High impact NFL rookies of 2012

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At the NFL’s midway point, there have been many surprises (both good and bad) in both conferences, none more so than the better-than-expected performances of the league’s 2012 rookie crop, especially at QB. A record five first-year signal callers were under center for Opening Day, an almost unheard-of number in this era of “polished” field generals.

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The No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck with the Colts, hasn’t disappointed. As the Colts surround him with more and more weapons, there’s no reason to believe Indianapolis won’t be back in the mix for AFC elite status sooner, rather than later. In D.C., Robert Griffin III is the talk of the town, even in an election year. The mercurial Heisman Trophy winner has displayed unusual poise far sooner than anyone expected. As in Luck’s case, the ‘Skins need to stockpile as many talented skill players around him as possible.

Miami’s Ryan Tannehill has probably been the biggest surprise of the QB crop, reviving a stagnant offense that hasn’t shown this much consistency since Chad Pennington was under center. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is another QB to keep an eye on. The undersized Wisconsin via N.C. State product has had his issues with tall pass rushers, but his elusiveness and coolness under pressure have Seahawk fans giddy. The remaining rookie QB starter, Brandon Weeden in Cleveland, is surrounded by far less talent than his colleagues, but he’s steadily improving.

The 2012 RB group wasn’t highly-touted, but some pleasant surprises have emerged nonetheless. Cleveland’s Trent Richardson got off to a slow start due to a knee injury, but has quickly demonstrated why scouts were so high on him coming out of Alabama. Tampa’s Doug Martin’s versatility and energy has pushed former starter LaGarrette Blount to the bench, and he should become a star very soon. The biggest surprise at RB, by far, is Alfred Morris of the Redskins. The sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic has already racked up three 100+ yard games and is second behind fellow rookie Doug Martin (794 yards) with 793 yards.

Rookie WRs in 2012 include Kendall Wright of the Titans (RGIII’s favorite receiver at Baylor), who has latched onto 42 passes and 3 TDs. Andrew Luck has wasted little time in targeting his college teammate TE Coby Fleener, with the former Stanford batterymates combining for 21 receptions. With little else in the way of deep threats, Brandon Weeden has gone to Josh Gordon (another Baylor product) in Cleveland, and the 21-year old Gordon has been the best downfield rookie with 4 TDs and increased attention from opposing safeties.

Matt Kalil, the first O-Lineman selected, hasn’t disappointed in Minnesota. Whether it’s pass protection or blocking for Adrian Peterson, Kalil already appears to be cut from the same cloth as other legendary Viking linemen such as Ron Yary and Steve Hutchinson. The only other OT drafted in Round 1, Riley Reiff of Iowa, has already become a leader on Detroit’s frequently maligned (and aging) O-Line. As the Lions develop a running game, Reiff will become even more of a factor. Read more…

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