A year ago the NFL boasted several strong Rookie of the Year candidates on both sides of the ball. In the end, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott edged out teammate Ezekiel Elliott. Defensively, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa ran away with the honors.
Who will it be in 2017?
Here are the top candidates:
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Mitch Trubisky, QB — Chicago Bears
Trubisky's ROY chances will depend on whether or not he can unseat Mike Glennon as the Bears' starter. It doesn;t have to be during training camp and preseason but it probably has to be in the first momthy or so of the season, unless his numbers explode.
Joe Mixon, RB — Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon is as talented as any back in the draft class and should have no problem earning the bulk of the carries. But Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Benard are established NFL ball carriers and the takeover may not happen imediately.
Deshaun Watson, QB — Houston Texans
Watson appears to be destined to start the season on the sideline but clearly he's the more gifted QB and at some point a great defense and solid running game will support the change …. unless the team starts fast in the win-loss column under Tom Savage and he's decent to solid.
Leonard Fournette, RB — Jacksonville Jaguars
Fournette is a bull dozer with in-line speed and if healthy will carry the load for the Jags from Day 1. He may be the favorite here but Jacksonville may need to win a little more than they did a year ago or the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft may end up on the short end.
Dalvin Cook, RB — Minnesota Vikings
Cook won the starting nod over Latavius Murray but Murray likely gets some carries, in the same manner in which Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon will get some carries in Jacksonville.
Cook has game-breaking ability however, and if the Vikings O-line rebounds from a aterrible year, Cook could be the beneficiary — he and the Vikings odds to make the postseason.
O.J. Howard, TE — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It may be difficult for Howard to win Rookie of the Year — a tight end has never won it — but he has a developing QB with two proven wide receivers and a veteran running back to balance the offense. Howard could take advantage in the red zone and become a go-to for Jameis Winston.
Christian McCaffrey, RB — Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey probably isn't going to get 15 carries and/or 10 targets a week, but he should get 15 touches. He's elusive, explosive and versatile and if the Panthers use him well enough his numbers should reflect that of a legitimate candidate.
Technically, return value isn't 'offense' but it may help his chances in the eyes of the voters.
Darkhorses: Marlon Mack, RB — Indianapolis Colts; Cooper Kupp, WR — Los Angeles Rams; Ryan Ramczyk, OT — New Orleans Saints; Pat Elflein, C — Minnesota Vikings.
Wild Card Darkhorse: Ethan Pocic, OL — Seattle Seahawks
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Myles Garrett, DE — Cleveland Browns
Garrett is a complete player and has the best chance to replicate what Bosa did a year ago: be great and productive on a bad team and still win the award. Sack totals typically drive the candidacy of a defensive lineman.
Solomon Thomas, DE — San Francisco 49ers
Thomas may be as good a bet as Garrett, but is in a similar position. The team isn't likely to win a lot, so he'll have to produce the kinds of sack totals that grab the attention of voters.
Derek Barnett, DE — Philadelphia Eagles
Barnett looked great in week 1 of the preseason but has an advantage over Garrett and Thomas since his Eagles have a shot to make the postseason. Winning could be the tiebreaker if the flashy stats are similar.
Budda Baker, S — Arizona Cardinals
Baker is a versatile defensive back — slot corner, high free safety, run support — but may not be the flashy player that typically get votes. Even in college he didn't gather a lot of interceptions.
Reuben Foster, LB — San Francisco 49ers
Foster has a chance to be the next great middle linebacker in the NFL and voters could value high tackle totals if they go alongside a few interceptions and sacks.
T.J. Watt, OLB — Pittsburgh Steelers
Watt fits the Steelers OLB style and has the natural pass-rush skills to take advantage on the weak side. He's probably a better candidate than Baker or Foster
Marshon Lattimore, CB — New Orleans Saints
Lattimore has the physical talent of Marcus Peters but may not be as NFL-read as Peters was coming out of college — despite the fact Peters was kicked off the team by Washington head coach Chris Petersen during his final season.
Kevin King, CB — Green Bay Packers
King struggled early in his first preseason game but showed a lot of skill, resilience and toughness the rest of the way. If the Packers' pass defense improves significantly on paper, King will get a lot of credit fot it. He's also a potentially-high interception corner thanks to terrific anticipation, leaping ability and hands.
Jabrill Peppers, S — Cleveland Browns
Like Baker, Peppers may be used in a variety of ways but was rarely a part of turnovers and isn't likely to be used in pass rsh scenarios from his safety-type spot on the field. He's a threat in the return game, but voters may not be swayed by that for a defensive player.
Darkhorses: Chidobe Awuzie, CB — Dallas Cowboys; Shaquill Griffin, CB — Seattle Seahawks, Chris Wormley, DE — Baltimore Ravens; Tarell Basham, DE — Indianapolis Colts.
Wild Card Darkhorses: Tyus Bowser, OLB — Baltimore Ravens; Ryan Anderson, OLB — Washington Redskins; Zach Cunningham, LB — Houston Texans.