Sometimes NFL teams get it right.
Back in April, the Buffalo Bills turned in their card and made E.J. Manuel the first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. They also made him the future of the franchise and started designing an offense to fit his strengths.
While an injury briefly derailed Buffalo's plan, Manuel has shown more flashes than many expected from him in making the transition from Florida State's offense. While Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon got all of the attention during the college football season, Manuel has NFL quarterback most worthy of praise.
He and his fellow rookie wide receiver headline the Week 11 rookie report.
E.J. Manuel, Quarterback, Buffalo Bills: In his first game back from injury, Manuel didn't look sharp. Against the Jets, however, Manuel had the Bills' offense operating efficiently, just as he had prior to the knee injury. Buffalo's coaching staff is keeping things simple, and Manuel still needs to work on not locking onto receivers, but he's made a lot of improvement in his first year in the league. On Sunday, he looked farther along as a quarterback than his opponent, Geno Smith.
Marquise Goodwin, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills: With Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson injured, rookie speedster Marquise Goodwin has gotten a chance to shine. He caught six passes for 81 yards and added a dimension to the offense the team has lacked for years. The Jets weren't able to press Goodwin often for fear of his speed. As a result, he was able to get open underneath quite a bit. He still has to get better at tracking the ball on deep passes and fighting for contested balls, but his raw ability was evident on Sunday.
Chance Warmack, Guard, Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack has gotten some heat this season for his struggles in pass protection, deservedly so. However, last week on Thursday Night Football, Warmack stood out in the running game. Chris Johnson ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the Titans' loss to the Colts, mostly due to how much room he had to run. Warmack was a big reason why, and he deserves some credit.
Geno Smith, Quarterback, New York Jets: Geno Smith has been all over the map in his rookie season, and Week 11 may have been his worst performance of the season. This isn't the first time Smith's rookie season has hit a new low in his rookie season, either. In a loss to the Bills, Smith completed 34.8-percent of his passes for 103 yards and three interceptions. He was also sacked four times. It was as ugly as you might think.
Vance McDonald, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers: Vance McDonald turned heads in the pre-draft process due to his combination of size and speed. His vertical jump was through the roof and people began to rave about his upside. Unfortunately, those physical traits haven't translated into blocking ability. McDonald not only hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game, but he's also struggling to run block, a crucial skill for a No. 2 tight end in the NFL. He still has a lot of work to do.
Barkevious Mingo, Outside Linebacker, Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo looked like a future superstar during the preseason and early on in the regular season. An injury set him back a bit, and he's struggled to find his place in Cleveland's front seven. He's been asked to drop back in coverage at times and hasn't looked particularly comfortable. He's also struggled in getting after the quarterback, which was expected to be his main strength. Mingo still has plenty of time to pick his production up at the end of the season. The up-and-down nature of his rookie season is not uncommon.
Rookie of the Year picks
Offense: Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals: Again, there is no change in our Offensive Rookie of the Year pick. Giovani Bernard's production and impact on his team has surpassed that of any other rookie in this class. He's become a focal point of defenses when preparing for the Bengals' offense. He had another 80-plus yards of total offense on 14 touches. The more his touches increase, he will continue to put up better and better statistics.
Defense: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, New York Jets: The Defensive Rookie of the Year race may come down to Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei. Both were again dominant in Week 11, which has come to be expected. If the NFL could re-draft, both Richardson and Lotulelei might be top five picks. They've been that good. Richardson gets the nod here because voters will likely see his production as more impressive, though Lotulelei's impact goes beyond the stat sheet. Both are deserving of recognition.