2010 NFL Awards: Countdown of Top 10 Candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year
Sometimes it takes rookies a few seasons to get used to the speed and style of the NFL game. Some of them never make the necessary adjustments and retire early. But some of them also are immediately successful.
The rookies on this list wasted no time making their impact felt. But which one will take home the award for Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Here are the top 10 candidates.
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10. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
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Mathews was an early favorite for this award after being drafted 12th overall out of Fresno State. He ended up splitting carries in San Diego with Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles, but he still had a strong season.
Mathews ran for 678 yards (third among all rookies) for 4.3 yards/attempt and his seven rushing touchdowns led all rookie running backs. The 23-year-old also added 22 receptions out of the backfield for 145 yards.
Both Tolbert and Sproles could be gone next season, so Mathews has an opportunity to have an even bigger sophomore campaign.
9. Mike Iupati, G, San Francisco 49ers
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The 49ers had a horrific offensive line in 2009, so they invested their first round pick in Iupati, a 6'5", 331-pound guard out of Idaho.
Iupati outplayed fellow rookie Anthony Davis, who was also drafted in the first round, and became the leader of the 49ers offensive line. He's already one of the best left guards in the game and he gives new head coach Jim Harbaugh a terrific building block.
The 49ers may not have a quarterback just yet, but at least they'll be able to protect him.
8. Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders
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The speedster from Clemson was drafted in the fourth round by the Raiders as a wide receiver, but the 5'9" Ford ended up playing all over the field.
He caught 25 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed the ball 10 times for 155 yards and two more touchdowns. He was also Oakland's primary kick returner and brought three kicks back for a touchdown.
All together Ford had over 1,900 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns. No other rookie comes close to that kind of yardage.
7. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
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The 6'4", 304-pound lineman out of Florida was drafted 18th overall by the Steelers to replace Justin Hartwig up front. Pouncey stepped in from day one and established himself as the leader of the Steelers offensive line.
Even as injuries knocked out some of his teammates Pouncey stayed strong, starting all 16 games for Pittsburgh and opening lanes for 1,000-yard rusher Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers finished the year ranked 11th in rushing and 14th in passing with Pouncey as their anchor.
6. Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
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The Chiefs lost Tony Gonzalez, one of the best tight ends of all-time, to free agency. But they found a pretty good replacement in Moeaki.
The 6'3", 252-pound rookie from Iowa was taken late in the third round by Kansas City and he wasted no time supplanting Leonard Pope on the depth chart.
Moeaki recorded 47 receptions for 556 yards and three touchdowns, including one in his first career game. But in an incredible year for tight ends he's only sixth on this list.
5. Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans Saints
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Ivory took a rather unusual path to the NFL, playing his senior season at Tiffin University after a controversial fallout at the University of Washington. He wasn't drafted, but the Saints decided to take a chance on him. Then after injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, Ivory was forced into the starting lineup.
He didn't disappoint. The six-foot, 222-pound running back powered his way to 716 yards on 137 carries, second among all rookies. He scored five touchdowns and was a big factor in maintaining the Saints high-octane offense.
4. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The former Oregon star went undrafted, but received a training camp invitation from the Buccaneers. He made the team and by the third week of the season had taken over for Cadillac Williams.
The 24-year-old Blount led all rookie rushers with 1,007 yards, including four 100-yard performances. He reached the end zone six times and picked up 38 first downs on 5.0 yards/carry.
He was a big factor in Tampa Bay's eighth ranked rushing offense, and should again be the feature back in 2011.
3. Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots
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It seems silly to separate these two since the Patriots use so many twin-tight end sets. But regardless of which rookie was on the field, both performed like seasoned NFL stars.
Gronkowski, the 42nd overall pick in the draft, caught 42 passes for 546 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. He was especially effective on deep routes, with 11 catches of at least 20 yards.
Hernandez, a fourth round pick, was third on the team with 45 receptions. He earned 563 receiving yards and caught six touchdowns, and led the team in receiving four times.
These two are going to be around in New England for a long, long time.
2. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Williams fell to the fourth round of the draft because of off-the-field concerns, but he played like a first-rounder all season.
The Syracuse product led all rookies in receptions (65), receiving yards (964) and touchdowns (11), and gave Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman a true No. 1 receiver to complement tight end Kellen Winslow.
No rookie receiver has had more than 10 touchdowns in a season since Randy Moss in 1998. Williams is no Randy Moss, but at 6'1" and 212 pounds his vertical leaping ability rivals that of any receiver in the NFL. He should be a good player for many years to come.
1. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
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It's not often that the first overall pick in the draft performs like, well, the first overall pick in the draft. But Bradford has been as good as advertised.
The Rams quarterback nearly led his team to a division title just one season after St. Louis had the worst record in the NFL, falling one game short when he lost to eventual NFC West champion Seattle. But Bradford has still had about as good of a rookie season as anyone could have hoped.
The 23-year-old threw for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns with a 60.0 completion percentage. He set rookie records for completions (354) and attempts (590), and his 3,512 yards were the second most in league history behind only Peyton Manning. He did all this without a single standout receiver, though he did make Danny Amendola (85 receptions, 689 yards) into a household name.
The Rams finally have the franchise quarterback they've been waiting for since the days of Kurt Warner.