Remember, Tavon Austin? It's ok if you don't. The former West Virginia wide receiver, who became the darling of the pre-draft process leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, disappeared to start his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams, not able to pile up more than 47 receiving yards in a single game in St. Louis' first nine games.
In Week 10, Austin reminded the NFL why scouts were drooling over his quickness and speed, catching only two passes but turning them into 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He also returned a punt 98 yards for a score.
Naturally, he leads off the rookies on the rise.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams: The numbers speak for themselves. Austin had a breakout game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10, showing off his ability to go zero to 60 in the blink of an eye and make tacklers miss in the open field. His return touchdown was a thing of beauty, taking what appeared to be a broken play and weaving his way through the coverage team. On his first receiving touchdown, Austin just got behind the defense with his straight-line speed. The Colts left Austin with too much space in the open field on his second score. Austin did what he does in the open field. He made a few people miss and ran to daylight. The Rams are hoping Austin's performance was sign of things to come from the rookie.
Larry Warford, Guard, Detroit Lions: Often overlooked on the interior of the offensive line, Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford has been a beast in his rookie season. Week 10 was another step in the right direction for the former Kentucky road grader. His run blocking has been predictably excellent, but Warford is pass blocking at a high level as well, leaving the Lions thinking they may have found a fixture on their offensive line.
A.J. Klein, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have quickly assembled arguably the best front-seven in all of football. Rookie linebacker A.J. Klein, a fifth round pick out of Iowa State, has made strides in his game since Week 1. Playing alongside Luke Kuechly, one of the top linebackers in the NFL, Klein has become a plus run stopper for the Panthers. He was especially proficient in run defense against the 49ers in Week 10. Keep an eye on this young linebacker moving forward.
Chance Warmack, Guard, Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack was considered by most to be a guard ready to dominant in the NFL early on. He's done nothing of the sort to date, struggling to get acclimated to the pro game. In a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 10, Warmack again struggled. He was caught holding in the end zone for a safety, which was indicative of his pass protection woes all afternoon. Warmack will likely come around, it's just been a rough rookie season for him.
Menelik Watson, Tackle, Oakland Raiders: Menelik Watson made his first start for the Oakland Raiders in Week 10, and well, he looked like a rookie making his first start in the NFL. There were occasional bright spots for the former Florida State offensive lineman, but on the whole, Watson has a lot to improve upon before the Raiders can consider him a building block on the offensive line moving forward.
Manti Te'o, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers: Somehow, San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te'o has managed to fly under the radar this season. He started the season injured and hasn't played particularly well since returning, but nobody seems to have noticed. There's not one single area of Te'o's game sticking out as a weakness right now, and he hasn't been horrid by any means. The former Notre Dame captain is just not performing up to par, especially considering how other linebackers have played this season. In Week 10, Te'o hardly made an impact on the game.
Rookie of the Year
Offense: Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals: No change here. For the last month or so, Giovani Bernard has been the pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Eddie Lacy and Zac Stacy have a chance to push him, but Bernard has made a consistently positive impact on his offense since the beginning of the season. His workload is only getting bigger, so expect big things from him down the stretch.
Defense: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Lineman, New York Jets: Again, boring, but no change to the Defensive Rookie of the Year pick. Sheldon Richardson and the Jets had the week off, while Kiko Alonso and Star Lotulelei didn't do a ton to close the gap. It wouldn't surprise me to see any of these three win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
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