Happy Week 1! The NFL is about to kickoff tonight. There are lots of things to look forward to every season, but one thing I like to pay attention to are the rookies. Who will impress? Who will falter? Who will live up to expectations? This particular 2012 season I believe will be a unique one when it comes to these rookies. There has been a lot of hype and even more talent around the top two draft picks and a lot of the lower picks have been impressive this preseason.
Here is a look at some of the top rookies, in my opinion and no particular order, that I believe will make the biggest impressions this season.
Andrew Luck – QB – Indianapolis Colts
There is no surprise that Luck is and will continue to receive a lot of attention. He was the number one draft pick this year and he is replacing former Colt great Peyton Manning, who the organization dumped after he missed the 2011 season with a neck injury. The organization is in a rebuilding faze and there is going to be some struggles. Luck will be scrutinized for every move he makes on the football field this season as he is the new guy in town running the show. As a fan of Luck’s, I watched him throughout his years at Stanford and, in my opinion, there is nothing this kid can’t do or learn. Luck could have a Cam Newton type of rookie season: put up explosive numbers, but only win four games. Who knows, maybe he’ll take the Colts to the postseason. Either way I have a ton of faith that Luck will put up some big numbers and be, as always, the highly impressive quarterback we all have seen.
Robert Griffin III – QB – Washington Redskins
Like Luck, there is no surprise that everyone will be watching to see what RG3 will do. The Redskins have been in a rebuilding period for a while, but what they were missing during those years was a solid quarterback. The needed a quarterback that had the potential of bringing this organization back to winning ways. RG3 was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has accuracy, speed, and toughness. He is the first piece to the puzzle of getting the Redskins organization in order. RG3 will bring a big running game to the Redskins, whether it’s he or one of his teammates making carries. He had his ups and downs this preseason, but he should find a groove during the regular season. RG3 and Luck will be compared to one another throughout the season, as it’s been debated since the draft on who will have the better rookie season. I won’t be surprised if the Offensive Rookie of the Year decision will come down to these two.
David Wilson – RB – New York Giants
Wilson is showing why he is a deserving first round choice by the New York Giants. Head coach Tom Coughlin and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride have made many praises for Wilson. They talked non-stop when asked about Wilson’s speed and explosiveness in the backfield. So far this preseason Wilson has been used to return kickoffs and he has been taking reps with the third string offense. He started to get some reps with the first and second string offense ahead of DJ Ware after the second preseason game against the Jets and Coughlin has said that Wilson will get many snaps. Ahmad Bradshaw will of course be the first string running back, but with him being prone to injuries, Wilson will be a fine backup to take his place if need be. This year the Giants will have their first highly impressive rookie in the last few years in Wilson.
Morris Claiborne – CB – Dallas Cowboys
It was a little surprising to me when the Cowboys traded up so high in the draft to select a cornerback. Claiborne was without question the best cornerback in the 2012 NFL draft. He had a rough time this offseason battling a wrist injury, but so far this preseason he has impressed. He’ll face some challenges once the regular season rolls around as he’ll be facing a number of talented and veteran receivers. He faces the New York Giants twice where he’ll have to deal with either Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz, both of whom are considered top 10 receivers in the NFL. There’s also the possibilty of having to cover DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles twice. He faces a tough NFC East, but he should still be a standout in his position.
Jayron Hosley – CB – New York Giants
Hosley is having probably the most quiet successful preseason in the NFL. He impressed coaches and trainers during camp and hasn’t slowed down yet. He had only one mistake in the first week against the Jacksonville Jaguars when he dropped a punt at the five yard line and was recovered by the Jaguars. Hosley made up for that mishap in the second preseason week when he intercepted a pass from New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez and ran it back 77 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Hosley hurt his toe on that play and missed the third game against the Chicago Bears. He may also miss the last game against the New England Patriots, but that shouldn’t prevent him from making the roster. In fact, depending on the Prince Amukamara injury, Hosley could be the starting nickel back for Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. He’s shown New York that he can bring back a return game and that he can keep up with the first team on defense. If this isn’t a sign for the young corner’s potential then I don’t know what is.
What do Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck have in common? Two things: They were teammates and Stanford, and now they’re teammates on the Colts. Fleener was one of Luck’s best targets at Stanford. He’s tall at 6’6″ and has decent speed for a tight end. He could be a factor into your fantasy football team as he is Luck’s most familiar target on the Colts. Fleener has the speed and athleticism to one day be a top tight end in the league. His rookie season will be a fun one to watch.
Will Hill – S – New York Giants
Will Hill may turn out to be the redemption story of the year. Everyone that’s a college football fan, and everyone that is familiar with high school football in New Jersey knows Hill. He entered his college career at Florida as the top ranked high school safety in the country with a promising NFL career in the near future. However, after some troubled years with suspensions, a Twitter account he claimed was hacked, and a question of character after fathering multiple children with mulitple wives, it started to look as though Hill’s NFL future was slipping away. Hill left Florida a year early and wasn’t drafted. He returned to try out for the New York Giants and made the team this training camp. So far he has made a huge impression on the field, and if Tom Coughlin can’t say anything but praise about you, you know you’re heading in the right direction. Hill’s mindset has changed for the better of his kids and it should transition on the field.
Trent Richardson – RB – Cleveland Browns
Richardson entered the 2012 draft as the top running back prospect. The Cleveland Browns traded up to take the Alabama back third overall. Richardson is known for his speed, clocking in at 4.45 seconds at the scouting combine. 5’9″, 277lbs, he could easily be compared to a Brandon Jacobs in his prime with his size and power. Richardson right now is recovering from an arthroscopic procedure on his leg and should be good to go for Week 1. He’ll bring the Brown’s a brand new running game that they were missing last year when Peyton Hillis went down.
Quinton Coples – DE - New York Jets
Coples led the NFL in sacks this preseason with 4.5. Jets head coach Rex Ryan often compares Coples to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and hopes that Coples can have the same effect on the football field. Coples is really just another piece to a strong Jets defense, and with the weak offense, he should be a standout on the team. Coples has speed and power and can really deliever the hits when you need him to. He’ll lead the team in sacks this year.
Russell Wilson – QB – Seattle Seahawks
Wilson was recently just announced as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks over Matt Flynn. Wilson was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft and may be a steal for the Seahawks. Though the Seahawks will likely be heading to another disappointing season, it will still be fun to watch Wilson play. He’s another guy that could put up big numbers, but wind up winning four games. Get your fantasy football teams ready. Wilson might give you points.
Be sure to check back weekly for more updates on the 2012 rookies! It should be a fun year to watch them.
You can follow Kelsey O’Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell