When the first two players taken in the NFL Draft are offensive linemen -- and when the only skill-position player taken in the top fifteen is a wideout snagged at No. 8 overall -- there's a good chance you won't see really impressive numbers from the offensive rookies in the coming year. That's largely been the case, at least relative to 2012.
But several interesting rookies have creeped up to form a tight group of players vying for the 2013 Offensive Player of the Year award. Week 15 was a good week for those offensive rookies too.
Let's handicap the race, since they're all trending upward. Bear in mind this is how I think people will vote, not necessarily who I think should win.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Interesting season for Lacy. He started out slow and came on strong for a few weeks, averaging 109 rushing yards a game over a five-game span from Weeks 4-8. Aaron Rodgers injury resulted in stacked boxes against Lacy and he struggled some, averaging just 3.13 yards per carry over the next five games. But against the Cowboys Sunday, Lacy was crucial to Green Bay's comeback, rushing 21 times for 141 yards and catching four passes for 30 yards. He was rewarded for his effort on Wednesday:
Lacy's will have a tougher go of things in Week 16 against the Steelers but has a very tasty matchup in Week 17 against the porous Bears. A strong close to the season -- and a possible Packers playoff berth -- would put him in the catbird's seat.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Two weeks ago Allen was my favorite to win. Heck, last Friday he was my favorite to win. Lacy was struggling a bit, the Packers were reeling and Allen was coming off a two-touchdown performance in San Diego's stunning Thursday night upset of the Broncos. One of those scores flashed off Allen's athleticism, as he hurdled defenders into the end zone:
Allen's got 931 receiving yards on the season but it's the way he's accumulated the yards that's so impressive. As a rookie who fell in the draft because of injuries and speed concerns (from injuries!), Allen wasn't supposed to contribute right away. But when Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd went down with injuries, Allen had to become a WR1 by default. He's been more than capable, flashing impressive route-running skills and incredible hands as he's become Philip Rivers favorite weapon.
He's got four touchdowns in his last two games and is still coming on strong. He only has four games with less than 60 yards and no scores this year. He could still surge past Lacy with a strong close but he might have an uphill climb at this point.
Zac Stacy, RB, Rams: A slow start to the season (not his fault) and the Rams being a bad team (also not his fault) are hurting Stacy's candidacy. He's got an outside shot of hitting 1,000 yards for the season this week, needing 146 rushing yards against the Buccaneers in order to pass that milestone. At the very least, Stacy should hit the marker on the year, given he's averaging 71 yards a game this season and has two weeks left. (The Seahawks might be resting players in Week 17 too.)
Stacy gets dinged because of the 10 carries and 43 yards a game he averaged through Week 7 but you can put that on the coaching staff as much as anyone for not playing the Vanderbilt rookie out of the gate. He's got the power and the explosiveness to be a full-blown feature back in the league. Proof:
He'd need a massive pair of games and the two guys above him slipping to backdoor the award.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: I picked Gio to win the award before the season. My only concern was the Bengals stubbornness to play BenJarvus Green-Ellis too much and, unfortunately for Gio (and me), that's been the case. Gio's still having a very nice season though, having topped 1,000 total yards already. He's averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the ground but doesn't have any truly explosive runs; people continue to be surprised at his ability to move the chains and push the pile however.
Bernard's also got an impressive 8.5 yards per reception on his 416 receiving yards this season and eight total touchdowns. One of those scores was in prime time against the Dolphins during a Thursday night game and it was one of the highlights of the season, not to mention an example of just how ridiculous Bernard is:
He's more than the Bengals have given him credit for but his numbers aren't mindblowing when you look at his game log. He's been great on the field and deserves to be mentioned in this group but he probably hasn't been used enough to warrant winning. If he exploded against the Vikings and Ravens in the final two weeks it's conceivable he could win.