Grading the rookies: All-rookie team

Kuechly had one of the best years of any rookie. (US Presswire)

All season long, we’ve been grading the rookies. Now, as the regular season ends, it’s time to give you my all-rookie team.

QB: Robert Griffin III, Redskins: Andrew Luck lost his spot with his late-season slump, and Russell Wilson didn’t do enough earlier in the season to earn it. Plus, Griffin put together one of the best rookie seasons ever. But in reality, all three quarterbacks were amazing this season. RG3 was just slightly better.

RB: Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Remember that game where he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Week 8? Yeah, that wasn’t a fluke. He finished the season with 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns.

RB: Alfred Morris, Redskins: I’ve said it all year long. Without Morris rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, Griffin wouldn’t have been as effective running Washington’s offense.

WR: T.Y. Hilton, Colts: He had problems with drops, but he also was one of the most explosive rookies in the game. On the season, he had 50 catches for 861 yards and seven touchdowns.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars: The No. 5 overall pick had a rough start to his career, but he caught at least six passes in six of the final seven games of the season to end the year on a solid note.

TE: Dwayne Allen, Colts: Although Indianapolis selected Coby Fleener a round before Allen, the third-round pick had better stats than Fleener (45 catches and three touchdowns for Allen to Fleener’s 26 and two) and he was more than solid at run-blocking.

T: Matt Kalil, Vikings: His teammate, Adrian Peterson, had one of the best seasons by a running back in NFL history, and according to Pro Football Focus, Kalil only allowed one quarterback sack this year.  

T: Mitchell Schwartz, Browns: With Joe Thomas entrenched on the left side of the line, Schwartz put together a strong season on the right side to help balance that offensive line.

G: Kevin Zeitler, Bengals: Needing help on the right side of the line, Cincinnati couldn’t have expected much more from its first-round pick.

G: Peter Konz, Falcons: Look, Konz wasn’t great at right guard (though to be fair, he was drafted as a center). But quite honestly, there weren’t many other choices for this spot. So, Konz it is.

C: Trevor Robinson, Bengals: With Kyle Cook injured in the preseason and with free-agent pickup Jeff Faine ineffective, Cincinnati inserted Robinson, an undrafted free agent, and found some stabilit at center.

K: Blair Walsh, Vikings: He didn’t have just one of the best rookie kicker campaigns. He had one of the best kicking years in NFL history. Walsh went 10-for-10 on field goals that were beyond 50 yards.

KOR: David Wilson, Giants: After fumbling as a running back in the first game of the year, coach Tom Coughlin kept him in offensive purgatory for much of the season. But as a kick returner, Wilson was one of the league’s best.

DE: Quinton Coples, Jets: One of the few bright spots for New York, the first-round pick finished with 5.5 sacks, the most on the team. He really played well in the last month of the season.

DE: Bruce Irvin, Seahawks: The selection of Irvin with the No. 15 overall pick left many surprised, but he proved himself this year, finishing with eight sacks on a Seahawks playoff team.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Eagles: He tied the team lead with 5.5 sacks, and for all the problems Philadelphia’s defense experienced, Cox was one reason for optimism.

DT: Michael Brockers, Rams: Despite missing the first three games with an injury, he continued to improve all season.

OLB: Dont’a Hightower, Patriots: In 14 games this season, Hightower finished his season with 60 tackles. Good first year.

ILB: Luke Kuechly, Panthers: When you’ve recorded 164 tackles and two interceptions, you know you’ve had a pretty decent year.

ILB: Bobby Wagner, Seahawks: Because these two inside linebackers were so much better than any other rookie outside linebacker (outside of Hightower), I put both of them on this list. Wagner was a star this year.

CB: Casey Hayward, Packers: Already, Hayward is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Hayward had six interceptions, and according to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks throwing his way had a 27.7 passer rating.

CB: Janoris Jenkins, Rams: He wasn’t always great in coverage, but he finished with four interceptions on the season, and he scored four defensive touchdowns. Which is pretty ridiculous.

S: Harrison Smith, Vikings: He’s made a number of game-changing plays, and he finished the season with 103 tackles and three interceptions.

S: Mark Barron, Buccaneers: Not a great season for the first-round pick, but he’s at a position that isn’t populated with impact rookies. He’ll have to get better to live up to his expectations.

P: Bryan Anger, Jaguars: Jacksonville caused us some laughs when it drafted Anger in the third round (ahead of Russell Wilson!). But Anger did have a solid season -- entering this week, he was second in the league with a 40.8 net average.

PR: Keshawn Martin, Texans: He averaged a steady 12.1 yards per game. Pretty good, but not outstanding.

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