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Instant Debate

Which NFL rookie will have biggest impact on 2012 season?

Another round of rookie minicamps start up this weekend, as 22 more teams take the practice field with their first-year players. Which rookie do you think will make the biggest impact on his team in 2012?

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  • Charles DavisNFL Network
  • RG3 will have major impact on NFC East, one way or another

It seems so simple, and I've racked my brain (save the jokes) to come up with a name other than Robert Griffin III. But, I've failed.

The Washington Redskins went all-in to move up in the draft and secure RG3's talents, he's already been named the starting QB, and despite playing in the same division as the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, there is major optimism in D.C.

And it's all due to the new QB from Baylor, who is being added to some excellent returnees and new acquisitions. His impact will go a long way in determining not only the fortunes of his team, but how the NFC East will play out, too. RG3 is the impact rookie in 2012 because of what he might do, and what he might not do.

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  • Jeff Darlington
  • Luck will thrive as the Colts' only hope

While I understand, superficially, why Robert Griffin III makes the most sense to make an enormous and immediate impact, I still can't ignore the depth of Andrew Luck's influence on the Colts' current situation.

Yes, the Colts have known more recent success than the Redskins because of Peyton Manning's legacy. But this Colts organization is now a skeleton of itself, a team that must be completely rebuilt, beginning with the foundation.

Luck is the perfect candidate to cultivate a winning environment in a place that would otherwise be hopeless without him. And let's also not forget he's one damn good football player.

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  • Albert Breer NFL Network
  • Richardson's impact on Browns could mirror Peterson's on Vikings

No rookie is in a better position to succeed than Cleveland's Trent Richardson. The Browns have plenty of weaknesses, but the offensive line isn't one of them. The Heisman Trophy finalist will be running behind Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and fellow rookie Mitchell Schwartz. And the team is likely to break in another first-year guy at quarterback, which will only add to Richardson's load.

When it's all said and done, Richardson's impact in Cleveland could mirror Adrian Peterson's in Minnesota in 2007. The Vikings went from 16th to first in the NFL in rush offense, and got better as the year went on, going from 2-5 to 8-6, before settling at 8-8. Richardson, similarly, will inject energy into the league's 28th-ranked running game, give the team a jackhammer in a bad-weather division and be a tool to control the pace of games against superior teams.

It might be a passing league. But Richardson's as good a player as there was in this year's draft class. And it will show during the 2012 season.

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  • Ian Rapoport NFL Network
  • Top coaching, lack of responsibilities will allow Eagles' Cox to excel

Let's get the obvious of the way. The quarterbacks who will likely start from Day 1, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, will have a strong say in the fate of their teams. But the rookie who will make the most game-changing, impactful plays is Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox.

He joins a ready-made unit that is already disruptive, and he won't be asked to be a savior. Cox likely will begin his career as an inside rusher, told to go get the quarterback. Lack of responsibilities should increase his development. And Cox will be able to learn from the game's most respected defensive line coach; if anyone can turn Cox loose by the opener, it's Jim Washburn. That's why all signs point to a breakout rookie season on a defense that will attack.

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  • Steve Wyche
  • Ravens' Upshaw will have chance to make a splash

Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and others are going to make a difference, but I'm going with Courtney Upshaw, the Alabama outside linebacker who'll have to step up in place of Terrell Suggs in Baltimore.

The second-round draft pick has some huge shoes to fill and even if Suggs returns this season, Upshaw is going to have to fill in quickly. One thing that will benefit him: The veterans on this team will instantly bring him up to speed in terms of playing up to expectations. Upshaw also is going to have a major chip on his shoulder after sliding out of the first round. You have to think that the Ravens' coaching staff will scheme for him to be impactful out of the gate.

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  • Charley Casserly
  • RG3 will have Cam Newton-like impact as a rookie

I like Robert Griffin III. The Redskins have a good defense. They have improved their receiving corps with the addition of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. The Redskins ran the ball effectively late in the season and with RG3 they will only improve. In the Redskins' system, Griffin will excel in the play-action pass game and bootlegs.

I believe RG3 has the potential to have a Cam Newton-type of impact on the Redskins' offense in 2012.

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  • Jason Smith
  • Claiborne is the answer for what ails Cowboys

We've heard a lot about the quarterbacks so far, but those teams are all starting over. In terms of helping turn an OK team into an elite one, Morris Claiborne has the biggest chance to do that in Dallas.

The Cowboys' biggest weakness a year ago was their secondary, by far. (I think they actually started Dexter Clinkscales and Michael Downs for the stretch run.) But you add a shutdown corner in Claiborne and suddenly that turns into a strength. When you throw that in with other improvements made at cornerback (Brandon Carr) and safety (Brodney Pool) in the offseason, Dallas is primed to win the NFC East this season. And if they don't, it'll just be Tony Romo's fault.

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  • Gregg Rosenthal
  • Vikings' Kalil won't waste any time making a difference

Matt Kalil. He is a massive upgrade from Minnesota's blind-side protection last season. Unlike the big-name rookie quarterbacks, Kalil can be a top-10 player at his position right away.

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  • Elliot Harrison
  • Weeden will have a huge impact on Cleveland's future any way you slice it

Brandon Weeden. He'll have a huge impact on his team, no matter how things play out. Let's go through three possible scenarios:

1) He beats out Colt McCoy. OK, that means Weeden puts his stamp on the franchise, and maybe enjoys an Andy Dalton-esque rookie campaign. It also means McCoy is another failed draft pick, someone the Browns could look to part ways with.
2) Neither Weeden nor McCoy takes full grasp of the job, with each starting multiple games in 2012. Huge impact here as well, because the last thing this franchise needs is another quarterback controversy.
3) McCoy easily handles Weeden, perhaps having the kind of year Drew Brees had in 2004 when Philip Rivers was drafted. Then the club must consider committing to McCoy long term, while fans question spending a first-round choice on Weeden (who, by the way, would be running out of expendable years on his pro career).

Any way you slice it, Weeden is going to have an impact that resonates with the Browns.

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