This week, Gillette is holding their NFL debate on who is the NFL's offensive player of the year.
While, league-wide, most consideration will be given to Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning (maybe with a little discussion for Tom Brady thrown in there), I thought it would be interesting to debate who you think is the offensive player of the year on the Patriots... other than Tom Brady.
Of course, this reward usually isn't reserved for the most valuable player on offense, it's usually the type of reward that goes to the player with the most flashy stats. Nonetheless, here's a few players who I think make valuable candidates:
Stevan Ridley, RB: Ridley has had the most productive season for a Patriots running back since Corey Dillon in 2004. In 15 games, Ridley has 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns. The only thing working against him is his fumbling issue, which has crept up on him a few times this year. Other than that, he's provided a key dimension to the Patriots offense, as they now need to be legitimately feared on the ground and in the air.
Wes Welker, WR: For all that talk about Wes Welker being phased out of the offense - look how he's responded. He proved to valuable to the offense to sit, and for the fifth time in a Patriots' uniform, reached the 110 reception mark this past weekend. Though Welker still has his doubters, he's truly more than a system player.
Brandon Lloyd, WR: Lloyd has had his ups and downs in his first year with the Patriots, although he's come on strong as of late. For the year, Lloyd has 73 catches for 902 yards and four touchdowns. However, he's provided an important deep presence for the Patriots, opening up more things underneath for players such as Welker and more recently Aaron Hernandez.
Rob Gronkowski, TE: Gronkowski was on track for another huge season before going down with an arm injury against the Colts in week 11. Still, Gronkowski has 748 receiving yards and leads the team with 10 touchdown receptions. Although his sample size is smaller, he's had arguably as good of a year as any other Patriots skill player.
Aaron Hernandez, TE: Like Gronkowski, Hernandez has missed a good chunk of the year due to injury. Nonetheless, in just nine games, Hernandez has recorded 46 catches and 5 touchdowns. Probably not enough to be considered the offensive player of the year, but impressive nonetheless.
Danny Woodhead, RB: Here's my darkhorse candidate... but he'd probably fall under the "most valuable" category, as he doesn't have the flashiest stats. For the year, Woodhead has 283 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and 367 yards and three touchdowns in the air. But whenever you need a big play, it seems like Woodhead is there to make it. In terms of production per snap, Woodhead has to be there with any other offensive player on the Patriots.