Why NFL Teams Are Putting Far Too Much Pressure on Top Rookies
Expectations for NFL first-round picks have forever changed.
No longer is a quarterback supposed to ride the pine for a year or two to learn the intricacies of the professional game after being selected in the top 15.
If a running back is taken within the first 32 picks, he better be immediately starting in the backfield with a significant role in the offense.
Developments like these have happened for a few reasons.
First, and most importantly, a few players in recent memory have really had no choice. Neither did their teams.
Before the new CBA was agreed upon, and top-10 draft choices were making insane money in their rookie contracts, the decision was simple.
No way could teams afford to pay guys like Matt Stafford $72 million and nearly $42 million guaranteed to calmly hold the clipboard for an extended period of time.
That created an interesting trend.
Because those players, mainly quarterbacks and skill position players, were forced into the starting lineup due to finances, they were able to showcase their abilities early in their careers.
And you know what? Some were relatively successful.
Are expectations too high for top draft picks?
Even a more reasonable rookie wage scale hasn't altered the perception that young players can make major contributions in their first years.
Past accomplishments by rookies have made coaches, GMs and fans alike believe their guy can come in and piece together a solid season.
Now, endorsement deals are being handed out to guys like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III before they have even stepped onto an NFL practice field.
It might seem insane that a big-time sponsorship could play a role in determining when a player starts, but it can definitely make an impact, even if it's not made known to the fans and media.
Is it fair to these highly-touted, super-hyped prospects?
The new benchmark for rookie quarterbacks cannot be a Newton-esque 4,501 passing yards and 35 total touchdowns. An Adrian Peterson replica of 1,341 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns can't be expected for first-year runners, either.
Luck, Griffin III and Richardson are facing a ridiculous amount of pressure in their first season. They are expected to be guys with "transcendent abilities" who become franchise players overnight and singlehandedly turn their teams around.
That's not to say those three and others can't contribute in a big way in 2012—they can.
But remember, they are just rookies, and have an extremely tough task in front of them.
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