One of the more popular NFL awards fans keep track of during a season is Rookie of the Year. Who are some prime candidates to claim it in 2014?
Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Minnesota Vikings
The key component to this is the fact that Teddy Bridgewater is receiving all first team reps with the Minnesota Vikings. All signs point to him starting day one. He’ll have Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Cordarrelle Patterson as his top targets. Everything is lined up for him being productive his first year.
Mike Evans – WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Being 6’5″ with speed and athleticism has its advantages. Mike Evans should be an immediate touchdown producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fact he has a veteran quarterback in Josh McCown who knows how to use big receivers will only help him from a stats and development point of view.
Sammy Watkins – WR – Buffalo Bills
Speed is everything in the NFL and Sammy Watkins has plenty of it. Never mind he also has agility, soft hands and powerful legs to run after the catch. The kid is a danger with the ball in his hands and he should see ample opportunities to make plays provided E.J. Manuel is kept upright.
Jadeveon Clowney – OLB – Houston Texans
He’s the top overall pick in the draft, so he has something to prove. Jadeveon Clowney should see plenty of single blocks courtesy of new teammate J.J. Watt. Together with Louis Nix shutting down the run, the Houston Texans should be able to get their talented rookie phenom plenty of chances to accumulate sacks.
Bishop Sankey – RB – Tennessee Titans
Several had him ranked as the best running back in the NFL draft and for good reason. Bishop Sankey can do it all. He runs between the tackles, runs outside and can creates mismatches as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s under a head coach in Ken Whisenhunt who will definitely want to use him as an outlet for a couple of young quarterbacks trying to develop.
Khalil Mack – OLB – Oakland Raiders
There is no question Khalil Mack has talent and should be able to put it on display early. Whether or not he can challenge for Rookie of the Year depends on how much help he gets. The Oakland Raiders invested heavily in a series of veteran free agents like Justin Tuck, Carlos Rogers and LaMarr Woodley. If they play up to their accustomed abilities, it will allow a young stallion like Mack to run free and do what he does best.
Brandin Cooks – WR – New Orleans Saints
There probably isn’t a better system tailored for the talents of wide receiver Brandin Cooks than the New Orleans Saints. His shorter frame but breakaway speed and agility make him a matchup problem head coach Sean Payton can exploit like he did with Darren Sproles. That means touches and likely stats for the Oregon State rookie.
Johnny Manziel – QB – Cleveland Browns
This is of course predicated on whether he sees the field in 2014. There is an undercurrent who believe it’s best for the Cleveland Browns to sit for a period of time to learn the offense while veteran Brian Hoyer starts. Considering the fluid wide receiver situation that might not be a bad idea. Still, given his playmaking prowess there is a definite chance Manziel emerges as a surprise contender.
Donte Moncrief – WR – Indianapolis Colts
Takes on the ceiling of Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief were mixed. Some see him as a #2 option at best while others believe his size, quickness and hands make him an eventual #1. Either way Andrew Luck has a knack for getting the most out of unexpected receivers. If Moncrief indeed has the talent, then the Indianapolis Colts are in for a surprise.
Andre Williams – RB – New York Giants
It was probably one of the more overlooked picks in the NFL draft but the New York Giants may have, quietly, gotten a feature running back in the 4th round. Andre Williams led all of college football in rushing in 2013. He’s big, powerful, hard to bring down and knows how to hit the hole. If he gains the starting job, which he can, the Giants might have their next 1,000-yard rusher.