High impact NFL rookies of 2012

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.

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…

2012 NFL predictions, Week 1 picks

Well, we made it.  It’s been a long seven months since the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, it’s been even longer since my 49ers won a game, but WE MADE IT! Football started on Wednesday, but for most of us this long agonizing time where we have to resort to baseball (yawn) to get us through the dog days of Summer are over and on Sunday and Monday we get back to what really matters, FOOTBALL!

If you are like me, then for the next twenty-two Sundays you are absolutely booked and for legitimate reason and I wish you all good luck that your team is alive those twenty-two weeks, and I actually mean it if you are a 49er fan.

I have a couple predictions for the 2012 season and I make my Week 1 picks which will surely be wrong.

Tim Tebow will NOT become the starting Quarterback for the New York Jets unless there is an injury to Mark Sanchez.  A lot of the media pundits, experts, my friends, and random weirdos (seriously homeless guy on San Marcos Blvd. stop yelling “Tebow” at me!) on the street have been yelling for Tebow to start possibly week 3….of the Preseason, but that hasn’t happened yet and although the offense looks abismal I believe that Rex Ryan and the Jets will stick with Sanchez the whole year barring injury. So hide all your Te-bowners until the Jets offensive line pulls a “Remember the Titans” and allows their QB to get hurt for Sunshine aka Tim Tebow.

The Indianapolis Colts will make the playoffs.  I know, I know, it’s preseason, but damn did Andrew Luck look good.  How can I a guy with this much hype come into the season possibly being underrated?  He has the least amount of pressure for a #1 pick that is supposed to be the best Quarterback prospect since John Elway or ever.  Yet, RG3 has more pressure playing for the Redskins, after they gave up a shit-ton of picks and play in the NFC East, Ryan Tannehill has a huge spotlight on him after being featured in Hard Knocks*, there is the Saints Bountygate, Tim Tebow/Mark Sanchez, the media’s love for Russel Wilson because he’s so tiny and everyone is electrified by him — get over it.  Everyone seems to forget about Mr. Luck, he handles him self correctly, he’s pro-ready, and he’s got the weirdest voice for a white guy.  The Colts upgraded at the coaching staff and on defense, and even though he’ll be throwing to Austin Collie if he still has a brain and an old Reggie Wayne, this team is in a weak AFC South where he can play the Titans and Jaguars four times this year, the AFC is wide open for them to sneak in. Read more…

Top first-year starting quarterbacks in 2012

Where do Andrew Luck and RGIII Rank on My Top 1st Year Quarterbacks?

Aaron Rodgers? Tom Brady? Drew Brees? Who cares about them? We know what we have in them, but if you’re like me, you care about the future.  With potentially 10 starting quarterbacks coming out of the past two draft classes, and now with six as new starters this year, who will do the best this year.  I know that’s a burning question to all of my dozen loyal readers, but you came to the right place.

1. Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans.  Locker was named the starting quarterback of the Titans earlier in the week, taking over for incumbent 37 year-old Matt Hasselbeck.  Locker has shown flashes of big play ability with his strong-arm and his legs, but accuracy has been his main problem.  After mostly sitting for a year, it is Locker’s time to show if he was worth of the #8 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  What he does have going for him, other than said arm and legs, is a strong receiver corp highlighted by the troubled Kenny Britt — who will serve a short suspension and is coming back from knee injury — 1st round pick and RGIII’s #1 target at Baylor, Kendall Wright, and an up-and-down tight end in Jared Cook.  If Chris Johnson can rebound off a terrible 2011, Locker will have weapons all around him in a weak division that plays the Jaguars and Colts twice each.

2. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins.  Known to many by RGIII, the #2 pick in this years draft, he has a lot of talent around him and a playoff caliber defense to help him through his rookie struggles.  Last year’s Heisman winner, now has Mike Shanahan, former coach of Hall-of-Famer John Elway, to guide him through his career, and upgrades at wide receiver with the signing of the speedy Pierre Garcon, the reliable Joshua Morgan (former 49er) and an improving Fred Davis at tight end.  You can’t forget that in Shanahan’s offense he could put me at running back and I could gain 1,000 yards — a solid run game is huge for any young starting quarterback. The only reason I don’t have RGIII as my top 1st year starter?  The schedule.  The NFC East goes three deep, maybe four depending on how good RGIII really is, and having to play the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eagles six times a year makes this division one of the deepest, if not the deepest, in the NFL. Read more…

The most impressive quarterbacks of the NFL preseason

Andrew Lucks is looking good during the 2012 NFL PreseasonThe 2012 NFL Preseason is now halfway complete. While you can’t trust everything you see in the preseason (look at Colt McCoy last year), there are things you can pick up on. Here are a few quarterbacks that have impressed us so far and who’s fantasy football arrow is pointing up.

Matt Ryan

Ryan has been my favorite quarterback outside the “Big 6 “(Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Newton, Stafford, Vick) for quite some time now and his preseason performance has only confirmed that. The Falcons seemed committed to running a high tempo offense that is predicated on throwing the ball deep. The emergence of Julio Jones could propel Ryan even higher. A lot of people are on the Matt Ryan bandwagon now, so it’s going to be as easy to get him but don’t let that stop you. The same thing happened to Matthew Stafford last season and he was well worth it.

Andrew Luck

The #1 overall pick got lost a bit during the offseason due to RGIII mania, but he reminded everyone why he was the biggest slam-dunk #1 pick in the past decade with two very good performances in the preseason. He looked like a seasoned veteran in his debut against the St. Louis Rams and even though he threw 2 interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he still threw the ball very well. Luck is a solid QB2 with sneaky QB1 upside. Read more here…

AFC teams that will struggle the most in 2012

Finding success in the NFL as an AFC team has proven to be difficult in recent years, with the NFC having won three of the last four Super Bowls. In addition to trying to simply beat an NFC team to win the Super Bowl, AFC teams seeking greatness also have to prove themselves against an AFC conference that is still as tough as ever. 2012 will see a mix of new faces join the fray and attempt to compete in the conference.

For these three teams, though, that will be no easy task. The year-to-year turnover on an NFL roster can be daunting, as can the progression or regression of individual players. These teams have their work cut out for them in 2012.

Indianapolis Colts

From 2000 to 2009, the Indianapolis Colts set the mark for the most wins in a decade by an NFL team. With 115 victories in the regular season during this period and the leadership future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts were one of the pillars of the NFL. Things change, though, and no team looks as likely to struggle throughout 2012 as the Colts.

The Colts now find themselves embarking on a season that is scattered with question marks. Andrew Luck is the successor to Peyton Manning, and he’ll be surrounded by a cast of new Colts that looks very dissimilar to the Colts that used to dominate the AFC South. Mainstays such as Dallas Clark and Gary Brackett are gone. With so much turnover on the roster and such a young squad, the 2012 Colts are going to struggle to find any real consistency. Read more here…

NFL Preseason Week 1 review

It may only be the preseason, but there were still storylines galore from the first week of football.

How can we begin any review without talking about the number one pick in this past summer’s draft? Andrew Luck was spectacular in his Indianapolis debut, throwing for 188 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout victory over the St. Louis Rams.

It probably did his confidence a little good after his first completion wound up being a 63 yard touchdown. You couldn’t ask for a better start to your NFL career. Luck looked mature beyond his years and showed tremendous composure in the pocket.

Another rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, looked extremely sharp in his debut as well. Read more here…

Colts GM: Luck as advertised but he isn’t Peyton

Andrew Luck

Getty Images

Andrew Luck won’t make his preseason debut until Sunday, but Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson has already seen enough to feel confident that the No. 1 overall pick was well spent.

Asked what he has learned about Luck in training camp, Grigson channeled Dennis Green in his answer, saying, “That he really is what we thought he was.”
Grigson said he’s excited about seeing Luck in live game action, because he’s already seen just in practice what a competitor Luck is.  Read more…

Top offensive AFC rookie prospects for 2012

Andrew LuckWhen it comes to offensive rookies in the AFC, there’s one name that immediately comes to mind: Andrew Luck. Looking beyond Luck, though, this is a draft that featured some interesting picks throughout. There weren’t multiple teams who managed to rebuild their entire offenses through the draft, as there are in some years. Instead, most AFC teams this year used their draft picks to add pieces to existing offenses. These are the top three offensive rookies coming into the AFC in 2012.

1. Andrew Luck, Colts QB
There were no surprises at the beginning of this year’s draft when the Indianapolis Colts selected Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick. There’s little that can be said about Luck that hasn’t already been said. He’s a player with all of the physical tools that are needed to play the position in the pros, as well as more than enough intelligence to use those tools and make the right decisions. He’s played in a pro-style offense and could have easily gone first overall in 2011 had he not decided to play another year in college.

With so much hype behind Luck, it’s easy to forget that he’ll likely struggle out of the gate. He’s been frequently compared to the man he’s replacing in Indy, Peyton Manning. Manning struggled in his first two seasons before morphing into the elite quarterback that he is today. Colts fans can only hope that Luck’s career follows a similar arc. Read more here…

Colts are close to finalizing deal with Andrew Luck

Andrew LuckThe Indianapolis Colts will open training camp in three weeks and owner Jim Irsay says the team is getting close to signing No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck.

While contracts have been completed quickly for the majority of draft picks this year, the group at the very top of the draft remains unsigned. There isn’t much for the Colts and Luck to haggle over with the streamlined signing process courtesy of the most recent CBA.

The big parameters for the deal are in place. Luck will get a four-year deal worth roughly $24 million and about $14.5 million will be guaranteed.

“We r close on#12’s deal, it’ll get done,” Irsay sent out on his Twitter account, that he occasionally uses to break news, this morning.

2012 AFC South Season preview

Andrew Luck

The AFC South, essentially since its inception, has been one of the least interesting divisions in the NFL to talk about. Discussion about it began and ended with the Indianapolis Colts, who ruled the division for the better part of a decade. Sure, other teams would make it look competitive: The 2007 Jaguars gave the Colts fits, and the 2008 Titans even managed to steal the crown for a season. Indianapolis always ended up returning to the top, though.

All of that changed in 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the season. It changed for good on March 8th, when Indy released Mannning and tore up most of its roster. Gone are mainstays such as Gary Brackett, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday. Even head coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Bill Polian are gone, replaced by the combination of new head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. The Colts are now taking a long position by drafting Andrew Luck and adding dozens of new faces to the team. By opting to rebuild around rookie quarterback Andrew Luck instead of trade the pick and make one last run with the same core, the AFC South has been left up for grabs.  Read More…

To tank or not to tank: When winning just isn’t all that important

Kobe-vs-DenverI was watching Lakers-Nuggets Game Five the other night.  You remember that game in Los the Staples Center where Kobe Bryant scored 43, yet his team still couldn’t close out the series? All anyone in the bar could talk about was whether the Lakers wanted to close things out that night, or whether it was more conducive for them to drop a game, let the series go a game or two longer, thereby allowing for the return of the oft-suspended, former defensive player of the year and recurring troublemaker, Metta World Peace. Peace (that just sounds so silly) was suspended seven games for catching the back of James Harden’s head with an allegedly, inadvertent elbow.  Accordingly, Los Angeles has had to play their opening series against the Nuggets without him.  After a Game Six loss, the series has gone a full seven games. Read more here…

Got luck, Andrew will need it to replace an NFL icon

Andrew LuckAndrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts has all eyes on him by the fans, organization and critics. The pressure of being the first pick in the draft is immense. Some will watch in support, others to critique and criticize.  Now imagine you’re the first pick and a quarterback.  The target on your back just increased tenfold as now you will touch the ball nearly every offensive play.  But why stop there?  Let’s take it a step further.  What if you are the No. 1 overall draft pick, a quarterback, and the replacement of an NFL icon?  All of a sudden the weight of the world is on your shoulders because now not only must you contend with expectations but you will also always draw comparisons to your predecessor.  And in this case, it’s none other than Mr. Quarterback himself, Peyton Manning.

Manning was the Colts’ starting quarterback and the undeniable face of the franchise for the past 14 seasons.  Yes, he on played 13 of those but even in his absence he was talked more about than his hapless team that went 2-14 without him.  All that Manning has accomplished during his tenure as a Colt is to amass 54,828 passing yards, a 64.9 completion percentage, 399 touchdown passes, and a career QB rating of 94.9.  Not to mention two Super Bowl appearances with one win, four league MVP’s and 11 Pro Bowls.  Those numbers are staggering and will be staring Luck in the face right alongside opposing NFL defenses.  Talk about intimidation.

If you look at NFL history Luck will need more than just Luck to replace Peyton Manning.  He’ll need the right pieces in place around him.  Not having those pieces is why the Dolphins have never replaced Dan Marino, the Broncos John Elway, or the Cowboys Troy Aikman.  Each of those quarterbacks was great, but let’s not forget that there was talent around them to compliment their respective skill sets.  The same is true for Manning who had guys like Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark on offense.  And even with that, it wasn’t until the Colts put an emphasis on defense that they finally got over the hump and won a Super Bowl.

So can Luck successfully replace an NFL icon?  Yes, but it will be an uphill battle from day one.  Don’t look at the model put in place by the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers’ replacement of Brett Favre.  Rodgers had the luxury of sitting behind Favre for three seasons before taking the reins of a team that had just gone to the NFC Championship.  A quick step back after the insertion of Rodgers and the Packers were ready to contend again.  In the case of Indianapolis, the team is a mess and still has questions to answer as to who their head coach will be and the future status of Manning.

After that, all eyes and hopes for the future of the franchise will turn towards a not so lucky QB out of Stanford; Andrew Luck.  Good luck!

Aaron Moon is the CEO for The Sports Blitz.  He can be followed on Facebook and Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth.