Rating NFL Rookies: 2010's Top 10 Rooks on Offense
The 2010 NFL Draft has yielded dozens of future Pro Bowl players on both sides of the ball. All of these players have made a much-needed impact on their respective teams, which pleases GMs like nothing else.
The crop of talent on offense is always watched closely each season, and with 2010 coming to a close, the Rookie of the Year watch is heating up. Here is a list of my top 10 rookies on offense. Enjoy!
No. 10: Jacoby Ford, WR/RS, Oakland
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Drafted: Fourth Round, 108th Overall
Jacoby Ford has been one of the surprises of the draft. It's no secret that Al Davis loves fast players, and Ford certainly fit the bill, being a track star in college, as well as running a 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine.
He was thought to be strictly a special teams player, returning kicks and punts, which he showed a tremendous knack for at Clemson. However, since midseason Ford has become one of Jason Campbell's favorite targets, as he has the speed and athleticism to break away from coverage.
Ford has also displayed steady hands as a pass catcher, which can't be said about 2009's top pick, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Ford's tremendous run-after-the-catch ability has been something Oakland has been without for a long time.
Through Week 15, Ford has 22 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 46 kickoff returns for 1,056 yards and two touchdowns of 94 and 101 yards respectively. Ford has been everything the Raiders expected him to be and more, and he has a bright future ahead as a speedy offensive weapon.
No. 9: Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland
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Drafted: Third Round, 85th Overall
Colt McCoy was one of the most decorated college quarterbacks in the history of the NCAA, with a retired number at Texas to go along with countless other accolades.
However, at 6'1", 215 lbs., with a suspect arm, many pro scouts weren't convinced his college glory could translate to Sunday afternoon NFL football.
It was because of this exact reason that teams let him slide to the third round, where he was scooped up by the Cleveland Browns, who some had thought would take McCoy in the second round. Mike Holmgren saw in McCoy enough pluck and swagger to become his future franchise quarterback, and since Week 6, when he made his first start, it looks as if he made the right choice.
McCoy had a shaky start against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their elite defense, but he posted respectable rookie numbers of 23 completions for 281 yards, a touchdown and two picks. However, his shining moment came in the Week 8 matchup against the New England Patriots, whom the Browns beat in a surprising 34-14 upset, in which McCoy had his best outing to date.
On the year, McCoy has 1,218 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and a 93.0 quarterback rating. As McCoy continues to progress, he will surely make the other 31 teams who passed him up kick themselves.
No. 8: Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England
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Drafted: Fourth Round, 113th Overall
For Aaron Hernandez, his education began in training camp, with Tom Brady taking him under his wing and being especially hard on him. Brady wanted Hernandez to be special. He saw in him great ability, and he saw the stellar receiver he could become.
The Patriots took two tight ends in the 2010 NFL Draft, a move that puzzled many fans and analysts, but we all knew Bill Belichick had something up his sleeve.
Of the two tight ends, Hernandez has shown that he is far less conventional, as he really plays like more of a wide receiver than anything else, often lining up in the slot against corners. Hernandez became owner to a much larger role than anticipated, and the departure of Randy Moss made his skills even more valuable.
He has become one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, especially in the red zone, where he has caught the fair share of his touchdowns. Hernandez has a unique role with the Patriots, but he certainly fits, and he has flourished in their multi-receiver offense.
He has played in every game in 2010, catching 45 passes for 563 yards and six scores. Nobody knows if this is as good as Hernandez's numbers will get, but his value in the fourth round is spectacular, and he is arguably the best of the rookie tight ends.
No. 7: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas
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Drafted: First Round, 24th Overall
The Cowboys picked Dez Bryant 24th overall in the first round, a great pick considering some projected Bryant as high as the top 10.
After a tumultuous career at Oklahoma State, in which he was forced to sit out all but the first three games of the 2009 season after controversy stemming from interactions with Deion Sanders, teams questioned if he still "had it," as well as his personal choices and attitude.
Jerry Jones pulled the trigger on the hometown boy, in whom he saw a great player. Bryant started out with a bang, choosing No. 88, formerly owned by great Cowboy receivers Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson. Then the pad-carrying incident with Roy Williams showed his fire and will to win, exciting Dallas fans as well as causing some controversy at camp.
Throughout a rookie campaign plagued by injury, Bryant has still flashed the extreme talent he had at Oklahoma State, with several outstanding catches and athletic plays. He is a red zone monster, as he isn't afraid of being physical with corners in coverage. His combination of size and speed is a rarity, creating mismatches all over the field.
In 12 games, Bryant caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns, tied for third most among rookie pass catchers. Also, Bryant had a stellar special teams campaign with two touchdowns on kick and punt returns, as well as a potential third that was reversed due to a holding penalty.
The Cowboys are excited, to say the least, about Bryant's future, and he looks like the No. 2 receiver for next year behind Miles Austin.
No. 6: Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans
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Chris Ivory, one of two undrafted players on the offense list, has been spectacular for the Saints thus far. Coming out of little-known Tiffin University, Ivory wasn't really on anybody's radar this year, but he has put together one of the best campaigns of any rookie running back.
Coming into this season, the reigning Super Bowl champs thought Pierre Thomas would continue his role as the starting running back, but an early injury set him back for nine weeks. Because Reggie Bush had broken his leg, the Saints really had no options, but luckily, Ivory was there to bail them out of a tough situation.
At 6'0", 220 lbs., Ivory has feature back size to go along with above average speed, offering more versatility than the bruising Thomas and the flimsy Bush. After two so-so starts against Carolina and Arizona, Ivory put it together against Tampa Bay, rushing 15 times for 158 yards in a blowout win.
Through 11 games this season, Ivory has 130 attempts for 683 yards and five touchdowns, and it looks as if he at least has a shot for the starting job in 2011.
Ivory is just another one of those undrafted success stories, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his success for the remainder of this season and beyond.
No. 5: Rodger Saffold, OT, St. Louis
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Drafted: Second Round, 33rd Overall
When the St. Louis Rams took Indiana offensive tackle Rodger Saffold with the top pick in the second round, few knew where he would be playing on the offensive line.
At 6'4", 315 lbs,, he is an undersized tackle better fit for a guard role, but the Rams loved his technique and cerebral ability in pass protection and kept him in his natural tackle spot.
Due to Jason Smith's concussion issues, Saffold was given the keys to the left tackle spot, with the duty of protecting fellow rookie Sam Bradford.
His keen ability for recognizing the moves of defensive ends and linebackers has given him the inside track to keep that job, and he has been one of the integral reasons that the Ram offensive line is currently ranked 14th overall in fewest sacks allowed, a 12-spot jump from last season.
Saffold has paid huge dividends for the Rams, and he and Bradford will most likely be paired together for many years to come.
No. 4: Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit
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Drafted: First Round, 30th Overall
The Lions made a bold but smart move in trading up for California offensive stud Jahvid Best, who they thought would add an immediate spark to their lethargic offense.
They knew that they didn't feel confident in quarterback Matthew Stafford's help in the backfield, something that needed to be changed.
Best was more of a scat back in college, capable of exploding for huge yardage in the blink of an eye and not so much banging between the tackles. Throughout the 2010 season, Best has proved to be a more than capable contributor in both the running and passing games, which was sorely needed to take some pressure off Calvin Johnson.
Best had a monster performance against the Eagles in Week 2, rushing 17 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns and catching nine passes en route to more than 150 yards and another touchdown. That game showed Best's lofty ceiling as a player, and it more than validated the trade up.
Best has racked up over 900 yards from scrimmage this year, as well as five touchdowns. He has been an invaluable addition to the Lions, and he, Stafford and Johnson will continue to lead the Detroit renaissance.
No. 3: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay
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The controversy surrounding LeGarrette Blount's punch against Boise State certainly scared off most every team in the NFL, despite a solid Senior Bowl showing to go along with his outstanding statistical history at Oregon.
Originally signed by the Tennessee Titans, Blount was waived after a training camp in which he threw another punch, this time at teammate Eric Bakhtiari. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up off waivers just prior to the start of the 2010 season, and the rest is history.
Blount had three ho-hum showings against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis before breaking out with a monster performance against Arizona, rushing 22 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a memorable hurdle of Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes.
Since then, Blount has had two more 100-plus yard outings, and his power running style has proved to be extremely useful to a Buccaneers team that is young and on the rise. As of Week 15, Blount has 164 carries for 777 yards and six scores, and he has proved that when he is given 20 or more carries, he can be a feature back capable of carrying the load.
Blount's emergence is a prime example of what can happen when you give a talented guy a chance, and he is a testament to undrafted players across the league.
No. 2: Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay
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Drafted: Fourth Round, 101st Overall
Like his teammate LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams' draft stock was clouded by college controversy. In the summer of 2008, Williams was suspended for the upcoming 2008 season due to academic issues, but that wasn't the end of his troubles.
In November of 2009, after seven games of Syracuse's season had been played, Williams quit the team after problems stemming from a car accident that involved three other Syracuse student athletes.
However, Williams was still considered a top receiving prospect for the 2010 draft, and the Buccaneers took a chance on him, as they have been known to do (see No. 3). Coach Raheem Morris saw a talented young man who was a victim of his own poor choices, one who just needed a positive environment to thrive.
From the beginning of training camp, the rapport between Josh Freeman and Williams was evident, as well as exciting. Now, in Week 15, Williams has become one of the best in Tampa Bay's young nucleus of players, as well as a member of the next generation of NFL stars.
This season, Williams has 58 receptions for 880 yards and eight touchdowns and is on pace for a 1,000-yard season. He has five games in which he caught for 75 or more yards, as well as one 100-yard game. You've probably heard it before, but look out for Mike Williams.
No. 1: Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis
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Drafted: First Round, First Overall
It's always so nice when the first overall pick ends up working out, but it could be said that Sam Bradford has done more than just merely work out.
The Rams were in the basement after last season, finishing 1-15 with very little optimism at all, except for that first overall pick.
Sam Bradford had, as everyone knows, a storied career at Oklahoma, in which he won the Heisman Trophy and was one of the best passers in the nation. The Rams were in need of a franchise quarterback with the departure of Marc Bulger in free agency, and Bradford was ready and waiting to be picked at the No. 1 spot.
Throughout this season, Bradford has shown skill, precision and intelligence beyond his years and has the look of a future great. He has systematically led the Rams back to relevance with six wins already this year, a staggering improvement considering where they were a year ago.
With a positive TD-INT ratio to go along with over 3,000 yards passing, Bradford has had one of the more impressive rookie campaigns for a quarterback in recent memory. He is on pace to break rookie records for completions, pass attempts and completion percentage, and he is my favorite to win this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Bradford's career is off to a truly remarkable start, and the chapters yet to be written will surely be no less amazing.