Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
Top NFL Rookie of Week 15: San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen
For a draft that supposedly lacked skill position talent, the 2013 rookie class of quarterbacks, running backs and pass catchers sure are making a lot of plays.
None have them have been any more consistent that San Diego's Allen, whose two touchdown receptions on December 12 helped spur the Chargers over the AFC West-leading Broncos in Denver and may have pushed him ahead of Green Bay Packers' running back Eddie Lacy as the favorite to earn the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Like Lacy, Allen dropped on draft day due to durability questions. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver showcased star form throughout his career at Cal but a nagging knee injury ended his junior campaign early and kept him from working out at the Scouting Combine. When he ran poorly during a private Pro Day workout, teams panicked rather than relying on Allen's impressive tape.
On tape, Allen had shown all of the traits necessary towards developing into a No. 1 target in the NFL. Despite leaving Cal after his junior season, Allen's 205 career receptions are the most in school history and a testament to his polished game, which features multiple moves to gain freedom against press coverage, impressive body control and toughness to adjust to poorly thrown passes and enough athleticism to make big plays in space. While not a true speed demon, Allen plays fast, showing the courage in traffic that led Nick Saban to recruit him as a potential safety for Alabama.
Allen, who scored two touchdowns a week earlier against the New York Giants, as well, showed off his unique athleticism and field savvy with the type of contested big plays normally associated with Pro Bowlers, not first-year players.
Allen's first touchdown reception of the game came with the Broncos ahead 10-3 midway through the second quarter.
Matched up against veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Allen stepped aggressively and then stopped abruptly. The hesitation move put Rodgers-Cromartie on his heels, allowing Allen a free release for a quick crossing route from left to right and into quarterback Philip Rivers' field of vision.
Rivers, stepping up in the pocket, lofted a short pass to Allen and the rookie showed off his underrated acceleration, turning upfield to run past several Denver defenders before hurtling cornerback Kayvon Webster at the five-yard line and powering through an attempted tackle by safety Mike Adams at the two to tie the score.
In a game filled with superstars, Allen's dramatic touchdown was the play of the night.
His second, while perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing, was also an impressive play. Lining up in bunch formation to the left, Allen used an effective right arm-over swim move to slip past two Denver defenders and break towards the left corner of the end zone. Showing good body control, hand-eye coordination and strength, Allen reached back for the ball through Broncos' cornerback Kayvon Webster, whose face-guarding of the Bolts' pass-catcher arguably should have been flagged. Rather than hope for a penalty to bail him out, however, Allen simply grabbed the contested pass, securing it with both hands on his way to the ground to give the Chargers a 17-10 lead heading into half time.
At 7-7, the Chargers remain on the outside looking in for a playoff berth but they aren't dead yet. Like their rookie wideout, San Diego is quieting critics as the regular season is coming to a close.
Allen and the Chargers host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in a game that will be televised by CBS.
Rookie of the Week Archives:
Week One: Carolina Panthers DT Star Lotulelei
Week Two: Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Week Three: New York Jets QB Geno Smith
Week Four: Buffalo Bills ILB Kiko Alonso
Week Five: Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy
Week Six: Detroit Lions TE Joseph Fauria
Week Seven: Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed
Week Eight: Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington
Week Nine: New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson
Week 10: St. Louis Rams WR/PR Tavon Austin
Week 11: Oakland Raiders QB Matt McGloin
Week 12: New York Jets DL Sheldon Richardson
Week 13: Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball
Week 14: Minnesota Vikings WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson