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Five rookies that most exceeded expectations this season

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» Rookies that have not met expectations


Most rookies are running out of time to put the finishing touches on their first impression in the NFL with three weeks to go in the regular season. However, these five players have already left an impressive mark in their first seasons. Here are the five rookies that have most exceeded expectations.

Pepsi Rookie of the Week nominees:

Redskins WR Jamison Crowder

Pick: Round 4, pick 105
College: Duke
Crowder made a name for himself at the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl because of his precise route running. His lack of ideal size caused him to slip to the fourth round, but it's beginning to look like the Redskins got a steal. He's currently second among all rookies with 49 catches and he already shows a keen understanding of how to work in zones and create separation in the slot. He has the tools to develop into one of the top third-down weapons in the league.

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs

Pick: Round 5, pick 146
College: Maryland
I remember noticing Diggs during his freshman campaign at Maryland. He was a dynamic, explosive playmaker that jumped off the screen. However, he battled injuries and poor quarterback play the next two seasons before electing to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. The Vikings picked him in the fifth round and he has quickly emerged as a home-run hitter for Teddy Bridgewater. He's currently fourth among all rookies with 44 catches.


» Jeremiah grades rookie first-rounders


Bills CB Ronald Darby

Pick: Round 2, pick 50
College: Florida State
I know Darby was a second-round pick, but I don't think anyone envisioned that he would be this good in his first professional season. Darby has an outstanding skill set, but he was very raw coming out of Florida State. The expectation was that this would be a learning year and hopefully he would emerge in Year 2 or 3. Instead, he's been outstanding right out of the gate. He's started 13 games and collected 2 interceptions to go along with 21 passes defended. He looks like a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback right now.

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Bears DT Eddie Goldman

Pick: Round 2, pick 39
College: Florida State
I really liked Goldman prior to the draft (I had him ranked 20th among draft prospects), but I didn't expect him to be so productive this early in his career. He was a dominant run defender at Florida State and I believed he had pass-rush potential, but I didn't expect him to lead all rookies in sacks. His 4.5 sacks are tops among his draft class and he's been dominant at times this season. The Bears struck gold (bad pun) with this pick.

Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls

Pick: Undrafted
College: Central Michigan
As an undrafted rookie joining a very talented backfield, very little was expected of Rawls this season. However, with Marshawn Lynch battling injuries all season long, Rawls had his number called and he delivered. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and amassed four 100-yard games (830 rushing yards) before breaking his ankle against the Ravens on Sunday.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter at @MoveTheSticks.

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