Hall of Famer
Sporting News Top 20 potential ROY
Robert Griffin III was Sporting News NFL rookie of the year in 2012, edging out Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson and succeeding 2011 winner Cam Newton. Just don't expect any quarterbacks to vie for the honors again in 2013.
History still sides with offensive skill players; it's just that this class's best newcomers play running back, wide receiver and tight end. Without a QB in the mix, it also gives some defensive playmakers a better shot to win the award. Remember that three years ago, Ndamukong Suh was SN's rookie of the year.
Before they go to work in their first NFL training camp, check out SN's breakdown of the league's top 20 candidates (in order) for rookie of the year.
1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers 1.jpg
Coach Mike Tomlin longs for a reliable, durable workhorse to pound between the tackles and take pressure off Ben Roethlisberger. All signs point to Bell taking over as the team's bell cow in Week 1. Bell has the potential for a productive season, even if it's not as good as the 2012 season of the Redskins' Alfred Morris.
2. Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins 2.jpg
Jordan's talents will be welcome in South Beach opposite Cameron Wake, one of the league's premier pass-rushing ends. The raw but exciting athleticism Jordan displayed at Oregon will help him get loose on the edge while defenses focus on Wake. That can quickly add up to a double-digit sack total for the rookie.
3. Tavon Austin, WR, Rams 3.jpg
Austin isn't as strong as Percy Harvin, but his dazzling open-field quickness and potential to line up all over the field should set him up to have the same kind of rookie impact as a receiver, return man and even a backfield threat. It doesn't hurt that his speed is built for the fast track in St. Louis.
4. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Steelers 4.jpg
The Steelers don't typically start rookies on defense, but Jones' explosiveness has gotten their attention as a potential immediate-impact edge player in the 3-4. Jones is suited for Dick LeBeau's scheme to a tee, and they'll put him in position to tee off on quarterbacks.
5. Montee Ball, RB, Broncos 5.jpg
The Broncos moved on from veteran Willis McGahee, opening up the way for Ball to carry the load. He'll benefit from Peyton Manning's passing and take advantage of holes on running plays. He won't score as he did in college, but even at half of that pace Ball will be a top rookie.
6. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions
He'll try to become the second Lions defensive lineman in four years to win SN Rookie of the Year, and it helps that he's in a front four that features Ndamukong Suh. Suh and Nick Fairley — perhaps the NFL's best tackle duo — should open room outside for Ansah, who can translate his raw burst into a good early sack total.
7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
Houston shuffled several receivers opposite future Hall of Fame Andre Johnson over the years, but the team never had a dynamic playmaker of Hopkins' ilk to come in right away as the No. 2. Hopkins can make tough catches and stretch the field, and he'll get to make plenty of receptions against single coverage.
8. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
Bernard is Darren Sproles light. The Bengals have BenJarvus Green-Ellis to pound inside and work in the red zone, so they will move Bernard around as a complementary back and try often to get him into the open field. Don't be surprised if the results are spectacular, with Bernard racking up scrimmage yards.
9. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
Lacy is listed ahead of fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin on the Packers' depth chart, but we'll see who becomes the busier power back to complement Aaron Rodgers' passing game. Considering the punishment Lacy inflicted on college defenses, he might break the Packers' 1,000-yard back drought — if he stays healthy.
10. Bjoern Werner, OLB, Colts
Dwight Freeney is gone, and coach Chuck Pagano has faith that Werner — a standout end at Florida State — will thrive as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Robert Mathis remains on one side, but Werner's natural pass-rush skills, athleticism and energy will serve him well. He will try to beat out Erik Walden and get off to a good start in sack production.
11. Matt Elam, S, Ravens
12. Jonathan Cyprien, S, Jaguars
13. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
14. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Saints
15. Alec Ogletree, OLB, Rams
16. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Vikings
17. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings
18. Eric Reid, S, 49ers
19. Chance Warmack, G, Titans
20. Manti Te'o, ILB, Chargers