Tennessee Titans: Showdown of Rookie of the Year candidates


If the top of the 2015 draft is any indication, then the NFL’s future appears to be in good hands.

The race for this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year is still wide open, with several top ten picks still in the running. Two will face off in downtown Nashville Sunday afternoon when rookie qb Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans host rookie receiver Amari Cooper and the Oakland Raiders.

Prior to the draft, a large contingent of Titans fans wanted Tennessee to keep Zach Mettenberger as the starting qb, and use the second overall pick to draft Cooper, who was by far the most NFL ready receiver in a deep and talented class. Of course that didn’t happen, opening the door for Oakland to draft him two slots later.

Today, I am sure that both franchises and fan bases are happy with the decision.

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Mariota and Cooper both left college with full trophy cases, and after ten professional games, both are continuing that trend. Cooper earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Week award twice this season (week 7, week 9). Mariota earned the Offensive Rookie of the Week award in the season opener.

Mariota also earned the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award twice this season (week 1, week 9), and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month award for September.

He became the first rookie qb in the history of the league to have a perfect qb rating in his first professional start, and the first rookie qb in the history of the league to throw for 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions twice in one season.

While their head to head match up this week offers plenty of storylines and comparisons, Mariota and Cooper are certainly not the only rookie phenomenons this season.

Tampa Bay took qb Jameis Winston with the number one overall pick, and he has bounced back nicely from his forgettable pro debut against Tennessee. Winston has gone on to earn three Rookie of the Week awards this season. He broke a rookie record with five touchdowns last week against the Eagles, and most importantly, his play has the once cellar-dwelling Buccaneers in the thick of the playoff race this late in the season…something that no one saw coming.

Rookie running back Todd Gurley was taken 10th overall by the St. Louis Rams, a move that some people viewed as controversial given the fact that he was not fully recovered from a season ending knee injury when he was selected. Today, Gurley is not only making the Rams’ front office look like geniuses, but he brings his own hardware to the discussion.

Gurley earned the Offensive Rookie of the Week award in week 4, and the Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. He went on to have the most prolific four game start in the history of NFL rookie running backs, and is currently fifth in the entire league with 775 rushing yards. A remarkable feat given the fact that he missed most of September while recovering from knee surgery.

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With the accolades between them so similar, the 2015 Rookie of the Year race could come down to team success. If voted today, then Winston (Bucs 5-5) would have the edge, followed by Gurley (Rams 4-6), Cooper (Raiders 4-6), and Mariota (2-8).

Aside from keeping their fading playoff hopes alive, Mariota and Cooper still have plenty to play for. A dominant performance this week will keep them in the mix for this year’s coveted award.