NFL Rookie Report: Grading Every Rookie Class Heading into Week 11
The 2012 NFL draft class is shaping up to be a very impactful group. Players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Bruce Irvin all look like strong long-term contributors.
However, not every team was lucky enough to land high-impact players.
Look through the rest of the article to see an updated grade for each team's rookie class through Week 11.
Dallas Cowboys: C+
Impact Rookies: James Hanna, Lance Dunbar, Tyrone Crawford, Morris Claiborne, Kyle Wilber
The Dallas Cowboys rookie class is headed by cornerback Morris Claiborne. Because of his talent and the need at cornerback, Jerry Jones and company made an aggressive move to bring Claiborne into the mix.
While showing signs of promise, Claiborne has also had his share of problems. His biggest issue he faces is his tendency to play too much with his hands. Too often, he has been called for defensive holding or an interference call.
Once he cleans up this problem Claiborne will be one of the better young cornerbacks in the league.
The rest of Dallas' rookie class features complementary players like James Hanna, Lance Dunbar and Tyrone Crawford. Each of these players see the bulk of their time on special teams, but they also see some snaps on either offense or defense.
Overall, the grade of this group depends heavily on Claiborne.
New York Giants: C+
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Impact Rookies: Rueben Randle, David Wilson and Jayron Hosley
The New York Giants are receiving solid contributions from three rookies. Rueben Randle, David Wilson and Jayron Hosley all have a specific role the Giants ask them to fulfill. While each receives snaps, none is a major contributor.
At this point, Hosley sees the most playing time outside of a special teams role. The Giants work him in on nickel and dime situations. He has been forced into action mainly because of injuries, but Hosley has shown a lot of promise. His playing time should continue to remain steady as long as he avoids major mistakes.
Randle and Wilson both get spot snaps on the offensive side of the ball. However, both make the most of their contributions as return men. Wilson has already established himself as one of the more dangerous kick returners in the league.
New York will get most of the value from this class down the road. These are all players with good upside that are being slowly worked into the rotation.
Philadelphia Eagles: A
Impact Rookies: Damaris Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Nick Foles, Bryce Brown, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin
For as disappointing as this season has been for the Philadelphia Eagles, they received solid production from their rookie class. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin made the most impact early in the season. Each played a major role in helping the Eagles defense show minor improvements.
Philadelphia has recognized the talent of this trio, and there's no doubt they'll be counted on as an important part of the future.
Bryce Brown is proving to be one of the better steals of the draft. He's done an excellent job backing up LeSean McCoy. The biggest surprise is how quickly he developed as a pass protector. This is why he's now seen as a potential every-down back.
In limited time this past weekend Foles looked pretty good. He showed a lot of poise and a strong throwing arm. However, he also had more than a few rookie mistakes.
Washington Redskins: A-
Impact Rookies: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Kirk Cousins
Robert Griffin III has been one of the more impressive rookies this season. His ability to help keep the Washington Redskins competitive is exciting. The Redskins could easily have a winless record if it wasn't for Griffin.
While Griffin is an electrifying athlete, it's his accuracy and ability to run the offense that are the most important parts of his skill set. This is why the Redskins must feel really good about the future of the franchise.
Alfred Morris is arguably the biggest steal of the entire 2012 draft. His emergence stabilized the Redskins rushing attack and gave Griffin someone to help limit the pressure. Morris' tough and one-cut running style is a great fit for Mike Shanahan's system.
The combination of Griffin and Morris gives Washington two very high-impact rookies. This is the reason why the Redskins' grade is so high. They lack the overall class depth, but make up for it with these two studs.
Buffalo Bills: B+
Impact Rookies: Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, and Ron Brook
It's been a tough season for Stephon Gilmore, as he's been targeted by the opposing offense each week. His struggles are typical for a young cornerback in a passing league. While he has had his share of problems, Gilmore still possesses a ton of potential.
This season will serve as a learning experience for the young rookie. Gilmore's good work ethic and natural ability is why he will be able to correct his problems.
Cordy Glenn's season was put on hold for a few weeks because of an injury. However, he's still proving to be a very effective offensive tackle. His ability to play with balance, quickness and strength helps him play a strong all-around game. Glenn is the Buffalo Bills' future at the left tackle position.
One of the bigger surprises of the Bills draft class is the development of Nigel Bradham. He earned the starting strong-side linebacker job and has shown good quickness and instincts.
This class has a lot of major contributors with a ton of upside. Buffalo added as many as three potential long-term starters.
Miami Dolphins: A-
Impact Rookies: Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin, Lamar Miller, Kheeston Randall, Olivier Vernon
Ryan Tannehill's quick development is one of the bigger surprises of the 2012 draft class. For the most part, he has been able to avoid a ton of mistakes while helping the Miami Dolphins win some football games.
There was never any doubt about Tannehill's physical talents, but his play at Texas A&M suggested he needed more time to learn the position. The surprise is that he's shown a good feel for the pocket, how to read a defense and the ability to locate open targets.
Miami should feel optimistic about the future of its franchise because of Tannehill's development.
Jonathan Martin had his share of problems early in the season, but is really starting to play good football. His use of leverage and quick feet have allowed him to do a good job protecting the quarterback. He isn't the type that generates a push off the line in the running game, but he is capable of sealing the defender from the play.
The Dolphins defense has gotten good production out of Olivier Vernon and Kheeston Randall. These two have played well enough to earn time as part of the defensive line rotation. Both players figure to have a future with the team going forward.
New England Patriots: A
Impact Rookies: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard
The New England Patriots 2012 draft class has made a major impact on the defensive side of the ball. Actually, the defense and special teams are the only areas that benefited from the 2012 draft. As it stands, New England has four rookies in its starting lineup.
Chandler Jones is New England's top pass-rushing threat even though he's a rookie. His quickness off the edge, high motor and use of leverage is what allows him to generate pressure. Jones currently has a total of six sacks, but those numbers are deceiving because he's constantly disrupting the timing in the backfield.
The linebacking corps got a major boost from the addition of Dont'a Hightower. He's a well-rounded player who can rush the passer, drop in coverage and support the run. His addition gives the Patriots one of the better young linebacker groups in the league.
Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard quickly earned starting roles in the secondary. Both are hard-nosed players who possess a good feel for the game. However, each has had his share of rookie mistakes.
Despite those mistakes, Wilson and Dennard should have a solid future in New England.
New England receives a high grade here because it filled a bunch of needs, found two top-end players and depth in the later rounds. Overall, this is a very solid draft.
New York Jets: C+
Impact Rookies: Stephen Hill, Quinton Coples and DeMario Davis
The New York Jets are in the middle of a very disappointing season. However, they have received some solid contributions from their rookie class. There isn't a lot of depth to this group, but three players have emerged as building blocks for the future.
Stephen Hill is still a work in progress, but he has flashed a ton of potential. His impact this season has been limited because of the Jets' problems at the quarterback position. A rookie wide receiver has enough issues adjusting to the league, so having an ineffective quarterback only adds to the problems.
New York's defense has received a surprising boost from linebacker DeMario Davis. He has moved into Bart Scott's starting spot and established himself as a player with high upside. Davis possesses a ton of quickness and tenacity. He makes plays all over the field.
The inconsistent use of Quinton Coples continues to boggle my mind. When in the lineup, Coples has played well. He has done a good job using his speed and strength to generate pressure on the quarterback. Coples has also used leverage to hold up against the run.
Coples' problems might be rooted in the fact that he's playing out of position. He's not a a good fit for the five-technique position, as he is a better fit at defensive end in a 4-3 defense.
Arizona Cardinals: C+
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Impact Rookies: Bobby Massie, Michael Floyd, Nate Potter and Jamell Fleming
Michael Floyd's production and snaps have significantly increased over the past few weeks. It appears that he has finally earned the trust of the coaching staff. His role going forward should only continue to grow. However, that doesn't mean he'll put up big numbers.
Like the rest of the Arizona Cardinals receiving corps, Floyd is hurt by the inconsistent play of the quarterbacks.
Bobby Massie and Nate Potter have been thrust into major roles along the offensive line. They've been forced into duty because of injuries and poor play by veterans like D'Anthony Batiste. While both have seen a lot of playing time, the results have been mixed.
These are two very raw offensive tackles who need time to grow and correct problems with their technique. This is why both have been exposed by the more seasoned pass-rushers in the league. Of the two, Massie has the most upside and should figure into the Cardinals' long-term plans.
Jamell Fleming continues to see time in both nickel and dime situations. He has provided solid coverage and good depth.
Arizona gets a middle-of-the-road grade because of the limited impact by Floyd so far this season. If he has a strong end-of-the-season run, this grade could significantly rise.
San Francisco 49ers: F
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Impact Rookies: None
The San Francisco 49ers are getting no contributions from their rookie class. Top picks like A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James are routinely inactive. Their inability to get on the active roster is more about the San Francisco's veteran depth than a lack of talent.
However, it's still concerning that the 49ers don't feel comfortable giving any rookie a chance. The hope at this point is that this group can develop and make contributions in future seasons.
Luckily, the 49ers haven't needed the rookies to contribute, as they're in solid position to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks: A
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Impact Rookies: Russell Wilson, J.R. Sweezy, Robert Turbin, Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner
Russell Wilson's strong start to his career has been one of the more interesting storylines to come out of the 2012 draft. He's found a way to overcome concerns about his size, heading to a team with a newly signed free-agent quarterback and a less-than-stellar surrounding cast to put up good numbers.
The biggest factors in Wilson's success are his ability to limit turnovers and make plays down the field. This allows the Seattle Seahawks to rely on a strong running game and excellent defense. Wilson is playing within the game plan, and that's why the Seahawks are in position to make the playoffs.
Seattle's pass-rush has received a significant boost from the addition of Bruce Irvin. His quickness off the edge and good closing burst has allowed him to register a total of seven sacks on the season. The Seahawks are doing a great job using him as a situational pass-rusher.
While Irvin has made a major impact, Bobby Wagner is the rookie standout on the defensive side of the ball. He's already the team's leading tackler, as well as the one making the defensive calls. Wagner has a very bright future in the NFL.
St. Louis Rams: B+
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Impact Rookies: Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Michael Brockers, Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlein
The St. Louis Rams are a very young team and have several rookies making major contributions. This draft class features top picks like Michael Brockers and Janoris Jenkins, but also boasts late-round steals like Daryl Richardson.
Richardson has emerged as a solid backup and complementary piece to running back Steven Jackson. His quick burst and shiftiness has allowed him to average an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Most expected Isaiah Pead to seize the No. 2 running back job, but Richardson has been far more impressive.
Due to an injury, Michael Brocker's season got off to a slow start. However, he's now starting to show why he was selected in the first round. Brockers is a powerful player who's doing a great job holding at the point of attack. His addition gives the Rams a great complement to edge rushers like Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
Janoris Jenkins is having a terrific season, but his recent suspension is a major concern. There's no questioning his talent, but the character issues could limit his overall potential. It's not wrong to really look into this situation, as he has a long history of issues.
Denver Broncos: C
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Impact Rookies: Ronnie Hillman, Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and Omar Bolden
The Denver Broncos are slowly bringing along the majority of their rookie class. Only Derek Wolfe is receiving steady and significant playing time. However, the rest of the group have shown signs that they could have a future role with the team.
Both Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan are being worked in at their respective positions. They have the physical tools to develop into solid contributors. Trevathan's quickness and athleticism are why John Fox feels comfortable playing him in passing situations.
Ronnie Hillman started the season off slowly, as he wasn't even active for the first few games. However, he has now taken over the No. 2 running back role. His quick burst makes him a good complement to starter Willis McGahee.
Denver is lining Wolfe up at defensive end, which puts him a little bit out of position. He's more of a three-technique defensive tackle. However, the fact that the Broncos get a good pass-rush from linebacker Von Miller allows Wolfe to play defensive end. He isn't asked to rush the passer as much as he would if Miller wasn't in the lineup.
Kansas City Chiefs: C
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Impact Rookies: Jeff Allen and Dontari Poe
Dontari Poe still has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential. However, he's making noticable improvement each and every week. The biggest reason for the development is the fact that Poe is utilizing better technique.
His commitment to keeping his pads low has allowed him to hold at the point of attack better. It has also helped him generate a good push on the pocket. For as bad as this season has been for the Kansas City Chiefs, they need to feel good about Poe's progress.
Jeff Allen has really struggled after filling in for Ryan Lilja, who took over for the injured Rodney Hudson. Allen's struggles aren't much of a surprise because he is being forced to make the switch from tackle to guard. However, he showed much more talent in college than he is showing in Kansas City.
Oakland Raiders: C
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Impact Rookies: Tony Bergstrom, Rod Streater, Juron Criner, Jack Crawford and Miles Burris
For having such a limited amount of draft assets, the Oakland Raiders did a good job bringing in usable pieces. They even found some good depth for the wide receiver position by adding Rod Streater and Juron Criner. That depth was very important early in the season because of all injuries suffered by the Raiders wide receivers.
Both Criner and Streater have seen their playing time and production drop off in recent weeks. This is because starters like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore are now healthy. Neither of the rookies possesses a ton of upside, but they are nice depth players.
The most important rookie addition is Miles Burris. His athleticism and instincts allowed him to earn a starting linebacker job. He has a very bright future with this team, as he's still a bit raw with his best football ahead of him.
San Diego Chargers: C-
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Impact Rookies: Michael Harris, Kendall Reyes and Melvin Ingram
The San Diego Chargers rookie class boasts a lot of talent but hasn't performed at a high level this season. Melvin Ingram's inability to generate pressure on the quarterback has been a major disappointment. His half-a-sack total is nowhere near the number the Chargers expected.
However, the Chargers aren't really using him in the best possible way. Too often, they drop him back in coverage rather than have him attack the edge. Ingram can hold his own in coverage, but his greatest attribute is his pass-rushing ability.
The biggest surprise for San Diego has been the play of left tackle Michael Harris. He was forced into the starting lineup after Jared Gaither suffered an injury. Harris has had his share of struggles, but he is showing signs of progress.
Kendall Reyes continues to be a part of the defensive line rotation. He's a strong run defender and possesses the quickness to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Reyes just needs to improve his technique before he reaches his full potential.
Overall, this group receives a lower grade because of Ingram's poor start.
Chicago Bears: C-
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Impact Rookies: Alshon Jeffery, Evan Rodriguez, Shea McClellin
The Chicago Bears rookie class got off to a fast start, but has faded as of late. Alshon Jeffery's injury plays a major role in that fact. However, Shea McClellin hasn't recorded a full sack since the second week of the season. His lack of production has resulted in others like Corey Wootton getting more snaps.
This shouldn't come as much of a shock, as McClellin is someone that needs time to fully develop.
The one surprise of this group is Evan Rodriguez. In college, Rodriguez was a pass-catching tight end who wasn't know for his blocking. However, he has done a great job as a lead blocker for Matt Forte. His ability to get through the hole and seal off the linebacker has had a major impact.
Jeffery is expected back in the next few weeks and should regain his role in the offense. Chicago's passing attack hasn't been the same since his injury.
Detroit Lions: C-
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Impact Rookies: Riley Reiff, Jonte Green and Bill Bentley
The Detroit Lions aren't getting much production from their rookie class. Top-pick Riley Reiff has been relegated to backup duties and special team appearances. His contributions will come down the road, as he's the long-term replacement for Jeff Backus at left tackle.
Due to a season-ending injury to Bill Bentley, Jonte Green is the only real rookie contributor on either offense or defense. Green needs a lot of work, but he has shown good upside potential. He could be someone that eventually takes hold of a starting job at some point in his career.
Green Bay Packers: B-
Impact Rookies: Jerel Worthy, Nick Perry, Jerron McMillian and Casey Hayward
Nick Perry's injury has impacted the overall production of the Green Bay Packers rookie class. However, others like Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward are still in the mix. Green Bay realized that it needed a lot of help on defense, and that's why the top four performers are all on the defensive side of the ball.
Worthy's impact this season has been hit or miss. This is similar to the way he played in college, as there were times when he disappeared. However, his quickness and natural strength give him the potential to develop over time. As it is, he's still a part of the defensive line rotation.
Green Bay's secondary is getting a major boost from Hayward and Jerron McMillian. Hayward currently leads the team with four interceptions. More importantly, both players are doing a good job avoiding mistakes and providing strong coverage.
Because of Green Bay's high powered offense, the defense needs to be prepared for the opposing team to try and keep pace.
Before his injury, Perry's season was a bit of a disappointment. He wasn't able to really take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities created by Clay Matthews. His sack total of two isn't what the Packers expected.
Perry's performance is a disappointment, but the play of Hayward and McMillian have more than made up for that.
Minnesota Vikings: A-
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Impact Rookies: Matt Kalil, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh
The Minnesota Vikings added three long-term starters and a few players with good upside during the 2012 draft. Matt Kalil already established himself as one of the better young left tackles in the NFL. His balance, quick shuffle and nastiness have allowed him to both open running lanes and protect the quarterback.
It's very difficult to find a top-notch left tackle, so the Vikings should feel great that they filled that hole.
Harrison Smith is already a leader on the defensive side of the ball. Not only does he make plays all over the field, he also does a good job directing traffic. Smith is the guy that ensures everyone is lined up in the right position.
Jarius Wright and Josh Robinson possess the athleticism to develop into solid contributors. Wright has already showed his potential with his three-catch, 65-yard performance this past week against the Detroit Lions. His speed makes him a real threat down the field.
Baltimore Ravens: B
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Impact Rookies: Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce and Courtney Upshaw
The injury to Terrell Suggs and free-agent departure of Jarret Johnson opened the door for Courtney Upshaw to make an early impact. Upshaw has quickly developed into a solid all-around player for the Baltimore Ravens.
He doesn't have good pass-rushing numbers, but what he brings as a run defender is more important. His ability to set the edge and disengage allows him to make plays against the run. Upshaw's tenacity plays a role in his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
His skill set most closely resembles that of Johnson, so look for Upshaw to find a more solidified role as he gets used to playing with Suggs.
Running back Bernard Pierce doesn't get much work because Ray Rice is an every-down back. However, Pierce has impressed in the little bit of playing time he has received. He may never be a No. 1 type running back, but he's more than a solid backup.
Kelechi Osemele has had his share of growing pains, but the youngster is improving each week at the right tackle spot. The experience he is gaining this season will be important down the road.
Cincinnati Bengals: B-
Impact Rookies: Mohamed Sanu, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Vontaze Burfict and Dre Kirkpatrick
Undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict has made the biggest impact among a large and talented Cincinnati Bengals draft class. His strong play on the field isn't much of a surprise, as he's an extremely talented football player. However, the fact that's been able to keep his character issues in check is surprising.
Cincinnati took a risk on Burfict and it is paying off.
The other major contributor for the Bengals is Kevin Zeitler. His play along the offensive line has helped open running lanes and protect the quarterback. Playing guard doesn't garner a lot of media attention, but Zeitler is having a solid rookie season.
The Bengals are starting to work the versatile Mohamed Sanu into the offensive mix. They've already featured him as a wide receiver, running back and wildcat quarterback. He's still developing as a receiver, but he's talented enough to continue to make an impact this season.
In the upcoming weeks we'll get a better look at Dre Kirkpatrick. It's tough to grade his performance so far because he has missed a lot of the season with an injury.
Cleveland Browns: A-
Impact Rookies: Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz, Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, John Hughes, Billy Winn, James-Michael Johnson, L.J. Fort, Trevin Wade
Despite struggling through another losing season, the Cleveland Browns future looks bright because of its 2012 draft class. They added potential top-end talents like Josh Gordon and Trent Richardson, as well as good rotational players like Billy Winn and John Hughes.
However, the long-term success of this class depends on the development of quarterback Brandon Weeden. Cleveland added him to the mix because it felt he had the potential to be the long-term starter.
His season so far has actually been very solid. Weeden has made his share of mistakes, but he also isn't getting a lot of help. It's tough for a young quarterback to have to deal with a young and inconsistent wide receiver group.
There's no telling where his future will lead, but he's done enough to earn another year as the starter.
I can't talk about this draft class without mentioning the late-round value of the group. Winn, James-Michael Johnson, John Hughes and Trevin Wade are all players that should stick on the roster. Johnson has already shown he has the ability to be a long-term starter at linebacker.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D
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Impact Rookies: Chris Rainey
The Pittsburgh Steelers draft class has been decimated by injuries. Losing first-round pick David DeCastro during the preseason was a major blow. This forced the Steelers to really shuffle around the offensive line.
DeCastro still possesses the potential to develop into a very good guard, but it'll be tough for him to make an impact this season.
Because of his explosiveness, offensive coordinator Todd Haley hoped to get Chris Rainey involved with the offense. However, Rainey has struggled to provide the explosive plays to earn more touches. In the past five games, he only has a total of 12 touches.
Another disappointment has been the lack of development by left tackle Mike Adams. Pittsburgh gave him every opportunity to earn a starting job, but his lack of focus and spotty technique resulted in a demotion.
Atlanta Falcons: C-
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Impact Rookies: Peter Konz and Charles Mitchell
It took several weeks but the Atlanta Falcons are starting to see some production from their rookie class. Peter Konz has been inserted into the starting lineup at right guard. He's making an immediate impact because of his size, use of leverage and strong leg push.
Konz's natural position is at center, but Todd McClure currently holds that job. However, McClure is 35 years old and at the end of his career. This means we'll likely see Konz at center at sometime in the next few seasons.
Carolina Panthers: A-
Impact Rookies: Amini Silatolu, Frank Alexander, Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman, Brad Nortman
The Carolina Panthers defense has received a major boost from rookies like Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and Frank Alexander. This group gives Carolina three players that have the potential to be long-term starters. It also gives them a possible elite player in Kuechly.
His leadership and strong play helped the Panthers overcome the injury to Jon Beason. Kuechly is a natural playmaker with the ability to make impact plays all over the field. He not only leads the team in tackles, but also in interceptions.
Alexander's ability to earn a role along the defensive line is important. He has shown good quickness off the ball and potential as a pass-rusher. At the very least, Alexander will be a good rotational player for the next several seasons.
The Panthers took a chance on Norman and it's really paying off. He's a physical defender who has a nose for the football. His tenacity allows him to line up against the opponent's top target and give him a challenge.
Overall, this is a strong class with several long-term contributors.
New Orleans Saints: D+
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Impact Rookies: Akiem Hicks and Corey White
Because of a lack of draft assets, the New Orleans Saints aren't getting much production from their 2012 rookie class. Corey White is the one player that sees consistent playing time, and he's been part of the reason the secondary has struggled.
White is a physical player who's prone to getting to aggressive with his run support. However, his tenacity and high motor means there's a good chance for him to improve.
Akiem Hicks is a project player with good size and natural athleticism. This is what makes him a high-upside player, but he's having a minimal impact this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
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Impact Rookies: Doug Martin, Lavonte David and Mark Barron
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012 draft class doesn't feature a lot of depth, but it boasts three top-end starters. Tampa Bay now has a long-term answer at running back, outside linebacker and safety because of this draft.
Doug Martin has received the most attention of the Tampa Bay rookies. His explosive stretch quickly established him as a legitimate threat to win the rookie of the year award. As it stands, Martin currently ranks No. 5 in the NFL in rushing yards.
While Martin gets all the attention, Lavonte David is having an equally impressive rookie season. David leads the Buccaneers in tackles, and is constantly around the football. His quickness and instincts allow him to make impact plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Don't be surprised if David is in the discussion when it comes time to vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Houston Texans: C
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Impact Rookies: Keshawn Martin, Ben Jones and Whitney Mercilus
The Houston Texans haven't needed much production from their rookie class, as they have plenty of talent on the roster. However, Ben Jones has been able to work his way into the starting lineup at guard. He is going through some ups and downs, but still has shown potential.
Jones' natural position is at center, so there's a chance he gets shifted to that position later in his career.
Whitney Mercilus is a talented pass-rusher who has shown flashes so far this season. However, he's struggling to see the field because of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Mercilus will get a chance, but that might not come until next season.
The Texans are working Keshawn Martin in at wide receiver on occasion. However, they're more willing to go with two tight ends than give Martin too many opportunities.
Indianapolis Colts: A+
Impact Rookies: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill and Vick Ballard
There's no doubt that the Indianapolis Colts are in the running for a playoff spot because of Andrew Luck. His play so far this season is setting a whole new bar for rookie quarterbacks. He's not only putting up good numbers, but also helping his team win games.
It's important to note that his success is coming despite being surrounded largely by younger players. Reggie Wayne is the only veteran player making a huge impact. Luck's ability to make players like T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener better is very impressive.
However, those three have also done their part to make an impact. Hilton's speed is something Bruce Arians obviously wants to work into the game plan.
Indianapolis' defense is really the main issue for the team right now. Look for the Colts to target that side of the ball in the upcoming draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: D
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Impact Rookies: Justin Blackmon, Bryan Anger and Andre Branch
Justin Blackmon has been one of the bigger disappointments from the 2012 draft class. His inability to make a major impact for the Jacksonville Jaguars has really limited the offense's production. Blackmon is really struggling to find open holes in the defense, run clean routes and generate separation.
Of course, he isn't getting much help by the poor quarterback play in Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert just doesn't have the talent to really make use of Blackmon.
Andre Branch is having a tough time putting pressure on the quarterback. If he is unable to pick up his production at the end of the season Jacksonville will be forced to bring in someone else. There's a great chance the Jags target a pass-rusher in the upcoming draft.
Punter Bryan Anger has been a bright spot, but it's tough to get excited over a punter on a terrible team.
Tennessee Titans: C+
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Impact Rookies: Kendall Wright, Mike Martin and Zach Brown
Kendall Wright has fallen victim to the inconsistent quarterback play with the Tennessee Titans. The duo of Jake Locker and Matthew Hasselbeck haven't done a great job utilizing Wright's game-breaking ability. However, Wright has still managed to have a strong showing this season.
He's currently tied with Nate Washington for the team lead with four touchdown receptions.
Zach Brown has been forced into action because of injury. Because of his athleticism he's been able to hold his own. However, Brown needs more time to learn the ins and outs of the position. His play this season at least shows the Titans he has a future as a starter.