ESPN's top football talent evaluator, Mel Kiper Jr., released his latest NFL rookie rankings in an Insider piece on Thursday.
The parameters used to make his determinations, as he explains in the article, are manifold: they reflect a player's season-long body of work, positional value comes into play, playing time -- and the strength of a particular player's team -- factors in.
With that in place, Kiper began his list with Kiko Adams, a Buffalo Bills' linebacker out of Oregon, who is the NFL's second-leading tackler.
Arizona Cardinals rookie safety, former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu, took Kiper's No. 7 spot in the rankings, thanks, in part, to his consistent play and tackling count, which the evaluator notes is second on the team.
The ironic thing about Mathieu's season isn't so much his ability to make plays all over the field, it's that for a guy who was considered a potential boom or bust player, he has been extremely consistent week to week. Every Monday I go back through the games, and he's as steady a player as the Cardinals have had, and that's no exaggeration. Only Karlos Dansby has more tackles, and Mathieu's versatility keeps him on the field for every play.
Mathieu was the second rookie safety on Kiper's list, with New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, a Texas product, ranking No. 4. Another rookie safety out of LSU, Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers, also made Kiper's top 10.
Among the other players who ranked higher than Mathieu on the list (besides Alonso and Vaccaro) were: DT Sheldon Richardson (New York Jets; No. 2), DT Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers; No. 3), RB Giavani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals; No. 5) and TE Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins; No. 6).