Bengals Rookies Underrated In Offensive Rookie Of the Year Discussion

Lance King

TE Tyler Eifert and RB Giovani Bernard were each the first at their position to be drafted, but the media and fans nationwide don't rate them highly in the Offensive Rookie Of the Year discussion.

Giovani Bernard was the first running back taken in the draft, selected No. 37 overall. Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson is beyond enthusiastic, openly promoting that Bernard has the potential to become an every down back.

"Having evaluated him and watched every game he played this year and had a chance to work him out, and having spent a lot of time with him," Jackson said of Bernard, "He has that skill set where I think he could play and be an every down player."

As we wrote recently though, you shouldn't expect Bernard to be an every down back this year.

Last week on NFL Total Access, NFL analysts Brian Baldinger and Matt Birk choose Tavon Austin and Montee Ball respectively as their Offensive Rookie Of the Year favorites. Each analyst expects a high number of touches for Austin and Ball, both of whom were the top two vote-getters in the fan vote.

Running backs have traditionally swept the AP Offensive Rookie Of the Year award since it's inception in 1961. In fact, from 1989 (Barry Sanders) to 2002 (Clinton Portis), running backs won the award twelve out of fourteen times. Characteristic of a league transforming through the air, quarterbacks have dominated recently, winning six of the last nine times, from Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 to Robert Griffin III in 2012. The only two running backs to win the award during that span were Cadillac Williams (2005) and Adrian Peterson (2007).

The award is rarely given to wide receivers. Anquan Boldin (2003) and Percy Harvin (2009) are the only receivers to win since 2000.

It may be hard for Tyler Eifert to win it, because tight ends have never won it and Jermaine Gresham may account for the bulk of the team's production on the field. Jay Gruden's offense targeted the tight end position only 101 times last year. Even so, Eifert has the skillset to play multiple positions, not just tight end.

Take a look at this chart, which lists the most likely candidates to win according to NFL.com.

Position Name Team Draft Slot NFL.com Poll Percentage
WR Tavon Austin STL 8 34.0
QB E.J. Manuel BUF 16 n/a
TE Tyler Eifert CIN 21 n/a
WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU 27 n/a
RB Gio Bernard CIN 37 n/a
QB Geno Smith NYJ 39 n/a
RB LeVeon Bell PIT 48 n/a
RB Montee Ball DEN 58 18.6
RB Eddie Lacy GB 61 10.8

Granted, Jay Gruden likes to spread the ball if given the chance. Austin, Ball, and Lacy have their respective starting position locked down already and Cincinnati's draft picks will open their careers in a backup/rotational role. But frankly, it's ridiculous that Gio Bernard didn't get more than ten percent of the fan votes.

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