Cam Newton, A.J Green, DeMarco Murray, and Julio Jones just a few of the young talented players who made a name for themselves this year.
By: Scott McEwen
32 teams, 3 Days, 7 rounds, and hundreds of unclaimed prospects make up the NFL draft that takes place in New York’s Radio City hall each year. Players out of the NCAA who are looking to make their childhood dream a reality. Month’s of preparation is put into the draft by teams and the players themselves through constant film study, interviews, the combine and individual workouts to see who best suites teams needs. War rooms are prepared months ahead of time going through many different scenarios to best prepare themselves for any situation that is brought forward. Every year there is rookies who make a name for themselves, but this year the rookie impact was outstanding.
Cam Newton was taken as the number 1 pick by the Carolina Panthers as everyone anticipated. Many questioned whether he would be able to carry his collegiate success on to Sundays, but after his first season those questions have started to diminish. Although the Carolina Panthers finished under 500 with a 6-10 record the thought of not having a franchise QB is a thing of the past for them. Newton surpassed future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s record for most passing yards as a rookie QB with: 4,051 passing yards. Newton continued to print his name in the record books as he also set the record for first rookie with 10 touchdown passes and 10 rushing touchdowns in a season, along with the first player to score 5 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in their first 5 games. He may be seen as a scrambling QB but Cam can do it all, he was the first rookie quarterback to get back-to-back 400 yard passing games. In just a year the Panthers moved from a horrid 32nd (last) in offensive yards per game to 7th entering the top 10 offences in the league.
“Who Dey”? “dey” would be A.J green and Andy Dalton, together this play making duo would become the top rookie-to-rookie tandem the league has ever seen. Green and Dalton were both drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, picks 1 and 2 for the Cincinnati Bengals. Green was their 4th pick in the first round and Dalton their 35th pick in the second round. Both players would have to step into big roles from the get go. The Bengals lost both Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer in the off season, and a successful season was not what fans were anticipating. Green and Dalton became a tag team threat in the NFL leading their unexpected Bengals into the playoffs. Green who was selected to the 2012 pro bowl finished with 1,057 yards and 7 TD’s, and Andy closed the season off with 20 TD passes, 13 INT’s and 3,398 passing yards. They flipped the 4-12 Bengals into a 9-7 playoff team creating a bright future for a team with a dark past.
In a turn around season for the 49ers it was the big time play by Aldon Smith drafted in the 1st round at pick number 7. A former D end in college at Missouri turned into a stand up rushing outside backer Aldon was a big part of this smothering defence’s success. Smith who was often thrown in on 3rd downs was a Qb killing machine in his inaugural NFL season, finishing the year with a total of 14 sacks half a sack away from tying Jevon Kearse’s record. Aldon helped the 49ers become one of the top defences in the NFL and has made a name for himself as a future premier pass rusher.
Quintorris Lopez better known as Julio Jones had a tremendous year for having missed 3 weeks due to injury problems. Julio managed to rack up 959 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, second most for rookie receivers behind A.J Green. With his sure hands and outstanding get away speed Julio created another threat beside counter part Roddy White. Julio was drafted 6th overall after the Falcons traded 5 of their picks to move up and grab him. After his excellent showing in the 2011 combine on a broken foot Julio’s draft stock shot up. His knack for making tremendous plays landed him offensive rookie of the month. Being such a deep threat he caused the big plays down field, creating space for Roddy, a more physical receiver to catch the balls over the middle and created defensive miss matches all over the place.
Some honourable mentions for excellent play also go out to DeMarco Murray of the Dallas cowboys. Who had a break out game against the Rams breaking the great Emitt Smith’s single game rushing record with 253 rushing yards. Murray suffered a high ankle sprain ending his season early but if he stays healthy he can be a key player to the success of the Cowboys as a versatile back. Torrey Smith another receiver became a big time play maker for the Ravens playing in the slot. The Ravens have always lacked the speed in the receiver position and Torrey was a great piece to the puzzle. With the physical sure handed Anquan Boldin they needed an asset that could blow the top off of defences. With his tremendous 4.3 40 that’s exactly what he did all year long. Torrey finished the season with 7 touchdowns and 841 receiving yards helping the ravens pass offence increase from a 20th to 12th best passing team in the league.
Offence had a bunch of impact players this year but defence wasn’t short on young studs. Marcell Dareus was picked 3rd overall to the Buffalo Bills and was placed as a D end in their 3-4 defence. Dareus who is a physical beast caused pressure all year racking up 5.5 sacks in his rookie season the most for a Buffalo Bills rookie since Aaron Schobel. With 32 tackles Dareus is a good piece to begin improving a lacklustre dline the bills possess. Behind all the Tim Tebow craze was a defence who played lights out in order to keep the broncos unconventional offence in the game. On that defence were 3 young guns who had shown a bright future for the Brpncos. Von Miller (LB), Rahim Moore (FS) and Quinton Carter (FS) picks 2, 45 and 108 helped the broncos to their first playoff win since the 1998/1999 season. With a combined 151 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 1 interception this group of 3 were a great fit in this under rated defence.
A few other mentionable standouts are Brian Rolle of the Eagles, T.J Yates of the Houston Texans, Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, J.J Watts of the Houston Texans, Sam Acho of the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Miller of the San Francisco 49ers, Randall Cobb of the Green bay Packers and Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys.
The young stars will shine bright for years to come in the NFL, with only one year under their belt the future is promising for these young talented athletes.