It wasn’t exactly been a strong year for rookies in the AFC West. After the defensive rookie of the year came out of this division last year, there were only a few rookies that were able to make a significant impact in 2012.
Derek Wolfe, Denver – Denver’s pass rush didn’t necessarily need more help, but that’s exactly what they got from their second round pick out of Cincinnati. Wolfe has six sacks and was a part of 40 tackles this season, as a starter and frequent contributor at defensive end.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver – The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Hillman was an important part of Denver’s rushing attack this year, especially after Willis McGahee suffered a season ending injury. Hillman, the youngest players in the NFL this season, finished the regular season with 330 yards rushing and a touchdown, as well as 10 catches as a receiver.
Danny Trevathan, Denver – Trevathan was an all-American at Kentucky, but there were concerns about his transition to the NFL because of his lack of size. However, with D.J. Williams suspended for more than half the season, the 7th rounder got plenty of opportunities to play and proved that he belongs in the NFL, giving the Broncos quality depth at linebacker with 33 tackles and a sack.
Dontari Poe, Kansas City – The 11th overall pick stepped right into the starting lineup for the Chiefs at nose tackle and has given Kansas City’s defensive line a big boost. His 38 tackles may not jump out, but he did well to clog up the middle.
Jeff Allen, Kansas City – The Chiefs’ second round pick out of Illinois was forced into duty as a rookie due to injuries and became the starting left guard. He may have some strides to make in pass protection, but he helped to pave the way for Jamaal Charles and one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL.
Kendall Reyes, San Diego – The rookie defensive end out of Connecticut really came on strong at the end of the season and finished with 5.5 sacks. With the way Reyes played late in the year, the Chargers look like they have a keeper along their defensive front for many years to come.
Melvin Ingram, San Diego – Ingram, San Diego’s first round pick, is a very athletic and versatile player. He’s played mostly along the defensive end in college at South Carolina, but adjusted well to playing more standing up from the linebacker position. He had 41 tackles and just one sack, but he learned how to drop back in coverage more and had five passes defended. In the future he should grow into a useful and versatile defensive player for the Chargers.
Miles Burris, Oakland – The rookie linebacker out of San Diego State finished the season second on the Raiders in tackles with 96. He made a lot of plays for Oakland this season, including 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Rod Streater, Oakland – No one saw this coming, as the undrafted free agent out of Temple became a frequent contributor to the Raider’s passing game. For the season, Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns. He had the best yards per catch average of any Oakland receiver.