Rookie revelations before training camp

BY Alex Marvez • June 25, 2009

The old adage says an NFL draft shouldn't be graded until three years have passed.

But as the league's offseason workouts end, the immediate impact that might be made by the Class of 2009 has quickly become evident.

Some first-round choices are zooming toward starting spots. Some have already shown signs that they will need more time to develop. And there already are some later picks who are proving they should have been drafted earlier.

Here are five early thoughts on the Class of 2009:

Pre-camp rookie take: The regular season could open with three rookie starting quarterbacks for the first time since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

In 2008, Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco proved that inexperience can be overcome with smart decision-making, strong supporting casts and well-crafted game plans that don't put the entire offense on the quarterback's shoulders. Detroit, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets may decide to follow that same route with Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman and Mark Sanchez, respectively.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz has declared an open training-camp competition between Stafford and veteran Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper entered minicamps with an advantage because of familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's system from when both were in Minnesota. Knowing this is a make-or-break season in his 10-year NFL career, Culpepper also worked himself into much better physical condition after struggling with injury and weight issues in recent seasons.

The Lions, though, didn't draft Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick to sit for long. Stafford's quick release has turned heads and he is rapidly eating up the playbook.

While he has only 16 college starts at Southern Cal to his credit, Sanchez has a legitimate chance at besting Kellen Clemens in their training camp battle. Media reports indicate Sanchez has gotten markedly better in recent practices. And as Baltimore's defensive coordinator last year, new Jets head coach Rex Ryan saw firsthand how to groom a rookie quarterback for early success.