Each year, the new crop of NFL rookies makes their way onto the gridiron after picking up ridiculous tabs at local restaurants, enduring endless pranks, and in general getting whipped into shape by their veteran teammates. Call it a rite of passage for NFL rookies.
This year, like previous years, there are some sensational rookies who look to start contributing right out of the gate. Here’s a look at a few who will no doubt turn a lot of heads this season.
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Why not start out with the player that got the 2012 NFL Draft underway? Stanford standout Ryan Luck looks to make the Indianapolis Colts his team after the departure of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos.
Good, bad, or indifferent, the Colts will start the rookie at quarterback and let the chips fall where they may. Baptism by fire is not a bad thing, particularly when you have a quarterback with the skills, mental abilities, and game-prowess like Luck. Sure, blitzing defensive veterans will have their way with him a times this season, and he’ll throw a few balls he’ll wish he hadn’t, but he’s going to be good often, and occasionally he’ll be great.
Luck has Rookie of the Year written all over him. Colts fans should be giddy this season for everything it holds for the future of the franchise.
Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker, New England Patriots
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has missed some good defensive opportunities in the past, opting to trade for them or even pick them up in free agency. The selection of Dont’a Hightower from Alabama is going to bear fruit immediately.
Taken as the 25th overall selection in the NFL draft, Hightower is a versatile, 6’4″ 270lb. linebacker who’s played in middle as well as outside. He’s an excellent pass rusher with incredible timing, knows how to make open-field tackles, and should prove to be relentless on opposing quarterbacks. He’s the full-blown blitzing package the Patriots haven’t seen since Tedy Bruschi. Expect to see Hightower a lot this season, in games as well as on SportsCenter highlight reels.
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Miami Dolphins
Jonathan Martin finds himself in a good news/bad news situation. The good news? He’s now a professional football player. The bad news is that he’s with the Miami Dolphins. How this guy actually slipped to the 10th pick in the second round in the draft is beyond me, but he did and sooner than later 31 other NFL teams are going to kick themselves for not pouncing sooner.
He’s a decent run-blocker and lane-creator, but he’s particularly excellent at pass defense. Paired Jake Long at the other tackle position, the duo look to be (and become) the most impressive offensive linemen in the business. This bodes well for QB Ryan Tannehill, who will receive great protection on both sides.
We won’t be surprised if Martin and Long both make the Pro Bowl this season.
David Wilson, Running Back, New York Giants
When you already have Ahmad Bradshaw in your backfield, it might seem troubling to make a rookie running back in the same backfield a difference-maker in the upcoming season, but from our vantage point it looks like David Wilson could actually wrap the season as the Giants leading rusher.
Bradshaw will be the starter, but he’s injury-prone which is why the Giants picked Wilson as early as they did—first round, 32nd pick overall. This also represents a great opportunity for the speedy running back out of Virginia Tech, who’s also tough as nails.
Expect Wilson to be near the top of the NFC running charts this season, picking up the bulk of the running assignments this season.
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Tackle, Buffalo Bills
There’s a reason the Buffalo Bills targeted offensive lineman Cordy Glenn out of the University of Georgia: He’s damned good. He’s also the guy they’re counting on to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who could set the AFC in fire this year.
Look for Glenn, at 6’5″ 343lbs, to dominate defenders looking to take down Fitzpatrick from his blindside, and to be extremely effective as a pulling guard or tackle on run plays. He’s very athletic for a man his size and moves with the agility of a 300-pounder!
Just like Jonathan Martin in Miami, we will not be surprised to see Glenn make the Pro Bowl for the AFC.
There will be plenty of NFL rookies making waves this season. Who are your favorites?