NFL Rookie of the Year: Offensive Candidates and Their Signature Plays

Alen Dumonjic@@Dumonjic_AlenContributor IINovember 20, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 18: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts prepares to throw against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 18, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

NFL rookies are always a blast to watch in their first season because they're still getting their feet wet. They make the dumbest of mistakes and then the smartest of plays in a single drive and are competing every down.

Once they get past the early part of their career though, they're not always a pure joy to watch, preferring to sometimes take off plays, or they simply don't seem as passionate about it as they once were because they have "made it."

And on that note, three offensive players—Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Doug Martin—have had their "made it" moments thus far but don't appear to be letting up on the pedal.

They've terrorized defenses endlessly with their arms or—in the case of Doug Martin—everything else.

These three aren't the only candidates for NFL offensive Rookie of the Year as there are the likes of Washington Redskins Alfred Morris and Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson that will also garner votes, but it's simply unlikely that they will win, so I turn my focus to Luck, Griffin III and Martin as well as their signature plays of the season.



Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck

For four years now, watching Andrew Luck has been a treat. I first laid eyes on him when he was a redshirt sophomore at Stanford, where he started for three years and was by far the best quarterback in the land of college football all three years.

He had pinpoint accuracy, underrated athleticism, impressive pocket presence and—despite what Phil Simm's claims—a rather strong arm. All of this came on display relatively early on the NFL scene as he's led his team to a 6-4 record through 11 weeks of the regular season, including a big time performance against the Green Bay Packers.

In the Week 5 upset of the Packers, Luck had several outstanding plays that he made, but his most impressive was a late fourth quarter, 18-yard strike to Reggie Wayne in the middle of the field.The throw illustrated Luck's ability to maneuver the pocket and buy himself time as well as deliver a big throw in a pressure-filled stadium.

During the play, Andrew Luck took a three-step drop from shotgun set and scanned the field from his left to the middle of the field. In the middle, veteran receiver Reggie Wayne was running a dig pattern that saw him get behind the near safety and catch a pass in between the hashes.

The throw seemed like an ordinary one but such was not the case. Luck was forced to climb the pocket, keeping his eyes up while reading the field. Doing so against the Packers was not easy, especially down five with under two minutes left.

Luck's connection to Wayne exemplified the abundance of talent that the No. 1 overall pick possesses and added to his already impressive resume for the balloting.



Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III

There are not many players, let alone quarterbacks, that have the skill set of Robert Griffin III. He's one of the best deep ball throwers in the league—thanks to his great arm strength—a very smart and accurate passer and has track speed.

The track speed was on display against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6 when Griffin III buried the northern team with a 76-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Down five with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter, Griffin III stood in shotgun set on a crucial 3rd-and-6. At the snap, he quickly dropped back and realized that the Vikings were in man coverage, meaning the majority of the defenders had their backs turned to him.

When the defense has their backs to him, he is instructed to pull the ball down and take off, using his legs to pick up yardage, which he did. Picking up a seal block from the near receiver, Griffin III turned the corner and turned on the jets, outrunning the Minnesota Vikings for the game winning touchdown.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers Doug Martin

It seems like every week Doug Martin is making a big play. The "Muscle Hamster," as he's known in the locker room by, is constantly running for grand gains and is on pace to lead the league in yards from scrimmage as well as 1600-yards rushing, per Evan Silva of Rotoworld.

One of his most impressive carries was a 41-yarder against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football in Week 8. The carry, along with a 64-yard reception, put Martin in the spotlight as the rest of the league and football fans watched him breakout for more than 200-yards and two touchdowns.

Standing seven yards deep into the backfield as a part of the Buccaneers' "21" (two backs and one tight end), Martin took a delayed handoff on a designed draw.

Upon receiving the handoff, he scanned the trenches for potential running lanes and chose to initially go right. However, to his right was a Vikings' defender, forcing him to bound back to the inside, look to the middle of the field where it was also closed and then finally, bounce it to the opposite side of the field on the backside of the formation.

On the backside, there were minimal Vikings' defenders that could run with Martin, who scampered for 41-yards before finally being brought down. The play showed off the impressive talents of the former Boise State running back, depicting his great agility, vision and acceleration.

If he continues to make plays like these, he just might upset the two star quarterbacks for offensive rookie of the year.




Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck, Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin all rightfully lay claim to the offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Each have been equally impressive this season, playing a significant factor in the competitiveness of their teams.

Luck has brought the Colts back to relevancy; Robert Griffin III has given Washington their first franchise quarterback in decades, and Doug Martin has, at times, carried the Buccaneers on his shoulders and set up the play action passing game for his teammates.