Ezekiel Elliott, Joel Embiid, Dak Prescott and Gary Sanchez make up just a few of the many rookies who have exceeded expectations in the world of sports in the past year.
Ah, rookies: they’re the passionate and energetic youngsters on the team who are eager to get in the game and showcase their talent. While many first-year players can take several months or even years to develop, many top rookies in the MLB, NBA, and NFL from the 2016-2017 season hit the ground running and have never looked back. From 1600 yard rushers like Ezekiel Elliott to home-run hitting machines like Gary Sanchez, the 2016-2017 season was full of several sensational rookies that took their sport by storm and had fans and critics from all over raving about the promising future of sports1 led by these young athletes. However, despite all of the praise and popularity, these rookies have detrimentally impacted the sports that they play in as well, and in a far more negative way than one may think. As a result, these rookies have begun to change the way people will view sports forever. Through statistics and a game-by-game analysis, the rookies in the MLB, NBA and NFL from the 2016-2017 season have impacted sports in ways that are both positive and negative, and are beginning to change the way people will view sports in the future.
“All Aboard the Hype Train!”
The 2016 MLB season welcomed several lively and vivacious rookie personalities that had every baseball fan talking. As shown by statistics and overall performance reviews, many rookies of the 2016 MLB season went on to benefit their respective team tremendously. A good example of this is starting pitcher Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft (44th overall) by the New York Mets, and was then traded to the Detroit Tigers to play four years of minor league ball. 2016 marked his first year in the majors, a year in which Fulmer positively impacted the Tigers greatly, finishing the season with an 11-7 record and an ERA of 3.06. Not too shabby for a rookie. Without the 24-year old youngster’s contributions, the Tigers wouldn’t finish the season with a stable 86-75 record, and Fulmer wouldn’t win American League Rookie of the Year honors.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is another exciting player already who made a name for himself in the MLB his rookie year. Picked up by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2012 draft (18th overall), Seager finished the season as LA’s starting shortstop with a .308 BA, managing 26 HR and 72 RBI for the season. With Seager’s outstanding performance, the Dodgers were able to finish the regular season at 91-71 and reach the NLCS. The 22-year-old was able to be an NL All Star, rank third in MVP race, win a Silver Slugger Award and win NL Rookie of the Year–all in his first season.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez surprised everyone by coming out of nowhere in the 2016 MLB season to be one of the most prolific rookies in the league. Coming from the Dominican Republic, Sanchez began his rookie campaign in mid-August, and in just 53 games, he slugged 20 homers and drove in 42 runs with a .299 batting average. The 24-year-old finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and tied Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves for the record of “fastest player to 20 home runs.”
Much like the MLB, the NBA also features tons of first-year flair that has impressed fans and critics around the country, including guard Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks, forward Brandon Ingram of the Los Angeles Lakers and forward Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite the fact that this rookie class is weaker than rookie classes of the past, there seems to be one rookie in particular that is shining at the top of the ladder: center Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Along with the aforementioned rookies, Embiid has helped out the struggling 76ers franchise in a big way. Embiid was the third overall pick made by the Sixers in 2014 from the University of Kansas. In 2016-2017, he has played only 31 games, but has averaged 20.2 PPG (leads team), 2.1 APG, 7.8 RPG (leads team), 0.9 STL and 2.5 BLK (leads team) with a cumulative FG percentage of 46.6%.
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer even says, “It’s not so much about blocking shots as it is making them more difficult, and no big man in the NBA has been better at doing that this season than Embiid.”
Opponents are shooting 41% when attacking Embiid’s defense, and not one of the other 126 players who contest at least three close-range baskets per game matches Embiid’s toughness; Embiid defends almost eight of those shots a night. At the center position, and only at the age of 23, it is possible that Embiid has potential to win 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year after playing less than half the season, on his way to possibly be the best center in the NBA at one point in time in his career.
The NFL had a surplus of rookies this past season that made their mark on their respective team, along with football fans all across America. This included DE Joey Bosa (San Diego Chargers), speedy WR Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs), RB Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears), S Keanu Neal (Atlanta Falcons), CB Jalen Ramsey (Jacksonville Jaguars), among others. Despite all of this talent, when asked about the most memorable rookies this past season, Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott immediately come to mind.
Halfback Ezekiel Elliott was the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft out of Ohio State, and he put up phenomenal numbers in the 2016-2017 season. In 15 games, Elliott ran for 1,631 yards with 15 TD (averaging 108.7 yards/game), and caught 32 passes for 363 yards and 1 TD (averaging 17.6 yards/game). Other than winning the FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award, Ezekiel Elliott was also known for leading the Dallas Cowboys to the NFC Divisional Playoffs with a record of 13-3, as well as for his clutch 33-yard TD run to take the lead late in the 4th quarter against the Steelers in Week 10. As for Dak Prescott, the 23-year-old 4th round (135th overall) pick from Mississippi State was intended to be the eventual successor to Pro Bowler Tony Romo. However, Dak stepped into the spotlight when he replaced an injured Romo and ended up throwing 23 TDs for 3,667 yards and only 4 INTs. He earned the accolade of 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
How are last year’s rookies different from rookies of all other years? Well, they’ve just put up much better numbers and broken many more records than rookies of previous years. Thus, these rookies have been far more popular. Along with their jaw-dropping stats, these rookies have also affected the respective fanbases and societies for each of their teams in ways that are both positive and negative.
Positive Effects of Rookies in Society
Rookies of the 2016-2017 season have inspired other young athletes and kids from all over the world to pursue their passion and set the example that one can make a significant contribution in professional sports no matter the age. All of a sudden, kids are inspired to be more like Dak Prescott, who went from a replacement to starting rookie sensation, or like Gary Sanchez, who came from a foreign country without knowing the English language, to a slugger who put himself in the record books in just 53 days.
Everybody wants to be right. The stunning numbers of rookies and other young players around leagues this season combined with their popularity has brought forth a conversation of who will be the next big thing in their respective sport or team. People have already predicted the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (DE Myles Garrett), and even the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (QB Sam Darnold).
Negative Effects of Rookies in Society:
The popularity that comes with the excitement of emerging rookies can also come as a disadvantage to them, and to future prospects in sports. A player’s over-popularity can lead to unrealistic projections, and when that player doesn’t play up to the hype or gets injured, a head coach’s entire season can be jeopardized, and the player’s career is immediately deemed a hoax until proven otherwise.
Player flops have happened a number of times with rookies and other young players in previous years. Nick Foles, now a backup QB for the Philadelphia Eagles was a one-and-done type of guy after stepping in for Michael Vick in a season where he went for 30 total touchdowns and only two interceptions. He could never duplicate that success and immediately fell through the cracks, in which he found himself playing unsuccessful stints for the Rams and the Chiefs. He now returns to Philadelphia to play under the emerging Carson Wentz who is coming off of a lot of rookie hype himself. Trevor Story, a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, was playing amazingly well–until he got hit with a season-ending UCL tear which cut his fun short. It is very hard to play through a full season, or multiple seasons, living up to the hype that was established from good early play.
If Lonzo Ball and Myles Garrett don’t perform to their expectations, the teams that depend on their star-level performance could suffer colossally. Furthermore, despite the talented upcoming NBA draft class, it is highly improbable to get another talented rookie group like last year’s; if more teams utilize younger players like draft picks, sports leagues will be less experienced, leading to more injuries, more juvenile play, and a popularity declination of the sport.
Maybe we need to disembark this so called “hype train” after all.