Which 2012 NFL Draft Picks Are Looking Like Early Franchise Cornerstones?
Andrew Luck is already proving he's a cornerstone player for the Indianapolis Colts, but he's hardly the only rookie who has made such an impact.
Luck represents the ideal of what NFL teams are looking for in a franchise quarterback. He has the physical skills to get the job done, has the brains to put it all together, and possesses the leadership and poise needed to become a true leader for his team.
The Colts will build around him for the next decade or longer. There are plenty of talented rookies that impact the NFL in a positive way every year, but only a few can make such an impact.
Here are the rookies that are capable of such a tall order.
Trent Richardson: Running Back, Cleveland Browns
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Trent Richardson's stats aren't overly impressive after three games this year, but the rookie hasn't had a ton of running room to make big plays.
For the season, he has rushed for 222 yards on 64 carries with three touchdowns, and he has caught 15 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Richardson is still not 100 percent after minor surgery in August, and once he starts going full bore, he's going to be tough to stop. Just ask Kurt Coleman.
His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes Richardson even more dangerous than Adrian Peterson, who can be routinely seen on the sidelines for third-down plays.
Matt Kalil: Left Tackle, Minnesota Vikings
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Through three games, Matt Kalil has yet to give up a single sack. He's done so against the likes of Aldon Smith and Dwight Freeney, making his unblemished record all the more impressive.
Additionally, Kalil has been excellent in the run game, paving the way for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
Kalil's ability to take on the best pass-rusher of most opposing teams one-on-one makes the entire offensive line better, and he looks like a real keeper to this point in his young career.
Chandler Jones: Defensive End, New England Patriots
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New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones looks downright unblockable at times. The rookie out of Syracuse has made his presence known from Day 1, and he looks like he'll be a dominant player for Bill Belichick for a long time.
Through two games, Chandler has made 10 tackles, forced two fumbles and has tallied one sack.
His ability to pressure the quarterback makes the entire Patriots defense better, and the best part about this young man is that he still has room to grow.
Janoris Jenkins: Cornerback, St. Louis Rams
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St. Louis Rams rookie Janoris Jenkins is one of the most naturally-gifted cornerbacks I've ever seen enter the NFL.
He possesses elite-level instincts, athleticism and fluidity, and his ability to get his hands on passes is simply amazing.
Through three games in his young pro career, Jenkins has collected 17 tackles (14 solo), three defended passes and one interception. He and Cortland Finnegan form one of the most impressive duos at the cornerback position in the NFL.
As long as this young man stays out of trouble and concentrates on football, he's going to be a good one for a long time.
Robert Griffin III: Quarterback, Washington Redskins
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Athleticism, strong arm, pin-point accuracy and swag—Robert Griffin III has it all.
He is the toast of Washington D.C., and though his team is off to a 1-2 start , there is more hope of success for his team and their fans than they've had in years.
Through three games, RG3 has completed 60-of-89 passes for 747 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He has also rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
The only concern I have with RG3 going forward is that he ends up with Michael Vick syndrome and never learns to protect his body. He is the franchise for the Washington Redskins right now. He can't afford to try and gain a couple extra yards when linebackers are flying full-speed ahead to lay into him.
As long as RG3 stays healthy and continues to learn from his mistakes, he and the Redskins will be winners for a long time.
Andrew Luck: Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
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As good as Robert Griffin III is, Andrew Luck is the best rookie in the 2012 NFL draft class, and if I had to choose just one player to start a new franchise, it would be him.
Luck has a better grasp of what it takes to be an NFL quarterback than any rookie I've ever seen. He's doing things now that takes most quarterbacks take two or three years to incorporate into their repertoire. He led his first game-winning drive in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings, and if not for an incredible 80-yard strike from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts, he would have engineered two in a row.
Through three games, Luck has completed 65-of-122 passes for 846 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions.
With a little more help from his offensive line and defense, Luck will win more games than he loses. He is the top quarterback in his draft class, and we may be talking about him becoming the best in the NFL in another two seasons.
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