With Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson recently being named starters for their respective teams, a lot has been made of the 2012 quarterback class. While it's an impressive group, there are a number of other skill players who deserve attention as well.
For the quarterback position, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, and Russell Wilson will all start game one. Brandon Weeden will too, but he is already 28, plays in Cleveland, and I don't see him having the same kind of career as the other four.
Of all the quarterbacks, Wilson will have the most work to do. He took Seattle by storm, and for them to start him over the $9 million they're paying Matt Flynn this season, the kid has to be talented. But even with everyone's love affair, the cards are stacked against him as a 5'11" quarterback in the NFL.
Luck and Griffin III have looked as good as advertised thus far. They're super talented, and should have long, successful careers. I think Luck has the potential to eventually discussed as an all-time great. Tannehill is sort of between tiers. He has all the physical tools, but didn't start that many games in college and the situation in Miami isn't ideal.
Running back is such a hard position to predict, but Trent Richardson seems like a sure thing. The only downfall with him is the lack of talent on Cleveland's offense. He has also had two knee surgeries this year, although they were both minor it's still never a good thing to go under the knife. While Richardson is clearly the head of the pack, Doug Wilson and David Martin are also talented backs who could put up big numbers in the future.
At wide receiver, three names stand out. Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, and Michael Floyd should have outstanding careers. The biggest problem for all three of them are their offenses. They all have young, unproven quarterbacks starting, so their success is very much dependent on the guy throwing them the ball. Blackmon and Floyd are more possession-type receivers, while Wright is smaller but quicker.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle and linebacker are the two positions I'm looking at.
Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox, and Michael Brockers were taken 11th, 12th, and 14th, respectively. Their careers will forever be compared, and I think Brockers, taken latest of the three, will have the best career.
He comes from an outstanding defensive program at LSU, and will instantly be a focal point in St. Louis. Poe is still a question mark because of his lack of big-game experience. Cox will fit in and be productive for Philadelphia, but I don't see him being outstanding.
The best linebacker of the 2012 class may turn out to be the best player at any position. Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine. The kid from Boston College is strong, smart, and has incredible football instincts. In Carolina, he will lock down the middle of the field and be relied on to wrap up on every down.
Two other linebackers to keep an eye on are Courtney Upshaw and Bruce Irvin. Playing in Baltimore under Ray Lewis' watch, Upshaw has the talent to become one of the best in the NFL. And Irvin, who was a surprising first round pick for Seattle, actually has the ability to play as a defensive end or linebacker. He is a sack artist, and could evolve into a feared pass rusher.