Point/counterpoint: Which Hawkeye rookie is having the best NFL season?

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 16, 2010 7:10 AM

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Bryan Bulaga

Bryan Bulaga was the first Hawkeye drafted last year for a reason.

He's been the best player.

This isn't to say that the others have had poor seasons, because Tony Moeaki and Pat Angerer have more than earned their paychecks. At least Iowa fans don't have to be ashamed of former players.

As strong as Moeaki and Angerer have been, though, Bulaga has made a bigger impact on his team.

The Green Bay Packers had the worst offensive line in the NFL last year. They gave up a league-worst 51 sacks and allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be hit 93 times.

Enter Bulaga.

The rookie has started nine games and is a big reason the Packers are in good position to earn an NFC wild card spot. The Cheeseheads are 8-5 through 13 games and have shored up their pass protection: Rodgers has been sacked just 29 times and hit 53 times.

Of course, Rodgers has also suffered two concussions this year, but let's face it: Head injuries are the NFL's sexy new trend. Everyone's getting them.

Bulaga's also had a tangible effect on the Packers' running game. The team has gained 30 first downs when running to the right side — Bulaga is a right tackle — compared with just 19 when going both left and up the middle.

Those statistics are all well and good, but everyone knows any football argument can be easily settled with a quick glance at the sport's most reliable resource. Madden 11 rated Angerer a 66 out of 100 and Moeaki a 69.

Bulaga, on the other hand, is a strong 78.

I rest my case.

— by Seth Roberts

Tony Moeaki

Tony Moeaki has made waves at the next level.

Drafted in the third round by a Kansas City Chief squad with low preseason expectations, the Wheaton, Ill., native has been a bright spot for a team that is currently leading the AFC West with an 8-5 record.

It all started with the Chiefs' opening night: a pivotal Monday night showdown against conference rival San Diego. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley made the decision to start Moeaki from the get-go.

Boy, did it pay off.

Since the start of the season, Moeaki has racked up 450 yards. And for a team that ranks 28th in passing yards, that's a hefty chunk. Second only behind Dwayne Bowe — who has 888 yards — Moeaki has helped a struggling Matt Cassel get through the season. Moeaki's 450 also currently ranks 16th in the NFL among all active tight ends and second among rookies behind only New England's Aaron Hernandez.

But on the other hand, look at the team Hernandez plays on — the Patriots are stacked. If Moeaki had Tom Brady throwing to him, he could be a viable candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Perhaps the ultimate testament to Moeaki's value as a player is his team's record. The Chiefs haven't been good since Priest Holmes was in the backfield.

No, they weren't good when Larry Johnson was their running back; he is terrible.

If Moeaki can continue to build upon the skills that make him a solid tight end, watch out. He could be one of the premier pass catchers in the NFL in a matter of a couple seasons.

— by Jon Frank

Pat Angerer

One of the most intimidating players in Iowa history, Pat Angerer was also one of the most productive. In two years as a starter, he amassed 258 tackles, including 11.5 for loss.

With the 63rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts — who have had success with Iowa players — selected Angerer. Their coach, Jim Caldwell, is a former Hawkeye, and they have former Pro Bowl players Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders, who unfortunately were both lost to injury this season.

The Bettendorf native was considered too small to be more than a backup player in the NFL. At 6-0 and 235 pounds, one can see how scouts might have thought that.

Angerer has proved the doubters wrong this season.

Wearing No. 51, Angerer had an impressive preseason, registering 36 tackles and two sacks. His productivity earned him a job backing up Colts defensive captain and middle linebacker Gary Brackett.

After an injury to Brackett, Angerer's big opportunity came in week six against the Washington Redskins. Thrust into the starting lineup, he took over the responsibility of calling defensive plays, and the Colts won a 27-24 thriller.

Angerer's stat-line read 11 tackles, one sack, and two passes defended.

He has been easily Indianapolis's best rookie. Their first-round pick, former TCU stud Jerry Hughes, is listed as a third-stringer and has an underwhelming three tackles on the year.

The former Hawkeye has excelled for the Colts and has played in 11 of the team's 13 games so far.

Since he started in the Week Six victory, Indianapolis hasn't been able to keep Angerer off the field.

For the season, Angerer has 70 tackles, one forced fumble, and one sack. Now that Brackett has returned, the Colts have moved Angerer to starting outside linebacker.

Once again, the Colts show that Iowa players have immediate success in their system, and they have found a gem in Angerer, who, it seems, will have a long, productive career with Indianapolis.

— by Ben Wolfson

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