Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso was ranked as one of the best one-year wonders of the past 15 years by Pro Football Focus for his outstanding rookie season with the Buffalo Bills.
Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus put out their “Best single-season outlier performances since 2006,” as a team, going position by position. There were names on squad most would expect, such as Peyton Hillis and Robert Griffin III. On the defense, Kiko Alonso and his remarkable Buffalo Bills 2013 rookie season, made the team.
At the 2013 NFL Draft, Buffalo had the number eight pick. They traded down to 16 with St. Louis. The deal included an additional second and seventh-round pick as well as a swap of thirds. With their newly acquired second-rounder, the Bills selected linebacker Kiko Alonso from the University of Oregon, 46th overall.
He was an outstanding player for the Ducks, but a pair of alcohol-related arrests while in school significantly hurt Alonso’s draft stock and called his character into question. Even with a great college highlight reel, there was no way the Buffalo Bills could have known what an instant success he would be. After a fantastic training camp and preseason, Alonso was named the team’s starter for Week 1 of the 2013 regular season.
Alonso lived up to the job. At inside linebacker, he was a menace to opposing offenses. His 159 combined tackles (including 11 for loss) was tops on the Buffalo Bills for the year and third in the NFL. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 80.4 and pass coverage grade of 90.1. He was a natural All-Rookie selection by the Pro Football Writers Association and was in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
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Then the proverbial walls fell. Before the 2014 season, Alonso tore the ACL in his left knee while working out at Oregon, ahead of the Buffalo Bills training camp. He was placed on the non-football injury list, missed the season, and never wore a Bills jersey again.
The following spring, Alonso was reunited with former college coach Chip Kelly when Buffalo include him in a trade running back LeSean McCoy (the subject of another article down the road).
Buffalo Bills fans have to wonder what could have been if Alonso hadn’t suffered the knee injury. Alonso himself also has to wonder because he was never the same player after that, although he is still in the league. PFF has ranked him above “replaceable” only once since the injury.