2012 PFF All-Sophomore Team
While the unofficial "Year of the Rookie Quarterback/Kicker" meant they got little mention, 2011's rookies still put forward some strong campaigns. Khaled Elsayed highlights the best.
2012 PFF All-Sophomore Team
Yesterday was the time for us to unveil our All-Rookie Team. It’s great looking back on guys who have entered the league and taken it by storm.
However, rookies shouldn’t get all the attention, right? So today we’re going to unveil another team, only the criteria is that you had to have entered the league in 2011. So, welcome to our All-Sophomore Team.
Quarterback: Cam Newton (CAR)
Well, Colin Kaepernick would have likely earned a start if he played every game, but Cam Newton wasn’t nearly as bad as some would make out. That opinion owed a lot to getting caught up in the highlights last year, but he’s still a franchise quarterback.
Running Back: Stevan Ridley (NE)
With DeMarco Murray limited by injury, and Mikel Leshoure and Mark Ingram failing to impress, this was relatively straight forward. Ridley isn’t the type to wow you, but he’s the type to always get more than his line gives him.
Full Back: Henry Hynoski (NYG)
Another good year for the Giant, who finished with our fifth-highest blocking score for all fullbacks.
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph (MIN)
Not exactly a dominating bunch. Nonetheless, Rudolph is the kind of tight end who can get the job done on every down, with a handy habit of popping up with touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green (CIN) and Julio Jones (ATL)
Randall Cobb impressed, while Torrey Smith and Cecil Shorts caught our attention at times. However, it was the top two guys taken in 2011 that produced the goods in a way that meant these choices were no-brainers.
Tackles: Nate Solder (NE) and Orlando Franklin (DEN)
It hasn’t been mentioned much, but Solder had himself a fine second year, offsetting what problems he had in pass protection with some excellent work in the run game. Franklin benefited from the switch the Broncos made at quarterback, ending the year with the second-highest grade of all right tackles in pass protection.
Guards: Clint Boling (CIN) and Brandon Fusco (MIN)
Fusco at least started every game, even if his pass blocking was woeful at times. We’d rather not have him in, but where else can we go? The Bengals’ Boling on the other hand had a decent enough year, even if it ended rather disappointingly.
Center: Mike Pouncey (MIA)
An easy one. Pouncey emerged as one of the better centers in football, but for a poor end to the year. A really under-the-radar player.
Defensive Front 3-4
Defensive Line: J.J. Watt (HST), Jurrell Casey (TEN) and Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ)
It was an easy decision to opt for a 3-4 defense, helped in large part by our defensive ends. Watt had a year for the ages, earning our soon-to-become-annual Stephenson Award for the best player in all of football. He overshadowed every other 3-4 defensive end, including a breakout year from Wilkerson who is exceptional at getting off blocks to make plays. In the middle, Casey is one of these guys who could work in any scheme. Exceptionally strong and often requiring two guys to slow him down, if you leave him one-on-one he will get off blocks and make plays.
Outside Linebackers: Von Miller (DEN) and Aldon Smith (SF)
Justin Houston got some consideration, but how could you look past Smith and Miller? Two of the most dominant pass rushers out there, with Miller especially impressive as he topped our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings.
Inside Linebackers: K.J. Wright (SEA) and Bruce Carter (DAL)
While the candidates didn’t really excel here, both Wright and Carter can be happy with the years they put forth.
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman (SEA) and Patrick Peterson (ARZ)
Quite the selection here. Sherman was the best cornerback in the league this year, even if he didn’t endear himself to many neutrals. After a rookie year impressing as a returner this was where Peterson showed himself to be a top-level corner, able to match up with some of the game’s top receivers.
Safeties: Rahim Moore (DEN) and Chris Conte (CHI)
Despite that play that Rahim Moore will never forget, his regular season play should not be overlooked. He’s the best safety from that class, with Conte the only other guy to see considerable action. He had a solid enough year in Chicago.
Kicker: Dan Bailey (DAL)
Punter: Matt Bosher (ATL)
Returner: Dwayne Harris (DAL)
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled