NFL Rookie Rankings: Where Do Top Rookies Stand After First Week of OTAs?
There is a lot of different information thrown around during the NFL offseason as to how rookies are performing. Sometimes, this information from camps can be misleading, and we have to take it with a grain of salt.
After all, we are still looking at rookies who have yet to play an NFL game.
Still, there are some good reports coming out that can help us gauge how certain top prospects are performing during their first experience in the NFL.
This article will rank the top rookies from the 2012 draft class after the first week of organized team activities (OTAs).
25. Nick Perry, Outside Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
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The idea behind this is that Perry may be more comfortable playing his natural position, while Matthews has the ability to switch to the other side.
It does indicate that the Green Bay Packers believe Perry should be able to make an impact immediately. If indications from around camp are correct, that feeling isn't too far off-base.
At the very least, Perry should be a pass-rush threat as a rookie in 2012.
24. Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Cincinnati Bengals
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The Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that Dre Kirkpatrick sat out the Cincinnati Bengals' camp due to a groin injury.
Of course, the Bengals would love to have their first-round pick on the field to help him hone his technique and learn the scheme, but it is important that his groin heals before training camp in late July. This could be a lingering issue, as we have seen with other corners around the league, so it makes a lot of sense to sit him and get it completely healed.
This will not hold Kirkpatrick back from making an immediate contribution as a rookie. The Bengals fully expect him to be a part of their regular corner rotation, and Ourlads.com currently has the Alabama product as the backup behind Nate Clements on the left side.
23. A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
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Many people concluded that the San Francisco 49ers reached for A.J. Jenkins in the first round last month. While this still may be the case, he has done nothing but impress observers in Santa Clara.
A report from Scout.com indicates that the trio of new 49ers receivers is impressing a great deal:
The drastically-improved 49ers' wide receivers corps—particularly the newcomers—have been making a strong impression and developing a quick rapport with quarterback Alex Smith.
It also doesn't hurt that Jenkins has taken Jerry Rice up on the offer to run the infamous hill that made the latter one of the greatest physical specimens in the NFL during his playing days.
Jenkins is eager to learn, has made major strides and appears ready to prove skeptics wrong. He could have a surprising rookie season in the slot in 2012.
22. Quinton Coples, Defensive End, New York Jets
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Quinton Coples should get a lot of action early, as evidenced by him being implemented as the starter during New York Jets camp last week.
This doesn't come as much of a surprise considering that Rex Ryan indicated this would happen shortly after the draft.
Despite not having a wide array of pass-rush moves at this point, Coples should be able to make an immediate impact as a run defender as a rookie in 2012.
The Jets are not only banking on that to happen, they also want to see him get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. That is what these offseason camps are all about.
21. Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans
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According to The Tennessean, Kendall Wright participated in Tennessee Titans camp last week without a contract. Word from there is that the Baylor product looked extremely comfortable running routes and catching the ball.
Of course, the young receiver is going to have to spend the next few weeks learning the playbook and scheme in order to make an immediate impact as a rookie.
That being said, the Titans appear ready to let him go into the season as a major contributor on the offensive side of the ball.
20. Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Detroit Lions
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According to Tim Twentyman of the Detroit Lions' official website, the Detroit Lions are planning to keep Riley Reiff at offensive tackle.
This seems to indicate that they are going to hold a competition between veteran Jeff Backus and Reiff for the starting left tackle position.
Reiff has consistently shown solid footwork and appears to be ready to start from day one.
19. Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
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Apparently, Dontari Poe was lining up as more of a pass-rusher during Kansas City Chiefs camp last week and wasn't in on the base run packages.
There could be a few different reasons for this. Firstly, Poe hasn't shown the ability to clog the middle in the early part of the offseason following the draft. Secondly, the Chiefs view him more as a specialist as a rookie. Finally, he might just be eased into the rotation.
Any of these options isn't too great for a team that selected the Memphis prospect just outside of the top 10.
Of course, we are extremely early in the rookie evaluation process, so things will definitely change.
18. Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
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That was relatively quick. Many major outlets are listing Mychal Kendricks as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting weak side linebacker ahead of Akeem Jordan.
This isn't surprising considering that the Eagles had struggled a great deal along this unit last season. What is surprising is the quickness with which it happened. Even before the Eagles' first OTAs were over with, Kendricks appeared to be penciled in as a starter.
The Cal product was skyrocketing up the boards prior to the draft and seems to have all the physical talent to be a damn good starting 'backer in the National Football League.
17. Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams
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I was working with him a little bit after practice today and it's just extremely impressive watching him move. As big as he is, as tall as he is, he gets in and out of breaks really well. He's fast as well.
This is pretty much what I have been saying about the small-school product for quite some time now. He has the ability to develop into a No. 1 receiver and should make an immediate impact as a rookie.
It looks like the Rams are sold at this point.
16. Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Houston Texans
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I think it’s not too big for him, so that’s the first thing you look for in rookies. Sometimes they get overrun. He hasn’t had that problem. He rushed real well today, and that’s what we’re looking for him to do in the defense, and he had a good day rushing the passer.
This is the reason why the Texans selected Mercilus. It is all about getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis and finding production to replace the recently departed Mario Williams.
Mercilus will be given a shot early and often.
15. Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
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According to Revenge of the Birds, Michael Floyd wasn't working out with the first team early in camp last week. That really doesn't matter a great deal considering how far we are from the start of training camp.
However, it does indicate that the Cardinals plan to bring the talented receiver along slowly. If that is the case, you can expect him to get off to a relatively slow start early in the 2012 season.
Of course, this can change over the course of the next couple months. There is no questioning the talent that Floyd possesses, which is No. 1 receiver capability.
14. Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Philadelphia Eagles
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According to the Philadelphia Eagles' official website, Fletcher Cox was lining up with the starters along the defensive line during camp last week.
It does appear that Philadelphia is going to play more of a rotational scheme along the line due to its enormous amount of depth. However, you can bet Jim Washburn will find a way to get Cox on the field a great deal as a rookie.
13. Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens tweeted the following last week during their organized team activities:
"Courtney Upshaw was working at the SAM linebacker spot vacated by Jarret Johnson today. Kruger was at Suggs' old spot. Could change though"
Obviously, the selection of Upshaw is going to help the Ravens a great deal after losing Terrell Suggs for the majority of the 2012 season due to a torn Achilles.
Expect Upshaw to make an immediate impact as a rookie.
12. Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
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Just because you look good during organized team activities in May doesn't mean that you are ready to go out there and win games as a rookie quarterback that September.
That being said, the only thing we can gauge at this point in regards to Ryan Tannehill is how he performed last week.
The reviews have been great.
"Hey, he can spin it. He definitely can throw the ball. He's quiet right now, but you can tell he's definitely a quality, quality player."
Other players in Dolphins camp mirrored this sentiment.
11. Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers have a ton of options in regards to Luke Kuechly if the rest of their linebacker group can stay healthy. He appears to have the ability to play both inside and outside, something I indicated in the scouting process prior to the draft.
That being said, reports have surfaced that Kuechly will play weak side in 2012.
This is only going to help the Boston College product make an immediate impact. It also shows us that his selection in the top 10 might not have been a tremendous reach after all.
We shall see.
10. Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Tania Ganguli at the Florida Times-Union is reporting that Justin Blackmon "impressed" teammates with his play during camp last week.
I am not entirely sure what to take out of those comments. No one expects veteran teammates to call out a rookie and say he looks bad.
One thing that I will say: Blackmon should earn the Jacksonville Jaguars' No. 1 wide receiving job heading into the regular season in September. If that happens, you will see production from the Oklahoma State alum early in his career.
The rest of the offseason will be telling as to whether or not Blackmon has worked on the issues that many pundits, including myself, pointed out during the draft process.
That being said, he seems to be off to a good start right now.
9. Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, Buffalo Bills
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It is becoming increasingly evident that the Buffalo Bills didn't select Stephon Gilmore early in the 2012 NFL draft to ease him into the starting lineup.
All indications are that Buffalo plans to start him at right corner immediately as a rookie this season. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise to individuals that watched tape of the South Carolina product in college leading up to the draft.
He has the ball skills and technique to be an immediate impact rookie. That is what the Bills are banking on at this point. The only question is who will be starting opposite Gilmore when camp breaks in September.
8. Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, San Diego Chargers
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Melvin Ingram is already in the mix for the starting outside linebacker position with Antwan Barnes and Shaun Phillips opposite Jarret Johnson. It doesn't matter if Ingram starts initially, as all four of these players will see considerable playing time in 2012.
There hasn't been a whole lot coming out of Chargers camp in regards to Ingram, but his tape prior to the draft was impressive enough.
We will get more information when mandatory and training camp hits later this summer.
7. David DeCastro, Guard, Pittsburgh Steelers
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David DeCastro is going to be a plug-and-play guard, meaning that the talented player will come in and start on the right side of the line.
Despite missing camp last week because he was still attending classes at Stanford, DeCastro is already ahead of most rookies. He has the footwork and mechanics to be dominating out of the gate.
This is the reason that I had the Stanford product as the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2012 NFL draft. That hasn't changed.
6. Mark Barron, Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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When you select a safety in the top 10, it is expected that he is going to be an immediate-impact player in the secondary.
This is what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to get when they selected Mark Barron last month.
A myriad of different experts believe that Barron is going to be an All-Pro performer in the National Football League. NFL analyst Greg Cosell even went as far to say that this is going to happen "sooner than later."
The Buccaneers seem to be really happy with how Barron has taken to the offseason program thus far. It should be a really smooth transition for the Alabama product in 2012.
5. Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
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Morris Claiborne is not going to take part in any football activities until training camp starts in late July. While this is a setback for the promising young cornerback in terms of gaining experience, he will still be able to soak in what coaches and veterans have to offer.
The LSU product is also on solid footing right now. He is entrenched as the Dallas Cowboys' starting corner opposite Brandon Carr, and that isn't going to change due to a few missed practices.
I am still pretty sure that the Cowboys coaching staff would like to see him on the field prior to the start of training camp. Considering that it isn't going to happen, there will be questions heading into August in regards to his ability to be an impact player as a rookie.
4. Trent Richardson, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
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Trent Richardson has already started to take first-team snaps with the Cleveland Browns. This is something that many people expected at some point this offseason, but it has happened right out of the gate.
This shouldn't come as a major surprise considering that Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson are his two major challengers for the starting job.
3. Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings
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Make no mistake about it: Matt Kalil is going to be the Minnesota Vikings' starting left tackle out of the gate as a rookie in 2012. They have already started to transition Charlie Johnson to the left guard position, which seems to prove this point.
Moreover, it seems that Kalil has taken to learning the Vikings' blocking scheme and learning the nuances of the offense that he will be tasked to protect in 2012.
He should be a rather solid performer at a difficult position early.
2. Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
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Don Banks over at CNNSI had the following to report from Washington Redskins camp last week:
When Griffin throws on the run, he's deadly accurate, even when he's rolling left and throwing against his body. From the pocket, he looks a little less certain of himself, and at times didn't get comfortable or fully mechanically set before releasing the ball. The footwork just isn't as smooth in that part of his game.
It is still May, so these learning curves are to be expected. Most experts understood that RGIII had mechanical issues and was going to be coached up in order to be an immediate impact rookie.
These things haven't changed because of one OTA session.
What I will say is that the Baylor product is electrifying and is going to give excited Redskins fans a great deal as a rookie. It might not translate to a whole bunch of wins, but it will be entertaining nonetheless.
1. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
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Andrew Luck was unable to attend Indianapolis Colts camp last week due to league rules that prevent athletes from taking part while their college classes are ongoing.
That being said, it is nearly impossible for me to put anyone ahead of Luck at this point. He was the consensus No. 1 player in the 2012 NFL draft, and that isn't going to change until he or someone else proves the NFL wrong with play during the regular season.