Cam Newton, Von Miller, AJ Green and the 10 best NFL Rookies of 2011 after Week 3


1. Cam Newton
Newton had a few things going against him when evaluating where he would land on this list. The simple fact that he was the first overall player taken in this year's draft made me want to go elsewhere. However you cannot deny what the record-breaking former Auburn star has achieved in Carolina.

The Panthers may only be 1-2 but Newton has more than held up his end of the deal. A Panthers' defense, that has lost Thomas Davis and Jon Beason for the year, simply cannot support the offense enough.

In three games Newton has astronomical numbers for a veteran quarterback. Numbers that are only blighted by a tough game against the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. With 1,012 passing yards, four TDs, four INTs, 71 rushing yards and two rushing TDs, Newton has been the best rookie so far.


It is not only his statistics however, as Newton has shown already that his accuracy and intelligence was totally underrated coming out of college. The velocity and accuracy with which he throws the football is only eclipsed by his surprising ability to understand NFL defenses.


2. Ryan Kerrigan
The former Purdue man may not have lit up the stat sheets just yet, however he has excelled as part of what looks a very promising defense in Washington. Kerrigan is an intense football player that doesn't appear to have struggled to transition from defensive end in college to linebacker in the NFL.

It is not that big a surprise considering he was thought to be a great leader in college as a captain for Purdue. He and Brian Orakpo should be a frightening duo in years to come for opposing quarterbacks, but that doesn't mean he isn't already very effective.


Even as a rookie Kerrigan has already made a game changing play for his team. His interception against the New York Giants led to a touchdown that ultimately gave the team their opening day victory. Kerrigan has added 1.5 sacks and 13 tackles to go along with his interception and touchdown. 

Statistics are not the best way to judge Kerrigan, who has seemingly impressed everyone in Washington, on his way to being the NFL's rookie of the month.


3. Phil Taylor
Making the transition from Baylor to Cleveland hasn't been a problem for Nose Tackle Phil Taylor. Taylor, along with fellow rookie Jabaal Sheard, has revitalized the team's defensive line.


Despite only getting his first sack of the season in his third game, every fan in Cleveland could see it coming. Taylor has great strength but is a perfect size to be the penetrating force through the middle that Cleveland hasn't had in recent years.


One scout has compared his early season impact to that of a smaller Ndamukong Suh. He may not be as good as Suh but so far he has been unbelievably impressive notching 18 tackles in three games. 18 tackles in three games is great for a linebacker, nevermind a defensive tackle.

4. JJ Watt
It is very difficult to believe that JJ Watt is only 22 years of age. When you watch him on the field for the Houston Texans, he plays as if he was a 10 year veteran. Watt has started all three games for the Texans and hasn't once looked out of place.

The Texans' defense as a whole has improved with Wade Phillips at the helm. That improvement is not in spite of the younger players involved but actually in thanks to them.

Watt has notched an incredible 13 tackles from the 3-4 end position that generally doesn't get many tackles. He also managed a sack against Drew Brees in Louisiana.  


5. Andy Dalton
After nearly being taken apart by Ndamukong Suh in the preseason, Andy Dalton set about taking apart opposing defenses in Week 1. Dalton is playing on one of the least talented teams in the league, while many didn't believe that he would be able to make an impact instantly in the NFL.

Mike Brown is still foolish not to do something with Carson Palmer, but he definitely would have felt more comfortable after Dalton started the season with two 100+ QB rating games. Dalton has the Bengals at 1-2 after throwing a game winning touchdown pass to fellow rookie AJ Green on opening weekend.


Things haven't gone as well since then, but Dalton's poise and ability is evident already. Statistically he is behind Cam Newton but still has put up respectable numbers: three TDs, two INTs, 570 yards with a 82.1 rating overall.


6. Nate Solder
Solder wasn't expected to be involved this early for the New England Patriots, but an injury to Sebastien Vollmer gave him a chance to shine on the right-hand side of Tom Brady's line. 

Brady's pass protection has been unbelievably good for the most part this year. Solder's huge frame has adapted well to the NFL game, and it is not completely out of the question that he will hold onto the starting spot at right tackle.


It is still very early, and he has had his hiccups already, but the former Colorado tackle looks like having a bright future in Boston.

7. Mason Foster
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed Barrett Ruud to leave in free agency because they believed that they could improve the position. Foster has definitely done that to this point bringing an aggression and toughness to the middle that had previously been lacking.


Foster beat out Tyrone McKenzie very early in the preseason to make the middle linebacker position his own. Subsequently he has made the middle of the field in Tampa his own as the 22 year old has 22 tackles, 2 sacks and one forced fumble in three starts.


8. Von Miller
Von Miller was considered to be a playmaker when he was drafted second overall by the Denver Broncos. John Fox loves a pass rusher and Miller has shown already that he can be that.

His two sacks and two forced fumbles are a result of his relentless play and combination of speed, size and strength. Miller needs to get better against the run and the defense as a whole needs to be better for him to truly flourish but the talent is undoubtedly there.


9. AJ Green
AJ Green may be behind Julio Jones in yards and Torrey Smith in touchdowns but he is the only player of the three playing as the first choice receiver. Opposing defenses are first trying to shut down Green before Jerome Simpson, while Jones benefits from playing across from Roddy White.

Green has 15 receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He overcame early struggles in his debut to catch the game winning touchdown pass. He hasn't looked back since then as he and Andy Dalton have created an impressive rapport.

10. Dan Bailey
Bailey may be a kicker, but that does not prevent him from making the top 10 after three weeks of the NFL season. Bailey single handedly—or footedly if you prefer—led the Cowboys to a victory on Monday night against the Washington Redskins.

Bailey kicked every single point as the Cowboys scored six field goals. Bailey doesn't have the biggest leg, but he has a season long of 48 yards and has only missed one kick in 16 attempts (10 field goals, six extra points).


A clutch kicker won't be on this list at the end of the season in all likelihood, but the value of the position shouldn't be overlooked. 

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