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NFL Rookie Highlight Reels You Have to See to Believe

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IOctober 14, 2016

NFL Rookie Highlight Reels You Have to See to Believe

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    With the NFL draft becoming a bigger event every year, it seems like there's more pressure put on rookies to succeed right off the bat.

    While that success usually doesn't come right away, there have been a few rookies in recent memory who dominated even in their first season and therefore produced some ridiculous highlight reels.

    The lack of availability of a rookie-only highlight tape caused me to leave off some great older players, including Clinton Portis, Randy Moss, Peyton Manning and Cadillac Williams. 

    But these six players all had great rookie seasons with phenomenal highlight reels to back them up.

Adrian Peterson, 2007

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    • First round, seventh overall, 2007 
    • 238 attempts, 1,341 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs

    Peterson has emerged as arguably the top running back in the league, which should be a surprise to absolutely nobody who saw him play as a rookie in 2007. The Minnesota Vikings instantly became a more interesting (and successful) team by selecting Peterson out of Oklahoma with their first-round pick.

    His breakaway speed at one minute, 17 seconds of the highlight reel is spectacular, but it's his ridiculous strength that caught everyone's attention. He lights up defenders multiple times throughout the video.

Cam Newton, 2011

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    • First round, first overall, 2011
    • 310-of-517, 4,051 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 706 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs

    Sure, it was only a few years ago, but people still overlook just how dominant Cam Newton was as a rookie (and how good he's been since then). Just take a look at that stat line!

    He shows off his flat-out dangerous speed at 3:33 in the highlight reel, but I think that his incredible athleticism sometimes overshadows his great arm. He makes some really impressive throws throughout the highlights.

Devin Hester, 2006

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    • Second round, 57th overall, 2006
    • 47 punt returns, 600 yards, 3 TDs, 20 kick returns, 528 yards, 2 TDs

    I'll be honest here: If there's one highlight reel on this slideshow you really ought to watch in its entirety, it's this one. Hester is truly unbelievable.

    Now in 2014, it is easy to say that he is the best return man of all time. But even if he had retired after his rookie season in 2006, there still could have been an argument made for him as the greatest ever based on his incredible season. I'm not even going to point out any particular return—just watch them all.

Ndamukong Suh, 2010

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    • Second overall, first round, 2010
    • 66 combined tackles, 10.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT

    When you think of a "highlight reel," it's mostly offensive players who come to mind, but Suh is one of those transcendent players whose dominance can be captivating at times.

    He was bullying offensive linemen and quarterbacks even as a rookie, and his sacks and pressures throughout the video are truly impressive. But check out that interception and return at 0:36 if you need a reminder of just how nimble and athletic he is as well.

Percy Harvin, 2009

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    • First round, 22nd overall, 2009
    • 60 receptions, 790 yards, six TDs, 15 rushing attempts, 135 yards, 2 return TDs

    Harvin burst on to the scene just two years after Peterson dominated in his rookie year, giving Minnesota two of the most dangerous weapons in the entire league.

    The 5'11" Harvin wasn't the biggest guy, but his electrifying speed made for some dazzling highlights (check out his catch-and-run at 0:26). He was the rare triple threat as a receiver, return man and occasional runner out of the backfield.

A.J. Green, 2011

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    • First round, fourth overall, 2011
    • 65 receptions, 1,057 yards, 7 TDs

    Everyone was anticipating big things from Green after he was taken with the fourth overall selection in 2011, but with a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) at the helm, nobody was anticipating his immediate dominance.

    His lanky, 6'4" frame and breakaway speed make him one of the premier threats in football, and his incredible body control and sticky hands give him an impressive highlight reel as well. The catches at 0:37 and 1:52 are my personal favorites.

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