Early grades are rolling in for the first 32 NFL players selected in April's draft.
Andrew Luck (first overall) has dazzled in the preseason for a team that expected to spend 2012 rebuilding its roster. With Luck living up to the hype under center, it's now conceivable that the Indianapolis Colts could contend for the AFC South division title this season.
The Philadelphia Eagles needed help with their defense after last season's disappointment, and they found plenty with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (12th overall). The addition of Cox (and fellow rookie Mychal Kendricks), along with linebacker DeMeco Ryans, may give Philly the best front seven in the NFC East.
We rarely see praise bestowed upon a rookie the way that first-year head coach Greg Schiano has done to rookie running back Doug Martin (31st overall). The former Rutgers head coach said that Martin reminded him of one of his old running backs—none other than the amazing Ray Rice.
Other draft picks have encountered adversity early, perhaps none more so than Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon (fifth overall). After pleading guilty to DUI in July, Blackmon finally signed in early August. He's already behind, and even with his blazing on-field speed, he appears unlikely to catch up.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (22nd overall) was handed the starting job before camp even began, contrary to the way that the Miami Dolphins handled Ryan Tannehill. Weeden has struggled, and with Colt McCoy showing positive production in the preseason, the 28-year-old rookie may not even be the best quarterback on his team.
Dre Kirkpatrick (17th overall) is already battling back from a knee fracture to win a starting job in a crowded Bengals defensive backfield. He just came off Cincinnati's PUP list, which makes him a bit of a reach as a "worst," but Kirkpatrick was expected to ascend a depth chart consisting of the likes of Adam Jones, Nate Clements and Terence Newman. The 'Bama product willl have to learn quickly to crack the Week 1 lineup.