Bessire: 2012 Ranking Rookies

Last Updated: 10/14/2014 10:06 AM ET

One of the main reasons we expanded (significantly) our NFL Draft coverage for 2012 (in addition to having the good fortune to work with Matt Richner) is that this specific article (and the projections analysis we have already done to supplement it) is my favorite article of the year every year. It shows off just about everything we can do with our technology, from generating inputs for new players, to predicting playing time, health and coaching styles, to playing through entire seasons 50,000 times. It also signifies the beginning of football season. From late March, when we first started publishing analysis on the draft, through January, 2013, football will be a priority. I spent much of the last six weeks preparing the analysis in this NFL Draft section and will continue to work on analysis and build tools for the NFL and college football seasons until they begin. And now we know where these new players are going.

Here are last two years' articles: Ranking the 2011 RookiesRanking the Draft Classes 2011Ranking the 2010 Rookies and Ranking the Draft Classes 2010. It's hard to argue against Andy Dalton, Aldon Smith, Marcel Dareus and A.J. Green or Ndamukong Suh, Sam Bradford and Eric Berry as some of the most positively impactful rookies in 2011 and 2010 respectively. Furthermore, like Detroit, Tampa Bay and Kansas City in 2010, Cincinnati, Detroit, Denver and the New York Giants definitely benefited from their rookie classes to make big leaps as well. There are some hits and misses after those players and teams, but that's what makes this fun.

Player rankings below be based on positive impact from output of the upcoming season played 50,000 times. How the players translate to the 2012 season as rookies and how the fit on their new teams are crucial. In a sense, this is essentially a fantasy football draft of every rookie, where contribution of non-skill position players can also be measured (and for actual fantasy football drafts, consider this an early look at the skill position players who will be of value as rookies).

Obviously, playing time, role and opportunity matter. For instance, our top player in 2011, Andy Dalton, appeared at the time to be the most likely quarterback to start from Week 1. In 2012, three quarterbacks who have a great chance of starting early in the season rank in our top nine overall - Robert Griffin III (#1), Andrew Luck (#3) and Brandon Weeden (#9).

How Do We This?
To come up with statistical inputs for rookies, we run a very complex set of algorithms that factor college stats, previous utilization and strength of competition, combine measurables, role and expected utilization of the player's NFL team, previous performance of a similar player in that role for this coaching staff and previous performance of similar rookies at that position in general. This allows us to predict both the player's projected ratio stats such as yards-per-carry, percentage of tackles made while on the field and passing completion percentage, as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming NFL season. Then we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact for his NFL team in his first year. It's a system that I have applied to the previous three drafts and with great success. These projections have highlighted the likely success of Andy Dalton (#1 overall last year), A.J. Green, Von Miller, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, DeMarco Murray, Percy Harvin, Jerod Mayo, Louis Delmas, Sean Smith, Ryan Clady, Eric Berry, Sean Weatherspoon and even Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter, while suggesting that Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Delone Carter, Jonathan Baldwin, Glenn Dorsey, Vernon Gholston, Everette Brown and even Matt Ryan were/are overrated.


We also take this analysis and apply it to teams to rank the impact of the rookie classes of all 32 teams. See our NFL Rookie Class Rankings 2012 for more.

2012 NFL Rookie Rankings

Rank Player Pos Team
1 Robert Griffin III QB Washington
2 Luke Kuechly ILB Carolina
3 Andrew Luck QB Indianapolis
4 Trent Richardson RB Cleveland
5 Matt Kalil OT Minnesota
6 Justin Blackmon WR Jacksonville
7 David DeCastro OG Pittsburgh
8 Harrison Smith S Minnesota
9 Brandon Weeden QB Cleveland
10 Kevin Zeitler OG Cincinnati
11 Casey Hayward CB Green Bay
12 Mark Barron S Tampa Bay
13 Melvin Ingram DE/OLB San Diego
14 Nick Perry DE/OLB Green Bay
15 Kendall Reyes DT San Diego
16 Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB Baltimore
17 Jonathan Martin OT Miami
18 Derek Wolfe DT Denver
19 Vinny Curry DE Philadelphia
20 Michael Floyd WR Arizona
21 Morris Claiborne CB Dallas
22 Riley Reiff OT Detroit
23 Stephon Gilmore CB Buffalo
24 Coby Fleener TE Indianapolis
25 Mychal Kendricks ILB Philadelphia
26 Bobby Wagner ILB Seattle
27 Devon Still DT Cincinnati
28 Fletcher Cox DT Philadelphia
29 Kendall Wright WR Tennessee
30 Bruce Irvin OLB Seattle
31 David Wilson RB NY Giants
32 Quinton Coples DE NY Jets
33 Dont'a Hightower ILB New England
34 Markelle Martin S Tennessee
35 Jamell Fleming CB Arizona
36 Andre Branch DE Jacksonville
37 Lavonte David OLB Tampa Bay
38 Michael Brockers DT St. Louis
39 Vick Ballard RB Indianapolis
40 Jerel Worthy DT Green Bay
41 Cordy Glenn OG Buffalo
42 Josh Robinson CB Minnesota
43 Doug Martin RB Tampa Bay
44 Mitchell Schwartz OT Cleveland
45 Dre Kirkpatrick CB Cincinnati
46 Orson Charles TE Cincinnati
47 Ryan Tannehill QB Miami
48 Robert Turbin RB Seattle
49 Brandon Taylor S San Diego
50 Akiem Hicks DT New Orleans
51 Stephen Hill WR NY Jets
52 Danny Trevathan OLB Denver
53 Brandon Boykin CB Philadelphia
54 Chris Givens WR St. Louis
55 Jaye Howard DT Seattle
56 Alshon Jeffery WR Chicago
57 Peter Konz OC Atlanta
58 Bobby Massie OT Arizona
59 T.Y. Hilton WR Indianapolis
60 Cyrus Gray RB Kansas City
61 Mike Martin DT Tennessee
62 Zach Brown OLB Tennessee
63 Frank Alexander DE Carolina
64 Miles Burris OLB Oakland
65 Josh Chapman DT Indianapolis
66 Winston Guy S Seattle
67 B.J. Cunningham WR Miami
68 Terrance Ganaway RB NY Jets
69 Nate Potter OT Arizona
70 Bryan Anger PT Jacksonville
71 Jordan White WR NY Jets
72 Isaiah Pead RB St. Louis
73 Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB Houston
74 Tony Bergstrom OG Oakland
75 Brad Nortman PT Carolina
76 Zebrie Sanders OT Buffalo
77 Ronnell Lewis OLB Detroit
78 LaMichael James RB San Francisco
79 Kelechi Osemele OG Baltimore
80 Janoris Jenkins CB St. Louis
81 Shea McClellin OLB Chicago
82 Robert Blanton S Minnesota
83 Trumaine Johnson CB St. Louis
84 Chandler Jones DE New England
85 Philip Blake OC Denver
86 Amini Silatolu OG Carolina
87 Rhett Ellison RB Minnesota
88 T.J. Graham WR Buffalo
89 Jonathan Massaquoi DE Atlanta
90 Brandon Brooks OG Houston
91 Chris Rainey RB Pittsburgh
92 A.J. Jenkins WR San Francisco
93 Lamar Miller RB Miami
94 James-Michael Johnson ILB Cleveland
95 Dontari Poe DT Kansas City
96 Jeff Allen OG Kansas City
97 Brandon Mosley OT NY Giants
98 Joe Adams WR Carolina
99 Jared Crick DT/DE Houston
100 Donald Stephenson OT Kansas City
101 Bradie Ewing RB Atlanta
102 Ben Jones OC Houston
103 Jayron Hosley CB NY Giants
104 Antonio Allen S NY Jets
105 Nick Toon WR New Orleans
106 Mike Adams OT Pittsburgh
107 Tavon Wilson S New England
108 Ladarius Green TE San Diego
109 Ronnie Hillman RB Denver
110 Mohamed Sanu WR Cincinnati
111 Drake Dunsmore RB Tampa Bay
112 Shaun Prater CB Cincinnati
113 Rueben Randle WR NY Giants
114 Nigel Bradham OLB Buffalo
115 Tank Carder OLB Buffalo
116 Jake Bequette DE New England
117 Dwight Bentley CB Detroit
118 Terrell Manning OLB Green Bay
119 Travis Lewis OLB Detroit
120 Najee Goode ILB Tampa Bay
121 Robert Griffin OG NY Jets
122 Tyrone Crawford DE Dallas
123 George Iloka S Cincinnati
124 David Molk OC San Diego
125 Corey White S New Orleans
126 Marvin McNutt WR Philadelphia
127 Trevin Wade CB Cleveland
128 Emmanuel Acho ILB Cleveland
129 Dwayne Allen TE Indianapolis
130 Brian Quick WR St. Louis
131 Trent Robinson S San Francisco
132 Sean Spence OLB Pittsburgh
133 Jeris Pendleton DT Jacksonville
134 Kyle Wilber OLB Dallas
135 Edwin Baker RB San Diego
136 DeVier Posey WR Houston
137 Keenan Robinson OLB Washington
138 Bryce Brown RB Philadelphia
139 Andrew Datko OT Green Bay
140 Dan Herron RB Cincinnati
141 Danny Coale WR Dallas
142 Caleb McSurdy ILB Dallas
143 Tommy Streeter WR Baltimore
144 Olivier Vernon DE Miami
145 Charles Mitchell S Atlanta
146 Mike Harris CB Jacksonville
147 Alameda Ta'amu DT Pittsburgh
148 Bernard Pierce RB Baltimore
149 Brandon Washington OG Philadelphia
150 Keshawn Martin WR Houston
151 Michael Egnew TE Miami
152 Billy Winn DT Cleveland
153 Devon Wylie WR Kansas City
154 James Hanna TE Dallas
155 Coty Sensabaugh CB Tennessee
156 De'quan Menzie CB Kansas City
157 Jack Crawford DE Oakland
158 Travian Robertson DT Atlanta
159 Brandon Thompson DT Cincinnati
160 Gino Gradkowski OG Baltimore
161 Josh LeRibeus OG Washington
162 Keith Tandy CB Tampa Bay
163 Asa Jackson CB Baltimore
164 Alfred Morris RB Washington
165 Josh Norman CB Carolina
166 Travis Benjamin WR Cleveland
167 Adam Gettis OG Washington
168 Justin Bethel S Arizona
169 Brad Smelley TE Cleveland
170 Darius Fleming OLB San Francisco
171 Josh Kaddu OLB Miami
172 Rokevious Watkins OG St. Louis
173 LaVon Brazill WR Indianapolis
174 Malik Jackson DE Denver
175 John Hughes DT Cleveland
176 Christian Thompson S Baltimore
177 Jarius Wright WR Minnesota
178 DeAngelo Tyson DT Baltimore
179 Russell Wilson QB Seattle
180 Michael Smith RB Tampa Bay
181 Lamar Holmes OT Atlanta
182 Brandon Marshall OLB Jacksonville
183 Demario Davis OLB NY Jets
184 Marvin Jones WR Cincinnati
185 Kheeston Randall DT Miami
186 Mike Daniels DT Green Bay
187 Joe Looney OG San Francisco
188 Omar Bolden CB Denver
189 Jason Slowey OC San Francisco
190 Ron Brooks CB Buffalo
191 Terrence Frederick CB Pittsburgh
192 Audie Cole ILB Minnesota
193 Daryl Richardson RB St. Louis
194 Andrew Tiller OG New Orleans
195 Trevor Guyton DE Minnesota
196 Senio Kelemete OG Arizona
197 Korey Toomer OLB Seattle
198 Brandon Hardin S Chicago
199 Alfonzo Dennard CB New England
200 Evan Rodriguez TE Chicago
201 Jerome Long DT Kansas City
202 Chris Bilukidi DT Oakland
203 Matt Mccants OT NY Giants
204 Josh Bush S NY Jets
205 Ryan Lindley QB Arizona
206 Markus Kuhn DT NY Giants
207 Jerron Mcmillian S Green Bay
208 Jeremy Ebert WR New England
209 Dennis Kelly OT Philadelphia
210 Nick Mondek OT Houston
211 Adrien Robinson TE NY Giants
212 Juron Criner WR Oakland
213 Ryan Miller OG Cleveland
214 Nick Foles QB Philadelphia
215 Greg Scruggs DT Seattle
216 J.R. Sweezy DT Seattle
217 Scott Solomon DE Tennessee
218 Matt Johnson S Dallas
219 Chris Greenwood CB Detroit
220 Jeremy Lane CB Seattle
221 Rishard Matthews WR Miami
222 Tom Compton OT Washington
223 Isaiah Frey CB Chicago
224 Greg McCoy CB Chicago
225 Richard Crawford CB Washington
226 Tahir Whitehead OLB Detroit
227 Cam Johnson DE San Francisco
228 Ryan Broyles WR Detroit
229 Nathan Stupar OLB Oakland
230 D.J. Campbell S Carolina
231 David Paulson TE Pittsburgh
232 Mark Asper OG Buffalo
233 Brock Osweiler QB Denver
234 Aaron Brown OLB St. Louis
235 Jonte Green CB Detroit
236 Johnnie Troutman OG San Diego
237 Greg Childs WR Minnesota
238 Jordan Bernstine CB Washington
239 Kelvin Beachum OG Pittsburgh
240 Marcel Jones OT New Orleans
241 Junior Hemingway WR Kansas City
242 Justin Anderson OG Indianapolis
243 Kirk Cousins QB Washington
244 Toney Clemons WR Pittsburgh
245 Chandler Harnish QB Indianapolis
246 B.J. Coleman QB Green Bay
247 Taylor Thompson TE Tennessee