Any time we undervalue a draft pick in the NFL, we are reminded when a productive player — a Pro Bowler, even — is traded for a third-round pick. “That’s all they got for him?” we inevitably say. So you can imagine the value of a top 10 pick. Who will start Week 1? How will they fare? Here’s a look at what is expected from the top 10 picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
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1. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Fourteen years after drafting Peyton Manning No. 1 overall, the Colts hope they struck gold again with Luck. There’s no reason to think they didn’t. Luck ran a pro-style offense to perfection at Stanford, often calling the plays himself. In fact, the Stanford offensive coordinator will now be known as the Andrew Luck Director of Offense. Even Peyton can’t claim such an honor at Tennessee. But Luck will have his work cut out for him on a Colts team that notched just two wins in 2011. A winning season is unlikely.
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2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Historically, when quarterbacks are taken with the first two picks, it doesn’t work out well for both teams. Luck and Griffin will try to change that. The Heisman Trophy winner is electric on the field and charismatic off of it, and will be given the keys to the Redskins offense from week 1. Griffin ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine, second fastest among all players, not just quarterbacks. And he’ll be doing a lot of running, given the Redskins’ sub-par offensive line that’s already facing injury questions in the preseason.
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3. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Richardson was a Heisman finalist and the only back taken among the first 30 picks. His runs at Alabama were highlight-worthy more for his power than his speed. At 5’9”, Richardson has great leverage and body control. “Trent can get his foot down and slash it up in the line of scrimmage and by the nature of his build, he is sometimes hard to get your arms around and tackle,” said Browns head coach Pat Shurmur, who also praised Richardson’s patience and vision. That being said, the AFC North is rarely kind to opposing backs.
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4. Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings were considering a wide receiver or a defensive back with the fourth pick, but knew good players at those positions would be available via free agency. “Dominant left tackles are not available in the open market. We felt we had to do it through the draft,” Spielman said. “There was no doubt about his physical stature or his athleticism,” he added, specifically referring to Kalil’s long arms. Kalil will start from Week 1 and games should be easy considering he’ll be going against last year’s sack leader, Jared Allen, every day in practice.
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5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blackmon finally signed after missing 11 days of training camp. Part of the hold-up was Blackmon’s DUI in June; the Jaguars wanted to include language in the contract to protect the team against future off-field troubles. The Jaguars traded up for Blackmon because general manager Gene Smith feels that, right now, Blackmon falls between Anquan Boldin and Hakeem Nicks, with room to improve. Says head coach Mike Mularkey: “I like the way he lines up and says, ‘The guy across from me can’t cover me.’ He just has an edge to him. He has a confidence and air about him that you like receivers to have.” He’ll need that attitude as part of a weak Jaguars receiving corps.