As a standard exercise every year, I not only rank the top rookies but, as a second exercise, split them into tiers to provide for a more effective value display for potential trades, draft pick valuation and overall talent depth.
As I’ve mentioned previously regarding the 2012 class, it’s a relatively deep group at the running back position and extremely talented at the very top of the first round (in fantasy drafts). The receivers beyond Blackmon are talented in their own right but there exists a high degree of variability in 2012 with regard to predicting which of the receivers beyond the WR1 (Blackmon) is likely to have the best career.
In using these tiers, your first consideration is, most often, team need(s). That said, the first tier of players will usually represent the first players off the board, almost without respect to need. As the last player in this year’s first tier is a quarterback, it is likely that he will/could slide a pick in many drafts. Regardless of this fact, I stand by those players in the first tier as being the most talented players in the draft which should represent the first selections, although not necessarily in order.
Please note that I have yet to slot Tight Ends so they are not included in this study. They will be coming soon.
Let’s get to the tiers:
1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
2. Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
3. Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma St.
4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
5. Lamar Miller, RB Miami (FL)
6. David Wilson, RB Virginia Tech.
7. Chris Polk, RB Washington
8. Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
9. Kendall Wright, WR Baylor
10. Dough Martin, RB Boise St.
11. Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina
12. Ryan Tannehill, QB Texas A&M
13. Mohammed Sanu, WR Rutgers
14. Rueben Randle, WR LSU
15. LaMichael James, RB Oregon
16. Dwight Jones, WR North Carolina
17. Nick Toon, WR Wisconsin
18. Jeff Fuller, WR Texas A&M
19. Nick Foles, QB Arizona
20. Bernard Pierce, RB Temple
21. Isaiah Pead, RB Cincinnati
22. Cyrus Gray, RB Texas A&M
23. Brandon Weeden, QB Oklahoma St.
24. Ryan Lindley, QB San Diego St.
25. Ryan Broyles, WR Oklahoma
26. Kirk Cousins, QB Michigan St.
27. Case Keenum, QB Houston
As mentioned previously, the player slotted at 1.04 (Griffin III), may slide a pick or two based on the need of the team selecting at 1.04. If this team is already quarterback-rich, look for a selection of one of the running backs in Tier II. While that may be the case, I still would suggest a selection of Griffin as the BPA (Best Player Available) in my rankings. Griffin is rated very highly and rates higher than any of this year’s Tier II running back rather easily.
2012 finds a relatively thin Tier II, comprised only of Lamar Miller and David Wilson. Many have Wilson ranked above Miller, but my tape review narrowly favors Miller.
Tier III is headlined by Washington’s Chris Polk, who reminds me of a young O.J. Simpson, in talent and style that is. I have only recently downgraded him from Tier II but he may slide back up before my rankings are finalized, prior to the combine. Further evaluation has narrowed the small gap between Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wright could overtake Floyd, but my ranking system does strongly favor size. As you can tell, I am not a big fan of So. Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, but more review is forthcoming. I am also not as high on Tannehill as the draft experts are.
Tier IV is comprised mainly of wide receivers, with the single exception being Oregon’s LaMichael James. Trying to pick which receivers from this group will be the most successful at the next level may be a fool’s errand, but I will be focusing on this group exclusively in the coming weeks in an attempt to give you a leg up come draft time.
Tier V finds Nick Foles as headliner, an intriguing prospect to me. Foles may climb a tier level in the coming weeks. The three backs sharing this tier are very close in talent and ability. Drafted situation will play a heavy role in their future success.
In Tier VI, keep an eye on San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley. He’s got a lot of what the experts look for in a quarterback and a few of traits that you don’t, but he’s got the “it” factor and a huge arm. He has very little touch at this point in his development but he has a high upside quotient.
I hope you find these early tiers somewhat helpful in defining the talent pool of our current grouping of ranked rookies. I will be updating these tiers and the number of players within them continuously, so keep it tuned here throughout the off-season.
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