As a big draft fan, you can imagine I’m interested in how these rookies do. The draft is the fun part and it’s great to predict what will happen, but it isn’t until the following seasons where you can determine how a prospect has panned out. It’s too early to announce anyone as a bust, or great for that matter, yet, but I’ve compiled a team of rookies who I think have stood out this year and should continue to be successful going forward.
Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams – Drafted 1st Round(#1 overall) from Oklahoma
Sam gets this award because he has been the started since day 1. Has he been the most impressive rookie QB this year? You can make
the argument that he hasn’t. In fact, Colt McCoy has looked great in 6 starts this year and has put up better numbers than Bradford. I can’t give this award to McCoy though because of the previously mentioned 6 starts. It’s not to say Bradford has been bad. He has played really well at times. I think people should hold off on hyping up Sam Bradford as the next great QB and putting him in the conversation with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Bradford has played well because he’s been put in a situation where he doesn’t have to force anything. The Rams run a lot of short routes and screens which is why his YPA is a dreadful 5.9. This is red flag becomes more aware when you compare his stats when the Rams win(leading and play a ball possession offence) and when the Rams lose(he has to air it out Â down field).
In the Rams losses, Bradford’s stats look like – Â 57% comp rate, 5.3 YPA, 8 TD’s, 11 INT’s, and a QB rating of 66
In the Rams wins, Bradford’s stats look like – 62.3% comp rate, 6.8 YPA, 9 TD’s, 3 INT’s, and a QB rating of 90.8
Now the argument could be made that his play affects the team, and that is true. However, having watched him a few times this year he struggles when he has to come from behind. He is much more comfortable dinking and dunking his way down the field and handing the ball off to Steven Jackson. While this is fine, it means we still can’t make a judgement on him. How he progresses in the off-season is going to be a huge indicator of what he is really capable of.
LeGarrette Blount – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Undrafted from Oregon
Put simply, Blount has been a beast this year. He has rushed for just under 800 yards and 6 TD’s on a 4.7 average. His running style is so impressive though. He is a true power back. Michael Turner may be categorized as a power back because of his size and strength, but Blount is an old school straight up mean RB. This guy is a load to bring down and once he gets past the first level, it’s gonna take about 3 or 4 guys to bring him down. This is all from a guy that went undrafted and bounced around the league before landing in Tampa. Yes, he had character concerns coming out of college but no one would deny his talent. If he keeps his act straight, and stays healthy, he will be a beast for years to come.
John Conner – New York Jets – Drafted 5th Round(139th overall) from Kentucky
While he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet(has just 2 receptions), Conner was one of the only FB’s drafted this year. He sees time at FB but he plays special teams a lot which has allowed him to be active for every game. Conner is a physical run blocker and he looks to destroy anyone in his way. When he does get his shot, after Tony Richardson retires, Conner will get his chance to lead block for one of the leagues best duo’s at RB.
Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys – Drafted 1st Round(24th overall) from Oklahoma State
It’s a shame Dez Bryant suffered a season ending injury, he was really starting to come along. He developed a great rapport with Jon Kitna. He still managed 6 TD’s and showed Dallas fans just how talented he is. I expect him to develop into one of the leagues best WR’s in the next few seasons. His talent is amazing and if it wasn’t for his bogus maturity issues, he would have been a Top 10 pick.
Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Drafted 4th Round(101st overall) from Syracuse
Another talented WR that fell because of character concerns. His we’re a little more obvious as he quit the Syracuse football team. Regardless, he was impressive in pre-draft workouts and no one denied his talent. Obviously a lot of teams thought he was too big of a risk to draft early and he fell to the 4th round. He still has some issues with drops but he’s been Josh Freeman’s go-to-guy and has played a big part in the Bucs turnaround.
Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots – Drafted 4th Round(113th overall) from Florida
This draft class had a lot of talented TE’s. Among Hernandez other TE’s that have stood out are the Pats other TE Grankowski, Jermaine Gresham, Tony Moeaki and Jimmy Graham. I picked Hernandez because he is such a game changer. His speed is rare and he looks more like a WR than a TE, but he is still a decent blocker. He leads all rookie TE’s in yards, is second in receptions and 2nd in TD’s. Oh, did I mention he is also a threat on reverses? How many TE’s can do that?
Russell Okung – Seattle Seahawks – Drafted 1st Round(6th overall) from Oklahoma State
Okung has only started 8 games this year because of injury, but he has looked great in those 4 games. It’s amazing how much better the Seahawks line was when Okung was in the line up. The Seahawks definitely have their future LT.
Mike Iupati – San Francisco 49ers – Drafted 1st Round(17th overall) from Idaho
Iupati has probably been the best rookie OL this year. He has been consistent and has played more like a vet than a rookie. The 49ers other rookie 1st rounder, Anthony Davis, has struggled. If Iupati continues to improve, he’ll be one of the top guards in the NFL in a few years.
Maurkice Pouncey – Pittsburgh Steelers – Drafted 1st Round(18th overall) from Florida
Pouncey has also been great this year and has brought some much needed stability on the Steelers OL. Pouncey has been counted on as a starting C, which requires a lot of intelligence, and he has handled it well. He has had his ups and downs but for the most part he’s been one of the best on an inconsistent unit that has been riddled with injuries.
J.D. Walton – Denver Broncos – Drafted 3rd Round(80th overall) from Baylor
I know Walton is a Center and I’ve already listed Pouncey, but Walton has also been impressive. No other Guard has made much of an impact, not nearly as much as Walton. Walton was one of the top Centers in the draft but since the demand for Centers isn’t that high, he was only a 3rd round pick. Still, he has played well this year and has improved a lot since the start of the year. Hopefully he can keep that up.
Bryan Bulaga – Green Bay Packers – Drafted 1st Round(23rd overall) from Iowa
There hasn’t really been many OT’s that have made a positive impact. Trent Williams hasn’t been very good for the Redskins and he still needs a lot of work. Bulaga hasn’t been anything special, but he’s been solid. He has definitely improved an offensive line that was among one of the worst last years. With continued improvement, he’ll be a solid starter for years to come.
Ndamukong Suh – Detroit Lions – Drafted 1st Round(2nd overall) from Nebraska
In my opinion, the clear cut favorite for defensive rookie of the year. Suh has been a man amongst boys for much of the year. He
currently sits at 55 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 INT and a fumble return for a TD. Suh has been as dominant as I’ve seen a rookie be in recent years. While he has been and outstanding pass-rusher, his run defense has improvedÂ tremendouslyÂ in recent weeks as he is playing much more disciplined. With his talent and work ethic, he can be one of the best DL in the league shortly.
Tyson Alualu – Jacksonville Jaguars – Drafted 1st Round(10th overall) from California
Alualu was considered a reach by many, kind of like a more drastic version of the Raiders picking McClain. Yea they we’re reaches so you could say they we’re bad “values”. But what is that based off of? The mock draft community? I know that a lot of professional scouts had Alualu with a mid 1st round grade. McClain was my 5th ranked prospect at the time. It all depends on how you see this “value”. As it turns out, both Alualu and McClain have played well and both are on this All-Rookie Team.
Carlos Dunlap – Cincinnati Bengals – Drafted 2nd Round(54th overall) from Florida
This is the 4th player on my All-Rookie Team that was labelled as having character concerns. It just goes to show that there is a big reward to go along with that risk. Many people just see an arrest, or hear “things” and automatically label that player as a bust, lazy, or whatever. These players can turn their lives around, in fact many already have. Dunlap has worked hard this year and has really improved the game. He has 7 sacks, which leads all rookies, and they’ve all come in the past 6 games. If he keeps that up over a 16 game schedule, he’ll be lethal off the edge next year.
Lamarr Houston – Oakland Raiders – Drafted 2nd Round(44th overall) from Texas
Lamarr Houston played DT in college at Texas but he was always very athletic for his size. Before the draft I watched him and thought he would make a great UT because of his quickness. The Raiders had other plans, they moved him back out to DE, which he was originally recruited to play at Texas. You can’t argue with the results. He’s been a good run stopper but also has 4 sacks on the year, which is 3rd among rookie DE’s. The Raiders have some great players young players on their defense, including Houston, and should be a great unit in the upcoming seasons.
Rolando McClain – Oakland Raiders – Drafted 1st Round(8th overall) from Alabama
The linebacker group this year has been pretty disappointing. There hasn’t been many impact LB’s, especially because people have a tendency to think every LB will be great. I constantly hear people talk about how LB’s should be drafted in the 1st round because they don’t bust. At the same time, you could argue that mid-round LB’s also have a great success rate, so why draft one in the first? Anyways, that’s another topic. McClain has been great this year and has also dished out some spectacular, and legal, hits. He currently has 71 tackles, 4 PD, 0.5 sacks and an interception. He’s gonna be a beast.
Pat Angerer – Indianapolis Colts – Drafted 2nd Round(63rd overall) from Iowa
Angerer wasn’t even supposed to play this year but he was forced into action when Brackett got hurt. The rookie has had his struggles but has generally played well for one of the league’s worst run defenses. He has collected 78 tackles despite starting just 9 games. I’m not quite sure what plans the Colts have for him in the future, but he has proven he can play.
Koa Misi – Miami Dolphins – Drafted 2nd Round(40th overall) from Utah
Misi has been great this year rushing the passer. He has 4.5 sacks in 10 starts, while that may not be too impressive, he has looked really good. I think he can develop into a very good pass-rusher for the Dolphins down the road and they could have a great duo at LB with Misi and Cameron Wake.
Devin McCoury – New England Patriots – Drafted 1st Round(27th overall) from Rutgers
Man this CB class has been good thus far. McCourty may be the best, although he has some strong competition. The Patriots secondary was a mess but McCourty has brought some much needed consistency but he has also been a play maker. He has 21 PD with 6 INT’s. That’s among the lead best, rookies or all-pros. He’s going to be a good one.
Joe Haden – Cleveland Browns – Drafted 1st Round(7th overall) from Florida
McCourty may not be the best rookie CB, only because Joe Haden may be even better. Haden has been outstanding this year for the Cleveland Browns. He started off slowly but an injury to Eric Wright meant he could get more playing time, and he did not disappoint. Haden also has 21 PD with 5 INT’s. He has only improved as the season has gone on and he will be a tremendous player next year. Look out for him.
T.J. Ward – Cleveland Browns – Drafted 2nd Round(38th overall) from Oregon
The Browns hit on 2 great rookie DB’s. T.J. Ward is the leading tackler among rookies with 114. He’s no slouch in coverage either as he has 10 PD and 2 INT’s. These numbers are better than some of the veterans in the league. The Browns should be happy they have these 2 guys in the secondary.
Nate Allen – Philadelphia Eagles – Drafted 2nd Round(37th overall) from South Florida
Nate Allen was one of my favorite players in the draft last year. I had him rated as a 1st round and he was the 19th ranked player on my big board. I was excited to watch him play and was happy he was turning into the play maker I thought he would be. He had 3 INT’s in his first 4 games. How’s that for a rookie? However, his great season has ended with a serious knee injury. I can only hope he makes a full recovery and come back to play the game successfully. You hate to see a rookie go out like that.
Marc Mariani – Tennessee Titans – Drafted 7th Round(222nd overall) from Montana
There have been some great rookie returners this year but Mariani in my opinion has been the best. Not only is he 2nd among all rookies in KR average, he’s also 1st in PR average among rookies with 20 or more returns. Mariani has been a pleasant surprise no doubt, and this is a guy that went to small school Montana. Make no mistake, Montana has put out some decent NFL talent lately.
Deji Karim – Jacksonville Jaguars – Drafted 6th Round(180th overall) from Southern Illinois
I actually really liked Karim as a RB before the draft but playing behind Maurice Jones-Drew, he hasn’t gotten many opportunities. Instead, he has showcased his running skills on KR’s. He leads all rookies in KR average by just 0.1 yards more than Mariani. While Karim hasn’t scored an KR TD’s, he has been getting goodÂ consistentÂ yards on kickoffs. It will only be a matter of time before he breaks one.
So there it is. My All-Rookie Team for the 2010 season. I’d also like to mention a few rookies that didn’t make the team but have also played really well. There have also been some late round guys that have made an impact that didn’t quite make the cut. So here’s a shout out to Blair White, Chris Ivory, Brandon Banks, Jamar Chaney, James Starks, Arthur Moats, Nolan Carroll, Kam Chancellor, Geno Atkins, Jacoby Ford and Alterraun Verner, who just missed the cut for CB’s.
Thanks for reading and watch out for these dudes!