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Percy Harvin Tops Among Fantasy Rookies with One Week to Go

Published: December 31, 2009

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Playoff pictures are clearing up, superstars are resting for the playoff run, and rookies are starting to get more playing time than usual.

The regular season is a long 17 weeks, and successful teams need contributions from their rookies in order to make the playoffs and possibly win the Super Bowl. The top five rookies on this list all are on potential playoff teams that needed rookie contributions to get to this point.


1. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings

As Percy Harvin has struggled to get touches, so has the Vikings’ offense. Harvin is a difference maker on a team needing a spark. Look for the Vikings to get Harvin more involved in Week 17 to try and earn a bye in the playoffs.


2. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos

Moreno has been finding the end zone, but yards have been coming tough for this rookie running back. His engine could be running out of gas, but he will need to find a second wind if he expects to help the Broncos make the postseason.


3. Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals

Wells is the hottest rookie on this list. He was not even in the top five just two weeks ago and now he has moved into the top three. He is fresh due to splitting time with Tim Hightower all the season and some injuries that kept him sidelined early in the season. He is showing the NFL why he should have been the first running back drafted, in his mind.


4. Austin Collie, WR, Colts

“Mr. Reliable” makes all the catches for the Colts, but he has too much other competition for touches in the offense. Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, and Dallas Clark still deserve most of the touches, which makes what Collie has done this season even more impressive.


5. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles

Maclin and the Eagles have been on a roll down the stretch of the season. Maclin has great speed and consistent hands that will make him a No. 1 receiver prospect for the Eagles for the rest of his career.

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Percy Harvin, Michael Oher, and The Best Rookies of 2009

Published: December 4, 2009

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In the NFL more than just about any other sport, the draft can make or break a franchise. Rookies in the league are required to learn on the job and, right from the beginning, are expected to contribute.

The draft is about talent and thinking toward the future, but with more and more money riding on draft picks, there’s pressure right away to perform. As has been seen again and again, sometimes that pressure gets to young players.

In a meritocracy like the NFL, few players get a free ride. Even though the top drafted players are already collecting a king’s ransom, many have already begun earning their keep with stellar performances this year.

With that, let’s look at the ten rookies making the most of their rookie campaigns and how important they have been to their teams.

Percy Harvin, WR/KR, Minnesota Vikings

Harvin has been as good as advertised in his first year in Minnesota. The kid just makes plays for his team.

He likely already has the rookie of the year award sewn up, barring a stunning final month from some of the other candidates, but it’s worth going into what he’s done so far.

Through 11 games he already has 693 yards from scrimmage, third among rookies. You can also add to that his 924 return yards, giving him the most aggregate yards of any rookie.

But more than just racking up real estate, he’s already managed seven touchdowns (five receiving, two on returns) with nearly 30 yards per return on average, tops in the league, also giving him the league lead for yards per touch.

All told, Harvin is just an offensive machine. He’s a big play waiting to happen. He’s not the best receiver or the best kick returner in the league, but his combination of talent and penchant for making a big play whenever needed makes him the no-question answer for rookie of the year, currently.

Brian Orakpo, OLB/DE, Washington Redskins

The way Harvin makes big plays on offense, Orakpo does on defense. He broke the rookie franchise sack record in Washington by the second week of November and keeps getting better.

He’s already got seven sacks on the year to go along with six QB hits and eight pressures, according to Pro Football (They also credit him with nine sacks, but he officially has seven.)

He’s managed that despite only rushing the passer on 212 snaps.

Sure, playing next to Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter will get you some pretty sweet matchups when you’re rushing the passer, but Orakpo is not a dog off his leash.

He’s a much more versatile player and his coverage skills, while still developing, have allowed the Redskins to use him in pass coverage on another 132 snaps.

You win as a rookie by being versatile and stepping in to help your team wherever possible. Orakpo has done that and has a bright future ahead of him because of it.

Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

There are easy ways to get noticed as a rookie in the NFL. One of them is to tie for the league lead in interceptions in your first year.

Byrd’s done that, tying with New Orleans’ Darren Sharper with eight picks. Even more impressive? He’s done that in just 519 snaps, 132 less than Sharper.

He doesn’t provide the all-around safety skills that Sharper does, as he’s used mostly in a coverage role, but he’s not asked to do those things in Buffalo’s defense.

Byrd’s got a bright, bright future ahead of him. He plays with a lot of talent in the Bills secondary, but he’s carved himself out a nice niche despite that.

Not bad for the 42nd pick in the draft.

As I said before he’ll have to develop some of the more all-around skills a safety needs beyond ball hawking, but if there’s any rookie that can lay claim to being “the next Ed Reed” it’s Byrd.

Michael Oher, T, Baltimore Ravens

While Oher has gotten plenty of publicity for his tortuous life path that has led him to the NFL, it’s the work he’s put in during his first year that has impressed me the most.

Oher has started every game in his rookie year for the Ravens, helping man the edge of one of the best run-blocking units in the league. He’s a big, bruising, nasty player and is a pleasure to watch.

Simply put, he’s one of the best right tackles in the league already. His sheer athleticism and raw technique make him a perfect fit for the position.

He was drafted as high as he was because of his possible future as a franchise left tackle, but with Jared Gaither still in Baltimore he has some time to wait.

Still, he’s already filled in admirably guarding the blind side in the two games Gaither was injured against Cincinnatti and Minnesota as the Ravens gave up just five sacks in those two games.

Clearly, he’s got a big future ahead of him.

Sebastian Vollmer, LT, New England Patriots

When Matt Light went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter of what would eventually be a loss to Denver, New England’s season seemed to be going down the toilet.

It’s not often that a team already having protection issues can lose its Pro Bowl left tackle and find an immediate replacement in the form of a late second rounder who didn’t even start playing football until he was 14.

Yet from the time Vollmer stepped into the limelight, he’s been a revelation, to the point that many in New England are questioning whether Matt Light, who has at times looked lost against the best pass rushers in the league, should even get his starting job back.

Vollmer was lucky enough to be eased into the league with early starts against the Buccaneers and Titans but when faced with Joey Porter of the Dolphins and the Colts’ Dwight Freeney, he stepped up to the challenge, holding both sackless.

He’s been given help in the form of tight ends and chip blocks from New England running backs, as Michael Oher has in Baltimore, but even when left on his own, he’s been as good as one could possibly hope.

With left tackle one of the premier positions in the sport, it’s a miracle he slipped as far as he did. That New England traded out of the No. 23 spot with Michael Oher still on the board is somewhat less unforgivable because of Vollmer’s performance.

Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston Texans

Pick a USC linebacker, any linebacker was the mantra going into this year’s draft and with Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews, and Cushing all looking like first-round picks, it was clear why.

Maualuga had perhaps the most hype despite his injury, Matthews would ultimately beat him off the board, but it’s Cushing who has had the best rookie year of the trio.

He’s been outstanding this year, winning AFC defensive player of the week twice. He’s a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year and has done everything the Texans have asked of him.

Like some of the other names on this list, he plays among a talented group that has allowed him to shine by taking some pressure off him, but he’s performed very, very well in nearly every game.

He’s second on the team in tackles, sacks, and stops according to Pro Football Focus. With all the talent around him, even on a team that doesn’t play great team defense, that’s amazing.

He’s a workhorse, too, playing in 687 defensive snaps, second on the team behind only DeMeco Ryans.

He was the second linebacker taken in the draft but with all he’s done for the Texans this year and how bright his future looks, he’s earned every penny of his rookie money.

So that’s the list. There are others, of course. Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy certainly deserve an honorable mention (though they’re lagging behind last year’s rookie runners), but this group has distinguished itself as some of the best rookie players this year.

One of the common themes, as I touched on briefly above, is the fact that these guys have had considerable help and play on, for the most part, very talented teams. It’s part of the curse of being drafted high; when you go to a bad team, opposing teams can gameplan to stop you. 

I think that, for the most part, there are more talented rookies who, for one reason or another, haven’t stepped up to the level of these players yet. Part of it’s opportunity, part of it is the natural development that being a rookie requires, but for 2009, these guys deserve the notice they’ve gotten.

Got a favorite or think I missed someone? Feel free to shout it out in the comments or shoot me a message here .


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Colts: Key Defensive Injuries Force Rookies To Step Up and Respond

Published: November 11, 2009

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The Indianapolis Colts have been hit by the injury bug and hit hard, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

With season ending injuries to key personnel including strong safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Marlin Jackson, the Colts have been forced to count on their rookie players to step up into the starting roles.

We’ll start at the corner position where rookie Jacob Lacey has been making a name for himself among the Colts players and opposing teams.

Lacey, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Oklahoma State, has filled in for the injured Kelvin Hayden and exceeded anyone’s expectations so far this season. He is seventh on the team in tackles with 35 (27 solo, 8 assists) six passes defended and one interception returned for a touchdown on the year through eight games.

The rookie, who was called on to defend one of the best wide outs in the game last week against the Houston Texans [Andre Johnson] held him to a lot of underneath passes from Schaub limiting his normally aggressive downfield play making capabilities.

Johnson did not catch a touchdown pass in the game while Lacey was defending him. Although he did have 103 receiving yards in the game, for the most part Lacey held him in check only allowing the short stuff in front of him and never gave up the big play.

Now we’ll go across the field to the Colts other rookie starting cornerback due to injuries in Jerraud Powers. Powers a third round draft choice by the Colts out of Auburn took over when fifth year man Kelvin Hayden went down with a knee injury in week two against the Dolphins.

Powers has only turned this into a huge positive for himself and the Colts. He is third on the team in tackles with 40 (33 solo, 7 assists) has forced a fumble, picked off a ball and has five passes defended.

Powers and Lacey have given the Colts a much needed lift on defense in the secondary as first year starters than anyone could have possibly imagined. This outstanding play has helped the Colts to be the number one scoring defense in the NFL through week nine allowing only 13.5 points per game.

Though the rookies are playing well now for the Colts, this Sunday will prove to be a different test all together for the young duo.

Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and the high powered New England Patriots offense come to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis for a Sunday Night Football showdown between arguably the best two quarterbacks in the game in Manning and Brady.

Both Powers and Lacey will have their skills, and I am sure their last nerves, tested to the brink and beyond when they peer across the line to see Randy Moss or Wes Welker looking back at them.

It will surely be a trial by fire of their skills, mental toughness, and muster when they go up against these two deep threats for the Patriots.

One thing is certain for both of these young talented players and for the Colts. If these two young corners can continue to play and develop as they have so far this season, the future is certainly very bright for them and the Colts to be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.

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Mid-Season NFL Report Card: Top 5 Impact Rookies

Published: November 4, 2009

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We have reached the halfway mark of the 2009 NFL season and this year’s rookie class is already making their presence felt. Out of the top five teams in the league, four of them have rookie starters that are making significant impacts. There are also a few rookies who will undoubtedly be Pro Bowl selections if they keep up their stellar play. Here is a look at the NFL’s Top 5 Impact Rookies at the halfway point.

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Austin Collie Makes His Move Among the NFL’s Rookies

Published: October 29, 2009

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Rookie wide receivers have taken over a majority of the weekly Rookie Report rankings.

There are three receivers in this week’s top five and plenty on the cusp trying to make their way into the elite group of rookies. Usually, wide receivers take the longest to become a factor in the NFL out of college—but not this season.

Last year was the year of the running back, save Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson, and this year has been the year for wide receivers to shine.

Alas, a running back remains at the top of the rookie rankings.

1. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos — Moreno is still the No. 1 running back of the rookie class, now coming out of his team’s bye week. The Broncos are 6-0 and he should be well-rested for a run at a division title and The Hazean’s Fantasy Rookie of the Year award.

2. Austin Collie, WR, Colts — Collie has been consistent the past few weeks, and leads rookie receivers in catches. He also is tied for first in receiving touchdowns. Collie is the same type of receiver as Anthony Gonzalez and I believe he still will see plenty of action when Gonzalez returns.

3. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings — Harvin had an average day as a receiver against Pittsburgh, but again he had a big contribution to the team. Harvin has proven to be a excellent kick returner by returning yet another kickoff for a touchdown last weekend.

4. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants — Nicks found the endzone again against the Cardinals. It was a little flukey, but a touchdown nonetheless. Nicks is a desirable big-play receiver, and Eli Manning can throw the ball up and watch Nicks go up and get it. Nicks is making Eli forget all about that other big target he used to throw to at receiver.

5. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets — Sanchez beat up on the Raiders just like he was supposed to. He did not throw for too many yards, but he did have two total touchdowns and a hot dog. The next quarterback to play the Raiders has to one-up Sanchez by eating a hot dog in the pocket or something.

Coming soon: Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers. Look out, fellow rookie receivers, for Crabtree already is on your heels.

Last Week’s Rookie Report Rankings:

1. Knowshon Moreno
2. Percy Harvin
3. Hakeem Nicks
4. Mark Sanchez
5. Austin Collie

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Cleveland Browns Fans: Do You Still Want To See The Rookies?

Published: October 27, 2009

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OK Browns fans, you wanted them…you got them. A good portion of the B/R Community was calling on head coach Eric Mangini to play the rookies.


The theory went, “this team isn’t going anywhere, so give the young guys a chance!”


I cannot tell you how many posts I have gotten since the beginning of the season arguing that we need to play Mohammed Massaquoi (Brian Robiskie, Kaluka Maiava, David Veikune, Coye Francies, James Davis, Phil Trautwein, Brett Ratliff).


Well Cleveland fans, with the exception of Trautwein (a marginal “professional” who was picked off the practice squad), James Davis (who was injured) and Ratliff (who couldn’t complete a preseason pass against players who are no longer in the NFL), here they are. Are you happy now?


I am not sure that everyone understands exactly how tough of a transition it is from the college level to the NFL.


It is one thing to plug in a rookie next to a bunch of veterans who can take the heat off him. But it is another thing to throw your entire draft out on the field and ask them to remain competitive. It just is not going to happen.


When starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson went down with injury last week, some opined that it was a “good thing” because players like Maiava and Veikune could learn on the job.


Maybe in the long run it is a good thing. But in the short run, this Browns team is going to get beat like a drum.


I tried to warn anyone who was listening that although getting rid of Braylon Edwards might have solved some clubhouse issues…you better be prepared for what is going to happen when he is gone.


Now that Edwards is gone the Browns have not one, but two rookie second round draft choices starting at wide receiver.


Let’s all just stop and think about what happens during the course of an average pass play.


The average NFL quarterback has about three seconds to make a read when he steps back to pass. It is currently taking almost two seconds for the rookie wide receiver class to even get off the line of scrimmage.


Those plays are dead before they even start!


On top of that, because the Browns are throwing the ball in a lot of second or third and long situations, teams are bringing the house at our quarterbacks. That is giving Browns quarterbacks even less time to deliver the ball.


Given the debacle that occurred last week against the Packers, there is a good chance that no one has this game TIVOed. But if you do, please watch the matchup of the Browns wideouts against the Packers cornerbacks.


There is just no way possible that anything the Browns call is going to work under those circumstances. There are times that Robiskie and Massaquoi cannot even get into the pattern they are running, let alone get separation.


Now I want you to watch a college game so you can see the difference between what an NFL receiver has to go through to get into a pattern versus a college wideout. You will rarely see college wide receivers have to fight off jams because college cornerbacks (outside of a few superior athletes) are afraid to get beat.


College wide receivers run their patterns without even getting touched at the line of scrimmage. That is why starting two second rounders at wide receiver is just asking for trouble.


Neither Massaquoi nor Robiskie is ready to accept that kind of responsibility. They are both physically and mentally over-matched.


The Browns currently have a rookie who should be a number two or three receiver as the number one option. They have another rookie who should be a number three or four receiver as the number two option. Lastly, they have a punt returner/former quarterback who is the number three option.


That is a recipe for disaster.


I even tried to find a photograph for this article of Brian Robiskie getting open; but sadly, no such picture exists.


If a team is forced to play multiple rookies (Alex Mack, Massaquoi, Robiskie, Veikune, Maiava, etc.) next to the average talent that is playing next to them, there are going to be days like the last three Sundays.


Why is a guy like the rookie WR Mike Wallace having such a good season in Pittsburgh? Wallace has two veteran receivers (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes) on the field with him. Wallace is lucky enough to be drawing the other teams’ third corner or safety on every play.


For those of you who are now calling on Brett Ratliff to take the snaps, be careful what you wish for.


Ratliff made the team only because he understood the playbook. He had a difficult time completing passes when facing other teams’ third and fourth stringers who did not even make a professional roster.


For those of you who think I am trying to excuse Derek Anderson’s play…you are wrong. But to point the blame for all of both the offense and defense’s troubles at one man is remarkably short-sighted.


The point I am trying to make is that although both Anderson and Quinn have been terrible…this offense has NO CHANCE. And the defense might be even worse. They are completely out-manned.


I do not care if either of these quarterbacks is the second coming of Joe Montana (which they are not), this offense is not going to move the ball consistently this year; or at least until the Browns play a few teams who are going through the same rebuilding process that they are going through (See Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland).


I am sure all you Quinn fans out there will get a chance to see Brady once again this season, out of necessity or choice. There is a strong possibility that even if Anderson is Mangini’s “guy,” he eventually will have to be dragged off the field on a stretcher while he waits for his young receivers to get into their patterns.


It is likely that the organization is in fact keeping Quinn off the field until they can assure that his salary escalators do not kick in.


While Quinn fans may get irritated by that gesture, it is the right move. Because if Quinn does have any trade value left, it will most certainly be gone once he receives that salary increase.


If Quinn is eventually re-inserted into the lineup, outside of the three games mentioned above, he will have no better luck putting the ball into the endzone. And it will not be all his fault when that happens.


There may or may not be talent among the current rookies on the roster (and there most likely is). But this isn’t college football anymore for some of these players, and there will be a lot of growing pains.


So if you can stand the beatings that will continue to ensue while this team grows up…that’s great. But make no mistake, this team will be taking a lot of beatings as long as all these youngsters are on the field at one time.


Don’t act surprised while it is happening.

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Top 20 Impact NFL Rookies

Published: October 17, 2009

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Six weeks into the season, there have been early round busts and some surprising late round picks. The Rookie of the Year race is heating up. Who will come out a pro bowler and who will be a bust throughout his career? Here are the rookies who have had the most (positive) impacts on their respective teams.

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NFL Impact Rookies 2009: Quarterback

Published: October 8, 2009

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There’s no denying the fact that thus far into the 2009 NFL season we’ve seen some outstanding play from two rookie signal callers, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford.

In order to better appreciate their accomplishments at the first quarter mark of the season, let’s see how they match up with their rookie quarterback predecessors of the last ten years in the first four games of their respective initial seasons.

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NFL Impact Rookies 2009: WR

Published: October 6, 2009

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Now that we’re a quarter into the 2009 NFL season, let’s step back for a minute and recognize some of the top rookie receiving talent that is already making noise on Sundays.

The following study juxtaposes the early contributions of these players with that of their first-year predecessors over the last ten years.

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Mark Sanchez Is Running Away from Fellow Rookies

Published: September 23, 2009

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Rookie Report, fantasy football, NFL, rookies

Hard to make an accurate assessment after two weeks, but I am going to throw this out there and see what you all think.

This year’s rookies are not even close to last year’s class.

Am I going to get killed in the comments for that? Highly doubtful. With the exception of New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez, I think it’s safe to say this year’s crop has underwhelmed considerably. Good thing there still is plenty of time for the rooks to pick up the slack.

Finally, the rookies that were expected to have immediate impacts this season are starting to live up to their potential. I think I will actually be able to have a list of the top-five rookies this week for the first time since the start of the regular season.


1. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets

What more can be said about Mark Sanchez? I thought he would be dead meat playing the New England Patriots. Sanchez struggled in the first half, but bounced back in the second half, while leading the Jets to a win over the Patriots.

He finished with only 163 yards passing and one touchdown, but he threw no interceptions. Sanchez has impressed so far in his first two games this season.


2. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos

Knowshon Moreno had an effective game running the ball for the Denver Broncos against the Cleveland Browns. He carried the ball 17 times for 75 yards and looks like he is on his on his way to becoming the No. 1 running back in Denver.

He is still losing touches to Correll Buckhalter and goal line carries to Peyton Hillis, but he should take carries away from Buckhalter as he improves.


3. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings

Percy Harvin has scored two touchdowns in two weeks. He only had 41 yards receiving due to Adrian Peterson hogging the yards from the backfield. The Minnesota Vikings don’t need to throw the ball as much because of Peterson, which may keep Harvin’s value down.


4. Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders

Louis Murphy did not supply the big plays he did in week one, but he did make two catches for 26 yards in week two against the Kansas City Chiefs. Murphy may soon fall from this list because of the inconsistencies in the Oakland Raiders’ passing game.

Until JaMarcus Russell can figure out how to be an NFL quarterback, Murphy will not be able to put up the numbers needed to remain on this list.


5. Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells, RB, Cardinals

Chris “Beanie” Wells showed a burst through the hole he has not displayed in previous opportunities probably due to preseason injuries. He finished with seven carries for 44 yards with a long of 17 yards.

Tim Hightower has performed well as the lead running back and unless he gets hurt or struggles, Wells will probably be delegated to the backup role in the desert.


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