As many of you may know, I am a huge fan of the NFL Draft and NFL rookies. With so many rookies put in the position to be starters, some of them have already had an immediate impact. When an NFL team asks a rookie to step up, the team hopes for that rookie to perform like Adrian Peterson or Patrick Willis; really who wants to see another Cedric Benson or Robert Gallery? The past two weeks have seen amazing performances by many rookies, not only statistically, but with the roles they have played on their teams.
- Eddie Royal, WR, Denver Broncos- Did anyone expect the Denver Broncos offense to be explosive? No way, not like this. The Broncos have beat up two of the NFL’s best defenses, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. If you were to tell me that the Broncos were going to be averaging 40 points a game to open the season, I would have laughed at you. Though Broncos Quarterback Jay Cutler deserves a lot of the credit for the offenses success, I am almost positive that he loves his rookie wide-receiver, Eddie Royal. Royal was asked to be a starter in week one of the season against the “toughest” secondary in the NFL, the Raiders. Royal did more than just step up to the Raiders; he literally stepped all over the Raiders, pulling in nine catches, 146 yards and a touchdown. But Royal is not the last Bronco you will see on this list.
- Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears- If you want to talk about a team that has had a recent history of drafting bad running backs, look no further than the Chicago Bears. In the past ten years the Bears have drafted four running backs within the first two rounds, Curtis Enis, Anthony Thomas, Cedric Benson and now Matt Forte. But Forte seems to be a legitimate player, I know it is too early to tell but his performances against the Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers have been impressive. I only expect him to get better.
- Ryan Clady, OT, Broncos- Anyone who knows me knows that I am also a fan of the big uglies, offensive lineman. Left tackle is arguably the hardest position in football, and asking a rookie to start at left tackle can be very risky. But it seems to be paying off for the Broncos. Ryan Clady has done exceptionally well blocking for Cutler who has stepped back to pass 74 times this season, third most in the NFL. Clady was considered to be one of the most talented linemen in the 2008 Draft, and arguably the rawest. It is scary to think that he has a long way to go before reaching his maximum potential.
- Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans- When I think of the Titans offense I tend to think of one-dimensional players, excluding Vince Young if he can become a better passer. But the addition of Chris Johnson has helped to change the Titans one-dimensional offense. Johnson has been a threat for the Titans, and it is easy to see why they took him so early in the draft. Though he has no rushing touchdowns, he has done it through the air, snagging one touchdown reception. Johnson finally gives the Titans the versatility they needed at running back that LenDale White and Chris Brown never gave them.
- Antoine Cason, CB, San Diego Chargers- You are probably wondering, what in the world am I doing putting a nickel back on my top rookie list? Cason has played very well, and he has arguably been the best defensive rookie so far. I do not care if he only covers the third best wide receiver on the field, he can be a starter on a lot of other teams. He already has three passes defended, an interception-that fell on his lap, and a forced fumble. He has instinct and it shows. I expect big things from Cason for the next ten years.