The 2012 NFL draft was incredibly deep, and in the future we will look back on it as an event that produced a ton of stars. But several of the players taken in the first round must step up and realize their potential immediately if their teams hope to turn things around.
Here is a look at four NFL rookies who need to take over leadership roles on their teams right away. These guys won't have the luxury of developing slowly and eventually taking over. They must step up and establish themselves immediately.
After being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Luck will step in and be the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts from day one. He will certainly be expected to take over and run the offense like a leader.
The Stanford product will also be the face of the Indianapolis' franchise, taking that mantle from Peyton Manning, the most popular player in team history.
It's safe to say Luck has a tough act to follow, but if the Colts are going to be successful, he must rise to the occasion.
During his college career everyone knew who Luck was, but he was able to live in relative obscurity at Stanford. Now his life will be turned upside-down, and he must find a way to handle the pressure that will come with his new job.
Luckily for Colts fans, no quarterback has entered the NFL more prepared to shine mentally or physically. It may take time, but eventually Luck will find his stride.
The Washington Redskins surrendered three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move up in the draft and position themselves to take Griffin with the second overall pick. When you give up that many assets, clearly you're expecting an immediate return.
Griffin will be Washington's starter under center from day one and will have to lead an extremely young offense. With tight end Fred Davis, running back Roy Helu and receiver Pierre Garcon, the Redskins have talent, but they need a quarterback to run things.
The Baylor product has the physical tools to be an electric playmaker at the NFL level, but he must also show that he can command a huddle. Like Luck, he must show that he has the mental ability and leadership qualities needed to run and lead a team.
Griffin is the future of Washington's franchise, and now he must deal with the pressure that comes from that designation.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their last 10 games in 2011, and a lack of leadership from top to bottom within the franchise had a lot to do with that collapse. Something had to change this offseason.
When they took safety Mark Barron with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Bucs knew what they were doing. Barron was one of the best all-around defenders available this year, but he is also a leader who commands respect with his work ethic and outstanding preparation.
During his time at Alabama, Barron was a two-time All-American and led one of the best defenses in college football history. The Crimson Tide also won two BCS championships (2010, 2012) with the 22-year-old patrolling the secondary.
Barron is outstanding at reading plays and diagnosing opposing offenses. He is versatile enough to help in run support but has the range and ball skills to make plays deep.
I expect him to come in and immediately be a leader in Tampa Bay's secondary, taking the mantle from the aging Ronde Barber. If the Bucs want to turn things around and compete in 2012, Barron will have to step up and lead the secondary.
The Cleveland Browns shocked everyone when they selected Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Most believed the Browns would be sticking with incumbent starter Colt McCoy for at least another season, but instead they decided too turn things over to the 28-year-old Oklahoma State product.
Weeden will have to avoid a quarterback controversy by winning the job outright. That will be difficult because McCoy already has a year in Cleveland's system and has spent the last two seasons going through wars with his teammates.
That said, Weeden has the advantage of maturity. He has all the necessary intangibles of a starting quarterback and should be able to earn the trust of his teammates. Plus, his arm strength and accuracy are both more consistent than McCoy's.
In this case, Weeden's age may be an advantage when trying to win Cleveland's starting job. His maturity will earn him respect in the huddle, and he should be able to become a leader rapidly.