Lauren Draper-Wood continues to cast her eye over the talent recognised for their outstanding play this past season, today its the turn of the leagues first timers.
AP Offensive: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Packers RB Eddie Lacy bulldozed his way to the Rookie of the Year award receiving more than double the votes than Chargers WR Keenan Allen (35 votes to 12). Allen won the rookie accolade voted for by the fans, but for the American Press award there was really no comparison. Had I been voting, I wouldn’t have hesitated in marking Lacy my winner.
Keenan Allen undoubtedly had a fantastic year; with 8 TD’s and an impressive 69.7 yards per game there will be a number of teams kicking themselves for passing over the rookie who wasn’t drafted until the third round. Allen provided the gloss to a Chargers team with the solid foundations of QB Phillip Rivers and RB Ryan Mathews.
The reason that Lacy perhaps won so effusively was the fact he carried a Packers team through a substantial stretch without their MVP QB Aaron Rodgers. His performances were backed up statistically too. With 11 touchdowns only the Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles and Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch) scored more than the rookie. The Packers undoubtedly looked to Lacy more without Rodgers arm to punish sides; the young RB delivered effectively finishing 5th in the league for attempts and 8th in rushing yards and yards per game. For a franchise that for a long time has been dependant on the arm of their QB, Lacy has added a much welcomed dimension to the side. The new season will be met with excitement by Packers fans that will go into the New Year with a genuine dual threat from both Rodgers through the air and Lacy on the ground. Watch out NFC opponents.
AP Defensive: Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets
Jets DE Sheldon Richardson received the Rookie of the Year award at this weekend’s NFL Honours. Bills player Kiko Alonso was Richardson’s only potential rival to the award with 4 votes less- no other player received more than 4 votes. Richardson and Alonso featured on defences that ranked 19th and 20th in the league this year. So what is it about them that drew plaudits? Richardson displays an engine that never waivers and alongside Texans JJ Watt, is possibly the best in the league at stopping the run.
Richardson statistically finished well with 3.5 sacks and 77 combined tackles, but it was Kiko Alonso who had the more impressive figures and would’ve gotten my vote. Alonso had a huge 159 combined tackles and two sacks. The Bills had once again a disappointing season, but remarkably their defence finished in the top 5 of passing yards allowed- a stat that has to be attributed to Alonso’s influence. Richardson did indeed put in an impressive rookie season, but Alonso is a more complete player with technical ability alongside natural athleticism. Going forward I’d expect to see Alonso develop into a name continually linked with defensive awards.
Last year’s winner Luke Kuechly a year younger than Richardson followed up his rookie win by taking the defensive honour this year. A precedent has now been set, can Richardson go into next season and repeat Kuechly’s impressive achievement?