New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley each won the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) award the past two years, and in doing so they made the jump from highly touted rookies to NFL superstars.
Can any of this year's rookies make that same type of jump? Let's take a look at the pros and cons for the five players I think could qualify as 2016 OROY candidates.
Pros: Elliott set the two-year record for rushing yards by an Ohio State running back (3,699) and the career mark for yards per carry (6.7). Elliott also racked up 562 carries and 55 receptions over the past two seasons, so holding up to a large workload should not be an issue. The Cowboys' run-blocking wall ranked eighth in the NFL last season in my good blocking rate (GBR) metric (39.8 percent). GBR measures how often a group of blockers gives its ball carriers good run blocking (roughly defined as not allowing the defense to disrupt a rush attempt), so Elliott will be able to count on upper-tier blocking support.
Cons: Despite its offensive woes in 2015, Dallas still ranked ninth in rushing yards (1,890), tied for fifth in yards per rush (4.6) and fifth in good blocking yards per attempt (8.9 yards on rush plays with good blocking). Elliott can post quality numbers, but his true impact will be measured on how much higher he can increase these already-impressive figures. If he doesn't do that by a significant amount, it could open the door for another rookie to overtake him.
Bottom line: The OROY award is Elliott's to lose.
Pros: Before scoffing at the idea Aguayo is a leading OROY candidate, consider the situation in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers ranked last in the league in ESPN Stats & Information's special teams expected points added (STEPA) metric in 2015. STEPA measures the scoreboard impact of special-teams plays in an expected points framework. The league average here is 8.2, so Tampa Bay's minus-10.8 indicates the Buccaneers were 19 points below par. Aguayo was the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. He never missed a field goal inside of 40 yards and made all of his collegiate extra points. Aguayo should easily move the Buccaneers to the league average in this metric, and if he vaults it closer to the 19.0 league-leading STEPA mark posted by New England last season, it could represent a nearly 30-point increase for Tampa Bay.
Cons: Aguayo's best season was the 2013 campaign in which he made 115 of 116 field goal and PAT attempts. He has regressed from that level in each of the past two seasons, as he fell to fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage last year. If he continues this downward spiral, Aguayo won't have as big of an impact as the Tampa Bay front office expected when trading up into the second round to select him. Also of note, the last time a placekicker earned such an honor was in 1992 when Detroit's Jason Hanson took home the Pro Football Writer's of America Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Bottom line: Elliott has the most tailor-made situation for winning the OROY, but Aguayo is a close second given how bad Tampa Bay's kicking game was last season.