Every year the NFL welcomes scores of young and hungry new players to their ranks. The talent varies immensely across the whole group of players who are desperately seeking their big chance in the NFL. After the first preseason game, it may be a little early to declare any of these 5 top NFL rookies as definite future stars, but this handful of players made a big name for themselves in their first competitive action and could figure prominently for their respective teams this year:
1. E.J. Manuel – Although he still looks quite raw, Manuel had a very solid first outing with the Buffalo Bills, and is likely to be the starter once the regular season begins. He went 16 of 21 for 107 yards and a nice touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson. He also picked up a solid 24 yards on the ground, displaying an ability to be a read-option quarterback, which is the latest NFL trend. He may need some time to get comfortable with deeper passes, but his intelligence and command during his first start was solid. These were the traits that attracted Buffalo into making Manuel the first quarterback selected in the NFL Draft and should help him develop into a capable NFL starter.
2. Tyrann Mathieu – A bit of a troublemaker in college, Mathieu slid all the way to the 3rd round, but his initial play in the preseason resembles an impact player that could have been picked much earlier. He made a sack and several other impressive tackles. Additionally, he had a decent punt return of 24 yards, showcasing his all-around skills. Yes, he may have some baggage that could come back to haunt the Arizona Cardinals should he make a stupid off-field choice, but for now it looks like the Cardinals found a defensive playmaker well into the draft. He could be the defensive rookie of the year and the steal of the draft.
3. DeAndre Hopkins – A first round wide receiver, Hopkins had a solid preseason debut for the Houston Texans. Already a loaded offense with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, the Texans may now have another legitimate receiving threat. His 34-yard touchdown catch against Minnesota displayed an incredible ability to react to the ball and showed a real go-getter characteristic. After an impressive college career at Clemson, Hopkins looks like another wonderful receiver for Matt Schaub and the Texans, with 4 catches for 52 yards on the night and the score.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson – On the other side of the field for the Minnesota Vikings was the debut of Patterson, the 29th overall pick in the draft. Expected to replace Percy Harvin and supplement the incoming Greg Jennings, Patterson has big play abilities. His very first touch was a kickoff that he returned all the way to midfield. In addition to the return, Patterson caught 4 passes for 54 yards and looked oh-so-good in that number 84 jersey (previously worn by Randy Moss). The Vikings offense could be set to explode if Christian Ponder can find a way to get the ball to Patterson and if Adrian Peterson continues his powerful rushing assault.
5. Geno Smith – Although his durability wasn’t that impressive on his debut, resulting in a mild ankle sprain, Smith was playing pretty well in his first NFL action. He went 6 of 7 for 47 yards and looked the part of an NFL quarterback. When he fell awkwardly during a rushing attempt, it was sad to see because he was about to display his impressive running ability that had so wowed the NFL scouts. Smith may win the New York Jets starting quarterback role by default based on the shaky play of Mark Sanchez, but the jury is still out over whether Geno Smith will succeed at this level.
Did your team receive a good draft pick that you feel may be better than one of these five? Let us know what you think. These rookie players will contribute a lot to their team, and their autographed sports collectibles will only rise as they become more productive and well-known to the fans. So get your rookie autographed collectible now before they are all gone and watch your investment increase.