It's preseason predictions time. The Around The League crew has been rolling through our division previews, and now it's time to break out some awards. We already picked our MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidates -- and discussed our choices for the latter on Friday's edition of the "Around The League Podcast." Next up: Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Gregg Rosenthal's picks: Eddie Lacy and Alec Ogletree
A running back hasn't won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award since Adrian Peterson in 2007. With no quarterbacks likely to be in the mix this season, I love Lacy's chances. He's set up to be the clear starter for the Green Bay Packers following DuJuan Harris' injury. And Lacy is set up for success playing with Aaron Rodgers in favorable running situations. Lacy is the rare big back who also can get to the outside and make people miss.
Defensive Rookie of the Year was even tougher, but I'm going with St. Louis Rams outside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has the athleticism to make the splash plays that voters notice. He also is playing behind a defensive line that will let Ogletree roam and create havoc as a pass defender.
Dan Hanzus' picks: Eddie Lacy and Tyrann Mathieu
Dropping to the second round of the draft was a shot to Lacy's pride, but it might end up being the best thing that ever happened to him. Aaron Rodgers will make anybody look good, and Lacy has the ability to add another dimension to Green Bay's attack.
Lacy was the best running back the Packers had this summer, and DuJuan Harris' season-ending knee injury further defined Lacy's role. The Packers will be a pass-first team as long as Rodgers is there, but Lacy is gonna eat. And no, that's not a fat joke.
Meanwhile, it's hard to name a player who received more positive buzz this summer than Arizona Cardinal Tyrann Mathieu, who might be the steal of the 2013 draft. Mathieu will see major time at safety, and his proclivity to make game-shifting plays will stick out in the mind of voters. The Redemption of the Honey Badger angle won't hurt, either.
Marc Sessler's picks: DeAndre Hopkins and Star Lotulelei
DeAndre Hopkins just makes good sense. Paired with Andre Johnson, the Houston Texans rookie receiver quickly has earned the trust of coach Gary Kubiak, who promised reporters, "He's going to be a big part of our football team."
Hopkins flashed reliable hands and physical play on tape before a concussion sidelined him in mid-August. I expect "Nuk" to be ready for the season, serving as an ideal pick-me-up for a Texans passing attack that struggled against the NFL's better teams down the stretch in 2012.
On defense, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has shown streaks of dominance in August play. Star made mincemeat of Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele on Aug. 22, and the NFL stage isn't too big for him. In a rotation with Dwan Edwards and Kawann Short, Lotulelei is part of a Panthers interior line that will rattle opponents in 2013.
Chris Wesseling's picks: Eddie Lacy and Tyrann Mathieu
What's not to like about Lacy? With DuJuan Harris out for the season, Lacy is in line for featured-back duties as the sidecar to the NFL's best quarterback in a high-scoring offense directed by one of the league's most creative play-callers. I'm all-in on Lacy, who was one of the most impressive rookies I saw in preseason action.
I'm reaching deep into the draft to choose Tyrann Mathieu as the top defensive rookie for the simple reason that he's constantly around the ball making plays. He's NFL-ready, already has learned three defensive positions and possesses rare ball skills and instincts. Even if he makes his fair share of mistakes, "Honey Badger" will produce the highlight-reel plays that garner national attention.
Kevin Patra's picks: Eddie Lacy and Alec Ogletree
Lacy will play the biggest role of any rookie on a high-seeded playoff team. Yes, the Packers have a number of players at the position, but none of them are at Lacy's skill level. With DuJuan Harris on the shelf, Lacy will give the Packers the consistent ground punch they've missed since the Ryan Grant years.
I'm expecting Alec Ogletree to struggle out of the gate, but after the first couple weeks, he will be a force on the weak side of the Rams' defense. A ballhawk, Ogletree adds much-needed playmaking on the outside that impeccably complements the rest of the defense. Questions about the linebacker heading into the 2013 NFL Draft will prove to be unfounded, and Ogletree will end up the most dynamic defensive player from the rookie class.The "Around The League Podcast" is now available on iTunes! Click here to listen and subscribe.