The NFL has entered the second half of the season and rookies around the league continue to make an impact.
Running backs EDDIE LACY of Green Bay and ZAC STACY of St. Louis have been two of the most productive running backs in the NFL over the past month while ANDRE ELLINGTON of Arizona has given his team a spark.
Wide receivers TERRANCE WILLIAMS of Dallas and KENNY STILLS of New Orleans have scored touchdowns in bunches while CORDARRELLE PATTERSON of Minnesota and TAVON AUSTIN of St. Louis have shown playmaking ability with dynamic performances on special teams.
Washington tight end JORDAN REED has put up numbers comparable to some of the best in the league at the position.
And a trio of safeties – Arizona’s TYRANN MATHIEU, San Francisco’s ERIC REID and New Orleans’ KENNY VACCARO – have earned starting spots and made significant contributions to their clubs.
A closer look at some of the outstanding NFC rookies in 2013:
RB EDDIE LACY, Green Bay (Round 2, No. 61 overall, Alabama): Lacy, who was the Offensive MVP of the 2012 BCS National Championship Game at Alabama, leads all rookies with 669 rushing yards and 758 scrimmage yards. Since October 1, Lacy has rushed for 618 yards (103 yards per game), the most in the NFL by any player. Lacy was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October and is on pace to surpass JOHN BROCKINGTON (1,105 in 1971) for the most rushing yards by a rookie in franchise history.
“He’s a stud,” says Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS about Lacy. “He’s a big-time player. He’s a winner and he knows how to play the game. He finishes his runs, he’s a tough kid, he’s smart, he cares about it and he has a great attitude around the locker room. He has great upside and we expect Eddie to continue to get better.”
RB ZAC STACY, St. Louis (Round 5, No. 160 overall, Vanderbilt): Since becoming the starter in Week 5, Stacy has rushed for 533 yards, the third-most in the NFL over that span. He recorded back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, becoming the first Rams rookie to accomplish the feat since STEVEN JACKSON in 2004.
“From the moment that Zac took over the starting spot, he’s been a great weapon for us,” says Rams quarterback KELLEN CLEMENS. “He’s a great runner. And he’s also very good catching the ball out of the backfield. We’re lucky to have him. He’s stepped up in a big way.”
RB ANDRE ELLINGTON, Arizona (Round 6, No. 187 overall, Clemson): Ellington has averaged 7.2 yards per carry, the highest in the NFL this season by a running back (minimum 50 attempts). He has rushed for 388 yards with two touchdowns and added 24 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown. Ellington and GIOVANI BERNARD are the only rookies with at least 300 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, 200 receiving yards and a touchdown reception this season.
“He’s a very unique player,” says Cardinals head coach BRUCE ARIANS. “You want a lot of his touches to be out in space because he is so dynamic.”
WR TERRANCE WILLIAMS, Dallas (Round 3, No. 74 overall, Baylor): Williams has a touchdown catch in five of the past six games and is averaging 21.6 yards per catch over that stretch. He is the only rookie in franchise history to record a touchdown catch in four consecutive games.
“Terrance has done a really nice job,” says Cowboys head coach JASON GARRETT. “He’s a very good athlete. He’s a big guy. He’s got speed and quickness and good natural route-running ability. But as much as anything else, it’s just his work ethic. It’s really important to him. He works very hard at it. He learns from the experience he has – both good and bad – and he really grows. It’s a real tribute to the approach he takes each week.”
WR KENNY STILLS, New Orleans (Round 5, No. 144 overall, Oklahoma): Stills has 19 catches for 437 yards with four touchdowns and his 23.0 yards-per-catch average leads the NFL. All four of his touchdowns have been at least 34 yards and he is averaging 49.3 yards per touchdown catch.
“He’s very mature beyond his years,” says Saints quarterback DREW BREES. “He has lived up to the challenge. Wherever we put him, whatever we’ve asked of him, he’s lived up to the challenge.”
WR-KR CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, Minnesota (Round 1, No. 29 overall, Tennessee): Patterson leads the NFL averaging 35.2 yards per kickoff return and has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, the most in the league. In Week 8, he had a 109-yard kickoff-return touchdown, tied for the longest play in NFL history. He was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for that performance and was also honored as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September.
“Cordarrelle’s done a terrific job all season long on kickoff returns,” says Vikings head coach LESLIE FRAZIER. “He was the Special Teams Player of the Month for the first month of the season and he’s continued that play. He’s been terrific. He’s a major threat.”
WR-PR TAVON AUSTIN, St. Louis (Round 1, No. 8 overall, West Virginia): Austin became the first player in NFL history with a 95+ yard punt-return touchdown (98) and two 55+ yard receiving touchdowns (81 and 57) in the same game in Week 10. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS (1965) and RANDY MOSS (1998) as the only rookies to score three 50+ yard touchdowns in the same game. Austin’s average of 78.7 yards per touchdown is the highest in NFL history for a player with at least three touchdowns in a single game.
“He has a chance to change games,” says Rams head coach JEFF FISHER. “We’re going to continue working to get him the football. When he gets his hands on the football, you see what he can do.”
TE JORDAN REED, Washington (Round 3, No. 85 overall, Florida): Reed leads all rookies with 44 receptions and is first among rookie tight ends with 487 receiving yards. His 44 receptions rank fourth among NFC tight ends, trailing onlyJIMMY GRAHAM (54), TONY GONZALEZ (47) and JASON WITTEN (47).
“Jordan enjoys football,” says Redskins offensive coordinator KYLE SHANAHAN. “It’s not just his job. He gets excited about it. It’s obvious how good he is in the passing game, but he’s good in every aspect. He does everything we ask of him and he enjoys doing it.”
S TYRANN MATHIEU, Arizona (Round 3, No. 69 overall, Louisiana State): Mathieu, who has started seven of nine games, has recorded 56 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, a forced fumble and six passes defensed. He is one of only two safeties (ANTREL ROLLE) – and the lone rookie at the position – with at least 50 tackles, two interceptions, one sack and a forced fumble this season. Mathieu was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October.
“We play him in a lot of different spots,” says Cardinals cornerback PATRICK PETERSON. “He brings energy to this defense. He plays with so much energy and passion, and that’s what we love about him. He always comes to play on Sundays. He never seems to amaze us because we know what type of player we have here.”
S ERIC REID, San Francisco (Round 1, No. 18 overall, Louisiana State): Reid has started nine games and has recorded 37 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and six passes defensed. He is one of only two players (ALTERRAUN VERNER) – and the lone rookie – with at least three interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season.
“He’s blessed with a lot of ability,” says 49ers head coach JIM HARBAUGH. “He’s very sharp. He learns well. He doesn’t repeat mistakes. If he does something wrong, he gets coached on it and you don’t see that same mistake again. Eric’s done a real good job of continuing to know that he’s got to work hard, improve and just keep coming.”
S KENNY VACCARO, New Orleans (Round 1, No. 15 overall, Texas): Vaccaro has started nine games and has recorded 45 tackles, one interception, one sack and five passes defensed. He is the only rookie safety to start nine games and register at least 45 tackles, an interception and a sack.
“We drafted a special guy in Kenny,” says Saints defensive coordinator ROB RYAN. “One thing that jumps out to me is how much he loves football. You can do so many different things with him. We’re just scratching the surface with him. He’s got a lot of talent. There are a lot of great things about this guy, and probably the best is how much he loves football.”