NFL Rookie Standouts: Buying or Selling Their Long-Term Success

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2012

NFL Rookie Standouts: Buying or Selling Their Long-Term Success

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    Several members of the 2012 NFL draft class have already stood out from the pack through two weeks of the regular season.

    Among them include such obvious standouts like Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson. 

    Others aren't getting as much nationwide attention, but have been equally as impressive as the more famous names. 

    In the following slides, we'll break down whether we're buying or selling the long-term futures of the early-season standouts. 

    Note: All stats are provided by the premium stats portion of Pro Football Focus. 

Robert Griffin III, Redskins

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    There are a number of reasons to buy Griffin's long-term future as the Redskins starting quarterback. 

    For starters, Griffin is completing more than 70 percent of his passes through two games, which is a fantastic mark for a rookie quarterback playing in two straight road games.

    He's also averaging more than 9.5 yards per attempt through 55 attempts, including two touchdown passes over 60 yards. 

    His athleticism out of the pocket is only a bonus. Griffin's 124 rushing yards ranks him 17th in the NFL, although that won't last. But 600-800 rushing yards does appear to be within range if Griffin stays healthy. 


Andrew Luck, Colts

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    The numbers for Luck haven't been off-the-chart good like Griffin, but he's completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 533 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions (75.2 passer rating). 

    But you only needed to see Luck's final drive in Week 2 to buy his long-term future with the Colts. 

    The Minnesota Vikings had just tied the game at 20 with less than a minute remaining, but the Colts' staff had enough trust in the rookie with :31 ticks left to attack downfield and attempt to get into field goal range. 

    Luck calmly completed two passes to get Indianapolis into range, and Adam Vinatieri made the kick—like he's done so many times in his career—as time ran down.

    You have to assume that this won't be the first time Luck wins the Colts a game late in the fourth quarter. 


Doug Martin, Buccaneers

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    Through 20 games, Martin is in the top 15 of NFL running backs in yards, yards after contact, average yards after contact and missed tackles created. 

    Martin has also proven to be a capable receiver and blocker.

    If that combination of skills doesn't scream long-term success at the running back position, I'm not sure what does. 

    As long as Martin stays healthy (he had more than 700 total touches at Boise State), he'll be one of the better backs in the NFL. There's Ray Rice-like potential here with Martin. 


Trent Richardson, Browns

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    There were some worries after Richardson's Week 1 stinker, but those concerns were mostly put to bed after he showed Sunday exactly why so many were high on him coming out of Alabama.

    Richardson averaged more than six yards between the tackles, while also catching four passes for 36 yards including a 23-yard score in the passing game. He's a versatile back who can carry the load like a traditional back in the power running game. 

    The Browns need to continue building around Richardson for him to reach his professional potential, but there's enough individual talent here to think he can carry a football team for stretches. 


Cordy Glenn, Bills

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    Among rookie offensive linemen, Glenn's two games as the Bills' left tackle may rank him as the best of the bunch. 

    One hundred and thirty-nine of C.J. Spiller's NFL-high rushing yards have come off the left side of the Bills offensive line, where Glenn has been the anchor. 

    Glenn has also been surprisingly good in the passing game, allowing just two hurries and no sacks or hits in two games. Neither the New York Jets or Kansas CIty Chiefs' defenders could get around the monster left tackle. 

    In the second round, the Bills may have found a franchise left tackle. 


Matt Kalil, Vikings

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    The most impressive pass-blocking rookie has clearly been Kalil. 

    In two games and 52 pass-blocking snaps, Kalil has allowed just a single hurry. Little pressure has come to Christian Ponder's blindside because of Kalil. 

    Of course, the Vikings haven't faced a tough pass rush yet. Neither the Jaguars nor Colts are good pressure teams, but Kalil has done exactly what Minnesota has asked of him: make the left tackle position a non-worry. 

    Through two games, Kalil has accomplished that task, and it looks like he'll continue that task for the next 10 years. 


Chandler Jones, Patriots

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    If Jones' first two games as a Patriot are any indication, New England has potentially found the game's next great pass rusher. 

    Against the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals, Jones has produced two hits, one sack, plus a league-high two forced fumbles. He's been unblockable for stretches as the Patriots' defensive end. 

    Talented pass rushers don't always translate into instant success at the NFL level, but Jones has. What isn't there to buy here?


Mychal Kendricks, Eagles

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    The tackle numbers don't jump off the page for Kendricks (nine solo, 10 total) through two games, but he's been considerably better at outside linebacker than anything the Eagles threw out last season. 

    The rookie from Cal has been all over the field for Philadelphia in 2012, contributing a tackle for a loss and defending on the Ravens' fourth down throw to Ray Rice in Week 2. Kendricks had the play perfectly diagnosed and Joe Flacco had to make an erratic throw. 

    His impact defending the pass has been his most impressive attribute. 

    No one's completely sold on Kendricks just yet, but he has helped the Eagles in two games already. A few more performances like Sunday and I'll be sold as one of the NFL's up-and-coming 4-3 strong-side linebackers. 


Harrison Smith, Vikings

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    Smith made the first big play of his NFL career in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars, batting away a short throw by Blaine Gabbert to set up fourth down. 

    He continued that momentum in the Vikings' Week 2 contest in Indianapolis. 

    Smith was charged with just two catches for 11 yards, and he also made five tackles and three stops (or tackles that result in a negative play for the offense). Over 70 snaps, PFF gave Smith a +2.9 grade.

    Like Kendricks, we need to see Smith consistently play this well to be 100 percent sold on his future as the Vikings' strong safety, but early returns are very good for a player that went somewhat overlooked last April.