Stat Predictions for the Top 50 NFL Rookies of 2012
Predicting how rookies will perform is a tough task, but looking back on previous rookie statistical totals is a great place to start.
To develop my projections, I compared members of this rookie class to to past rookies and their production. For example, I looked at Michael Floyd as a wide receiver just a notch below Julio Jones. So I basically went with a stat line for Floyd that was slightly below that produced by Jones last season.
This strategy isn't bullet-proof. At times, I didn't find a good comparison. Robert Griffin III is the best example of this. There isn't a player in the NFL who matches his wide range of skills. Some will point to Cam Newton, but Griffin III is a more refined passer than Newton was heading into the league.
Here are my statistical projections for the top-50 rookies, with individual breakdowns of the top 25.
No. 50 to No. 39
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50. Bryan Anger, Punter, Jacksonville Jaguars—3,906 punting yards, 45.8 average yards per punt and 16 punted inside the 20-yard line.
49. Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions—13 receptions, 235 yards, 18 yards per reception and one touchdown.
48. T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver, Indianapolis Colts—20 receptions, 325 yards, 16.3 yards per reception and zero touchdowns.
47. Andre Branch, Defensive End, Jacksonville Jaguars—26 tackles, four sacks, zero interceptions and one forced fumble.
46. Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins—956 passing yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions and 56 percent completion percentage.
45. Evan Rodriguez, H-Back, Chicago Bears—30 receptions, 287 yards, 9.5 yards per reception and two touchdowns.
44. Nick Toon, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints—22 receptions, 298 yards, 13.5 yards per reception two touchdowns.
43. Vick Ballard, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts—65 carries, 301 yards, 4.6 yards per carry and four touchdowns,
42. Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks—1,277 passing yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and 57 percent completion percentage.
41. Greg Childs, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings—32 receptions, 410 yards, 12.1 yards per reception one touchdown.
40. Ronnie Hilliman, Running Back, Denver Broncos—55 carries, 297 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, one touchdown 12 receptions, 98 yards and one touchdown.
39. Joe Adams, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers—28 receptions, 425 yards, 15.1 yards per reception one touchdown.
No. 38 to No. 26
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38. Nick Perry, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers—22 tackles, five sacks, zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles.
37. Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami Dolphins—70 carries, 385 yards, 5.5 yards per carry and five touchdowns.
36. Robert Turbin, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks—95 carries, 423 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
35. Bobby Wagner, Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks—75 tackles, zero sacks, zero inteceptions and one forced fumble.
34. Dwayne Allen, Tight End, Indianapolis Colts—54 receptions, 546 yards, 10.1 yards per reception two touchdowns.
33. Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens—60 tackles, four sacks, zero interceptions and three forced fumbles.
32. Isaiah Pead, Running Back, St. Louis Rams—130 carries, 520 yards, four yards per carry, one touchdown, 10 receptions, 101 yards.
31. Shea McClellin, Defensive End, Chicago Bears—28 tackles, six sacks, zero interceptions and two forced fumbles.
30. Melvin Ingram, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers—40 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
29. Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns—2,995 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and 55 percent completion percentage.
28. Whitney Mercilus, Linebacker, Houston Texans—32 tackles, 5.5 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
27. Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams—36 receptions, 564 yards, 15.6 yards per reception and two touchdowns.
26. LaMichael James, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers—102 carries, 450 yards, one touchdown, 23 receptions, 249 yards and four touchdowns.
No. 25 Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Philadelphia Eagles
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Stat Prediction—45 tackles, seven sacks, zero interceptions and one forced fumble.
The Philadelphia Eagles added Fletcher Cox because of his ability to work his way into the backfield. Cox generates pressure on the quarterback and disrupts the running game with his ability to penetrate. His playing style fits perfectly with the Eagles' defensive game plan.
Cox is a versatile player who will see time at defensive tackle and defensive end. He'll have a ton of favorable matchups because of the other playmakers on the Eagles' roster. Players like Jason Babin, Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins demand attention, which will give Cox a chance to make an early impact.
This is a player who is more than capable of making a push to top the 10-sack mark.
No. 24 Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
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Stat Prediction—44 tackles, four interceptions, zero sacks and one forced fumble.
Morris Claiborne's impact isn't going to be seen by his stats. That's why he's ranked a little lower on this list. He's more of a lock-down cornerback who will force offenses to attack another part of the field. However, Claiborne has the ball skills and instincts to make several interceptions.
Claiborne will benefit from the presence of fellow cornerback Brandon Carr. Opposing offenses will need to decide if they have a better chance to take advantage of Claiborne or Carr, neither of which is a real great choice.
The Cowboys secondary is in great shape because of their offseason additions.
No. 23 Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
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Stat Prediction—38 receptions, 587 yards, 15.4 yards per reception two touchdowns.
The Cincinnati Bengals are quickly building a well-rounded offensive attack. Mohamed Sanu will play an important role in that development. With A.J. Green joining him in the lineup, Sanu will get several favorable matchups. All the extra coverage rolled to Green's side of the field will present many one-on-one situations for Sanu.
Sanu is an elusive runner who does a great job creating in space. He's solidly build and can gain yards after the catch. This is someone who will complement Green's ability to stretch the field by working the underneath routes.
The combination of Sanu, Green, Andy Dalton and Jermaine Gresham forms an excellent young core of playmakers.
No. 22 James Michael-Johnson, Linebacker, Cleveland Browns
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Stat Prediction—90 tackles, one sack, zero interceptions and two forced fumbles.
James Michael-Johnson was one of the more underrated players in the 2012 draft. He's quick, tough, tenacious and someone who makes plays all over the field. The Cleveland Browns got a steal when they added Michael-Johnson in the fourth round.
This is an instinctual player who wants nothing more than to make a play. Players with his combination of tenacity and athletic ability always find a way to make game-changing plays. Michael-Johnson has the potential to lead his team and all rookies in tackles.
Cleveland got great value and a player who'll be a part of its starting lineup for a long time.
No. 21 Quinton Coples, Defensive End, New York Jets
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Stat Prediction—32 tackles, eight sacks, zero interceptions, two forced fumbles.
The New York Jets are adjusting their defensive approach because of the presence of Quinton Coples. New York plans on featuring four-man fronts in which Coples will be asked to play defensive end. His versatility is what makes this alignment possible, as the Jets can now pressure the quarterback from multiple looks.
Coples' size, length and quickness make him an excellent all-around pass-rusher. He's capable of both the power and speed rush. The Jets' ability to mix up their attack will make it difficult for opposing teams to game-plan against them.
The concern about Coples' work ethic is overstated. His drop in production as a senior at North Carolina had more to do with facing double teams than anything else.
No. 20 Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans
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Stat Prediction—45 receptions, 795 yards, 17.6 yards per reception and two touchdowns.
The Tennessee Titans entered the draft looking to add weapons on the offensive side of the ball. This led to them adding Kendall Wright, an explosive player who excels at attacking down the field. Wright is the type of weapon that can create opportunities for those around him. Expect to see more running room for Chris Johnson because of the addition of Wright.
But Johnson will also create more opportunities for Wright. Johnson is so talented that he forces defenses to bring extra defenders in the box. This will create plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Wright.
The presence of Kenny Britt will also draw coverage away from Wright. Look for Jake Locker and Kendall Wright to form a productive relationship.
No. 19 Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, Buffalo Bills
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Stat Prediction—44 tackles, five interceptions, zero sacks and one forced fumble.
Stephon Gilmore was a late riser in the draft because of his well-rounded game. The Buffalo Bills spent a lot of resources this offseason adding talent on the defensive side of the ball, and Gilmore is an important part of the future. Gilmore's excellent instincts, toughness and short-area burst is what allows him to make an impact.
He's a physical player who isn't afraid to come up and support the run. Gilmore also does a good job playing tight one-on-one coverage. However, it's his ball skills that will allow him to make game-changing plays. He uses his quickness to break on the ball and hands to pluck down the interception.
The Bills defense is going to be much improved this season, and Gilmore is going to be a major reason why.
No. 18 Bruce Irvin, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
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Stat Prediction—22 tackles, 13 sacks, zero interceptions, one forced fumble.
I doubt Bruce Irvin earns a full-time role this season, but that doesn't mean he won't be productive. The Seattle Seahawks plan on using him at defensive end, where he'll be asked to bring pressure off the edge. His explosiveness off the ball makes it tough for any offensive lineman to beat him to the edge.
Irvin's closing speed allows him to quickly close on the quarterback. He won't be one of these rushers who just creates pressure, he'll actually get to the quarterback. There's also a possibility that we see Irvin line up at linebacker.
He's undersized for a defensive end and athletic enough to play linebacker. Ultimately, his role will be to get after the quarterback. It doesn't really matter where the Seahawks line him up.
No. 17 Rueben Randle, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
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Stat Prediction—56 receptions, 855 yards, 15.2 yards per reception and four touchdowns.
The injury to Hakeem Nicks and the loss of Mario Manningham in free agency give Rueben Randle an opportunity to make an early impact for the New York Giants. Randle's size and speed make him a good fit to play on the outside opposite Nicks. There's an opening there because Victor Cruz is more effective out of the slot.
Opposing defenses know how dangerous Nicks and Cruz can be and are likely to role coverage toward their side of the field. This will provide Randle with plenty of one-on-one opportunities, and he's talented enough to take advantage.
At this point, the Giants have too many weapons for a defense to shut everyone down. Opposing defenses must develop a game plan to shut down Nicks, Cruz, Randle, Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson.
No. 16 Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, New England Patriots
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Stat Prediction—75 tackles, seven sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
Dont'a Hightower possesses a wide range of talents and will help the New England Patriots' defense in many ways. Most have him pegged as an inside linebacker with size and run-stuffing ability. However, he also has the ability to generate pressure on the quarterback.
While at Alabama, Hightower often lined up at defensive end and did a good job getting after the quarterback. He has a good mix of power and speed moves that makes it tough for linemen to keep him out of the backfield.
Bill Belichick will use Hightower in a few different roles, and the Patriots' need for a pass rush means we're likely to see plenty of Hightower at defensive end. This versatility makes him a four-down player who doesn't need to be subbed off the field.
No. 15 Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
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Stat Prediction—59 receptions, 943 yards, 15.9 yards per reception and six touchdowns.
The Chicago Bears put a lot of focus this offseason on adding size to their receiving corps. Adding Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery fill that need while also providing a down-the-field threat. Jeffery's draft-day drop was more about maturity concerns than his play on the field. During his sophomore season, he showed that he's talented enough to dominate a game.
Marshall's addition will help Jeffery make an easier transition into the NFL. The media and opposing defenses will focus on Marshall, leaving Jeffery to ease into his role.
The powerful arm of Jay Cutler also will aid Jeffery's development. Cutler has no problem attacking the deep part of the field.
No. 14 Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
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Stat Prediction—80 tackles, four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.
The Philadelphia Eagles' defense struggle last season mainly because of a lack of talent at the linebacker position. This forced them to focus on upgrading the position by trading for DeMeco Ryans and drafting Mychal Kendricks. Ryans brings a veteran presence, but Kendrick brings explosiveness and youthful tenacity.
Kendricks' speed allows him to be effective because of his aggressiveness and awareness. He quickly identifies the developing play and isn't afraid to attack the line of scrimmage. His sound tackling ability is also something the Eagles sorely missed last season.
Look for Kendricks to make a ton of tackles, especially impact plays behind the line of scrimmage.
No. 13 Chandler Jones, Linebacker/Defensive End, New England Patriots
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Stat Prediction—35 tackles, 12.5 sacks, zero interceptions, two forced fumbles.
The New England Patriots desperate need for a pass-rusher was the driving force behind their draft-day trade to acquire Chandler Jones. Lacking other options, the Patriots will be looking to Jones to provide the bulk of the pressure. Bill Belichick will move him all around the field in order to find the best matchups.
New England's history of playing multiple defensive fronts makes Jones a perfect fit. He's a versatile athlete who can line up at either defensive end or outside linebacker. There's little doubt that this versatility played a big role in Jones landing in New England.
The main reason Jones will find success as a rookie is because of his motor. This guy plays with a ton of effort and never stops pursuing the football. Jones can count on making a handful of sacks just based on that effort.
No. 12 Coby Fleener, Tight End, Indianapolis Colts
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Stat Prediction—69 receptions, 852 yards, 12.3 yards per reception and five touchdowns.
Coby Fleener has a lot of things working in his favor. The Indianapolis Colts are committed to running an offense that features two tight ends. That will make Fleener an important part of the passing offense. An extra tight end on the field typically means one fewer wide receiver and increases the tight end's role.
His previous relationship with Andrew Luck will also help him. Having played at Stanford together means that Luck will likely look in Fleener's direction when the play breaks down. A lot can be gained from being a quarterback's favorite target.
Lastly, there are the physical abilities that Fleener possesses. His rare combination of size and speed will help him create a ton of mismatches. Opposing defenses won't find it easy to handle him in one-on-one situations.
No. 11 Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, New York Jets
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Stat Prediction: 58 receptions, 988 yards, 17 yards per reception and five touchdowns.
Stephen Hill might be a little raw as a route runner, but his superior physical skills will allow him to make an instant impact. The New York Jets need someone to give them another option opposite Santonio Holmes. Hill's size and speed could quickly make him Mark Sanchez's more dangerous target.
That size will also help Hill make a major impact in the red zone. Opposing defensive backs won't be able to out jump or out-muscle him for the football. I'm not all that worried about his lack of experience in a pro-style system because the Jets will simplify his role.
Look for Hill to run a lot of deep patterns and find himself in plenty of jump-ball situations.
No. 10 David Wilson, Running Back, New York Giants
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Stat Prediction—198 carries, 894 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and seven touchdowns.
Ahmad Bradshaw is a talented running back, but injuries have kept him out of the lineup and taken their toll on his body. The New York Giants recognize this. That's why they pulled the trigger on David Wilson at the end of the first round. Wilson has the talent to take the starting job away from Bradshaw.
Explosiveness, toughness and a great second gear is what allows Wilson to find success. He does a great job locating the hole and exploding through it into the second level. His low pad level helps him pick up yards after contact.
The running game has always been an important part of the Giants' offense. Now they have another talented weapon in the backfield.
No. 9 Lavonte David, Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Stat Prediction—97 tackles, four sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
Lavonte David's explosiveness and tenacity routinely put him around the football. He combines this with great instincts and ability to locate the football. Nothing is out of his range, as he can make plays from sideline to sideline. Because other teams were scared off by his lack of size, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up with a real steal.
Tampa Bay's defensive line has players like Adrian Clayborn and Brian Price who do a good job occupying blockers. This will allow David to use his explosiveness to cleanly flow to the football. Look for him to make a real impact behind the line of scrimmage, disrupting the timing of the offense.
I wouldn't be surprised if David ends up claiming the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He's that talented a player.
No. 8 Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
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Stat Prediction—64 receptions, 1,014 receiving yards, 15.8 yards per reception and six touchdowns.
His time at Notre Dame has prepared Michael Floyd for the adjustment he's about to face in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals realized his pro readiness and are counting on him to make a major impact. Floyd combines his preparedness with good size, leaping ability and quickness.
Having Larry Fitzgerald in the same lineup will make life easier for Floyd. Opposing defenses must focus on shutting down Fitzgerald, which will provide Floyd with plenty of one-on-one opportunities. Arizona must find ways to take advantage of those matchups, which shouldn't be too difficult because of Floyd's talent level.
The only thing that can hold Floyd back is the Cardinals' quarterback issues. Neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton offers a lot of promise.
No. 7 Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Stat Prediction—70 receptions, 1,020 yards, 14.5 yards per reception and nine touchdowns.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' dearth of playmakers means that Justin Blackmon will get a ton of opportunities with the football in his hands. Because of his versatility, Jacksonville will find plenty of ways to get him involved in the game plan.
Blackmon is a different type of receiver in that he's a hybrid-type player. He has the toughness and feel to go across the middle. This toughness also helps him break tackles and pick up yards after contact. Jacksonville can work a quick route tree with Blackmon and find plenty of success.
However, he also has deceptive speed and does a good job changing speeds. This means that he's more of a down-the-field threat than most realize. Jacksonville has no other option than to feature a heavy dose of Blackmon.
No. 6 Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers
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Stat Prediction—101 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
While watching a Carolina Panthers' game this year, you will notice that Luke Kuechly is always around the football. His combination of athleticism and instincts allows him to quickly locate the football and attack. He might not make eye-popping plays, but he's a consistent performer who'll always be in the right position.
Having Jon Beason alongside him will help with his transition. Beason is a player who also knows how to get to the football and also commands attention. Opposing offenses won't be able to key on slowing down Kuechly because Beason is equally capable of making plays.
The one thing that might hurt Kuechly is the lack of talent along the Panthers' defensive line. This unit struggles to stop the run and occupy blockers. Kuechly will have to deal with a lot of traffic when he flows to the football, which doesn't help his chances of making a play.
No. 5 Doug Martin, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Stat Prediction—223 carries, 1,103 yards, 4.9 yards per carry and eight touchdowns.
On paper, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the players in place to have a very balanced offense. However, look for Doug Martin and the running game to be the focal point. Martin is a multidimensional running back who can pick up yards between the tackle and break long runs.
Greg Schiano and his coaching staff love Martin and are expected to feed him the ball early and often. This team's rushing attack will be successful because of Martin and the offensive line. The line consists of excellent run-blockers like Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Jeremy Zuttah and Davin Joseph.
Equally important is the talent at wide receiver. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will keep opposing defenses from bringing extra defenders in the box.
No. 4 Mark Barron, Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Stat Prediction—96 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to use Mark Barron at strong safety where he'll be allow to play both the run and pass. Expect to see a lot of Barron close to the line of scrimmage and even in blitz packages. Barron's toughness, quickness and instincts will allow him to make plays all over the field.
There's a reason he was selected in the top 10. It's because he has the potential to be a real difference-maker. While Barron will be an asset versus the run, he'll also brings solid coverage. His short-area burst and ability to read a quarterback help him to quickly close on the football.
In the present NFL, tight ends are used a lot in the passing game to create mismatches. However, Barron has the all-around skill set needed to match up and neutralize tight ends.
No. 3 Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
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Stat Prediction—3,111 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 62 percent completion percentage.
Andrew Luck is the new face of the Indianapolis Colts and he'll quickly establish himself as one of the brighter stars in the league. His mental makeup, throwing talent and athleticism will allow him to make a pretty quick transition to the pro level. Expect to see a very successful rookie season out of Luck.
The Indianapolis Colts' roster has more talent than most realize. Holdover wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie bring a veteran presence along with play-making ability. The additions of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen give Luck two excellent tight-end prospects.
Fleener's addition is very important because he already has a strong relationship with Luck. Look for Luck to target Fleener in pressure situations.
I have Luck slightly behind Robert Griffin III because the Redskins will have a more aggressive offensive attack. Indianapolis is going to run a lot of two tight-end sets and look to run the ball more often.
No. 2 Trent Richardson, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
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Stat Prediction—250 carries, 1,232 yards, 4.9 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns.
Trent Richardson will get the touches needed to produce a great stat line. The Cleveland Browns have limited offensive weapons and a rookie quarterback, which means they must rely on Richardson.
Brandon Weeden has a better chance to succeed if the Browns have a strong running game. That takes pressure off the quarterback, lowers the number of passing attempts, draws defenders into the box and helps cut down on turnovers. You can count on the Browns following this line of thinking.
Cleveland also has a decent offensive line that will assist Richardson in finding success. Players like Joe Thomas and Alex Mack do a good job opening running lanes. However, the biggest reason Richardson will flourish is because of his talent level. This guy runs with both power and speed. That allows him to gain yards in many different ways.
No. 1 Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
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Stat Prediction—3,255 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 60 percent completion percentage.
Robert Griffin III is an elite talent who is surrounded by decent talent in Washington. The Redskins coaching staff also gives Griffin III a good chance to succeed. Combining Griffin III's talent and Mike Shanahan's offensive mind will result in success.
Expect to see the deep ball become a major part of the Redskins' game plan. Griffin III has great touch and ability to attack the deep part of the field. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss give Griffin III the weapons needed to excel in this type of attack.
Don't overlook Griffin III's accuracy and feel for the game. He's going to do a good job managing the offense and keeping the sticks moving. His ability to extend plays with his legs will help him create something out of nothing.