- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
Although you might not agree with all my picks for rookies of the year, my all-rookie team, and my season-ending top 30 rookies, I can assure you I did the homework. Every week, I tried to go through each game two to three times, with a particular focus on rookies, and I can tell you it's been an illuminating process. I've always kept a close eye on rookies because it's that first check against draft evals, but I still took away some things.
In particular, a closer focus helps you get a better sense of the degree to which guys are improving. For instance, a rookie playing tackle against NFL defensive ends can look like a completely different player not just from Week 1 to Week 17 but even from Week 1 to Week 8. A lot of those intangible skills such as learning curve and work ethic that we will always struggle to measure perfectly during the NFL draft evaluation process really come into focus. Also, paying such close attention to how different players are used after spending so much time evaluating them as college players adds another level of insight into that draft eval process.
In many cases, the jury is still out. Just as you can't say a draft class was good or bad after one season, there are still many stories to be told from this class. But, with the regular season behind us, let's line up the best from the 2013 NFL draft class.
At least the best so far…
Rookies of the year
Offensive rookie of the year: Keenan Allen, San Diego
Don't just look at what Allen did -- look at what his quarterback did. At age 32, Philip Rivers just put together the best season of his career in terms of accuracy and efficiency, and Allen was a big part of that rebound. Allen had 71 catches, led the Chargers in receiving yardage with 1,046 and tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with eight. He had just five dropped passes on 105 targets. Allen was a player I had on my Big Board for most of 2012, but he was slowed during the draft process because of a lingering knee injury. He ended up as a steal in Round 3 and should be a key element in the Chargers' offense going forward.
8hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
16hOhm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini