No event on the annual calendar is second-guessed more than the NFL draft. After studying film from college competition and subjecting athletes to countless challenges and measurements at the combine, teams select a small handful of players who are expected to make an immediate impact.
With the season at its halfway point, the rookie class of 2012 has already unfolded differently than expected. While top overall pick Andrew Luck has been inconsistent, numerous surprises farther down the draft board have shaken up everyone's analysis.
Here is a look at the top 10 rookies making an impression in 2012:
1. Robert Griffin III, QB, WASH -- No team drafted better than the Washington Redskins, and the affable RG3 appears a lock for the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. The signal caller was already honored as the top offensive rookie of September. Through seven games, Griffin has led a much-improved Redskins' team to three victories while throwing for 1,601 yards and 7 touchdowns. Additionally, the dynamic play-maker has added 468 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. Though tossing only 3 interceptions, RG3 has been vulnerable to fumbles and was knocked out of a week 5 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
2. Alfred Morris, RB, WASH -- While his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback arrived with significant fanfare, this sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic University was a long shot to win the Redskins' starting running back position. Despite a crowded backfield of Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, and Evan Royster, the 23-year-old indeed earned the job during the pre-season and has since displayed no sign of surrendering it. Through seven games, Morris stunningly is second in the NFL with 658 rushing yards, and the rookie has been held under 75 yards in only one contest.
3. Doug Martin, RB, TB -- While third overall pick Trent Richardson is absent due to injury and under-performance, the second running back drafted in 2012 ranks highly among the year's best rookies. Tampa Bay traded up to grab this Boise State rusher with the 31st overall selection, and fantasy owners agree the 23-year-old is capable of a broad impact for years to come. The so-called "Muscle Hamster" blends speed and power while serving as an every-down back and a key contributor to the passing game. Helping breathe new life into the Bucs' formerly stagnant offense, Martin has scrambled for 543 yards and grabbed 214 through the air through seven games.
4. Matt Kalil, OT, MIN -- Though multiple scenarios were rumored for the top of the draft, one constant was the Minnesota Vikings coveting this big tackle from USC. The club eventually selected Kalil with the fourth overall pick and immediately handed him the starting left tackle position. Hoping to protect young QB Christian Ponder and also safeguard an Adrian Peterson returning from injury, Kalil has faced high expectations. As Minnesota has surprisingly captured five of eight games, the big Californian has anchored a solid offensive line.
5. Chandler Jones, DE, NE -- Bill Belichick addressed numerous defensive concerns in the 2012 draft and a pair of first round selections now start for his famed unit. With Dont'a Hightower selected soon after to assist at linebacker, the Patriots used the 21st overall pick for this defensive end from Syracuse. Jones was imported to bolster the pass rush, and he has already racked up 5 sacks through seven games. Adding 31 tackles and 3 forced fumbles, the 22-year-old was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.
6. Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA -- If the draft were held again, who knows how highly Ryan Tannehill might be selected? Many skeptics thought the Miami Dolphins reached by taking this Texas A&M product eighth overall. With only 19 college starts at quarterback, the former wide receiver resembled a hefty project for a rebuilding team. Yet Tannehill has blended smoothly into Joe Philbin's offense, and his 6'4" frame looks comfortable in NFL play. The 24-year-old won the starting job in pre-season and has led the Dolphins to a surprising 3-3 record. Tannehill has impressively established good chemistry with Brian Hartline and hurled for a respectable 1,454 yards with an accompanying 60-percent completion stat.
7. Janoris Jenkins, CB, STL -- Selected in the second round, Jenkins may prove the steal of the draft. The Florida native competed for the University of Florida for three years before being dismissed prior to his senior campaign. Jenkins finished up at North Alabama, but was still haunted by off-the-field struggles prior to April's draft. The St. Louis Rams gambled on the troubled player, who started at cornerback for the 2008 National Champions as a true freshman. Though he struggled in a week 7 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Jenkins has caught eyes with 36 total tackles and an interception. The young player is fortunate to complement veteran CB Cortland Finnegan, who should serve as a positive influence.
8. Luke Kuechly, LB, CAR -- With 532 tackles in three years at Boston College, this linebacker is among the best in college football history. Kuechly can line up at both outside and middle linebacker and provide blanketing pass protection wherever he plays. The Carolina Panthers selected the 21-year-old with the ninth pick in 2012 and initially inserted him at weakside linebacker. Kuechly started the season modestly with 25 tackles through four games. However, since Jon Beason went down to injury, the rookie's production has skyrocketed at middle linebacker. In the past two games, Kuechly has posted 25 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
9. Mark Barron, S, TB -- The safety from the University of Alabama was a perfect fit for the rebuilding Tampa Bay Bucs. New coach Greg Schiano grabbed the hard-hitting Barron with the seventh overall pick, and the player has already contributed much-needed toughness for the young team. With 44 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception, Barron has an equally prevalent knack for the ball, which gives this two-time National Champion the ideal combination for NFL impact.
10. Greg Zuerlein, K, STL -- Arguably possessing the most powerful leg to enter the league since Sebastian Janikowski, the St. Louis Rams used a sixth-round pick to select this kicker from Missouri Western State. "Greg the Leg" has not disappointed by nailing 17 of 20 field goals and all nine extra point attempts. Zuerlein gained attention after a week 5 victory, where he went a perfect 4 of 4 and drilled a 60-yard field goal. As a whole, the kicker has converted on an unlikely 5 of 7 attempts from 50+ yards.
Yahoo! Sports, ProFootballTalk.com, JoeBucsFan.com, ESPN.com.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show "The Sports Train."
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