This year’s NFL rookie class has some pretty serious talent, but the last 10 years have also seen some of the best in the game.
Here’s our top five:
Before Ben Roethlisberger became Big Ben and won 2 Super Bowls, he was just the 11th overall pick in the 2004 draft, hoping to make an impact. Well, as the story goes, he went on to an impressive 14-1 as a starter, throwing for 2,621 yards and breaking the rookie QB passer rating mark of 96 held by Dan Marino since 1983. Pretty good start, Ben.
Despite only playing in 14 games in his 2007 rookie campaign, Adrian Peterson managed to rush for 1,341 yards—268 receiving—and 13 total touchdowns. Peterson, averaging 5.6 yards per carry that year, was voted the AP’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team. LaDainian Tomlinson ended up with the rushing title that year, but Purple Jesus was on his way to a great career.
In 2003, Anquan Boldin made a statement very early. In Week 1 of that year, Boldin exploded for 10 catches, 217 yards and two TDs, setting the bar pretty high for rookies to follow. Luckily for fantasy owners and the Cardinals, this wasn’t just a one-time thing—Boldin finished the year with 101 catches, 1,377 yards and 8TDs.
Typically, offensive players with big numbers get the most attention when it comes to amazing rookie seasons, but Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller decided it was time for a change. The second overall pick of the 2011 draft managed 11.5 sacks, Pro Bowl honors and comparisons to none other than the great Lawrence Taylor, the linebacker who, 30 years prior, redefined the position as a rookie himself. No one will forget to mention defense from now on.
If Cam Newton hadn’t gotten everyone’s attention leading Auburn to a national title in 2010, he certainly did in his rookie season of 2011. He set numerous NFL and franchise records, including most single season passing yards by a rookie, most total touchdowns by a rookie and most rushing yards by a rookie QB. Newton beat the learning curve while most rookie QB’s experience a gradual, and often painful experience. This ended up putting him in the discussion for best rookie NFL season ever.