Let’s take a time machine back to 2012, shall we? The 2012 NFL Draft was headlined by two quarterbacks—one with comparisons to the game’s greatest and the other coming off a Heisman Trophy. It’s wild to think it’s been more than a decade since that spring.
While the Seattle Seahawks used the 2012 NFL Draft to add two potential Hall of Famers with mid-round selections in Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, let’s take a deep dive into the top half, ranking each of the first 10 picks and breaking down how each player progressed now a decade into the future.
No. 1 overall: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The Stanford product transcended both college football and league-wide scouting meetings for what seemed like a lifetime. An elite-level signal-caller with the “processing ability of Peyton Manning” and skill set that saw many label him as the best thing since Joe Montana, Luck was the easy No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
His career, at first, saw Luck live up to his almost unreachable expectations with three consecutive 11-5 seasons and back-to-back-to-back playoff appearances. But a career expected to conclude in Canton quickly saw a turn. An illustrious start to his NFL tenure was quickly followed by injuries, however, as a lacerated kidney suffered in 2015 limited him to just seven games that fall and a nagging shoulder injury forced him to miss the entirety of the 2017 season.
Following his constant rehab efforts and attempt to work back to full strength, and despite winning the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2018 for leading Indianapolis to a 10-6 mark that season, Luck sent shockwaves through the sports world after a tweet leaking his intentions to hang up his cleats for good spread like wildfire during a Colts preseason game in 2019. At 29 years old, Luck retired, ultimately failing to live up to the extraordinarily high bar, and in turn, leaving behind a career destined for success. He sourced his constant battle back to full strength that “took the joy out of the game” as his reason for walking away.
It was a disheartening way to see a career come to a close—no matter the surrounding storylines. Luck was outstanding—herculean at times—but never had the type of impact seen only once in a lifetime from inside the pocket.
Grade: Incomplete evaluation
No. 2 overall: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Commanders
Griffin III immediately asserted himself as a talent to get used to on the NFL stage. His first-ever start in New Orleans saw Washington hang 40 points on the Saints, and was a precursor to what resulted in him winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in his first NFL season. However, questions about his style of play were an umbrella of doubt when he entered the NFL and it’s what ultimately ended his career.
After just 12 games in 2012 where he and running back Alfred Morris took the league by storm within Kyle Shanahan’s RPO-heavy offense, a hit to his knee by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in Week 13 forced him into a brace and he never returned to form. After three seasons in D.C., Griffin III spent time with Cleveland and Baltimore and is currently a free agent.
No. 3 overall: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
A five-star prep talent who entered the 2012 NFL Draft after amassing more than 1,600 yards for the Alabama Crimson Tide that prior collegiate season, Richardson’s selection still scares teams away from taking running backs in the first round, let alone the top three. He spent a trio of seasons in the league, battled through nagging injury after nagging injury, and ultimately bounced from practice squad to practice squad before spending time in the Canadian Football League, Alliance of American Football, and as a member of the Caudillos de Chihuahua football club in Mexico. He’s been one of the biggest disappointments in draft history over the last few decades.
No. 4 overall: Matt Kalil, OT, Minnesota Vikings
A Pro Bowler in his rookie season, Kalil initially looked to be everything the Vikings hoped for out of USC. A massive man with heavy hands and excellent movement skills, he led the way for Adrian Peterson during his MVP season in 2012 but quickly regressed in the seasons to come. Although he missed just 14 games in his six-year career, Kalil continuously battled hip and knee injuries, missed the entirety of the 2018 season with Carolina, and spent a small amount of time with the Houston Texans in 2019 before hanging them up for good.
No. 5 overall: Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the most gifted athletes to come out of the college ranks in some time, Blackmon was the “next big thing” out of Oklahoma State. After totaling 3,564 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons for the Cowboys, Blackmon was looked upon to revitalize the Jaguars’ passing game.
After trading up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to grab him, the Jaguars never saw Blackmon mature both on and off the field, and he fell out of the league after just two seasons. While 865 yards in his first season raised a banner of optimism, Blackmon, like many in this list, was an enormous disappointment.
No. 6 overall: Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas Cowboys
As was the case with many within 2012’s top ten, Claiborne enjoyed a successful rookie season before quickly falling off the performance cliff due to many outlying circumstances. A starter for Dallas opposite Mike Jenkins in 2012, Dallas opted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan prior to the 2013 season, hiring Monte Kiffin as his replacement. With idealizations of deploying heavy Tampa 2 defensive concepts, Claiborne beefed up his frame adding 10 pounds of weight to add strength in press-man, but it ultimately backfired as he lost a significant amount of flexibility throughout his body—that ultimately led to him missing training camp and the preseason in 2013.
Claiborne was seemingly demoted and promoted for the next four seasons in Dallas, battling a laundry list of injuries. In 2017, he latched on with the New York Jets for two seasons as they looked to replace Darrelle Revis, and then eventually won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs as an inactive in 2019. Eight years in the NFL is nothing to scoff at, but from Dallas’ perspective after using a top-10 pick, he failed in becoming Jerry Jones’ lockdown secondary stalwart.
No. 7 overall: Mark Barron, SAF, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Barron was never a game-changer at the safety spot, nor was he an intimidating presence at the roof of a defense, but he checked a ton of boxes as a multi-level defender throughout his eight seasons in the NFL. He didn’t make any Pro Bowls and appeared in just four career playoff games (all with the Rams), but he amassed more than 700 tackles in his career and evolved nicely as a hybrid linebacker late in his career for Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
No. 8 overall: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
An 88-game starter for Miami over six seasons, Tannehill has enjoyed a long, successful NFL career. While his 42-46 career record in Miami left a sour taste in the mouths of many Dolphins fans after failing to qualify for the postseason, he’s led the Tennessee Titans to 30 wins compared to 13 losses over the last three seasons combined and remains a middle of the road signal-caller. While he wasn’t the franchise face that Miami General Manager Jeff Ireland thought he would be in 2012, it could have been much, much worse.
No. 9 overall: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
One of the greatest linebackers to play the game, Kuechly is arguably the headlining name of the entire 2012 class alongside Wagner and Wilson. A five-time All-Pro, 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year, 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the Hall of Fame’s All-2010s team, Kuechly was one of the most intellectual defenders to ever suit up and possessed a combination of speed and strength unique to the linebacker position from the moment he entered the NFL.
No. 10 overall: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills
Despite starting 66 games for the Bills, Gilmore reached his performance ceiling as a member of the New England Patriots and is now an Indianapolis Colt after enjoying a pit stop season in Carolina. However, for Buffalo, Gilmore played well in his five seasons, made a Pro Bowl in 2016, and was often a bright spot for Buffalo during a stretch in which the team battled to stay out of the basement of the AFC East during the 2010s. He evolved into the class’s top corner and seemingly has a ton of juice left in the tank at 31 years old.
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