Top 10: Greatest NFL Rookie Seasons of All Time

Doug Martin just ran wild for the second straight week . The rookie totaled 251 yards and 4 TD's on the ground, including an unbelievable 3 scores from 45 yards out or greater. If he continues to play well, he might find himself walking away from the 2012-13 season with a rushing title.

Andrew Luck, who threw for 433 yards that same week, is also off to a tremendous start, leading the previously abysmal Colts to a 6-3 record and likely a playoff berth. Robert Griffin III is looking like a pretty dominant force over in Washington, not mention his rookie RB Alfred Morris is the #4 overall rusher.

These young guys are clearly the real deal, and will likely close the year with some pretty impressive numbers no matter what. But the unusual prominence of rookies this year got me thinking...what are the greatest rookie performances of all time? Here's my top ten.

10. Bob Hayes

60's and 70's Dallas Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes registered 46 receptions for 1003 yards and 12 touchdowns his rookie year. Considered one of the greatest Cowboys of all time, Hayes also helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI against the Dolphins in 1972.

9. Clinton Portis

Clinton Portis is likely remembered primarily for his work with the Washington Redskins, but his rookie campaign with the Denver Broncos was really quite impressive. 1,508 yds and 15 scores on the ground and 364 yards and 2 scores through the air put his total yardage just below that of Edgerrin James and ties James' TD count. Difficult to argue with that.

8. Edgerrin James

When the Colts drafted James in 1999, critics believed they had made a mistake by not selecting Ricky Williams. As it turned out, James was not only the perfect fit for the team, he proved his worth immediately by winning the NFL rushing title in his rookie season with 1,553 yards and 13 TDs on the ground. He also tacked on 586 yards and 4 TDs through the air for a total of 17 scores.

7. Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor sits somewhere very close to the top of my list of people to never pick a fight with. Taylor's impressive career began when he recorded an INT, 133 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in his rookie season. This was merely a taste of what Taylor had in store for the NFL in the coming years, but that doesn't make it any less incredible. This was one of the greatest defensive performances by a rookie in the history of the NFL.

6. Gale Sayers

During his 1965 debut with the Chicago Bears, Gale Sayers ran for 867 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns and had 507 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. He also managed to accumulate a total of 898 total return yards and 2 return TDs. That's 2272 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns. At the time, this was the single-season record for all-purpose yardage. for any player, not just rookies. Today, his rookie season still holds the #11 spot for all-purpose yards in a season and his 22 touchdowns stand at #12 all-time.

5. Dan Marino

Dan Marino is one of the all-time greatest NFL quarterbacks, but no one knew it until..well..6 weeks into his rookie year when he was finally given a start. Over the course of what was left of the season, Marino accumulated 2210 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns while throwing only 6 interceptions (that would be the TD/INT ratio record for rookies). Imagine if he had had a full season to work with.

4. Randy Moss

Well this is an easy one. 1,313 yards and a rookie record 17 receiving touchdowns. A fitting way to kick off the career of one of the greatest receivers of all time.

3. Mark Carrier

Mark Carrier was quite simply a beast during his rookie season. Just listen to this stat line; 122 Tackles, 5 Forced Fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. That level of play is just ludicrous on any level, and I would be surprised to see any rookies recreate Carrier's dominant 1st year.

2. Eric Dickerson

Eric Dickerson had by far the most effective rookie running back campaign in the history of the NFL. With 1,808 yards rushing and 404 yards receiving, Dickerson accumulated about 2,200 total yards his rookie year. Along with the yardage, he managed to score 18 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns. Dickerson also holds the record for most attempts from a rookie, at 390.

1. Cam Newton

After watching Newton's sophomore campaign go the way it has, it's hard to believe he sits atop this list, but there is simply no denying it. Newton threw for more yards than any other rookie in NFL history, and narrowly missed Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 passing TD's with 21. He also ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns; both records for rookie QBs. Cam broke a slew of both rookie records and regular NFL records during this year. No doubt, this was the most impressive rookie season of all time. If only this year had gone the same way for Newton...

Honorable Mentions (In No Particular Order): Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Tommy Nobis (294 Tackles), Anquan Boldin, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Patrick Peterson.

Andrew Powell-Morse is a writer for

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join The Phinsider

You must be a member of The Phinsider to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Phinsider. You should read them.

Join The Phinsider

You must be a member of The Phinsider to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Phinsider. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.