Jobu looks into which NFL rookie running back had the best year in 2012.
I recently took a look at the best of the best young arms in the NFL, and decided that Robert Griffin, III was my choice for this year’s Rookie of the Year. Considering the fact that the Redskins also have one of the best rookie running backs in the league, I felt it was appropriate to analyze this year’s crop of young runners to see who was the true best of the bunch. Was there an Eric Dickerson (pictured above) in the bunch? Here’s what I came up with.
The 2012 NFL draft saw 20 running backs get drafted overall. Of those, only three were first rounders, and only two of those had a monumental impact on their respective teams this year. Trent Richardson went third overall and was named the starter for the Cleveland Browns, while Doug Martin was taken 31st out of Boise State and won the starting job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not to take anything away from Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, who was drafted 32nd overall by the Giants, as he did manage to set the Giants record for overall yards in a game late in the season, but he was only pressed into duty after injuries to two other Giants running backs, so his overall impact was pretty minimal for 2012.
Anyway, as one would expect, Richardson and Martin are both on our list of the top three young rookie running backs of 2012. The third was one I certainly wouldn’t have expected, although Mike Shanahan maybe did, and that’s sixth rounder Alfred Morris out of Florida Atlantic. Let’s see how they all did.
1. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns
As I mentioned earlier, Richardson was the highest drafted running back this past season, going third overall to Cleveland. Since he was basically named the starter from day one, he became an important commodity on fantasy draft days all over the country as well. The unfortunate part for Richardson was that he was taken by the Cleveland Browns, who absolutely stink. The team has been in quarterback search mode for a few years now, going through ten different ones since 2005, including this year’s anointing of rookie Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State.
Richardson had a solid, yet unspectacular rookie season, but he was definitely one of only a few bright spots for the Browns. An ankle injury kept him out of the season finale against Pittsburgh, which probably cost him his 1,000 yard season, but overall he was productive. Although he had some ups and downs in his rookie campaign, he finished with 950 rushing yards and 11 TDs, and added 367 receiving yards and 1 a TD as well. He topped 100 yards three times this year, and definitely demonstrated that he’ll be a useful fantasy commodity for years to come, providing Cleveland improves the team around him and Weeden and he can stay healthy enough to compete.
Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s nice to see when good NFL players come out of schools like Boise State. It’s a school that is often very good, but overlooked when it comes time to decide the national championship picture, and I guess Martin fits right into that as well. Martin rushed for over 1,200 yards each of his last two years at Boise State, and he carried that into his rookie season as well. He started every game for the Buccs this past season, and ended up being one of the best running backs in the whole league.
Martin ended the season with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 TDs, while also catching 49 passes for 472 yards and a score. He topped 100 yards four times this season, but what he did in week 8 against the Oakland Radiers was special. He carried the ball 25 times and racked up 251 yards and 4 big TDs. His TDs were for 45, 67, 70 and 1 yards. His performance was the second best ever by a rookie running back (Adrian Peterson had the NFL record 296 yards his rookie year). Oddly enough, Denver’s Mike Anderson ran for the exact same stats as Martin ran for in his 2000 rookie campaign.
With Josh Freeman under center and Martin now taking the handoffs, the Buccaneers seem like they have some nice pieces that could help them make their way back to relevance in the NFC. It will be exciting to see what kind of numbers Martin continues to put up as his career progresses.
Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris came out of Florida Atlantic, and I don’t think anyone was quit sure what to expect. He was a beast in college, racking up 3.529 yards in just three years as a starter. Unfortunately for him, the school isn’t really known as a powerhouse, and neither is the conference he played in. Because of that, he fell to the sixth round, where the Redskins scooped him up. Considering the fact that they already had Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower on the roster, but they took him, and they ended up with a huge win. As a side note, if Mike Shanahan takes a runningback in the sixth round, draft him for your fantasy team (Shanahan took Terrell Davis in the sixth round in the 1995 draft).
Anywho, not only was Morris good, he set the Redskins record for rushing yards in a season. That’s right, Morris’ 200 yards in week 17 against the Cowboys gave him 1,613 for the season, which was enough to catapult him ahead of former Redskin Clinton Portis‘ 1,516 yards in 2005. In fact, his total made him just the fourth rookie of all time to surpass the 1,600 yard mark, and put him behind only Eric Dickerson (1,808 yards in 1983) and George Rogers (1,674 yards in 1981). By the way, he also rushed for 11 TDs and caught 11 passes for 77 yards. Overall, he crossed the 100 yard mark seven times in 2012, which led all rookies as well.
Who Is the Best of the Best?
Morris’ numbers, and the fact that he and RGIII led the Redskins to their first division title since 1999, makes Morris my pick for top rookie running back of 2012. As good as Doug Martin was, turning around a franchise weighs heavily when we are discussing impactful draft picks. Either way, it was a great year for rookies in the NFL, and I’m excited to see what next year will bring from all of these guys.
Featured image courtesy of: George Rose/Getty Images
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