It was a big year for B1G rookies. Take a look at the NFL leaderboard and that much is clear.
Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie rise was well-documented. And while he didn’t best Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record, the former Buckeye still finished his first NFL season with 1,631 rushing yards.
That was more than 300 yards better than the NFL’s second-leading rusher. Who was that second-leading rusher, you ask?
Well, it was the same running back who earned first-team All-B1G honors with Elliott in 2015. Not only did former Indiana star Jordan Howard (a fifth-round pick) finish second in the NFL in rushing (1,313 yards), he also set the Chicago Bears’ rookie rushing record.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 1, 2017
So yes, B1G rookies owned the top two spots of the NFL’s rushing leaders in 2016. The last time two rookies led the NFL in rushing was the AFL in 1968 (via NFL).
In rushing touchdowns, Elliott finished first with 14 and Howard tied for third with 10. In rushing yards per game, Elliott finished first (108.7 yards) while Howard finished third (87.5 yards). Sandwiched in between them was former Michigan State star Le’Veon Bell.
But back to the rookies.
Somehow, five receivers were drafted ahead of former Ohio State star Mike Thomas. All he did was finish sixth in the NFL in touchdown catches (9), ninth in receptions (92) and ninth in receiving yards (1,137). Like Howard, Thomas made some franchise rookie history:
Michael Thomas has now set the Saints single-season rookie TD record with his 9th of the year. pic.twitter.com/QomtU1ZitA
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 1, 2017
Speaking of overlooked B1G rookie receivers, former Wisconsin star Alex Erickson went undrafted last April. The Cincinnati Bengals picked him up and Erickson led the NFL in kickoff return yards (810).
On the defensive side, former Buckeye All-American Joey Bosa finished tied for 13th in sacks (10.5), which ranked first among all NFL rookies. He became the first Chargers rookie to record double-digit sacks since Shawne Merriman. That was after Bosa sat out the first month of the season because of a rookie contract dispute.
And by the Pro Football Focus scale, Bosa made some history of his own:
Joey Bosa had a sack and 5 hurries today. He has more pressures than any defender in the last 11 years through their first 12 games. pic.twitter.com/CcFLR7MVOS
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) January 2, 2017
And according to Pro Football Focus, the best rookie lineman was former Michigan State star Jack Conklin. The first-round pick paved the way for a turnaround season in Tennessee that fueled the league’s No. 3 rushing offense.
You could argue that the B1G produced the league’s top rookie offensive lineman, running back, receiver, defensive lineman and kick returner.
The numbers tell the story.