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The best NFL rookie seasons of the modern era

Every year in the NFL, there are rookies who take the league by storm. Some do it with astronomical numbers, while others simply make their new teams better from Day 1.

So which players have been the most impressive in their first NFL go-rounds? Here is a look at the best NFL rookie seasons in the modern era.

 
1 of 30

Eric Dickerson, 1983

Eric Dickerson, 1983
Owen C. Shaw / Getty Images

It will be difficult to ever top what Dickerson did in his rookie season for the Rams, both in volume and production. He had 390 carries for 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, adding 51 receptions for 404 yards and two more scores.

 
2 of 30

Reggie White, 1985

Reggie White, 1985
George Gojkovich / Getty Images

Arguably football's greatest pass rusher ever, White had an unbelievable rookie season for the Eagles after two years in the USFL. Over 13 games, White had 100 tackles and 13 sacks at defensive end.

 
3 of 30

Cam Newton, 2011

Cam Newton, 2011
Charlotte Observer / Tribune News Service

There were certainly hiccups, but Newton established himself as an offensive force in his rookie season with Carolina. He threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, adding 706 rushing yards and 14 scores on the ground.

 
4 of 30

Edgerrin James, 1999

Edgerrin James, 1999
George Gojkovich / Getty Images

James couldn't have jumped into a better situation, replacing Marshall Faulk in Indianapolis. The fourth overall pick in 1999, James had more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns, adding 62 receptions for 586 yards and four scores.

 
5 of 30

Saquon Barkley, 2018

Saquon Barkley, 2018
Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

Barkley had one of the best seasons ever by a rookie running back, leading the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and had 91 receptions in a remarkable year en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.

 
6 of 30

Robert Griffin III, 2012

Robert Griffin III, 2012
Rob Carr / Getty Images

Griffin's career got off to a great start, but he hasn't been the same since suffering a knee injury in the playoffs of his rookie year. Still his best season, Griffin was 258-of-393 for 3,200 yards and 20/5 TD/INT. He also had 815 rushing yards and seven scores.

 
7 of 30

Ezekiel Elliott, 2016

Ezekiel Elliott, 2016
Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports Images

Elliott failed to match Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, but he was still terrific behind the Dallas offensive line. He rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding 363 receiving yards and one score.

 
8 of 30

Randy Moss, 1998

Randy Moss, 1998
Paul Buck / AFP

Moss made quite a tandem in Minnesota alongside Cris Carter. He immediately established himself as a huge deep threat with 69 receptions for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns.

 
9 of 30

Leslie O'Neal, 1986

Leslie O'Neal, 1986
John Levine / Denver Post

Just one year after Reggie White's incredible rookie season, O'Neal's rookie production wasn't far off. The eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft for the Chargers won Defensive Rookie of the Year with 82 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 13 games.

 
10 of 30

Clinton Portis, 2002

Clinton Portis, 2002
Brian Bahr / Getty Images

A second-round pick, Portis was a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's offense. He had 273 carries for 1,508 yards and 15 scores, adding 364 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

 
11 of 30

Odell Beckham Jr., 2014

Odell Beckham Jr., 2014
Al Bello / Getty Images

Beckham burst onto the scene with a remarkable rookie season filled with amazing catches. He led the NFL with 108.8 receiving yards per game, finishing with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 scores in only 12 games played.

 
12 of 30

Billy Sims, 1980

Billy Sims, 1980
Focus on Sport

Sims was quite the workhorse early in his career with the Lions. He rushed 313 times for 1,303 yards and 13 scores, also showing he was a capable receiver with 51 receptions for 621 yards and three touchdowns.

 
13 of 30

Darius Leonard, 2018

Darius Leonard, 2018
Kyle Terada / USA Today Sports Images

Leonard fell to the second round of the 2018 draft in large part because he came from South Carolina State, but it didn't take long to prove himself. The linebacker led the NFL with 163 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, and he added two picks and two forced fumbles on a revamped Colts defense.

 
14 of 30

Alvin Kamara, 2017

Alvin Kamara, 2017
Chuck Cook / USA Today Sports Images

Kamara edged Kareem Hunt for Offensive Rookie of the Year, leading the league with 6.1 yards per carry and finishing with 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. He led a dynamic offense, along with fellow Saints running back Mark Ingram.

 
15 of 30

Kareem Hunt, 2017

Kareem Hunt, 2017
Kevin Jairaj / USA Today Sports Images

Hunt led the NFL in rushing during his rookie season, with 1,327 yards, and he had eight touchdowns. He averaged a great 4.9 yards per carry and added 53 receptions for 455 yards and three receiving scores.

 
16 of 30

Jevon Kearse, 1999

Jevon Kearse, 1999
Allen Kee / Getty Images

Kearse showed otherworldly athleticism and easily won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1999 for the Titans. He had 48 tackles, 14.5 sacks and a staggering eight forced fumbles in Tennessee's road to a Super Bowl berth. Kearse was never able to match those numbers for the rest of his career.

 
17 of 30

Dak Prescott, 2016

Dak Prescott, 2016
Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports Images

Prescott was a revelation for the Cowboys in 2016 after Tony Romo's preseason injury. He efficiently led the Dallas offense with 3,667 passing yards and 23/4 TD/INT, adding six rushing touchdowns.

 
18 of 30

Russell Wilson, 2012

Russell Wilson, 2012
Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

The Seahawks expected Matt Flynn to start in 2012, but Wilson saved them. After falling to the third round, Wilson rewarded the Seahawks with 3,118 yards passing and 26/10 TD/INT. He also had 489 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

 
19 of 30

Andrew Luck, 2012

Andrew Luck, 2012
Rob Tringali / SportsChrome

The first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck had a strong rookie campaign, replacing Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. He had 4,374 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, adding five rushing scores.

 
20 of 30

Fred Taylor, 1998

Fred Taylor, 1998
Robert Leberge / Getty Images

The speedy Taylor added instant offense for the Jags after being selected ninth overall. He had 264 carries for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also had 421 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

 
21 of 30

Doug Martin, 2012

Doug Martin, 2012
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Martin had a terrific rookie season, still easily his best year. The 31st overall pick had 319 rushes for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was also a threat as a receiver, with 49 receptions for 472 yards.

 
22 of 30

Curtis Martin, 1995

Curtis Martin, 1995
Boston Globe

Martin wasn't expected to be a star as a third-round pick, but he had a Hall of Fame career. The running back won Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Patriots after rushing 368 times for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns.

 
23 of 30

Curt Warner, 1983

Curt Warner, 1983
Bernstein Associates / Getty Images

The third overall pick by the Seahawks, Warner established himself with a Pro Bowl rookie season. He had 335 rushes for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added 42 receptions for 325 yards and one score.

 
24 of 30

Duane Bickett, 1985

Duane Bickett, 1985
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

The fifth overall pick in 1985, Bickett's incredible rookie season was overshadowed by Reggie White. Bickett had 141 tackles and six sacks at linebacker for the Colts.

 
25 of 30

Mike Anderson, 2000

Mike Anderson, 2000
Craig F. Walker / Denver Post

Anderson's rookie contributions are often attributed to Mike Shanahan's system in Denver, but the sixth-round pick's first season was still impressive. He had 297 carries for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

 
26 of 30

Barry Sanders, 1989

Barry Sanders, 1989
Focus on Sport / Getty Images

Sanders won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1989, and that was just a sign of things to come. He had 280 carries for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns after going third overall in the draft.

 
27 of 30

Patrick Willis, 2007

Patrick Willis, 2007
Greg Trott / Getty Images

Willis was an instant centerpiece of the San Francisco defense, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and garnering First-Team All-Pro honors. The middle linebacker had 135 tackles and four sacks.

 
28 of 30

Anquan Boldin, 2003

Anquan Boldin, 2003
Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

Boldin had a long and productive career, which started in Arizona. The former second-round pick had 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.

 
29 of 30

Evan Engram, 2017

Evan Engram, 2017
Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

Engram put together one of the best seasons ever by a rookie tight end. One of the few bright spots in a terrible season for the Giants, the first-round pick finished with 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns.

 
30 of 30

Brian Urlacher, 2000

Brian Urlacher, 2000
Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

The ninth overall pick by the Bears in 2000, Urlacher was an instant success in the NFL. He had 101 tackles and eight sacks in his rookie season, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.

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