The 2012 Rookie Class is loaded with talented skill position players.
When we talk about the greatest rookie classes for skill positions, 1983 is a year we frequently hear mentioned as one of the best. Why not? Elway, Blackledge, Kelly, Eason, O’Brien and Marino were perhaps the best rookie class at the quarterback position ever. QB’s weren’t the only skill players entering the league in ’83, when the draft yielded such runners as Eric Dickerson, Curt Warner, Roger Craig and Craig James, while also producing some pretty good receivers like Henry Ellard, Willie Gault and Mark Clayton.
I have no data from the fan prospective as to where that year’s rookie class ranks with others, but I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that it would be an overwhelming winner in a widespread poll. In all, this group produced five Hall-of-Famers from the skill positions. Does this 2012 class have the kind of talent that can rival the class of 1983? Only time will tell with any certainty, but let’s take a closer look and see what we see.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson
We see that we have five starting rookie quarterbacks; I can’t remember the last time that happened, but I would guess it occurred in a league other than the NFL. The USFL maybe, or the Arena League or somewhere they sing “Oh Canada” just before kickoff, but not in this league. It may have happened at some point, just not one than I can recall. In ’83 only Elway started on opening day; Marino got his first start in game six, and Kelly was playing in the USFL until ’86. The others were backups as rookies.
In this year’s group, all five have started all of their teams’ games. They are averaging 1,548 yards passing and have combined for 35 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. RGIII is playing at a different level than the others thus far, but each of these players carries a tremendous upside. Next season, they’ll come into camp with a much better idea of what they’re doing; and I expect we should get used to seeing most, if not all, of these guys for the next ten years.
Running Back: Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Daryl Richardson, Brandon Bolden
Sixth round pick Alfred Morris is leading all rookie rushers with 658 yards. He has been steady all season with a solid 4.8 YPA and 5 TD’s. In Tampa Bay, Doug Martin has been a nice addition to the Bucs offense with 767 scrimmage yards and 4 touchdowns. In Cleveland, Trent Richardson has 545 combined yards and 5 scores. Others are performing well in limited roles; Daryl Richardson, Brandon Bolden, and Lamar Miller are all averaging over 5 yards per carry, and a few others, David Wilson, Ronnie Hillman, LaMichael James, and Isaiah Pead are expected to be productive backs by their teams. There is probably no Eric Dickerson in this bunch, but there are some quality backs, and the potential is there for this group to be great.
Receiver: Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, Coby Fleener, Ashlon Jeffery, Stephen Hill, Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Floyd, Chris Givens
Wide-receiver is a position that historically has been hard to play at a high level quickly in this league. People that I know widely regard year 3 as the benchmark from which to measure these prospects. So it comes as no surprise that this group’s numbers are down. Justin Blackmon has caught only 14 passes, but we all know he will be much better than that. Kendall Wright leads all rookies with 36 grabs, but he’s netting a paltry 8.4 yards on them. Michael Floyd of the Cards has pulled in only 8 balls. These numbers will improve over time, as can be said for all of the rookie pass catchers. Fleener is the only tight-end in this group and he’s hauled in 19 balls for a 10.4 yard average, but the Colts are expecting bigger things from him as he gains experience.
So that is a look at the top rookie skill position players of 2012, there are many more that I failed to mention who should probably be listed here, and I’m sure they’ll will make me notice them over time. Will this class match up to the class of ’83? We’ll know someday, but that weighty goal is yet to be achieved. For now we get to enjoy watching them make their own histories.
About the Author
Written by Steve Massey
Steve Massey is the author of Grid Iron Audible at @prosportsblogging.com, a weekly column covering all things NFL related. He is originally from California, but now resides in Northern Arkansas with his beautiful wife and best friend, Debbie. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMassey9