Mid-Season All-Rookie Team
In the spirit of our Midseason All-Pro Team, it’s time to take a look at the rookies. As always, Khaled Elsayed does a great job tracking the Race for Rookie of the Year, but we’re going to dig deep to find the top rookies at each position.
It’s pretty clear that some positions are stronger than others, so there was certainly some debate as to who the top rookie was at some spots, while there were other positions where we were hard pressed to find any first-year players who were worthy of All-Rookie Team status.
As we head into the second half of the season, the dreaded ‘rookie wall’ can always become a factor, so keep an eye on which rookies are able to withstand the rigors of the NFL schedule while some of their classmates start to flame out.
Quarterback — Robert Griffin III, WSH (+23.6)
Andrew Luck is poised to make a late-season surge and Russell Wilson has exceeded expectations, but Griffin has been the best rookie quarterback to this point. His +23.6 grade ranks fifth among all quarterbacks and his 79.7% accuracy percentage is good for fourth in the league.
Honorable Mentions: Russell Wilson (SEA), Andrew Luck (IND), Ryan Tannehill (MIA)
Running Back — Doug Martin, TB (+9.3)
Things may have been different if this list was compiled a week ago, but Martin is coming off one of the best rushing performances in NFL history. He now sits atop the league with an Elusive Rating of 101.2 and his +9.3 grade ranks sixth among running backs.
Honorable Mentions: Alfred Morris (WSH), Trent Richardson (CLE)
Fullback — Will Johnson, PIT (+3.0)
There’s not a lot of competition at fullback, but Johnson has been effective both as a blocker and as a receiver on his 173 snaps this season.
Honorable Mention: Nate Eachus (KC)
Wide Receivers — Alshon Jeffery, CHI (+0.7) and Chris Givens, STL (+0.7)
It’s been a tough year for rookie wide receivers. Although Jeffery has been hurt since Week 5, he gets the nod for his 14 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Givens makes the team on the strength of his big-play ability. He’s averaged a ridiculous 25.6 yards on his 13 receptions and he has five plays of 50+ yards this season.
Honorable Mention: Josh Gordon (CLE), Rod Streater (OAK)
Tight End — Dwayne Allen, IND (+5.1)
Despite being the second tight end chosen by the Colts in the draft, Allen has been more productive than his teammate Coby Fleener. He’s our No. 11 overall tight end, catching 23 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns while supplying solid run blocking at +3.0.
Honorable Mention: Coby Fleener (IND)
Tackles — Matt Kalil, MIN (+10.3) and Cordy Glenn, BUF (+5.9)
There’s no rule against taking two left tackles on the team, right? Kalil has lived up to his Top-5 hype as he ranks fourth at the position with a Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) of 97.4. Glenn isn’t far behind at 95.9, though he’s missed some time due to injury. Kalil finally gave up his first sack in Week 8, while Glenn has still yet to surrender one in his young career.
Honorable Mentions: Mitchell Schwartz (CLE), Mike Adams (PIT)
Guards — Kevin Zeitler, CIN (+12.6) and Ben Jones, HOU (-4.5)
Zeitler’s worst game was back in Week 1, but he’s progressed ever since. He’s tied for sixth among guards with a PBE of 98.2 while grading at +3.0 in the running game. Jones is more of a default pick as the rest of the rookie guard crop has been just that weak. He’s shown the ability to get to the second level and make some nice blocks in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme, but a disastrous Week 5 games against the Tennessee Titans showed he still has a lot of work to do.
No rookies have seen significant time at center.
The top defensive rookies on Page 2…
Defensive Ends — Chandler Jones, NE (+14.4) and Bruce Irvin, SEA (+6.4)
A pair of first rounders who have exceeded expectations, Jones and Irvin were expected to be project players coming out of college. Instead, Jones has played 92% of the Patriots’ snaps while ranking 11th in Pass Rush Productivity (PRP) among 4-3 defensive ends at 9.6. Irvin has been strictly a sub-package pass rusher, and his 11.6 PRP would rank third in the league with enough qualifying snaps.
Honorable Mention: Olivier Vernon (MIA), Quinton Coples (NYJ)
Defensive Tackles — Mike Martin, TEN (+4.9) and Fletcher Cox, PHI (+2.4)
Rookies are showing well in our Run Stop Percentage signature stat for defensive tackles. Four first-year players are in the Top 10, with Martin second at 12.0% and Cox third at 11.2%. When compiling the team, it was a close call between Cox and New Orleans Saints DT Akiem Hicks, but Cox has played over 100 more snaps, so he got the nod. Martin has been one of the better pass rushing defensive tackles in the leagues, as his PRP is second at 8.8.
Honorable Mention: Akiem Hicks (NO)
Outside Linebackers (4-3 or 3-4) — Dont’a Hightower, NE (+6.1) and Lavonte David, TB (+2.2)
It was a heated battle at outside linebacker, but Hightower makes the team for his well-rounded play as he’s graded positively in all areas. He’s made the most of 19 pass rushes this season notching a PRP of 30.3. As for David, he leads the position in both Stops (24) and Stop Percentage (14.5%). His +4.7 run defense grade is tied for seventh.
Honorable Mention: Zach Brown (TEN), Courtney Upshaw (BAL), and Melvin Ingram (SD)
Inside Linebacker — Bobby Wagner, SEA (+9.3)
Our No. 6-ranked inside linebacker, Wagner has seen a steady increase in playing time since Week 1. His 30 Stops lead the league at the position, as does his Run Stop Percentage of 16.2. He’s also picked up two sacks, a hit, and four hurries on his 29 pass rushes.
Honorable Mention: Luke Kuechly (CAR), Vontaze Burfict (CIN)
Cornerbacks — Casey Hayward, GB (+12.4) and Morris Claiborne, DAL (+1.5)
Hayward has climbed the Green Bay depth chart in recent weeks on the strength of some outstanding play. His pass coverage grade is third at the position at +9.4 and he’s tied for second in the league with four interceptions. On the other side, Claiborne has held his own against some of the best wide receivers in the league. He has a +2.8 coverage grade with four passes defensed and an interception.
Honorable Mention: Jonte Green (DET), Alfonzo Dennard (NE), Brandon Boykin (PHI)
Safeties — Jerron McMillian, GB (+5.1) and Harrison Smith, MIN (+2.4)
McMillian is yet another Green Bay rookie who has contributed on the defensive side of the ball — ranking as our No. 13 safety. Smith is our No. 4 safety in coverage at +7.9 and he’s allowed only 8 of 18 completions his way, including five passes defended and an interception.
Honorable Mention: Tavon Wilson (NE), Mark Barron (TB)
Kicker — Blair Walsh, MIN
It’s tough to narrow it down here in the ‘Year of the Rookie Kicker’, but Walsh gets the nod. He’s our top-rated kicker and he’s made all five of his field goal attempts beyond 50 yards. Walsh is second in the league with 35 touchbacks.
Honorable Mention: Justin Tucker (BAL), Greg Zuerlein (STL)
Punter — Johnny Hekker, STL
Hekker is our sixth-ranked punter and he’s fourth in the league at 49.0 yards/punt. He narrowly edges Jacksonville Jaguars punter Bryan Anger who is our 11th-ranked player at the position.
Honorable Mention: Bryan Anger (JAC)
Returner — Chris Rainey, PIT
Rainey has done most of his work on kickoff returns where he’s averaging 29.1 yards/return, good for sixth in the league. His +3.7 kick return grade ranks fourth.
Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton (IND)
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