'08-'09 NFL All-Rookie Team: The New Breed of Athletes
Years ago, it was somewhat unheard of to see rookies earn a starting position, let alone steal headlines and be on the covers of established magazines.
Somebody forgot to tell last year's Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson that, as all of America watched the rookie shatter any rookie stereotype and was arguably the top running back of the season.
Peterson set the rushing record for a single game at 296 yards and ended up in Honalulu, where he was named MVP of the game.
There is no question in my mind that there is a new breed of athlete in recent years, no longer will some be deemed "rookies" rather game changers and key pieces to the success of their respective teams.
Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson
This rookie's performance comes to no surprise for those who reside in Greenville, NC, but for everyone else in the world, his performances has opened everybody's eyes right from the get go.
The Orlando native wasted no time in getting his name out there, as he rushed for 93 yards on 15 attempts and scored a touchdown in his NFL debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
From then on, LenDale White was permanently moved to the goal line and third-and-short sets, as Johnson in his second game reached the century mark and from then on he hasn't looked back.
With two games left, Johnson already has rushed for a 100-plus yards four times, scored eight touchdowns, ran for 1,159 yards, and has broken free for runs of 51 yards, 58 yards, and 61 yards.
Johnson has played one of the largest roles this season and is a huge reason why the Titans have won 12 games this year. Sorry Colts, Jags, and Texans, don't expect this rookie to fall off the map; he's a natural, and we can only expect greatness in the future.
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Yes, I was one of the many who believed that signing a rookie to a six-year, $72 million contract before Ryan had even touched the turf at the Georgia Dome in a real game was a terrible idea.
Now, as it plays out, it looks like the organization knew what kind of quality quarterback they were investing in and it has arguably been one of the best offseason moves of the year.
A year before, the Falcons along with the Raiders were the laughing stalk of the NFL now, Ryan, Turner, and company have their teams in position for a much needed and deserved playoff appearance in the state's capital.
This season, Matt Ryan has thrown for 3,146 yards with 14 touchdowns and has led his team to an 9-5 record thus far. The former Boston College Eagle is a prime example of natural pro-style quarterback, and with a little more seasoning, he has great potential to be the next Peyton, Tom, or Drew.
Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart
At first, I don't think third-year running back DeAngelo Williams was too thrilled about the fact that Carolina drafted the Oregon running back with the 13th overall pick of this year's draft, but now it looks like the best thing that ever could've happened to his career.
Williams already has 1229 rushing yards, which is 11 more yards then he rushed for the past two seasons and has recorded 14 touchdowns, nine more then the previous two seasons.
So if you don't credit Stewart with Williams' all of a sudden "waking from the dead," I don't know who else could be responsible. After watching Stewart rush for 100 yards and one touchdown on 10 attempts against the Redskins in their preseason game, I knew this kid was for real.
This season, Stewart has ran for 751 yards on 158 attempts, and has been in the end zone nine times. He and Williams have become the most powerful running duo in the NFC and will have tremendous roles to fill if the Panthers are to make it to Tampa Bay, FL.
Regardless of how the season plays out, it looks like possibly the scariest running back duo in the NFL is in the making.
Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson
Coming into the season, everybody knew how fast the 5'10" Long Beach native was, but many still questioned if that was enough to get him by in the NFL.
Well, so far, the the former Cal standout has given corners fits on one-and-one coverage, where he has a team leading 852 yards and three touchdowns, one coming from the ground.
The attention he has gained from defenses has opened up the running game for Westbrook, who already has a career high nine touchdowns this season.
With Reggie Brown still unable to solidify the No. 1 spot since T.O. left and with a handful of mediocre receivers, Jackson is by far the Eagles best threat at the receiver position.
Even though his cockiness has cost him and his team a touchdown, I know Eagles fans are more than happy about the second round, 49th pick out of last year's draft. After a year under his belt and some better route running, Jackson should be in the Pro Bowl talks.
Washington Redskins S Chris Horton
After the Washington Redskins drafted two of the top wideouts and the best tight end in last year's draft, who would've thought the only stud who came out of all of the picks was seventh-round draft pick Chris Horton out of UCLA.
Without question, Horton is the Marques Colston of this year's draft, as he has recorded 65 tackles and three interceptions, one interception solidified the Redskins win over Dallas earlier in the season.
The LA kid, nicknamed "Predator" on the field fully took over the starting position when second-year safety Reed Doughty was placed on the injured reserve back in October.
His relentless work ethic, punishing hits, and sense for finding the ball has drawn him comparisons to the late Sean Taylor. Horton, however, insists nobody will ever be able to replace Sean Taylor as a person or player, but vows to keep his legacy alive at the safety position.
Horton is an avid video follower of Taylor and stops by his locker before every practice to show his respects. With Landry alongside, I can't wait to see the deadly duo in the future.
Dallas Cowboys TE Martellus Bennett
After getting off to a slow start, the rookie tight end out of Texas A&M has found a knack for the end zone lately, scoring a touchdown in three of the last five games.
One touchdown against the Washington Redskins was arguably the most important touchdown of the Cowboys' season, as it lifted them 14-10 and kept their season and playoff hopes alive, which seemed lifeless just days before.
Even though he only has 269 reception yards, he averages 15 yards a catch, with four touchdowns. Many are probably wondering why he is included in this list. Well, he has played a major role in the Cowboys' offense lately and has done so sitting behind maybe the league's best tight end, Jason Witten.
His 6'6", 265lbs frame even had John Madden raving about his size and athleticism, saying that is what a tight end is suppose to look like in the National Football League.
St. Louis Rams DE Chris Long
The No. 2 draft pick didn't disappoint his team during a rebuilding year. He was one the few bright spots for the struggling Rams. The 6'3" defensive end out of Virginia has recorded 38 tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble.
The son of former great Raider Howie Long has set out to make a legacy of his own and is well on his way on doing so. Since being drafted, Long has spent countless of hours in the gym and film room to do what he could to help the sputtering St. Louis team.
Though the season didn't turn out a success, the Rams have plenty to look forward to, as WR Donnie Avery has shown flashes of his own on the offensive side, while Long did all a rookie could do on a bad team, which was prove he belonged.
Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco
For all the Ohio State fans who have been patiently waiting for Troy Smith to get the nod at as Ravens' starting quarterback, you might as well sit back, enjoy the popcorn, and watch the Joe Flacco show.
The former Delaware quarterback has given the Ravens what no previous quarterback has been able to give them: stability.
Flacco has filled in perfectly for a team that has relied our their defense since the existence of the Baltimore franchise, and if they are to contend for their second Super Bowl, the offense must limit their mistakes and put enough points on the board to win the game and let the defense take care of the rest.
Flacco has thrown for 2,525 yards,13 touchdowns, and has had four games in which he had a quarterback rating over 109.
This quick learner didn't need a powerhouse division-one school to prove he is an elite quarterback, and he didn't need an explosive offensive team to draft him in order to prove he belongs in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills CB Leodis McKelvin
When McKelvin was drafted by the Bills in the first round, I don't think they knew that, in addition to his corner skills, he also offered excellent return skills as well.
Along with Roscoe Parrish, the pair are easily the deadliest return duo in the NFL. With a return average of nearly 30 yards on kickoffs, with a blink of the eye, the former Troy star can be gone, his longest of the year was 98-yard return for a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mckelvin only has 26 tackles but has had two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. With the versatility that the Waycross, GA native offer, Bills fans couldn't have asked for a better playmaker.
New England Patriots LB Jerod Mayo
The former Vol wasted no time at all at, taking up where he left off in college. His immediate impact with the former three-time Super Bowl champs has the Patriots back in the fight for the playoffs once again, where many didn't believe they could make it.
The former first team SEC linebacker already has recorded 114 tackles which has earned him a well deserved Rookie of the Year candidate. With the speed and power Mayo brings, it is hard to block the 22-year-old out of Hampton, VA.
His presence has been the focus of many offensive lines but his natural eye for the ball carrier almost makes it impossible to keep Mayo out of the play.
Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte
After dealing with the whole Cedric Benson ordeal in Chicago, fans and coaches desperately needed a consistent running back that didn't add drama to the organization.
Well, this year, they were blessed with a early Christmas present with 44th overall pick of this past years draft. Not only has Forte rushed for 1,115 and seven touchdowns, they have had no off the field or locker room problems with the former Tulane running back.
He is exactly what the Bears needed offensively, and his presence has allowed a passing game that many didn't believe existed. First Hester, now Forte, the Bears' front office are on top of their jobs, finding gems and talent that have greatly affected the Bears season.
With key pieces arriving every year, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Bears make another Super Bowl run within the next couple of years.
Houston Texans RB Steve Slaton
Whoever thought Steve Slaton was a victim of Pat White's greatness at West Virginia was wrong. The 5-9 running back from PA has ran crazy in the previous weeks crossing the century mark 4 out of the last 5 weeks including running on the Titans stout defense for 116 yards and 100 yards.
Slaton has rushed for 1124 through week 15 with 8 touchdowns. Eventhough the Texans are eliminated from playoff contention they have plenty to look forward to for next season with a seasoned quarterback, a consistent runningback, a star wide reciever, and an underrated defense.
I expect the Texans to earn their first playoff bid next season and open eyes as a legitimate contender in the NFL.