5 Players Who Will Contend for NFL ROY Award

No NameAnalyst IAugust 4, 2011

5 Players Who Will Contend for NFL ROY Award

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    One of the more interesting awards given at the end of the NFL season is the Rookie of the Year winner. While earning this award doesn't guarantee that you are going to be a star in this league, it does open the eyes of fans and other organizations that will keep you in mind when your contract is up.

    It is difficult to predict the winner every year, especially with so many positions in the game of football. There are some positions that are harder than others of course, so we can look at that and narrow it down some. The transition from college to the pros is much more difficult for quarterbacks and linemen than it is for corners, linebackers and running backs.

    While I do believe that Cam Newton will have a very good rookie year, I don't think it will warrant him earning this year's award. There are five guys that I think will get some quality playing time, and will make it count. I tried to stay away from listing only first-rounders, but there were some that were just too hard to resist. That being said, here are my five impact rookies heading into this season.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Coming out of Iowa, Clayborn should be ready to become a playmaker on defense in the NFL. Known for his tremendous speed off the line, he could be a hybrid type of player for Tampa Bay. The Bucs took a more well known defensive end later in the draft in DaQuan Bowers from Clemson, but it is Clayborn who could be the one that gives them the best results.

    Tampa Bay will continue working on their defense, something which was heavily addressed in the draft. They have very talented players scattered throughout their defense, and Clayborn should fit right in with the rest of them.

Akeem Ayers, LB, Tennessee Titans

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    The Titans found a very special talent in the second round when they took Ayers with the 39th overall pick. Although UCLA isn't known as a football powerhouse, Akeem has the talent and the size to do some serious damage on defense. Standing at 6'3", 260 pounds, he will be a force for the Titans, who need help at the linebacker position.

    Aside from landing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from Seattle, the Titans haven't been very active in free agency this year. They could still make some moves but most of the big names are already gone. With the division having such powerful weapons like Peyton Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Wayne, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, this was a big pickup for the Titans' defense.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

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    Coming out of high school, then going to Oklahoma, Murray was being compared to Adrian Peterson. His size, strength and agility were things that made defensive coordinators tremble. The Cowboys were able to land him in the third round of the draft with the 71st overall pick. Not only was he a steal, but he fits in very well with this explosive offense in Dallas.

    Having a two-headed monster with him and Felix Jones is going to be a big story this year in Dallas. They knew they would be replacing Marion Barber, and after seeing his workouts and listening to coaches around the league, you can be sure that Murray is the real deal. He was an amazing talent in college, and there is no doubt he will be a future star in the NFL.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

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    Everyone knew about Jones when he was in Alabama. Most of us were surprised to see the Falcons trade up in the draft in order to get him. We all know why now, though, as future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez said earlier this week, that he is the best receiver he has ever seen walk into camp.

    Just think about that statement, and who it is coming from. There is no other player that is getting so much buzz around the league than he is right now.

    Jones was arguably the best receiver in the draft, along with Georgia's AJ Green. Jones was making plays and putting up big numbers at Alabama, where the focus was on the running game because they had an average-at-best quarterback.

    Now that he will be paired with Roddy White, Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Matt Ryan in Atlanta's explosive offense, we can only imagine the things he is going to do this year. He is truly a special talent, and one that everyone will be talking about. If they aren't already.

Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

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    The Cardinals took Peterson from LSU with the fifth overall pick in the draft. If you remember all the hype about Eric Berry coming out of Tennessee, just multiply that by 10. Peterson was clearly the surest best in this year's draft, and he is seen as a can't-miss player. He has speed, size and the smarts to be one of the best corners in the league already. Not only does he do everything well, but he also has a desire to play special teams.

    I believe that Peterson will have an outstanding rookie season, and I think he has the potential to be the next Nnamdi Asomugha or Darrelle Revis, if he can stay healthy.

    Nobody wants to put that kind of pressure on such a young player, but when he has shown the skills and abilities that he has, I don't think the organization is worried about it. Obviously the Cardinals feel strongly enough about Peterson that they made the trade for Kevin Kolb last week. They had an outstanding young corner already in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but they know that Peterson is going to be even more talented than him.