Several rookies have stood out in the 2014 NFL season in a year devoid of a prolific first-year quarterback. Unlike the memorable 2012 rookie class, when the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, and the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson shined in their debut season, this crop of star rookies is heavier at other positions.
The 2014 Rookie of the Year award will almost certainly not go to a quarterback, though some quarterbacks have shown signs of promise. Derek Carr has been the most productive rookie signal caller, throwing for 3,112 yards and 20 touchdowns with the Oakland Raiders. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles and the Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater each threw for over 2,700 yards, but struggled with interceptions. Bortles has thrown 17 picks after 13 games, while Bridgewater has thrown 11 in 12 games.
But Bortles and Bridgewater have fared much better than Johnny Manziel. The Cleveland Browns inserted Manziel at starting quarterback on Dec. 14, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has completed just 18 passes on 35 attempts for 175 yards, and has had two passes intercepted.
This is still a quality rookie class. Here is our list of the top five rookies of the 2014 season:
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
There was a great deal of frustration surrounding Beckham due to a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the entire preseason and four regular-season games. He turned out to be worth the wait, by catching 79 passes for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns. Beckham has the most receptions for a player in his first 11 career games.
His one-handed touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” is arguably the greatest catch in NFL history.
Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis Rams
Donald is basically a lock for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and for good reason. Not only does Donald have eight sacks this season, he is only a half sack behind Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Buccaneers as the sack leader among defensive tackles. Though he was held in check against the Giants on Sunday, Donald might already be the best defensive tackle in the league.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals found themselves a star rusher in Hill. After a slow first half of the season and despite three fumbles, Hill has exploded with three games of rushing for 148 yards or more. He leads all rookies in rushing yards entering Monday night’s game with the Denver Broncos. In the first quarter, Hill rushed for an 85-yard touchdown. It was his ninth touchdown of the season, and only two running backs have more.
Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys
Martin has played like a veteran on an offensive line that has done a solid job protecting quarterback Tony Romo, and for opening holes for DeMarco Murray. It’s no wonder that both Romo and Murray have received consideration for the MVP award.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Martin is a Pro Bowl selection by next season.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore Ravens
When Ray Lewis thinks you’re a leader at inside linebacker, you have to be a special player. The addition of Mosley has been a major boost for the Ravens, as they seek a playoff berth. He is seventh in the NFL in tackles, and also has a pair of interceptions to go along with three sacks.
Mosley has shown little sign of slowing down late in the season, and could be a star in the making.