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2012 NFL Draft Revisited

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck seemed to be on his way to a potential Hall of Fame career but the No. 1 pick of the 2012 draft played just seven seasons before announcing his retirement

Injuries have taken their toll on the 2012 NFL Draft class, robbing fans of the prime years of some exhilarating talents. That's not to say that this class didn't feature some outright busts and some middling, serviceable-but-not-stupendous players as well. In other words — a typical haul for the obsessed-over but still largely non-scientific annual crapshoot known as the NFL draft.

1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Indianapolis (2012-18)

Luck’s abrupt retirement and post-football status as one of the most meme-able figures in sports have obscured what was once a Hall of Fame career in the making. Luck came out of the gate living up to his pre-draft rep as a franchise QB, leading the Colts to back-to-back-to-back 11-5 seasons and peaking with a 4,761-yard, 40-TD performance in 2014. Injuries took their toll, however, and on Aug. 24, 2019, Luck retired, citing health and a lack of joy playing the game. Luck posted a 53-33 record as a starting QB, with a 4-4 record in the postseason.

2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Washington (2012-15), Cleveland (2016), Baltimore (2018-20)

RG3 arrived with a ready-made nickname and a penchant for the spectacular before injuries short-circuited the hype machine. The 2011 Heisman winner after a stunning senior season at Baylor, Griffin posted an often-brilliant rookie season — a 20-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio, a 102.4 passer rating — that was undercut by a late-season knee injury and a controversy-marred one-legged showing in the NFC Wild Card Game. Griffin was never the same after that, though he did start 20 more games for Washington along with five for Cleveland and two for Baltimore.

3. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Cleveland (2012-13), Indianapolis (2013-14)

The successor to Heisman winner Mark Ingram II as Bama’s workhorse back, Richardson looked like a can’t-miss prospect after a 1,679-yard, 21-TD rushing performance for the Tide in 2011. Looks can be deceiving. Some respectable rookie production — 11 TDs, 950 rushing yards — only partially obscured some serious deficiencies. Prone to fumbles and lacking explosiveness (3.3 ypc for his career), Richardson lasted only three seasons in the NFL before brief stints in the CFL, AAF and Mexican American Football League.

4. Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Minnesota (2012-16), Carolina (2017-18)

A prototypical tackle prospect, Kalil was the first O-lineman to be taken in the first round by the Vikings since 2002 (Bryant McKinnie). Ultimately, Kalil was a serviceable but not spectacular bookend in a seven-year career that included one Pro Bowl appearance. After signing with Carolina, Kalil teamed up with brother Ryan to form the third brother duo to appear on the same O-line in NFL history.

5. Jacksonville: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Jacksonville (2012-13)

Blackmon joins Richardson as an unmitigated top-5 bust, as substance abuse and injury issues limited him to 20 career NFL games. After a remarkably prolific career at Oklahoma State, Blackmon caught 64 passes for 865 yards — both rookie highs for the season — and five TDs in 2012, but a preseason DUI bust presaged the problems that would leave him unemployed after an abortive second season.

6. Dallas: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Dallas (2012-16), New York Jets (2017-18), Kansas City (2019)

The 2011 Jim Thorpe Award winner at LSU, Claiborne was the consensus top corner in the 2012 draft, and the Cowboys, who had him as their highest-graded corner since Deion Sanders, traded up to get him with the sixth pick. Far from being the next Deion, Claiborne was little more than competent, posting seven interceptions in 85 career games (74 starts). He did win a ring in his final season with KC, although he was not active for the Super Bowl.

7. Tampa Bay: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Tampa Bay (2012-14), St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (2014-18), Pittsburgh (2019), Denver (2020)

A two-time All-American at Alabama, Barron was perceived as a prodigy — a safety with linebacker attributes who could dominate the back end at the next level. And after Tampa Bay traded him to the Rams after two and a half seasons, Barron was in fact moved to linebacker. But despite being named to the All-Rookie Team in 2012, Barron was never a superstar at either position, although he was a productive tackler, finishing his career with 710 stops. He never made a Pro Bowl.

8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Miami (2012-18), Tennessee (2019-present)

Tannehill has long outlasted the other quarterbacks in his first-round class and was the signal-caller for the top seed in the AFC this past season. Tannehill enjoyed his best statistical production in Miami, twice throwing for 4,000-plus yards, but his most team success has come in Tennessee, where he has a 30-13 record as a starter. He earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in his first season with the Titans, when he also earned his first Pro Bowl.

9. Carolina: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Carolina (2012-19)

Kuechly joins Luck in the what-might-have-been category, although unlike Luck, the rock-solid Kuechly might have done enough in a career cut short by CTE concerns to earn enshrinement in Canton. The 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, Kuechly was a five-time first-team and two-time second-team All-Pro in his eight seasons, making seven Pro Bowls and earning a spot on the 2010s All-Decade Team. A tackling machine, Kuechly shares the NFL record for most tackles in a game with 24.

10. Buffalo: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Buffalo (2012-16), New England (2017-21), Carolina (2021), Indianapolis (2022)

Something of an NFL late bloomer, Gilmore earned his first Pro Bowl in his fifth season (his last in Buffalo) and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 after defending 20 passes and grabbing a league-leading six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. In 2020, COVID and a torn quad halted his momentum; he was traded to Carolina, where he appeared in five games in 2021. Gilmore signed a two-year, $20 million deal ($14 million guaranteed) to join Indianapolis a week before this year's draft.

11. Kansas City: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Kansas City (2012-16), Atlanta (2017), Carolina (2018-19), Dallas (2020)

The largest player both to rush for a touchdown and pass for one, Poe was more than just a curiosity during his nine-year career. After toting his 346 pounds to a sub-5.0 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, Poe became the highest-drafted C-USA player to that point and was a highly serviceable space-eater for five seasons in KC, earning two Pro Bowl trips. He was a full-time starter for Atlanta and then Carolina before injuries and poor conditioning forced him out of the league.

12. Philadelphia: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Philadelphia (2012-present)

A six-time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, Cox would be a fringe Hall of Famer if he retired today. A versatile performer on the Eagles front, Cox has 54.5 career sacks, including a career-best 10.5 in 2018, and he’s returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Cox earned a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles following the 2017 season.

13. Arizona: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Arizona (2012-16), New England (2016), Minnesota (2017), Washington (2018)

A prolific All-America receiver for the Irish, Floyd never reached those heights in the NFL thanks in part to substance abuse issues. His best season came in 2013, when he caught 65 passes for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns. He ended his career with 266 receptions and 25 touchdowns in 102 games (51 starts).

14. St. Louis: Michael Brockers, DE, LSU
St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (2012-20), Detroit (2021-present)

Never a superstar, Brockers has nevertheless been a solid contributor during his decade in the league, earning All-Rookie honors in 2012 but no Pro Bowls since then. He posted a career-best 5.5 sacks in 2013 and a career-high 63 tackles in 2019. He was traded to Detroit in 2021 and started 16 games for the Lions last season.

15. Seattle: Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia
Seattle (2012-15), Oakland (2016-18), Atlanta (2018), Carolina (2019), Seattle (2020), Chicago (2021)

Irvin owns the dubious distinction of becoming the first player ever ejected from a Super Bowl, getting tossed for scrapping shortly after Seattle’s head-scratching, game-deciding interception in a Super Bowl XLIX loss to New England. The well-traveled Irvin has 52.0 career sacks, 16 forced fumbles and three interceptions, two of which he returned for scores.

16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
New York Jets (2012-15), Miami (2015)

An All-ACC performer at North Carolina, Coples had a brief, lackluster career as a defensive end-turned-linebacker — and as another example of the Jets’ poor track record in the NFL Draft. He did post 16.5 sacks over his first three seasons but lost playing time due to uninspiring performances and was out of the league by the 2016 preseason.

17. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Cincinnati (2012-19), Arizona (2020), San Francisco (2021)

One of four first-round picks from Nick Saban’s Tuscaloosa assembly line, Kirkpatrick has shown staying power, if not star power. He has 13 career interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. His career seems to be winding down after his release from San Francisco in November 2021.

18. San Diego: Melvin Ingram III, LB, South Carolina
San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2012-20), Pittsburgh (2021), Kansas City (2021), Miami (2022)

Ingram is a three-time Pro Bowler who was a productive member of some effective Chargers defenses. A highly regarded edge rusher, Ingram has lived up to that billing with 51.0 career sacks, including 10.5 in both 2015 and 2017, and 15 forced fumbles, many of the strip-sack variety. After playing for both the Steelers and Chiefs last season, Ingram signed a one-year deal with Miami in mid-May.

19. Chicago: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
Chicago (2012-15), New England (2016-17)

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McClellin’s career was shortened by injuries and concussion concerns, but he did start in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win over the Falcons. Earlier that season, he set the New England franchise record for longest fumble return with a 69-yard scoop-and-score vs. the Dolphins. He finished his career with 66 games (35 starts) and 202 tackles in five seasons.

20. Tennessee: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Tennessee (2012-16), Chicago (2017), Arizona (2018)

Wright had a monster career at Baylor, departing with school records for receptions (302), receiving yards (4,004) and receiving TDs (30). A bit undersized and far from a burner, Wright was a possession guy at the next level, peaking with a 94-catch, 1,079-yard season in 2013. He ended his career with 339 receptions for 3,858 yards and 19 TDs.

21. New England: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
New England (2012-15), Arizona (2016-21), Las Vegas (2022)

A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Jones has been one of the more productive members of this class, having few peers as an edge rusher. After four solid seasons in New England, Jones really blossomed in the desert, posting 17.0 sacks and 28 TFLs in 2017 and 19.0 sacks in 2019. After a red-hot start to the 2021 season — five sacks in the opener vs. Tennessee — Jones showed signs of hitting a 10-year wall as the season progressed. He has 107.5 career sacks (third among active players). In March, Jones signed a three-year, $51 million deal ($32 million guaranteed) to join the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.

22. Cleveland: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Cleveland (2012-13), Dallas (2014-15), Houston (2015-16, '18), Tennessee (2017)

Weeden holds the distinction as the oldest first-round selection in NFL Draft history; after pursuing a professional baseball career, and then spending five years at Oklahoma State, he was 28 when the Browns called his number. He started as a rookie in a mixed bag of a debut, throwing for 3,385 yards with 14 TDs and 17 interceptions. A thumb injury early in 2013 derailed Weeden as a starter, but he carved out a career as a backup, appearing in 35 games for his career.

23. Detroit: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Detroit (2012-16), Minnesota (2017-20), Cincinnati (2021)

A stereotypical corn-fed Midwestern O-lineman, Reiff has parlayed his sizable frame and uncommon durability into a long career — 147 games, 139 of them starts. This past season, he was the starting right tackle for the Bengals prior to going on IR on Dec. 16. He was a free agent as of mid-May.

24. Pittsburgh: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Pittsburgh (2012-20)

DeCastro is that rare guard who warrants a first-round selection in today’s game. An All-American at run-happy Stanford, DeCastro was a rock in the middle of the Steelers O-line for nine seasons before his release in the summer of 2021, earning six Pro Bowls and twice being named first-team All-Pro. Notably, it was DeCastro who came to the defense of QB Mason Rudolph when Myles Garrett swung at the QB with Rudolph’s helmet.

25. New England: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
New England (2012-21)

A rock on the second level of Bill Belichick’s defense for the last decade (with the exception of a 2020 COVID opt-out), Hightower has won three rings in New England as a keystone of the latter years of the Patriots’ dynasty. His clutch fourth-quarter strip-sack of Matt Ryan was a critical moment in New England’s miraculous comeback win in Super Bowl LI. Hightower remained a free agent as of mid-May.

26. Houston: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Houston (2012-21), Green Bay (2021)

Though he lacks the postseason accolades of some of his peers, Mercilus has been a productive outside linebacker and dangerous edge rusher since his entry into the league, amassing 58.0 career sacks and 362 tackles in 138 games (102 starts). He was released by the Texans in October 2021 and picked up by Green Bay, where he landed on IR with a torn biceps after four unproductive games but returned for the playoffs. On April 6, Mercilus announced his retirement from the NFL after 10 seasons.

27. Cincinnati: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Cincinnati (2012-16), Cleveland (2017-18), New York Giants (2019-20), Baltimore (2021-present)

The Bengals surprisingly spent a first-round pick on the draft’s fourth-ranked guard (per Sports Illustrated), but the lure of another Wisconsin O-lineman was hard to resist. Zeitler has been nothing if not durable, starting 16 games seven times in his 10-year career with four different teams. He just completed the first year of a three-year contract with Baltimore.

28. Green Bay: Nick Perry, LB, USC
Green Bay (2012-18)

Another solid if unspectacular pro, Perry posted 32.0 career sacks and 214 tackles in 81 games (48 starts), all of them with Green Bay. A fairly effective edge rusher, Perry had his best season in 2016, when he tallied career highs in sacks (11.0) and tackles (52).

29. Minnesota: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
Minnesota (2012-22)

A six-time Pro Bowler, Smith has been one of the best safeties in football throughout his career, if not the best. In fact, his 2017 season grade of 98.8 by Pro Football Focus was the highest-ever season grade for a safety. Smith has reached five interceptions in a season on three occasions and has 29 picks for his career, with four returned for touchdowns. Prior to the 2021 season, he signed a four-year extension that should see him finish a Hall of Fame career as a Viking.

30. San Francisco: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
San Francisco (2012), Kansas City (2013-14)

Perceived as a deep threat following an All-Big Ten season at Illinois, Jenkins was a colossal bust, posting only 17 career catches for 223 yards and no touchdowns. He made his first career reception in his second season, 511 days after he was drafted.

31. Tampa Bay: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Tampa Bay (2012-17), Oakland (2018)

One of three running backs drafted in the first round in 2012, Martin had a much better career than his two counterparts, posting two 1,400-yard rushing seasons and setting Tampa franchise records for rushing yards in a game (251), rushing yards by a rookie (1,454), and rushing TDs in a game (four, in a game in which he also set the NFL record for rushing TDs in a half). He finished his career with 5,356 rushing yards and 30 TDs (plus two scores as a receiver).

32. New York Giants: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
New York Giants (2012-13)

A breakout junior season at Tech and some impressive workout numbers put Wilson on scouts’ radars. An otherwise nondescript rookie season was highlighted by a Giants-record 327 all-purpose yards in a 52–27 win over the Saints, but a spinal stenosis injury in Week 5 of his second season ended his career. 

Best Pick By Round

Round 2 – Pick 47
Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State (Seattle)

Wagner’s steady sideline-to-sideline playmaking and high IQ influence have been the backbone to Seattle’s defense for a decade. The Utah State product — whose college teammate, Robert Turbin, was Seattle’s fourth-rounder and Marshawn Lynch’s backup during Beast Mode’s heyday — is a Super Bowl champion and eight-time Pro Bowler. After spending the first 10 years of his career with the Seahawks, the team released Wagner in March and he signed a five-year, $50 million ($20 million guaranteed) contract to join the Los Angeles Rams.

Round 3 – Pick 75
Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (Seattle)

With respect to former Hall of Famers Steve Largent and Walter Jones, MVP Shaun Alexander, and Defensive POY Cortez Kennedy, Wilson is the greatest Seahawk of all time, but he's no longer with the team after being traded to Denver in March. The Broncos sent five picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, along with three players to Seattle for the nine-time Pro Bowlers. 

Round 4 – Pick 102
Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (Washington)

“You like that?!” Cousins was the second QB taken by the not-yet Commanders in the 2012 draft. And after No. 2 pick and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III went down to injury, Cousins took over the Shanahan family offense. In 2018, Cousins signed with the Vikings and made NFL contract history by inking for a fully guaranteed $84 million over three years. He cashed in again in mid-March, signing a one-year, $35 million contract extension, also fully guaranteed, to carry him through the 2023 season.

Round 5 – Pick 143
Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina (Carolina)

If corners don’t run fast at the Combine or their Pro Day, they fall. Period. Norman ran a 4.66 in the 40. But he’s one of the best players in the 2012 NFL Draft. Period. With a swagger to run with elite receivers, Norman has 16 INTs that he has returned for 347 yards and three TDs after 10 seasons and was first-team All-Pro in 2015.

Round 6 – Pick 171
Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western (St. Louis)

Transferring from Nebraska-Omaha to Missouri Western, “Greg the Leg” was with the Rams during their move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. First-team All-Pro and the NFL’s scoring leader in 2017, Zuerlein signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in 2020 but he was released after two up-and-down seasons. He signed with the Jets in free agency and will get the opportunity to win the job in training camp. Regardless of the outcome, he’s one of the best kickers drafted in the last 10 years.

Round 7 – Pick 225
J.R. Sweezy, G, NC State (Seattle)

Sweezy was a starter at offensive guard for the Seahawks and another tremendous pick by Seattle. Sweezy left for Tampa Bay in free agency in 2016 but returned to Seattle for a second stint to start 15 games in 2018. He left again after that but played at least 13 games every season until 2021.