2012 PFF All-Rookie Team

Steve Palazzolo works his way through one of the best draft classes of recent memory to find a squad of rookies that could push a team of seasoned vets.

| 4 years ago

2012 PFF All-Rookie Team


Defensive Ends (4-3 or 3-4): Chandler Jones, NE (+10.4) and Bruce Irvin, SEA (-0.4)

Jones and Irvin maintain their spots after making the mid-season team, though they’ve both struggled in recent weeks. Jones has played through injury which has seen his production suffer, while Irvin’s play as a pass rusher had tapered off even before he was forced into every-down action that exposed his inability to stop the run. Still, Jones has been an every-down player from Day 1 for the Patriots, while Irvin has taken well to his role as a situational pass rusher, ranking seventh in the league in Pass Rush Productivity at 10.5.

Honorable Mention: Quinton Coples (NYJ)

Defensive Tackles: Mike Martin, TEN (+12.2) and Fletcher Cox, PHI (+7.3)

Another pair that maintained their mid-year status, Martin and Cox have been key cogs in their respective teams’ defensive line rotations all year. Martin came out on fire as a pass rusher and finished the season at +12.1, good for 10th among all defensive tackles. Cox has been the more well-rounded player, ranking 12th in both Run Stop Percentage (7.6) and PRP (6.7).

Outside Linebackers (4-3 or 3-4): Lavonte David, TB (+10.0) and Dont’a Hightower, NE (+7.5)

Nearly a finalist in our Defensive Rookie of the Year Race, David was all over the field as he led all linebackers in Run Stop Percentage at 14.6. He finished as our fifth-best 4-3 outside linebacker while playing 98% of his team’s snaps. Hightower has proven to be a versatile player for New England and he’s excelled as a pass rusher. He’s picked up 14 pressures on his 65 rushes, good for a PRP of 17.3 that puts him fourth at the position.

Inside Linebacker: Bobby Wagner, SEA (+16.0)

Not only is Wagner the top rookie inside linebacker, but he ranks second at the position in the entire league. His Run Stop Percentage of 14.4 is tops among inside linebackers as he’s shored up the middle of Seattle’s defense. We have to wonder if this race would have been closer had Luke Kuechly started the season in the middle rather than the outside. After struggling early, he really took to the middle linebacker spot where his 13.3 Run Stop Percentage ranked fourth. Wagner gets the nod this year, but Kuechly has already started to close the gap.

Honorable Mention: Luke Kuechly (CAR)

CB: Casey Hayward, GB (+23.1) and Alfonzo Dennard, NE (+5.5)

Our No. 2 rated coverage cornerback and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Hayward has made the most of his 703 snaps in the Packers’ secondary. Quarterbacks have a QB Rating of 31.1 when throwing his way due to his six interceptions and 16 passes defensed. He’s done most of his work in the slot where he’s surrendering only 0.79 Yards/Cover Snap, good for second in the league. Dennard’s emergence, along with the trade for CB Aqib Talib, has allowed New England’s secondary to play more aggressive man coverages that have helped turn the defense around in the second half of the season. He’s graded at +5.0 in coverage with three interceptions and six passes defensed.

S: Harrison Smith, MIN (+6.5) and Mark Barron, TB (-4.9)

The only two safeties chosen in the first round, Smith and Barron have been entrenched as starters since opening day. Smith was a major key to the Vikings improvement in the secondary, as his +10.4 coverage grade ranked sixth among safeties. He was our second runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The second safety spot was much more difficult to decide, but Barron makes the team despite some bumps along the way. He found himself out of position at times in coverage, and he certainly could have done a better job of tackling as he missed 13. Barron did show his playmaking ability, however, as he deflected seven passes and came in at ninth in Run Stop Percentage at 8.4.

Honorable Mention: Tavon Wilson (NE), Jerron McMillian (GB)

Special Teams

K: Blair Walsh, MIN (+38.6)

The “Year of the Rookie Kicker” saw Walsh edge out Justin Tucker and Greg Zuerlein on the strength of his remarkable 10 for 10 on field goals of 50 or more yards. Walsh is our top ranked kicker in the league.

Honorable Mention: Justin Tucker, Greg Zuerlein

P: Bryan Anger, JAX (+20.7)

Anger will always battle the stigma of being a third-round draft pick as a punter, but he showed well in his first year, finishing as our 11th ranked punter.

ST: Olivier Vernon, MIA (+4.5)

Vernon has blocked two kicks while picking up seven special teams tackles on the season.

Returner: David Wilson, NYG (+9.5)

Our No. 3 rated return man, Wilson has done all of his work on kickoffs where he’s averaged 26.9 yards/return including one return for a touchdown.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Michael Weis

    Does PFF keep track of the number of rushing attempts for RBs that came through the option/zone-read (ex. typical WAS offensive play), and the number of rushing attempts that come through regular pro-style rushing attack (ex. typical BAL offensive play)? 

    Does PFF also keep track of which gap the RB goes through and the resulting yards on option/zone-read plays?

    I’d like to see how different A. Morris’ (and other option/zone-read RBs) numbers are between his pro-style Run touches, and his option/zone-read touches. Perhaps one of your great analysts can write a piece highlighting the effectiveness of A. Morris’ type RBs in the system he is in.

    • Pkhemmerich

      I have to agree. Morris seems to have benefited much more from the offense (see; RG3) he was in. Also, he didn’t catch the ball out of the backfield like Doug Martin.

  • Michael Weis

    Can anyone explain what the different skill sets coaches look for to differentiate between LGs and RGs? I know that LTs are usually excellent pass blockers, and I assume RTs are good RBs, but what about the guards? Does it depend on their agility, power, system?

    • http://www.facebook.com/blake.whitney.35 Blake Whitney

       System would direct what type of guards teams would grab. Agility, leverage, lower body or mauler types. So many attributes for guards that can change their play style.

  • Tiago1801

    where is stephen gilmore?

    • TheQuestion

      Busy getting a pass interference or holding call.

    • Kevin Byrd

        Him getting a big play after giving up 2 doesn’t make up for it. His overall grade is -4.3.

      • Tiago1801

         he is +3.7 of pass cover his negative grade was penalty (-6.2) and run defence (-1.8)

        • http://twitter.com/Cornerss william

           PI penalties are like turnovers imo. They almost always involve huge chunk yardage and almost always puts them in scoring distance. Its why you are supposed to only do it when you are burned.

  • guess

    So Wilson gets the top spot because of his late surge(last 9 games),but Morris wins because of his overall body of work???

    • http://twitter.com/Cornerss william

       i think if you were a team with no qb or hb , you would take Wilson based on what they did last year. QB’s win games

      • Richard L.

         “QB’s win games”

        “That’s what I said when they gave Ray Lewis the Super Bowl MVP award.” – Trent Dilfer

  • Watermia

    What about Rhett Ellison at FB?

    • Steve Palazzolo

      This was an oversight on my part and it’s been fixed accordingly. I’m a huge fan of Ellison and his versatility.

  • Grant Cutler

    Where is Vontaze Burfict?

    • Guest

      Why would you mention Burfict in the same breath as the guys above? Your name suggest you are not a family member so I’m going with Bengals fan who doesn’t watch much other football.

      • Izach12

        while i agree the guys mentioned did better than buffict, burfict made quite a name for himself this year, overall he was the bengals best LB. he basically too rey malungas spot and ignited that defense much better than most ppl realize, his passion on the field cost them sometime but it also helped alot more. 

    • George McDowell

       Probably smoking weed. As is anyone who thinks he belongs on this list.

    • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.moltisanti.1 Antonio Moltisanti

      This was a really, really good class of linebackers IMHO. I guess he just didn’t make the cut, but he is clearly a good player.

  • JJ

    Funny how half these guys had no draft hype.

  • therockpilekid

    you guys d#$%^# cordy glenn PERIOD

  • Tom

    Just a random question – do you have Courtney Upshaw’s efficiency rating? Simply want to get a gauge on what you all thought of his rookie campaign.

  • http://twitter.com/PhilKenSebben Mike

    KJ Wright?

  • Rkleine708

    How did Washington win 7 straight games and make the playoffs with no first or second team all-pros. The answer is RG3. He had much less help than Russell Wilson (as well as a higher QB rating and 500 more yards rushing). He is clearly the rookie of the year. If he not been hurt I believe Washington would still be playing.

    • guest

      i believe Alfred Morris had the second most rushing yards in the NFL, so no help isn’t really right. and Pierre Garcon is pretty good.

    • http://twitter.com/Cornerss william

       both rg3 and wilson had the most help of the rookie qb’s on offense.Both had pretty good te’s and wr’s and hb’s. So stop whining

    • Richard L.

       Didn’t Kirk Cousins come in for 1 start and post big numbers with RG3 injured?

      How did he managed to do that if RG3 is the only good player on the team?

  • Idkjoe

    Not a honorable mention for Justin Blackmon?  He had more catches and receiving yards than all three.  And on a terrible offense with no rushing attack and questions quarterbacks.

    • http://twitter.com/Cornerss william

       top 10 picks have no one to blame but themselves if they dont live up to expectations. The guy was labeled a bust most of the year till Henne was named starter

      • unhipcat

        only an idiot would label someone a bust after half a season

      • http://www.facebook.com/antonio.moltisanti.1 Antonio Moltisanti

        That is bull. Larry friggin Fitzgerald couldn’t put together a 1000-yard season this year and you expect Blackmon to do it all himself? As a rookie? With BLAINE GABBERT?

  • VfJ

    Osemele should be the other guard…

  • SayItLikeYouMeanIt

    Excellent choices

  • Krfaulkner79

    Bob Wagner over Luke Keuchly is garbage.  Im not knocking Wagner he had an incredible rookie season but Keuchly led the enitre NFL in TACKLES and made the Panthers Run Defense/ Defense better.

    • Richard L.

      1. Not all tackles are created equal.
      If a linebacker accumulates 100 tackles close to the line of scrimmage, that’s better than a linebacker who gets 125 tackles 10 yards down the field. That’s why PFF created measures like “Run-Stop percentage.”

      2. Even if you don’t buy into PFF’s advanced stats like Run-Stop percentage, based on the raw stats, Kuechely only had 16 more unassisted tackles than Wagner – 103 vs 87. That’s an average difference of 1 tackle per game.

      Do you REALLY think that’s conclusive evidence he’s better than Wagner – 1 tackle per game??? Seriously?

      3. The article already mentioned Kuechely improving the Panthers’ run defense. The point is not that Kuechly was useless compared to Wagner – they’re both really good. The point is that Wagner was better for all 16 games, while Kuechly only began thriving after moving to MLB.

  • Jaqen H’Gar

    I’m very surprised that Kelechi Osemele did not earn the LG spot. I think he deserved it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.kamel.18 Joe Kamel

    Why do people say “If RG3 hadn’t been injured”? Its amazing he wasnt hurt sooner, his lack of awareness when running the ball is a major liability. If he doesnt learn how to avoid violent collisions he’s never going to stay healthy.

  • Kayvon Thomas

    Where is Derek Wolfe? The man was a relentless beast that was the third component (behind Von and Doom) of Denver’s scary pass-rushing attack.