We asked our panel of experts and insiders to select their choices for various awards for the 2017 season. We will reveal their answers over the coming days.
Next up, a look at who is the 2017 Chargers Rookie of the Year:
Ricky Henne – Dan Feeney
He may not be as sexy of a pick as Austin Ekeler or Desmond King, but Dan Feeney more than held his own as the team's starting left guard the final nine games of the season. Thrown into the fire following Matt Slauson's season-ending injury, he played a pivotal role as part of an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (18). The Chargers ended up with the league's number one passing offense, and won six of nine games after Feeney took over for Slauson. While Feeney has a long way to go before he fully realizes his potential, he also gained valuable experience as he figures to play a key role up front for years to come.
Hayley Elwood – Desmond King
Coming off an impressive training camp and preseason, Desmond King was considered the "steal" of the Bolts' draft after he was taken in the fifth round. However, much attention was going to be paid to see if King could continue that level of play when it counted – he did. King's progression throughout the season was what you want to see out of a rookie; steady improvement each week. He finished the season with 71 total tackles, six tackles for loss, six QB hits and four sacks. He notched his first-career interception in Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys, which he ran back 90 yards for a score. While he played an integral part in his team's secondary as a rookie, the ceiling is high for King, and I'm looking forward to what he'll bring in 2018.
Matt "Money" Smith – Desmond King
To think they lost their second-round pick for the season and their first-round pick for half of it, it speaks to the great job John Spanos, Tom Telesco and the crew did evaluating in the later rounds and with CFAs. A fifth-round pick thanks to some shaky combine numbers, were there a redraft, the man with a full stat line – 76 tackles, four sacks, one interception, five stuffs – would likely go a few rounds higher. Whenever the Chargers needed a play to be made, it seemed King was the guy in the middle of it all.
Nick Hardwick – Desmond King
Solid. Stable. Instinctual. Desmond plays like a vet at such an early age. The kid was built to make plays on a football field.
Chris Hayre – Desmond King
It's rare that a fifth-round draft pick would receive this type of recognition, but King is a rare player. He dazzled during the preseason, and those who watched closely knew it would be a matter of time before hearing his name called consistently on Sundays. Kudos to the coaching staff for finding him a role that maximized his strengths as the Jim Thorpe Award winner made his presence felt on defense and special teams.