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Bleacher Report's 2015 NFL All-Rookie Team

Brent SobleskiNFL AnalystJanuary 11, 2017

Bleacher Report's 2015 NFL All-Rookie Team

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    As the regular season comes to a close, numerous teams around the NFL are thankful for the contributions from this year's draft class. In what was considered another deep group of rookies, no one should be surprised that several first-year players rose to the occasion and became instant-impact performers. 

    The draft is the lifeblood of the league, as a good class or two can completely turn around a team's trajectory. 

    For example, the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both owned top-five picks in 2015's draft. With smart selections, each built their roster to the point where it was far more competitive this year, even making the playoffs a possibility. A postseason berth wasn't attainable for either team in the end, but both franchises can be excited about their futures due to smart drafting. 

    This year, 72 different rookies who played 100 or more snaps received a positive grade from Pro Football Focus through 16 weeks of play. 

    It all started with the very first pick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston No. 1 overall, and he lived up to the billing as the draft class' most impressive player. 

    Click through the slideshow to find out who else made Bleacher Report's 2015 NFL All-Rookie Team, as voted on by eight writers—Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Brad Gagnon, Matt Miller, Ty Schalter, Mike Tanier, Sean Tomlinson and yours truly.

Quarterback

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Winner: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7 votes)

    This was a close race all season. In fact, this year's No. 2 overall pick, Marcus Mariota, had the lead through the turn and going into the stretch. However, Jameis Winston continued to improve. 

    As the Tennessee Titans faded and Mariota suffered a second leg injury this season, a healthy Winston asserted himself as the leader of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and even had them in the playoff conversation for about a minute. 

    Winston already set a Buccaneers rookie record with 22 passing touchdowns. He also tied franchise records with five rushing touchdowns from a quarterback and a five-touchdown passing performance in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    To this point, he's completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,717 passing yards and run for 199 more.

    With Winston's performance, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht wasn't shy about the team's love for its quarterback, per Jeff Darlington of NFL.com:

    We always had confidence, but I thought there was a chance [Winston] would throw over 30 interceptions his first year. I was willing to go through that, and so was [head coach Lovie Smith].

    We knew we were going to struggle at times this year, but as long as that guy's future was bright, there was a lot of hope for us. And he's come along a lot quicker than I expected, to be honest with you.

    I wouldn't trade him for another quarterback in the league.

    Franchise quarterbacks are considered the Holy Grail of the NFL. The Buccaneers finally found one in Winston. 

    Others receiving votesMarcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (1 vote)

    Midseason pick: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

    Preseason pick: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Running Back

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Winners: Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (8 votes); Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks (4 votes); T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (4 votes)

    One of the primary questions leading into this year's draft was: How high would a team select talented Georgia running back Todd Gurley?

    Many considered Gurley an elite running back prospect, but he suffered a serious knee injury just five months before the draft. It would be a risk for a team to take him in the first round, but the St. Louis Rams didn't have any problems using the 10th overall pick to select the talented runner. 

    The Rams were greatly rewarded for their decision. After the team brought Gurley along slowlyhe didn't get his first start until Week 4—the running back exploded onto the scene with a 146-yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals.

    Despite little to no playing time in the first three weeks, Gurley became only the second Rams rookie, along with Eric Dickerson, to run for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

    Gurley actually ranks third in the NFL with 1,108 rushing yards. He was also named to his first Pro Bowl. The Georgia product certainly came a long way in a year. 

    "It wasn't on my mind," said Gurley, reflecting on a year ago, per Myles Simmons of the team's website. "At the time, I was focused on my rehab and trying to come back."

    Gurley already made a strong case as the league's best young running back. He wasn't the only first-year runner to make a positive impression, though. 

    While Gurley was the first player selected at his position in 2015, Thomas Rawls didn't hear his name called on draft weekend. 

    The Central Michigan product, via Michigan, found a perfect fit in Seattle. The 215-pound back now appears to be Marshawn Lynch's heir apparent. 

    As Lynch dealt with injuries this year, Rawls amassed 830 rushing yards, which is second among rookies, before he suffered a broken ankle in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, the Flint, Michigan, native registered 100 or more rushing yards in four of his seven starts. 

    With Lynch turning 30 years old before next season, Rawls is now the future of the Seahawks' rushing attack. 

    The Jacksonville Jaguars' T.J. Yeldon is another running back who dealt with an injury in recent weeks. Despite a lingering knee problem, Yeldon performed well earlier in the season and provided the Jaguars with a reliable option in the running game. 

    Yeldon is third among rookie backs with 740 rushing yards. 

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason picks: Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams; T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Preseason picks: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers; Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

Tight End

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Winners: Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders (8 votes); Will Tye, New York Giants (7 votes)

    This year's tight end class was generally considered poor. The position didn't feature a first-round pick, and the first tight end off the board, Maxx Williams, didn't live up to expectations. 

    As the year progressed, Clive Walford became a bigger part of the Oakland Raiders' passing offense. Over the past month, Derek Carr targeted Walford 22 times. During the previous three months, the second-year quarterback targeted the Miami product 24 times. 

    Walford might only have 24 catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns, but he provides another weapon in a young, talented offense. He presents an athletic target down the seam.

    While teammates Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are legitimate targets outside the hashes, Walford can work the middle of the field and put pressure on safeties with his downfield ability. 

    Walford might be a more explosive threat in the Raiders offense, but the New York Giants' Will Tye leads all rookie tight ends with 37 receptions for 397 yards. 

    New York signed Tye as an undrafted free agent, and he wasn't expected to be a big part of this year's offense. Injuries forced him into the lineup, and he responded. 

    Since taking over as the Giants' starting tight end in Week 10, the Stony Brook product caught 27 passes for 301 yards. 

    Tye isn't a very good run-blocker, but he certainly brings value in the passing game. 

    Others receiving votes: Nick Boyle, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote)

    Midseason picks: Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens; Nick Boyle, Baltimore Ravens

    Preseason picks: Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens; Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders

Wide Receiver

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    Winners: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (8 votes); Tyler Lockett (6 votes)

    As the 2015 NFL draft approached, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was generally considered the safest pick. Cooper shattered numerous receiving records for the Crimson Tide, and it seemed a matter of when, not if, he would dominate the NFL ranks. 

    The Oakland Raiders spent the fourth overall pick to acquire Cooper, and he hasn't disappointed. Yes, he unexpectedly dropped some passes this season, but his overall production and presence far outweigh a surprising case of the dropsies. 

    Cooper has already caught 70 passes for 1,050 yards with one game remaining. He leads all rookies in both categories. He even became the first Raiders wide receiver to surpass 1,000 yards since Randy Moss in 2005. 

    "It's pretty special," veteran defensive back Charles Woodson said, per ESPN.com's Bill Williamson. "We all knew it when we saw him first coming in to our practices and watched the way he moved around and ran routes, that he was going to be a special guy."

    The Raiders receiver is also tied for the rookie lead with six touchdown receptions. He's tied with the Seattle Seahawks' Tyler Lockett. 

    Lockett made his name early in the season as one of the league's premier returners. His development throughout the year as a receiver made him even more valuable. 

    When All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lockett became a much bigger part of the offense.

    Kansas State's all-time leading receiver caught 21 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns over the past four weeks.

    His presence opposite Doug Baldwin makes the Seahawks offense far more formidable and exciting as the team prepares for the postseason.  

    Others receiving votesStefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (2 votes)

    Midseason picks: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders; Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

    Preseason picks: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders; Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles 

Offensive Tackle

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Winners: Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8 votes); Rob Havenstein, St. Louis Rams (8 votes)

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht put together a tremendous draft class this year. Quarterback Jameis Winston headlines the group, but this year's second-round pick, left tackle Donovan Smith, makes sure this year's No. 1 overall pick is adequately protected.

    In fact, Winston and Smith took every offensive snap this season, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. 

    The first-year blocker struggled early in the season. He continued to get better as the campaign progressed, though.

    After surrendering 20 quarterback hurries through the first half of the season, Smith only gave up 15 hurries in the subsequent seven weeks, according to Pro Football Focus. Overall, the Penn State product is credited for giving up three sacks this season. 

    Nobody is perfect.

    Well, maybe one rookie blocker has been perfect this year. 

    St. Louis Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein is the only offensive tackle to play 300 or more snaps and not give up a sack, per PFF

    This is quite an accomplishment considering Havenstein started 12 games and wasn't known for his pass-blocking prowess at Wisconsin. The former Badger was considered a massive (6'7", 321 lbs) run-blocker on the strong side. The Rams decided to use a second-round pick on him, and he excelled for the organization. 

    Also, Havenstein accomplished this feat with another rookie lining up next to him. Usually, teams will attack inexperienced blockers. Havenstein still held strong. 

    He lived up to his run-blocking reputation. The right tackle helped make Todd Gurley the first Rams rookie to run for more than 1,000 yards since the great Eric Dickerson. 

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason picks: Rob Havenstein, St. Louis Rams; T.J. Clemmings, Minnesota Vikings

    Preseason picks: Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ereck Flowers, New York Giants

Guard

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Winners: Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins (7 votes); La'el Collins, Dallas Cowboys (5 votes)

    The less heard about an offensive lineman, the better he's playing. 

    Brandon Scherff was considered the best offensive line prospect in this year's draft. However, questions arose about whether the Outland Trophy winner could play offensive tackle at the professional level and if he needed to move inside to guard. 

    The Washington Redskins used the fifth overall pick to select the Iowa product, and he eventually found a home at right guard.

    After a rough start to his rookie campaign, Scherff played tremendously over the second half of the season. He graded positively in all but one game since Week 10, according to Pro Football Focus

    The interior blocker surrendered only two sacks and committed four penalties all season.

    As is often said, it's not how you start but how you finish. Scherff is finishing strong and has proven to be a valuable part of the Redskins' NFC East title. 

    While Scherff gets to enjoy a divisional crown during his first year, La'el Collins falls on the opposite side of the spectrum as part of the 4-11 Dallas Cowboys. 

    Collins warranted far more attention throughout the draft process than during the season, though. The LSU product's draft story couldn't have been crazier, but he's settled in at left guard for the Cowboys. 

    Since he took over as a starter, Collins' raw ability continues to wow onlookers. Many already believed him to be a first-round pick if not for off-field concerns, and his talent has been on display. 

    The Cowboys rookie regularly blows up defenders at the point of attack and displays tremendous athleticism. Like all rookies, Collins still needs to be far more consistent. 

    "He's had those plays that are very impressive," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said, per ESPN.com's Todd Archer. "He also has to improve on the play-by-play in the run game, in his pass protection. If you look at him over the course of the season he's improved greatly in those areas and he's maturing as a player."

    Others receiving votes: Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4 votes)

    Midseason picks: Tre' Jackson, New England Patriots; Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins; La'el Collins, Dallas Cowboys

    Preseason picks: La'el Collins, Dallas Cowboys; John Miller, Buffalo Bills

Center

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Winner: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs (8 votes)

    Only a handful of rookie offensive linemen started from Week 1 this season. Only three continue to do so for a playoff-bound team. 

    More importantly, none of them made the same conversion or hold as much pre-snap responsibility as the Kansas City Chiefs' Mitch Morse. 

    A collegiate offensive tackle, Morse converted to center. Other than missing one game this year due to a concussion, the Missouri product has been a rock in the middle of a Chiefs offensive line that experienced multiple changes throughout the season. 

    Despite the massive transition from being out on an island at tackle in his final year as a Tiger to being in the heart of the offensive line, Morse took everything in stride and excelled. He displayed an unusual amount of confidence and calmness for a rookie. 

    "Yeah, he’s got that about him," quarterback Alex Smith said earlier this month, per ESPN.com's Adam Teicher. "I think that’s why he’s playing in there as a rookie, making all the calls. He's a pretty cool customer with all the stuff going on and that’s what you want in a center." 

    Morse graded as the fifth-best rookie offensive lineman this year at Pro Football Focus, and he was the highest-rated first-year center. 

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason pick: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs

    Preseason picks: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs; Shaq Mason, New England Patriots 

Defensive End

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Winners: Leonard Williams, New York Jets (8 votes); Arik Armstead (3 votes)

    A pair of 3-4 defensive ends were selected in the first round of this year's NFL draft. Leonard Williams and Arik Armstead certainly lived up to their billing since both were named to this year's All-Rookie Team. 

    The two were considered far different prospects, though. 

    Many listed Williams as the draft class' best defensive player. While his role continued to change this season, he still performed better than any other defensive rookie. 

    No first-year player received a better grade from Pro Football Focus, and it wasn't even close. The New York Jets defender excelled from Week 1 as a run defender and was difficult to move off his spot.

    Plus, Williams added three sacks. 

    "The kid is a fighter, man," nose tackle Damon Harrison said, per ESPN.com's Ohm Youngmisuk. “From watching film, the guy just works every day. He is still learning on the fly. He has a lot of room to grow. He soaks stuff every day from everybody."

    On the other hand, Armstead was believed to be far more of a project: a tremendous athlete with plenty of potential to develop into a dominant player if given time and correct coaching. 

    His rapid improvement became an unexpected treat for a floundering San Francisco 49ers squad. 

    The Oregon product isn't even a starter, but he's been one of the team's best run defenders. Armstead is also second on the roster with 29 quarterback hurries, per PFF

    Others receiving votesFrank Clark, Seattle Seahawks (2 votes); Mario Edwards Jr., Oakland Raiders (2 votes); Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons (1 vote)

    Midseason picks: Leonard Williams, New York Jets; Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons

    Preseason picks: Leonard Williams, New York Jets; Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Tackle

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Winners: Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears (7 votes); Malcom Brown, New England Patriots (6 votes)

    A young defensive tackle can be easily overwhelmed early in his NFL career. Many physically gifted interior defenders can no longer intimidate and completely overwhelm inferior offensive linemen because the talent disparity in college doesn't exist anymore.

    Thus, veteran offensive linemen often get the best of young defensive tackles early in their careers. It's how those young defenders respond to the adversity that is truly important.

    Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman didn't enter this season as a starter, but his status quickly changed when injuries forced Jeremiah Ratliff to play defensive end (before the team released him). Once Goldman became a starter, it took a little time to ease into the role.

    However, it didn't take him too long before he developed into the league's best rookie nose tackle. Not only is the Florida State product stout against the run, but he's also fourth among all rookies with 4.5 sacks. 

    "I think he’s had a good rookie season," Bears head coach John Fox said this week, per ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson. "I really do. I know I’m excited about working with him moving forward. And I think he’s excited about working with us."

    Brown also needed time to get his feet wet and truly establish himself as part of the New England Patriots' defensive line rotation. He started to improve when the defense needed him the most. 

    Last year's first-round pick, Dominique Easley, suffered a thigh injury in Week 14 against the Houston Texans, and the organization placed him on injured reserve. 

    New England's rookie defensive tackle subsequently put together his best two performances. 

    "He’s strong and he’s athletic. He uses those to his advantage," teammate Alan Branch said, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "You see situations where you might see a d-tackle get cut, or messed up in a certain technique, but he’s always consistent with being able to stay on his feet or finding a way to get in on the tackle.”

    Neither Goldman nor Brown will fill the stat sheet, but their presence in the middle of their defenses cannot be underestimated. 

    Others receiving votes: Rodney Gunter, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote); Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons (1 vote); David Irving, Dallas Cowboys (1 vote)

    Midseason picks: Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears; Malcom Brown, New England Patriots; Rodney Gunter, Arizona Cardinals

    Preseason picks: Malcom Brown, New England Patriots; Danny Shelton, Cleveland Browns

Outside Linebacker

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Winners: Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints (7 votes); Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers (4 votes); Preston Smith, Washington Redskins (4 votes)

    A situation can dictate how well or poorly a rookie plays early in his career. And this year's All-Rookie outside linebackers come from very different situations.

    Hau'oli Kikaha starts on the league's second-worst defense. However, his contributions to the New Orleans Saints haven't been overlooked. 

    The Washington product is fifth on the Saints with 51 total tackles and third with four sacks. He's also second in the league with four forced fumbles. 

    However, his role diminished when the team fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in mid-November, and his replacement, Dennis Allen, decided to employ a more traditional 4-3 base defense. As a result, Allen placed Kikaha in a "Sam" linebacker role instead of having him rush the passer, which is where he excels. 

    "I think he’s developed," Allen said, per the Times-Picayune (h/t BigEasyBeliever.com's Barry Hirstius). "I think, not unlike a lot of rookies, he was playing at a really good level and then he had the injury, and he’s fighting through the injury, as well as fighting through the fact that he is coming to the end of a long 16-game season, which is more football than he’s played in his lifetime."

    Kikaha's contributions, particularly early in the season, weren't overlooked by Bleacher Report's NFL analysts. 

    As Kikaha's role changed, his former collegiate teammate, Shaq Thompson, grew into his for the Carolina Panthers.

    Thompson, a first-round pick, moved in and out of the starting lineup and dealt with a knee injury. He's since become a regular starter over the final quarter of the season. 

    The rookie plays a valuable role as the team's Sam linebacker and uses his ability to cover the slot. His numbers aren't impressive with only 13 total tackles in his last three starts, but his athleticism and versatility bring an added dimension to the Panthers defense alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. 

    Preston Smith also added a valuable presence in the Washington Redskins' outside linebacker rotation. 

    Smith is a more explosive edge-rusher than teammate Trent Murphy, while Murphy is a more consistent run defender. This year's second-round pick really settled into his role. 

    The Mississippi State product leads all rookies with seven sacks. Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, Smith dominated and registered three sacks. He only trails Ryan Kerrigan by 1.5 sacks for the team lead. 

    Others receiving votesMarkus Golden, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote)

    Midseason picks: Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints; Markus Golden, Arizona Cardinals

    Preseason picks: Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints; Kyle Emanuel, San Diego Chargers

Inside Linebacker

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Winners: Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6 votes); Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia Eagles (3 votes); Denzel Perryman, San Diego Chargers (3 votes)

    A wide array of young linebackers earned votes for the All-Rookie Team.  

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Kwon Alexander garnered the most votes despite being suspended the final four games of the season for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. 

    Prior to the suspension, Alexander accumulated 93 total tackles, which is still second on the team and the same among all rookie linebackers. The LSU product added nine deflected passes, a pair of interceptions, two forced fumbles and three sacks. 

    It's not a coincidence the Buccaneers are 0-3 since he left the lineup. 

    "I think it's good for a player like Kwon Alexander to see how much he means to his football team," head coach Lovie Smith said, per the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud." We haven't been the same without him. ... There's a reason why we put him in after one preseason game. He brings something to the table."

    The Buccaneers weren't the only defense drastically affected by losing a rookie linebacker. 

    The Philadelphia Eagles' Jordan Hicks suffered a torn pectoral Nov. 8, yet he still made the All-Rookie Team. Prior to the injury, the former third-round pick registered 50 total tackles, three deflected passes and two interceptions. 

    "Malcolm Jenkins told me biggest difference with defense playing worse last [six) weeks is loss of Jordan Hicks," CSN Philly's John Clark tweeted

    Value can be determined whether a player is actually on the field or not. 

    Denzel Perryman, on the other hand, proved his value in recent weeks. A second-round pick by the San Diego Chargers, Perryman officially became a starter in Week 11. Since that point, the Miami product made 45 total tackles, including a pair of double-digit tackle performances. 

    The stout linebacker adds a different level of physicality to the Chargers defense. 

    Others receiving votes: Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings (2 votes); Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints (2 votes)

    Midseason picks: Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings; Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia Eagles

    Preseason picks: Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints

Cornerback

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    Winners: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs (8 votes); Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills (8 votes)

    The cornerback position features two of the most promising rookies in the NFL. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs' Marcus Peters and Buffalo Bills' Ronald Darby can both make a claim as this year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    Peters garners a lot of attention because he's tied for the league lead with eight interceptions. Jairus Byrd in 2009 was the last rookie to lead the league in interceptions. Peters also returned two of those turnovers for touchdowns, and his 280 return yards are the ninth-most in NFL history. 

    Not only has the Washington product displayed tremendous ball skills, but his coverage ability significantly improved during the season. 

    Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson detailed Peters' impressive improvement: 

    Before the bye week [Week 9], Peters averaged 5.4 receptions allowed from almost nine targets per game, for an average of 72.1 yards. After the bye, he is averaging just 3.6 receptions for 49.4 yards on the same nearly nine targets per game.

    Before the bye Peters was allowing 60.7 percent of passes thrown into his coverage to be completed, for a passer rating of 101.7, but since the bye he is allowing just 41.4 percent for a passer rating of 25.7.

    As the Chiefs prepare for a playoff run, Peters is a big part of this year's success. 

    Darby and the 7-8 Bills won't be participating in the postseason. Even in a disappointing campaign, though, this year's second-round pick, Darby, adapted quickly to Rex Ryan's defensive scheme and played at a very high level. 

    A little over a month ago, Ryan provided the highest praise to Darby and his counterpart, Stephon Gilmore, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak: "Those two are probably playing as good as I've ever seen, for two corners. They are doing a tremendous job."

    The organization has since placed Gilmore on injured reserve, but Ryan's comments are an indication of how well Darby played within the system, particularly early in the year. 

    The rookie is also dealing with an injury. However, he feels he "accomplished more than expected," and no one can argue that after he was the sixth cornerback taken in the 2015 draft. 

    Both have been tremendous this season. 

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason picks: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs; Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills

    Preseason picks: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs; Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills

Safety

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Winners: Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers (7 votes); Landon Collins, New York Giants (5 votes)

    In today's NFL, the distinction between a free and strong safety has blurred. However, there is no such issue defining the type of safeties named to Bleacher Report's NFL All-Rookie Team. 

    The San Francisco 49ers' Jaquiski Tartt and New York Giants' Landon Collins are physical box safeties much more adept at stopping the run than dropping into coverage. 

    Tartt took over as the 49ers' starter at strong safety when veteran Antoine Bethea suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. 

    The Samford product was expected to contribute to the team's defensive back rotation, but the safety position was supposed to be set with Bethea and Eric Reid. But as an adjustment, defensive coordinator Eric Mangini inserted Tartt into the lineup when Bethea went down. 

    "You see what he brings in terms of his ability to close on the football and get to the ball-carrier," Mangini said at the time, per 49ers.com's Joe Fann. "He has strength in the hole. All of those things have been good."

    The 221-pound safety is fourth on the team with 65 total tackles. He also contributed a pair of sacks and three deflected passes. 

    Tartt has been solid but not nearly as productive as Collins, who started all 15 games this season. The Giants safety is second among all rookies and leads first-year defensive backs with 104 total tackles. Collins also leads the Giants in the category. 

    The Alabama product is the only rookie defender to play over 1,000 snaps this season, too, according to Pro Football Focus

    While there may have been bumps along the way for both safeties, particularly in coverage, each brings a physical presence to his respective defense. 

    Others receiving votes: Adrian Amos, Chicago Bears (4 votes)

    Midseason picks: Landon Collins, New York Giants; Adrian Amos, Chicago Bears

    Preseason picks: Landon Collins, New York Giants; Adrian Amos, Chicago Bears

Returner

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Winner: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (8 votes)

    There are many different ways for a rookie to impact a team. Contributions on special teams are often overlooked. 

    Tyler Lockett became an integral component to the Seahawks' passing game in recent weeks, but the Kansas State product initially made his mark as a return man. 

    The rookie ranks third in the league with 852 yards on kick returns. He's also 15th overall with 240 yards as a punt returner. More importantly, the rookie dazzled with a pair of return touchdowns. Only four NFL players—Lockett, Darren Sproles, Cordarrelle Patterson and Dwayne Harris—returned at least two kicks for touchdowns this season.

    As a result, the Seahawks returner was named to his first Pro Bowl.

    Lockett became only the second rookie in NFL history to record at least six receiving touchdowns, a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown. The other? Gale Sayers. 

    Others receiving votesNone

    Midseason pick: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

    Preseason picks: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

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