Danny Kelly: Incredibly, we've already reached the quarter-mark on the 2015 season so now might be a good time to take stock of where we stand on a few post-season awards.
Let's start out with the rookies. Defensively, two cornerbacks have really stood out thus far, Ronald Darby for the Bills, and Marcus Peters for the Chiefs. Darby was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September and already leads the league in passes defensed (13) and has picked off two passes. Peters looks like the real deal as well, and has defensed nine passes and grabbed two picks. Right now, those two might be on the top of my list for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
You're a defensive lineman, so I would guess you've had your eyes on the trenches -- anyone else on defense standing out?
Stephen White: Those are certainly two good selections. I'm sticking with my pre-draft prediction of Falcons edge rusher Vic Beasley getting double digit sacks, which should be enough to give him the nod. He has two sacks on the season so far, which is pretty good. Far more impressive is the fact that he has already faced the likes of Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith and Texans left tackle Duane Brown -- three guys who are pretty damn good at the game of football -- and he didn't look overmatched at all. One of his sacks was on Tyron Smith and he might be the best left tackle in the game right now.
Another guy to keep an eye on is rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander down here in Tampa who won Defensive Rookie of the Week once, too. I watch a lot of his film and I'm very familiar with the Bucs' scheme, so I notice the rookie mistakes he makes every week. But there is no denying that he has been very productive so far. Not only is he racking up tackles, but he also has four pass breakups and an interception in the first four games. If he can keep that up that kind of pace and improve on little things like proper alignments and not getting sucked in on play action, Alexander should definitely be in the mix for the award by the end of the year.
Switching to the offensive side of the ball, I think whenever quarterbacks go one and two overall in the draft, it's hard to imagine one of them not coming home with the award. After four games, it's actually Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick, who looks like the front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Like Darby, he was named the Rookie of the Month for September. He got off to a scorching hot start in the first game of the year facing the Buccaneers and No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. If Mariota can continue to play this well without a ton of turnovers, I think he will be hard to beat unless Jameis gets his shit together real soon.
Are here any other rookies out there who will give the two quarterbacks a run for their money for Offensive Rookie Of The Year, Danny?
Danny: Yeah, it's always tough to beat out two high profile quarterbacks when it comes to Offensive Rookie of the Year, but if anyone can do it, it might be Amari Cooper in Oakland.
Cooper already looks like a future superstar, and he's on pace for 96 catches, 1,356 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He's a brilliant route runner, catches everything and looks like a veteran through four games in the pros. With a high-volume passing attack in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if he continues to be the focal point in that offense and these numbers hold up throughout the year.
Now, if we're really talking dark horses for the award, let's look forward and try to project. David Johnson, the running back/receiver hybrid type in Arizona, has already scored four touchdowns this year -- one kick return, one rushing and two receiving -- if he continues with this pace it might be hard to ignore that kind of production.
Duke Johnson looks like he might be earning a bigger role in Cleveland and could come on strong in the next three-quarters of the season. T.J. Yeldon has quietly led all rookies in rushing yards in Jacksonville thus far. I think that Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is a name we should keep an eye on, too. If Karlos Williams can stay healthy in Buffalo, we could see some good things from him, as well. Of course, I'd be remiss without mentioning Rams RB Todd Gurley, who looked explosive and powerful in last week's upset win over the Cardinals.
There is still a lot of time left in this season: 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Odell Beckham, hadn't played a snap to this point last season. Jeremy Hill, a finalist in the award, didn't really take hold of his job until around the midpoint of the season. Mike Evans, another finalist, really didn't hit his stride until Week 9.
There's a lot of season left.