Much was made two years ago about the huge impact the New York Giants received from their rookie class on their march to a Super Bowl championship. First round pick Aaron Ross played a steady cornerback. Wide receiver Steve Smith, the team's second round pick, ran routes and caught passes like a league veteran. Fifth round pick Kevin Boss, out of tiny Western Oregon, emerged as team's savior at tight end after the injury to Jeremy Shockey. Perhaps thei biggest surprise was seventh round pick Ahmad Bradshaw, who provided a big play alternative to the bruising Brandon Jacobs. Safety Michael Johnson, also a seventh round pick, started five games early and contributed as an often-used backup down the stretch.
Five rookies making an immediate impact. That type of success is usually reserved for teams with minimal talent... not Super Bowl winners.
The 2009 Indianapolis Colts, however, are replicating the Giants' success.
Though veteran Joseph Addai will start the Super Bowl, first round pick Donald Brown has emerged as the team's best big play threat out of the backfield. He's had only a fraction of Addai's carries, but has the team's longest run (45 yards), second longest reception (72 yards) and is averaging 5.06 yards per touch -- as compared to Addai's 4.31.
Fourth round pick Austin Collie tied for the league lead among rookies with 60 catches for 676 yards. His 7 receiving touchdowns led all rookies and was tied for sixth amongst all NFL receivers. His development as a slot receiver is credited by some as having the greatest single impact of any rookie for the Colts.
Third round pick Jerraud Powers started 12 games over the regular season for the Colts, posting 66 tackles, 10 passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble. The Colts have enjoyed even more impressive play from another rookie cornerback, undrafted free agent Jacob Lacey , who played in all 18 Colts games this season, starting 9, and posted 85 tackles, 13 passes defenses and 3 interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Collie and Lacey, perhaps the Colts' most surprising rookies, were prominently featured by NFLDraftScout.com prior to the 2009 draft as Diamonds in the Rough , who could surprise early.
Like during the Giants run to the Super Bowl, it will be a Manning that earns most of the attention. The stellar play of rookies, however, played a critical role in both teams getting to the big game.