The 2012 NFL draft was absolutely loaded with talent. It was one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, and the first five picks were all offensive players.
That created a huge influx of offensive talent into the league, and the competition for 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year will be fierce as a result.
Here are my current power rankings of the top candidates to take home the award this upcoming season.
When the Cleveland Browns selected Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall, they got the definition of a workhorse back. Richardson has the size, speed, vision, instincts and power to be one of the best running backs in the NFL very soon.
Richardson joins a Browns team that has a seriously struggling offense and will almost surely rely on its running game heavily.
That means the Florida native will be counted on to tote the rock early and often as a rookie. He will also likely be used as a receiver out of the backfield to give a target to whichever quarterback wins the team's job under center.
Don't be surprised if Richardson leads the NFL in touches in 2012. In fact, at this point I consider it likely.
Trent Richardson is quite simply the best, most well-rounded running back to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson in 2007. He is the early favorite to be the NFL's top offensive rookie in 2012.
The Washington Redskins surrendered a boatload of draft picks to move up to the No. 2 spot in April for Robert Griffin III. The Baylor product will be expected to produce right away, as the Redskins have already installed him as the starter under center.
Griffin is a unique talent who has the size, speed, arm strength and smarts to be one of the most explosive players in NFL history. And he will be surrounded by a lot of exciting young talent and weapons—guys like tight end Fred Davis, receiver Pierre Garcon and running back Roy Helu—to help him get acclimated in the pros.
While there will certainly be an adjustment period, Griffin's incredible speed should help get him out of tough spots. RG3 is certainly one to watch for Rookie of the Year.
Simply put, Matt Kalil is the best offensive line prospect I have scouted since Joe Thomas, the No. 3 pick in the '07 draft.
And while offensive linemen don't typically garner votes for the league's top rookie, the USC product is special.
Kalil has the size, strength, intelligence, pedigree and overall ability to step in from day one at left tackle for the Vikings and be a dominant presence. I have said repeatedly that I believe he will be a perennial Pro Bowler and could even make his first trip to the event as a rookie.
While protecting Christian Ponder's blind side, Kalil has the chance to shut down opposing pass-rushers in an NFC North division that is full of them. If he can keep his quarterback clean for most of the season, he'll be in the mix for consideration as the league's top offensive rookie.
Linemen don't usually get this kind of recognition, but Minnesota's first-rounder is a special case.
Some might be shocked that the draft's top pick is this far down the list, and those people obviously haven't seen the roster that will be surrounding him.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts have a long way to go on their climb back to relevance. Luck is a phenomenal talent and clearly the best quarterback to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning back in 1998. But the Stanford product is surrounded by largely untested players on a roster that is simply lacking talent comparable to its anointed savior.
Luck will have to grow along with his teammates, and that will take time. It will be a long, slow process, and I don't expect results to show up in 2012. In fact, it could take several years before Luck begins to show the kind of ability that made countless scouts and front offices drool and sing his praises.
I think he'll have a solid rookie season, and there is a very slight chance he begins to break out toward the end of the year. But expecting Luck to perform miracles with the Colts is a bit much.
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano loves to run the football. And the Bucs traded back into the first round this past draft to get him a versatile, well-rounded RB when they grabbed Doug Martin with the 31st overall pick.
Martin is quick and fast in the open field, has outstanding hands, and can handle a high volume of carries. For a Tampa Bay team expected to compete for a playoff spot, such players are invaluable.
Martin rushed for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns on 617 carries with Boise State. At 5'9" and 219 pounds, he is slightly undersized, but he has shown that he can take the pounding of a featured back.
While LeGarrette Blount is already on the roster, Martin will be more than just a chance-of-pace guy. I expect the rook to be the No. 1 back when the season rolls around, with Blount taking carries in short-yardage situations.
Martin could turn out to be one of the NFL's more productive backs in 2012.