2012 First-Rounders in Focus
Rookies, rookies, rookies.
We love them. They’re a great talking point and it’s fascinating to watch these guys adjust to life in the NFL. We’re bringing you our Race for the Rookie of the Year and regular updates on how the first rounders have played. But let’s not forget about those who were rookies not too long ago. If the first year is getting your feet wet, then year No. 2 is all about making an impression.
We’re putting the 2012 group of first rounders under focus to see how they’re playing this year.
1.Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Status: Starter (272 snaps)
Analysis: Our fourth-ranked quarterback on the year, Luck is stepping up while others falter. Playing in a more friendly/less aggressive scheme, he’s showing improved ball security, with turnovers down, and quietly pushing the Colts to the next level. His genuine, underrated athleticism is not hurting the team either, with his ability when plays break down something that needs more accounting for.
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Status: Starter (285 snaps)
Analysis: Let’s be honest, we weren’t expecting fireworks this early in the year from RG3. However, as he works himself back to 100% it’s been clear how overly reliant the team was on the threat he posed, and that without that they haven’t really been able to bridge the talent gap between the rest of the roster and the opposition. A compliment for Griffin, and a sign of how desperately this team needs him at full speed.
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Status: 92 snaps with Browns before traded to Colts
Analysis: In a remarkable move was traded away. Not the back for the Browns obviously, who can’t have been impressed with his every-down work.
4. Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings
Status: Starter (253 snaps)
Analysis: Undergoing something of a sophomore slump, is on course to get beat for 44 quarterback disruptions after yielding just 27 last year. Has got better (including being perfect against Pittsburgh), so here’s hoping he can keep it up.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Status: Starter (0 snaps)
Analysis: Back from a suspension, Blackmon is ready to go back into the starting lineup and make a contribution.
6. Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Status: Nickel Defender (210 snaps)
Analysis: Whether it be injury or a lack of talent, Claiborne hasn’t got the job done this year. The outcome is he’s been demoted to sub-package defense, with new starter Orlando Scandrick kicking inside. Our fourth-lowest ranked cornerback on the year, he’s allowed 15 of 23 balls thrown into his coverage to be complete. It’s not been great, has it.
7. Mark Barron, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Status: Starter (235 snaps)
Analysis: He does make his share of plays, but the team are asking a lot of him and in coverage especially he doesn’t look completely up to it. No safety has given up more than the 209 yards he’s been responsible for.
8. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Status: Starter (252 snaps)
Analysis: It didn’t go well versus the Saints did it? In a big test he fluffed his lines, but that can happen when you’re trying to go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees. Encouraging signs with his game-winning drive versus the Falcons being a real signature moment for him. More of the same needed.
9. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
Status: Starter (190 snaps)
Analysis: Building on his strong finish to 2012, Kuechly is still getting the job done against the run. His run stop percentage is the fourth-highest of all inside linebackers, as he looks at home as the Panthers’ middle linebacker.
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills
Status: Starter (0 snaps)
Analysis: The Bills await their star cornerback returning from injury.
11. Dontari Poe, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
Status: Starter (259 snaps)
Analysis: His four sacks might be a little misleading, but he’s got a positive grade against the run and is getting after the passer as part of that overpowering Chiefs defense. Really developing into what they want him to be, and showing a good motor to play as many snaps as he does.
12. Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Status: Starter (232 snaps)
Analysis: Has moved to defensive end in the Eagles’ 3-4 alignment, and while he’s been one of the few players on that defense to grade positively, it’s maybe not been to the level you would have hoped. Has a knack for beating offensive linemen though, and the kind of explosiveness off the snap he showed versus the Chiefs is what they’ll want on a regular basis.
13. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Status: Starter (248 snaps)
Analysis: Has been on the field more than any Cardinals receiver, but yet to make a telling contribution. A healthy enough return in terms of yards, but the team will be looking for him to do more. A big step on his debut season though.
14. Michael Brockers, DT, St Louis Rams
Status: Starter (184 snaps)
Analysis: He’s playing well on a defense that is doing a good job disappointing. If the team could put him in more favorable positions (maybe getting the kind of lead that forces the opposition to pass) it would be real interesting to see what kind of numbers he could put up as a pass rusher.
15. Bruce Irvin, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Status: Situational Player (0 snaps)
Analysis: Back from suspension, you imagine the team will find a way to get him playing time in their sub-package on purely passing downs.
16. Quinton Coples, OLB, New York Jets
Status: Starter (103 snaps)
Analysis: After injury, has assumed his role as a starter but yet to deliver the kind of emphatic performances the team had hoped for off the edge, picking up three hits and three hurries in two games. Early days as a he transitions from down linemen to stand up linebacker (in base at least).
17. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Status: Backup (2 snaps)
Analysis: He hasn’t made much of an impression has he? After 43 snaps as a rookie he’s managed two this year, with his most sustained action coming in preseason where he was eaten alive by the Cowboys’ passing attack. Firmly behind Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones on the Bengals depth chart.
18. Melvin Ingram, OLB, San Diego Chargers
Status: On PUP List
Analysis: Technically still has a chance of playing this year, but after tearing his ACL in May he’s best advised to come back stronger in 2014.
19. Shea McClellin, DE, Chicago Bears
Status: Backup (163 snaps)
Analysis: It’s still early but the Bears have to be concerned with the production (or lack of it) they’re getting from McClellin. Just five quarterback disruptions on the year and a pass rushing productivity score that is the third-worst of all 4-3 defensive ends. Not good enough at all.
20. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
Status: Starter (148 snaps)
Analysis: Not much standing in his way now, with the play and attitude of Kenny Britt likely ensuring Wright will be starting for the remainder of the year. Forced four missed tackles on the year already and looks like a playmaker, but will be worrying if Ryan Fitzpatrick can get him the ball as effectively.
21. Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Status: Starter (280 snaps)
Analysis: Has been outplayed by Rob Ninkovich and hasn’t demonstrated the kind of consistent burst off the edge that would expect from a top-tier pass rusher, despite the healthy 21 quarterback disruptions. Solid right now but more expected of him.
22. Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns
Status: Benched after Injury (142 snaps)
Analysis: He wasn’t helped out by some atrocious pass blocking, but he didn’t really make the necessary adjustment to getting rid of the ball quicker. Now he’s clipboard carrying (despite playing well himself) as Brian Hoyer makes a case to be the full-time starter. Has the look of a guy who might find himself being traded at some point within the next 12 months.
23. Riley Reiff, OT, Detroit Lions
Status: Starter (277 snaps)
Analysis: Replacing Jeff Backus, he has been somewhat protected by his quarterback doing such a good job of getting rid of the ball, but there’s little doubting he’s been a quiet success. There was a lot of fear about how he’d hold up and so far it’s been largely misplaced.
24. David DeCastro, RG, Pittsburgh Steelers
Status: Starter (256 snaps)
Analysis: Whisper it quietly but the Steelers’ line (on the interior) has actually done a pretty decent job. DeCastro is a big part of that and really looks at home when the team runs the ball.
25. Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Status: Starter (231 snaps)
Analysis: Still looks a little out of place in coverage where 15 of 19 balls thrown his way have been complete. Four missed tackles isn’t helping his cause either but he does look more comfortable in run defense.
26. Whitney Mercilus, LB, Houston Texans
Status: Starter (254 snaps)
Analysis: Coming off a breakout game, Mercilus needed one after a lackluster start to the year. The challenge is to keep it up when he’s not facing a couple of backup Seahawks tackles. Still, looks like an improvement on what they had in the lineup in 2012.
27. Kevin Zeitler, RG, Cincinnati Bengals
Status: Starter (257 snaps)
Analysis: Our fifth-ranked guard on the year, Zeitler looks like another stud linemen the Bengals have found and developed. Only two others have better run blocking grades than the talented sophomore.
28. Nick Perry, OLB, Green Bay Packers
Status: Starter (146 snaps)
Analysis: He was meant to ease some of the load off Clay Matthews. He hasn’t. In fact he has just four hurries this year as the team still struggles to get pressure. He simply has to improve.
29. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings
Status: Starter (304 snaps)
Analysis: With two picks has already flashed his playmaking ability. But he needs to do a better job with his tackling having already missed five. He’s a better player than that number would suggest.
30. A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Status: Traded before the season to Chiefs
Analysis: His confidence shot, the team said goodbye less than 18 months after drafting him.
31. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Status: Starter (246 snaps)
Analysis: Isn’t getting much done on the ground (3.4 yards per carry), but it’s his work in the passing game that is ruining his grade. Already beaten for six quarterback disruptions in pressure and dropped four passes. Not deserving of the amount of playing time (missed just 32 snaps all year) he’s getting.
32. David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
Status: In Limbo (103 snaps)
Analysis: The team wants him to start because he’s got game-changing ability. But how you can you really trust him after his start to the season? After his rookie year saw many concerned with his fumbling he promptly put two on the ground. He has forced 11 missed tackles on 38 carries but does that offset the risk of him losing the ball again?
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