The 2012 rookie quarterback class took the NFL by storm, as three standouts in particular led their teams to the playoffs in their first seasons under center after all three missed the postseason the year prior.
Now, all three are legitimate contenders for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award for 2012-13.
Expectations were sky-high for the draft's top two picks in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but three more signal-callers and an entire other round would pass before Russell Wilson was selected with the 75th overall pick in Round 3.
Yet this is the trio that has the best chance to take home the hardware on Saturday night in New Orleans. Here is a breakdown of their seasons, including a prediction as to who will win.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
By the numbers: 3118 passing yards, 64.1 completion percentage, 7.93 YPA, 26 TDs, 10 INTs, 100.0 passer rating; 96 carries, 489 yards, 4 TDs
Head coach Pete Carroll beat Wilson's drum consistently, even in the midst of the signal-caller's early struggles.
After completing just nine out of 23 passes for 122 yards an an interception against NFC West rival San Francisco—which turned out to be Seattle's worst loss of the entire year, by just seven points—Wilson went off.
From there, he threw just three interceptions and 18 touchdowns in the final nine games, seven of them Seattle victories.
Now several scouting departments that are scrounging for a franchise quarterback are shaking their heads for passing on the former North Carolina State and University of Wisconsin standout. The only true reason for Wilson not going much higher in the draft was his lacking height.
Apparently no one examined the offensive line that Wilson played behind in his one year with the Badgers. That bunch was bigger than the majority of NFL units across the board, and Wilson only had two passes batted down.
Consistently shoddy pass protection down the stretch of the season forced Wilson to make plays for the Seahawks that simply wouldn't be there without his unique athletic ability.
Wilson seems to know when to run the ball and when to slide down to a science after just one year. He did have the help of a stellar defense and strong running game led by Marshawn Lynch but still shined the bigger the stage got each week.
For that reason, he may be less hyped than RGIII and Luck for this award still. But he is as deserving as either of them to win it.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
By the numbers: 3200 passing yards, 65.6 completion percentage, 8.14 YPA, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 102.4 passer rating; 120 carries, 815 yards, 7 TDs
To opine there was a more electric player whose popularity experienced as meteoric of a rise in the 2012 season as Griffin's is almost laughable.
The awesome nickname. The socks. The smarts. The cannon arm. The world-class sprinter speed. And the ability to balance it all and carry a team that played poor defense to start the year.
Griffin led the Redskins on a seven-game winning streak to close out the season at 10-6 and as NFC East champions. Unfortunately, his rather reckless style of play left him susceptible to nasty hits, and it ultimately cost him in the Wild Card Round.
That doesn't take away from how great Griffin was at times, though. His offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan made the zone-read option hip before Wilson or San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did.
The tandem of Griffin and fellow rookie RB Alfred Morris formed the league's No. 1 rushing attack—something that couldn't have happened without Griffin.
It remains to be seen if a quarterback that plays in Griffin's style—and I say that because no one really does play quite like him—can hold up long-term in the NFL. But here's to hoping Griffin is back soon and healthy for a long time, because he put on a show in his first pro season.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
By the numbers: 4374 passing yards, 54.1 completion percentage, 6.98 YPA, 23 TDs, 18 INTs, 76.5 passer rating; 62 carries, 255 yards, 5 TDs
No. 1 overall pick, taking over the reins on a 2-14 team and succeeding Peyton Manning as the face of the franchise—good luck, kid.
Thankfully, the former Stanford star was up to the task, breaking Cam Newton's rookie single-season passing record after just one year.
In one of the most inspiring stories in league history, Luck led a team that exceeded all expectations and rallied around their leukemia-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano to an improbable, 11-win season.
Much of the credit for such a run goes to Luck's mentor and play-caller, Bruce Arians, who now helms the Arizona Cardinals. Arians also fostered Manning's development in his first season, and took advantage of Luck's advanced football intelligence to put together a prolific passing offense.
Despite getting hit more frequently than any other signal-caller in the NFL, Luck continued to bounce back, relentlessly willing his team to victory.
The numbers for Luck aren't exactly pretty, but the only rock he had was veteran WR Reggie Wayne. Just about all the other skills players and supporting cast were rookies or very inexperienced players, and Luck raised their level—especially late in games.
By far the most impressive stat in Luck's rookie campaign were the seven game-winning drives he orchestrated—most notably in overtime in Tennessee and in the waning moments at Detroit.
Luck was able to help the Colts lead the NFL in 3rd-and-long conversions under constant duress. He should make a huge leap with whatever improvements brilliant GM Ryan Grigson makes to the roster in 2013.
The problem is, Luck isn't as flashy or quite as dynamic with his feet as his fellow competitors for this award. But considering the inexperience surrounding him and the Colts' presence as a power rankings bottom feeder prior to the year, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award should go to Luck.
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