Top 10 Candidates for 2013, in no order, as of Week 12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Quarterback - age 23 - 6'6" 225 lbs
Baptism by fire. He lost his first five starts, but that stretch included 3 top ten defenses in Arizona, Carolina and Seattle. Had no less than 43 pass attempts in his first four starts, and only had 3 interceptions among them - a good sign from someone known to have some careless tendencies in college. Now he's won his last three games, including a victory over the currently-playoff-seeded Lions. The Bucs have had more success running the ball lately and drastically reduced his number of attempts, but he's shown good accuracy and command of the game and is already a better quarterback than Josh Freeman. He isn't going to win the award based on team success, but if he continues to play at a high level and win games from here on out, he's going to get a lot of consideration.
Projected Statistics (13 games):
273 com. 437 att. 62% 2896 yards 21 TDs 7 INTs // 36 rushes 50 yards
Buffalo Bills, Quarterback - age 23 - 6'5" 237 lbs
He has looked better than a lot of people expected and is part of a youth movement which has brought a lot of new speed and excitement to Buffalo. He's missed time due to injuries, but when healthy has showed the ability to be a game-changing player. Is still growing into his role, and while he is 3-4 so far as a starter, Buffalo is 4-7 overall, showing how important he already is for Buffalo's ability to compete. (Right here I realized that I thought "competability" should be a word meant to refer to a team's potential to win on a week-to-week basis.) He looked good last week against a formidable Jets defense. If Buffalo goes on a tear he'll certainly receive the credit for it, but barring that he's not going to have a flashy enough resume to contend for the award.
Projected Statistics (12 games):
218 com. 372 att. 58% 2375 yards 14 TDs 7 INTs // 60 rushes 200 yards
Oakland Raiders, Quarterback - age 23 - 6'1" 210 lbs
They cut Tyler Wilson for him! It's noot too hard to imagine now that Tyler Wilson might still be worth something after the way McGloin has played. He's only started two games, but has already shown a grasp of the position's nuances that Terrelle Pryor has yet to display. He throws a really nice ball and is willing to ignore the inevitable pressure that comes with playing quarterback in Oakland. Only the 49ers had a worse passing offense than the Raiders before McGloin took over. It's highly unlikely that he will win the award, but if he continues raising the level of Oakland's passing game (and wins games) it's conceivable that some contrarian voter might give him a shout-out.
Projected Statistics (8 games, 7 starts):
137 att. 239 com. 57% 1687 yards 14 TDs 4 INTs // 18 rushes 10 yards
Detroit Lions, Guard - age 22 - 6'3" 332 lbs
A huge, mauling force on the interior of the line, Larry Warford has given Detroit's offensive line an element that they haven't had in a long time. He has started every game for them this year and is a big part of why ProFootballFocus had Detroit's offense line ranked sixth in the league as of November 20th; with his 13.9 score, he's not only their highest-graded offensive rookie, he's playing like one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL. It seems like it would be impossible for an offensive lineman to win the award, especially a guard, but for the first time in awhile there isn't a young quarterback running away with it, and Warford is playing at an incredible level. He's undoubtably part of the reason Reggie Bush is having such success running the ball, and with the Lions leading the NFC North Larry Warford's personal excellence is translating to team success, too.
Green Bay Packers, Running Back - age 22 - 5'11" 231 lbs
The Packers' running game has been greatly improved this year and Eddie Lacy has been a big part of that. They haven't had a running back they can rely on since Ryan Grant's peak, and Eddie Lacy is probably the most talented player they've had at the position since Ahman Green. He missed two games early in the season but is back and seems to be healthy now, getting over 30 touches and gaining over 150 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota. He wasn't nearly as effective the two weeks before Minnesota and without Aaron Rogers, and the Packers lost both games, so he's not going to be able to use the "kept Packers in the playoff hunt" card in his OROTY bid. But he has provided a very high level of production for a very visible team, and the final numbers will probably look good.
Projected Statistics (14 full games):
305 rushes 4.1 ypc 1238 yards 9 TDs // 34 catches 246 yards 1 TD 2 FUM
Cincinnati Bengals, Running Back - age 22 - 5'9" 202 lbs
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a nice guy to have, but Giovani Bernard is special. He's not the fastest in a straight line, but he's slippery as hell and knows where to go. He's also got great hands and the Bengals can put him wherever they want on the field. He doesn't really power their running game right now, with Green-Ellis still starting and getting half again more carries, but Bernard has proven himself to be a far more explosive and effective player by getting almost as many yards on the ground. He's also second on the Bengals in receptions. The way they use him is reminiscent of the way Maurice Jones-Drew coexisted with the incumbent Fred Taylor when he first got to Jacksonville, but Gio's more Mercury than Hercules. The fact that the Bengals are most likely going to make the playoffs works in his favor, and he's simply special to watch, which probably ought to be the most important thing anyway.
Projected Statistics (16 games):
152 rushes 4.4 ypc 669 yards 6 TDs // 61 catches 498 yards 4 TDs 1 FUM
Arizona Cardinal, Running Back - age 24 - 5'9" 199lbs
Similarly to Giovani Bernard, Ellington has an established veteran "technically" starting and listed ahead of him on the depth chart, but also like Bernard, Ellington is clearly the more effective of the two and is providing a spark out of the backfield that his team had been lacking. The Cardinals have quietly played their way to a 7-4 record in the NFC West and just crushed Indianapolis. This is looking more and more like a playoff team, and when people look for reasons for Arizona's resurgence, Carson Palmer's overall mediocrity will prompt them to examine Arizona's overall roster. Despite only having about half as many carries as Rashard Mendenhall, Ellington has more yards and is also 4th on the team in catches. Given both Mendenhall's early-career success as well as Arizona's reputation for poor line play, there is reason to think that Ellington remarkable rushing average is evidence of a legitimate big-play talent.
Projected Statistics (16 games):
107 rushes 6.0 ypc 641 yards 3 TDs // 41 catches 360 yards 2 TDs 1 FUM
St. Louis Rams, Running Back - age 22 - 5'8" 224 lbs
Zac Stacy needs to be given a lot of credit for the Ram's recent competability. Who's quarterbacking this team? The Rams were 1-3 though the first four games, when Sam Bradford was starting and Zac Stacy was on the bench, and the two games they started and finished together in weeks 5 and 6 were both wins. The Rams are 4-3 overall since giving Stacy a major role in the offense. He hasn't been a breakaway threat, but he is extremely efficient and decisive with great balance, vision and anticipation. A recent head injury could affect his production in coming weeks and playing for a team with a losing record will make it difficult for him to win the award, but he's been just as productive as Eddie Lacy on a per-game basis and he hasn't had Aaron Rogers to keep defenders from loading the box. Of all the non-quarterback offensive rookies, he has been the most critical to his team's success.
Projected Statistics (12 games):
240 rushes 4.4 ypc 1063 yards 7 TDs // 27 catches 184 yards 2 TD 0 FUM
St. Louis Rams, Wide Receiver/Returner - age 22 - 5'8" 176 lbs
He didn't make many big plays the first half of the season, but the last two games have been an entirely different story with 4 huge touchdown plays: Touchdown catches of 81 and 57 yards, a run of 65 yards, and a 98-yard punt return. He'd had a couple of returns called back earlier in the year, but also had quite a few dropped passes and was displaying some growing pains. Now he's provided several of the NFL's most exciting plays in the last two weeks, and if he can keep showing up on highlight reels for the rest of the year he is going to make his way into the discussion as a multi-phase impact player. His projected totals are perhaps the most likely to end up on the low side of the players listed here, due to the fact that we've always expected him to be an explosive player and it has taken him some time to warm up and begin playing up to expectations. Now that he has, he should continue providing some sizzle for St. Louis' offense.
Projected Statistics (16 games):
50 catches 560 yards 6 TDs // 10 rushes 123 yards 2 TDs // 23.6 KR 8.7 PR 2 TDs
San Diego Chargers, Wide Receiver - age 21 - 6'2" 211 lbs
San Diego has found the man to replace Vincent Jackson as their top wideout and the early indications suggest that Keenan Allen could eventually be even better, and perhaps sooner than you think. A big, strong wideout with good route-running skills and reliable hands, Allen was Philip Rivers' favorite target by week 4 and since then has recorded four 100+ games as the Chargers' clear no. 1 receiver. Given that most wide receivers take longer to develop than other positions, Allen's early dominance and technical refinement is especially impressive.
Projected Statistics (15 games):
75 catches 1102 yards 5 TDs
Edit: Poll typo. Ya'll should be able to figure it out.