Who Deserves to Be the NFL's Rookie of the Year?

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Could Aldon Smith and his 14 sacks snag the award from Cam Newton and his 35 touchdowns?

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The 2011 NFL football season was a tremendous one for rookies. We saw one quarterback light it up like never before, while another led a previously downtrodden team to a rare postseason appearance.

A wide array of rookie receivers also stood out, making what is often considered a tough transition from college to the NFL look much easier. The running back class wasn't extremely strong, but we did see some huge performances here and there from that position as well.

The defensive side of the ball is where some of the best rookie performances were. Pass-rushers dominated opposing offensive lines, corners played well against seasoned receivers and linebackers stood strong in coverage.

This article is going to focus on the top candidates for the 2012 Rookie of the Year award (winners will be announced Saturday night at the NFL Honors award show, 9 EST, NBC). You will see a mix of offensive and defensive players on this list. The odds for each player are their chances to win either the Offensive Rookie of the Year or the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

This post also appears on Bleacher Report, an Atlantic partner site.

Image credit: Reuters

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Vincent Frank is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

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