After an underwhelming rookie season (4.5 sacks), Williams has blossomed into an All-Pro talent, recording 14 sacks in 2007 and 12 more in 2008 while being voted into his first Pro Bowl.
2 of 32Gene Lower/SI
The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner came into the NFL with a ton of hype and he has yet to live up to the expectations, due in part to an inability to stay healthy. His total yards from scrimmage has increased each season, though, from 844 in 2006 to 998 in 2007 to 1,307 in 2008.
3 of 32John Biever/SI
After leading the Titans to the playoffs as a rookie, Young has since lost his starting job and had several bizarre off-the-field incidents.
4 of 32 Al Bello/Getty Images
Ferguson didn't waste any time, starting all 16 games as a rookie for the Jets. Ferguson has repeated the feat in both 2007 and 2008 and, along with fellow 2006 first-round Nick Mangold, has become a leader of the offense.
5 of 32John Biever/SI
Hawk has also started every game since arriving in Green Bay, immediately becoming a leader of the Packers defense. His role will change, though, in 2009 as the Packers switch to a 3-4 defense.
6 of 32Bill Frakes/SI
A combine superstar, Davis' production on the field hasn't yet measured up -- his best season came in 2007 when he had 52 catches for 509 yards. Instability at QB could possibly be blamed and new coach Mike Singletary has said Davis will play a greater role in the offense in 2009.
7 of 32Donald Miralle/Getty Images
After storming out of the gates, starting every game in his first two seasons, Huff lost his starting job five games into 2008 and could find himself buried on the depth chart again in 2009.
8 of 32David Bergman/SI
On the field, Whitner has been a solid addition to the Bills secondary, but off the field is a different story. He was arrested in 2006 for non-criminal harrasment of his girlfriend and this past April was arrested outside a Cleveland nightclub for resisting arrest as police tried to break up a 'near riot.'
9 of 32Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Sims has started every game for the Lions since his rookie season and has recorded more than 113 tackles every year. His 2.5 sacks in three seasons has been a disappointment, though.
10 of 32John W. McDonough/SI
Leinart started 16 games over his first two seasons, splitting time with Kurt Warner who ultimately took the job permanently in 2008. Leinart's party-boy reputation followed him to Arizona, although he rededicated himself this past offseason and has been using MMA training to keep in shape.
11 of 32Bob Rosato/SI
Cutler appeared to be Denver's QB of the future after starting every game since Week 12 of his rookie season and earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2008. But Cutler butted heads with new coach Josh McDaniels this offseason and forced a trade to Chicago, which hopes Cutler will be their QB of the future.
12 of 32Bill Frakes/SI
As a rookie, Ngata bulled his way onto the starting lineup of the Ravens veteran defense and become one of the league's best run-stuffing tackles.
13 of 32Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Wimbley's switch to outside linebacker was a success as his 11 sacks in 2006 led all AFC rookies. But Wimbley hasn't matched his first-year numbers in either of the past two seasons, recording nine sacks combined.
14 of 32Al Tielemans/SI
After not seeing the field much as a rookie (and being suspended one game for missing a team flight), Bunkley became a starter in 2007 and has developed into the franchise tackle the Eagles envisioned when they drafted him.
15 of 32Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Hill started 10 games as a rookie, recording three interceptions, but has started just 11 since as knee injuries forced him to the sidelines in both 2007 and 2008.
16 of 32Doug Benc/Getty Images
After a rookie season where Allen recorded 20 tackles and one interception, Allen earned more field time in 2007, playing in all 16 games and tallying 53 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble. Allen has switched back and forth between safety and cornerback, which could be part of the reason for his statistical drop in 2008.
17 of 32AP
Greenway missed his entire rookie season due to an ACL tear in training camp, but showed no ill-effects, recording 10 tackles in his first game back and finishing the season with 130, second best on the team. The next year he upped his total to a team-leading 150 and recorded 5.5 sacks.
18 of 32James D. Smith/Icon SMI
Carpenter hasn't lived up to expectations in Dallas, accruing just 50 tackles and 1.5 sacks total in his first three seasons. A finesse player who has struggled to contribute in games thus far, Carpenter may look to fill the vacant nickel linebacker position for the Cowboys in 2009.
19 of 32John W. McDonough/SI
After seeing the field sparingly in 2006, the multi-talented Cromartie burst onto the scene in 2007 with an NFL-leading 10 interceptions (he picked two more in the playoffs) and some outstanding special teams play, including a 109-yard touchdown return off a missed field goal -- the longest play in NFL history. Cromartie's interception total decreased in 2008, although he later revealed he played the entire season with a broken hip.
20 of 32Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
Hali made an immediate impact in Kansas City, recording a team high 8.0 sacks (4th among rookies) as well as 65 tackles, 1 interception and six forced fumbles. Although his numbers have decreased slightly since (59 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 07, 33 tackles and 3.0 sacks in 08), Hali has missed only one game due to injury in his three seasons.
21 of 32Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Maroney's career has been one marred by injuries. After rushing for 745 yards and 6 touchdowns in split carries as a rookie, Maroney earned the starting running back spot only to battle a groin injury for the rest of 2007 and spend all but three games on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury in 2008.
22 of 32Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Lawson showed promise his rookie season (57 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one interception) and started strong in 2007 before tearing his ACL after Week 2 and missing the remainder of the season. His recovery and a hamstring injury kept Lawson off the field for two games in 2008, but he still managed a career best 3.0 sacks and looks to be fully healthy for 2009.
23 of 32Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
Joseph quickly transitioned from the college to the pro game, starting 12 of the 13 games he played in his rookie year. He has since become the Buc's full-time starter at right guard and was selected a substitute on the 2008 Pro Bowl team.
24 of 32AP
Joseph showed statistical improvement from his rookie season to 2007, increasing both his tackles (from 45 to 49) and interceptions (from zero to four), but also joined the rash of Bengals to have legal troubles after being arrested for marijuana possession in January. In 2008 Joseph played in only eight games due to a stress fracture in his right foot.
25 of 32Al Tielemans/SI
Holmes worked his way into the Steelers' starting lineup his rookie year and by the end of the 2007 season he had become one of the league's biggest deep threats. Holmes' 2008 season was up and down, the low being his benching following an arrest for marijuana possession (not his first run-in with the law) but the high being his Super Bowl MVP performance of nine receptions for 131 yards and the game securing touchdown.
26 of 32Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
A surprising first-round pick (most projected he would go in the 2nd or 3rd round), McCargo spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve. After an underwhelming 2007 (20 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Buffalo tried to deal McCargo to the Colts only to have the trade voided when he failed the physical. McCargo saw limited action for the Bills the rest of the season.
27 of 32Simon Bruty/SI
Acting as DeShaun Foster's back-up for his first two seasons, Williams took over the starting spot in 2008 and had a career year. Despite sharing carries with Jonathan Stewart, Williams set a Panthers record for most rushing yards in a season, gaining 1,515 with 18 touchdowns.
28 of 32Bill Frakes/SI
After starting three games his rookie season, Lewis moved into the starting role in 2007 and 2008. While Lewis may not be a major offensive threat (he had 41 receptions and 2 touchdowns in 2008), he has played an important role as a blocker due to injuries on the Jaguars' offensive line.
29 of 32Richard Allen/Icon SMI
Mangold started the first game of 2006 season for the Jets and every one since. His strong play earned him Rookie of the Year consideration, and in 2008 he was named to his first Pro Bowl.
30 of 32Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Addai posted strong numbers his first two seasons, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns in Indianapolis' Super Bowl championship run. Since, he has struggled with injuries, and the Colts took running back Donald Brown in round one of the 2009 draft.
31 of 32Jesse Beals/Icon SMI
Jennings has been a consistent piece of Seattle's defense. He recorded 41, 55 and 42 tackles and one total interception from 2006-08, playing 16 games each year.
32 of 32David Bergman/SI
Kiwanuka tallied 4.0 sacks, 53 tackles and two interceptions in 16 games for the Giants his rookie season. His sack numbers have increased each year since, with a career high of 8.0 in 2008 to go along with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!