Top 10 NFL Rookie Seasons of All-Time
Since 1967, the Associated Press has given two annual Rookie of the Year Awards to NFL American football players: one for an offensive player and one for a defensive player.
These two are often regarded as the "official" awards.
Thirteen players who have won the Rookie of the Year Award are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Offense: Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith.
Defense: Lem Barney, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Mike Haynes, Lawrence Taylor, and Derrick Thomas.
The Linebackers have won half of the Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards (21 out of 42)
The Running backs have won 30 out of 43 Offensive Rookie of the Year Awards, or 70 percent.
The Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Seattle Seahawks are the only franchises to never have a player win either award.
1st - Eric Dickerson, 1983
Eric Dickerson was selected second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
Dickerson ran into immediate success as a pro.
He went on to land one of the best performances by a running back and the best of all time by a rookie running back.
Dickerson set rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing yards gained (1,808), and most touchdowns rushing (18).
He finished the year with 1,808 rushing yards on 390 carries for 18 touchdowns; he also caught 51 passes for 404 yards and added two more touchdowns to total 20 touchdowns for the year.
Dickerson led the league in longest rush (85), rushing yards a game (113), rushing att. (390), rushing yards (1,808), and second in rushing touchdowns (18) behind John Riggins (24).
His efforts earned him All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year honors.
2nd - Dick Lane, 1952
In 1952, the 24-year-old Lane showed up at the Los Angeles Rams training camp looking for a job because he disliked his current occupation at an aircraft factory.
He was originally trying out for end, but the Rams switched him to defensive back.
During his rookie year with the Rams, he acquired the nickname "Night Train" from a hit record by Buddy Morrow, frequently played by teammate Tom Fears.
In his rookie season he set an NFL single season record for interceptions with 14, which stands to this day even though the length of the season at the time was only 12 games.
Since the 16 game schedule started only three players ended the season with 11 or more interceptions (Mike Reinfeldt, Lester Hayes, and Everson Walls).
In the final regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he picked off three passes, returning one of them 42 yards for a touchdown.
Dick Lane ended his career with 68 (fourth all-time) interceptions.
3rd - Lawrence Taylor, 1981
Lawrence Taylor was drafted by the New York Giants with the second pick overall in the 1981 NFL Draft.
Taylor was a disruptive force at outside linebacker, and is widely considered to have changed the pass rushing schemes, offensive line play, and offensive formations used in the NFL.
Taylor went on to finish his rookie season with 9.5 sacks, and is often considered to have had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history.
Taylor was named 1981's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming the only rookie to date to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Taylor also made first team All-Pro and his first Pro Bowl appearance of 10 throughout his career.
Taylor's impact contributed to the Giants defense going from allowing 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981.
4th - Gale Sayers, 1965
Gale Sayers was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round, fourth pick overall of the 1965 NFL Draft.
This could be the most impressive all around rookie season.
In his rookie year, he scored an NFL record 22 touchdowns (14 rushing, six receiving, and one each on punt and kickoff returns).
He gained 1,374 yards from scrimmage and had 2,272 all-purpose yards (also a record, later broken by Tim Brown in 1988 (who played two more games than Sayers).
He tied Ernie Nevers' and Dub Jones' record for touchdowns in a single game, with six in a 61-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on December 12. He recorded 113 rushing yards for four touchdowns, 89 receiving yards for one touchdown, and had 134 punt return yards for another touchdown.
Sayers averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 17.5 yards per reception. His return averages were 14.9 yards per punt return and 31.4 yards per kickoff return.
He was the unanimous choice for NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
5th - Randy Moss, 1998
Randy Moss was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the 21st overall pick after a number of NFL clubs were in need of a wide receiver.
They were concerned with Moss' legal problems.
In 1998, Moss helped the Vikings to become the number one-ranked offense, scoring a then-NFL record 556 points.
Moss' first NFL game would also be his first multi-touchdown game as he recorded four receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
At the end of the 1998 regular season, Moss was named a Pro Bowl starter and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for his rookie-record 17 touchdown receptions and the third highest receiving yardage (1,313) total.
6th - Edgerrin James, 1999
The Indianapolis Colts selected James in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft with the fourth overall pick.
James was named the 1999 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press
James led the league in rushing attempts (369), rushing yards (1,553), total touchdowns (17), total touches (431), second in all-purpose yards (2,139), and second in rushing touchdowns (13).
His best game was against the Philadelphia Eagles, rushing for 152 yards for two touchdowns and 47 receiving yards for one touchdown.
James finished the season with 1,553 yards and 13 TDs on the ground, 62 receptions for 586 yards, and four receiving touchdowns.
James also set a rookie record with 10 games of 100+ rushing yards.
James won the NFL rushing title in his first two seasons (1,553 99’ and 1,709 00’).
7th - Ronnie Lott, 1981
Lott was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round, 8th overall pick of the 1981 NFL Draft.
In his rookie season, he recorded seven interceptions and helped the 49ers to win Super Bowl XVI.
Lott was selected first team All-Pro and named to his first Pro Bowl of 10 total.
He also became only the second rookie in NFL history to return three interceptions for touchdowns.
He led the 49ers defense in 1981, helping it turn-around from one of the league's worst (26th) to one of the league's best (second), a difference of 165 points.
Lott was only beaten one time for a touchdown in 1981 and was second on the 49ers in tackles (89), and forced four fumbles and recovered two.
His outstanding play resulted in his finishing second for Rookie of the Year honors, behind New York Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
8th - Dan Marino, 1983
The Miami Dolphins chose Marino with the 27th pick in the 1983 NFL draft.
After starting the season as a backup to incumbent starter David Woodley and seeing action twice off the bench to relieve an ineffective Woodley, Marino was given his first NFL start in Week Six versus the Buffalo Bills at the Orange Bowl.
He posted a 96.0 passer rating, a rookie record until it was broken by Ben Roethlisberger's 98.1. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year and became the first rookie quarterback to start in a Pro Bowl game.
He ended the season with 173 completions in 296 attempts; throwing 20 TD passes while having only six picked off and scored two rushing touchdowns.
Marino started only nine games, but became the only rookie to lead his conference in passing and the first rookie quarterback to start in the Pro Bowl.
9th - Jevon Kearse, 1999
Jevon Kearse was drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the 16th pick of the first round in the 1999 NFL Draft.
In the first month of his NFL career, Kearse was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.
For all but one month of the season, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, and ended up becoming NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with the help of his rookie record-breaking performance with 14.5 sacks (which led the AFC) that year and forced eight fumbles, which also led the NFL.
Kearse recorded 57 tackles and he batted away nine passes while also making seven of his tackles for losses.
Kearse accounted for two sacks (QB Rob Johnson) and two forced fumbles in the AFC Wild Card game versus Buffalo.
He was also second in the balloting for the AP Defensive Player of the Year, losing out to All-Pro Warren Sapp.
Kearse was a consensus All-Pro and was the first rookie defensive end in AFC history and the first rookie defensive end in the NFL since Detroit's Al "Bubba" Baker in 1978 to be named a Pro Bowl starter.
10th - George Rogers, 1981
In the 1981 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected George Rogers with the first pick overall—one pick before the New York Giants selected Lawrence Taylor.
In his rookie season, Rogers led the league in rushing with 1,647 yards, which set a high for rookies at that time.
He also led the league in rushing attempts (378) and rushing yards a game (104.6).
His best game was against the Los Angeles Rams in week 10. He ran for 161 yards for three touchdowns on a 6.71 average per rush.
Rogers ended the season with 378 attempts for 1,647 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
He was selected as the NFL Rookie of the Year for 1981 and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.