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Bleacher Report's 2013 NFL All-Rookie Team

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 30, 2013

Bleacher Report's 2013 NFL All-Rookie Team

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    The 2013 regular season has come to a close, and that can mean only one thing.

    No, not the playoffs.

    OK, so it means two things.

    It's awards season in the NFL. The Pro Bowl selections have already been announced, and soon the MVP, Rookies of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and others will join them.

    In the spirit of the season, the National Lead Writers and Division Lead Writers here at Bleacher Report have gathered to hand out some virtual hardware of their own.

    Here are their picks for the NFL's top newcomers in 2013.

Quarterback

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    Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 Votes)

    In 2012, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson played like Pro Bowlers. In 2013, the rookie crop at the quarterback position played like, well, rookies.

    In fact, Geno Smith, who was the panel's pick as top rookie passer at the season's halfway point, didn't garner a single vote in this go-round.

    Instead, it's a player who didn't start until Week 4 who gets the nod as 2013's top first-year signal-caller.

    Mike Glennon was the third quarterback taken in April's draft, but the former North Carolina State standout has given the Bucs reason to believe they've found their future at the position.

    Sure, there have been some bumps in the road along the way, but Glennon has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, thrown twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions and posted a respectable 83.9 passer rating.

    Those may not be RGIII numbers circa 2012, but they aren't terrible either. Neither are the Buccaneers' four wins since Week 10.

    Both offer the franchise hope in 2014.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills (2 Votes)

Running Back

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    Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (9 Votes)

    The Green Bay Packers never would have been in a position to win the NFC North in Week 17 were it not for Eddie Lacy's hard running.

    With quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a broken collarbone, Lacy was forced to be the focal point of the Green Bay offense. The former Alabama star responded by averaging 4.1 yards per carry, leading all rookies with 1,178 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns.

    Lacy topped 100 rushing yards four times this year, including 141 yards against the Cowboys in a Week 15 win that helped keep Green Bay's season alive.

     

    Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (7 Votes) 

    It took Le'Veon Bell a while to get going this year, as a foot injury cost the 21-year-old the first three games of his NFL career.

    However, Bell was inserted as the feature back as soon as he was healthy, and the 244-pound bruiser hasn't looked back since.

    Despite playing behind a spotty offensive line, Bell still managed to top 1,200 total yards for the season, catch 45 passes and score eight times while helping the Steelers right the ship after starting the year 0-4.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (6 Votes), Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams (2 Votes)

Fullback/Tight End

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    Fullback: Tommy Bohanon, New York Jets (12 votes)

    Tommy Bohanon of the New York Jets is the panel's first unanimous selection, but that says more about the decreased importance of the fullback position in today's NFL than it does about Bohanon as a player.

    In fact, among the 25 players who accrued enough snaps for inclusion in Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) fullback rankings, Bohanon ranks last in both overall rating and blocking rating.

     

    Tight End: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (8 Votes)

    Not much went right for the Washington Redskins in 2013. However, lost among the train wreck in the nation's capital this year was a solid first season from tight end Jordan Reed.

    The third-round pick quickly became the No. 2 target in the Redskins' passing game, and by season's end, he had caught 45 passes for nearly 500 yards despite playing in only nine games.

    Reed pitched in three scores on the season, and while a concussion ended his season early, the youngster still posted a top-five ranking at his position at Pro Football Focus.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (3 Votes), Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (1 Vote)

     

Wide Receiver

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    Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (12 Votes)

    Keenan Allen may not have been the first wide receiver drafted back in April, but if the draft were redone today, there's little doubt that the former Cal star would be the first player at his position taken.

    Not bad for a player who almost quit the team at the beginning of the season, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

    Allen quickly went from not playing a snap in Week 1 to being the top receiver on a team vying for a playoff spot. For the season, he made 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, all numbers that led first-year receivers.

    Throw in five 100-yard games, and you have one of the front-runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

     

    DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (11 Votes) 

    The Houston Texans have been searching for a receiver to complement Andre Johnson for years.

    It appears they have found that receiver in DeAndre Hopkins.

    It didn't take long for Hopkins to open eyes across the NFL. In only his second pro game, the 6'1", 214-pounder caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, helping propel the Texans to a come-from-behind win over the Tennessee Titans.

    That was the last game the Texans won in 2013, but the raging dumpster fire inside Reliant Stadium can't be blamed on the youngster.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (1 Vote) 

Offensive Tackle

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    D.J. Fluker, San Diego Chargers (10 Votes) 

    It's telling that in a season where offensive tackles were the first two picks in the NFL draft, neither Eric Fisher of the Kansas City Chiefs nor Luke Joeckel of the Jacksonville Jaguars garnered a single vote in this poll.

    Instead, it's the fourth tackle off the board who earns the most All-Rookie votes from our panel.

    The resurgent season turned in by Philip Rivers in 2013 is due in large part to greatly improved play from the offensive line. Fluker has been an integral part of that improvement this year, making starts at both left and right tackle.

     

    Justin Pugh, New York Giants (9 Votes)

    Like a few other players on this list, Pugh's excellent rookie season has gone unnoticed by many, mostly because the New York Giants were collapsing around him.

    The G-Men installed Pugh as their starter on the right side from day one, and for the most part, he held his own, surrendering only five sacks on the season.

    Hey, his quarterback throws that many picks in one game.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Jordan Mills, Chicago Bears (2 Votes), LaAdrian Waddle, Detroit Lions (2 Votes), Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles (1 Vote), David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers (1 Vote)

Offensive Guard

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    Larry Warford, Detroit Lions (12 Votes)

    2013's All-Rookie interior linemen are a pair of unanimous selections, beginning with Larry Warford of the Detroit Lions.

    The former Kentucky standout entered the league touted as a mauling run-blocker. However, Warford performed much better than advertised in pass protection as a rookie.

    In fact, the 332-pounder played well enough in his first NFL season to garner a top-five overall rating among guards at Pro Football Focus.

     

    Kyle Long, Chicago Bears (12 Votes)

    The Mannings may be the first family of the NFL, but the Longs aren't exactly a bunch of stiffs.

    Kyle Long joined brother Chris in following father Howie to the NFL, but unlike his brother and father, Kyle makes his living protecting quarterbacks and not harassing them.

    It's a job that Long did well in 2013, allowing only two sacks and nine quarterback hurries, according to PFF.

Center

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    Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (12 Votes)

    The Dallas Cowboys caught a ton of flak for drafting Frederick out of Wisconsin in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

    Some of that flak may have been justified, but what can't be argued is that Frederick has done his best to justify that pick with his play.

    Among centers, no player in the NFL has a higher grade in run blocking at Pro Football Focus, and the youngster turned in a top-five overall finish at his position.

Defensive End

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    Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions (12 Votes)

    Detroit made Ezekiel Ansah its first-round pick in April's NFL draft, hopeful that the raw but incredibly athletic former BYU star could help replace the departed Cliff Avril.

    Cliff who?

    Granted, Ansah battled injuries for much of the year, but even while missing significant snaps, he still managed to post 32 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.

    The season may have ended badly for the Lions, but Ansah's arrow is trending up.

     

    Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets (12 Votes)

    After the Jets drafted Quinton Coples in the first round in 2012, some questioned the second straight selection of a defensive end.

    They aren't questioning now.

    Richardson has thrived in his conversion from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 end, racking up over 70 tackles, pitching in 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble and even scoring two rushing touchdowns on offense.

    Richardson has been especially stout against the run. In fact, only J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans received a better grade from Pro Football Focus among 3-4 defensive ends in that regard.

Defensive Tackle

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    Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers (12 Votes)

    For the past several seasons, the interior of the defensive line has been a weakness for the Carolina Panthers.

    The Panthers went hard at the defensive tackle position in April's draft, and it's no coincidence that their run to the NFC South title coincided with two new arrivals in 2013.

    The first of those is Star Lotulelei, whom the Panthers selected 14th overall. The 311-pounder, who amassed 42 tackles and three sacks in 2013, emerged as a force against the run, finishing among the top 10 defensive tackles in the NFL in run defense, per Pro Football Focus.

     

    Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers (11 votes)

    Your eyes are not deceiving you. In the panel's opinion, the two best rookie defensive tackles in the NFL just so happen to play for the same team.

    Short, whom the Panthers drafted one round after Lotulelei, helped anchor the inside of the Carolina front alongside his fellow newcomer. While Short's numbers weren't as good as Lotulelei's, Pro Football Focus actually ranked the former Purdue star two spots higher in its overall rankings.

    Not bad for consecutive picks at the beginning of a draft.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Bennie Logan, Philadelphia Eagles (1 Vote)

Outside Linebacker

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    Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders (12 Votes)

    After struggling through yet another losing season in Oakland, the Raiders are a team in dire need of young talent on both sides of the ball.

    There's quite a bit of dissension regarding the second outside linebacker spot on our All-Rookie team, but our panel was unanimous in its belief that Sio Moore is deserving.

    Moore, Oakland's third-round pick in 2013, didn't post especially gaudy numbers (50 tackles, 4.5 sacks), but when healthy, he showed an explosiveness and ability to get after the passer that is similar to Von Miller. 

     

    Corey Lemonier, San Francisco 49ers (7 Votes)

    Lemonier's inclusion on this list may surprise some, as there are other rookie outside linebackers who have been more productive.

    However, with the former Auburn standout, it's not about his 15 tackles and one sack in part-time duty. It's a matter of what the 6'3", 255-pounder did with the playing time he got.

    Lemonier, who is a key special teams contributor in addition to a reserve pass-rusher, has shown flashes of elite ability and athleticism, and there are more than a few NFL teams he would start for.

    It was just the luck of the draw that Lemonier went to the NFL team with the deepest stable of linebackers in the league, but you'll be hearing the youngster's name more frequently soon enough.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns (2 Votes), Joplo Bartu, Atlanta Falcons (2 Votes), Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams (1 Vote) 

Inside Linebackers

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    Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills (12 Votes)

    With the Buffalo Bills transitioning to a 3-4 defense in 2013, it was imperative that new head coach Doug Marrone found a linebacker to anchor the middle of the unit.

    The Bills found that player and then some in Oregon's Kiko Alonso.

    Not only do Alonso's 159 tackles lead all rookies, but they rank third in the NFL. He also showed an affinity for making big plays, finishing third among all linebackers with four interceptions.

    It's a season that will likely net Alonso the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and it absolutely merits inclusion on this list.

     

    TIE: Manti Te'o, San Diego Chargers (6 Votes) and Vince Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (6 Votes)

    We have our first tie, and it's only fitting that a tie for an imaginary award involves a player who was mocked for having a fake girlfriend.

    The Lennay Kekua saga helped knock Manti Te'o into the second round of the 2013 draft. However, after he emerged as a steady starter for the Chargers, posting 61 tackles for the season, you won't hear San Diego complaining.

    Williams was an even bigger steal for the Steelers. Taken in the sixth round after a standout career at Florida State, he was forced into a prominent role on defense after Larry Foote went down early in the season.

    Williams' 53 stops on the season aren't anything special, but it isn't a 3-4 SILB's job to rack up huge numbers.

    It's his job to stuff the run, and Williams did that well in 2013.

Cornerbacks

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    Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons (11 Votes)

    Generally speaking, even highly touted young cornerbacks often struggle in their first year in the NFL. It's a position that brings with it very real growing pains.

    Desmond Trufant of the Atlanta Falcons has been the exception to that rule.

    Installed as a starter from the get-go, Trufant has shined, notching 70 tackles with a forced fumble and two interceptions.

    The former Washington standout also held his own, ranking inside the top 10 at his position in Pro Football Focus' coverage rankings.

     

    Logan Ryan, New England Patriots (9 Votes) 

    The New England Patriots have been a M.A.S.H. unit for most of the season on defense, and one of the youngsters the team has had to turn to in the secondary is third-round pick Logan Ryan.

    The 5'11", 195-pounder has been nothing short of a revelation. Not only has Ryan posted 35 tackles and chipped in 1.5 sacks, but he's also added five interceptions and even forced a fumble while ranking among the top 30 cornerbacks at PFF.

    Despite the fact that the Patriots lost several of their best defensive players, the team has stayed the course and once again enters the postseason as a real threat to win the Super Bowl.

    That's thanks in large part to rookies like Ryan stepping in and playing well.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: Dwayne Gratz, Jacksonville Jaguars (2 Votes), Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals (1 Vote), Nickell Robey, Buffalo Bills (1 Vote)

Safeties

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    Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers (12 Votes)

    When Eric Reid joined the San Francisco 49ers after a stellar career at LSU, he was left with some big shoes to fill.

    After all, Reid was tasked with replacing Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson, who left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

    Reid filled those shoes well, making 77 stops in his first NFL season.

    More importantly, Reid also picked off four passes, adding a ball-hawking element to the back end of an already dangerous San Francisco secondary.

     

    Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints (11 Votes) 

    The New Orleans Saints made Vaccaro the first player at his position drafted last April, desperate to upgrade a defense that was historically horrible in 2012.

    Well, the Saints are back in the postseason due in no small part to their defense that has improved by leaps and bounds in 2013.

    Vaccaro has been a big part of that defensive turnaround. Not only has the former All-American started most of the season at strong safety, but his speed has allowed the Saints to move him around in the formation, often to cover tight ends or slot receivers.

    Vaccaro's season was ended by a broken ankle, but his 79 tackles were enough to merit some hardware from the panel.

     

    Others Receiving Votes: J.J. Wilcox, Dallas Cowboys (1 Vote)

Special Teams

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    Kicker: Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins (11 Votes)

    Given that he's the only rookie kicker to play significant snaps this season, Sturgis is essentially the lead pony in a one-horse race.

    With that said, though, Sturgis has at least been serviceable for the Dolphins, hitting on 26 of 34 attempts this year and ranking 11th among place-kickers, according to Pro Football Focus.

     

    Punter: Sam Martin, Detroit Lions (12 Votes)

    The small-school star from Appalachian State has quieted the doubters who giggled when the Lions used a fifth-round pick on him in 2013, ranking among the top 10 punters in the NFL in both gross and net yards per kick.

     

    Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (12 Votes)

    Patterson didn't make the cut as a wide receiver, but when it comes to kick returns, it's easy to see why the panel chose to include the lanky speedster.

    The 1,300-plus return yards, two scores and top ranking among return men at Pro Football Focus might have had something to do with it.

     

    Punt Returner: Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams (12 Votes)

    By most measuring sticks, Austin's rookie season was a disappointment, whether due to his struggling to acclimate as an NFL receiver or the Rams trying to find ways to get him the ball in space.

    While he was returning punts, though, we got a glimpse of the Tavon Austin who was so dangerous at West Virginia.

    Austin managed fewer than 10 yards per return in 2013, but if he saw daylight, good night. He found the end zone on punt returns twice in 2013, which tied Dexter McCluster for the NFL lead.

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