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Next Gen Stats rookie leaders: Dak Prescott shines

The Next Gen Stats platform captures real-time location data, speed and acceleration for every player, every play on every square inch of the field. Sensors throughout the stadium track tags placed on players' shoulder pads, charting individual movements within inches.

Listed below are the rookie leaders for various Next Gen Stats categories on offense and defense.

Fastest ball carrier: WR/KR Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)

Hill posted the top two fastest maximum speeds for ball carriers in the 2016 season. The top speed Hill reached was 23.24 miles per hour, which came during a 105-yard kick return touchdown in Week 2 against Houston (the TD was later called back by a holding penalty). Hill's second-fastest max speed was 22.77 MPH, which came on an 86-yard free-kick return touchdown in Week 12 against Denver.

The next-fastest max speed by a ball carrier (behind Hill's top two speeds) was 22.60 MPH, accomplished by DeSean Jackson on a 59-yard catch against Arizona in Week 13.

Highest passer rating on 20-plus yard throws: QB Dak Prescott (Cowboys)

Next Gen Stats measures a quarterback's ability to throw deep by tracking his passer rating on throws that travel 20-plus "extended" air yards. The term "extended" air yards includes yards in the end zone; so a pass that is thrown from the 17-yard line and travels eight yards deep into the end zone is considered a 25-yard pass in terms of extended air yards.

In 2016, no rookie QB was better in this category than the Cowboys' Dak Prescott. The former fourth-round pick posted a 111.3 passer rating on 20-plus yard throws, with 7 TDs and 1 INT. Although Prescott completed just 36.2 percent of his 20-plus yard passes (17 out of 47), he averaged a healthy 11.6 yards per attempt.

Overall, Prescott's passer rating of 111.3 on 20-plus yard throws ranked fifth among all NFL QBs in 2016 (minimum 30 pass attempts of 20+ yards). The only QBs that Prescott trailed in this category were all Pro Bowlers: Matt Ryan (136.1), Kirk Cousins (121.9), Tom Brady (116.8) and Andrew Luck (116.7).

Most efficient ball carrier: RB Jordan Howard (Bears)

Next Gen Stats measures a ball carrier's efficiency by looking at how many total yards he travels for every rush yard he gains. For this category, a lower number means a higher efficiency. Hence, the sideline-to-sideline ball carriers like LeSean McCoy will fare worse in this statistic than North-South runners like Frank Gore.

No rookie running back was more efficient than the Bears' Jordan Howard. On average, Howard traveled just 3.61 total yards for every rush yard he gained, which ranked third-best among all NFL rushers in 2016 (minimum 150 carries). Overall, the NFL's average RB efficiency is 4.07 yards traveled for every rush yard gained.

Note: Ezekiel Elliott finished just barely behind Howard in this category, traveling an average of 3.65 total yards for every rush yard gained in the 2016 regular season.

Best receiver against press coverage: WR Michael Thomas (Saints)

Next Gen Stats defines "press coverage" as fewer than three yards of pre-snap cushion between a wide receiver and the defender lined up across from him.

In 2016, no rookie wideout was better against press coverage than the Saints' Michael Thomas. Thomas hauled in 76.0 percent of his targets (38 out of 50) for 484 yards and six touchdowns.

Only one receiver in the NFL (rookie or non-rookie) finished with a better catch rate against press coverage than Thomas -- Minnesota's Adam Thielen, who caught 79.2 percent of his targets in press coverage.

Top slot receiver: WR Sterling Shepard (Giants)

Next Gen Stats tracks how many receptions a wideout has depending on his pre-snap alignment. So it tracks how many catches are made from the slot compared to out wide.

No rookie receiver was more prolific from the slot than the Giants' Sterling Shepard. Shepard led all rookies with 60 receptions from the slot after he lined up in the slot on 83.0 percent of his offensive plays.

Overall, Shepard's 60 receptions (on 93 targets) from the slot ranked fourth-most among all NFL receivers in 2016. Only Jarvis Landry (65), Doug Baldwin (63) and Julian Edelman (61) had more catches from the slot.

Biggest defensive impact: S Keanu Neal (Falcons)

Next Gen Stats measures defensive impact by taking the difference between the yards conceded per play when a player is on the field and the yards conceded per play when that player is off the field.

For the 2016 season, no player in the NFL had more of a positive impact on defense than Falcons rookie safety Keanu Neal. When Neal was on the field, the Falcons allowed an average of 5.7 yards per play; conversely, when Neal was off the field, Atlanta allowed 6.9 yards per play (1.2-yard differential when Neal was in/out of the game).

Linebacker with most range: ILB Deion Jones (Falcons)

Next Gen Stats measures a defender's range by calculating the amount of ground he covers before making a tackle.

Falcons inside linebacker Deion Jones traveled an average of 17.0 yards for every tackle he made in the 2016 season (NFL linebacker average is 16.2 yards per tackle).

No rookie with 50 or more tackles in 2016 covered a greater distance than Jones did, on average. The next-closest rookie ILB behind Jones was Darron Lee of the Jets (16.7 yards traveled per tackle).

Most consistent pass rusher: DT Rodney Gunter (Cardinals)

Next Gen Stats measures a pass rusher's consistency by looking at how close he gets to reaching the QB on every pass-rushing play. So if a pass rusher is 1.5 yards away from the QB when the pass is released, he earns 1.5 yards of separation from QB on that play. A sack would be considered 0 yards of separation from the QB.

No rookie performed better in this category than Cardinals defensive tackle Rodney Gunter. On average, Gunter came within 4.33 yards of sacking the QB on every pass-rushing play he was involved in. That may seem like a large distance from the QB, but the NFL average is a much larger figure: 4.89 yards of separation.

Fastest average time to sack: OLB Noah Spence (Buccaneers)

Next Gen Stats measures a pass rusher's speed by tracking the amount of time it takes for him to get a sack.

No rookie was better in this category than Buccaneers edge rusher Noah Spence. On average, Spence (5.5 sacks in 2016) got to the QB in 3.85 seconds per sack. Spence was the only rookie with five-plus sacks to have an average sack time of below four seconds.

Cowboys DT Maliek Collins finished second behind Spence with an average of 4.28 seconds/sack, while Chargers DE Joey Bosa finished third with an average of 4.84 seconds/sack.

Best run defender: DE Joey Bosa (Chargers)

Next Gen Stats measures a defender's run-stopping capabilities by looking at the number of times he tackles a ball carrier within two yards of the line of scrimmage. It's considered a "stuff" if the defender tackles the ball carrier for a gain of two yards or fewer.

In the 2016 season, few defensive linemen were better in this category than the Chargers' Joey Bosa. Bosa recorded a "stuff" on 22 of his 211 plays in run defense. Bosa's 10.4 percent "stuff rate" ranked first among rookie defensive ends, and seventh among all NFL defensive ends (minimum 150 rushing plays defended).

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