Bills' Kiko Alonso leads first quarter NFL All-Rookie Team

Kiko Alonso makes a diving interception of a Joe Flacco pass. (Getty Images)
Kiko Alonso has four interceptions so far in 2013. (Getty Images)

Four games isn’t enough time to accurately evaluate NFL rookies, but several first-year players have stood out so far through the first quarter of the young season.

Time will tell if these talented players hit the rookie wall or keep the momentum going through all 16 games, but here is this year’s NFL All-Rookie team through the quarter-way mark:

QB EJ Manuel , Buffalo Bills
As the first quarterback drafted and the only player at his position selected in the first round, Manuel entered the league with high first-year expectations. And so far, he has played better than most projected, including myself, with 856 passing yards, 56.3 percent completions and five touchdowns.

Runner up: Geno Smith , New York Jets

RB Giovani Bernard , Cincinnati Bengals
A running back hasn’t won the Rookie of the Year award since 2007 ( Adrian Peterson ) and first-year backs are off to a slow start again this season. Bernard is the only rookie to currently lead his team in rushing (147 yards) despite having 20 fewer carries than BenJarvus Green-Ellis .

Runner up: Johnathan Franklin , Green Bay Packers

WR DeAndre Hopkins , Houston Texans
While he wasn’t the first wideout drafted, Hopkins has stood out the most through four games and leads all rookies with 20 catches. Hopkins, who has more catches than Vincent Jackson , T.Y. Hilton and a host of other players, had a breakout performance in week three (7/117/1).

Runner up: Robert Woods , Bills

TE Tyler Eifert , Bengals
The Bengals were already set at tight end with Jermaine Gresham , but when Eifert fell to them in the first round, Cincinnati didn’t hesitate. Eifert, who was my highest graded tight end prospect since 2004, leads all rookies through four games with 17 catches for 159 yards, but is still looking for his first score.

Runner up: Mychal Rivera , Oakland Raiders

OT Jordan Mills , Chicago Bears
There were three offensive tackles drafted in the first four picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, but the top rookie tackle so far has been Mills, who wasn’t taken until the 163rd overall pick in the fifth round. Mills earned the starting right tackle job and has been one of the biggest rookie surprises this season.

Runner up: Lane Johnson , Philadelphia Eagles

OG Larry Warford , Detroit Lions
The Lions coaching staff had the opportunity to coach Warford and see his talent during Senior Bowl week, but even they have been surprised at how quickly he’s adjusted to the speed of the NFL. Warford won the starting right guard position and has been a model of consistency for a first-year player.

Runner up: Kyle Long , Bears

C Travis Frederick , Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys turned some heads when they selected a center in the first round, but Frederick has started from day one and is expected to be the long-term anchor of the line. He has had some hiccups, especially in pass pro, but he has also been a consistent road grader as a run blocker.

Runner up: Eric Kush , Kansas City Chiefs

DE Ezekial Ansah, Lions
Like Warford, the Lions coaching staff had the chance to get to know Ansah during Senior Bowl week and they were sold. Although he was given the “unpolished” label as a prospect due to his inexperience, Ansah has proven to be a quick learner and has made an immediate impact with 2.5 sacks so far.

Runner up: Dion Jordan , Miami Dolphins

DT Sheldon Richardson , Jets
Many were surprised when Richardson was the first defensive tackle drafted over Star Lotulelei and Shariff Floyd, but through four games, he has been the most impressive rookie lineman. Richardson has mostly lined up as an end in New York’s three-man front and has wreaked havoc vs. both the pass and the run.

Runner up: Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers

OLB Barkevious Mingo , Cleveland Browns
Despite missing week one and not getting his first career start until week four, Mingo has been terrific in limited snaps. He leads all rookies with three sacks and is the first NFL rookie to record a sack in each of his first three NFL games since 2004. Mingo will go for four straight against Buffalo on Thursday.

Runner up: Alec Ogletree , St. Louis Rams

ILB Kiko Alonso , Bills
Through the quarter mark of the season, Alonso is in the driver’s seat to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He leads all rookies in tackles (32) and interceptions (4) and also has a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on his abbreviated but impressive NFL resume thus far.

Runner up: Vince Williams , Pittsburgh Steelers

CB Xavier Rhodes , Minnesota Vikings
Rhodes was the third cornerback drafted and is currently the third cornerback on the Vikings’ depth chart, playing mostly nickelback for the Minnesota defense. But he has impressed in this role and should see more and more playing time if the coaches think he’s ready.

Runner up: Johnthan Banks , Tampa Bay Buccaneers

FS Tyrann Mathieu , Arizona Cardinals
Through four games, the Honey Badger ranks second in the NFL in solo tackles (28) and leads all rookie defensive backs in combined tackles (29). Mathieu has played mostly in nickel situations but stepped up into a full-time role the past two weeks with starter Rashad Johnson injured.

Runner up: Eric Reid , San Francisco 49ers

SS Kenny Vaccaro , New Orleans Saints
One of Vaccaro’s strengths as a draft prospect was his versatility and we have certainly seen that through four NFL games as the Saints have thrown a lot his way. He has lined up at multiple safety spots, nickelback, linebacker and special teams, leading the team with 19 total tackles.

Runner up: Shamarko Thomas , Steelers

ST Caleb Sturgis , Dolphins
The highest drafted kicker or punter last April, Sturgis was selected in the fifth round and won the starting kicker job during the preseason, making incumbent starter Dan Carpenter expendable. Sturgis hasn’t looked like a rookie with a 7-for-7 field goal mark, including a pair of makes beyond 50 yards.

Runner up: Jeff Locke , Vikings

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