Rating the NFL Rookies: Best Class Ever?

December 27, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

Looking back to the contentious off-season that was in the NFL, with proverbial war being waged between the players and the owners there seemed to be little that anyone could agree on. As we the fans sat back and opined as to what the on-field ramifications of labor discord would be amount to this season, the one point on which we all seemed assured and in agreement was that the rookies were the “odd men out” in this battle, and that their season, more than anyone else’s, projected to be hindered by the lack of off-season work and mini-camps.

Something funny though happened on the way to this NFL season, as the rookies seemingly aware of the degree to which they’d be “up against it” in getting ready for this year seem to have arrived in the league at an all-time level of preparedness.


Maybe there’s a mentality that sets in for rookies in a standard year, that their teams understand the best way to get them up to speed quickly and therefore the work done in off-season camps might appear to be enough for an average NFL rookie. The urgency that seemed to underscore this season’s efforts though may have brought out the best in this year’s rookie crop as they prepared on their own for the approaching season.


Whatever the means by which they got there, here they are, possibly the best or at least the most impactful class of rookies the league has seen in quite some time, arguably ever. Torrey Smith for example might finish this season with numbers that merit mention amongst the top-10 rookie wide receiver seasons of all time, yet threatens to be a mere afterthought in this years rookie of the year balloting.


Here’s my assessment of the rookie class through 15 games of action and how my ballot would look for Rookie of the Year voting if indeed I had one:


Offensive Rookie of the Year:


Cam Newton (CAR) – 295/492 3893 yards 20 TD & 16 int. and 674 yards and 14 TD rushing


#2 – Andy Dalton (CIN) – 278/472 3166 yards 20 TD & 13 int.


#3 – AJ Green (CIN) – 1031 yards 7 TD rec.


#4 – Torrey Smith (BAL) – 808 yards 7 TD rec.


#5 – Julio Jones (ATL) – 883 yards 6 TD rec.


Honorable Mentions:


DeMarco Murray (DAL) – 897 yards 2 TD rush


Doug Baldwin (SEA) – 748 yards 4 TD rec.


Denarius Moore (OAK) – 517 yards 5 TD rec.


Roy Helu (WAS) – 635 yards 2 TD rush


Greg Little (CLE) – 709 yards 2 TD rec.


Titus Young (DET) – 583 yards 4 TD rec.