Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
While we impatiently wait for training camps to open and dream of the selecting the "next" Robert Griffin III or Eric Dickerson onto our fantasy roster, let's look back at the greatest all-time rookie performances.
After reading the statistics below, you'll understand why sometimes one of your fellow owners gets a little carried away by a rookie at the draft.
This group of rookies weren't over-hyped, and in fact, were the center of attention throughout the fantasy season.
Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams - Dickerson may have been the No.2 player drafted in 1983 (John Elway went No.1), but on the field there was no comparison. He landed in the perfect situation with a coach, John Robinson, who knew how to use a great running back. Dickerson ran a league-high 390 times for a league-leading 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also caught 51 balls for 404 yards and two more scores. All told he amassed 2,212 yards from scrimmage, was the 1983 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and by any NFL fantasy rankings was No.1 overall. Dickerson would actually improve on most of those numbers in 1984, but a young quarterback in his second year at Miami would take top honors as the league's leading points producer.
Edgerrin James, Indianapolis - Like Dickerson, James would come to the NFL and find himself in an ideal situation. The fourth player selected in 1999, James could both run and catch. In Indianapolis, he ran a league-high 369 times for 1,553 yards and 13 scores. He also caught 62 balls from Peyton Manning for 586 yards and four more touchdowns and finished the year No.1 overall in fantasy points.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay - Washington's Alfred Morris ran for more yards last season (1,613 vs. 1,454), but Martin was the better fantasy running back, particularly in PPR leagues. The Bucs' tailback totaled 1,926 yards from scrimmage with 49 receptions for 472 yards and a total of 12 touchdowns.
Gale Sayers, Chicago - Not too many people were playing fantasy football in 1965, but imagine if you had Sayers on your roster. Over a 14-game season, he ran for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns, caught 29 balls for 507 yards and six more scores and ran both a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns. Sayers accounted for 22 touchdowns and 2,272 yards during that brilliant season.
Curt Warner, Seattle - The No.3 pick in the 1983 draft didn't get as much attention as he should have because of Dickerson's masterful performance, but Warner was pretty good too. He carried the ball 335 times for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 42 receptions for 325 yards and a score. Warner and wideout Steve Largent carried the Seahawks to a 9-7 record and two playoff wins. A season-ending injury in the 1984 opening game ended many a fantasy owner's year almost before it began and in one of my leagues it was the impetus for playing two half seasons each year.
George Rogers, New Orleans - Rogers was a workhorse in 1981 and led the league in rushing attempts (378), rushing yards (1,674) and rushing yards per game (104.6). He added 13 touchdowns and was ranked No.6 overall.
Barry Sanders, Detroit - Sanders was the third pick in 1989 behind Troy Aikman and Tony Mandarich and he didn't disappoint Lions fans or fantasy owners. Despite his small frame, he ran 280 times for 1,470 yards and 14 scores. Interestingly, the man who is remembered for some of the greatest long runs from scrimmage (he had 14 touchdowns of 50+ yards over his career), didn't score from more than 25 yards out on any of the 14 touchdowns.
Billy Sims, Detroit - Before there was Sanders in Detroit, there was Sims. Sims rushed for 1,303 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns in his rookie season. He wasn't done, though. He added 51 receptions for 621 yards and three scores. I have a soft spot in my heart as he helped me win two fantasy titles.
Earl Campbell, Houston - The pride of Tyler, TX carried the Oilers offense from the moment he stepped onto the playing field. He led the NFL in rushing in his first three seasons beginning with a 302-carry, 1,450-yard, 13-TD effort in 1978. He was the 1978, 1979 and 1980 NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year.
Randy Moss, Minnesota - Twenty teams passed on Moss before Minnesota scooped him up at No.21 in the 1998 NFL draft, and he rewarded the Vikings handsomely with a 69-catch, 1,313-yard, 17-touchdown season. It was, by far, the best performance ever by a rookie receiver. The Vikings would go 15-1 that season as Moss' deep threat opened up the field for fellow receiver Cris Carter and running back Robert Smith.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona - In 2003, the Cardinals receiving corps was decimated by injuries and had to rely on the rookie Boldin. He came through with 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and eight scores.
Dan Marino, Miami - He didn't begin the season as the starting quarterback, that distinction belonged to David Woodley. But when Marino was installed as the starter, he excelled. In his nine games as a starter, Marino was 7-2 with 2,210 yards and 20 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. It was just a small sample of things to come as he exploded in his second season with 5,084 yards passing and 48 touchdowns, records which would last for more than 20 years.
Cam Newton, Carolina - Newton exploded onto the scene with back-to-back 400- yard passing games to open his career. He struggled to the finish line, but still finished with a combined passing and rushing total of 4,757 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Robert Griffin III, Washington - RGIII was the mistake-free version of Cam Newton. Where Newton threw 17 interceptions, Griffin threw just five picks while throwing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also rushed for 815 yards and seven scores. He did all that while missing a game.
Just missed: QB Andrew Luck (4,374 yards, 23 TD, 17 INT), RB Alfred Morris (1,613 yards, 13 TD), RB Curtis Martin (1487 yards, 14 TD), WR Billy Howton (1,231 yards, 13 TD).
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