We continue our awards season with the All-Rookie team: Offense!! It was voted for by all the NFL writers here in the same manner as our All-Pro offense but obviously only first year players were eligible. They didn’t have to be a 2015 draftee either, undrafted free agents as well as CFL imports were eligible but it had to be their first season in the league. Those were signed to a team but never played in previous seasons were barred from consideration. As before a * denotes unanimous selection and the 2nd team All-Rookie is at the bottom. Agree? Disagree? Want to argue the case for your favourite player? Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter or Facebook
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (passing) 4,042 yards, 58.3%, 22 TDs, 15 INTs + (rushing) 210 yards, 6 TDs, 6 fumbles It was always going to be a close thing between Winston and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota but in the end, just like on draft day, Winston edged it. Playing all 16 games helped, so did his lower than expected turnover rate. Sure, 15 interceptions doesn’t look great but 6 of those came in the 2 games against Carolina. Against non-otherworldly defenses Winston’s 9 picks in 14 games look outstanding given the pre-season worries about him. He grew in confidence as the season went on and looks like the answer to Tampa Bay’s long-standing QB question.
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams* (rushing) 1,106 yards, 4.8 ypc, 10 TD + (receiving) 188 yards, 9.0 ypc + 3 overall fumbles Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks (rushing) 830 yards, 5.6 ypc, 4 TD + (receiving) 76 yards, 8.4ypc, 1 TD + 1 overall fumble There was excitement about Todd Gurley from day 1, so much in fact that people wondered if he would ever live up to it. Well he did, and then some. Gurley ended up with just over 1,100 yards – good for 3rd in the NFL – despite playing just 13 games and getting under 10 carries in 3 of those! His explosive combination of power and speed was devastating as he racked up 4.8 yards a carry, a superb achievement behind an iffy offensive line. Thomas Rawls burst on to the scene thanks to Marshawn Lynch’s injury-ravaged season and became a destroyer of defenses in the 6 games he was the lead man. He totalled 830 yards at an amazing 5.6 yards per carry before a broken ankle against Baltimore cut his rookie campaign short. But his success this season bodes well for 2016.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders* 72 catches, 1,070 yards, 14.9 ypc, 6 TD + 1 overall fumbles Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings 52 catches, 720 yards, 13.8 ypc, 4 TD + 2 overall fumbles Cooper is the latest successful draft pick in Oakland’s bid for relevancy. 5 100 yard games helped propel the offense and his threat on the outside provided space for others to work. While he had some lack of productivity against the high-end defensive back groups (Broncos, Jets) he was the focus of every opponent’s game plan consistently and made some exceptional plays. Diggs was one of those hidden gems this season. A 5th round pick, he missed the first 3 weeks of the season before bursting onto the scene with 87 yards in his debut and then back to back 100 yard games against Kansas City and Detroit. While his effectiveness tailed off late in the season along with the rest of the Minnesota passing game he remained a threat on the outside and his presence bodes well for the future of the Vikings offense.
Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens 32 catches, 268 yards, 8.4 ypc, 1 TD + 1 overall fumble It was a quiet year for rookie tight ends, and thanks to Crockett Gilmore’s presence Williams didn’t see that much game time but when he did he was impressive. He’s far from the finished article but he has good hands and showed nice effectiveness after the catch as well as solid blocking work in the run game.
Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rob Havenstein, St. Louis Rams While high draft picks like Erick Flowers struggled with the demands of being an NFL left tackle Donovan Smith handled everything fairly well. Smith is a big dude, even by NFL lineman standards. Listed at 6 6, 338lbs many through he would have to play guard in the NFL but his length and surprisingly quick feet have allowed him to survive at left tackle. A little more polishing and working on his understanding of space and leverage and he could thrive. Havenstein was perhaps the most consistent rookie tackle this season. Being rarely amazing but never terrible is a huge improvement to the usual state of Rams offensive linemen and for a right tackle is pretty much exactly what you want. He was able to move bodies consistently in the run game and didn’t get his QB’s killed in pass protection. Just a bit concussed occasionally!
La’el Collins, Dallas Cowboys Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins After a terrible pre-draft process La’el Collins ended up as an undrafted rookie in Dallas, the perfect spot to transition to guard as he had Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick either side of them. But they aren’t the reason Collins is here, the reason is his All-World run blocking. Against Seattle he pancaked the mountainous Brandon Mebane and threw Earl Thomas into another dimension. He was a beast that helped Dallas fans forget all about DeMarco Murray. Scherff is another college tackle who moved inside to guard in his rookie year. It was a little less easy for him than Collins though, and the early struggles were noticeable as he floundered (anyone see him against JJ Watt on Hard Knocks this year – ouch!). But as the season went on that big beast of a run blocker we saw at Iowa came back and the leverage required to play guard became more natural to him. By the end of the season he was a well established NFL-calibre guard and if his progress continues he will soon be one of the best all-round lineman in the NFL.
Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs After Rodney Hudson left in free agency it became clear that 2nd round pick Mitch Morse, who played guard at Missouri, would be asked to slide in somewhere along the line of scrimmage. When he was put in as the week 1 starter at center there was some trepidation to how he would handle the responsibility of protection calls and organising a group of veterans but Morse came through well and been the best rookie lineman through the whole season. His pass protection needs some work but the other parts of his game are working well and he has a bright future ahead of him.
2nd team All-Rookie:
QB: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans RB: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals & TJ Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars WR: Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers TE: Will Tye, New York Giants OT: T.J. Clemmings, Minnesota Vikings & Erick Flowers, New York Giants G: Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers & A.J. Cann, Jacksonville Jaguars C: David Andrews, New England Patriots