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And the award goes to ... (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 7, 2006 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday November 7, 2006 12:39PM
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Offensive Rookie

Without much fanfare, rookie DeMeco Ryans has teamed with No. 1 pick Mario Williams to form a quickly improving Texans defense.
Without much fanfare, rookie DeMeco Ryans has teamed with No. 1 pick Mario Williams to form a quickly improving Texans defense.
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1. Marques Colston, wide receiver, New Orleans; 2. Marcus McNeill, left tackle, San Diego; 3. Jahri Evans, right guard, New Orleans. What? No Reggie Bush? Not with a 2.6-yards-per-carry average. Colston, the third-to-last pick in the draft, wins over the No. 2 pick. That's what 700 yards and a league-high seven touchdown catches (tied with Torry Holt) does. McNeill and Evans, eight-game starters without high profiles, have been superb for two of the top six scoring offenses.

Defensive Rookie

1. DeMeco Ryans, middle linebacker, Houston; 2. Donte Whitner, strong safety, Buffalo; 3. Ernie Sims, outside linebacker, Detroit. Through five weeks, Ryans was the leading tackler in football; now he's tied for fourth. Instinctive and ferocious, Ryans might end up having more impact on the Texans than Mario Williams, though Williams has played much better the last couple of weeks.

Coach

1. Sean Payton, New Orleans; 2. Mike Holmgren, Seattle; 3. Herman Edwards, Kansas City. Edwards lost his quarterback in a Week 1 debacle and found his offensive personality in Johnson the last three games. No good team has lost more players than Seattle since the end of the last season (Steve Hutchinson in free-agency, Shaun Alexander for five games, Matt Hasselbeck for two) and stayed as competitive as the Seahawks have. But this is Payton's half-season. The Saints were 53 zombies at the end of last season, and rightfully so. He laid out a blueprint in the offseason to make them competitive, and now they're a playoff contender.

Executive

1. Mickey Loomis, general manager, New Orleans; 2. Charlie Casserly, CBS Sports (formerly Houston's GM). 3. Scott Pioli, Before being ushered politely into the TV world, Casserly had his best draft as a GM: Williams and Ryans are playing great on defense, and two second-day draft picks are starting on offense, including tight end Owen Daniels, who has as many TD catches as any other tight end (five). The Patriots get media-whipped for their player losses every year, particularly this season with the Adam Vinatieri and Deion Branch defections, and here they sit at 6-2, eighth in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense -- and with an extra first-round pick next April from the Branch trade ... as if the Patriots need a draft-day advantage.

But Loomis and his scouting staff came up with an incredible catch last April. What other playoff contender has had two seventh-rounders start by midseason? New Orleans has had Colston starting all season, and Zach Strief started at left tackle on Sunday and shut out Simeon Rice in Tampa. If safety Roman Harper and defensive end Rob Ninkovich hadn't been hurt in the first half, this would be one of the most productive drafts ever in regards to immediate results.

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