When I first began writing as part of my living, a scribe I trusted explained the importance of "forward thrust." After briefly laughing like I was in a seventh-grade locker room, I realized he was serious. What just happened is nice and all, and I'm sure you can paint me a good picture of it, but what's next? I know what I just saw, but I don't know what's coming up. Forward thrust.
We all saw the 2012 NFL Draft. Now let's look at a few particular rookie situations and forward thrust into the 2012 season. I feel like I'm on the Star Trek bridge and I just told Mr. Sulu to go faster so we can escape some unruly Cardassians. (Yes, that's spelled correctly. There was an enemy species the Enterprise tangled with a few times before E! and Lamar Odom came around.)
Without further ado, here are five fearless predictions for the 2012 rookie class:
1) Mike Shanahan will only coach Robert Griffin III for one season. I just can't see this working long term. Shanahan still has to answer for last season's Rex Grossman/John Beck debacle. How did he think that was a viable plan for the Washington Redskins entering the 2011 campaign? But it's deeper than that. When has Shanahan won? When he's had an elite and/or experienced quarterback. He won two Super Bowls with a Hall of Famer (John Elway). He also went to an AFC Championship Game with Jake Plummer in his veteran prime. Meanwhile, Brian Griese and Jay Cutler were young and inconsistent -- molding a green signal caller isn't Shanahan's strength. I hear him saying he's going to let Griffin be Griffin, but you know Shanahan's going to try to execute a square peg/round hole jam because he believes in his system. And the Redskins will have another losing season. Shanahan's already 11-21 in D.C. He won't see a fourth season, and a coach with a more friendly offensive mind -- "Hey, RG3, what do you like to do? Because we're going to do it!" -- will be in place. Rob Chudzinski, anyone?
2) The rookie receiver with the best statistics will be St. Louis Rams second-rounder Brian Quick. Forget about the T.O. comparisons -- like I can forget about the ridiculous Calvin Johnson/Stephen Hill likening. If these guys were that good, they would have been taken much higher than early in the second round. But I'm all about opportunity. Hill will be across from Santonio Holmes. Justin Blackmon will line up opposite Laurent Robinson. Michael Floyd alongside Larry Fitzgerald. On the other hand, Quick will have ... Flipper Anderson? Quick's going to get every chance to mesh with Sam Bradford and become his No. 1 target for the next 10 years. I like Danny Amendola coming back, but he's a slot guy. Quick will get the targets and the numbers because there's no one else. Similar to my prom strategy: "Well, no one else is asking her, so I guess I will."
Lombardi: Best value picks
The best players are drafted in Round 1, but value can be found anywhere. Michael Lombardi presents his top 12 value picks. **More ...**
3) Andrew Luck will make Indianapolis Colts fans forget about what Peyton Manning did for them ... in Manning's rookie season. Until Cam Newton last year, Manning's 1998 campaign was long considered the gold standard for rookie QBs -- 3,700 yards passing, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Fourteen years later, Indy will throw a new rookie quarterback into the fire. People have been talking about Luck for so long, many have grown tired of it and seemingly would rather shower attention on other rookies. Luck is going to be accurate down the middle of the field and turn his weapons into stars, just like Manning did. The difference is he won't throw 28 picks; he's more polished than Manning was coming into the league. I expect him to be right around Manning's 3,700 yards and 26 TDs, but with maybe 15 picks. As talented as Trent Richardson is, Luck is going to be THE new superstar in the league. But just like the Manning era in Indy, it'll take some time for the Colts to build a contending team around him.
4) The rookie who'll have us asking "How did this guy last so long in the draft?" is Mohamed Sanu. I know it was the Big East, but when you catch 115 passes in your senior season, that should count for something. The all-time conference leader in receptions lasted until the third round. Cincinnati needed a No. 2 receiver to complement A.J. Green. Sanu's going to make teams pay for all the attention they give to Green. Green will still get the touchdowns, but Sanu will get a ton of targets underneath, where his reliable hands and steady route running will stand out. (Note: This prediction is not a prank.)
Darlington: A new day in Miami
5) Ryan Tannehill will be this year's Blaine Gabbert. You know, the quarterback who was taken too high and isn't ready to start, but will be thrust into that role because he's a first-round pick. Then, five weeks later, the team will look to find any way to sit him down because he's clearly shell-shocked. We'll also ask if he was really that bad or just had no one to throw to -- just like we did with Gabbert. Here's what I don't get: If you're the Miami Dolphins, and you know you're going to take your next franchise QB sometime soon, how do you not get him any true offensive threats on the outside? Brandon Weeden will have a better rookie campaign because at least he has someone to throw to in Greg Little. Remember, the Dolphins traded their No. 1 target (Brandon Marshall). Who's left? Davone Bess? Brian Hartline? Legedu Naanee? Where's the beef?