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NFL Rookies with the Brightest Futures

Kevin MeekerContributor IIFebruary 25, 2012

NFL Rookies with the Brightest Futures

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    Despite the lockout, and less time with their respective teams, the rookies of the 2011 NFL season came into their first professional football seasons with full force.

    We saw numerous records, both rookie and not, broken or tied.

    We saw household names made in front of our eyes.

    We saw the future of the NFL, and it looks extremely promising.

    These are the rookies who have the brightest futures ahead of them.

Honorable Mentions

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    Aldon Smith, LB, San Fransisco 49ers

    Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings

    Brooks Reed, LB, Houston Texans

    Patrick Peterson, DB, Arizona Cardinals

    Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

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    What can you say about Cam that hasn’t already been said?

    Thirty-five total TDs, 4,051 passing yards, first player in NFL history with 4,000-plus passing yards, 500-plus rushing yards and 10-plus rushing TDs in a season, and a laundry list of rookie QB records.

    Above all the statistics, he just oozes swagger.

    He is a born winner and doesn’t accept anything less from those around him.

    He has Michael Vick’s throwing ability with Adrian Peterson’s running ability.

    How can you honestly not be excited about watching Cam play for the next 10-15 years?

Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

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    The second overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, right behind Cam Newton.

    Miller has become a tremendous asset to a Denver Bronco defense that never gets talked about because of the Tebow hype.

    He started and played in 15 games this season, grabbing 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles.

    A lot of experts considered the pick a waste because he wasn't suited to play linebacker in the system the Broncos are running and would fade out like Aaron Curry did in Seattle.

    Nope.

    The Defensive Rookie of the Year immediately found his place and made plays all season long.

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    The redhead QB from Texas Christian was a second-round pick for the Bengals, and experts still said he was selected too high.

    Oops.

    Funny how quickly Bengal fans got over the Carson Palmer drama.

    It really is true that winning fixes everything.

    Starting every game his rookie year, Dalton finished with 20 TD passes, 3,398 passing yards and did it all with the poise of a QB who has done this a hundred times before.

    That is why he is on this list.

    He is a QB that you want to hitch your wagon to and let lead your team.

    If the Bengals play it smart and build around him, they could be a very good team a lot more quickly than most people realize.

Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans

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    An odd choice for this list, but I believe he could be the best QB to come out of this draft class.

    With all the unwarranted hype around Gabbert and criticism around Newton, Locker, who projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, ahead of Sam Bradford, was lost in the QB talk for this draft class.

    Some thought he would even fall to the second or third round because of a lackluster senior season.

    He is currently in an ideal situation in Tennessee where he can sit and learn behind Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck for another season or two.

    In his five appearances as a rookie, he has looked good: throwing for four TDs, zero INTs, a rushing TD and a QB rating for 99.4.

    Locker has potential to be what Vince Young never turned out to be: a franchise quarterback.

AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

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    The second Bengal on this list.

    The Bengals have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years.

    In the 14 games this season, all of which he started, he hauled in 1,063 receiving yards and seven TDs, breaking Cris Collinsworth’s rookie receiving record for the team.

    He and Andy Dalton have developed an amazing chemistry together, and have the NFL record for yards and receptions by a rookie QB/WR tandem.

    He shows flashes of being in the same conversation as Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson.

    We should get used to seeing him in Hawaii for the rest of his career.

Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Washington Redskins

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    Kerrigan has shown all season why he deserves to be on this list.

    In his first game he deflected a pass, intercepted it and ran it back for a TD.

    Not a bad way to start off your career.

    He played in, and started, every game his rookie season and ended the season with 7.5 sacks.

    Although he hasn’t put up the stats that Aldon Smith for the 49ers has, he was a constant force in the backfield, a Rookie of the Year candidate and one of the few bright spots for the Redskins this season.

Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    The Falcons traded five draft picks, the 27th, 59th and 124th, from the 2011 draft, and their first and fourth for this upcoming draft to move up and take Julio Jones at the No. 6 overall spot.

    Meanwhile, Torrey Smith, receiver from Maryland, was selected with the 58th pick in the second round.

    The only thing separating these rookie receivers is five catches, 118 yards and one TD.

    The value the Ravens got for Smith is outstanding.

    Smith also did it all competing for catches with Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans and Ed Dickson, all while in a very run happy Baltimore offense.

    He has a bright future ahead of him, and Ravens fans should be thrilled to have him.

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