QBs May Steal Headlines, but Don't Forget About These 15 Impressive NFL Rookies
As it stands right now, the rookie class of 2012 will be remembered as the class of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
As good as those three have been and could be, the rookie class is bigger than three quarterbacks.
This list is a mixture of rookies other than quarterbacks who have stood out this season and others who have shown promise to be important to their teams' success in the future.
These may not all be flashy Rookie of the Year contenders, but they have been and will be important to their teams' success.
The Running Backs
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Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Round 1, Pick 3
It only took 14 games for Richardson to score more rushing touchdowns than any other rookie in Browns history. He is one of two offensive Cleveland players to make this list and brings some hope to Browns fans for a bright future.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1, Pick 31
Martin burst onto the scene and fantasy football relevancy early on in the season. His 1,250 rushing yards are good enough for fifth in the entire NFL. Martin's presence is the backfield has given Tampa a great balance to their offense alongside quarterback Josh Freeman.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Round 5, Pick 170
Ballard has only run 164 time for 667 yards on the season, but considering how bad the offensive line is in front of him that's not bad. Ballard has already shown he is a better back than Indianapolis' incumbent starter Donald Brown and should be an important piece in a young and improving Colts offense.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Round 6, Pick 173
Robert Griffin III has gotten most of the credit in Washington, but Alfred Morris has been incredible in the run game. His 1,322 rushing yards are the third highest in the entire NFL. Morris can run the ball effectively from both straight handoffs and the important option game Washington has run this year.
Bryce Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
Round 7, Pick 229
When LeSean McCoy was knocked out of the lineup for the Philadelphia Eagles, Bryce Brown was able to step right in. Brown showed his explosiveness and ability to make a big play. If he can fix his fumbling problems he could be a really good back in the coming years.
Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
Round 7, Pick 252
Richardson only has 466 yards on the year and has yet to score a touchdown, but he has been Steven Jackson's primary backup this season—beating out the Rams' second-round pick Isaiah Pead. Depending on Jackson's future in St. Louis, Richardson's role could become much greater in the Rams offense starting next year.
Future Breakout Wideouts
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Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Round 2, Supplemental draft
Many people questioned the high pick on Gordon in the supplemental draft because he was more of a raw talent than finished product coming out of Baylor. Gordon, though, has shown he was worth a second-round pick with his production this year. He has 759 receiving yards and five touchdowns, despite fellow rookie Brandon Weeden being the one throwing him the ball.
Mohammad Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
Round 3, Pick 83
Before Sanu was placed on injured reserve, he was becoming more involved in the Cincinnati offense and looked to be a good complement on the other side of AJ Green. Sanu only had 16 catches, but four of those went for touchdowns. Sanu also threw a 78-yard touchdown pass this year.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Round 3, Pick 92
Hilton has been a dynamic playmaker for the Indianapolis offense and special teams. Hilton has been able to hit big plays as a receiver, with 716 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Hilton has also been great in the punt game as he ranks seventh in the NFL in punt return average.
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Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Round 1, Pick 9
Kuechly is everything the Panthers hoped they were getting with the ninth overall pick. He not only leads the team in tackles with 138, but that total is the second best in the entire NFL. Kuechly is the perfect centerpiece for Carolina to build its defense around for whoever may be the one building it after this season.
Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks
Round 1, Pick 15
Back in April, Irvin was considered a bit of a reach as the 15th pick in the first round. He has shown, though, he can do exactly what Seattle needed him to do for their defense. With eight sacks, Irvin is a great pass rushing presence in what has been a dominant Seahawks defense.
Chandler Jones, New England Patriots
Round 1, Pick 21
Jones has been an important piece in New England's defense this season and has room to improve. He has crowded the line of scrimmage with six sacks and three passes defended. He also has showed the skill of forcing fumbles as he has already forced three this year.
Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Rams
Round 2, Pick 39
Jenkins slipped to the second round because of character issues even though he was a first-round talent. The Rams are happy he did as he has been great on and off the field in St. Louis. Opposite Cortland Finnegan, Jenkins has been stellar in coverage with three interceptions. Once he gets the ball he is dangerous as he has returned those three interceptions for 109 total yards and two touchdowns.
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 2, Pick 58
David has been all over for the Tampa Bay defense—in a good way. David is slightly behind Kuechly with 124 tackles, but that total is still good enough to be in the top ten in the league at seventh. David has been a great mixture of youth and production to a defense that has been slightly older in the past couple of seasons.
Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
Multiple red flags cause Burfict to go undrafted, but he has been perfect so far in the Cincinnati defense. He has shown the talent that once projected him to be a first-round pick. His 101 tackles is second on the team behind only Rey Maualuga. Burfict's presence on the field is a big reason the Bengals are currently in the playoff hunt.