Every May, the NFL Draft is held in New York City, and the future is decided for all 32 teams and the former college football superstars.
The 2014 NFL Draft has produced some of the best rookie talent in years. Rookies have made the college-to-NFL transition look easy, and are putting up some big numbers.
The class of rookie wide receivers has been arguably the best of all-time. Five receivers were picked in the first round, and six receivers are in the top 40 in receiving yards this season. First-round giants Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin are putting up Pro Bowl numbers. Second and third round picks Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry have also been steady contributors for their teams all year.
Sammy Watkins, BUF 45 recs 649 yards 14.4 avg. 5 TD
Mike Evans, TB 46 recs 794 yards 17.3 avg. 7 TD
Odell Beckham Jr., NYG 31 recs 463 yards 14.9 avg. 3 TD
Brandin Cooks, NO 53 recs 550 yards 10.4 avg. 3 TD
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR 52 recs 768 yards 14.8 avg. 8 TD
Jordan Matthews, PHI 44 recs 558 yards 12.7 avg. 6 TD
Allen Robinson, JAC 48 recs 548 yards 11.4 avg. 2 TD
Jarvis Landry, MIA 42 recs 400 yards 9.5 avg. 3 TD
The 2014 draft was not big for running backs. With the 54th pick, the Tennessee Titans chose Bishop Sankey, making it the latest pick spent on the first running back in the draft’s history. Even though there may not have been a first round pick, there hasn’t been a lack of talent. Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill and Minnesota’s Jerick McKinnon have come on strong as well. Both have been called upon to start after injuries and suspensions to the starters. Hill ranks 15th in the league with 556 rushing yards and McKinnon is 3 spots behind him with 448 yards. There are currently nine rookie running backs with over 300 yards rushing, three of whom were drafted in the 7th round or went undrafted.
With lots of the best quarterback talent remaining in college, there has not been a lot to talk about in the NFL. Only three rookies have seen major play time. Blake Bortles took over as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars early in the season and has played well with the talent he has around him. Bortles and his three fellow rookie wide receivers are getting better every week and could be a playoff-caliber team in a few years. Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater took over for Matt Cassel after a season-ending injury. He has shown promise without having Adrian Peterson or any major receiving option to help him. Titan’s Zach Mettenberger has started three games after an injury to Jake Locker and has played well. In his three games started, he’s thrown for 741 yards and 5 touchdowns. Controversial rookie Johnny Manziel has yet to start or see any major playing time.
Defensive rookies have shined just as much as the offensive rookies. Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, and CJ Mosley are all deserving of the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Mosley, the likely winner, is tied for 7th in the league with 90 tackles. Mack and Barr never come off the field, and are being lined up in multiple positions every game. Rams’ Aaron Donald has also been an great addition to an already talented defensive line. First overall pick Jadaveon Clowney has been hurt most of the season, but has been impressive in his time on the field.
This rookie class has already been impressive to watch, and it’s scary to think that they will only continue to get better. As the playoff races heat up, these rookies will need to step up and play like seasoned veterans. Watching these young players blossom into all-stars will be fun to watch for a number of years.
*Section Photo credit to Scott Halleran, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Adam Hunger, USA Today Sports.