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Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 04, 2006



By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
 
As professors of footballogy, the Cold, Hard Football Facts try to impart pigskin wisdom to as many people as possible. Our lecture halls are packed with students who crave the finest gridiron education available, but we always have room for more. Even impotent "pundits" are welcome to audit any class.
 
You see, we firmly believe that "knowledge is power," as the great English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon memorably said. And we eat up anything Bacon.
 
At CHFFU, our primary focus is broad-based learning, and we really want to reach out to certain members of the student body. We'd be more than happy to discuss the finer points of the game with any particularly eager coed. Please feel free to drop by during office hours, Miss Sweetrack.
 
Today's lesson covers the first quarter of the NFL season and takes a look at the current crop of rookies. With most teams having played four games, we've seen several new stars emerge.
 
So it's time for a three-question pigskin pop quiz:
 
1) Who leads all rookie wide receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns?
 
Unless you have been paying close attention, you probably can't even hazard a good guess. The big-name wideouts from this year's draft class have all had negligible impact:
  • Santonio Holmes, taken 25th overall by the Steelers, has 5 receptions for 51 yards.
  • Chad Jackson, taken 36th overall by the Patriots, has 4 receptions for 51 yards and a TD.
  • Sinorice Moss, taken 44th overall by the Giants, has 1 reception for 4 yards.
2) Which NFC rookie has already scored in three games this season?
 
You're thinking it must be a kicker, but the only rookie at the position, New England's Stephen Gostkowski, plays in the AFC. Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings, who might have also been your answer for the first question, has caught touchdown passes in only two games. Hmmm.
 
3) Which Saints rookie leads the team in yards from scrimmage?
 
Finally, an easy one. Heralded running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy at USC and somehow fell into New Orleans' lap when Houston opted to draft Mario Williams with the top overall pick. Bush entered the league amid tremendous fanfare, and he has responded with 334 yards of offense (187 receiving, 147 rushing). It has to be him, right?
 
Wrong. The answer to all three questions is the same person: Marques Colston.
 
Six months ago, you might only have known Colston if you were preparing for the NFL draft by studying up on potential sleepers. He played at Hofstra University, a Division I-AA school located on Long Island that is probably best known as the alma mater of longtime Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet. In 2003, Colston broke Chrebet's school record of 245 receiving yards in a single game when he registered 267 against Liberty. And Colston now holds the Pride's career receiving mark with 2,834 yards. (Hofstra's nickname was still the "Flying Dutchmen" back when Chrebet played.)
 
Despite his great size (6-4, 225), speed (4.5 in the 40-yard dash) and ability to catch the football, Colston slipped to the final round in the draft. The Saints grabbed him at No. 252 overall, the fourth-to-last player taken.
 
They must be giggling like schoolgirls now.
 
Colston's performance in the preseason made New Orleans willing to trade veteran Donté Stallworth, who was subsequently dealt to Philadelphia for linebacker Mark Simoneau and a fourth-round pick. On opening day, the virtual unknown from Hofstra was a starting wideout opposite Pro Bowler Joe Horn.
 
While many of the NFL's receivers have been calling attention to themselves, the classy Colston has been humbly heroic. Through four games, the first three of which were victories, he has amassed 20 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns. He is on pace to become just the fourth receiver in league history to record 80 or more receptions as a rookie.
 
What is even more impressive, however, is Colston's projected yardage total. If he continues to produce at the same rate, he could actually set a new post-merger record for rookie receiving yards.
 
Since the NFL absorbed the AFL in 1970, just nine players have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards as rookies. Here is a breakdown of their stats, along with the current projections for Colston:
 
 
Player (College)
Rookie
Year
Draft
Round
 
Team
 
Rec.
 
Yards
 
Avg.
 
TDs
Marques Colston (Hofstra)
2006
7
Saints
80
1,344
16.8
12
Anquan Boldin (Florida St.)
2003
2
Cardinals
101
1,337
13.6
8
Randy Moss (Marshall)
1998
1
Vikings
69
1,313
19.0
17
Michael Clayton (LSU)
2004
1
Bucs
80
1,193
14.9
7
Terry Glenn (Ohio State)
1996
1
Patriots
90
1,132
12.6
6
Billy Brooks (Boston U.)
1986
4
Colts
65
1,131
17.4
8
Ernest Givins (Louisville)
1986
2
Oilers
61
1,062
17.4
3
Joey Galloway (Ohio State)
1995
1
Seahawks
67
1,039
15.5
7
Cris Collinsworth (Florida)
1981
2
Bengals
67
1,009
15.1
8
John Jefferson (Arizona St.)
1978
1
Chargers
56
1,001
17.9
13
 
Three seasons ago, Arizona's Anquan Boldin set the rookie reception record with 101. He officially ranks second in receiving yardage by a first-year player because the league recognizes the AFL numbers of Bill Groman, who had 1,473 receiving yards for the Oilers in 1960.
 
Randy Moss, now of the Raiders, holds the rookie record for receiving touchdowns with 17. Through his first four games with Minnesota, he had scored four times, including twice in his NFL debut. At this point in the season, Colston is just one TD off the pace set by Moss.
 
It is obviously premature to put Colston in the same class as the greatest rookie receivers to enter the league. But he is off to a tremendous start, especially for someone who was so overlooked.
 
To get an idea of what an afterthought Colston was, consider the draft positions of the players on the above list. Among the 1,000-yard rookie receivers, Boston University's Billy Brooks was the player taken latest, going in the fourth round. Like Colston, he was from a I-AA school, which may have caused some concerns about the level of competition he had faced. Yet Brooks was still selected No. 86 overall – 166 slots ahead of Colston.
 
Year after year, we see high-drafted receivers from high-profile programs fail to deliver right away. Even the biggest men on campus tend to struggle when making the leap from college to the pros.
 
Colston's transition, on the other hand, has been as smooth as his pass routes. After a quarter of the 2006 season, has already gone to the head of his class.

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