NFL

Ranking The Top 30 Rookie Seasons In NFL History

Darren - July 27, 2020
NFL

Ranking The Top 30 Rookie Seasons In NFL History

Darren - July 27, 2020
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

19. Ben Roethlisberger

‘Big Ben’ is one of the most popular quarterbacks in the NFL today. But brilliance came naturally to the Pittsburgh Steeler. First of all, he went 13-0 as a starter in 2004. You can’t do much better than that. Meanwhile, the Steelers made it all the way to the AFC Championship game.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Roethlisberger threw for 2,621 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns. His brilliance earned him the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. A two-time Super Bowl winner, Roethlisberger is also a six-time Pro Bowl selection, showing this was no fluke.

Mandatory Credit: UA TODAY Sports

18. Darius Leonard

It’s a fact that the reputation of a player’s college can affect their placement in the draft. After starring at South Carolina State, Leonard found himself in exactly this situation. In his rookie season, Leonard led the league in tackles and was a First-Team All-Pro as well as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

To sum up, he was a rock in the backline. The linebacker led the NFL with 163 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, as he helped revitalize the Colts’ defense. Furthermore, he broke all manner of Colts’ defensive records throughout the season.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

17. Alvin Kamara

The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year had a phenomenal season by anyone’s standards. Kamara’s 6.07 yards per rush was an NFL rookie record. Finishing with 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, he was magnificent alongside Mark Ingram.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Kamara and Ingram became the first running back duo in NFL history to each have over 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season. In sum, it’s no surprise Kamara is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. The only way is up for this young man.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

16. Kareem Hunt

Although Alvin Kamara stole the headlines in 2017, Hunt was also brilliant. The Kansas City Chiefs drafted him and it proved to be a brilliant move because he was one of the best running backs in the league that season.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Hunt led the NFL in rushing during his rookie season with 1,327 yards and had eight touchdowns. He averaged a 4.9 yards per carry and also added 53 receptions for 455 yards and three receiving scores. It was brilliant while it lasted for him in Kansas City. Of course, his stay was short after he struck a woman on camera and was released.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

15. Jevon Kearse

Usually, it takes a few seasons for a defensive player to enter their prime. They have to develop physicallyand  develop the mental aptitude to make the correct decisions. However, Kearse had the year of his life in 1999, producing numbers in his rookie season that he never managed to replicate again.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Kearse was a colossus for the Tennessee Titans. He had 48 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and a staggering eight forced fumbles. The Titans got all the way to the Super Bowl. It was no surprise that he won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Fans nicknamed him ‘The Freak’ because of his exceptional wingspan and athleticism.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Prescott had a great rookie season. Initially he was a backup, but an injury to Tony Romo suddenly catapulted him into starting. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Prescott demonstrated a high level of play in an amazing debut year.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie, Prescott started all 16 games. Hhe achieved 3,667 passing yards, 282 rushing yards, and 29 total touchdowns with a mere four interceptions. Meanwhile, his passing rate was the fourth-best in the entire league. Thanks to this showing, he went to his first Pro Bowl and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Russell Wilson

It’s laughable now, but the Seahawks faced a lot of criticism for drafting Wilson in the 2012 draft. They had also signed Matt Flynn as a free agent and didn’t expect much from the rookie. Furthermore, Wilson was the 75th pick overall. But he emerged as Seattle’s starter in week one.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Wilson broke the rookie passer rating and the NFL ranked him fourth overall that season. He threw for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns, tying Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie. Futhermore, he rushed for 489 yards and four more touchdowns.

Mandatory Cred: USA TODAY Sports

12. Andrew Luck

Imagine being the man who replaced Peyton Manning at the Indianapolis Colts. Luckily for Luck, his name worked in his favor because he was outstanding in his rookie year. Luck was one of the most exciting talents to enter the NFL Draft.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The first overall pick went on to produce scintillating numbers for the Colts. He had 4,374 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. Meanwhile, his passing yards were a new rookie record as he broke Cam Newton’s previous record. It was a sign of great things to come.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Fred Taylor

An All-American with the University of Florida, Taylor looked like a great prospect for the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted him in 1998. He produced some fantastic numbers in his rookie year and immensely upgraded their attack.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Taylor started 12 of 15 games for the Jaguars as a rookie in 1998, rushing for 1,223 and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 44 passes for three touchdowns. The running back went on to have a great career but only made the Pro Bowl once in 2007. Furthermore, he is a member of the 10,000 yards club.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. Doug Martin

Nicknamed ‘Muscle Hamster’ at Boise State because of his strength and short stature, Martin was excellent throughout his college career. This convinced the Tampa Bay Buccanneers to pursue him early in the draft. He repaid their faith by producing the best numbers of his professional career hos rookie season.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Martin had 319 rushes for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns to cap a stunning year. Furthermore, he was versatile because he was also a threat as a receiver, with 49 receptions for 472 yards. These numbers meant that he was on the short list for the 2012 Rookie of the Year, but fell short with Robert Griffin III winning.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Curtis Martin

The draft always throws up a few surprises. Nobody expected much from Martin as a third-round pick by the New England Patriots. However, he demonstrated that you can never predict who will be brilliant and who will be a bust. 1995 was a tremendous year for this running back.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Martin won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with the Patriots, rushing 368 times for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns. It was at odds with his place in the draft but as the likes of Tom Brady prove, that’s not always the best guide. Timing and the right environment can make all the difference.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. Jameis Winston

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner had an outstanding college career with Florida State. He was also an outstanding baseball player like Russell Wilson. However, football remained his first love. The Tampa Bay Buccanneers drafted him in 2015.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He threw for more than 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in a brilliant rookie season. Winston was also the third rookie quarterback to pass over 4,000 yards in a season. He made the NFL All-Rookie Team for his efforts and played in his first Pro Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Baker Mayfield

There’s no doubt Mayfield had a phenomenal rookie season. He joined a team that finished 0-16 the previous year, but instantly provided an injection of quality. Although was on the bench for the first few games, Mayfield soon made a difference when he became the Browns’ QB1.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

A Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Oklahoma, Mayfield guided the Browns to a 6-7 record. He threw for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns as the starter. As a result, there were massive expectations on his shoulders before his second season, but he flopped.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

6. Mike Anderson

Some say that Mike Anderson’s numbers in 2000 were less about his individual ability and more about Mike Shanahan’s game planning in Denver. The truth is that even if you’re just a piece, you still need to fit the puzzle. Anderson was highly effective during his rookie year as his stats below prove.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos picked him up in the sixth round, so not many expected much from Anderson in his first season. He had 297 carries for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. In the end, he won the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Evan Engram

2017 was an appalling year for the New York Giants, but they had one bright light in rookie tight end Engram. The young star broke onto the scene and posted excellent numbers as most of the rest of the team flopped around him. One player can’t do it all by themselves, but he tried his best.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He finished the season with 64 receptions for 722 receiving yards and six touchdowns after 11 starts. Despite his bright start to life in the league, he has suffered a lot of injuries in his last couple of seasons.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Patrick Willis

You’ll notice there has been a lot of running backs on this list, but there are far less defensive players. Willis was majestic in 2007 during his rookie season. An All-American with the University of Mississippi, Willis brought that form to the San Francisco 49ers. Instantly, he became a star.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It was no surprise that he won the Defensive Player of the Year award after his remarkable consistency. The middle linebacker had 135 tackles and four sacks on his way to All-Pro Honors. By the end of his first two seasons, Willis had established himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

3. Anquan Boldin

Boldin is another Florida State alumnus who went on to achieve great things in the NFL. Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, he was one of the most exciting players in the league that year. In the end, he won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The former second-round pick had 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season. Boldin was also the only rookie to play in that season’s Pro Bowl. Furthermore, he still holds the NFL record for most receptions in the first 26 games of an NFL career. It was a magnificent beginning to his professional career.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Barry Sanders

Another player who retired in his prime, Sanders was brilliant for the Detroit Lions. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award for his stunning efforts in 1989. The running back was incredibly elusive, using his ability and agility to great effect. His numbers that year back up all of the talk.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Initially, there were concerns about his size, but these proved to be groundless. He finished the season second in the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns. Sanders had 280 carries for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns after going third overall in the draft. It set him up for a brilliant career.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Brian Urlacher

Urlacher was unbreakable during his rookie season with the Chicago Bears. After performing poorly in his first game, Dick Jauron didn’t start him in week two. But he rebounded and proved his excellence.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He had 101 tackles and eight sacks in his rookie season and won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Both of these numbers eclipsed the Bears’ previous records. Furthermore, he made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. Not many players can claim that accolade. In sum, he was a superb linebacker and a deserving Hall of Famer.

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