2012 NFL Rookie Predictions: Top Rookies at Each Position Based on Early OTAs
Rookie OTAs are exciting simply for the fact that it's the first time fans get a good look at the guys who could be the future of their franchises.
But these workouts aren't just for show.
They give coaches and scouts good insight as to who's ready to play right away, and who needs time to develop.
It's because of these OTAs we can make fun lists predicting the best players at each position.
So without further ado, let's check 'em out.
QB: Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins
Everybody knows that Griffin and No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck will be forever attached due to this draft, but in year one, Griffin has a major advantage.
Simply put, the Redskins are more ready to win and much more talented than the Colts.
But it's not just that. Griffin is performing at a very high level at Redskins camp according to multiple sources.
According to Don Banks of SI.com, newly acquired receiver and Griffin's top target Pierre Garcon had this to say about his rookie quarterback: "He doesn't look like a rookie. He's throwing and he's putting the ball where it needs to be. He's doing a great job. He's accurate on his deep ball and everywhere else.''
Griffin will be up for a challenge, as he'll be playing six games next season against some pretty talented NFC East teams, but he has the best chance of the rookie quarterbacks to succeed and has the athletic ability to do so.
Rookie Prediction: 3,600 pass yards, 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 650 rush yards, 7 rush touchdowns
RB: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs traded back into the first round to grab Doug Martin for a specific reason.
He has a very similar skill set to that of current Ravens and former Rutgers star Ray Rice.
Martin is fully expected to win the starting job over LeGarrette Blount and carry the load for an offense that seems to be heading toward a more run-oriented style under new head coach Greg Schiano.
But it is very interesting that Trent Richardson wouldn't hold this spot and there's a very good explanation as to why.
Richardson plays on a very bad team in a very good division. Although he is obviously the most talented back, the best player doesn't always have the best year.
Rookie Prediction: 1,055 rush yards, 4 touchdowns, 450 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
WR: Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
Last year, the Bengals saw A.J. Green explode on the outside and become a household name in the NFL.
Cincinnati could be in a similar situation this season with rookie third-rounder Mohamed Sanu.
Sanu caught the eyes of Bengals scouts before the draft and has since turned heads at OTAs. He's also made quite an impression on his teammates, prompting Green to tell this to Bengals.com:
"Man, that guy is smooth," said Green. "He works the middle really well. A lot of people have questioned his speed, but the guy has ‘football speed.’ It’s just like myself. A lot of people say that he didn’t run the fastest, but you see him on the field and he’s fluid in-and-out of his breaks, he catches everything with his hands, and he attacks the ball. He’s going to be a special one."
Sanu figures to be the Bengals' starting receiver opposite Green and has a chance to make a great first impression on the league. With plenty of attention going to the second-year Green, Sanu should find himself some open opportunities and will have to take advantage.
Rookie Prediction: 70 catches, 1,100 yards, 7 touchdowns
TE: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener has one of the best opportunities of any rookie to make an immediate impact on the NFL.
Not only is he on an offense were he might currently be the biggest receiving threat, but he'll also be catching passes from his college quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Fleener seemed excited to jump into camp, as he posted the following to his Twitter account: "Headed back to Indy today. Can't wait to meet some of my new @nflcolts teammates! Hope I don't get a middle seat..."
The rookie second-rounder will have to share some of the field with fellow rookie Dwayne Allen, but figures to be the top receiving option when Luck finally joins the team following his graduation from Stanford.
Rookie Prediction: 55 catches, 700 yards, 8 touchdowns
OL: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers' brass was ecstatic when Stanford guard David DeCastro was sitting on the board for them at pick 24. Pittsburgh quickly gobbled him up and began rebuilding their tattered offensive line.
DeCastro has been dubbed as the best offensive guard to enter the draft since Steve Hutchinson, high praise for a player that has never set foot on an NFL field.
But DeCastro is a Steeler-type blocker, a mauler with a mean streak who punishes defenders.
DeCastro hasn't been able to report to OTAs yet because of academic duties at Stanford, but will be available for most of the team's offseason workouts.
Rookie Prediction: Pancakes by the dozens (pretty hard to give stat numbers on offensive linemen)
DL: Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks
It came as quite a shock to a lot of people when the Seahawks took troubled West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick in April's draft.
But as the days went on, it became clear that if Seattle had passed, the New York Jets would have gobbled Irvin up with the very next pick.
Irvin has great pass rush ability, but is small and didn't play every down at WVU.
That hasn't stopped him in Seattle.
Irvin has shined brightly at Seahawks camp and all but solidified himself as a third-down rusher while maybe getting some time on earlier downs.
WVUPros' Caleb Wygal writes, "The reports show that Irvin has been very fast off the edge, often changing direction so quickly that it leaves offensive linemen off-balance. Irvin has had an opportunity in (Chris) Clemons’ absence to receive snaps with the first team defense."
Clemons' absence gives Irvin a shot to show his stuff with the starters and he'll need to take full advantage of that.
Rookie Prediction: 45 tackles, 11 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
LB: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Entering April's draft, Kuechly had been regarded as one of the least risky picks of any of the top players. Even Panthers linebacker Jon Beason said he was the draft's safest pick.
Beason couldn't have guessed that his own team would be the ones to take Kuechly, who now joins a crowded linebacker corps of Beason, James Anderson and Thomas Davis.
But Kuechly is expected to start immediately at weak-side linebacker next to Beason and give the group a much needed boost.
He also seems to be embracing his rookie roll. From Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer:
"You’ve got to earn the respect," Kuechly said. "It’s not like they’re going to give it to you. For me it’s just come out and learn as much as you can and watch as much as you can because all the guys that are in there right now know what they’re doing.”
Kuechly is a student of the game and should be on the field on both passing and running downs for Carolina in 2012.
Rookie Prediction: 120 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions
DB: Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just a few weeks before the draft, talk was very low on Barron and some even had him projected out of the first round.
But as these things tend to do, scouts and team officials began to refer more and more back to game tape and away from combine workouts and pro days. That allowed Barron to soar back up draft boards and go in the Top 10.
Barron is a hard-hitting safety who plays at his best when he's close to the line of scrimmage.
He should be a major upgrade for the Bucs, who have revamped their secondary this offseason in an attempt to get back into the playoff mix.
Barron could also be learning from one of the game's best, as there have been a few reports, including this one from Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk, that Ronde Barber will play this season as the Bucs other safety.
Rookie Prediction: 85 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions