Predicting NFL Rookie Stat Leaders in Every Offensive Category
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Rarely do offensive rookies make a huge impact during their first year in the NFL. Sure, every now and then you get an Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson or Randy Moss, but it's more common to see rookies struggle to make a big impact in year one.
While the 2013 NFL draft class doesn't appear to have the elite superstars last year produced in Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson or Luck, it does have a handful of players who are ready to produce. They might not put up huge statistics, but they'll definitely contribute to an offense early.
Here's a look at our predictions for rookie stat leaders in every offensive category.
Passing Yards, Touchdowns and Interceptions
Matt Miller Breaks Down EJ Manuel
Stat Leader: EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
The problem with predicting the leader for quarterback statistics is that all of the 2013 quarterback prospects would be best served to sit on the bench for a year or two. However, due to their respective quarterback competition, the top two candidates to produce as rookies are Manuel and Wilson.
Manuel simply has to beat out Kevin Kolb to earn the Week 1 starting job, which he'll have a good chance of doing. The Bills didn't spend a first-round pick on a quarterback to not give him a shot to win the starting job.
In terms of natural abilities, Manuel was one of the most impressive prospects in this year's class. He has a strong arm and the ability to make plays on the run, but he needs to improve his overall consistency. Once he does that, he'll be a solid starting quarterback in the league.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Wilson, Oakland Raiders
Wilson only gets an honorable mention because he likely won't see playing time until later in the year. The Raiders brought in Matt Flynn in the offseason, and he'll likely start the year as the No. 1 quarterback for Oakland.
However, once the Raiders struggle through the first half of the season, don't be surprised to see Wilson thrown in the starting lineup.
Least Sacks Given Up
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Stat Leader: Eric Fisher, Kansas City Chiefs
The reason Fisher beats out a player like Luke Joeckel for giving up the least amount of sacks is because of the quarterback. Joeckel has to potentially block for Blaine Gabbert, who basically has the worst pocket presence in the NFL.
Fisher, on the other hand, will be blocking for Alex Smith, a veteran who understands how to get rid of the ball to not take a sack. This, along with Fisher's elite athleticism and talent as a left tackle, will make him give up a rather low amount of sacks this season.
Honorable Mention: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
Johnson might sound like a surprising choice for honorable mention here, but I actually believe Chip Kelly will help Johnson succeed. On top of that, Michael Vick's ability to elude pressure will help Johnson in this category.
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Stat Leader: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
The only thing standing in the way of Bell becoming a No. 1 running back in the NFL is Jonathan Dwyer. With the Steelers actually trying to trade Dwyer on the day of the draft, it's obvious that they aren't committed to him as their No. 1 back.
Bell is the ideal running back for Pittsburgh; he's the type of back that the Steelers have loved for years. He's a powerful running back who doesn't shy away from contact and can successfully pick up yards on the ground.
Few people expected Bell to get drafted in the second round, but the Steelers obviously thought he was exactly what they needed to boost their struggling running game. Look for Bell to be a major part of the offense and lead all rookies in rushing attempts.
Honorable Mention: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Just like Bell, Bernard got drafted into an ideal situation with the Bengals. The only running back above him on the depth chart heading into training camp will be BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
While Green-Ellis is a solid back, he's far from the dynamic running back that Bernard is. Bernard is also a great receiver out of the backfield, making him a better option as an every-down back for the Bengals.
It won't be long until Bernard is getting the majority of the carries in Cincinnati.
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Stat Leader: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
While Le'Veon Bell will have more carries than Bernard, it will be Bernard who leads all rookie rushers in rushing yards.
Bernard has the abilities to make a big play every time he touches the ball. With Cincinnati having a dynamic passing game, defenses won't be able to specifically plan to take away Bernard, either.
There is no doubt that Bernard will eventually be a three-down back for Cincinnati. Once he does that, he has the overall skills to become a very productive running back in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
This might come as a surprise, but Stacy could actually emerge from the preseason atop the Rams depth chart. Without Steven Jackson in town, it's a wide-open race between Stacy, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson.
Neither Pead nor Richardson proved to be the franchise running back last year. Stacy is an underrated talent who can contribute in a number of ways on offense.
Even if he isn't the full-time starter for St. Louis to start the season, Stacy will be a big contributor throughout the season.
Matt Miller Breaks Down Eddie Lacy
Stat Leader: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
The Packers only had seven rushing touchdowns for running backs during the 2012 season. It's likely that Lacy will have more rushing touchdowns than that as a rookie.
While Lacy could lose carries to Johnathan Franklin, he won't lose touches in the red zone. Lacy has a knack for finding the end zone, as evidenced by his 17 rushing touchdowns last year.
Even though the Packers will surely depend heavily on their passing game like they have in recent years, don't be surprised if Lacy becomes a huge part of the red-zone offense in 2013.
Honorable Mention: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Much like Lacy, Bell is a bigger back who'll excel in goal-line situations. We've already touched on Bell becoming a huge part of the Steelers offense in 2013, and he should rack up a number of touchdowns as a result.
He'll certainly be a candidate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award after what should be one of the more solid rookie seasons.
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Stat Leader: Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
There may not be a more dynamic rookie coming into the league this year than Austin. All the Rams need to do is simply figure out how to get the ball in his hands.
Few offenses have had a lack of weapons like St. Louis, but Austin changes everything for this franchise. He's an incredible athlete in the open field who consistently makes plays after the catch. He'll quickly become a favorite target of Sam Bradford.
While it's possible that Austin has a number of receptions end up with short gains, he'll easily be the rookie leader in receptions for the 2013 season.
Honorable Mention: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
For the longest time, the Texans have needed to draft a legitimate No. 2 receiver to complement Andre Johnson. They finally did it this year when they grabbed Hopkins in the first round.
Hopkins is an extremely talented wide receiver with great hands and the ability to make plays in the short, intermediate and deep passing games. He'll be the second-best receiver in a high-powered offense, and he should have a very productive rookie season.
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Stat Leader: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
The Texans got a legitimate weapon in Hopkins, who'll be able to produce almost immediately.
Hopkins is an incredible talent with an overall skill set similar to that of Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons. He's going to instantly gain the confidence of quarterback Matt Schaub due to his sure hands and solid route-running ability.
What makes Hopkins likely to lead the league in receiving yards is his playmaking ability in the open field. He consistently picks up extra yards after the catch and will bring the Texans offense to a whole different level.
Honorable Mention: Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
Much like Hopkins, Woods enters an ideal situation with the Bills. He'll come in as the No. 2 receiver for an offense with the potential to be dangerous.
What makes Woods a guarantee to instantly produce for Buffalo is the fact that he's an extremely polished receiver who comes from a pro-style college offense. He should have a very productive rookie season for the Bills.
Yards Per Reception
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Stat Leader: Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown ahead of him on the depth chart, Wheaton won't be a consistent option for the Steelers as a rookie. However, he is a big-play threat who will play a role similar to what Mike Wallace used to play early in his career for Pittsburgh.
Wheaton should quickly become the top vertical option for Ben Roethlisberger. He also has the ability to make a move in the open field and break off a huge run.
Overall, Wheaton has the potential to become an extremely talented receiver for the Steelers, but he'll likely start his career as only a deep-ball receiver.
Honorable Mention: Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills
It's likely that Goodwin will have a minimal impact his rookie season. However, the impact that he does have will almost certainly be in the vertical passing game.
Goodwin has elite speed with incredible acceleration to consistently beat cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage. He'll need to get a little more physical to become a legitimate weapon for the Bills, but his speed makes him an instant weapon down the field.
Matt Miller Breaks Down Cordarrelle Patterson
Stat Leader: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
What makes Patterson such a threat to catch numerous touchdowns is the fact that he's an elite deep-ball weapon. He has the athleticism to consistently win jump balls and 50-50 situations against cornerbacks.
However, where Patterson will surprise defenses is with his open-field lateral quickness. He's so dangerous with the ball in his hands that he'll even make big plays in the short and intermediate passing games.
Simply put, Patterson might not rack up a ton of receptions, but he should find the end zone plenty of times during his rookie season.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Despite playing behind Jermaine Gresham in Cincinnati, Eifert is simply too talented to not make an impact as a rookie. Where that could be to start the season is in the red zone.
Eifert is a big target at 6'5", and he has extremely consistent hands. He'll catch a surprisingly high number of touchdowns as a rookie while gaining the trust of Andy Dalton for the future.