Oct 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson (24) during the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Packers defeated the Vikings 44-31. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL has reached its midway point, so it’s now time to take a look back and evaluate what some teams have done, and how rookies are doing in their first year in the big leagues.
Here’s our first half All-Rookie team.
Quarterback: Geno Smith, New York Jets
The Jets most recently got housed by the Cincinnati Bengals in a drubbing for the ages (49-9) but I think Geno Smith has played really well this season all things considered. We haven’t seen enough of E.J. Manuel to put him on this All-Rookie team although I think he’ll definitely wind up being the best of the guys who have played this season.
As of right now, I am pretty impressed with some of the things Geno has been able to do, namely beating the Patriots a couple of weeks ago. The Jets are 4-4 heading into week nine, and I certainly didn’t see that coming.
Running Back: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Lacy has been a huge addition to the Packers, rushing for 446 yards and three touchdowns so far this season and adding an element to the Packers’ offense that has been seriously lacking in recent years.
With a closer like Lacy now on the team, the pressure has been lifted a bit off of Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers can now control the clock as well as fire at will offensively.
Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
I’ve been impressed with a few rookie receivers, namely DeAndre Hopkins and Terrance Williams, but Keenan Allen has kind of come as a dark horse to be the Chargers’ number one target at WR in the passing game.
A rash of injuries is never something you want to see for any NFL team, but injuries got Allen his chance and he has made the most of it. In seven games for the Chargers, he has emerged as the team’s top target on the outside with 26 catches for 399 yards and two touchdowns. He has seven plays of 20 yards or more and has 20 first downs on 26 catches.
Tight End: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed leads all rookies with 34 catches and has racked up 388 yards and two touchdowns. Only Bengals rookie Tyler Eifert has a real shot of unseating Reed in this position at this point with 27 catches so far this season.
Reed’s emergence made Fred Davis expendable for the Redskins, and has become a primary target for Robert Griffin III.
Offensive Tackle: D.J. Fluker, San Diego Chargers
Interesting that the first two picks of the draft were offensive tackles, and it’s the rookie out of Alabama who fell to the San Diego Chargers who gets the top spot here.
Fluker has been a huge upgrade for the Chargers’ dreadful offensive line of a year ago, and looks like he can be a stalwart on the San Diego offensive line.
Offensive Guard: Larry Warford, Detroit Lions/Kyle Long, Chicago Bears
It’s hard to pick just one of these guys to put here, but Warford and Long have both provided their respective NFC North teams with huge upgrades. Warford was generating some first round hype leading up to the draft, and somehow fell to the Lions in the third. That was a huge mistake by other NFL teams.
Long was touted as a second or third round prospect and the Bears made a smart choice picking him up in the first. He’s provided them with some much needed athletic ability and talent on the offensive interior.
Center: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys
Is there much competition here? I can remember a year ago how dire the situation was at center for the Cowboys, but Frederick–despite being a first round reach–was a reach for need and has given the Cowboys some stability in the middle of the offensive line.
Defensive End: Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets
I thought when he was drafted that Richardson might be a bit of a mis-fit with the Jets’ 3-4 defensive alignment, but he’s been nothing short of spectacular in his rookie season, and looks like a potential rookie of the year candidate up there with Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills.
Richardson is a freak of an athlete on the defensive line, and combined with some of the other young talent on the Jets’ defense the fans have got to be excited about what the future holds.
Defensive Tackle: Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers
Lotulelei is a beast on the defensive interior, and he’s given some teeth to the inside of a Panthers front four that was missing exactly what he brings to the table. The Panthers’ defense is significantly improved and there’s no doubt that this guy has made a huge impact in his rookie season.
Linebacker: Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills
Alonso is the current front-runner for rookie of the year with 81 tackles and four interceptions. I thought he might wind up a fourth round pick in April’s draft, but the Bills took him in the second and it’s paying off big time. Alonso looks like a permanent fixture in the middle of Buffalo’s defense.
Cornerback: Kayvon Webster, Denver Broncos
There haven’t been a ton of standouts at the CB position this year, but after people thought the Broncos were crazy for picking this unknown kid in the third round out of South Florida, he’s shown up in a big way. Webster has 16 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble, and has taken over the starting job opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with Champ Bailey nursing a foot injury.
He’s been the top rookie on the best team in the league thus far.
Safety: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals
The Honey Badger don’t care about what people said about him or how they doubted him before the draft. He’s got 49 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a sack, and seven passes broken up in eight games and six starts for the Cardinals.
I loved Mathieu leading up to the draft, and I think he’s been a huge addition for the Cardinals so far.