Besides big-name, big-money free agents, few other groups of players face more pressure heading into a season than NFL rookies.
Part of the pressure comes from the unknown: No one really knows what to expect from rookies, but the potential to be great for each high pick brings with it a tremendous amount of pressure to perform, especially early on.
In the following slides, we break down the rookies under the most pressure as the 2012 season inches closer.
The reasons why Luck has a great deal of pressure on him in Year 1 are fairly obvious.
He's the No. 1 overall pick, which immediately puts a certain amount of pressure on any player, no matter how highly regarded Luck is. The top picks have certain expectations placed on them that no other pick really does.
But he's also replacing one of the game's all-time greats in Peyton Manning, and that alone is enough for Luck to be on this list. Aaron Rodgers has made replacing Brett Favre look somewhat easy, but what Luck is about to embark on is anything but easy.
Thanks again for those who posted comments insisting Luck be on this list. He absolutely deserved a spot.
Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the list of quarterbacks who have started a significant amount of games for the franchise is a scary one.
In 2012, that list should add first-round pick Brandon Weeden. On Monday, the Browns officially announced Weeden as their starting quarterback for the start of this season.
Will Weeden be the answer 14 years later? Or is he going to go up in flames like the rest of his quarterbacking peers in Cleveland? There's plenty of pressure on Weeden to ensure the first scenario becomes reality.
Andrew Luck arrives in Indianapolis as one of the highest-rated college quarterbacks ever, but his Colts team isn't expected to win many games in 2012. The same can't be said for Griffin III.
The Redskins have the pieces in place—on both sides of the ball—for a turnaround season in the nation's capital. Maybe even the postseason is attainable if things fall right.
But if either of those scenarios are going to happen, Griffin III will have to be the engine.
He's dynamic in every sense of the word, and the talent is there for Griffin to be that engine. But there's arguably more hype surrounding him heading into this season than there is for any other rookie in the 2012 draft. He'll have to deal with that pressure every week.
Think there can't be pressure on defensive rookies? Think again, especially in Perry's case.
The Packers went 15-1 last season and featured one of the best offenses in NFL history, but the defense couldn't stop a nose bleed. With zero pass rush, quarterbacks had time to eat a sandwich and still deliver a completion from the pocket in 2011.
That's where Perry comes in. Drafted in the first round, Perry will be expected to provide a pass-rushing threat opposite Clay Matthews in 2012. He's big (265-270 pounds), explosive around the edge and violent with his hands.
But making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker isn't an easy one, and it's going to take time for Perry to make an impact. If he can get comfortable at some point in 2012, the Packers are a favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
A year ago, the Dallas Cowboys were likely a playoff team—and the Giants not—if the pass defense could've held a lead late.
This offseason, Dallas did something about that problem.
The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr from the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, and then they drafted the top cornerback in LSU's Morris Claiborne a month or so later.
If Carr and Claiborne can help turn around the Cowboys' defense in 2012, this should be a playoff team. There's too much talent in other areas.
If the Dallas secondary continues to struggle, however, who knows? Dallas could finish fourth in the NFC East.
Courtney Upshaw appeared to fall into the perfect situation back in April. By landing in Baltimore, he could be used in a specialized role that could maximize his impact early in his NFL career.
However, Terrell Suggs' injury this offseason means the onus is on Upshaw to help pick up the slack. Suggs, who is the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss a big chunk (if not all) of the 2012 season.
Can Upshaw replace Suggs' production? No, and no one is expecting him to. But he still needs to be an important part of this defense while Suggs is recovering. If he disappears, the Ravens could have a problem on their hands.
If we're talking about the literal term of "pressure," it's possible no rookie will be facing as much as the Vikings' Matt Kalil.
Pegged as the starting left tackle in Minnesota, Kalil will be facing a myriad of talented pass-rushers next season.
In the division: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Cliff Avril, Nick Perry, Shea McClellin and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Non-division opponents: Dwight Freeney, Justin Smith, Brian Orakpo and Chris Long, among others.
Life as an NFL left tackle is never easy—in any season—but we'll get to see just how good Kalil is during his first season. There's not many weeks he doesn't face a top pass-rusher.