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The mathemagicians at WhatIfSports.com have ranked the top 100 rookies in terms of projected impact on their new teams.
Because I avoided math like the swine flu and delayed taking my one required collegiate course until the winter quarter of my senior year, I better let Paul Bessire of WhatIfSports.com explain how it works:
We run a very complex set of algorithms that factors collegiate performance, role in college, strength of collegiate competition, "measurables," likely NFL role, previous performance of a similar player in that NFL role for this coaching staff and trends of similar rookies in the past. This gives us the player's projected ratio stats (expected yards per carry, completion percentage, etc.), as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming season. From there, we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact for his new NFL team in his first year.
In other words, they do a little more than break out a slide rule, some graph paper and a solar-powered calculator.
We have done pretty well with this approach. Leading into the 2008 season, not only did this methodology correctly rank first round draft choices like Jonathan Stewart, Jerod Mayo, Jake Long and Sedrick Ellis among the top ten, it helped to point out some steals like Steve Slaton, Charles Godfrey, Matt Forte, Trevor Scott, Jamaal Charles and Cliff Avril.
WhatIfSports.com also had Joe Flacco at No. 11 last year. Then again, it ranked James Hardy No. 8 and Vernon Gholston No. 20, too.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions generated the most positive projected rookie impact for 2009. The New York Jets, with only three picks, have the least depth, but posted the highest-ranked player within the AFC East.
AFC East highlights from the rankings: