There once was a time, not long ago, when rookies were given a bit of a grace period to adjust to the NFL game. That grace period was particularly kind to quarterbacks.
But Cam Newton changed that with his historic rookie season in 2011. In fact, over the last few years, the increasing number of rookies have started to make an instant impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin are now expected to have that type of impact right away for their respective franchises. But which player has the best shot at taking home offensive rookie of the year honors in 2012? Check out my top five candidates after the jump.
1. Trent Richardson, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson has become the cliche pick to win offensive rookie of the year, but it's for good reason. He is the most talented running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Richardson isn't entering a high octane offense by any means, but he will get tons of carries and the chance to be a featured back. That's enough to make him the odds on favorite to win this award.
2. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Robert Griffin III is getting all the hype, but let's not forget that Andrew Luck has been touted as the best quarterback prospect in at least a decade. He may not have the best supporting cast, but he is a rare talent. I think he'll surprise a lot of people this year with his ability to carry the Colts.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't spend a first round pick on Doug Martin to have him spell LaGarrette Blount. The coaching staff seems to have lost faith in Blount, and it's tough to blame them. Martin is the far superior back and will get a chance to handle a substantial workload as a rookie. I think he's ready for it, too.
4. Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III is the flashiest rookie heading into the 2012 season because of his ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. He'll definitely have his moments, but Griffin's transition to the NFL may not be as smooth as people are expecting. People are expecting too much after Cam Newton's rookie performance.
Kendall Wright would be a bit higher on this list if he had a contract. As of this writing, Wright is still unsigned. It's unfortunate, too, because Kenny Britt's legal issues and injury could really open the door for Wright to have a productive first year. But he has to be on the field, developing chemistry with his quarterback to do it.