With the 2011 NFL season just a week away from kicking off, analysts are previewing games and projecting players’ fantasy impact for Week 1. Here at Mind of Mihir, I’ve decided to look a bit beyond that. Over the next few days, I’ll be releasing a series of articles predicting end-of-the-year results for awards, team-by-team records, and even who my early favorites for the Super Bowl are. So be sure to stay tuned and check it out.

I’m going to start off with my early predictions on who will win the seven major awards this season, beginning my series with the Rookies of the Year.

Note, I’ve learned that there are some statistics and trends that go along with topic.

Offensive Rookie of the Year


Sample: Last 7 winners

Positions: 4 Quarterbacks, 2 Running Backs, 1 Wide Receiver

Combined Record: 69-44 (.607)

Draft Position: 6 in the Top 11 (5 in the Top 7)

Options: Panthers QB Cam Newton (1), Bengals WR A.J. Green (4), Falcons WR Julio Jones (4), Titans QB Jake Locker (8), Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert (10)

Analysis: Considering that Locker and Gabbert are unlikely to start enough, if any, games this season, I’m going to count them out. Meanwhile, A.J. Green is catching passes from a rookie quarterback. Percy Harvin, the only receiver of the sample, caught passes from Brett Favre in his Pro Bowl form. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely that he makes that type of an impact.

That leaves us with Cam Newton and Julio Jones.

Even though quarterbacks have had success early on lately, the lockout makes it incredibly difficult for quarterbacks to get accustomed to the speed of the game. Moreover, while I like what they did in the offseason and believe they will improve, I don’t think the Panthers have a shot at winning enough games for Newton to have a shot, especially not in this division.

Through a process of elimination, Julio Jones will be the winner. The Falcons have been aggressive this offseason in search of becoming ‘more explosive’ and know that their time to win is now. Look for their gameplan to revolve around a downfield passing attack now that their receiving corp has been revamped. Also, with Roddy White on one side and Tony Gonzalez commanding the middle, Jones could be left with one-on-one coverage. With his skillset, he should easily be able to take advantage of it. Unless somebody jumps out of the blue, everything is in place for him to walk away with this award.

Note, I realize that some may point to Mark Ingram who’s the only other skill player in the 1st round (drafted No. 28 overall). But here’s why I don’t feel he will win it. The previous recipients, Adrian Peterson and Cadillac Williams, had 238 and 290 rushes respectively in their rookie campaigns. The Saints had just 384 attempts all season and even if they increase that total, they still employ a running back by committee system, which means that Ingram will have to split carries with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Also, the highest total in the past five years aside from Deuce McAllister’s 244 in 2006, has been 172 in 2009 by Mike Bell. In the Saints offensive system, Ingram simply won’t get enough opportunities to earn this award.

Defensive Rookie of the Year


Sample: Last 9 winners

Positions: 7 Linebackers, 1 Defensive Tackle, 1 Defensive End

Combined Record: 73-71 (.507)

Draft Position: 8 in the Top 15 (7 in the Top 12)

Options: Broncos LB Von Miller (2), Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson (5), Texans LB Brooks Reed (42)

Analysis: With so many players drafted in the trenches this season, there aren’t many skill players with potential to win these awards. Frankly, it may end up being so that the voters are forced to hand it to someone as opposed to truly deserving it.

When it comes to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, racking up wins doesn’t seem to be as important. After all, Patrick Willis won it despite the San Francisco 49ers finishing the 2007 season 5-11.

What does seem to play a big factor is putting up tangible statistics, which is why linebackers have been a popular choice. Going out there and becoming a tackling machine or racking up a ton of sacks does wonders for your stance in this award.

With that being said, I’ve narrowed it down to three choices. Even though a cornerback hasn’t won the award since Charles Woodson in 1998, I think Patrick Peterson is a dark horse because he’s pro ready and has a knack to make big plays whether it be through interceptions or as a return specialist.

Another player who may go under the radar is outside linebacker Brooks Reeds, who resembles a poor man’s version of Clay Matthews. Remember that once Wade Phillips, who’s a 3-4 guru, took over the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, DeMarcus Ware’s sack total shot up. Now that Phillips is leading a defensive transition with the Houston Texans, I believe he’ll train Reeds to be his Ware.

But at this point, who I believe is the front-runner by default is Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Even though I’ve strongly criticized the organization for drafting a player that doesn’t fit their scheme and still am I bit doubtful, it appears as if Miller’s finding his groove as he has registered three sacks in the past two preseason games. Granted it’s just preseason and was against modest opponents in the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks; but he seems to be the player in the best position to take this award regardless.


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