Midseason all-rookie team is a tribute to deep draft class

The 2008 draft lacked the superstar quality of 2007 -- I don't know if this year's rookie class is going to end up with the likes of Adrian Peterson or Joe Thomas or Patrick Willis. But there are a lot of players from the class of 2008 who will be around in this league for a long time.

We might not see four rookies in the Pro Bowl, which was the case last season, but this draft had great depth. There are better players overall from top to bottom -- and you can see that when you look at my midseason review of the best rookies by position, listed below. As a matter of fact, it might be the best draft class since 1983.

Running back is traditionally the easiest position for rookies to make an impact, but it was still impressive that four backs who were drafted 44th overall and lower gained more than 100 yards in Week 9. Even more impressive is this: No less than five rookies started at left tackle in Week 1. that is unprecedented.

Overall, 37 rookies started in Week 1. At least one player from all seven rounds has started this season, along with two undrafted free agents (not including specialists).

The first 114 players drafted made the rosters of the teams that drafted them -- the highest-drafted player to get cut was -- Dre Moore, Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick (115th overall), and he was signed to the Bucs' practice squad.

There is still plenty of football to be played, but here is my list of the top rookies, by position, at the midway point:


Matt Ryan
First round. third overall
Has started all eight games, completing 113 of 227 passes for 1,668 yards, with a passer rating of 85.4.

Running Back
Matt Forte
Second round, 44th overall
Has 641 rushing yards and 4 TDs, plus another 228 yards receiving with 2 TD receptions.

Running Back
Chris Johnson
First round, 24th overall
Has 715 rushing yards and 5 TDs, plus 236 yards receiving and 1 TD catch. Explosive player with a long run of 66 yards.

Peyton Hillis
Seventh round, 227th overall
Good blocker and special teams player. Only 3 carries (for 14 yards), but also has 8 receptions for 120 yards and 1 TD.

Wide Receiver
Eddie Royal
Second round, 42nd overall
Has 46 receptions and 3 TDs; also returns punts and kickoffs.

Wide Receiver
DeSean Jackson
Second round, 49th overall
Has 34 receptions for 525 yards and 1 TD; also has 11.3-yard punt return average with 1 TD.

Tight End
John Carlson
Second round, 38th overall
Has 22 catches for 244 yards and 2 TDs, and he's also a good blocker.

Jamey Richard
Seventh round, 226th overall
Has started five games for the Colts, two at center and three at guard.

Offensive Tackle
Duane Brown
First round, 26th overall
Has started all eight games at left tackle for a team that is averaging 265 passing yards per game.

Offensive Tackle
Ryan Clady
First round, 12th overall
Has started all every game at LT for team that has allowed just 6 sacks -- the second fewest in the NFL.

Offensive Tackle
Jake Long
First round, first overall
Has started every game at LT, and also moves to right tackle when Dolphins play an unbalanced line in the Wildcat formation. Miami is averaging 63 more yards per game than last year.

Offensive Tackle
Branden Albert
Kansas City
First round, 15th overall
While he missed most of training camp with an injury, Albert is a starter at LT and he has great upside.

Donald Thomas
Sixth round, 195th overall
Currently out with an injury, but he was good enough to be the Dolphins starting guard in Week 1, and he looks to be a future Pro Bowl player; a sixth-round steal.


Defensive End
Chris Long
St. Louis
First round, second overall
Has 4 sacks and 28 tackles in eight starts.

Defensive End
Lawrence Jackson
First round, 28th pick
Has 2 sacks and 18 tackles in six starts.

Defensive Tackle
Glenn Dorsey
Kansas City
First round, fifth overall
Has 22 tackles and one fumble recovery in eight starts.

Defensive Tackle
Marcus Harrison
Third round, 90th overall
Has not started but is active in the Bears' tackle rotation, with 11 tackles and 2 sacks.

Jerod Mayo
New England
First round, 10th overall
An every-down player who has started all eight games and leads the Patriots with 59 tackles.

Curtis Lofton
Second round, 37th overall
Has started every game, with 44 tackles and 1 sack.

Bryan Kehl
N.Y. Giants
Fourth round, 123rd overall
Has only started two games, but he has 23 tackles and an interception.

Keith Rivers
First round, ninth overall
Started seven games before going on IR with a broken jaw, ending his rookie season with 37 tackles and 1 interception.

Defensive Back
Chris Horton
Seventh round, 249th overall
Has started six games, with 42 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 interceptions. Was voted the Week 2 defensive player of the week.

Defensive Back
Dwight Lowery
N.Y. Jets
Fourth round, 112th overall
Got off to a great start when he made two plays in the final minute that helped preserve a Week 1 win vs. Miami. Has 43 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries.

Defensive Back
Brandon Flowers
Kansas City
Second round, 35th overall
Has seven starts, with 37 tackles and 2 interceptions, including one he returned 91 yards for a TD vs. the Jets.

Defensive Back
Kenny Phillips
N.Y. Giants
First round, 31st overall
Has yet to start a game, but he's second on the Giants with 35 tackles and has 1 interception.

Defensive Back
Tracy Porter
New Orleans
Second round, 40th overall
Played very well before going on IR after five starts. Had 25 tackles, 1 INT and 1 sack before getting injured.

Special Teams

Dan Carpenter
Undrafted free agent
Has converted 12 of 14 FG attempts and is 19-for-19 in PAT attempts.


Brett Kern
Undrafted free agent
Has a 47.8-yard average on 27 punts, with a long of 64 yards.

Kick Returner
Brian Witherspoon
Undrafted free agent
Has a 26.6-yard average on 26 kickoff returns, including three returns of 40 or more yards.

Special Teams Player
Gary Guyton
New England
Undrafted free agent
Plays in kicking teams and also sees playing time at inside linebacker; has 19 tackles in eight games.

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