One wasn't physical enough. One was too raw at running his routes. One had serious off-the-field concerns. They all dominated in Week 14 of the NFL season.
Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers, who were all at the University of Tennessee together, albeit briefly, had breakout games on Sunday. Patterson had already begun to make his mark, but for Hunter and Rogers, Week 14 was a coming out party.
The three combined for 15 catches, 362 receiving yards and four touchdowns in Week 14, and each one of them did damage similarly to how he did it in college. They're the focus of the rookie watch this week.
Justin Hunter, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans: All of a sudden, it looks like the Titans could have one of the best one-two punches at wide receiver in the NFL sometime soon. Kendall Wright has established himself as a reliable wideout in year two, and Hunter is starting to show how effective he can be as a vertical threat. He always needed to get a bit more confident attacking the football in the air, but he appears to be doing so. If he develops that part of his game, he will have been a steal for Tennessee.
Da'Rick Rogers, Wide Receiver, Indianpolis Colts: Nobody ever wondered whether Da'Rick Rogers was talented enough to be an NFL receiver. But when he was kicked out of Tennessee, it raised a lot of red flags. He went undrafted and was cut by the Bills earlier this season. Finally, the Colts started to get him involved in the offense. He played over 40 snaps on Sunday and was the Colts' best receiver. He did a lot of his work over the middle of the field, showing of his physicality and toughness after the catch.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson has showed up here before, but sticking with the theme of Tennessee wide receivers, it's worth mentioning the Vikings rookie again. He caught five passes for 141 yards in Week 14, but more impressive is the fact that 114 of those yards came after the catch. Now that the Vikings are putting the ball in his hands, Patterson's playmaking skills are starting to show.
Khaseem Greene, Linebacker, Chicago Bears: If the Cowboys had stuck to the running game on Monday Night Football, they may have had a chance to keep pace with the Bears. Chicago's run defense was bad and has been bad more often than not this season. Rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene has been a part of the problem. He finds himself crossing the face of the running back too often and he's easy to block. His speed will only get him so far if he doesn't fine tune the other areas of his game.
Zaviar Gooden, Linebacker Tennessee Titans: Another linebacker with all of the athletic ability in the world who is struggling in run support is Zaviar Gooden of the Tennessee Titans. He played 32 snaps on Sunday but failed to record a single tackle. Like Greene, he needs to get used to taking on blockers in order to get the most of his talents.
D.J. Swearinger, Safety, Houston Texans: Not only was D.J. Swearinger taking cheap shots against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday night, but he also wasn't playing well. He let up a touchdown in coverage and missed two tackles. This wasn't one of the best weeks of Swearinger's rookie season.
Rookie of the Year
Offense: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers: Once a race between Keenan Allen and Giovani Bernard, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award has become Allen's to lose. Bernard isn't as involved in the red zone as he was earlier this season, and Allen continues to produce at a high level. He has 61 catches for 902 yards and five touchdowns this season after scoring two touchdowns against the Giants last week.
Defense: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive End, New York Jets: Sheldon Richardson fell too far in the 2013 NFL Draft. With every week he plays, that becomes more obvious. He's already one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. The only thing missing from his game is consistent pass rushing ability. But he's turned enough heads this season to be considered the odds on favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.