Monday, July 23, 2012
Top Offensive AFC Rookie Prospects for 2012
1. Andrew Luck, Colts QB
There were no surprises at the beginning of this year's draft when the Indianapolis Colts selected Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick. There's little that can be said about Luck that hasn't already been said. He's a player with all of the physical tools that are needed to play the position in the pros, as well as more than enough intelligence to use those tools and make the right decisions. He's played in a pro-style offense and could have easily gone first overall in 2011 had he not decided to play another year in college.
With so much hype behind Luck, it's easy to forget that he'll likely struggle out of the gate. He's been frequently compared to the man he's replacing in Indy, Peyton Manning. Manning struggled in his first two seasons before morphing into the elite quarterback that he is today. Colts fans can only hope that Luck's career follows a similar arc.
2. Trent Richardson, Browns RB
The AFC wasted no time in drafting another offensive threat, as the Browns picked Trent Richardson with the third overall pick. The Alabama running back is seen by many as being the most complete running back in the entire draft. Not only can he run the ball with great vision and the ability to break tackles, but he can also catch the ball. In an NFL that's placing more emphasis than ever on the passing game, being able to catch those passes out of the backfield is more valuable than ever.
Richardson is entering a unique situation where he'll likely be the starter. After the emergence of Peyton Hillis in 2010, many Browns fans were disappointed to see him regress in 2011. With Hillis now gone, fans are hoping that Richardson can be the answer for a team that opened 2011 with expectations of being a powerhouse rushing team, but instead finished 28th in the league.
3. Justin Blackmon, Jaguars WR
Justin Blackmon was picked with the fifth overall selection in this year's draft. He's a physical receiver with enough size and strength to cause problems for opposing NFL secondaries. He'll demand extra attention from defenses starting from day one. That's going to be extremely useful for the Jaguars, which helps explain why they moved up to select Blackmon. To refer to the last few years of Jaguars football as dismal would be an understatement. The team has lacked a big, physical threat since Matt Jones departed from the club, and they essentially threw Blaine Gabbert to the wolves last season. Blackmon won't just improve the receiving corps, he'll improve the entire offense by giving Gabbert a consistent option and a little bit of relief from the attention of defenses.
Much of the draft focus in the AFC this season was actually on defensive players, but that doesn't mean that the conference is short on other prospects. Players like Miami's Ryan Tannehill, drafted eighth overall, will eventually be serious contributors for their teams but are still in their incubation period. The players that did make this list have the ability to step in and make immediate improvements to their offenses, something that is always valuable in a conference where teams are competing with offensive juggernauts such as the Patriots.
Be sure to read my post on 2012 NFC impact rookies.
Posted by Don Phan at 10:45 AM