Well, we’re down to one week in the NFL. It’s been quite a year so far. Cam Newton has been truly remarkable this year. And we’ve seen quite a bit of production from several other rookies as well. We really couldn’t have asked for much more out of the rookie crop this year. I expect to see some big games from rookies in the last week. It’s usually a good week for rookies as many of the teams rest their starters or simply want to give the young guys a chance.
There will be a few new guys on the list this week. With Ingram and Daniel Thomas hurt and doing nothing, it’s time for some fresh meat on the list.
1. Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers (Last week #1)
Newton was fantastic again this week. He threw for 171 yards and rushed for 65. He also accounted for 4 touchdowns and no turnovers. His 49 yard TD run was a thing of beauty. Newton set the rookie record for passing yards and has a very good shot at eclipsing the 4,000 yard mark. He now has 34 total TDs. Only Rodgers, Brees, Brady and Stafford have accounted for more TDs on the year. He’s 26th in rushing and 2nd in rushing TDs in the entire NFL. These stats are all pretty mind blowing. The best stat for me is that he’s learning not to turn the ball over. There really isn’t enough room here to sing the praises of Newton. He may be the best rookie that we’ve ever seen.
2. DeMarco Murray RB Dallas Cowboys (Last week #2)
Murray continues to hold down the #2 spot. His rehab is reportedly going well, so he should be full strength for the start of the 2012 season. His long term future is still very bright despite the injury.
3. A.J. Green WR Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #3)
Green had a pretty slow game this week. He only had 2 catches for 25 yards. He did add 25 rushing yards as well. The Bengals were in run first mode. They ran the ball 34 times and averaged 4.9 yards per rush. They were leading the entire game and went into the 4th quarter up 23-0. Green is still having a great year. He’s 15th in receiving yards and tied for 18th in received TDs. He’s played through some injuries and is on a team that is defense and run oriented. So, his stats are very impressive.
4. Andy Dalton QB Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #4)
Dalton played a very respectable game. He was simply managing the game this week. Dalton ended up with 154 passing yards and 48 rushing yards. If it weren’t for Newton, there would be a ton of talk about Dalton. He’s thrown for 3,166 yards, 20 TDs and has a QB Rating of 81.8. That’s better than just about any rookie we’ve seen in a long time. I think Dalton is going to be a very solid QB for a long time. He may never be the superstar that Newton can be, but he’s not going to flame out in a year or two like some rookie QBs. And if the Bengals win this week against the Ravens, Dalton will lead his team into the playoffs.
5. Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons (Last week #5)
I really wanted to move Jones up this week. He had a very nice game with 128 yards on 8 receptions with a TD. However, something is missing. I watched the entire game last night and the urgency just doesn’t seem to be there for Jones. He seemed to constantly be wincing about his ankle. And he just seems lazy to me sometimes. He never seems to be in a hurry. Plus he had a crucial fumble that really hurt the Falcons’ chances of making a comeback. His team was down 15 points and they were trying to mount a drive with 11 minutes left in the game. Had they been able to score, they could have cut it to a one possession game. Sadly, Julio let the Saints strip him and they returned the fumble for a touchdown. Jones has immense talent. Maybe the most talent on his team. But, he has to be better at staying focused for the whole game.
6. Torrey Smith WR Baltimore Ravens (Last week #8)
Smith didn’t do a whole lot this week with only 2 catches for 38 yards. It was clear that Baltimore was determined to run the ball. They attempted 37 rushes and Flacco only threw 24 passes. Smith is still having a fantastic year. He’s 5th in the NFL in yards per catch. He has over 800 receiving yards and has 7 TDs. Not bad at all for a rookie receiver.
7. Greg Little WR Cleveland Browns (Last week #9)
Little had a decent game against the Ravens this week. He had 4 receptions for 40 yards. On the season he eclipsed 700 received yards and has 61 receptions. Not bad at all for a rookie on a team with shaky quarterback play. Little should continue to develop and get better as time goes on. I don’t think he’s going to be better than Green, Jones or Smith, but he can have a nice, solid career.
8. Jake Locker QB Tennessee Titans (Last week #7)
Locker didn’t play this week. Hasselbeck actually had a decent game this week. I’m still hoping that Locker plays this week. He’s shown so much potential and I really want to see him play a full game. I can’t imagine that Locker won’t be the starting QB for next year. He’s clearly the QB of the future and has shown serious potential.
9. Roy Helu RB Washington Redskins (Last week #6)
Helu sat out this week with an injury. I can’t fault him too much for that. However, Evan Royster played in his place and was absolutely awesome. Hopefully Helu will be back this week. He’s certainly shown enough to not lose his job if he misses a game or two. Washington may decide to sit him this weekend since it’s the last game of the year.
10. Christian Ponder QB Minnesota Vikings (Last week #10)
Ponder was off to a decent start before he got hurt. The big problem after he got hurt was that Joe Webb really looked good as his replacement. I don’t think it will hurt Ponder’s chances of being the full time starter going forward, but you never know. He faces a tough road ahead with Peterson potentially out for the start of next year. I do still like Ponder’s chances long term as he’s had a lot of nice moments this year. I’m guessing Minnesota will sit Ponder down this week with only 1 game left. If he does play, here’s hoping he has a nice game to end the year.
11. Evan Royster RB Washington Redskins (Last week unranked)
Royster makes his first appearance on the rookie rankings this week. He had a monster game in place of Roy Helu. He finished with 132 rushing yards on only 19 carries. He’s played quite a bit in the last 3 weeks and has racked up 215 yards. He’s averaging a cool 6 yards per carry on the year. I know that it’s only three games, but that’s pretty darn impressive. He should see plenty of action again this week against the Eagles. These last four games could end up being a nice springboard towards next year.
12. Stevan Ridley RB New England Patriots (Last week unranked)
Ridley had another solid game this week. He finished with 64 yards on 13 carries. He now has 360 yards on the year and is averaging 5 yards per carry. He does seem to be growing with the offense though as he has 162 yards in the last three games. If he can stay hot heading into the playoffs, that could really raise his stock.
13. Titus Young WR Detroit Lions (Last week #13)
Young had another solid game this week. He finished with 39 yards on 4 receptions. He’s become a very nice 3rd receiver on a team who passes the ball a lot. He could see extra playing time this weekend as the Lions don’t have much to play for this week. I’m guessing they won’t take any chances with Calvin, so Young could pick up some of the slack.
14. Randall Cobb WR Green Bay Packers (Last week #14)
Cobb didn’t do a whole lot this week. He had 2 catches for 22 yards. He did have a nice 34-yard kickoff return. Cobb continues to be a small part of the offense. It is a tad disappointing that he hasn’t been more productive with Jennings out. Jordy Nelson and James Jones really picked up the slack this week, but Cobb played petty much the same role as before the injury. Cobb could see a little extra playing time this week with the Packers having the #1 seed all locked up. And all it will take is one good playoff game to set his stuff on fire.
15 T.J. Yates QB Houston Texans (Last week #12)
Yates’ numbers didn’t look too bad. He had an 81.3 completion percentage. And his QB Rating was 101. However, he took 4 sacks and lost a fumble. The biggest problem is that his team lost to the Colts. The Texans have now lost two games in a row. They’re in the playoffs, but they are looking like one of the weaker playoff teams right now. Yates’ season stats still look decent with a 60.0 completion percentage and a 79.1 QB Rating. He just hasn’t been productive enough. Some of it may be the play calling. I know the Texans are trying to be conservative, but at some point you have to open it up. The good news is that Andre Johnson should be back this week. With Andre Johnson and a great running game, Yates should be able to have some success. He’s going to face some tough defenses in the playoffs, so he better be prepared.
16. Doug Baldwin WR Seattle Seahawks (Last week #11)
Baldwin didn’t do a heck of a lot this week. He did score a touchdown, but only had 17 yards and 2 receptions. Baldwin, like most rookies, has been very inconsistent this year. He has 48 receptions and 748 yards on the year. He had 5 really nice games. In those 5 games he has 34 receptions for 529 yards and 3 TDs. In the other 10 games he has 14 receptions for 219 yards and 1 TD. He has four games this year with only 1 reception. And two other games with 2 receptions. So you can see that he is very on and off. He’s great in his good games, but very quiet in his bad games. His season stats are still amazingly strong for an un-drafted rookie receiver.
17. Blaine Gabbert QB Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week #15)
Honestly, I probably should have dropped Gabbert from the rankings. He had another pretty terrible game this weekend. He continues to lack playmaking skills. He absolutely has to start making plays or his team is not going to be able to keep him at QB.
Let’s hope we see some nice stats this week from the rookies. A lot of them could come in garbage time, but they still count. This is the week for rookies to really shine. I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s games. Next week we will be going through just about every offensive rookie. We’ll be listing year-end stats for them all. Have a great holiday week!