Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/30/11
The Offensive Rookie of the Year battle in 2011 has been one for the ages. With so many rookies entering the league and making a name for themselves in their first season, it becomes very difficult to pick just three candidates. Aside from many impactful rookie performances over the course of the season, there are three clear cut candidates to win this year's award.

3. A.J. Green, WR CIN
The Cincinnati Bengals selected WR A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick this past April, and many thought he was the most NFL ready offensive prospect in the draft class. After Green's impressive rookie campaign, we all can see why he was regarded as an elite weapon. He stepped into a Bengal's offense that lacked star power, and emerged as the primary target for a team that greatly improved from a season ago. Green has put up some amazing receiving numbers in just his first season, hauling in 63 receptions for 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns. From week to week, Green was a constant threat to opposing defenses and also broke the Bengals record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception. Green has also displayed a knack for making big catches and helping his team down the field. 41 of Green's 63 receptions have gone for first downs, which is an impressive 65 percent. His impact cannot be denied, but he falls short against the other two candidates in this debate.

2. Andy Dalton, QB CIN
As a second round pick in this past draft, nobody expected Andy Dalton to step into a starting role and have his team competing for a playoff spot, but that is exactly what he has done this season. The Bengals are currently 9-6, and have a great shot at making the playoffs under rookie QB Dalton. He has made Bengals' fans forget all about their past problems with Carson Palmer, and given them hope for a very bright future. Dalton has thrown for 3,166 yards, while also adding 20 touchdown passes, compared to 13 interceptions in his rookie year. Many would say that Dalton deserves the award because he is the standout rookie quarterback on a playoff contender, and for what he has done with his rookie counterpart A.J. Green in putting Cincinnati back on the map. What Dalton has done for his team this season is very similar to Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in 2008. Ryan put up similar numbers, and lead his team to a playoff berth in his first NFL season, while also winning the Offensive ROY award. Dalton has an opportunity to do just the same against division leading Baltimore on Sunday, which would be huge for his case in rookie voting. All things aside, it may be too much of a deficit to overcome when compared to my leading candidate. 

1. Cam Newton, QB CAR
The number one overall draft selection comes with a large amount of pressure and expectation, but football fans were pleasantly surprised by what they saw from Cam Newton this season. The electrifying rookie QB has silenced all doubts that he was the best player in his draft class, and deserved to be the first overall selection. Despite many saying he wasn't ready to start in the NFL, Newton has become the driving force between one of the league's top offenses. Newton has thrown for a rookie record 3,893 yards through the air, while adding 20 touchdown passes, compared to 16 interceptions. He also has made unbelievable plays on the ground, accounting for 674 yards and an NFL quarterback record 14 rushing touchdowns. Newton inherited essentially the same offense that ranked dead last in the league a year ago, and turned it into an explosive unit that ranked 5th in 2011. Cam Newton has rewritten the standard for quarterbacks entering this league, and his playmaking ability is endless. Carolina looks to be a dominant offense for years to come with Newton at the helm. His impact on the NFL this season makes him the front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. 
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