Grading Top New England Patriots Rookies for the 2012 Season

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Grading Top New England Patriots Rookies for the 2012 Season
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are two days away from starting another playoff run, and—as has has been the case for the past decade-plus—veterans are leading the way in Foxborough.

Tom Brady runs the offense. Vince Wilfork anchors the defensive line. Jerod Mayo leads the linebacking corps. So on and so forth.

But the Patriots have had rookies step up all season, and it's due to several of those rookies that New England has a shot at another Super Bowl title.

Chandler Jones has brought a legitimate pass-rushing presence to the defensive line, Dont'a Hightower is a key contributor at linebacker, and Alfonzo Dennard went from seventh-round pick to cornerstone cornerback over the course of the year.

There are other rookies that have made contributions as well, and now that 16 games are in the books, we have a much better idea about the kind of player they are and what they bring to a team that hopes to have trip to New Orleans in its future.

Here are the regular season grades for the top rookies on the New England Patriots roster this season.

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