The inexact science/unavoidable abject failure of grading– oh how I love it so. While it seems premature to grade our rookies after one training camp, and just two preseason games, it is fair to take a look at where they are in relation to the expectations they carried into training camp. As a unit this 2012 class looks to be one of the best in recent memory, but individually how to they stack up?
Luke Kuechly (1st round, 9th overall)
The phrase 'as good as advertised' seems a little out of place for a player who seems to abhor self-promotion. Mild mannered, and quiet off the field, Luke Kuechly turns into a different person when the lights are on. Here he becomes a vocal, engaged leader who helped organize the defense through the first two preseason games.
After the ball is snapped you see a linebacker who always in the right place at the right time, and while that seems cliched, it has shown to be true thus far. There's not too much else to say about Kuechly other than he's right on track.
Amini Silatolu (2nd round, 40th pick)
This is a situation where it's all about how much you expected about Amini. In the run game he has looked fantastic, in the passing game he's been less than stellar. Overall we've seen more or less his scouting report as he continues to keep a chip on his shoulder, and play hard. He'll develop in time, but for now he's above average
More after the jump
Frank Alexander (4th round, 103rd pick)
In the first preseason game Alexander looked average, and in the second he was outstanding. You see a player who wants to learn, and wants to make an impact– which is welcome from a rookie defensive end. Alexander could prove to be vital for the Panthers, who struggle to find a consistent pass rush this preseason across from Charles Johnson. He has a fantastic combination of size and length that can't be taught, and once he puts it together and harnesses his frame he will be on the way to becoming a very effective player.
Joe Adams (4th round, 104th pick)
Looking to have no impact in the passing game, Joe Adams has been solely responsible for punt returns this preseason. There are times he'll put your heart in your throat as he dances in the backfield, so close to getting tagged, only to escape out a seemingly shut back door for a big gain. Against the Texans he had a stunning 30+ yard punt return, and while he had less room against Miami he still managed to pull of an 18 yard PR. That factor alone makes him worthy of his draft pick, and when he can become more consistent with his returns he'll be elite.
Josh Norman (5th round, 143rd pick)
Expectations were fairly measured for Norman, and thus far he's blown them out of the water. If the Panthers truly found a starting CB in the 5th round then the scouting staff worked wonders, though I have to imagine if they thought he was going to be this good they would have taken him earlier. Does he make rookie mistakes? Absolutely, and is he a little too cocky? Indeed; but so far Norman has been the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 draft class, and deserves a high grade.
Brad Nortman (6th round, 207th pick)
For his position, Nortman has performed quite well. He doesn't look like the second coming of Ray Guy, but he's certainly been better than Jason Baker. It's only a matter of time before he solidifies the punting job as he continues to battle veteran Nick Harris, but as it stands he's done enough to win the job, and as such deserves a good rating.
D.J. Campbell (7th round, 216th pick)
This grade reflects lack of opportunity more than anything. Campbell is a speedy, hard-hitting specialist who was selected to bolster special teams, and add another gunner. Thus far he really hasn't had many chances to shine, but he looked quite good in training camp. Will he ever be a starting safety? Probably not, but he can be an effective player who can help remodel the ST unit.