Rookie Phenoms Excelled
The strong NFL trend of standout rookie play continued, with many young contributors on offense, defense and special teams.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott recorded a 104.9 passer rating in 2016, the highest single season passer rating by a rookie in NFL history, earning the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Prescott helped guide the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC, tying Ben Roethlisberger (13 in 2004) for the most wins by a rookie starting quarterback in NFL history.
Prescott was joined in the Dallas backfield by running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, who led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards in 2016, the third-highest single-season total by a rookie in NFL history trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,808 in 1983) and George Rogers (1,674 in 1981).
The Dallas Cowboys became the only team in NFL history to have a rookie pass for 20 touchdowns (Prescott, 23) and a rookie rush for 15 touchdowns (Elliott, 15) in the same season.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz set the NFL record for most completions by a rookie (379), surpassing Sam Bradford (354 in 2010). Chicago's Jordan Howard ranked second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards and joined Elliott as the first pair of rookies to finish first and second in the league in rushing yards since Paul Robinson (1,023) and Robert Holmes (866) of the AFL in 1968.
On defense, Chargers defensive end JOEY BOSA led all rookies with 10.5 sacks, the highest total by a rookie since ALDON SMITH (14) in 2011, despite appearing in only 12 games. Jacksonville defensive end YANNICK NGAKOUE made an impact on the Jaguars defensive line and was the only rookie in the NFL with at least eight sacks and four forced fumbles.
Kansas City wide receiver and return specialist TYREEK HILL joined Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS as the only players with at least five receiving touchdowns (6), three rushing touchdowns (3), a punt-return touchdown (2) and a kick-return touchdown (1) in a single season. Hill was among four outstanding rookies to earn a Pro Bowl selection in 2016, along with Elliott, Howard and Prescott.
Additionally, six rookies started in Super Bowl LI, including four Falcons defenders (De'vondre Campbell, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Brian Poole) and two members of the Patriots offense (Malcolm Mitchell and Joe Thuney). The Falcons became the first team in NFL history to start four rookies on defense in a Super Bowl.
Here are just a few of the notable accomplishments by the NFL's 2016 rookie class:
Cowboys QB DAK PRESCOTT began his career with 176 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, surpassing TOM BRADY (162) for the most pass attempts without an interception to start a career.
Eagles QB CARSON WENTZ became the first rookie since 1970 to start and win his team's first three games to begin a season without throwing an interception.
Cowboys RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT became the fifth rookie since 1970 to lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,631) and the first since EDGERRIN JAMES in 1999. He also had five games with at least 125 rushing yards, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (seven in 1983) for the most ever by a rookie.
Bears RB JORDAN HOWARD had 1,313 rushing yards, the third-highest total by a rookie drafted in the fifth round or later, trailing only ALFRED MORRIS (1,613 yards in 2012) and MIKE ANDERSON (1,487 in 2000). Raiders RB JALEN RICHARD had a 75-yard rushing touchdown on his first career carry in Week 1, becoming the fourth player in NFL history with a 75+ yard rushing touchdown in his NFL debut.
Texans WR-PR WILL FULLER had a five-yard touchdown catch and a 67-yard punt-return touchdown in Houston's Week 4 win over Tennessee, becoming the fourth rookie in the past 15 years to record both a touchdown catch and a punt-return touchdown in the same game.
Chiefs WR-KR-PR TYREEK HILL scored on a three-yard run, a three-yard reception and an 86-yard kickoff-return in Kansas City's Week 12 overtime win at Denver, becoming the first player since Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS in 1965 to have a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and kickoff-return touchdown in the same game.
Saints WR MICHAEL THOMAS set franchise rookie records and led all NFL rookies with 92 receptions, 1,137 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches.
Chargers TE HUNTER HENRY tied for first among NFL tight ends with eight receiving touchdowns in 2016.
Chargers DE JOEY BOSA (10.5) became the first rookie in franchise history to record 10 or more sacks since 2005 (SHAWN MERRIMAN, 10).
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