2012 NFL Preseason All-Rookie Team
The NFL preseason is the first real look at a team's rookie talent.
So much hype, so much excitement follows these young men as they transition from college to the pros. Fans (and media) eat up every piece of information about training camp reps, depth charts—you name it!
When the rookies finally take the field, it's difficult to temper enthusiasm and remember what a long season lies ahead of them. Each team and fanbase wants to see an immediate return on their draft investment.
So, which rookies outperformed their peers this preseason?
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Russell Wilson, Seattle
No offense to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, who have both looked solid in their starting roles, but Wilson is the clear choice here after beating out Matt Flynn for the Seahawks' starting job.
Wilson still has a long way to go on his NFL journey, but none of his critics thought he would be a starter so soon, so it would be crazy to start betting against him now. Wilson has electrified the country with his athleticism and passing savvy.
He defied the odds and became one of the feel-good stories of the preseason.
Also Considered: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis; Robert Griffin III, Washington; Nick Foles, Philadelphia.
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Alfred Morris, Washington
It's almost cheating to pick a Mike Shanahan back, but Morris took hold of a crowded backfield and showed he could be a serious contender for carries this season. He even sat out the preseason finale—something normally reserved for starters.
His 195 yards in the preseason is impressive, but not as impressive as his 13.0 yards per carry.
Morris probably won't be "the guy" in Washington's backfield, but he's not going to roll over and accept a seat on the bench either.
Also Considered: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay; Travaris Cadet, New Orleans.
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Rod Streater, Oakland; Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville
No one has gone from zero to hero as quickly this offseason as Streater. Undrafted out of Temple, everyone assumed he would just be a camp body. Instead, he's worked his way into the starting lineup and doesn't look like he's going anywhere once the Raiders' usual starters get healthy.
Blackmon has quickly become the go-to guy for Blaine Gabbert in Mike Mularkey's offense. He's consistently open and always a threat to make a big play once the ball is in his hands.
Also Considered: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis; Damaris Johnson, Philadelphia.
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James Hanna, Dallas
Hanna has filled in admirably since Jason Witten went down and has made a real case that he should remain in the game plan when Witten returns. He's had 10 catches for 111 yards, leading all rookie tight ends, and he has been among the top rookie pass-catchers.
Also Considered: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis.
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Matt Kalil, Minnesota; Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland; Amini Silatolu, Carolina; Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati; Peter Konz, Atlanta
Any quarterback would be lucky to have this group blocking for him.
Kalil's play has improved over the preseason, and while there will clearly be a learning curve, he looks ready to man football's most difficult position. On the right ride, tackle Mitchell Schwartz has solidified Cleveland's line, making it an even bigger strength for the Browns.
At guard, David DeCastro would be here if not for injury, but Silatolu and Zeitler have both played phenomenally well early on. Like Kalil, there have been rookie mistakes, but both of these young men are well on their way.
Center Peter Konz hasn't worked his way into the starting lineup quite yet, but he's taking more reps and is seeing game action with the first-team offense.
Also Considered: Riley Reiff, Detroit; Mike Adams, Pittsburgh.
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Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Andre Branch, Jacksonville; Derek Wolfe, Denver; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia.
Coples, more than any other rookie, looks to be playing with a giant chip on his shoulder. He's racked up three sacks this preseason and looked unblockable at times. If he keeps that up, he could be a serious Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Andre Branch has been a little quieter with 1.5 sacks. He is such a versatile player, expect the Jaguars to play him all over the field, both rushing the passer and dropping back into coverage.
At tackle, Wolfe has outplayed his draft status and looks like he will be a great replacement for Brodrick Bunkley down the road. Fletcher Cox has also gotten a chance to step up because of injuries to the Eagles' front, and he's been solid.
Also Considered: Frank Alexander, Carolina; Vinny Curry, Philadelphia.
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Luke Kuechly, Carolina; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay; Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia
Kuechly isn't leading all rookies in preseason tackles (that honor goes to Keith Tandy of Tampa Bay), but he's seemingly been in every defensive play since putting on an NFL jersey. He's not a complete linebacker yet, but he should put up serious numbers this season.
David has been extremely impressive and has drawn praise from coach Greg Schiano (not an easy task). Kendricks is already the starting strong-side linebacker and looks like a playmaker.
Also Considered: Whitney Mercilus, Houston; Melvin Ingram, San Diego.
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Bill Bentley, Detroit; Mark Barron, Tampa Bay; Keith Tandy, Tampa Bay; Jayron Hosley, New York Giants
Bentley has already worked himself into contention for a starting role for the Lions—not bad for the 85th overall pick. Barron has gotten past some early offseason issues and played extremely well on a Buccaneers team that is amassing more and more young talent.
Keith Tandy and Jayron Hosley are both working (primarily) with their respective second units, but both have played well this preseason. As mentioned earlier, Tandy has led all rookies in tackles. Hosley has looked dynamic in pass coverage, even returning a Mark Sanchez interception 77 yards for a touchdown.
Also Considered: Morris Claiborne, Dallas; Nate Ebner, New England.
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Bryan Anger, Jacksonville; Justin Tucker, Baltimore
Anger would need to be perfect to quiet the skeptics after he was selected in the third round, leading to a chorus of boos from Jaguar fans. With crazy hang-time and a constant ability to flip field position, he's been nearly perfect.
Tucker beat out Billy Cundiff for the starter's job in Baltimore, showing he has accuracy and power. His 53-yarder against Jacksonville slammed the door on Cundiff's days as a Raven.
Also Considered: Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."