2012 NFL Draft Results: Rookie Season Predictions for Every First-Rounder

John JenkinsContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Results: Rookie Season Predictions for Every First-Rounder

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    The 2012 NFL draft provided a lot of excitement despite the first two picks already being set. There were eight trades pulled off Thursday night. There were surprise picks as usual, and it appears that there will be a lot of rookies making big impacts on their respective teams next season.

    What kind of impact will they have with their teams? Will they start? Will they put up big numbers? Only time will tell, but let's try to make some educated guesses, shall we?


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    1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (No. 1 Overall)

    Andrew Luck had a marvelous career at Stanford University. Luck has some big shoes to fill in Indianapolis. He will take over a position vacated by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

    There could not be a better draftee to take over for Manning. Many believe Luck is the best quarterback prospect since fellow Stanford alumnus John Elway.

    Luck comes from a pro-style offense, so his game should translate well in Indianapolis. Barring injury, Luck will almost without a doubt become the starting quarterback for first-year coach Chuck Pagano.

    Sam Bradford and Cam Newton have shown that No. 1 overall picks can thrive in their first year.

    The Colts are in almost total rebuilding mode, but Luck will have some weapons like veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie. Chuck Pagano will work hard to improve a usually poor defense, which should take pressure off the young signal-caller.

    There is no reason that Andrew Luck will not be successful in his first season and beyond.


    2. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (No. 2 Overall)

    Robert Griffin III (RG3) is one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks since Michael Vick was drafted in 2001. The Redskins wagered three draft picks that RG3 is the answer at quarterback.

    Only time will tell if RG3 will become their first true franchise quarterback since Joe Theismann. Griffin may not be quite as polished as Luck, but his physical skills are matched by few, if any.

    He will be backed by a solid Jim Haslett-coached defense. Washington has newly-signed Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to go along with holdover Santana Moss. Griffin will also have an above-average line and running game to go along with a solid tight end group.

    The Heisman Trophy winner has athletic skills to soften the learning curve. RG3 will have a challenging schedule playing in the tough NFC East, which features the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Redskins' season opens with the New Orleans Saints and also features the AFC North.

    Needless to say, Griffin will be tested early and often, but he has the tools and character to reward Washington's faith with a solid first season and beyond.


    3. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (No. 8 Overall)

    The Texas A&M product has been rated as the third-best quarterback in the draft and was drafted as such. He will be reunited with his former college coach Mike Sherman, who is the offensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins.

    He has size and poise in the pocket to go along with a strong arm. Tannehill may be a little bit of a reach, but he is a great fit with the Miami Dolphins and should develop into a solid pro.

    It is possible that he could win the starting quarterback job coming out of the preseason. It seems like the more likely situation involves Tannehill sitting on the bench for at least a portion of the season. Miami has quarterbacks Matt Moore and recently signed David Garrard.

    Tannehill becomes the first quarterback Miami has drafted in the first round since Dan Marino.


    4. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (No. 22 Overall)

    Brandon Weeden was the fourth quarterback taken in the first round. This was an interesting pick by the Browns, and Colt McCoy might lose a little sleep tonight.

    It is difficult to predict what Weeden will be doing at the start of next season. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy may start the season as the backup quarterback. McCoy will certainly be on a short leash next season, and Weeden could end up handing off to Trent Richardson by midseason.

Running Backs

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    1. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (No. 3 Overall)

    The Browns surprised many by trading first-round picks with the Minnesota Vikings. After some maneuvering, Cleveland selected Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

    Richardson makes a lot of sense for the Browns. He will provide a lift for a team that finished last in the AFC North last season, and he'll take pressure off their quarterback.

    Richardson is a complete, bruising running back, which fits in well not only in Cleveland, but in the rugged AFC North as well. He will be a featured back right away and run behind All-Pro Joe Thomas.

    The No. 3 overall pick will try to follow in the footsteps of one of the all-time greatest running backs in Jim Brown. His rookie season should be a nice start. A 1,000-yard season is highly likely.


    2. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 31 Overall)

    Boise State’s Doug Martin is rated as the second-best running back in the draft behind Trent Richardson. The Bucs traded back into the first round to get the dynamic back.

    He will form a running back committee with LeGarrette Blount. He will split carries with Blount and may even contribute on special teams. Blount may get the majority of carries at first, but Martin will get his share.

    Doug Martin will make a big impact for the Bucs next season and should gain at least 500 yards on the ground and pick up some yards in the air as well.


    3. David Wilson, New York Giants (No. 32 Overall)

    The defending Super Bowl champions will go into next season with a full stable of running backs.  David Wilson will team up with Ahmad Bradshaw to make a dynamic duo coming out of the backfield. 

    One of the best running backs coming out of the draft stands a good chance to get 500 yards or more during his rookie season. He will help take pressure off Eli Manning and provide insurance for the oft-injured Bradshaw.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 5 Overall)

    The last time the Jaguars had a receiver of this caliber, Mark Brunell was under center. The Jaguars made one of several trades in the first round to get the playmaker from Oklahoma State.

    Blackmon is the consensus No. 1 receiver on just about every board. He has good size and brings a physical style of play to a team that desperately needed a playmaking receiver.

    When the Jaguars drafted Blackmon, Maurice Jones-Drew must have been elated. Jones-Drew may finally have some running room, and whoever starts at quarterback will have a big and physical target.

    Blackmon brings excitement to Jacksonville. New coach Mike Mularkey will put Blackmon in the best position to succeed. 

    Justin Blackmon should be the No. 1 receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He should have a productive rookie season that will put him in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.


    2. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals (No. 13 Overall)

    Michael Floyd was the second receiver to come off the board. He has speed comparable to Justin Blackmon and actually has better size. 

    The Cardinals needed a complement to Larry Fitzgerald. They have not been able to successfully replace Anquan Boldin since he left for Baltimore, and Floyd should be able to fill that role.

    Floyd could have a better season than Blackmon. Fitzgerald will draw a lot of double coverage, which will leave Floyd in single coverage. He could make teams pay.

    The Notre Dame product will end up being the No. 2 receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. He will benefit from lining up on the opposite side of his mentor, Larry Fitzgerald. Expect a very productive rookie season and career for Michael Floyd.


    3. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (No. 20 Overall)

    If Kenny Britt comes back healthy next season, Britt and Kendall Wright could become one of the best young receiver tandems in the league for years to come.

    Regardless of Britt’s status, Wright will step in and start right away. He will make plays, but he will make even more plays if Britt can return to form.

    Young quarterback Jake Locker will have some weapons to grow with once he takes over the starting quarterback position. Defenses will have to key on Britt in the passing game and Chris Johnson in the running game. This will create matchup problems for defenses and provide opportunities for Wright to put up big numbers in his rookie year and beyond.  


    4. A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco 49ers (No. 30 Overall)

    This pick surprised many. To start the season, A.J. Jenkins will probably be the No. 3 or maybe even the No. 4 receiver behind Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree.

    A.J. Jenkins may not make a big impact as a starter next season, but Moss will only be around for so long, and Jenkins may beat out Crabtree to climb the depth charts. 

Offensive Linemen

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    1. Offensive Tackle Matt Kalil, Minnesota Vikings (No. 4 overall)

    Matt Kalil is hands down the No. 1 offensive lineman on the board. Just when you thought the Vikings were going to grab cornerback Morris Claiborne, they played it smart by selecting the USC product Kalil.

    It is hard to say who is happier, running back Adrian Peterson or second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.

    Peterson is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Ponder is looking to improve upon his rookie season. Adding Kalil to the roster should improve the Vikings' running game and provide better protection for a young quarterback, which will improve the passing game.

    Kalil, who draws comparisons to Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, will start on the left side. His addition will greatly impact the Vikings offense in 2012.


    2. Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff, Detroit Lions (No. 23 Overall)

    A great pick by the Detroit Lions. Riley Reiff comes from Iowa, an offensive lineman factory. Reiff will start instantly at the right tackle slot, and he makes a great heir to Jeff Backus.

    Matt Stafford will benefit from better pass protection, and Reiff’s addition should also boost the Lions' running game. Reiff will make a big impact next season.

    Could the Lions have an even better offense next season? 


    3. Guard David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24 Overall)

    David DeCastro was the first guard to be drafted. This was a great pick by the Steelers, especially at 24th overall.

    DeCastro once protected the No. 1 pick overall, and now he will be blocking next to Maurkice Pouncey to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

    The Stanford product shores up a weak area on the Steelers roster. It will not show up on the stat sheet, but DeCastro will be an important player for Pittsburgh next season.


    4. Guard Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals (No. 27 Overall)

    Kevin Zeitler’s draft stock rose, which put him ahead of teammate Peter Konz. He will start immediately and help protect young quarterback Andy Dalton.

Defensive Ends

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    1. Quinton Coples, New York Jets (No. 16 Overall)

    Quinton Coples was the first defensive end to be selected in the draft. CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco does not like this pick because he claims Coples does not fit into the Jets defense. I disagree with that assessment. 

    Coples' work ethic may remain a question mark, but there are some things to consider. For one thing, as the saying goes, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Another thing is that Rex Ryan always finds a way to put his defensive players in the best position to succeed.

    Ryan will find a way to motivate Coples. The UNC product will play all over the field in Ryan’s defense and will have a productive rookie campaign.


    2. Chandler Jones, New England Patriots (No. 21 Overall)

    The Patriots traded up in order to get the opportunity to select Syracuse’s Chandler Jones.

    Jones had a rapid rise up draft boards. His strength and quickness have some comparing him to Lawrence Taylor. Taylor, of course, played for Bill Belichick when he was the defensive coordinator for the Giants.

    Those are lofty comparisons and expectations for a rookie who missed five games last season, but the talent is definitely there. The brother of Ravens defensive end Art Jones, Chandler Jones will take the place of the departed Mark Anderson.

    Jones will start, and look for him to put up big numbers as the Pats revamp their defense.  


    3. Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans (No. 26 Overall)

    With Mario Williams moving on, the Texans felt the need to add another pass-rusher to the roster.  Mercilus will excel in Wade Phillips’ defense. He will line up next to young defenders like Brooks Reed and could produce a 10-sack season.


    4. Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers (No. 28 Overall)

    The Packers needed to improve their pass rush and their defense overall. The last time Ted Thompson drafted a defender out of USC (Clay Matthews), it worked out pretty well.

    Nick Perry has a lot of ability and should give the Packers defense a much-needed boost. He will start next season and make a big impact.

    Perry will give the Packers at least eight sacks in his rookie season and will improve thereafter.

Defensive Tackles/Nose Tackles

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    1. Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs (No. 11 Overall)

    Few prospects improved their draft stock at the NFL combine more than Memphis product Dontari Poe. Many draft gurus compare Poe to Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

    The Chiefs are certainly hoping the gurus are right. With Kelly Gregg retiring, the Chiefs had a major need on their defensive line, especially in the 3-4 alignment that they employ.

    Poe will be playing for a defensive-minded coach in Romeo Crennel. He should blossom and become an instant starter for the 2010 AFC West champions.


    2. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (No. 12 Overall)

    It did not take long for another defensive tackle to come off the board. One pick after Dontari Poe, the Eagles traded up to select Fletcher Cox. Cox was rated as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the draft.

    By adding Cox, the Eagles gave their defensive line a big boost. Philadelphia now boasts a solid secondary and an improved linebacking corps to go behind the young “stud” defensive tackle.

    Cox will start right away and should make a difference on defense.


    3. Michael Brockers, St. Louis Rams (No. 14 Overall)

    The Rams were wheeling and dealing during this draft. They collected more picks by trading back. The consequence was that they lost out on the draft’s two best receivers, one of which I am sure Sam Bradford would have liked to have.

    That being said, the Rams selected a nice defensive tackle prospect in Michael Brockers. The LSU product has great size at 6’5” and 322 lbs. He is a run-stuffer who can take up blockers and possibly help free up Chris Long. 

    Brockers makes a lot of sense for the Rams. Jeff Fisher is a defensive-minded coach, and he gets a player that fits his philosophy. Brockers will start or at least be a part of a rotation.

    He is not likely to pick up a lot of big statistics, but look for Michael Brockers to be very productive, particularly in stopping the run.


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    1. Inside Linebacker Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (No. 9 Overall)

    Last season, Carolina drafted the best-rated quarterback in the draft. This season, it got to draft the best linebacker in the draft.

    Luke Kuechly will start right away and provide much-needed leadership and physical play to the Panthers defense. The Boston College product will provide the same kind of spark on defense as Cam Newton did for the offense.


    2. Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks (No. 15 Overall)

    Bruce Irvin is a classic boom-or-bust prospect. His main asset is his speed. He may not be a full-time starter initially.

    He is a good fit for a Pete Carroll team, as Carroll always has an affinity for speedy defensive ends and outside linebackers.

    Irvin will use his speed to help generate a pass rush for the Seahawks. He will most likely start off as a situational pass-rusher, but if he produces early and picks up the pro game, he may force his way onto the field more often.


    3. Outside Linebacker Melvin Ingram, San Diego Chargers (No. 18 Overall)

    Melvin Ingram adds a much-needed pass-rusher to a defense that has been lacking one since Shawne Merriman’s heyday.

    Ingram will start and have a solid rookie campaign. Expect a decent sack total for the South Carolina product. 


    4. Outside Linebacker Shea McClellin, Chicago Bears (No. 19 Overall)

    The Chicago Bears may be a dangerous team next season. Shea McClellin has the speed and size to make an impact as a pass-rusher on the opposite side of Julius Peppers.

    McClellin may make a big impact next season with offenses keying on Peppers. He may get the opportunity to make quarterbacks pay.

    The Boise State product will likely earn a starting role next season. He could create a lot of headaches for quarterbacks next season.  


    5. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots (No. 25 Overall)

    It seems as though the Patriots do not plan on having one of the worst defenses in the league next season. At the 25th pick overall, the Patriots selected Alabama standout Dont’a Hightower.

    It is hard to say where he will line up. Will he be an inside or outside linebacker? Will he be a three-down linebacker? It is hard to say, but Belichick will find a role for Hightower, who will line up next to Jerod Mayo.


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    1. Morris Claiborne, Dallas Cowboys (No. 6 Overall)

    Before the offseason, one of the biggest weaknesses on the Cowboys was at cornerback. They signed Brandon Carr, but they were not done.

    The Cowboys turned a weakness into a strength by drafting the best cornerback in Morris Claiborne. 

    There are some questions about Claiborne’s intelligence after a poor Wonderlic test score. Whether those questions are valid or not, there is no doubt that Claiborne has an immense amount of talent.

    Carr will team up with Claiborne to make one of the better tandems in the league. Claiborne will have a great mentor and a creative defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan.

    Ryan’s defense is dependent on solid cornerback play, and Claiborne should provide that. He will start immediately and will be mentioned as a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year next season after he leads rookies in interceptions.


    2. Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills (No. 10 Overall)

    Morris Claiborne may have some competition or the rookie interception lead next season. Depending on who you ask, Stephon Gilmore is the No. 2 cornerback in the draft behind Claiborne.

    The Buffalo Bills continue to revamp their defense, and after adding the likes of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, they selected a corner to benefit from the improved pass rush.

    Gilmore has good size and speed, which allows him to make big plays and big hits. Gilmore is a needed commodity when Tom Brady is in the same division.

    Quarterbacks will make some hasty decisions with Mario Williams breathing down their necks. This will help provide the young corner with some big-play opportunity. If his college career is any kind of indicator, Stephon Gilmore will step up for a solid rookie season.


    3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals (No. 17 Overall)

    The Bengals picked the No. 3-rated cornerback in the draft to shore up some secondary question marks. Dre Kirkpatrick could step in immediately and start, especially since Leon Hall’s return is questionable. 

    Kirkpatrick did not have a lot of interceptions in college. He does provide solid coverage and can really hit, which is a major plus considering the division he will be playing in. 

    Dre Kirkpatrick will not put up a lot of crazy stats, but he will provide solid coverage and lay the wood in run support. He is yet another representative of the Crimson Tide. Kirkpatrick played for a former NFL head coach/defensive coach, so his transition to the pro game should be smooth.


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    1. Strong Safety Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 Overall)

    With Morris Claiborne off the board, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned to the best safety in the draft, Mark Barron, to help shore up their defensive backfield.

    Barron became the second Alabama product to be picked in the top 10. He is not known for his coverage skills, but after his selection, ESPN’s Mel Kiper praised his covering skills and claimed it was actually a strength.

    Barron will start immediately for the Bucs. He provides a much-needed physical brand of football in the defensive backfield. He should have a productive but not flashy rookie season.

    Mark Barron will have a solid professional career.


    2. Strong Safety Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (No. 29 Overall)

    The Vikings traded back into the first round to draft the second-best safety in the draft, according to most draft boards.

    Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith is a solid corner who seemed to make more plays his junior year. His interception totals went down his senior year, but that may have had more to do with teams staying away from Smith.

    Smith will start right away for the Vikings next season. He will shore up the back end of the Vikings defense, therefore filling a major need.

    Smith will not wow people with big numbers next season, but he will develop into one of the better safeties in the NFC.