April 2013. Time for the NFL Draft. The New Orleans Saints were short on picks, and in desperate need of help on both defense and the O-line. That didn't stop PayLoo from picking up another offensive toy for the Sean and Brees aerial show, however. With four of their five draft picks, Benson's brain trust grabbed three defenders and an offensive lineman. But five rounds into the 2013 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints used their second-to-last pick to make Kenny Stills the 144th selection of the draft class.
Going into training camp, few people expected the rookie wide receiver to do much during the 2013 season. There was already plenty of competition among the diverse New Orleans receiving corps, most of which has had the luxury of working with Drew Brees for years. And there were others, like Nick Toon, who had already spent a year learning the system and were expected to get their shot before Stills. Even getting playing time would be an accomplishment for the University of Oklahoma rookie from Encinitas, California.
So how did Kenny Stills stack up? He was already selected three rounds earlier than his father had been 28 years earlier. But would he be able to make more of a name for himself than little-known Packers safety Ken Stills, Sr? With 1,696 players in the NFL (1,856 including practice squads), it can be difficult for even veterans to shine. So how much can really be expected of a rookie?
Every week, five rookies were chosen as the most outstanding in the league. Being chosen for the Rookie of the Week award is one of the greatest accomplishments for any first-year player throughout the season. But if standing out among Drew's dozen or so targets on the New Orleans Saints roster would be difficult, how could he possibly make himself stand out among all 750 rookies selected to NFL teams in 2013? With so many potential receivers, and a committee of running backs, it is difficult for anyone but the quarterback to shine brightly on the New Orleans offense. And even players who start making names for themselves among a fan base aren't necessarily standing out among the league. So, in many ways, Kenny Stills had the odds stacked against him among so many rookies.
Seven hundred fifty rookies entered the NFL with Stills last year. After 254 players were selected in the 2013 draft, almost 500 more were picked up as undrafted free agents. Of course, not all of those get playing time. But of those 750, five are chosen as having given outstanding performances each week. Obviously, there are plenty of quality rookies who were never selected for the honor... which is reserved for the top two-thirds of the top one percent of all candidates. Would any of our rookies perform well enough to earn that distinction?
Kenny Stills was the only member of the New Orleans Saints to be nominated as Rookie of the Week all year. And he was nominated for the award four times. He was considered one of the top five rookies in the NFL in one out of every four games he stepped on the field. And he accomplished this despite being just one of many cogs on an already high-powered offense. The fifth round Draft pick studied and worked his way into one of the top two offenses in the NFL, and appeared in all 16 regular season games with 10 starts. During his rookie season, Stills recorded 32 receptions, 641 yards, and five touchdowns with an NFL-best 20.0 yards per catch average. And he stood out as one of the NFL's top rookies, despite being hidden in an offense where Drew Brees spread the ball around to ten or more receivers on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately for Kenny, the final selection for the Rookie of the Week award is whittled from the top five to one by fan votes. And his name did not stand out enough for the fans to lock him in for the award. But he was certainly one of the better rookies in the NFL in 2013. Had we voted him in even once, he would have been in contention for the Rookie of the Year award. Of those who were considered for the year end award, only Eddie Lacy received more than Stills' four nominations for Rookie of the Week. And only Keenan Allen won the weekly award more than once.
Over the course of the 2013 season, Stills had 32 receptions for 641 yards, with four of them surpassing 50 yards each. His four nominations for Rookie of the Week are outlined below:
Week 1 (Atlanta Falcons)
Stills is nominated for the NFL Rookie of the Week after catching two passes for 86 yards against the Falcons.
Other nominees: New York Jets QB Geno Smith, San Francisco 49ers DB Eric Reid, Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel and Miami Dolphins K Caleb Sturgis.
Winner (by fan vote): Miami Dolphins K Caleb Sturgis was 3-for-3 on field goals, including one for a long of 49 yards. Sturgis also went 2-for-2 on PAT attempts during the Dolphins' 23-10 defeat of the Cleveland Browns.
Week 8 (Buffalo Bills)
Stills hauled in two TD passes with his three catches for 129 yards.
Other nominees: Arizona's Andre Ellington, Oakland's Sio Moore, Green Bay's Eddie Lacy and Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson.
Winner (by fan vote): Oakland Raiders linebacker Sio Moore recorded five tackles and two sacks in the Raiders' 21-18 defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Week 10 (Dallas Cowboys)
Kenny Stills had three receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown in the Saints' 49-17 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.
Other nominees: St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz, New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore, Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford.
Winner (by fan vote): St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown and had receiving touchdowns of 81 and 57 yards in the Rams' 38-8 win against the Indianapolis Colts.
Week 17 (Tampa Bay)
Stills had 76 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Saints' 42-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Other nominees: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Winner (by fan vote): San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had five receptions for 89 yards in the Chargers' 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite not receiving any nominations for Rookie of the Week, Saints 2013 first-round pick Safety Kenny Vaccaro was nominated for, and received the third most votes for, the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and was chosen to the All-Rookie team. So in the end, of only five draft picks, New Orleans selected two of the league's top rookies in 2013.