The next two days of NFL news will be dedicated to the league’s youngest players. Today , the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year will be announced, while tomorrow evening, the Associated Press will name its recipients of Offensive and Defensive ROY honors. It should be noted the AP awards (press-only voting) are considered the “real” thing, because the Pepsi award is voted on by the fans. Several first-year players have had very solid seasons, but I can think of only two who truly deserve the AP awards: Rams’ QB Sam Bradford and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh.
It’s safe to say Bradford is a lock for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. His 3,500-plus yards and 18 touchdowns on a marginally-talented team were impressive. Plus he took those marginally-talented Rams to the brink of a playoff berth (in a horrifically bad NFC West, but playoffs are playoffs). Bradford looked shaky in that final game in Seattle, but that’s to be expected from a first-year player in the league’s loudest stadium. A close second in the running is Buccaneers’ WR Mike Williams. Williams would without a doubt be ROY if Bradford were a year older or younger (and my aunt would be my uncle if she had…you get the picture). Williams totaled 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite having Josh Freeman throwing to him. That’s not necessarily a knock on Freeman; you just don’t expect a WR to have such incredible numbers with a second-year QB throwing to him.
The AP Defensive ROY should go to Suh. He recorded 10 sacks this season, which not only leads all rookies, but also all defensive tackles, regardless of experience. Suh was an immediate game-changer in the league, requiring opposing offensive coordinators to focus extra attention to a Lions’ front four that was already intimidating with the additions of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams. As for Pepsi ROY qualifications: Suh was voted as a Pro Bowl starter, his jersey was in the top ten for sales between April and September, and at one point, his jersey was second only to The NFL Savior His Most Excellent And Benevolent Tim Tebow. None of that means Suh is a better player than other defensive rookies; it just means he is probably the more popular player. Honorable mentions to CBs Joe Haden and Devin McCourty. But come this weekend, your Detroit Lions should be making plans to celebrate their first rookie of the year since Barry Sanders in 1989, and the first defensive rookie of the year since Al Baker in 1978.