Top 10 Non 1st Round Rookies..Discuss
The first round of the 2012 draft was filled with impact players who are already making a huge difference with their respective teams (you can see that in the weekly Tale of the Tape feature we do between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III). And while some have fallen behind their peers and made minimal impacts, the 2012 first round appears, so far, to be a solid group.
But what about everybody who was drafted after Thursday? What about those who had to wait until Friday to hear their names? Or what about the guy whose collegiate stat line you had to quickly peruse because your favorite team had just selected somebody you had never heard of before? What about those sixth- and seventh-round picks who were only a little better than those who went undrafted and just struggled to make the team in the first place? Hey, some of those players have been standouts as well.
That's why we've taken this week to write about some of the best non-first round draft picks from 2012. Just because a player wasn't picked first by a team doesn't mean he still can't make a big impact in his rookie season.
10. Vick Ballard, Colts RB, fifth round (No. 170 overall): Like Alfred Morris in Washington (see below), Ballard has helped Andrew Luck's productivity by giving the Colts a solid running game -- maybe the best since the
Joseph Addai season of six years ago. Slowly but surely, Ballard has been taking the reps formerly used by Donald Brown, and though he needs to increase his yards per carry, Ballard has been unexpectedly solid for a burgeoning Indianapolis squad.
9. Blair Walsh, Vikings K, sixth round (No. 175 overall): If you need to draft a kicker or a punter, it's better to wait until the later rounds (I'm looking at you, Jacksonville), and it's best to draft the kicker who will become one of the NFL's most accurate in his rookie season. That's exactly what Walsh has become, making 24 of 26 field goals this season for a 92.3 percentage. Most impressively, Walsh is 5 for 5 from 50 yards-plus.
8. Mohamed Sanu, Bengals WR, third round (No. 83 overall): In the past three games, Sanu has caught four touchdown passes, and he's clearly moved into Cincinnati's No. 2 receiver slot behind A.J. Green. Can you imagine what the next few years could look like with Andy Dalton throwing passes to Green and Sanu? I bet Marvin Lewis can.
7. Bobby Wagoner, Seahawks LB, second round (No. 47 overall): Much of the attention for rookie linebackers has gone to Carolina first-round pick Luke Kuelchly -- and deservedly so -- but Wagner also has helped Seattle's defense become the NFL's fifth-best. He's 15th in the league with 90 tackles, and with Wagner in the middle of it all, Seattle's defense could be frightening for many games to come.
6. Dwayne Allen, Colts TE, third round (No. 64 overall);T.Y. Hilton, Colts WR, third round (No. 92 overall): We've already highlighted Ballard, and along with these two players, Indianapolis proved, with Ryan Grigson as the general manager in his first season, that it had a strong 2012 draft showing. Allen has been more impressive than Indianapolis second-round pick, tight end, Coby Fleener and Hilton, though he drops way too many catchable balls, has undeniable talent as a receiver and a punt returner.
5. Mitchell Schwartz, Browns T, second round (No. 37 overall): With rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, rookie running back Trent Richardson and rookie receiver Josh Gordon playing a large role with the Browns, Schwartz has been overlooked. But he's been more than solid for Cleveland, holding down the line on the opposite side of Joe Thomas The next coach to be hired by the Browns will have some talent on offense.
4. Lavonte David, Buccaneers LB, second round (No. 56 overall): He just earned the NFC defensive rookie of the month award, and he's been outstanding this season, recording 98 tackles and 14 for a loss. His play is one reason why Tampa Bay has won four of its last five and has put itself into playoff contention talk in Greg Schiano's first season.
3. Casey Heyward, Packers CB, second round (No. 62 overall): Pro Football Focus ranks him the second-best cornerback in the league this season, and although that sounds a little high, there's no doubt Hayward has had a phenomenal year. When throwing his way, opposing quarterbacks have a rating of 28.0, and Hayward recorded five interceptions while allowing zero touchdowns. He's not playing every down, but when he's out there, he's impressive.
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB, third round (No. 75 overall): We've talked about him all year, and most every week, we grade him pretty well. But this is a reminder that Seattle gave Matt Flynn a $19.5 million contract in the offseason, and yet, Wilson, originally an afterthought, has become the Seahawks franchise quarterback. Not bad for a supposedly undersized quarterback who was the fifth signal-caller taken in the draft.
1. Alfred Morris, Redskins RB, sixth round (No. 173): I've made the case this season that one reason Robert Griffin III has been so effective for Washington this year is because Morris has made his life much easier. His ability to run the ball has simply made the Redskins even more versatile. He ranks fifth in the NFL with 982 yards rushing, and even on those rare occasions where Griffin isn't having a great game, it's a good bet that Morris is making that offense run.