Talk of Fame Network
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014 and defensive tackle Aaron Donald the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
They set a very high bar for future rookies. Beckham caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns for the New York Giants. Donald sacked nine quarterbacks for the St. Louis Rams. So who will follow in their footsteps in 2015?
In this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, we offer up six of the most deserving candidates for Rookie-of-the-Year honors — two quarterbacks, two running backs, a wide receiver and a cornerback. It’s your call. Who gets your vote? Here are the candidates:
(Photo courtesy of Tony Gonzalez/Oakland Raiders)
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Hoping to accelerate the development of their young quarterback, Derek Carr, the Raiders claimed the Alabama All-America with the fourth overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft. Mission accomplished. Cooper became a walk-in starter and made a splash in his second NFL game when he caught seven passes for 109 yards against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 68-yard touchdown. Cooper also has posted 100-yard receiving games against Cleveland, San Diego and Tennessee. Cooper leads all rookie receivers this season with 62 catches for 920 yards and four touchdowns.
(Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Rams)
Todd Gurley, HB, St. Louis Rams
Gurley’s draft stock took a hit when he suffered a knee injury last November in his final season at Georgia. His rehabilitation figured to extend into his rookie season, so he slid to the 10th overall pick of the draft to the Rams. He was inactive for the first two games of his NFL career in September, then saw spot duty in his third game against Pittsburgh, gaining nine yards on six carries. Then came the explosion — consecutive 100-yard games against Arizona (146), Green Bay (159), Cleveland (128) and San Francisco (133). He added a 140-yard game against the Detroit Lions this month and leads all rookie rushers with 975 yards on 189 carries with eight touchdowns. He’s also fourth in the NFL in rushing.
(Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Titans)
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
Mariota was the second overall choice of the 2015 draft by the Titans and became a walk-in starter. And what a walk-in debut he had, completing 13-of-16 passes for 209 yards with four touchdowns in a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mariota had another four-TD game against New Orleans and three-TD games against Oakland and Jacksonville. He passed for a career-best 371 yards in that game against the Saints and also had a 367-yard game against the Colts. In that three-touchdown game against the Jaguars, Mariota also rushed nine times for 112 yards, including an 87-yard TD. That was the third longest run by a quarterback in NFL history. He has 19 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions on the season.
(Photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs)
Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs took Peters with the 18th overall choice of the 2015 draft, the third cornerback off the board. He became a walk-in starter at left corner and intercepted a pass in the season opener against Houston. He also intercepted Peyton Manning in his second game and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. He intercepted Manning again in the AFC West rematch, returning it 28 yards, and then picked off Oakland’s Derek Carr, returning that one 58 yards. He also intercepted Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater, giving him five interceptions on the season, third in the NFL. Peters has also broken up 24 passes, which leads the NFL. The Chiefs have a top-five defense and have ridden a seven-game winning streak into playoff contention at 8-5.
(Photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
Thomas Rawls, HB, Seattle Seahawks
Rawls made the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent, then sat and watched Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch carry the ball 32 times in the first two games. But when Lynch came up with a calf injury, Rawls made his first NFL start in his third game against Chicago, rushing 16 times for 104 yards. He has started six times filling in for Lynch on two separate occasions, and has 100-yard games in four of those games. He rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati, 209 yards on 30 carries and two scores against San Francisco, and 101 yards and a TD against Minnesota. Rawls also scored a 31-yard touchdown on a pass reception against the 49ers. But Rawls fractured his ankle in his sixth start last weekend against Baltimore and will finish the season on injured reserve.
(Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winston was the first overall selection of the 2015 draft and became a starter on the first day of the off-season program. Winston had been a high-interception quarterback at Florida State and had a rough go of it in his first month on the job in the NFL, throwing seven interceptions to help the Buccaneers spiral off to a 1-3 start. But he’s obviously a quick learner. Winston has thrown only four interceptions over his next nine games, winning five of those starts to get Tampa Bay back in wild-card contention with a 6-7 record. Winston has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game but had a five-touchdown game against Washington and has rushed for five other TDs this season. Winston inherited an offense that finished last in the NFL in 2014. The Bucs now stand 11th in offense.