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NFL Rookie Report: Grading Every Rookie Class Heading into Week 12

Wes StueveContributor IIINovember 21, 2012

NFL Rookie Report: Grading Every Rookie Class Heading into Week 12

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    2012 has been, in many ways, the year of the rookie. 

    With guys like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III taking the NFL by storm, many other successful rookies have been overlooked. Entire classes have been overlooked.

    Often, a rookie class's success and and the team's success are completely unrelated. Some terrible teams have had superb classes, and some great teams have awful classes.

    We know about the best classes in the NFL, but what about the ones at the bottom and in between? Here, we'll look at them all. 

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee's rookies won't blow anyone away, but there are several solid contributors. First-round wide receiver Kendall Wright isn't dominating, but his 43 receptions for 380 yards aren't bad for a rookie.

    In the second round, the Titans picked up Zach Brown, who has made some plays for the team, picking up 55 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. Defensive tackle Mike Martin has also played, picking up two sacks on the season.

    There are more exciting groups out there, but Tennessee could be doing a lot worse.

    Grade: B

Houston Texans

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    It would be unreasonable to expect much production from Houston's rookies, given the team's depth and talent at the top of the roster. However, the Texans have still gotten some impact from their youngest players.

    First-round pick Whitney Mercilus has picked up some playing time, recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles. Interior lineman Ben Jones has also started some at right guard, to mixed reviews. Keshawn Martin has been a solid return man.

    For a team as good as the Texans, this isn't bad production at all. 

    Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts

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    Let's start with Andrew Luck.

    In some ways, Luck has been incredible for a rookie, but he certainly still has work to do before he is a premier player. His 12-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio shows this.

    Coby Fleener—drafted in the second round—hasn't contributed as expected, catching just 21 passes for 222 yards. Third round tight end Dwayne Allen has been more successful, though, picking up 31 receptions for 349 yards.

    Fifth-rounder Vick Ballard has rushed 105 times for 386 yards, which certainly isn't great, but is still better than expected.

    In this class, the Colts got a future star in Luck along with several other immediate contributors. That's pretty hard to criticize.

    Grade: A

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Until recently, this class was looking terrible. Now, it's still looking pretty bad but significantly less so.

    Justin Blackmon doubled his receiving yards in Week 11 and now has 33 receptions for 486 yards on the year. Whether Blackmon continues to play well throughout the year will be huge for Jacksonville.

    The Jaguars drafted defensive end Andre Branch in the second round and thus far, he has contributed all of one sack. No other rookie, save punter Bryan Anger, has done anything significant.

    Unless Blackmon turns into a star, which isn't looking too likely at the moment, this class looks like a bust.

    Grade: D

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay's first three draft picks are all starting and playing well for the team. No. 7 overall pick Mark Barron has been the least extraordinary, picking up 57 tackles and an interception.

    Fellow first-round pick Doug Martin has played brilliantly, picking up 1,000 yards on 197 carries. Linebacker Lavonte David has 90 tackles on the season.

    With three early draft picks, Tampa Bay hit the mark, picking up three immediate starters. This class is looking excellent.

    Grade: A

Atlanta Falcons

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    Atlanta is starting just a single rookie, and the group isn't getting much playing time, period. Peter Konz was the Falcons' highest-drafted rookie in the second round, and even he has started just four games.

    The Falcons get some slack for the team's overall talent level and the lack of a first-round pick, however. They could certainly use some help on defense right now, though.

    Overall, Atlanta doesn't have a ton of talent in this class. There are a few potential starters down the line, but that's about it.

    Grade: C-

Carolina Panthers

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    Though he got off to a bit of a slow start, No. 9 overall pick Luke Kuechly has turned it around and now has 97 tackles on the season. Kuechly remains a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

    Amini Silatolu has started all season at guard, playing reasonably well. Defensive end Frank Alexander has 2.5 sacks on the season, and cornerback Josh Norman has picked up plenty of playing time.

    The sheer amount of contribution from Panthers' rookies is reason for optimism. Many teams would love to have this type of immediate contribution. The only thing holding it back is a lack of star power. 

    Grade: B

New Orleans Saints

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    New Orleans didn't pick until the third round, where it found its only rookie contributor in Akiem Hicks. With 18 tackles and a forced fumble on the season, Hicks has seen some playing time and done enough to be noticed.

    Hicks has plenty of upside moving forward, but he is likely to be the only contributor from this class. That's not a good thing for the Saints moving forward.

    Grade: D-

Oakland Raiders

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    With no picks until the end of the third round, Oakland was at a distinct disadvantage entering the 2012 NFL draft. Of the Raiders' draft picks, fourth-round linebacker Miles Burris has been the most productive.

    Burris has 51 tackles and a sack on the year, which isn't great but could be worse. No other Raiders' rookie has done anything of note.

    There is still some potential in the Oakland draft class, but there aren't any future stars here.

    Grade: C-

Denver Broncos

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    Denver traded out of the first round in 2012, and the results haven't been great thus far.

    Second-round pick Derek Wolfe has started at defensive end, picking up three sacks while excelling against the run. Third-rounder Ronnie Hillman has gotten just 49 carries for a total of 188 yards.

    Though Denver has one current starter and a couple potential starters down the line here, this class reeks of blah.

    Grade: C- 

San Diego Chargers

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    Considered by some a preseason Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Melvin Ingram has disappointed, to say the least. His 22 tackles and half a sack are nothing to praise.

    Defensive end Kendall Reyes also received rave reviews before the season, but he has picked up a meager 10 tackles, albeit with two sacks. No other rookie has contributed anything of note.

    With A.J. Smith's job on the line, he drafted a group of rookies who have contributed almost nothing. It's not looking good for the longtime general manager.

    Grade: D

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Despite being considered raw, Dontari Poe is already starting and playing well for the Chiefs. Poe hasn't made many impact plays, but he's been solid and consistent.

    At left guard, second-round pick Jeff Allen has struggled. He has been abused by defenders and has a lot of work to do before he's even an average player.

    This class has contributed one solid player thus far, and not much else. Even that solid player was the No. 11 overall pick. 

    Grade: D

St. Louis Rams

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    After trading back with the Redskins and Cowboys, the Rams had a plethora of high draft picks. First-round pick Michael Brockers has shown flashes of dominance but hasn't been brilliant on the year.

    In the second round, St. Louis added wideout Brian Quick, running back Isaiah Pead and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Quick and Pead have struggled, and Jenkins has been inconsistent, showing flashes of dominance and horrible play.

    The Rams' draft class isn't yet paying off huge dividends, but it still has a ton of upside. 

    Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers have not had a single rookie see significant playing time. A.J. Jenkins was criticized early on, and second-round pick LaMichael James has barely seen the field either.

    Sure, San Francisco has a talented roster, but the lack of any contribution here isn't good. Other upper-level teams are seeing value from their rookies. 

    Grade: F

Arizona Cardinals

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    Picked No. 12 overall, Brian Quick has contributed just 20 receptions for 225 yards. There is still potential, but the early signs aren't great for Floyd.

    In the later rounds, Arizona picked up Bobby Massie and Nate Potter who have both started at offensive tackle to poor results. It's good that the young linemen are starting, but their play is disconcerting.

    Thus far, the Cardinals have had rookies play, but the results have been rather negative. Arizona is a team that could use rookie production, and it isn't getting it.

    Grade: D+

Seattle Seahawks

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    With its first four picks, Seattle drafted Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson and Robert Turbin, all of whom have played excellently.

    Irvin has added almost nothing against the run—picking up just 10 tackles—but he leads all rookies with seven sacks. Wagner is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate with 81 tackles, two sacks and excellent play in coverage.

    Everyone knows about Wilson. The undersized quarterback has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,827 yards, 15 touchdowns and a 90.5 quarterback rating. Turbin has rushed for 167 yards in relief of Marshawn Lynch.

    Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Bengals entered the draft with two first-round picks, which they used on Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler. 

    Kirkpatrick has struggled with a knee injury and hasn't been great while on the field. Zeitler, on the other hand, has played well starting at right guard.

    In the third round, Cincinnati added Mohamed Sanu, who has contributed in a variety of ways, picking up 125 receiving yards thus far. Devon Still and Orson Charles have also seen the field.

    A key pickup for Cincinnati came as an undrafted free agent: Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is already starting and has 67 tackles on the year. 

    This class hasn't added any brilliance to the Bengals, but it has added much needed depth with potential in the future.

    Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    First-round pick David DeCastro went down with a knee injury before the season started, and landed on injured reserve. Second-round tackle Mike Adams, however, has seen some time at right tackle.

    Adams has played reasonably well for Pittsburgh, going through streaks of inconsistency, which is to be expected given his raw reputation as a prospect. Chris Rainey has also seen the field as a return man and running back.

    When Pittsburgh gets DeCastro back, this class will look much better. For now, it remains unproven but full of potential.

    Grade: C

Baltimore Ravens

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    With its first pick, Baltimore selected linebacker Courtney Upshaw—who has played plenty, but not spectacularly. The Alabama product has 39 tackles but just half a sack to date.

    Also in the second round, however, the Ravens picked up Kelechi Osemele, who has started at right tackle with positive results. Running back Bernard Pierce has spelled Ray Rice, picking up 179 yards on 42 attempts.

    In the later rounds, Baltimore added a ton of depth with some long-term upside. Right now, this class has produced three contributors and some potential starters down the line. There are, however, no standouts. 

    Grade: C+

Cleveland Browns

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    Cleveland's depth chart is loaded with rookies. No. 22 overall pick Brandon Weeden has played reasonably well, throwing for 2,298 yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson has battled injuries but has gained 959 total yards and six touchdowns.

    At right tackle, second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz starts for the Browns. Supplemental pick Josh Gordon also starts and has 470 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

    Defensively, Billy Winn, John Hughes, James Michael-Johnson and Trevin Wade have all seen plenty of playing time.

    Cleveland hasn't been great in 2012, but without its rookies, it would be much worse. There is a ton of potential in this class.

    Grade: A+

Minnesota Vikings

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    With the No. 4 overall pick, Minnesota selected left tackle Matt Kalil, who has started all season for the Vikings. Kalil hasn't been dominant, but he has been above average.

    Later in the first round, Minnesota drafted safety Harrison Smith. Smith has started all year, but he hasn't been great, as his 56 tackles and one interception demonstrate. He's merely been present.

    Third-round pick Josh Robinson has seen the field plenty and has 37 tackles and a pick to show for it. 

    This class has solid contributors in the early round, but it hasn't yet seen any brilliant play.

    Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay's first-round selection Nick Perry was playing decently prior to suffering a season-ending injury, picking up two sacks in six games. 

    Second-round picks Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward have also contributed. Worthy hasn't been anything extra, picking up two sacks, but Hayward has been fantastic.

    With five interceptions and superb coverage, Hayward has established himself as a more-than-capable starting cornerback. Undrafted free agent Dezman Moses has even added two sacks.

    The Packers remain one of the NFL's best teams, but they have still seen plenty of help from their rookies.

    Grade: A

Chicago Bears

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    Chicago's rookies have suffered plenty of injuries.

    First-round defensive end Shea McClellin has missed time with a concussion but still has 2.5 sacks in limited play. Second-round wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has played in just six games but has 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

    The only other Bears' rookie to hit the field much is fullback Evan Rodriguez, who hasn't yet picked up a carry or reception. 

    Without the injuries, we might be talking about this Chicago class as producing two stars. Until it is healthy, any talk is just speculation.

    Grade: C

Detroit Lions

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    The only rookie to contribute significantly for the Lions is second-round wideout Ryan Broyles. Broyles has picked up 15 receptions and 181 yards in limited play.

    First-round pick Riley Reiff has seen the field mostly in "jumbo" packages. He's played decently but has been unable to unseat either Jeff Backus or Gosder Cherilus at tackle.

    Detroit has disappointed in 2012, and its rookie class hasn't helped. Even good teams need more rookie production than the Lions have gotten.

    Grade: D+

Buffalo Bills

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    In the first round, Buffalo selected cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore has started for the Bills with mixed results. At times, Gilmore has shown flashes of dominance, but he remains far too inconsistent and hasn't picked up any interceptions.

    Then, in the second round, the Bills added tackle Cordy Glenn, who has started on the blind side. Glenn has actually played fairly well protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

    Third-round wideout T.J. Graham has also contributed, catching 17 passes for 125 yards.

    The Bills certainly haven't gotten anything brilliant here, and Gilmore has disappointed a bit. Buffalo could use more of a rookie impact.

    Grade: C-

Miami Dolphins

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    Miami was hoping for big things from No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill, and he hasn't really disappointed. Though he has been inconsistent, Tannehill has shown many positive signs, throwing for 2,120 yards thus far.

    Second-round right tackle Jonathan Martin struggled early but has rebounded and is now playing much better. Third-round defensive end Olivier Vernon has seen the field, recording 2.5 sacks. 

    In the fourth round, the Dolphins got away with theft, drafting Lamar Miller, who has rushed for 145 yards on just 27 carries.

    This class has a ton of potential and is already producing. There is little negative to say here.

    Grade: A

New England Patriots

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    In the first round, New England went defense twice. Defensive end Chandler Jones has been hurt some but still has 34 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles on the year. 

    Fellow first-round pick Dont'a Hightower has also been injured but has 31 tackles and two sacks on the year. In the seventh round, New England took a "risk" on Alfonzo Dennard, and it has paid off, as Dennard currently has three interceptions, including one pick-six.

    The Patriots focused on the defense here, and though it isn't yet paying off, it should down the line. There are several current contributors and a few more potential players down the line.

    Grade: B-

New York Jets

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    In the first round, New York selected the controversial Quinton Coples. Coples certainly hasn't been great, but he has flashed potential, as his two sacks suggest.

    Following a risky pick, the Jets took yet another risk in wideout Stephen Hill. The incredibly talented Hill has 14 receptions for 196 yards and three touchdowns ont he year.

    None of the Jets' rookies are yet dominating, but there is truly elite potential down the road. 

    Grade: C-

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Until recently, first-round pick Fletcher Cox wasn't seeing much playing time, but he's made an impact, as his three sacks and one forced fumble show. The No. 12 overall pick has tons of potential.

    In the second round, Philadelphia added linebacker Mychael Kendricks, who has 48 tackles and a sack on the year.

    Then, third-round pick Nick Foles has played an unfortunate amount for the Eagles. His play has been rough at best. See his one touchdown, three interceptions and three fumbles.

    Fourth-round cornerback Brandon Boykin has played a decent amount with average results. He could be a solid nickelback down the line.

    The Eagles added a ton of potential here and have seen immediate contributions. This team's struggles are not because of the rookies.

    Grade: A-

Dallas Cowboys

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    Dallas pretty much put its class's success on the shoulders of Morris Claiborne. Dallas traded up for him, expecting huge things.

    Claiborne hasn't really disappointed, either. He's gone through his struggles, but he's started all year and been good on the whole, picking up an interception.

    The rest of Dallas's class hasn't really contributed much, however, so Claiborne's success gets overshadowed some.

    Grade: D+

Washington Redskins

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    This draft was all about Robert Griffin III, and RG3 hasn't disappointed. 

    Completing 67.1 percent of his passes, Griffin has thrown for 2,193 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 101.0 quarterback rating. Oh, and he has another 613 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

    Griffin hasn't been the class's only contributor, though. In the sixth round, Washington drafted Alfred Morris, and he has shocked even his biggest supporters, rushing for 869 yards on 184 carries.

    If Griffin keeps progressing, this draft was a huge success. And right now, there is no reason to be anything but optimistic about the young quarterback's future.

    Grade: A+

New York Giants

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    New York's first-round pick David Wilson has barely contributed, save for kickoff returns. He's had just 18 carries for 89 yards on offense.

    In the second round, the Giants added Rueben Randle, who many expected to make a big impact as a rookie. That hasn't happened, though, as Randle has just 11 receptions for 158 yards.

    Jayron Hosley, the team's third-round selection, has contributed, however. The cornerback has seen the field plenty and has both a forced fumble/recovered fumble and an interception on the year.

    The Giants haven't gotten much in the way of immediate contribution here, but there is some explosive potential, especially on offense. For now, though, that is just potential.

    Grade: C-

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