It's preseason predictions time. The Around The NFL 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. Next up: Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Gregg Rosenthal's picks: Blake Bortles and Ryan Shazier
Blake Bortles doesn't need to start in Week 1 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Vince Young won the award after starting 13 games, which is about how many I expect Bortles to get in Jacksonville. He's shown enough traits in the preseason to believe that he can have some success right away lifting up a sad franchise. Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and Brandin Cooks are all solid options, but voters dig quarterbacks.
The defensive pick comes down to Ryan Shazier or Jadeveon Clowney. Shazier is my choice for the same reason that a lot of inside linebackers win Defensive Rookie of the Year. It's easier to rack up tackles in the running game and make a few highlight plays as a pass defender than it is to put up 12 sacks as a rookie. Both players figure to make a lot of highlight shows, which gets attention from voters.
Marc Sessler's picks: Blake Bortles and Ryan Shazier
Bortles will take over for the hyper-dull Chad Henne no later than Week 3. That will be more than enough time for the first-year quarterback -- who even reminds Ben Roethlisberger of Ben Roethlisberger -- to cement his status as this year's top rookie passer. These awards are all about narrative, and any signal-caller who can bring hope to the long-lost Jaguars is a lock to sway voters. It's more than hype, though, as Bortles has flashed the traits we've come to expect from our franchise passers. Hope exists in Jacksonville.
Shazier also plays to the narrative: One of the preseason's most exciting rookies on a team searching for youth and speed on defense. Shazier has looked the part at linebacker from Day 1, drawing praise from teammates and the trust of coordinatorDick LeBeau. The Steelers are using Shazier all over the field, making the most of his freakish athleticism and playmaking ability. He's a highlight-reel machine, and his role in taking Pittsburgh back to the playoffs will dominate chatter in the rough-and-tumble AFC North.
Chris Wesseling's picks: Brandin Cooks and Jadeveon Clowney
I'm all-in on the Saints' offense this season, and Cooks is a major reason for the new era of unbridled optimism in New Orleans. Lacking young legs capable of making plays after the catch and burning defenses deep, Sean Payton's offense was growing stale and predictable by the end of last season. Whereas as a similar player in Tavon Austin wasn't utilized to his potential in St. Louis, Cooks landed in the perfect spot with Payton scheming up creative plays and Drew Brees getting the ball in the hands of his game-breakers. Kelvin Benjamin might have better stats, but Cooks will have a bigger impact on a Super Bowl contender.
Right or wrong, splash plays that go viral on highlights shows and social media play a role in these awards. Nobody hits quite like Clowney, who has already blown up the Internet with spectacular slobber-knockers in each of the two preseason games he's played. With J.J. Watt drawing as many double teams as any lineman in the league, Clowney will have the opportunity to terrorize quarterbacks for double-digit sacks as a rookie. As much as I like Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, he won't match Clowney's viral appeal.
Kevin Patra's picks: Brandin Cooks and Anthony Barr
Cooks is a dynamic playmaker who has already showed off his 4.33 speed in the preseason. He will be one of the cogs in the Saints' offense, and Sean Payton knows how to get his players in space. Cooks will especially benefit from getting some of those former Darren Sproles plays. The rookie will be heavily involved each week for a Super Bowl contender, which is a good start to winning this award.
Jadeveon Clowney and Ryan Shazier will be popular choices, but I'm taking a flier on Barr. The outside linebacker has displayed his pass rushing ability and can be disruptive. Faith in Mike Zimmer is a big part of why I'm taking Barr as well. While the former college fullback has been in coverage a lot this preseason, I believe Zimmer will unleash Barr's pass-rush skills during the regular season. If the Vikings are going to make noise in the NFC North, they'll have to do it on defense. If they do it on defense, Barr will be a big reason why.
The "Around The League Podcast" reviews all of the action from Week 3 of the preseason. Get it while it's hot!