There are years in which it's tough to determine which rookies on each side of the ball are the best and most valuable players.
This was not one of those years.
For the first time since 1981, when New Orleans Saints running back George Rogers and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor (you may have heard of him) did it, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford(notes) and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes) won the Associated Press Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year awards having been picked first and second overall in the draft. There were other outstanding rookies on offense and defense in 2010, but Bradford and Suh earned these awards as much as any rookies have in the past.
For Bradford, it was his ability to take a team that had won just six games in the previous three years and help the Rams to seven wins, a near-division title, and a near-playoff berth. Bradford was the first quarterback ever taken first overall to win the award, and he did it by throwing (590) and completing (354) the most passes by any rookie quarterback in NFL history, as well as throwing for the second-most passing yards among all NFL rookies (3,512) and the fifth-most touchdowns (18) to just 15 interceptions.
With offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur at the helm for the Rams in 2010, Bradford threw an inordinate number of short passes, averaging just 5.95 yards per attempt. But with former New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels in charge of St. Louis' passing game going forward, look for Bradford to display more of his freakish downfield accuracy.
"It means a lot to me when you look at this award and see who has won it in the past. It reflects what we were able to do as a team this year," Bradford said of the award.
Suh was even more dominant, establishing himself as one of the truly great interior linemen in the game as he developed through his rookie season. He ended his year with 10 sacks, the second-most by any first-year interior lineman, and was the only rookie elected to the All-Pro team,
Incredibly, for all their recent futility as a franchise, the Lions have the most AP Rookies of the Year of any NFL team - a grand total of seven. Suh joins RB Mel Farr (1976), CB Lem Barney (1967), WR Earl McCullough (1968), DE Al "Bubba" Baker (1978), RB Billy Sims (1980) and RB Barry Sanders (1989) as prior winners.
"It is a great honor and one of the highest honors I can receive on the defensive side of the ball," Suh said after the award was announced. "I really, truly can't thank my family, friends, teammates and coaches enough. They have been a huge part of it and the main reason I was able to be honored with this."
Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who has been in the league for decades, has said that Suh is the best defensive tackle he's ever seen, and the only draft prospect ever to receive a perfect grade in his rating system.