Cam Newton will most likely walk with the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award, but have there ever been so many legitimate candidates? In a year where quarterbacks and offense dominated the headlines, rookies were quietly having a major impact week in and week out.
2011 Pepsi Rookie of the Year Finalists
Drafted: 1st overall out of Auburn
Stats: 4,501 YRDS PASS, 21 TD; 706 YRDS RSH, 14 TD
First player ever with 4000 passing yards, 500 rushing yards, and 10 rushing touchdowns in the same season. This guy is a freak. Rookie record for passing yards and a record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. He might already have the award on display in his trophy room, next to his Heisman.
Drafted: 35th overall out of Texas Christian
Stats: 3,398 YRDS PASS 20 TD, 13 INT
A solid year from Dalton, passing for over 3,000 yards and leading the Bengals to the post season. He and fellow rookie A.J. Green will solidify the Bengals passing attack for many years.
Von MillerDrafted: 2nd overall out of Texas A&M
Stats: 64 TACK, 11.5 SACK, 2 FF
What’s not to like about this guy? He is huge, fast, and tough, playing in the postseason with an injured thumb fresh off surgery. Von Miller will be a dominant linebacker for years. He reminds me a lot of Terrell Suggs.
Patrick PetersonDrafted: 5th overall out of Louisiana State
Stats: 64 TACK, 2 INT; 699 PNT RTN YRDS, 4 TD
Started every game, returned a record 4 punts for touchdowns, and showed he is also a stout tackler. This guy is an incredible athlete and will be matching up with the leagues best receivers every week. Defensively he plays a lot like Charles Woodson, solid on coverage and can make a solo tackle. His punt returning skills are unmatched in the league.
Aldon SmithDrafted: 7th overall out of Missouri
Stats: 37 TACK, 14 SACK, 2 FF
22 years old and already one of the best edge rushers in the league. He was half a sack away from the rookie record. He and fellow Tiger Justin Smith make the 49ers pass rush one of the leagues best. It will be interesting to see how his production alters when he becomes an every down end.
Other Noteworthy Rookies
Drafted: Undrafted out of Massachuttsetts
Stats: 82 REC, 1,536 YRDS, 9 TD
Undrafted. Didn’t even make the Rookie of the year finalists. Can this guys get any love? Well he gets plenty of love from Eli Manning, and Giants fans were howling CRUUUUUZ all year. Rookie record for receiving yards, don’t expect this guy to slow down. Cruz may be Manning’s favorite target on an offense with a plethora of athletic receivers.
Drafted: 6th overall out of Alabama
Stats: 54 REC, 959 YRDS, 8 TD
When the Falcons traded up to get Jones many people were surprised. But it was obvious what the Falcons were getting, a huge receiver with big play potential. Longs of 80, 75, 49, 48, and 45 yards. Jones is just a few notches below Calvin Johnson.
Drafted: 4th overall out of Georgia
Stats: 65 REC, 1,057 YRDS, 7 TD
Although it is his teammate Andy Dalton who is a finalist for the Rookie of the Year Award, it is Green who is responsible for much of Dalton’s production. Countless times Dalton would just pitch the ball up high downfield and Green would seemingly come out of nowhere to snare it. His length and jumping ability make him a huge target, and his speed makes him a deep threat. He looks a lot like Randy Moss, but dare I say, more athletic.
Drafted: 71st overall out of Oklahoma
Stats: 164 RSH ATT, 897 YRDS, 2 TD, 5.5 AVG; 26 REC, 183 YRDS
His numbers do not match his production value. In the 5 games when Murray got 20+ touches the Cowboys were undefeated. Murray is illusive and powerful, and hard to bring down in space. He will be a productive back in the Cowboys rushing and passing game. He only fumbled once. I don’t know how this guy fell so low in the draft, he looks to be a solid every down back.
Drafted: 28th overall out of Alabama
Stats: 122 RSH ATT, 474 YRDS, 5 TD
This guy did exactly what the Saints wanted him too. He grinded out runs north and south, came in for short yardage, red zone packages and on 3rd down. He didn’t get 20 touches in any of the 10 games he played in, but he did lead the team in rushing attempts. The Saints haven’t fully tapped into Ingram’s potential, simply because they don’t need to. He only fumbled once.
Drafted: 59th overall out of North Carolina
Stats: 61 REC, 709 YRDS, 2 TD
Production wise, he was mediocre, but has anyone ever been highly productive in Cleveland? This guy is actually a beast, and his work rate is already at an elite level. The Browns should consider using him more in the running game, where he was highly productive in college.
Drafted: 105th overall out of Nebraska
Stats: 151 RSH ATT, 640 YRDS, 2 TD; 49 REC, 379 YRDS, 1 TD
When this guy got quality touches, he produced. He was the focus of the Washington attack for a few weeks late in the season. In the 4 weeks he got 25+ touches a game, gained 505 yards, and scored 3 TDs. He showed his value rushing and receiving. The Redskins did well getting this guy late in the draft, he looks to be a solid producer.