Final NFL Rookie Rankings

Well, the regular season has come to a close.  It was a bit of a disappointing season for the rookies of 2014.  With that being said, the receivers were absolutely phenomenal.  Sadly receivers don’t really sell cards.  The RBs, and especially the QBs, were fairly disappointing.  Jeremy Hill was great, but none of the other RBs or QBs really shined.  Some had their moments, but they really struggled with consistency.  And sadly the only two big impact rookies that made the Playoffs were Jeremy HIll and Kelvin Benjamin.  Perhaps those guys will tear it up and help give a push to this class.  Sorry that these rankings weren’t updated every single week.  It’s always my goal to get out the update, but I don’t always get around to it.  Anyway, onto the rankings.

#1. Odell Beckham WR New York Giants
There is no doubt who should be #1 on this list.  Beckham was the best receiver in the entire NFL once he came back from his injury.  He ended up with over 1,300 yards and 12 TDs on the year.  He also has the most value in the hobby.  That’s due to his remarkable catch on Sunday night and the fact that he plays in New York.  He also plays with a bit of an attitude.  That could end up hurting him in the long run, but it certainly makes him a fun guy to watch.  I have no doubt that Beckham will end up being a top receiver for many years to come.

#2. Jeremy Hill RB Cincinnati Bengals
While many of the rookies RBs were disappointing, Hill was not.  He had a fantastic season for the Bengals.  Once he became the full time starter, he was one of the better RBs in the league.  He ended the season with 1,124 rushing yards with 9 TDs.  He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, which ranks 3rd in the entire NFL among RBs who qualify.  Hill also caught 27 balls for 215 yards.  Hill looks like the part of a #1 RB.  Here’s hoping he makes a few plays in the Playoffs and boosts his value even further.

#3. Mike Evans WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans season was one of the best we’ve seen from a rookie receiver.  He was overshadowed only by Beckham’s greatness.  Make no mistakes, Evans is going to be a fantastic receiver as well.  He finished the year with 1,051 yards and 12 TDs.  Considering who he had throwing him the ball, that is pretty amazing.  Evans may not be quite as explosive as Beckham, but he’ll be right up there with some of the best WRs in football for years to come.

#4. Kelvin Benjamin WR Carolina Panthers
Like Evans, Benjamin was overshadowed by Beckham.  He also finished the season with over 1,000 receiving yards.  He “only” had 9 TDs and faded a tad bit down the stretch.  However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that Benjamin isn’t still an elite WR.  The Panthers had their ups and downs this year, but Benjamin remained a big part of the offense all year.  There’s no reason to think he can’t have just as good of a career as Beckham or Evans.

#5. Sammy Watkins WR Buffalo Bills
Sammy finished just short of 1,000 receiving yards this year.  He was the most hyped receiver coming into the Draft, and he really didn’t disappoint.  His numbers don’t look quite as good because the guys ahead of him, but 65 receptions for 982 yards and 6 TDs is very solid for a rookie receiver.  He has a bit of uncertain future with Kyle Orton retiring.  The Bills must do something at QB to help out Watkins.

#6. Derek Carr QB Oakland Raiders
This is the only rookie QB who really showed much to me.  He put up over 3,000 passing yards and 21 TDs.  That’s not bad at all considering who he has to throw the ball to.  Carr also limited his mistakes with only 12 interceptions and 24 sacks taken.  He certainly showed enough as a rookie to not run out and replace him.  The Raiders would be crazy not to think of this guy as their future.  He must work on completion percentage and also look for more plays downfield.  However, it was a better year than I suspected it would be for Carr.

#7. Blake Bortles QB Jacksonville Jaguars
Honestly this is where things get tough for me.  The top 6 guys are all solid and should all be starters in the NFL for quite some time.  From this spot on down there really is no telling though.  Many of these, including Bortles, didn’t necessarily show enough for their teams to be super confident in them going forward.  Bortles showed some flashes of being a solid QB, but also showed flashes of being in way over his head.  His final numbers were nothing too special with 11 TDs, 17 INTs and 55 sacks taken.  Like Carr, Bortles didn’t have a ton of talent around him.  However, Bortles made way too many mistakes this season.  Will the Jaguars give him another year or will they draft another QB for him to compete with in camp?  Tough to say.  One thing is for sure, Bortles has a lot of work to do either way.

#8. Teddy Bridgewater QB Minnesota Vikings
It was tough for me to decide between Borltes and Bridgewater for the #7 spot.  I went with Bortles simply because he was a Top 5 pick and will be given more opportunities to succeed.  Bridgewater had a decent first year as a rookie QB.  The one thing he did better than any other rookie QB was win.  While that is a huge thing, I question how much of this was really due to Bridgewater.  Minnesota had a much better defense than Jacksonville or Oakland.  They also had a better running game as well.  Bridgewater was a true game manager, but he did that pretty well.  Will that be enough going forward though?  At some point the Vikings are going to need to score more points.  Will Breidgewater be able to be the QB who can do that for them?

#9. Tre Mason RB St. Louis Rams
Mason had a bit of an up and down rookie campaign.  For the first few weeks he was’t even good enough to be active for the games.  He was pretty solid in the second half of the season though, and the Rams definitely looked like a better team with him on the field.  A lot of that was probably due to their defense, but he was fairly productive.  Mason finished the season with 765 rushing yards on an average of 4.3 yards per carry.  He didn’t add much in the passing game, but that could develop as he progresses.  The question is whether Mason did enough not to be replaced?  Will he be the next Zac Stacy?  Stacy actually had better numbers as a rookie and then was completely fazed out this year.  I suspect Mason will be given more chances, but you never know in the NFL.

#10. Johnny Manziel QB Cleveland Browns
This is probably way too high for Manziel.  I just couldn’t drop him out of the top 10 because he still sells fairly well.  He truly had a terrible rookie year though.  Both his on-field production and his troubles off the field led to a season that asked more questions than answered them.  Can Manziel ever mature and be a starting QB in the NFL?  Even if he does mature, does he have the talent?  Are the Browns willing to potentially waste another season to find out the answers to these questions?  If I were the Browns I’d give him one more season.  At least give him the offseason and see how seriously he takes that.  He has TONS of work to put in, but he does have talent.  Fortunately for him, if the Browns give up on him I suspect someone else would swoop in and give him a chance.  Manziel has to be productive on the field though.  Teams will be a lot more likely to look past his “issues” if he’s putting up big stats and winning games.  His leash will be tremendously shorter if he continues to struggle on the field.

#11. Jordan Matthews WR Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews is another rookie WR who put up great stats.  He had 67 receptions for 872 yards and 8 TDs.  The one question I have is whether this was due to the system he plays in or truly because of his talent?  I have no question Matthews does have some talent, but the Eagles run a ton of plays and give all their players a chance to make plays.  The great news for Matthews is that Chip Kelly and his system aren’t going anywhere.  That should allow Matthews to continue to put up solid stats.

#12. Jarvis Landry WR Miami Dolphins
I was really surprised by Landry this year.  I expected him to make an impact on specials teams.  He certainly did that on both kick and punt returns.  However, I didn’t expect him to make sure a big impact on offense.  He finished with 84 receptions for 758 yards and 4 TDs.  I was a little shocked to see him be a possession receiver.  I expected him to make more explosive plays.  However, the Dolphins mostly used Mike Wallace for that.  Mike Wallace might be gone and that would be a huge opportunity for Landry.  Either way, he should continue to make an impact on special teams for many years to come.

#13. Terrence West & Isaiah Crowell RB Cleveland Browns
I’m combing these guys for the final ranking.  These were probably the two most difficult players to figure out this season.  Both of them would go from looking like a true #1 RB to not even playing the next game.  It was truly bizarre.  They both ended up around 650 rushing yards on the year.  Not awful totals, but not amazing either.  And they were both right around 4 yards per carry.  Will one of them emerge as the starter heading into next year?  Or will they both be replaced?  It’s very difficult to tell what the Browns will be thinking.  While they both showed enough to be given more chances, neither of them really set themselves apart.  The encouraging thing is that they both did this with lackluster play from their QB.  Most defenses stacked the box to try and force the Browns to beat them through the air.  If the Browns can solidify their QB, that would go a long way towards helping Crowell and West.

#15. Brandin Cooks WR New Orleans Saints
Cooks is another rookie WR who may have come close to 1,000 yards had he not been injured.  He should have a bright future with the Saints because many of their WRs are getting older.  Cooks didn’t quite look like a #1 WR like Beckham, Evans, Benjamin or Watkins, but he certainly showed enough to have a long career in the league.  And many receivers don’t reach their peak for a few years.  That could mean Cooks gets much better than he was this year.

#16. Andre Williams RB New York Giants
I’d probably have ranked Williams a lot lower if he weren’t on the Giants.  Playing in a huge market with a franchise QB goes a long way towards developing hobby love.  I was disappointed that Williams only averaged 3.3 yards per carry.  That’s simply not going to get it done.  However, the Giants aren’t exactly set at RB, so Williams should keep getting touches.  There’s always a chance that the Giants draft a guy this year, but Williams should still be a part of their future.

#17. Zach Mettenberger QB Tennessee Titans
The Titans have come out and said they want to give Mettenberger a chance to be their guy.  I really like that decision.  He was decent enough during his limited time to give him more opportunities.  If I were the Titans I would select Amari Cooper with the #2 pick and give Mettenberger a big time weapon.  The NFL has really shifted to a passing league and you need a top notch QB and WR to compete.  If you don’t believe that just look at the teams that made the Playoffs.

#18. Bishop Sankey RB Tennessee Titans
This guy was a pretty big disappointment this year.  He didn’t show much most of the year.  However, that could be due to the fact that he was dealing with several different QBs.  It’s hard to find a rhythm when the man under center is changing from week to week.  Sankey does need to work on his fundamentals so he can stay on the field more.  The Titans seemed annoyed with him throughout the year in pass protection and footwork.  He has to get those things nailed down and then develop his game beyond that.  The Titans could be an interesting team next year if Mettenberger is the real deal and they draft wisely.

#19. Jerick McKinnon RB Minnesota Vikings
McKinnon’s season was cut short by injury.  Until then, he looked like a guy who could be a very explosive RB.  He averaged 4.8 yards per carry on a team with a rookie QB.  He may never be a back who can get 20+ touches every week.  However, he certainly showed enough ability to warrant being a big part of the offense going forward.  The only real question is what happens to McKinnon is Peterson comes back?  I’m not convinced Peterson will ever play for the Vikings again.  But if he does, that would certainly impact McKinnon and his touches.

#20. Jimmy Garoppolo QB New England Patriots
This guy makes the list solely based on potential and value.  He’s not going to be playing any time soon, unless something happens to Brady.  However, he has tremendous value for a guy who didn’t play.  People seem to think he has a ton of potential.  Honestly, I’m unsure.  We’ve seen this before with back-up QBs in New England.  Remember Matt Cassel?  Ryan Mallett falls into this category too, although it’s too early to say he wasn’t worth the hype.  I’m not saying Garoppolo isn’t good, but I’m also not ready to anoint him as the next Tom Brady.

Well, I hope you enjoyed these rankings this year.  It’s been fun writing them.  I suspect many of you greatly disagree with my choices.  Feel free to post your rankings or where you think I screwed up.  Happy New Year!

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