It's a bit early to decide which rookies have made a real impact with their teams, but halfway through the season, some first-year players have stood out and in some cases, gone out of their way to prove the wisdom of their front offices. Certain positions are heavily loaded with talent as they've rarely been before, and with others, just one or two players have set themselves apart. Here's an offensive team of kids that would give any veteran defense a pretty serious challenge.
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
As it was when analyzing Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck pre-draft, we're really splitting hairs here. Each rookie quarterback has taken his attributes at the college level and maximized them in impressive ways. What Luck has enjoyed that Griffin hasn't is the support of a reliable and productive receiver corps. RG3, on the other hand, is often forced to make plays on his own, while his receivers do ... well, just about everything but catch the damned football. Luck's been amazing, but Griffin has done a little more with a lot less -- two of his receivers are on Brian McIntyre's Mid-Season Free-Agent Bust list. Oh -- and Griffin also has the fourth-most rushing yards of any rookie, behind our two starters below, and his own backfield-mate, Alfred Morris.
Halfbacks: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Martin was selected 28 spots below Richardson in the 2012 NFL draft, but there's no question that the Boise State back has had the biggest impact among all rookie backs so far this season -- if Martin wasn't already in the lead with his 214 yards from scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings two days ago, he certainly did so with last Sunday's four-touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders. Richardson, taken third overall, gets the nod over Washington's Alfred Morris because he's produced through injuries, and Morris gets more and better openings as the result of his quarterback.
Fullback: Jorvorskie Lane, Miami Dolphins
Want to know why Miami's running game has worked so well this year despite iffy play from rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin and an off-year from left tackle Jake Long? Start with Lane, whose story is one of the NFL's more interesting. After leaving Texas A&M and going undrafted in 2009 due to weight problems, Lane had ballooned further up to over 300 pounds and was working for a moving company in Texas for a time. But he got himself back in shape, and when current Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman (Lane's coach at A&M) gave him a shot this preseason, it was all uphill from there. Now, Lane is one of the most punishing backfield blockers in the league.
Receivers: Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns/Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans/T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Gordon was a washout at Baylor and didn't do anything at Utah, which made a lot of people question the wisdom of the Browns when they gave up a 2013 second-round pick to get Gordon in the supplemental draft. All Gordon's become is the only reliable big-play target in a Cleveland offense that is short on good receivers of any stripe, and saddled with a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden who is inconsistent at best.
Wright, who made tracks at Baylor when Gordon couldn't, has been a nice target for quarterbacks Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck. Over time, he could develop into the same kind of elite speed slot receiver he was in college. And speaking of speed slot receivers, that's what Hilton's been for Andrew Luck in Indy's multi-faceted offense.
Tight End: Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
Allen wins this position in a landslide. He's been one of Andrew Luck's best targets in the short passing game, and a vital asset in Bruce Arians' transplanted offense, which relies far more on multi-tight end sets. He's also 11th overall in Football Outsiders' season-cumulative and per-play metrics for all tight ends.
Offensive Tackles: Matt Kalil, Minnesota Vikings/Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns
From a pass-blocking perspective, Kalil came into the NFL out of USC as one of the better technicians in recent years. He reminded me a bit of Cleveland's Joe Thomas in that he has everything it takes in pass blocking, but struggled in power situations at times. With the Vikings, Kalil hasn't just protected Christian Ponder's blind side with aplomb -- he's also run-blocked and hit the second level with impressive aplomb.
Schwartz, who was selected in the second round out of Cal, had a rough go his first few weeks as he adjusted to the NFL, but he's come around lately. With more consistent technique, he has Pro Bowl potential at right tackle.
Offensive Guard/Center: Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals/Peter Konz, Atlanta Falcons
Both Zeitler and Konz are capable of playing center, and there were no drafted centers this year, so we'll cheat a bit here. Zeitler has been one of the NFL's best guards this season regardless of experience, and he's only going to get better. He's also been a key cog in one of the league's most surprising and high-quality lines. Konz hasn't had as many snaps (158 to Zeitler's 525, per the data kept by our own Brian McIntyre), but he's done well when asked in Atlanta's high-flying and versatile offense.