Team: New York Giants Expectations coming in: The Giants wanted Wilson to serve as a complement to starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw. How’d he do?: Wilson began a lengthy stay in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse after fumbling in the season-opener against Dallas. Wilson’s prowess on kickoff returns helped him work his way out. He received double-digit carries in three of New York’s final four games. What’s next?: Wilson is the frontrunner to start in 2013 after the team released Bradshaw.
One year later
Let’s accept this now: There is no way players selected in the first round of this year’s draft will match the success of the Class of 2012. None of the quarterbacks are surrounded by the same buzz as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, who enjoyed two of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history. Two more first-rounders (Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin and Minnesota left tackle Matt Kalil) earned Pro Bowl berths. And the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year – Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly – led all defenders with a league-high 164 tackles. As the NFL prepares to hold this year’s draft April 25 to 27 in New York City, here’s a look back at how all of the 2012 first-round choices fared and their projected status entering the upcoming season. -- Alex Marvez
1. QB Andrew Luck
Team: Indianapolis Expectations coming in: Because of his excellence at Stanford University, they were higher than for any rookie quarterback since those surrounding the player Luck replaced in Indianapolis – Peyton Manning. How’d he do?: Luck helped lead a Colts resurgence as Indianapolis rebounded from a 2-14 record in 2011 to make the playoffs at 11-5. He started all 16 games and survived playing behind an offensive line that allowed Luck to get hit too frequently. What’s next?: Luck must become more judicious in his decision-making. Along with 23 touchdown passes, Luck also threw 18 interceptions in his rookie campaign.
No. 2: QB Robert Griffin III
Team: Washington Expectations coming in: Extremely high, especially because of Washington’s long-standing deficiencies under center and the king’s ransom that the Redskins paid St. Louis to leapfrog up the draft order into the No. 2 overall pick for the chance to pick Griffin. How’d he do?: With his dynamic style of play, Griffin earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and helped Washington win its first NFC East title since 1999. What’s next?: Griffin must prove he can remain the same dangerous run/pass threat by rebounding from a serious knee injury suffered in last January’s playoff loss to Seattle.
No. 3: RB Trent Richardson
Team: Cleveland Expectations coming in: As the first running back taken in the Top Three since Reggie Bush in 2006, the Browns hoped Richardson could reinvigorate a ground game that ranked 28th in the NFL the previous season. How’d he do?: Richardson never got completely on track because of injuries but did score 11 touchdowns and catch 51 passes while also rushing for 950 yards. What’s next?: Richardson should be thrilled to play in a new system being coordinated by Norv Turner, who loves to make running backs the centerpiece of his offensive attack.
No. 4: T Matt Kalil
Team: Minnesota Expectations coming in: Considered the best left tackle in his draft class, Kalil was projected as an immediate starter on a team that hadn’t adequately replaced Bryant McKinnie following his release in the 2011 preseason. How’d he do?: Kalil quickly proved himself as a shutdown pass protector for quarterback Christian Ponder. He also was part of an offensive line that paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s 2,097-yard rushing season. What’s next?: Earning a Pro Bowl invitation outright rather than as a replacement player. Kalil was a late fill-in last season for Washington’s Trent Williams, who was injured when assaulted at a Honolulu nightclub.
5. WR Justin Blackmon
Team: Jacksonville Expectations coming in: Blackmon was supposed to supply some instant juice for what was the NFL’s worst passing attack in 2011. How’d he do?: Blackmon got off to a slow start before a 236-yard outing against Houston in Week 11. He finished the season with 64 catches for 865 yards and five touchdowns. What’s next?: For Blackmon to fulfill his potential, the Jaguars must find an answer at quarterback.
6. CB Morris Claiborne
Team: Dallas Expectations coming in: The Cowboys thought so highly of Claiborne that they jumped eight spots in the draft order to snare the top rookie cornerback prospect. How’d he do?: Claiborne became an instant starter, finishing the year with 55 tackles and one interception. Claiborne played better than fellow cornerback Brandon Carr, who the Cowboys spent huge money on in free agency. What’s next?: Claiborne and Carr must adjust to playing in the new defensive system being installed by Monte Kiffin.
7. S Mark Barron
Team: Tampa Bay Expectations coming in: The Buccaneers hadn’t fielded a hard-hitting safety since John Lynch’s departure almost a decade earlier. Barron was drafted at No. 7 overall to address that deficiency. How’d he do?: Barron earned solid marks as a rookie, but the same couldn’t be said of the rest of Tampa Bay’s secondary. The Bucs fielded the NFL’s worst pass defense while allowing a league-high 69 receptions of 20-plus yards. What’s next?: Barron already got to learn last season under the tutelage of future Hall of Fame cornerback-turned-safety Ronde Barber. The football education will continue in 2013 now that Barron is being paired with standout free safety Dashon “The Hawk” Goldson, who was signed away from San Francisco in free agency.
No. 8: QB Ryan Tannehill
Team: Miami Expectations coming in: The Dolphins hadn’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since Dan Marino in 1983. Tannehill was chosen to fill the giant shoes Marino left behind following his retirement in the 2000 offseason. How’d he do?: Tannehill, who edged veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore for a starting spot in the preseason, survived playing on an offense with limited skill-position talent. He threw 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions but showed earmarks of being the franchise quarterback Miami has sorely lacked. What’s next?: The Dolphins greatly upgraded Tannehill’s supporting cast this offseason with three free-agent signings (wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller). On his end, Tannehill must improve his downfield passing and avoid having as many passes tipped at the line of scrimmage as in 2012.
No. 9: LB Luke Kuechly
Team: Carolina Expectations coming in: Even though he played in the middle at Boston College, Kuechly was installed as the immediate starter at weak-side linebacker in training camp. How’d he do?: Kuechly did fine on the outside but truly excelled when replacing the injured Jon Beason at middle linebacker. What’s next?: Now installed at middle linebacker (Beason is moving to the “Will”), the Panthers hope that Kuechly’s penchant for creating turnovers in practice translates to the games. Kuechly, who is only 21 years old, had one interception and no forced fumbles in 2012.
No. 10: CB Stephon Gilmore
Team: Buffalo Expectations coming in: The Bills projected Gilmore as an immediate starter. How’d he do?: Although his roots were in a zone scheme at South Carolina, Gilmore showed steady improvement adjusting to press coverage demands under 2012 coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Gilmore started all 16 games and finished with 61 tackles, 16 passes defensed and one interception. What’s next?: If he brings the same style of defense with him from the New York Jets, new coordinator Mike Pettine will deploy Gilmore in the same aggressive fashion as Gang Green cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
No. 11: NT Dontari Poe
Team: Kansas City Expectations coming in: Regarded by some as a one-season wonder at Memphis, Poe was considered a project pick who could eventually develop into a run-stuffing force in Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme. How’d he do?: The Chiefs didn’t wait to get the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Poe onto the field. He started all 16 games and finished with 38 tackles. What’s next?: New defensive line coach Tommy Brasher, who worked with Hall of Fame selection Cortez Kennedy in Seattle from 1992 to 1998, will try to help Poe elevate his game to the same level.
No. 12: DT Fletcher Cox
Team: Philadelphia Expectations coming in: The Eagles wanted Cox to help plug the interior defense and provide interior pass rush in the “wide-nine” scheme being run by coordinator Juan Castillo. How’d he do?: The Eagles began scrapping the wide-nine front when Castillo was 86’d during the season. Cox still finished with 5.5 sacks and 39 tackles in 15 games that included nine starts. What’s next?: Cox will switch to defensive end in the 3-4 system being run by new coordinator Billy Davis.
No. 13: WR Michael Floyd
Team: Arizona Expectations coming in: The Cardinals hoped Floyd would help draw double teams away from Larry Fitzgerald. How’d he do?: Floyd’s statistics – 45 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns – weren’t overly impressive but it’s hard to tell how much of that falls on him with the horrific state of Arizona’s quarterbacking and pass protection. What’s next?: With a new head coach (Bruce Arians) and quarterback (Carson Palmer), Floyd is expected to up his game in 2013.
No. 14: DT Michael Brockers
Team: St. Louis Expectations coming in: Although he entered the NFL at age 21 with only 14 starts in two years of playing time at Louisiana State, the Rams immediately inserted Brockers in with the first-team defense. How’d he do?: Brockers missed the first three regular-season games because of an ankle injury. He finished with 31 tackles and four sacks in 12 starts. What’s next?: Brockers flashed the potential to become a disruptive force on one of the NFL’s most promising young defensive lines. Brockers, though, must play with more consistency. He finished without a tackle in three starts.
No. 15: OLB/DE Bruce Irvin
Team: Seattle Expectations coming in: The Seahawks saw the NFL’s best incoming pass rusher. Skeptics believed general manager John Schneider was taking a huge gamble on a 25-year-old with plenty of off-field baggage. How’d he do?: Schneider was proven right as Irvin notched eight sacks coming off the bench. What’s next?: Chris Clemons (knee) may not be completely healthy for the start of the regular season, which means Irvin may receive more snaps at Seattle’s hybrid Leo position (outside linebacker/defensive end). Irvin is a key part of a pass rush that will also feature two free-agent pickups in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
No. 16: DE Quinton Coples
Team: New York Jets Expectations coming in: The Jets envisioned Coples boosting a pass rush that had slipped in recent seasons. How’d he do?: Coples led the Jets with 5.5 sacks. He also had 30 tackles. What’s next?: Becoming a full-time starter after only getting the nod for two games in 2012. The Jets may look for a pass rusher early in this year’s draft to pair with Coples.
No. 17: CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Team: Cincinnati Expectations coming in: Kirkpatrick, who stymied opposing wide receivers at the University of Alabama, was one of a slew of new cornerbacks the Bengals added during the 2012 offseason. How’d he do?: The best-case scenario entering training camp was Kirkpatrick winning a starting spot opposite Leon Hall. That never happened. Kirkpatrick hurt his left knee in the preseason and reinjured himself in early December. He played in only five games as a reserve before being placed on injured reserve. What’s next?: Kirkpatrick must not only stay healthy but also reaffirm that he can handle playing cornerback at the NFL level. Otherwise, the Bengals may consider converting him to safety.
No. 18: OLB Melvin Ingram
Team: San Diego Expectations coming in: Ingram was being relied upon to help fill a pass-rushing void created when Shawne Merriman and Larry English both had their NFL careers derailed by injuries. How’d he do?: Ingram tallied 41 tackles but only one sack while playing mostly as a backup. What’s next?: The Chargers changed head coaches from Norv Turner to Mike McCoy but kept defensive coordinator John Pagano. Playing in the same system for a second consecutive season should help Ingram, who is expected to start in 2013 with Shaun Phillips not being re-signed.
No. 19: DE Shea McClellin
Team: Chicago Expectations coming in: The Bears added McClellin to draw away some of the regular double-teaming being given to defensive end Julius Peppers. How’d he do?: The statistics don’t show it (14 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 1 games), but McClellin gave solid effort as an edge rusher playing in Chicago’s defensive line rotation. What’s next?: McClellin will probably become a full-time starter with incumbent Israel Idonije currently an unrestricted free agent.
No. 20: WR Kendall Wright
Team: Tennessee Expectations coming in: Wright, who played with Robert Griffin III at Baylor, was selected to add some big-play punch to a Tennessee offense that needed more of it in the passing game. How’d he do?: Wright posted decent numbers – 64 catches for 626 yards and four touchdowns – while starting 10 games and playing off the bench in five others. What’s next?: The Titans – particularly quarterback Jake Locker -- must do a better job springing Wright for downfield opportunities that could help raise his 9.8-yard receiving average from 2012.
No. 21: DE Chandler Jones
Team: New England Expectations coming in: While he excelled primarily against the run at Syracuse, the Patriots believed Jones had the athletic tools to become a quality pass rusher. How’d he do?: Jones quickly began exceeding expectations with five sacks in New England’s first six games. His production dropped in the second half of the season because of ankle injuries. What’s next?: Building upon his strong rookie season to become the most celebrated athlete in the Jones family. Chandler’s brother Jon “Bones” Jones is the UFC light-heavyweight champion.
No. 22: QB Brandon Weeden
Team: Cleveland Expectations coming in: The Browns wasted little time in naming Weeden their starting quarterback ahead of incumbent Colt McCoy. How’d he do?: Weeden couldn’t have started off his career in worse fashion than when posting a 5.1 quarterback rating in a season-opening loss to Philadelphia. Weeden showed gradual improvement the rest of the year but not enough to lift Cleveland above a 5-11 record. What’s next?: The two people most responsible for drafting Weeden (general manager Tom Heckert Jr. and head coach Pat Shurmur) were fired at the end of the season. Provided the Browns don’t select another quarterback early in the draft, Weeden must prove himself in 2013 or he will likely be following Heckert and Shurmur out of Cleveland.
No. 23: T Riley Reiff
Team: Detroit Expectations coming in: The Lions wanted Reiff to better an offensive line that surrendered 36 sacks of quarterback Matt Stafford in 2011. How’d he do?: Reiff cracked the starting five for only one game in 2012. Reiff did notch another seven starts at tight end in a sixth-lineman role. What’s next?: Reiff will be on the first-team line in 2013 but where depends on what the Lions do in the draft. Three starters – left tackle Jeff Backus (retired), right tackle Gosder Cherilus (Indianapolis/free agency) and Stephen Peterman (released) – are gone. Fortunately for the Lions, Reiff is versatile to fill any of those spots although his reach isn’t ideal for a left tackle.
No. 24: G David DeCastro
Team: Pittsburgh Expectations coming in: The first guard selected in his draft class, DeCastro was projected as an instant starter. How’d he do?: DeCastro struggled early in the preseason to best Ramon Foster at right guard, then hurt his knee during a preseason game against Buffalo. DeCastro returned to start the final three games of the regular season. What’s next?: DeCastro is expected to continue manning the right guard spot in 2013 with Foster shifting to left guard. DeCastro should benefit from a full offseason in Pittsburgh’s strength and conditioning program.
No. 25: ILB Dont’a Hightower
Team: New England Expectations coming in: Hightower was the type of athletic “tweener” linebacker prospect head coach Bill Belichick loves having on his roster. The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Hightower has the size to play defensive end but speed to handle linebacker responsibilities. How’d he do?: Hightower had 60 tackles and four sacks while making 13 starts at strong-side linebacker. What’s next?: Hightower’s focus should be on improving his pass defense so he can stay on the field more rather than being designated to a primary run-stuffing role.
No. 26: OLB Whitney Mercilus
Team: Houston Expectations coming in: The Texans already had quality outside linebackers but Mercilus -- who had 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 22.5 tackles for loss during his junior season at Illinois – was too tempting to pass up. How’d he do?: Mercilus provided a spark in passing situations with six sacks, which was double the total posted by starter Connor Barwin. What’s next?: Mercilus will be elevated to the first-team defense with Barwin leaving to Philadelphia in free agency.
No. 27: G Kevin Zeitler
Team: Cincinnati Expectations coming in: Zeitler was drafted to replace Bobbie Williams as Cincinnati’s starting right guard. How’d he do?: Zeitler started all 16 games for a Bengals squad that made the playoffs for a second consecutive season. What’s next?: Zeitler is just scratching the surface of what he can accomplish under renowned Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
No. 28: OLB Nick Perry
Team: Green Bay Expectations coming in: The Packers drafted Perry to serve as a much-needed complement to outside linebacker Clay Matthews. How’d he do?: Perry opened the season as a starter but appeared in only six games before landing on injured reserve following wrist surgery. What’s next?: The Packers will continue to try and develop Perry into a quality outside pass-rusher in their 3-4 scheme after he played defensive end at Southern Cal.
No. 29: S Harrison Smith
Team: Minnesota Expectations coming in: The Vikings needed a safety and Smith – a four-year starter at Notre Dame – fit what Minnesota was looking for. How’d he do?: Smith started from the get-go but showed marked improvement as the season unfolded. He registered 55 tackles and two interceptions in the final seven games (including the playoffs). What’s next?: The Vikings believe Smith has the tools to become an All-Pro safety.
No. 30: WR A.J. Jenkins
Team: San Francisco Expectations coming in: With the 49ers having plenty of veteran receiver talent on a run-heavy offense, the most likely role for Jenkins was securing snaps as a backup. How’d he do?: Jenkins appeared in only three games and didn’t catch a pass. What’s next?: After receiving what was essentially a redshirt NFL season, Jenkins will have the chance for playing time now that Randy Moss wasn’t re-signed and Ted Ginn Jr. signed with Carolina in free agency.
No. 31: RB Doug Martin
Team: Tampa Bay Expectations coming in: Martin and LeGarrette Blount were projected as a one-two punch in Tampa Bay’s running game. How’d he do?: Martin left Blount in the dust by turning Tampa Bay’s ground attack into a one-man show. Martin tallied 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns while Blount recorded only 41 carries. What’s next?: An NFL rushing title. Martin has the chance to better his spectacular rookie campaign in 2013 with the return of Tampa Bay’s two Pro Bowl guards (Carl Nicks and Devin Joseph) from injury.