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ProfessioNoles: Rookies Having Standout Seasons

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

We’ve hit the halfway point in the NFL season and several Florida State players are off to phenomenal starts. Running back Devonta Freeman is having arguably the best season off all Florida State alumni, having rushed for 721 yards and 9 touchdowns and caught 48 passes for 420 yards and two more scores. He currently ranked fifth in Pro Bowl voting only behind Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. Telvin Smith is also having a breakout season, is a clear leader on the Jaguars team and is tied for second in the NFL with 88 tackles.

But perhaps some of the biggest contributors have been rookies. Of the eleven Florida State players drafted in this past year’s draft, eight are currently on NFL rosters and are contributing to their teams. Cornerback P.J. Williams suffered a torn hamstring in the preseason and tight end Nick O’Leary and guard Josue Matias are on the practice squads of the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans respectively.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the top performing Florida State rookies in the NFL.

Jameis Winston – quarterback – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2015 stats: 164/285, 57.5%, 2,159 yards, 7.58 YPA, 10 TD, 9 INT, 118 rushing yards, 4 TD

Jameis Winston has started every game for the Bucs at quarterback ever since he was drafted first overall in April. He had a slow start, turning the ball over seven times in his first four games. Since then, however, he has been on a roll, scoring seven touchdowns to only two turnovers in the past five games.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to Winston’s NFL start has been his ability to become the leader of the Buccaneers only nine weeks into the season. This video posted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the nation by surprise, but was no surprise for Florida State fans that followed his career with the ‘Noles.

Mario Edwards Jr. – defensive end – Oakland Raiders

2015 stats: 28 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection

A starter for the Raiders at defensive end, Mario Edwards Jr. has been playing phenomenal football ever since breaking into the starting lineup. Scouts questioned his motor going into the draft, but he proved all doubters wrong with an 11 tackle – 1 tackle for loss – 1 sack performance in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Ronald Darby – cornerback – Buffalo Bills

2015 stats: 47 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 18 passes defended

Perhaps the most impressive rookie this season, Ronald Darby has locked down a starting cornerback job for the Bills. In his first game, he picked off Andrew Luck and had six tackles in an upset of the Indianapolis Colts. Nine games into the season, he set a Buffalo Bills franchise record with 18 passes defended. Darby has been playing at a Pro Bowl-level and Pro Football Focus recently ranked him as the top Rookie of the Year candidate.

Karlos Williams – running back – Buffalo Bills

2015 stats: 58 carries, 360 yards, 6.2 AVG, 5 TD, 6 receptions, 72 yards, 2 TD

A pick that was widely criticized by the media, Karlos Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Buffalo Bills so far this season. In his first six games, he tied an NFL record by scoring a touchdown in the first six games of his career. Next week, he can break the record by scoring a touchdown. Williams currently leads with NFL with a 6.2 yards per carry average and is tied for 5th in touchdowns.

While these rookies have been playing great, they have a chance to end the season on an even higher note. Jameis Winston has lead the Buccaneers to four wins already, Karlos Williams can cement himself into the record books, and Ronald Darby has a legitimate chance to make the Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Rashad Greene returns to the Jaguars next week from thumb surgery and defensive lineman Eddie Goldman is making strides as the starting nose tackle for the Bears.

With all these ‘Noles making strides in the NFL, you can be sure Jimbo Fisher is using their success on the recruiting trail.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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