Which NFL Rookies Will Put Up the Most Impressive Stat Lines Right Away?
Every year in the NFL, a number of rookies burst on to the scene and have an immediate impact.
There are a number of factors that determine rookie success besides simply having the talent. The most successful rookies usually have a nice supporting cast around them, especially skill-position players.
Another thing that can help a rookie adjust to the NFL is if he played out his full four-year college career.
However the biggest factor in determining a rookie's ability to fill up a stat line is simply having the opportunity.
Not many rookies have the chance too make an immediate impact as a full-time player right away, no matter how high they were picked.
Based on the three factors stated above—having the talent, the opportunity and the supporting cast—these are the rookies who will put up the best stat lines in their debut seasons.
Robert Griffin III (QB Redskins)
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Robert Griffin III has the potential to have a great stat line due to his status as a dual threat.
Anytime Griffin drops back to pass, he is capable of making a big play on the ground or through the air.
Griffin's rookie season will inevitably be compared to that of Cam Newton, and while nobody should expect him to even approach Newton's passing exploits, there's no reason he can't do what Newton did on the ground.
Newton was able to run for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. Those totals might be tough to match for Griffin because he may not get the 126 rushing attempts that Newton got, but he can certainly match Newton's 5.6 yards per carry.
Griffin has already been named the team's starting quarterback and will be expected to make plays from the start, so he should fill up the stat sheet quite well.
By the end of the season, expect Griffin to have an impressive resume, led by his total yardage and total touchdown numbers.
Trent Richardson (RB Browns)
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Like Robert Griffin, Trent Richardson is another player who will have the chance to fill the stat sheet based on the opportunity in front of him.
While many NFL teams are going to a platoon system at the running back position, the Browns drafted Richardson to be a workhorse.
Richardson has already said he won't change his running style as he enters the NFL, as he is ready to stick with his power-running style. That's an admirable thing to say, and it is something that Browns have lacked for a long time.
In addition to his power-running style, Richardson can also contribute as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Because of his all-around game, Richardson won't have to come out of the game in short-yardage situations, on the goal line or when they Browns want to work their screen game.
Last season, only seven of the top 20 running backs in the NFL played in all 16 games, and only 15 running backs topped 1,000 yards.
If Richardson plays a full schedule and runs the way he says he will, he will have enough carries to put him in the top 10 for rushing yards while contributing as a receiver.
Michael Floyd (WR Cardinals)
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Life hasn't been good for the Arizona Cardinals on offense the past two seasons without a viable second threat at wide receiver.
Cardinals fans are hoping that all ended with the selection of Michael Floyd.
Receivers sometimes don't have the easiest time adjusting to the NFL game, but Floyd will be different. Floyd played all four years at Notre Dame and was a key component in their offense, starting with his freshman year.
While other receivers might have to work on the nuances of receiving as they mature, Floyd should be ahead of the curve.
Floyd will have a a better statistical season than Justin Blackmon, who was drafted fifth overall, for two major reasons.
First, and most obviously, Fitzgerald is such a threat that defenses always key on him with their best cornerback and with their best help over the top. This will leave Floyd to work on an inferior cornerback with some open space downfield.
Head coach Ken Whiesenhunt was recently on Jim Rome's radio show and said that both quarterbacks are starting on equal ground, ready to fight for the starting job.
Last season, both quarterbacks combined for a shade under 4,000 yards and completed 297 passes, so there will be plenty of balls to go around.
Floyd is an experienced player, playing opposite one of the top receivers in the game in an offense where the passes should be flying. That all adds up to a very productive rookie campaign.
Luke Kuechly (LB Panthers)
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Of all the rookies in the NFL, perhaps the biggest sure-thing statistically is that Kuechly will rack up the tackles in Carolina.
Kuechly set an NCAA record last season at Boston College, when he averaged an incredible 15.9 tackles per game. Even if he doesn't match those numbers in the NFL, he should have no problem filling up the defensive stat sheet.
Kuechly joins a talented linebacking corps that admittedly needs to get younger and healthier.
James Anderson had a fine season last year and, at 28, is still in his prime. However, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are each coming off of injuries that kept them off the field for most of 2011 and required surgery.
That formula will mean Kuechly will be thrown right into the fire and expected to perform immediately.
Kuechly has already been named the starting weakside linebacker and possesses all the physical tools to live up to the hype right away.
Whitney Mercilus (DE Texans)
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On a defense already riddled with young superstars, Mercilus will play pressure-free and be allowed to do what he does best: get to the quarterback.
The Texans defense already features J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and Johnathan Joseph, so opposing offensive coordinators will have their hands full before they even take Mercilus into account.
Mercilus can't be expected to be Mario Williams right off the bat, but he doesn't need to be.
The past two seasons, the Texans defense has evolved into a unit that didn't rely solely on Williams the way it did in in 2007 and 2008. Mercilus can adapt at his own pace, relying on his strength and athletic ability while learning the speed of the game and his role in pass coverage.
While he may not approach the record-breaking statistic totals he did last season, Mercilus can be expected to fill out the stat sheet pretty well.
He should be active in the sack department, have a good number of tackles and cause his share of turnovers, something he had a knack for at Illinois.
David Wilson (RB Giants)
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Wilson is a versatile back who will be playing in one of the top offenses in the NFL and will have no problem producing as a rookie.
He should spell Bradshaw frequently, and his speed will prove dangerous to defenses that have to play loose against the deep threat Eli Manning poses.
However, Wilson will prove his worth and put up big stats when Bradshaw inevitably has to miss time.
Bradshaw has been known as a frail player in the past, and when he misses time, Wilson will slide right in and produce.
Expect Wilson to have a nice yards-per-carry stat line and rack up some receiving yards as well, as the Giants frequently involve their running backs in the passing game.
Alshon Jeffery (WR Bears)
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People outside of Chicago may not realize it, but the Bears have done a tremendous job in re-tooling their offense for the upcoming 2012 season.
They added Brandon Marshall via trade, signed Michael Bush, signed Jason Campbell and drafted Alshon Jeffery. Add in a healthy Jay Cutler, plus other returning contributors, and the Bears have the potential to have quite an offense.
One of the main beneficiaries to this gaggle of weapons will be the rookie Jeffery.
Jeffery has already drawn positive reviews from offensive coordinator Mike Tice and will provide a great compliment to Marshall.
Currently, Jeffery is listed behind Devin Hester on the depth chart, but that should change as the 2012 season progresses.
With Cutler at quarterback, Jeffery will have plenty of opportunities to make plays down the field. He may not have a ton of catches, as there are so many receiving options for Cutler, but the Bears will take numerous chances downfield with Jeffery.
Where Jeffery really has the chance to do some damage though is in the red zone. Marshall is an obvious target down there as a veteran with a ton of savvy on jump balls. He will draw the top cover man in any red-zone situation.
At 6'3", 215, Jeffery can also learn to be a dangerous target in the red zone and will benefit when other teams key on Marshall.
Courtney Upshaw (LB Ravens)
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When the NFL season ended and fans started turning to mock drafts to see where their teams stood, many teams in the middle of the first round had Courtney Upshaw listed as a possibility.
However, as the draft drew closer, Upshaw's name began to fall in mock drafts first and then in the actual draft. He was nabbed by the Ravens at pick No. 35, and both parties counted themselves lucky.
Upshaw's measurables don't fit the mold as a prototypical pass-rushing linebacker, but that's just fine with general manager Ozzie Newsome. In an article on nfl.com by Ian Rapoport, Newsome pointed out that Ray Lewis didn't fit the mold either.
Upshaw will have the chance to put up big stats his rookie year for many reasons, not the least of which is the injury to Terrell Suggs.
Upshaw will be asked to play the role of a rushing outside linebacker and will thrive statistically on a defense filled with stars.