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Rookie Meter: Injury bug hits first-round picks

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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By Kevin Fishbain

Before the season began, we highlighted two running backs who could have made a run at Rookie of the Year but were placed on injured reserve before they could even begin their NFL careers: Texans RB Ben Tate and Browns RB Montario Hardesty.

This week, Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy and Eagles DE Brandon Graham bit the dust, landing on I.R. and ending their rookie seasons prematurely.

McCoy and Graham join Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, Dolphins DE Jared Odrick and Titans DE Derrick Morgan as the five first-round picks whose seasons have ended because of injuries.

Other first-round rookies have been unable to gain consistency in their first seasons because of lingering injuries, like RBs Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best, WR Demaryius Thomas and OT Russell Okung. Mathews, Best and Thomas all showed flashes at times this season that tell us if they had been 100 percent all year, they'd be mainstays on the Meter.

McCoy had started every game for the Buccaneers this season with three sacks and four passes defensed. Fellow rookie DT Brian Price is also on injured reserve. Graham had three sacks in 13 games and six starts before tearing his ACL.

These rookies got quite the look at the bruising world of the NFL and will have to wait until 2011 to return to the field. Now, onto the Meter.

1. Rams QB Sam Bradford (first round, first overall)
Last week's ranking: 1

Lucky for the No. 1 pick, Mike Williams also had an off day, so Bradford remains atop our list. The Saints' defense rattled the rookie into throwing two interceptions. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 231 yards and zero TDs. After going four consecutive games without tossing a pick, he has thrown four in the last three games and has now gone back-to-back games without throwing a TD.

2. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 3

Suh recorded three tackles, including a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit, in the Lions' upset win over the Packers. He helped a run defense that shut down the Pack and kept it to just 3.3 yards per carry. The No. 2 pick is still the top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, despite a late charge from Devin McCourty.

3. Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 2

Williams was pretty much shut down by the Redskins' "D" and the rain in Sunday's win. He had just one catch for 15 yards on five targets as the 'Skins took away Josh Freeman's best deep threat. Williams had a great opportunity to close the gap between himself and Bradford but remains the runner-up for offensive honors.

4. Chiefs SS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Last week's ranking: 6

In one of the Chiefs' low points of the season Berry still shined with seven tackles, two passes defensed and an interception. It was his third pick of the season, and he now has seven passes defensed, four in the last two games.

5. Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount (undrafted)
Last week's ranking: 4

Blount had a solid game on the ground, rushing for 68 yards on 15 carries, a 4.5-yard average. His 667 rushing yards are second among rookies, and if he had gotten the start in the first five games, he could be approaching 1,000 rushing yards.

6. Patriots CB Devin McCourty (1, 27)
Last week's ranking: 8

His rib injury is something to keep an eye on, but McCourty had another good game on Sunday. Even though he played in just one half, he ended each of the Bears' first three drives. A tackle for loss by McCourty stopped the Bears on a 3rd-and-short, a pass defensed by McCourty stopped them on their next drive, and on the first play of Chicago's third offensive drive, McCourty stripped the ball from WR Johnny Knox, a fumble that was picked up by ILB Gary Guyton and returned for six.

7. Browns SS T.J. Ward (2, 38)
Last week's ranking: 7

The Browns fell to the lowly Bills, but Ward continued to rack up tackles. He led the team in tackles on Sunday and continues his giant lead in the rookie category with 88 on the season. Add that to seven passes defensed and a couple of picks, Ward has made his presence felt in the secondary.

8. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: 5

Bryant's season is over after a broken ankle, but head coach Jason Garrett said last week that he wants Bryant "engaged" in the process of being a professional. Despite missing most of training camp with a high ankle sprain and missing the last few games of the season, Bryant will still have one of the top rookie seasons offensively and in punt returns. Garrett said the 'Boys need Bryant's explosiveness in the return game.

9. Saints RB Chris Ivory (undrafted)
Last week's ranking: 10

Ivory had only seven carries but got the most out of them, rushing for 47 yards. He leads all rookies with 683 rushing yards and a 5.3-yard average. Ivory could start losing carries to Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Julius Jones, and that might drop him off the Meter.

10. Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (1, 15)
Last week's ranking: NR

The G-Men's next great defensive lineman has been superb of late. In the last three games, he has 13 tackles, four sacks, two passes defensed and two forced fumbles. In Monday night's win over the Vikings, Pierre-Paul had a tackle for loss and a pass defensed. Pierre-Paul has impressed the Giants with his versatility and is making more of an impact than people expected this season.

On the cusp (listed alphabetically)

Chiefs CB Javier Arenas (2, 50)
Lions RB Jahvid Best (2, 50)
Raiders WR Jacoby Ford (4, 108)
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (2, 42)
Browns CB Joe Haden (1, 7)
Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Dolphins OLB Koa Misi (2, 40)
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Rams OLT Rodger Saffold (2, 33)
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)

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