If nothing else good came from the game yesterday, fans have to at least be excited about the play of the rookies from this years draft class. The youngsters are getting more and more snaps each week, and with that increase in snaps, we have seen an increase in production on the field. However, performance is not judged in a vacuum. A true gauge of performance is how well you can stack up to other players around the league. Is an 80% on a test truly that great if the rest of the class is getting 100%’s? So how are the St. Louis Rams freshman playing in comparison to the rest of the Class of 2012?
Daryl Richardson may be the steal of the draft, being grabbed up by the Rams with the second-to-last pick of the 7th round. Richardson has been nothing short of amazing when he had got touches in the game, and has nearly split carries with Steven Jackson out of the backfield over the last two games. Richardson currently has 55 attempts for 282 yards, which is 4th among rookie running backs so far this season. However, Richardson is the leader among rookie running backs with at least 50 rushing attempts in yards per carry, gaining 5.1 yards per rush. The next closest back is Alfred Morris, who is likely a candidate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year, with 4.8 yards per carry. Richardson is the only rookie with multiple rushes for 40+ yards, and is fifth among rookies with 11 rushes for first downs this season. Richardson is also 16th in receptions for all rookies and 3rd among rookie running backs, with 10 catches for 102 yards.
Many were surprised when the Rams grabbed Chris Givens, the burner out of Wake Forest, in the 4th round of the draft. The thought was that there was a more pressing need for an outside linebacker or offensive lineman, rather than adding another mid-round pick to a wide receiving core filled with possession receivers. Givens brought something different, the ability to take the top off of the defense, pulling back the safeties that had stacked the box on Steven Jackson for so many year.
Givens has 10 receptions this season for 270 yards, which is third among all rookie receivers in the NFL. He leads all rookies with 27.0 yards per completion, and has more 40+ yard receptions than any player in the NFL, not just rookies. Naturally, Givens has a high percentage of reception going for 1st downs, with 7 out of his 10 catches moving the chains. His 70% catch-for-1st down rate is 4th among rookies with at least 10 receptions. Givens is also one of only two rookies in the Top 10 that were selected outside of the 3rd Round of the draft, the other being Rod Streater, an UDFA pickup by the Oakland Raiders.
Aside from the “Misses in Miami,” Zuerlein has been the MVP for the St. Louis Rams this season. Zuerlein is clearly the leader of the three rookie kickers, so, to be fair, his number are going to get compared to the rest of the league. The Rams kicker has made 17 field goals this season, which is the second most of any kicker in the NFL, behind only Lawrence Tynes in New York. While other kickers are making their money kicking chip shots from 20-40 yards, the bulk of LegaTron’s work has come in the 40+ range. He has attempted 14 of his 20 field goal tries from at least 40 yards… the next closest kicker has attempted 9 from that distance. Zuerlein is 7 for 7 on kicks from 40-49 yards, which easily leads the league in the category. He is 5 for 7 from 50+ yards, where he leads in both attempts and made field goals, a category in which he has made more field goals than anyone else in the league has attempted. He is one of only two players in the NFL that have successfully kicked a 60+ yard field goal, and attempted one from 66 yards that sailed wide left with plenty of leg, which would have set the record for longest field goal in NFL history.
If you can wipe the memory of the Green Bay Packers game from your brain, Janoris Jenkins has been one of the best rookie players on defense this season. Jenkins and Finnegan make up one of the most dynamic cornerback duos in the NFL, especially in man-to-man coverage and in run support. While Jenkins has made some mental errors in the last two games, he has helped hold opposing teams to only 6 passing touchdowns on the season. He has amassed 36 combined tackles this year, which is 8th among all rookie defensemen, and 3rd among rookie defensive backs. Jenkins also has 8 pass deflections (T-3rd among all rookies, 2nd among cornerbacks), and is one of only thirteen rookies, and only seven cornerbacks, with an interception this season.
The contribution that Brockers has made is hard to measure with raw number, especially considering he is an interior defensive lineman. It is made even more difficult by the fact that he has only played in three regular season games this season, after nursing an ankle injury sustained in the preseason. However, there are some intriguing numbers that help describe the influence he has had on the game. Since his return, the St. Louis Rams defense has allowed only 151 rushing yards on 60 carries, have yet to allow a rushing touchdown, and have not allowed a running back to gain more than 15 yards on a single rushing attempt. In the four games Brockers was out with his injury, the Rams only managed 6 sacks on opposing quarterbacks. Since his return, the defense has wrangled down the signal caller 15 times in three games, an average of 5 sacks per game. Brockers himself has even made some big plays, recording 6 tackles from the interior of the line, and is 1 of only 24 rookies, and of only 4 rookie defensive tackles, with a sack this season. So much for not being able to rush the passer…