NFL 2016: All-Rookie Team at Midseason
Who makes up the All-Rookie Team at the midway point of the 2016 NFL season.
With eight weeks officially in the books, the 2016 NFL season has reached its halfway point. This has been an interesting year filled with intrigue and big-time performances. Perhaps the most important of said big performances has come from the rookie class.
The players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft have immediately shown up in a big way and it is a great sign for the league going forward. Who has been the best of the best? Find out here as we name the NFL 2016 Midseason All-Rookie Team.
Let’s start with quarterback, where the toughest decision had to be made:
Quarterback: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
This one is pretty tough. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and 2016 second overall selection Carson Wentz certainly deserves some consideration, but Dak Prescott is the choice.
Prescott was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round (135th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. The athletic Prescott was considered to be an unfinished product coming out of Mississippi State, and the Cowboys took a flyer on him as nothing more than a potential backup.
That being said, Prescott was forced into immediate action after Tony Romo suffered another back injury in the preseason. The rookie quarterback has come in and stepped up in a big way for the Cowboys.
Through seven games, Prescott has completed over 65 percent of his passes for 1,773 yards, nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He has also been a weapon for the Cowboys in the rushing game, carrying the ball 27 times for 105 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly, Prescott has been a major reason for the Cowboys’ impressive 6-1 start.
He is a dynamic athlete at the quarterback position who has shown up and proved that he can handle the pressure of the NFL. Dak Prescott is an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, a big-time NFL quarterback and a great choice for to lead the midseason All-Rookie Team.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
As much of a surprise as Prescott’s success has been, anybody could see Ezekiel Elliott’s strong play coming. Elliott was the fourth-overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and he entered the league in a perfect situation with the Cowboys.
Elliott is playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL and in a system that believes in running the ball. Playing in Dallas is undoubtedly a perfect situation for Elliott, but he is an incredibly talented runner who would have thrived anywhere.
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The favorite for Rookie of the Year, Elliott currently leads the NFL with 799 rushing yards on 159 carries through seven games. He has also reached the end zone five times on the ground, and has caught 15 passes for 150 yards on the season. Simply put, Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL and an obvious inclusion on this list.
Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
As the fourth-overall pick, everybody saw Elliott coming. While he was a personal favorite of mine in the draft process, the success of Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears has been a much bigger surprise. Howard entered the draft as a talented running back who carved up the Big Ten in his only season at Indiana. Despite his on-field success, the Bears were able to snag Howard in the fifth round (150th overall). What a steal that appears to be now.
Despite sharing time with Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, Howard has put up impressive numbers this season. He has carried the ball 99 times for 505 yards and two touchdowns, while also totaling 18 receptions for 177 yards and a receiving touchdown.
Howard has been great all season long, and is coming off of his best performance of the season. On Monday Night Football, Howard carried the ball 26 times for 153 yards and a touchdown against the vaunted Minnesota Vikings defense. He is a big-time talent for the Bears who is an obvious choice for this team.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
In an offense with Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Coby Fleener, it was difficult to see how Michael Thomas wold make an immediate impact with the New Orleans Saints this season. That being said, the rookie receiver has become one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets.
The Saints landed Thomas in the second round (47th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. Thomas was a productive player at Ohio State, but he was a bit of a forgotten man in this draft class. Thomas is a big and smooth receiver who is more of a speed threat than he is given credit for. Thomas has become a security blanket for Brees, making plays for the veteran quarterback all over the field.
His 42 receptions for 500 yards and three touchdowns this season is incredibly impressive, and he is likely to only get better as his role in the offense expands.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
Thomas was the obvious choice at wide receiver. The player to line up opposite of him on the NFL 2016 All-Rookie Team was a more difficult choice. Will Fuller of the Houston Texans and Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs were under serious consideration, but I decided to go with Sterling Shepard of the New York Giants instead.
Shepard was drafted by the Giants in the second round (40th-overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. Starting opposite of Odell Beckham Jr., Shepard was a star in the early part of the season.
In his first game against the Dallas Cowboys, Shepard caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. He backed that up with an eight-reception, 117- yard performance the next week and a five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown game the week after that. Shepard has slowed down in recent weeks, but he is still a dynamic big-play receiver who has a ton of upside in the Giants offense. He is a strong choice for this list.
Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
While Austin Hooper of the Atlanta Falcons deserves a mention, San Diego Chargers rookie Hunter Henry is the obvious choice at tight end. Playing as both a running mate to Antonio Gates and filling in for him while he was hurt, Henry has been a huge weapon for the Chargers this season.
The second-round (35th-overall) selection out of Arkansas has already caught 22 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns this season. He is showing fantastic ability as a receiver and is quickly becoming one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets.
Henry is an extremely well-rounded talent who shows fantastic athleticism and balance as a receiver. On top of that, he is a punishing blocker in both the run game and as a pass protector. With the ability to do everything at the tight end position, it has been difficult for the Chargers to take Henry off of the field. He is quickly becoming one of the best overall tight ends in the NFL.
He certainly has a big fan in his quarterback.
“He’s awesome, and he’s going to be an awesome tight end,” Rivers said, according to the Chargers official site. “I knew he was going to be good, but I didn’t (realize how good). Gosh, he’s a heck of a player. He understands the game and he’s a complete (tight end).”
“I would describe him as a football player. That’s the ultimate compliment my dad would say, if he called somebody a football player and I’m kind of that way, too. He’s just a football player and I’m so excited he’s here.”
Philip Rivers is obvious a believer in Henry’s talent. A strong player with a bright future, Henry is an obvious choice here.
OT: Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans
Trading back into the top 10, the Tennessee Titans made a relatively shocking choice, taking offensive tackle Jack Conklin with the eighth-overall pick. While not many agreed with the selection, Conklin is making the Titans look like geniuses.
Conklin is dominating as the Titans right tackle, looking particularly strong in the run game. Conklin is an absolute mauler in the rushing attack and can also protect the quarterback well. He has been a huge addition to the Titans’ offense and is an obvious choice for this list.
OT: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens
The choice between Taylor Decker of the Detroit Lions and Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens was tough. Both first-round tackles have played well this season, but I gave the edge to Stanley.
The Notre Dame product has stepped in and provided great protection for Joe Flacco and the Ravens at left tackle. He is not the most polished player at the moment, but Stanley has played well and has massive upside going forward.
OG: Joe Thuney, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots selecting NC State’s Joe Thuney in the third-round (78th overall) was a surprising pick. That being said, Bill Belichick and company obviously knew what they were doing. Thuney has stepped in and become an immediate impact starter for the Pats at left guard. Thuney is an incredibly smart and efficient player who has been arguably the Patriots’ most consistent offensive lineman.
OG: Laremy Tunsil, Miami Dolphins
Laremy Tunsil’s draft day slide has been well documented, but the Miami Dolphins appear to have found a nice NFL player. Tunsil is playing out of position at left guard, but his talent is obvious. At some point, Tunsil will be a high-level NFL left tackle, but for now he is a strong option for the Dolphins on the interior.
C: Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears
Making the switch from left tackle at the college level to center in the NFL is difficult, but Cody Whitehair is making it look easy. The Bears rookie center is a strong and reliable player on the inside who is not having any issues adapting to the next level. The Bears can count on Whitehair to make all of the calls at the center position, and he has also shown great ability both in the run game and as a pass protector.
DE: Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
This one was pretty easy. Yannick Ngakoue was a third-round selection (69th overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars and he has come in and made an immediate contribution. Ngakoue is a quick and athletic edge rusher who has totaled four sacks in six starts this season. He also has three forced fumbled and an interception. Ngakoue has become arguably the most disruptive player on the Jaguars’ defense and is an obvious selection for this team.
DE: DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers
DeForest Buckner is not a traditional defensive end, but he is dominating at the position in the San Francisco 49ers 3-4 defense. Buckner is an extremely long and athletic defensive end who has immediately become the 49ers best player up front. He has been well worth the seventh-overall selection.
DT: Michael Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
Michael Pierce of the Baltimore Ravens checks in as our first undrafted player on the team. Pierce has not put up gaudy numbers, but he has been incredibly disruptive for the Ravens at the nose tackle position. Pierce is a dynamic player against the run and has done a fantastic job of creating consistent pressure on the passer from the interior. Pierce undoubtedly deserves to be on this squad.
DT: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
After a series of trade downs, the Kansas City Chiefs made Chris Jones their first pick of the NFL Draft, taking him in the second round (36th overall). Jones is an extremely athletic and powerful defensive lineman who has immediately come in and improved the Chiefs defense.
Jones is not a full-time contributor for the Chiefs, but he does a fantastic job when he is given an opportunity to play. A strong pass rusher who also excels against the rushing attack, the Chiefs have found themselves a strong player to build around.
OLB: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers
While he is most commonly considered a defensive end, I decided to make Joey Bosa an outside linebacker here to get the most talent on the team. Considering Bosa plays plenty of snaps as a rush outside linebacker, it is not that much of a stretch.
Despite missing the first four weeks of the season, Joey Bosa is clearly the best defensive rookie in the NFL. He is not only an absolute beast in the pass rush who consistently creates pressure on the quarterback, but he is a fantastic run defender as well. Bosa has silenced all doubters of his and is clearly one of the best young defenders in the NFL.
OLB: Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears
The Bears have not exactly had a great 2016 season, but having three players on this team is certainly a great sign. Leonard Floyd was a relatively surprising selection made by the Bears with the ninth-overall pick, but he has proven to be worth the investment.
Floyd is an extremely athletic outside linebacker who has shown massive pass rush upside on the edge. The Bears have limited Floyd’s snaps a bit, but he undoubtedly has the ability to be a pass rush star at the NFL level.
ILB: Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Deion Jones has been an absolute beast in the Atlanta Falcons aggressive defensive attack. Jones is an extremely athletic linebacker who has shown a variety of skills at the NFL level. Jones is a true three-down linebacker who has excelled against the run, in coverage and in rare pass rush opportunities. He has massive upside going forward and was an obvious selection for the 2016 All-Rookie Team at the midway point.
Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars
Entering the draft, we did not know what if Jalen Ramsey was a cornerback, safety or maybe even a linebacker. However, early into his rookie season, it is obvious that Ramsey is a true shutdown option at the cornerback position. Ramsey is as gifted athletically as they come. He is incredible in man-to-man coverage on the outside, showing the raw ability to shut down the best receivers in the NFL.
Ramsey is not quite a finished product right now, but he is an extremely talented player who is playing at a high level. He is an obvious choice to be the number one cornerback on this team.
Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The second cornerback on this team was much more difficult to choose. Undrafted rookie Brian Poole of the Atlanta Falcons and fourth-round selection Tavon Young of the Baltimore Ravens deserve mention, but Vernon Hargreaves of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the selection.
Hargreaves has been far from perfect as a rookie, but his first round talent is obvious on the field. Hargreaves has struggled a bit against bigger receivers in the NFL, but it is not an issue that I think will continue. He is a physical and athletic corner who should improve as time goes on. Rookie cornerbacks in the NFL have a tough job. Hargreaves is not a finished product, but he has played well enough to earn a spot on this team. Also, he has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.
Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons
A rough and tough in the box safety, Keanu Neal has made an immediate impact on the Falcons defense. Neal is an extremely gifted and physical player who always seems to be in position to make a play on the ball.
He is fantastic in run support, does a great job in man-to-man coverage and can even play some deep zone. Neal is an absolute weapon for the Falcons defense, having the ability to take the tough matchups in pass coverage against the big and athletic tight ends.
Simply put, Neal is a playmaker who has added an important element to the Falcons defensive attack. Choosing him was painfully obvious here.
Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders
The 14th-overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the NFL 2016 Draft, Karl Joseph is an extremely athletic and productive football player. That being said, his rookie season has been filled with ups and downs.
Joseph has not been a perfect player. He struggled early in the season in pass coverage, getting beat deep a number of times. That being said, he has improved in recent weeks and is showing the massive upside that we saw in college. There are not many great options here. Joseph is a talented player, but he has been inconsistent. He gets the nod based on lack of competition.