With NFL training camps starting, we figured we’d make some predictions on who will be crowned this years Offensive Rookie of The Year. While this award has been handed out to Quarterbacks the past three seasons, this year the trend is likely to come to an end. Unlike past years where rookie QB’s are drafted knowing they are starting from day one such as RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton this draft had no outstanding QB prospects. The two top QB’s chosen E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith may be starting their season opener but that is contingent on them beating out their respective competition in training camp. That being said, here is an outline of the most likely candidates to win Offensive Rookie of The Year in the upcoming 2013-14 season.
MY PICK: Tavon Austin, WR St. Louis Rams
Tavon Austin was the only skill player drafted in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft, and rightfully so. At the 2013 NFL Draft Combine Austin ran a ridiculous 4.34 second forty yard dash. This was the second fastest time of all Wide Receivers and tied for second fastest time of any player at the combine. Along with speed, Austin’s most impressive attribute is his versatility. He has the ability to catch passes, run the ball, and return kicks and punts. This makes Austin a rare commodity in the NFL and he should flourish in St Louis’s system. Coming into the season, he will be set as the Rams starting slot receiver as well as taking some snaps at Running Back. Considering former slot receiver Danny Amendola was Rams QB Sam Bradford’s top targeted receiver this past season and Austin has a skill set superior to Amendola’s, he will be Bradford’s new favorite target this season. Look for Austin to have a rookie season similar to that of 2009 Rookie of The Year winner Percy Harvin who had 60 receptions for 790 yards along with 6 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 15 times for 135 yards along with 1,156 yards coming off 42 kick/punt returns, two of which being returned for touchdowns. I predict that Tavon Austin will have a more productive rookie season and win the Rookie of The Year just as Harvin did in 2009.
Other Possible Candidates:
Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers
With former 1st round pick Rashard Mendenhall out most of last season, Pittsburgh’s ground game was awful. With Mendenhall entering free agency (signed with the Cardinals) the Steelers looked to find their Running Back of the future in the 2013 Draft. They found him in Le’Veon Bell a monstrous specimen at 6’1, 230 pounds. Bell was taken in the second round with the 48th overall pick being the second RB picked in the draft. After the selection everyone in Pittsburgh knew they just drafted their Running Back of the future. He is currently listed as the every down back for the Steelers and should shine in his rookie season. Coming out of Michigan State Bell’s productivity was very consistent and increased during his time there. He lead the nation in yards after contact with 921 this past season which should come as no surprise considering his size. He is surprisingly quick considering his size. Another overlooked part of his game is his ability to snag balls. Bell caught 67 passes for 434 yards while taking one to the house over the past two seasons at MSU. Also, his presence as a formidable pass blocker makes him that much more valuable to the Steelers this season. Also he can jump over defenders..
Giovani Bernard, RB Cincinnati Bengals
It was a tough decision picking between Gio Bernard and Eddie Lacy but it ultimately came down to which prospect I liked better. With the 37th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals chose the first Running Back in the draft, Giovani Bernard. Out of UNC, he is coming into a less favorable situation than Le’Veon Bell. Bernard will be designated to back up the Bengals current starting RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis who rushed for over 1000 yards this past season. Although rushing for over 1000 yards, Green-Ellis only ended up averaging 3.9 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns which proved him to be less productive than a player like Shonn Greene (+1000 yds. 8 TD’s 3.9 YPC) who the Jets let go in free agency and will be backing up Chris Johnson in Tennessee this season. This situation is very similar to that of Doug Martin’s last year. Martin was drafted with the 31st pick in the draft and was coming into a situation where LeGarrete Blount was the designated starter who had a relatively productive season prior averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns but had limited playing time and was looking to have a breakout 2012 season. Martin ended up surpassing Blount on the depth chart and rushed for 1,454 yards along with 11 touchdowns. Is Gio Bernard this years Doug Martin? I think so. Bernard was drafted in the top 40 for a reason. He redshirted one year at UNC due to a torn ACL and played out his freshman and sophomore year. He showed basically the same production in those two seasons averaging around 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bernard’s most unique ability is his pass catching. He caught 47 balls this past season for 490 yards and 5 TD’s. Bengals RB coach is on record saying Bernard could be an every-down player. He also said that we may be seeing Bernard line up at receiver in some formations, most likely in the slot. Look for Green-Ellis to start this season getting most of the carries but eventually Bernard will shine and take over the starting role.
Aaron Dobson, WR New England Patriots
In the past 10 years, only one player has won the NFL Offensive rookie of the year award and not been a first round pick, Anquan Boldin. Due to the weak 2013 draft, three of my four candidates for offensive ROY are 2nd round picks. Aaron Dobson is a second round pick who was overlooked by most coming out of mid-major Marshall. With the departures of Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski’s injured back the Pats receiving corps is basically depleted. Fortunately the Patriots have a legend at the helm in Tom Brady who can make any receiver significantly better. Dobson is is the first WR that Tom Brady has had who is taller than 6’2 (Dobson is 6’3) since another Marshall product Randy Moss donned a Pats uniform, and let’s just say they were pretty successful together. With Dobson being a big target possession receiver and receiving comparisons to the likes of Miles Austin, the Patriots have to be excited about their new WR prospect. Considering he will be a starter from day one and will be catching passes from Tom Brady, Dobson is my wild card pick for offensive ROY.