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Old 12-10-2009, 03:30 AM   #1
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Default Dirty Dozen: Rookie(s) of the Year

Dirty Dozen: Rookie(s) of the Year


12/09/2009 2:30 PM ET By Dave Goldberg



The 1996 draft was the best ever for receivers.

It might not retain that status for long if the receivers taken in April's draft continue to improve. In fact, we may look back in a decade at a group headed by Percy Harvin and call it the best ever. Because if it really takes two or three years for receivers to learn their craft in the NFL, this year's group is scary -- a half-dozen and more already are standouts as rookies.

This is a remarkable rookie class at three positions -- wideout, offensive line, and linebacker. (More later on the latter). As the eminence grise of drafts and anti-Kiper, Gil Brandt, pointed out this week, it didn't have many future superstars, but it was deep in good players. That's exactly how it looks after three-quarters of a season.

That draft 13 years ago started with the No. 1 overall pick, Keyshawn Johnson. He had a nice career: 814 catches for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns.

But by any standard, he's no better than the third best of the receivers taken that year -- the list starts at No. 1 with Marvin Harrison, the fourth taken at No. 18 (he weighed 168 pounds), and continues with Terrell Owens, the 12th taken, chosen in the third round at No. 89 overall. (That was because T.O. went to Tennessee-Chattanooga, not because teams feared he would become locker-room trouble -- few, if any, knew his personality.)

That '96 group also included Terry Glenn, Eddie Kennison and Eric Moulds in the first round; Amani Toomer, Muhsin Muhammad and Bobby Engram in the second; and Joe Horn in the fifth. A remarkable haul at one position and a group with remarkable longevity -- all played for a decade or more and T.O., Muhammad and Engram are still at it.

Harvin is clearly the best rookie this season, both as receiver and return man.

An all-purpose player who was primarily a running back at Florida, he was, like Harrison, the fourth receiver chosen, falling to 22nd overall because of questionable work habits and because no one was sure he could be a full-time receiver. But not only does he have 48 catches for a 14.2 yards-per-catch average and six touchdowns, he has two TDs on kickoff returns and has run for 113 yards on 13 carries, an average of 8.7 yards.

Predictably, the first wide receiver taken, Darrius Heyward-Bey, is far below some of the others, including his teammate Louis Murphy, a fourth-round pick. Heyward-Bey, whose selection at No. 7 overall shocked everyone but Al Davis, has just nine catches to 23 for Murphy, who has averaged 17.9 yards and has four touchdowns, including the winner at Pittsburgh last week. And that's on a team whose quarterbacking was the worst in the league until Bruce Gradkowski replaced JaMarcus Russell for the last three games.

Some scouts had Murphy, Harvin's Florida teammate, as a late first-rounder -- just about where they had Heyward-Bey, who went where he did because of Davis' obsession with speed (never mind hands or route-running). But given his predictable lack of accomplishment, it says a lot about the Raiders that they took him before a group of receivers who are doing remarkably well at a difficult position to learn at the NFL level.

In order: Michael Crabtree of the 49ers (10th overall), who has played just seven games after a holdout; Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles (19); Harvin (22); Hakeem Nicks, Giants (29); Kenny Britt, Titans (30); Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns (50); Mike Wallace, Steelers (84); Brian Hartline, Dolphins (108); Murphy (124); and Johnny Knox, Bears, a fifth-rounder taken 140th.

There will be more as other players develop, probably a deeper group than 1996 as teams continue to throw more than they run.

On defense, it's been a season for linebackers, led by two from Southern Cal -- Brian Cushing of the Texans and Clay Matthews of the Packers plus another Trojan: Rey Maualuga, taken by the Bengals in the second round. Aaron Curry, the "can't miss'' LB, taken fourth overall by Seattle, hasn't been as good -- not as bad as Heyward-Bey, but still learning his craft.

Here are the top six rookies (plus extra WRs) on offense and defense, none of them taken higher than 10th overall. It doesn't include the first-round QBs, all three of whom -- Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman -- are characteristically struggling as rookies but may be stars down the line.



Offense:

1.) Harvin (22nd-overall pick): It helps to have Brett Favre at QB. On the other hand, it helps Brett to have Harvin.

2.) Michael Oher, OT, Baltimore (23): Started two games at left tackle, the rest at right tackle and has no holding penalties. He has allowed six sacks, which really isn't bad and shut down Pittsburgh's James Harrison, last season's defensive player of the year. Forget the movie, "The Blindside," which makes him a celebrity. (Also forget the book, specifically the pontificating about how Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells were the first coaches to make left tackle more important than right tackle. That happened when Walsh and Parcells were kids.)

3.) Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver (12): Moreno's run for 774 yards, a 4.3 average and five touchdowns. He should make it to 1,000.

4.) Phil Loadholt, OT, Minnesota (54): Everyone wants left tackles. This guy has started every game on the right side. Like Oher, he hasn't been flagged for holding.

5.) Andy Levitre, G, Buffalo (51): Yes, a third offensive lineman. Might be the only time these guys get recognized.

6.) Some WRs (tie): Crabtree, Maclin, Nicks, Britt, Wallace, Murphy and Knox.


Defense:

1.) Brian Cushing, LB, Houston (15): He has 102 tackles, three interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks -- not his fault that the Texans have crashed again.

2.) Jairus Byrd, DB, Buffalo (42): Yes, the Bills had a good draft. Byrd fell to the second round because he had a sore leg and didn't run well at the combine or at his workout -- a good reason for scouts to notice how prospects play, not work out. Eight interceptions ties him with the venerable Darren Sharper for the league lead.

3.) Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington (13): A defensive end at Texas, he plays outside in a 3-4 scheme. So he has far fewer tackles than Cushing (40) but more sacks (seven).

4.) Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay (26): Seven sacks, three forced fumbles. He's not really far from his former college teammate (Cushing at USC) but didn't get to start until a few games into the season.

5.) Jerraud Powers, CB, Indianapolis (92)he Bill Polian factor -- starting cornerbacks get hurt, plug in a third-round rookie and lose nothing. "Shutdown corner'' is a cliche, but this guy is approaching it. He covers the opposition's best receiver on a team that's unbeaten and second in the NFL in points allowed, the only stat that really matters.

6.) 6. James Laurinaitis, MLB, St. Louis (35)Awful team, but he had 97 tackles and two interceptions. Three-down guy who dropped because Ohio State LBs have failed so often.


http://nfl.fanhouse.com/2009/12/09/d...s-of-the-year/
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:12 AM   #2
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6 sacks in 12 games? come on, clady had 1 the entire year and wasnt even MENTIONED for roty
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Old 12-10-2009, 06:02 AM   #3
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Still waiting for Ayers to make an impact.
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Old 12-10-2009, 06:13 AM   #4
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Laurinaitis is the impressive one IMO because the other LB's on that list have a ton of talent around them

that kid is doing a lot of that on his own
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Old 12-10-2009, 06:22 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsiguy96 View Post
6 sacks in 12 games? come on, clady had 1 the entire year and wasnt even MENTIONED for roty
No movie, no ROTY.
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Old 12-10-2009, 07:09 AM   #6
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I don't see how a draft with stone-hands could ever be considered the best for WR. I mean stone-hands is going to taint this class forever.
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Old 12-10-2009, 07:26 AM   #7
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Still waiting for Ayers to make an impact.
what about Alphonso
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsiguy96 View Post
6 sacks in 12 games? come on, clady had 1 the entire year and wasnt even MENTIONED for roty
If Matt Ryan's season and Chris Johnson were up for ROTY this year, do you think Oher would be ahead of them? Also, Clady finished 3rd in voting so he was absolutely mentioned. Even finished ahead of AFCCG contestant Joe Flacco.
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Old 12-10-2009, 09:40 AM   #9
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What a joke if Oher gets this honor when Clady had far superior numbers last year and still didn't get ROY honors.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:18 AM   #10
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Harvin

Cushing
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:24 AM   #11
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Harvin should get it....i'm happy because he really struggled in the offseason with his public perception (drugs, dehydration)

I think this author is wrong about the "Blind Side" book too...Walsh was pretty much the first guy to go to a short passing WC offense and that's what made the blind side tackle so important...also, linebackers like LT (the real one) began rushing the QB from that angle and really putting the most expensive player on the field (QB) at risk....thats when the big guys on the blind side started getting compensated

i'd like to hear who he thinks made that position so important
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:29 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fontaine View Post
Still waiting for Ayers to make an impact.
he was not as pro ready as Orakpo coming out of college, but has a much higher ceiling and within 3 years will be the better of the 2.
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:57 AM   #13
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The USC linebackers acquitted themselves pretty well this year. Despite all the pre-draft hate on here.
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
5.) Jerraud Powers, CB, Indianapolis (92)he Bill Polian factor -- starting cornerbacks get hurt, plug in a third-round rookie and lose nothing. "Shutdown corner'' is a cliche, but this guy is approaching it. He covers the opposition's best receiver on a team that's unbeaten and second in the NFL in points allowed, the only stat that really matters.
I predict that Brandon Marshall will make this guy look like a rookie at least 3 times in a few days.
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:22 PM   #15
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All things considered, it's been a pretty weak rookie class this year for the league. No one has really "set the league on fire." Even Percy Harvin has disappeared for games at a time. He's come on pretty strong the last three weeks though.
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:30 PM   #16
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Cushing would get my vote, the guy is clearly awesome.
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Old 12-10-2009, 12:44 PM   #17
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My real fear is that Oher's celebrity is going to propel him into the Pro Bowl over Ryan Clady. Keep voting Broncomaniacs.
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Old 12-10-2009, 03:29 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsiguy96 View Post
6 sacks in 12 games? come on, clady had 1 the entire year and wasnt even MENTIONED for roty
The rookie offensive players suck compared to last years. One of the worst years ever for offensive rookies. Last years was one of the best
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:23 PM   #19
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I don't see how a draft with stone-hands could ever be considered the best for WR. I mean stone-hands is going to taint this class forever.
You mean this guy?
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:23 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsiguy96 View Post
6 sacks in 12 games? come on, clady had 1 the entire year and wasnt even MENTIONED for roty
He didnt have a feel-good movie made about him though.
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:38 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gyldenlove View Post
I predict that Brandon Marshall will make this guy look like a rookie at least 3 times in a few days.
I highly doubt it. He played lights out against Fitzgerald, Moss, and Andre Johnson twice. Marshall might get some yards and a few Catches, But I highly doubt they come when Powers is on him. Maybe when Hayden or Jacob Lacey have him he will get some catches.....

Powers has been very good this year. I had him as my top rated Cover CB coming out, along with Jairus being the top FS from CB switch.....
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