15 punt returns.
There is another rookie wide receiver who makes the third and final claim to be offensive rookie of the year, and that is Mike Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Williams, much like Bryant, saw his draft stock fall due to off field issues. Williams, a wide receiver with first round talent fell all the way to the fourth round where he was selected by Tampa Bay with the 101st overall selection.
On the field, Williams has been nothing but a success for the Buccaneers. He has 45 receptions, which puts him second among rookies, and his 701 receiving yards, leads all rookies, and is 19th in the league.
Williams is also among the group of players, with Bryant, who have six receiving touchdowns. And his play as the Buccaneers top receiver is part of the reason that Tampa Bay is one of the most surprising teams in the league, and at 7-4 right in the thick of the playoff picture in the NFC.
The rookie of the year award has been instituted since 1967. The award has been given to 43 different players over that time, and only 12 of those players have been non running backs. So, while it is atypical for a quarterback or a wide receiver to win the award, this season it is almost a certainty.
When you look at the resumes of all three of these players, it is tough to pick a clear cut favorite. Two of them are having terrific seasons for teams that have far exceeded expectations, while the other has been one of the lone bright spots on a Dallas Cowboys team that has been the biggest disappointment of the league.
So, who gets the vote? With five games left in the regular season, it is still up in the air. While these next five weeks will not make or break any of these three players careers, they will certainly go a long way in determining which of them needs to make an extra space on their mantles for another piece of hardware.