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- Top 10 NFL rookies
With the NFL play-off race hotting up, we decided to take a look at which rookies have made the biggest impression so far this season.
In no particular order, the 10 players listed below are the ones who have made the smoothest transition from college to professional among the draft class of 2012.
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Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne
Claiborne, the first defensive player taken at number six, was immediately hailed as the answer to the Dallas Cowboys' secondary woes. And the early signs are that the Louisiana State product could well match the hype. Playing opposite free agent pick up Brandon Carr, the Cowboys' pass defence is ranked eighth in the league after week 14 - a vast improvement on last season.
Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Part of an excellent draft class of cornerbacks, Gilmore emerged from South Carolina to become a starter in the Buffalo Bills' secondary from day one. The 10th overall selection's physical, tough-tackling style has proved an immediate hit and he has already shown a knack for forcing fumbles.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III
Griffin III went second in the draft after winning the Heisman Trophy in his junior year at Baylor and he loses little in comparison to top pick Andrew Luck. The Redskins quarterback is exciting to watch and is on pace to do the 3,000-1,000, passing-rushing yards double. Washington have recovered from a 3-6 start and, after four straight victories at 7-6, could yet win the NFC East title.
St Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins
Jenkins' off-field issues during his college career meant he dropped into the second round. The St Louis Rams were the first team willing to take a chance on a player who had ended up at North Alabama after being thrown off the team at the University of Florida following three arrests. It looks a smart move from the Rams as Jenkins' play-making abilities have translated instantly to the professional ranks - he has returned three of his first four interceptions for touchdowns.
Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil
The Minnesota Vikings jumped at the chance to take Kalil with the fourth pick and it is easy to see why. Protecting the quarterback's blindside makes left tackle a key position and, in Kalil, the Vikings have found a player who can be the foundation of their offensive line for the next decade. He has been a starter from day one, his run blocking has helped Adrian Peterson to a monster season and is in contention for a Pro Bowl trip.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly
The Carolina Panthers could not have asked for much more out of Kuechly, who they snagged with the ninth pick. Through week 14, the middle linebacker has been an all-action, every-down presence in a much-improved defence. The Boston College product leads the NFL in tackles with 130 and makes an impact of some kind every week, including three fumble recoveries so far.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
Luck was taken first overall by the Indianapolis Colts and has lived up to top billing. He has set a slew of rookie records already, including six 300-yard passing games to lead the Colts to 9-4 and in a good spot to push on towards an AFC wild-card. The Stanford graduate has also shown maturity and leadership during head coach Chuck Pagano's leave of absence for luekaemia treatment.
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris
Morris has become the latest running back to thrive in head coach Mike Shanahan's zone blocking system. The sixth-round selection out of Florida Atlantic ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,228 after 14 weeks of the season. Morris started the season at third on the Washington Redskins' depth chart but quickly established himself as the favoured backfield option with six 100-yard rushing displays.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin
Martin has piled up 1,234 rushing yards in 13 games, third in the league behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. The Boise State standout stayed on the draft board until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the penultimate pick of the opening round on him. Standing at 5ft 9in and 215 pounds, Martin is nicknamed "The Muscle Hamster" and has quickly emerged as the featured back in Tampa Bay, averaging just over 20 carries per game.
St Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein
A man of many nicknames - take your pick from 'Greg the Leg', 'Legatron' or 'Young GeeZee' - Zuerlein has already justified the St Louis Rams' use of a sixth-round pick. He has proved a key weapon in a struggling offence, kicking seven field goals from 50 yards plus, including a franchise record 60 yarder in the week four win over the Seattle Seahawks.
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