The Best Rookie Season in the History of Every NFL Franchise

Josh McCainSenior Writer IJune 20, 2011

The Best Rookie Season in the History of Every NFL Franchise

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    Every year the NFL raft comes and goes, and every year each team hopes one of their picks will turn the tide to make their teams instant contenders.

    In this slideshow are 32 players who made a huge impact their first year with their teams.

    Before the list begins though, I have to admit a couple of things:

    First, before 1981, the NFL did not track tackles and sacks as statistics.

    Since I was born in 1983, I did not see a lot of the best defenders of all time play, and going back to look at just rookie years was difficult to pick defenders as being the best rookie in their franchise's history.

    Second, remember this is just rookie seasons; some players might not have had a great career, but came out of the gates like gangbusters.

    Enjoy the list, and I am indeed open to suggestions.

Buffalo Bills: Thurman Thomas, RB

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    The Buffalo Bills drafted Thurman Thomas in 1988, and in his first season, he rushed for 881 yards on just 207 attempts.

    Thomas also scored two touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards a carry.

Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino, QB

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    This was one of the easiest to decide—for the Miami Dolphins, it's Dan Marino.

    Marino started just nine games and went 7-2. He threw 296 passes for 2,210 yards, 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

    Not only is that good for a rookie but, shoot, that's pretty good for a seasoned vet.

New England Patriots: Terry Glenn, WR

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    In his 1996 rookie season for the New England Patriots, Terry Glenn caught 90 passes for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns.

    Glenn averaged 12.6 yards per catch and 75 yards per game.

New York Jets: Larry Grantham, LB

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    In 1960, the New York Jets drafted Larry Grantham; he had five interceptions and one forced fumble.

Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Suggs, LB

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    In 2003, Terrell Suggs only started one game for the Baltimore Ravens, but that didn't stop him from having 12 sacks, an interception, five forced fumbles and 18 tackles.

Cincinnati Bengals: Corey Dillon, RB

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    The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Corey Dillon in 1997 hoping he could help turn around their floundering franchise.

    In his first year, Dillon carried the rock 233 times for 1,129 yards. His long was 66 yards, and he averaged 4.8 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns. Dillon also caught 27 passes for 259 yards.

Cleveland Browns: Jim Brown, RB

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    Again, another pretty obvious choice that I'm sure a Browns fan will correct me on.

    In 1957, possibly the greatest running back of all time joined the Cleveland Browns. 

    His name? Jim Brown.

    In 12 games, Brown ran 202 times for 942 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

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    With all the rich history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's hard to believe that possibly the best rookie season in Steelers history could have come so recently.

    Pittsburgh drafted some kid named Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.

    He only went 13-0 in the regular season, completing 196 of 295 passes (66.4 percent) for 2,621 yards and 17 touchdowns.

    Roethlisberger also took the Steelers to the AFC Championship game. 

    Not bad for a guy whose last name was almost unpronounceable when we all first heard about him.

Houston Texans: Andre Johnson, WR

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    The young Houston Texans franchise drafted Andre Johnson in 2003.

    He caught 66 passes for 976 yards and four touchdowns.

Indianapolis Colts: Edgerrin James, RB

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    In 1999, the Indianapolis Colts drafted the man known as "Edge," Edgerrin James.

    In his first season, James rushed 369 times for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns, with his longest run being 72 yards.

    He also had 62 catches for 586 yards and four more touchdowns.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Fred Taylor, RB

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    Fred Taylor was drafted by the Jags in 1998 and did not disappoint, with 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

    He also caught 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns.

Tennessee Titans: Jevon Kearse, DE

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    In 1999, the Tennessee Titans drafted Jevon Kearse, who had possibly one of the greatest defensive rookie seasons ever.

    "The Freak" had 14.5 sacks,—a rookie record—eight forced fumbles, one fumble recovery for a touchdown and 48 tackles.

Denver Broncos: Clinton Portis, RB

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    Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan's plug-and-play running back system in 2002 produced a 1,508-yard and 17-touchdown year for rookie running back, Clinton Portis.

Kansas City Chiefs: Bobby Bell, LB

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    Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a beast, and sadly the only stat recorded for his rookie season season is one interception for 20 yards.

Oakland Raiders: Ray Guy, P

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    Yeah, there is a punter on this list.

    In 1973, Ray Guy had 69 punts for 3,127 yards, with a long of 72 yards.

San Diego Chargers: Ladainian Tomlinson, RB

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    In 2001, LaDainian Tomlinson was drafted by the San Diego Chargers.

    Tomlinson rushed for 1,236 yards (long of 54 yards) and 10 touchdowns on 339 attempts. He also had 367 receiving yards.

Dallas Cowboys: Bob Hayes, WR

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    The Cowboys drafted Bob Hayes in 1965. His rookie season, he had 46 receptions for 1,003 yards. Hayes also averaged 21.8 yards per catch and had 12 touchdowns.

New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor, LB

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    L.T. set the football world on fire his first season in the NFL, but unfortunately his only official recorded stats are one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson, WR

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    Even though DeSean Jackson wasn't a first-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, he sure played like one with 62 catches for 912 yards.

    Jackson had two touchdown catches, and also rushed for 96 total yards and one touchdown.

    Finally Donovan McNabb had someone to throw to.

Washington Redskins: Paul Krause, CB

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    Washington Redskins rookie Paul Krause had 12 interceptions, one touchdown and two fumble recoveries in 1964.

    The Redskins wouldn't see another cornerback like that until Darrell Green in 1983.

Chicago Bears: Gale Sayers, RB

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    This is another one of those easy ones. 

    For the Bears, their best rookie performance came in 1965, and it came from running back Gale Sayers.

    Sayers rushed 166 times for 912 yards and 14 touchdowns, with an average 5.2 yards per carry. He also caught 29 passes for 507 yards and six touchdowns.

Detroit Lions: Barry Sanders, RB

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    Young Lions fans might not remember this, but at one point the Lions were competitive. 

    And the man who led the charge was No. 20, Barry Sanders.

    In his first season (1989), Sanders rushed for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns on 280 carries. Two seasons later, he led the Lions to the NFC Championship game.

Green Bay Packers: James Lofton, WR

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    When the Green Bay Packers drafted James Lofton in 1978, he caught 46 passes for 818 yards and six touchdowns.

Minnesota Vikings: Randy Moss, WR

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    In 1998, the Dallas Cowboys passed on Randy Moss, but the Minnesota Vikings did not.

    The Vikes were rewarded with 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Cowboys have never beaten Moss.

Atlanta Falcons: Deion Sanders, CB

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    Since he's played for so many teams, some people may have forgotten "Prime Time" Deion Sanders was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1989.

    That season, Sanders had 307 punt return yards and one touchdown. He also returned 35 kicks for 725 yards. 

    Sanders added five interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the defensive side of the ball.

Carolina Panters: Julius Peppers, DE

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    In Julius Peppers' rookie season, he recorded 12 sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles and 29 tackles.

New Orleans Saints: George Rogers, RB

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    In 1981, the New Orleans Saints drafted George Rogers, who rushed for 1,674 yards (104.6 yards per game average) and 13 touchdowns on 378 carries.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cadillac Williams, RB

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    Even though he hasn't duplicated his rookie season, Cadillac Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushed for 1,178 yards on 290 carries with six touchdowns in 2005.

Arizona Cardinals: Ottis Anderson, RB

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    In 1979, Ottis Anderson was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals, and he rushed for 1,605 yards and 10 touchdowns.

St. Louis/L.A. Rams: Eric Dickerson, RB

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    Drafted by the L.A. Rams in 1983, Eric Dickerson was a force to be reckoned with in the NFL.

    In his rookie season, he rushed for 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns, also averaging 113 yards per game.

San Fransisco 49ers: Ronnie Lott, S

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    Ronnie Lott redefined what a safety in the NFL was in 1981. With the speed of a corner and fierceness of a linebacker, many receivers felt he should be illegal.

    Lott had seven interceptions, three touchdowns, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 89 tackles.

Seattle Seahawks: Curt Warner, RB

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    Curt Warner—the running back, not the quarterback—had a huge break-out rookie season for the Seattle Seahawks, rushing for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The End?

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    There you have it, my list of the best rookie seasons for all 32 franchises. 

    I'm sure you have a few different opinions, so go ahead and leave a comment to let me know some of the best rookie seasons, in your opinion.