There are quite a few NFL players having great rookie seasons this year. DeSean Jackson of Philly, Matt Ryan of Atlanta, and Matt Forte of the Bears, just to name a few. With this in mind, here are the top ten best rookie seasons of the last ten years.
10. Marcus McNeill, OT, 2006: McNeill just beats out teammate Shawne Merriman from a year earlier for the last spot on this list. It's tough to determine exactly how good an offensive linemen is, and most of the NFL missed McNeill's terrific rookie season. He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month award for September and finished fourth for the entire season's voting. He didn't committ any holding penalties all year and helped LT set the single-season record for total touchdowns (31). Oh, and he played virtually the entire year with broken hands, and still helped the Chargers to a 13-3 record.
9. Edgerrin James, RB, 1999: Edge accounted for over 2,100 yards and 17 touchdowns as a rookie, helping the Colts to a 13-3 record. He helped to take pressure off of second-year quarterback Peyton Manning and provided a reliable target out of the backfield on screen passes.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, 2004: Few quarterbacks have the opportunity to make an impact as a rookie, but Roethlisberger was handed the starting job in Week 4 due to injuries to both Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox. He made the most of his playing time, setting an NFL-record by winning the first 13 starts of his career, including a 34-20 win over the New England Patriots, who had been unbeaten in their previous 21 games.
7- Julius Peppers, DE, 2002: Ala Jevon Kearse of the Titans three years earlier, Peppers had a phenomenal season as a rookie defensive end. He recorded 12 sacks and five forced fumbles in his first 12 games, before he was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He finished the year as arguably the most explosive defensive end in the game.
6- Anquan Boldin, WR, 2003: I don't think anyone expected Boldin's breakout rookie season. He was drafted in the second round because of a slow 40 time, but nonetheless managed to catch 101 passes for 1377 yards and 8 touchdowns, setting the NFL-record for most receptions as a rookie. In his first game as a pro, Boldin caught 10 passes for 217 yards and 2 scores, setting the record for most receiving yards in a player's first game in the NFL.
5- Brian Urlacher, LB, 2000: Not many athletes are deemed good enough to be labeled a “physical freak.” Urlacher is. As a rookie in 2000, Urlacher became an offensive coordinator's nightmare, recording eight sacks, two interceptions, and over 100 tackles. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and earned the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
4- Joe Thomas, OT, 2007: Few people even take notice when an offensive linemen is having a good season. But NFL fans realized just how good Thomas was as a rookie in '07. He played every offensive snap for the Browns and finished second behind Adrian Peterson in the Offensive Rookie of the Year award voting. Not only did Thomas make the Pro Bowl, his stellar pass blocking enabled unproven quarterback Derek Anderson to throw for 29 touchdowns and earn a Pro Bowl selection as well.
3- Jevon Kearse, DE, 1999: Kearse was an absolute terror in his first NFL season, earning the nicknames “The Freak.” Look at his numbers: 14.5 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles during the regular season, which earned him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Oh, and he led the Titans to the Super Bowl.
2- Devin Hester, KR, 2006: After just one year in the NFL, Hester already established himself as the single greatest return man in the history of the league. By the end of the season, opposing teams simply would not kick the ball to him. He returned three punts, two kickoffs, and a 108-yard missed field goal for scores, and then took the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl back for a touchdown.
1 – Adrian Peterson, RB, 2007: I can't remember the last time I saw a rookie running back as good as AP. His list of achievements that season is just jaw-dropping - 1453 rushing yards, league-leading 5.6 yards per carry, the single-game rushing record (296) against the Chargers, NFL Offensive Rookie of Month twice, that amazing 60-yard screen pass touchdown in his NFL debut, and then the Pro Bowl MVP award to wrap up the season.