NFL Draft Center

2012 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Offense

Written By: Mark Scott

The offensive draft class this year is headlined by the best prospect in 30 years in Quarterback Andrew Luck, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Quarterback Robert Griffin III, BCS National Championship Running Back Trent Richardson, Two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon and USC Left Tackle Matt Kalil. All five are among the top six prospects in the draft. Then comes Ryan Tannehill and Michael Floyd, who are both surging up draft boards to possible spots in the top 13 picks. Rounding out the first round are couple of offensive tackles in Riley Reiff, Jonathon Martin and possibly Mike Adams, a pair of guards in David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn, wide receivers Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill and even possible spots for players like Peter Konz, Doug Martin, Kevin Zeitler and Coby Fleener. Overall the offense could provide the first round with around 18 players. The interior offensive linemen crop is exceptional and the wide receivers and running backs each have a couple potential stars along with great depth, while tight end is severely lacking and offensive tackle isn’t as good as it normally is. There is no doubt a significant amount of elite, impact talent available on the offensive side of the ball in the draft with a number of names that fans will be hearing for a long time.


The Quarterback draft class of 2012 is incredible at the top with two truly special franchise talents, one very good and intriguing athlete along with a couple of solid, intelligent signal-callers before it quickly drops off and becomes a group of long-term projects. Andrew Luck isn’t a once in decade talent, he’s much more than that as the best prospect since John Elway in 1983, a period that spans 30 years and across four different decades of incredibly talented players. He possesses every possible tool physically and mentally and appears to know almost everything there is to know about how to be a quarterback. He already has the ability to break down defenses and call plays at the line. He has a mix of a cannon and sniper rifle for an arm with every throw in the book and displayed at the Combine that he has pretty much the same pure athletic ability as Cam Newton. He might be a once in a lifetime talent. While he’s not Andrew Luck, the Heisman Trophy winning Robert Griffin III is just as special a talent. He possesses rare athletic abilities for a quarterback, namely his world-class speed. He has a fantastic arm with great touch and accuracy and the fearlessness to make any throw (just checkout his game-winning touchdown throw in the final seconds versus Oklahoma this past year). He’s extremely mobile and has the ability to make oncoming tacklers miss and will take off when he needs too, but he is a pass-first quarterback. He has the type of abilities to make people think that he can revolutionize the quarterback position much like Michael Vick almost did early in his career. Opinions on Ryan Tannehill are all over the map, though for the most part he is believed to be a first round talent that has moved up boards due to the need and value of a possible franchise quarterback. He’s a terrific athlete as evidenced by his experience playing wide receiver at a high level and displayed the ability to transition back to quarterback without missing a beat and improve at an extremely fast pace.  Still, he lacks experience as a signal-caller and made a number of mistakes especially in clutch situations in college. He’s still early in his development and is a couple of years away. He could be a huge risk that will set a team back years if they rush him and he doesn’t work out. Following those top three quarterbacks is another group of three with Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins all having the potential to be solid pros and possible starters, but likely backups down the line. Osweiler is a giant quarterback at almost 6’7”, 242lbs., but it is his size that has teams most concerned about his ability to move around. He’s still raw and needs a lot of work, particularly on his mechanics, but he has very good upside. For Weeden, it is really a matter of age is just a number or at least that’s what he will be telling teams as he tries to make it as an almost 28-year old rookie. He has a fantastic arm with excellent accuracy and touch, but does not have great mobility and will take some big shots. He is mature, professional and probably ready to play right away for a team in need. Cousins is as solid a prospect as there is going to be. He has incredible leadership skills as one of the best leaders in the entire draft, his intangibles are through the roof and he possesses that clutch gene to come through in the biggest of situations. His arm is ready to go, though it isn’t the strongest or most powerful, but he has more of a finesse style relying on accuracy and anticipation. The knock against him is he is about as good as he is going to get and doesn’t have a very high ceiling. Think Chad Pennington. He may be looking at a long career as a very good backup. This is where the talent level and potential really starts to drop off with only Russell Wilson possibly able to break into the late stages of Day 2 of the draft. He has the arm, athletic ability and leadership skills to make it, but as the shortest quarterback in the draft at barely 5’11”, he is facing an uphill battle as a starting quarterback. B.J.Coleman, Nick Foles and Patrick Witt could be interesting long-term projects.

  1. Andrew Luck, Stanford, First Overall
  2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor, Second Overall
  3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M, First Round/Top 12
  4. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State, Second Round
  5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, Second Round
  6. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, Second/Third Round
  7. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, Late Third/Fourth Round
  8. Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Fourth/Fifth Round
  9. Nick Foles, Arizona, Fifth Round
  10. B.J. Coleman, Chattanooga, Sixth Round

Worth Mentioning: Austin Davis/Southern Mississippi, Kellen Moore/Boise State, G.J. Kinne/Tulsa, Patrick Witt/Yale, Chandler Harnish/Northern Illinois, Aaron Corp/Richmond, Case Keenum/Houston

Wide Receivers

The wide receiver crop is deep with plenty of players to fill any role, but has just two definite first round talents in Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. Blackmon isn’t the biggest or the fastest receiver, but he is an absolute beast with the ability take over games by himself and just run over and dominate opposing defenders (see his performance vs. Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, one of the best I’ve ever seen). As the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in college his production is off the charts. He plays hard and physical and his style is reminiscent of Anquan Boldin, but with more speed, explosion and downfield ability. Michael Floyd is a perfect example of the new generation of talented wide receivers that are tall, big and fast with the ability to blow past corners and out-jump everyone. He can play in the slot, but his strength is stretching the field deep and making big plays. He has risen up draft boards over the last two months, especially in the last couple of weeks where he now looks to be a likely top-15 selection. There are some maturity concerns after some off the field issues with alcohol, but those appear to have been taken care of over the last year. Kendall Wright is the next standout following Blackmon and Floyd and will probably come off the board late in round one, despite a disastrous Combine that dropped his stock. He’s shifty and moves smoothly in and out of routes and can cut on a dime to get open. He makes plays all over the field and has the hands to make some unbelievable catches. He’s similar to Philadelphia’s Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but plays a bit more physical than they do, but he won’t be getting any bigger. Stephen Hill put on a show at the Combine, but like his former teammate and Bronco’s first round pick Demaryius Thomas, he has a lot of work to do as a receiver after running very few routes and being used mostly as a blocker or decoy in Georgia Tech’s run-option offense. South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffrey has terrific upside and the potential to be the best receiver in this class, but major concerns about his fluctuating weight, effort and work ethic are why he is no longer a first round possibility. After the top four or five are gone, it really becomes much like running back and cornerback, where personal preference among teams and what they like in their wide outs that will determine who goes where and when.

  1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, First Round/Top Ten
  2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, First Round/Top 20
  3. Kendall Wright, Baylor, First Round
  4. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech, Late First/Early Second Round
  5. Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina, Second Round
  6. Reuben Randle, LSU, Second Round
  7. Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers, Second Round
  8. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois, Second/Third Round
  9. Chris Givens, Wake Forest, Second/Third Round
  10. Nick Toon, Wisconsin, Third Round

Worth Mentioning: Juron Criner/Arizona, Brian Quick/Appalachian State, Ryan Broyles/Oklahoma, Dwight Jones/North Carolina, Marvin Jones/California, Marvin McNutt/Iowa, T.Y. Hilton/Florida International, Greg Childs/Arkansas, Jeff Fuller/Texas A&M, Devon Wylie/Fresno State, DeVier Posey/Ohio State

Running Backs

The running back position this year is good with talented prospects to be had throughout the draft. Alabama’s Trent Richardson is one of the draft’s special talents this year. He is a bit of throwback as a complete, three-down franchise back with the ability to power his way up the middle, hit the home run on the outside and catch the ball as well as any receiver out of the backfield. He can do it all. While he has a ton of experience and the skills to be a workhorse back, he wasn’t over used or worn down in Tuscaloosa as he backed up and split time with Mark Ingram for two seasons before taking on the main role last year with Eddie Lacy providing relief to keep him fresh and healthy. He is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson and is a can’t miss. This is where it becomes a bit of a crap-shoot regarding running backs, though the second round backs are very good and could produce a couple stars. There are multiple tiers of backs for each round with a variety of different types of players. Doug Martin, David Wilson, Lamar Miller and LaMichael James make up that first group of backs behind Richardson and will likely all be selected in the second round. Martin is the extremely physical power back of the group, while the other three rely more on their outstanding speed and elusiveness. All four have the ability to run inside and outside and catch the ball out of the backfield. Wilson and Miller are getting Chris Johnson type comparisons, while James is being hyped up as the next Darren Sproles. They all have their pros and cons, but all look to have the ability to be very productive players and possible starters at the next level. From the third round on it all becomes a matter of team preference and what they want in their running back. There is just about every type of running back to be had whether teams are looking for power, speed or pass-catching ability.

  1. Trent Richardson, Alabama, First Round/Top Ten
  2. Doug Martin, Boise State, Late First/Early Second Round
  3. David Wilson, Virginia Tech, Second Round
  4. Lamar Miller, Miami-Florida, Second Round
  5. LaMichael James, Oregon, Second/Third Round
  6. Chris Polk, Washington, Second/Third Round
  7. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati, Third Round
  8. Bernard Pierce, Temple, Third Round
  9. Robert Turbin, Utah State, Third/Fourth Round
  10. Chris Rainey, Florida, Fourth Round

Worth Mentioning: Cyrus Gray/Texas A&M, Ronnie Hillman/San Diego State, Vick Ballard/Mississippi State, Edwin Baker, Michigan State, Tauren Poole/Tennessee

Offensive Tackles

The offensive tackle class this year is slightly below average and not as good as it usually is, especially with the top four prospects all reportedly dropping down the first round. Even Matt Kalil, who has been pegged to go to Minnesota at no.3 overall for months, may now drop as far Buffalo at the ten spot if the Vikings pass on him. The USC product is the one sure fire potential franchise left tackle in the draft. He has good size, great athleticism and all the tools and fundamentals to be the next upper echelon tackle in the NFL. He’s a flawless pass protector, a great run blocker with the ability to get to the second level and continue blocking and he’s a great fit for any system. Following Kalil are three first round worthy tackles in Riley Reiff, Jonathon Martin and Mike Adams, however all three have some minor concerns around them. They all have played left tackle in college, but for one reason or another they are being talked about more as right tackles at the next level. Reiff is well-coached by offensive linemen guru and Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz and plays with the proper technique. He has good athleticism and footwork to go with a solid frame that can handle adding more strength and bulk to it. His background as a tight end and a wrestler make him a unique talent, although he is still more of a prospect than a proven guy and could take a couple years to develop into a top tackle on either side of the line. Martin has spent the past three seasons successfully blocking top pick Andrew Luck’s blindside and playing in a pro system at Stanford.  He appears to have the talent and size to be an impact lineman, but scouts are questioning how good he really is, whether he has the strength to block stronger defenders or the quickness and athleticism to take out speed rushers. He is being talked about as a potential bust, but as he falls down the board the risk continues to diminish and the reward of landing a possible franchise tackle down the road increases. Ohio State’s Mike Adams has rare size and athleticism for a left tackle and has all the potential in the world to become something special, but numerous off the field issues (as recent as testing positive for pot at the Combine), a lack of commitment and drive as well as major maturity concerns have him possibly dropping out of the first round altogether. Even his mammoth size is working against in some circles as it’s believed that he won’t be able to get low enough to gain leverage against oncoming defenders in both the run game and in pass protection. He could end up being moved inside to left guard. For all the talk of the top four dropping, Mississippi’s Bobby Massie is actually rising up draft boards into the early potion of round two and might even sneak into the late first round. He’s the prototype NFL Right Tackle with long arms and big hands and has the strength and power to toss defenders around. He’s a terrific athlete that can handle speed and power rushers and his ceiling is about as high as any offensive tackle in the draft. Following the first five tackles off the board, there is a drop-off in talent and aside from Jeff Allen of Illinois it looks like it’s predominantly all right tackles the rest of the way.

  1. Matt Kalil (LT), USC, First Round/Top Five
  2. Riley Reiff (LT/RT), Iowa, First Round
  3. Jonathon Martin(LT/RT), Stanford, First Round
  4. Mike Adams (LT/RT), Ohio State, Late First Round
  5. Bobby Massie (RT), Mississippi, Early Second Round
  6. Jeff Allen (LT/RT/LG), Illinois, Second/Third Round
  7. Mitchell Schwartz (RT), California, Third Round
  8. Zebrie Sanders (RT), Florida State, Third Round
  9. Donald Stephenson (RT/LG), Oklahoma, Third/Fourth Round
  10. Brandon Mosley (RT), Auburn, Fourth Round

Worth Mentioning: Matt McCants/UAB, Tony Bergstrom/Utah, Tom Compton/South Dakota, Nate Potter/Boise State, Matt Reynolds/BYU

Offensive Guards/Centers

Guard and Center are rarely ever going to get the fans excited, but this year’s crop of interior linemen is phenomenal and is probably the deepest position on offense in this draft. The Guards are amazing and the Centers are very good. It all starts with Stanford’s David DeCastro, who is a truly special talent that might be the best Guard prospect in over a decade and is one of the top ten players available at any position. He is ready to be plugged in immediately and it won’t take long before he is performing at a perennial Pro Bowl level. If Guard was as valued as other positions he would be considered a franchise talent. Right behind him is Georgia’s Cordy Glenn, who put on an incredible display of athleticism at the Combine, especially for a man of his mammoth size. He brings a ton of experience and the versatility to line up at both tackle positions and Left Guard. Then comes a pair of Wisconsin powerhouses in center Peter Konz and left guard Kevin Zeitler. They are both maulers in the run game and anchors on passing downs. They are big, nasty and well-coached with a ton of experience. A contingent of Left Guard/Right Tackle type prospects will make up the second and third rounds of the draft with a group of centers following them on Day 3. Kelechi Osemele, Amini Silatolu and the severely underrated and massive Brandon Brooks all have the upside and potential to be stars in the NFL. All three are big, athletic and like Konz and Zeitler ahead of them, they bring a mauling style to their blocking. It is really is amazing how Brooks wasn’t even invited to the Combine, but may be one of the net linemen in the draft. Centers Ben Jones, Mike Brewster and David Molk will start coming off the board around the fourth round and while they aren’t going to blow anyone off the screen, they are smart, experienced blue collar type athletes that will always give everything they have. The three of them are ready to play right now. The talent inside continues on throughout the draft with solid talents like Senio Kelemete, James Brown and Brandon Washington still available in the mid to late rounds.

  1. David DeCastro (RG, LG), Stanford, First Round/Top 15
  2. Cordy Glenn (LG, LT, RT), Georgia, First Round
  3. Peter Konz (C), Wisconsin, Late First/Second Round
  4. Kevin Zeitler (LG), Wisconsin, Late First/Second Round
  5. Kelechi Osemele (LG/RT), Iowa State, Second Round
  6. Amini Silatolu (LG/RT), Midwestern State, Second Round
  7. Brandon Brooks (LG), Miami-Ohio, Second Round
  8. James Brown (LG/RT), Troy, Third/Fourth Round
  9. Brandon Washington (LG/RT), Miami-Florida, Third/Fourth Round
  10.  Ben Jones (C), Georgia, Third/Fourth Round

Worth Mentioning: C Mike Brewster/Ohio State, OG Senio Kelemete/Wahsington, OG Lucas Nix/Pittsburgh, OG Josh Libereus/SMU, C David Molk/Michigan

Tight Ends

This year’s tight end draft class is not very good at all and consists mostly of pass catchers. There are just three noteworthy prospects in Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Orson Charles. Each player fits in a specific spot in the draft as Coby Fleener is the standout of the class and will certainly be selected in the late first or very early second round, while Allen is a definite second rounder and Orson Charles will be taken in the third round. Fleener really has a chance to be something special and his size and skill will have teams eager to land the next potential Gronkowski, Graham or Hernandez. That’s not to say he will be any one of those players, but he is an excellent route runner whether on the inside or deep downfield with the experience of playing from multiple receivers spots as Stanford loves to use up to three tight ends at a time in their passing attack. He knows how to use size and strength to dominate defensive backs and has the speed and athleticism to get away from linebackers. He has terrific hands catching the ball, but won’t be blocking too many people. The reigning John Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in the country, Clemson’s Dwayne Allen is a solid prospect with the all-around skills to contribute as a pass catcher and a blocker, but doesn’t have the blow you away athleticism or upside. He is a productive player with good hands and footwork and should excel as a red zone target. Orson Charles has the potential to be a very good offensive weapon at the next level. He is a natural receiver with very good hands and route running ability playing at the tight end position. He is at his best when moved around the offense to get him into the open field whether he is lined up as a traditional tight end, out wide or in motion as a receiver or as an H-back. He is very similar to New England’s Aaron Hernandez, but with a bit more strength and bulk. An arrest for DUI in early March has dropped Charles to a likely third, even fourth round pick, which is a shame because he had displayed excellent character up to that point throughout his career as a team captain and award-winning leader as well as a Honor Roll student.  After the top three prospects come off the board the rest of the tight end class will be jockeying for position on Day 3 of the draft as its unlikely that any of them will be able to crack the first three rounds. Ladarius Green and Michael Egnew are clearly a notch above the rest of the available tight ends as they are both excellent athletes with a ton of experience and production catching the ball. SMU’s Taylor Thompson is a very intriguing prospect after he played defensive end throughout his career with the Mustangs, but has been working out for and impressing teams as a tight end, which has sent his stock soaring. After them there really isn’t a whole lot left to choose from over other positions with better prospects.

  1. Coby Fleener, Stanford, Late First/Early Second Round
  2. Dwayne Allen, Clemson, Late Second Round
  3. Orson Charles, Georgia, Third Round
  4. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Late Third/Fourth Round
  5. Michael Egnew, Missouri, Fourth Round
  6. Taylor Thompson, SMU, Fourth/Fifth Round
  7. DeAngelo Peterson, LSU, Fifth Round
  8. Rhett Ellison, USC, Fifth/Sixth Round
  9. Chase Ford, Miami-Florida, Fifth/Sixth Round
  10. George Bryan, North Carolina State, Sixth Round

Worth Mentioning: James Hanna/Oklahoma, Brian Linthicum/Michigan State, David Paulson/Oregon

2012 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Defense

Written By: Mark Scott

The crop of defensive talent in the 2012 NFL Draft is a pretty good one with the defensive tackle and pass-rusher classes leading the way despite only LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne being rated among the top five or six players in the draft, although defensive players will likely make up the majority of the first round. The defensive tackles are incredibly versatile from top to bottom with a majority of the top fifteen or so players having the ability to play multiple positions along the defensive front in various different schemes, whether as 4-3 tackles, 3-4 five-technique ends or as nose tackles. As for the pass-rushers, there might be as many as eight or nine taken in the first round. From Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples to Courtney Upshaw, Chandler Jones and Vinny Curry there is a great selection to choose from over the first two rounds of the draft. The cornerbacks are solid, but aside from Claiborne, there are questions about every one of them including likely first round talents Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins. While the linebackers and safeties have a few notable elite prospects like Luke Kuechly, Dont’a Hightower and Mark Barron, there isn’t a whole lot behind them. As a whole, the defensive class is very good with a number of potential early and long-time starters available and more than a few possible future Pro Bowlers.


The cornerback class of this year’s draft is solid but lacking in elite talent at the top. Morris Claiborne is an elite prospect and one of the top five players in the entire draft. He is the top cover-corner available and possesses terrific instincts and ball skills with big play ability. Despite a poor Wonderlic score, he has a high football I.Q., great fundamentals and the skills to play and excel in any system. He has zero issues, which is a major factor among this group of corners. He is far and away the top cornerback in the draft. It is zero issues which has propelled Stephon Gilmore up draft boards and past troubled, but highly talented players like Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins. That’s not to overlook his talents as he is one of the better all-around corners with the abilities to contribute in all areas whether in coverage or against the run. He has great size, speed and strength with the upside to develop into an excellent player, but in terms of overall talent and potential he is still probably behind Kirkpatrick and Jenkins. Those two though come with major off the field concerns. Kirkpatrick was busted for marijuana possession in January and even though he got off, the fact that he was hanging out with that type of crowd and putting himself into a position where something like that could happen has raised more than a few eyebrows. And during the start of draft season no less. He is still a first-round talent. He’s big, physical and well-coached by Nick Saban and comes with a National Championship pedigree from Alabama. Janoris Jenkins will be one of the more discussed prospects in the draft as he possesses supreme talent, especially as an elite cover corner and is worthy of a place in the top 15 on talent alone, but numerous run-ins with the law throughout his collegiate career, most of which had to do with smoking marijuana and excessive partying led to his dismissal from Florida before his Senior year. Fathering four children with three different women hasn’t helped his case either. Questions have also arisen throughout the draft process that his excessive partying continued at North Alabama and his stock continues to fall as the draft nears. After the top four have been selected, it really becomes a matter of what type of corner and skill set each team prefers as the rest of the class is made up of players with very clear pros and cons. Josh Robinson is an outstanding athlete that blew up the Combine, but his game film might say mid-round pick. Jayron Hosley is extremely well-coached and does all the little things that most corners don’t do or even know how to do, but he is small and very thin and might not have the strength or build to hold up against NFL receivers. Dwight Bentley has good all-around ability, but lacks experience versus high level competition and could have the skills to be better suited to play safety. Another possible convert to safety, Trumaine Johnson is a fantastic athlete that plays very physical, but may be too big and heavy to play corner at the pro level.  There is also the free-falling Alfonzo Dennard, who has seen his draft stock plummet over the past year from a solid spot in the first around among the top corners to as far as Day 3 of the draft after being arrested last week for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Injuries and inconsistent play, along with his recent arrest have killed his stock. Nonetheless he does have a lot of talent and plays a very tough, physical game. He’s able to match and mix it up against big receivers and uses his great leaping ability to make up for his lack of height. Some even consider him to be more talented than his former teammate and 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara of the Giants. It is a talented, but flawed group of corners with Morris Claiborne the lone exception as a truly elite talent.

  1. Morris Claiborne, LSU, First Round/Top Five
  2. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, First Round
  3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, First Round
  4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama, Late First/Second Round
  5. Josh Robinson, Central Florida, Second Round
  6. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, Second Round
  7. Dwight Bentley, Louisiana-Lafayette, Second/Third Round
  8. Trumaine Johnson, Montana, Second/Early Third Round
  9. Brandon Boykin, Georgia, Third Round
  10. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, Third/Fourth Round/Stock Falling Hard

Worth Mentioning: Chase Minnifield/Virginia, Leonard Johnson/Iowa State, Casey Hayward/Vanderbilt, Ron Brooks/LSU, Josh Norman/Coastal Carolina, Omar Bolden/Arizona State

Defensive Tackles/Nose Tackles/3-4 Defensive Ends

The deepest position in the 2012 NFL Draft, the defensive tackle crop runs deep with very talented, versatile players available throughout the first three rounds, while as many as seven could come off the board in the first round alone and fifteen or more could be selected among the top 100 picks. The class has everything; pass-rushers like Fletcher Cox and Kendall Reyes, run-stoppers like Jerel Worthy and Devon Still, and freaks of nature with a ton of upside like Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe. There are Nose Tackles to be had in each round in Brockers and Poe, along with Alameda Ta’amu, Josh Chapman and Hebron Fangupo. Versatility is what really elevates this group as the number of athletes that can play multiple positions along the defensive front in various schemes is truly amazing. Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox has emerged throughout the pre-draft process as the top player and the must have guy at the position. He was dominant this past season emerging as the best defensive tackle in the supremely talented SEC. He is excellent at stopping the run, but it is his pass rushing skills that set him apart from the majority of the defensive tackles. He possesses a great burst off the snap, terrific speed and the ability to move laterally which allows him to bypass offensive linemen and put pressure on and attack opposing quarterbacks. He will likely be selected in the top ten. The next two tackles on the board are two of the more intriguing prospects at any position in draft in LSU’s Brockers and Memphis’ Poe. Both guys are mammoth athletes with almost limitless potential, but both players are very raw. Brockers has displayed more skill and production than Poe and at a much higher level with the best possible coaching, but he is very young as just a redshirt sophomore and probably could’ve benefitted from another season at LSU. Poe put on an unbelievable performance for the ages at the Combine and displayed unreal speed and athleticism for a man 6’4”, 346lbs and had scouts envisioning the next Haloti Ngata. While he proved he has the athletic abilities in workouts to be a stud in the NFL, his production and game tape at Memphis playing against a number of inferior opponents in Conference-USA say otherwise and have caused scouts to question his actual football skills and whether or not he is just another workout warrior. After the top three guys, there is a group of four potential late first round picks in Jerel Worthy (MCST), Devon Still (PSU), Kendall Reyes (CONN) and Brandon Thompson (CLEM) that are all extremely solid selections and look to be long-time starters at the next level. Worthy and Still are both elite run-stoppers that are both ready to plug in and play immediately. The talented players continue to come off the board throughout the second round with Nebaska’s Jared Crick, who battled injuries this season, but has first round talent and Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu, who had his struggles at times this year, but like Crick, he has displayed first round ability and may be the best pure Nose Tackle in the draft. The defensive tackle class is truly phenomenal this year and it runs extremely deep throughout the entire draft with teams being able to add quality players in every round.

  1. Fletcher Cox (DT, 3-4 DE), Mississippi State, First Round/Top Ten
  2. Michael Brockers (DT, NT, 3-4 DE), LSU, First Round
  3. Dontari Poe (DT, NT), Memphis, First Round
  4. Jerel Worthy (DT, NT), Michigan State, Late First/Early Second Round
  5. Devon Still (DT, 3-4 DE), Penn State, Late First/Early Second Round
  6. Kendall Reyes (DT, 3-4 DE), Connecticut, Late First/Early Second Round
  7. Brandon Thompson (DT, NT, 3-4 DE), Clemson, Second Round
  8. Jared Crick (DT, 3-4 DE), Nebraska, Second Round
  9. Alameda Ta’amu (DT, NT), Washington, Second/Early Third Round
  10. Billy Winn (DT, 3-4 DE), Boise State, Late Second/Early Third Round

Worth Mentioning: Mike Martin/Michigan, Josh Chapman/Alabama, Marcus Forston/Miami-Florida, Hebron Fangupo/BYU, Kheeston Randall/Texas, Jaye Howard/Florida, Derek Wolfe/Cincinnati, DaJohn Harris/USC, Akiem Hicks/Regina (CA)

Pass Rushers: 4-3 Defensive Ends/3-4 Outside Linebackers

This year’s group of pass-rushers available in the draft is good, but not great, although as many as eight or nine players could be selected in the first round despite a lack of elite talent and questions surrounding every prospect. Melvin Ingram emerged as the top pass-rusher throughout the draft process and has displayed the versatility to play outside and inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and anywhere from defensive end to outside linebacker to even as a middle linebacker in the 4-3. While his versatility is a plus, it has also slightly hurt his stock as teams are unsure of where exactly to play him. Regardless he is an excellent football player that has the ability to put up gaudy stats on the right team. Effort and dedication are the major questions surrounding North Carolina’s Quinton Coples. His upside and potential are through the roof and without the concerns regarding his every down effort and dedication to playing and working hard, he would be a sure-fire top five pick, but those concerns do exist after a very disappointing Senior season. BCS National Championship MVP, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, like Melvin Ingram, is just a pure football player when you really get down to it. He had his struggles at the Combine where scouts began to question whether he was too big and not fast enough to play outside linebacker in the 3-4, but too short and not strong enough to be a 4-3 defensive end. He is the ultimate tweener and it is causing him to drop down the first round. Despite all that, he is a fantastic football player that is going to excel at the next level, especially if he lands on the right team and is used in the right ways. He can be used in a variety of different spots and will put up good numbers. Then there is the next tier of players that consist of potential one-year wonders in Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry that put up very impressive numbers, but only did it during this past season. Then there is the rising Chandler Jones and Shea McClellin, who are the two hottest names at the moment in the lead up to the draft and are moving up the first round. Those four however, all appear to be in the bottom third of the first round discussions as the majority of pass-rusher needy teams make up that part of the draft order. Talented, but flawed pass-rushers like Vinny Curry, Andre Branch, Ronnell Lewis and Bruce Irvin among others are still to be had through the second and third rounds. There is a ton good depth in this group.

  1. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, First Round/Top 15
  2. Quinton Coples, North Carolina, First Round
  3. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, First Round
  4. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, First Round
  5. Nick Perry, USC, First Round
  6. Chandler Jones, Syracuse, First Round
  7. Shea McClellin, Boise State, Late First Round
  8. Andre Branch, Clemson, Late First/Second Round
  9. Vinny Curry, Marshall, Second Round
  10. Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma, Second Round

Worth Mentioning: Cam Johnson/Virginia, Bruce Irvin/West Virginia, Tyrone Crawford/Boise State, Malik Jackson/Tennessee, Trevor Guyton/California, Jonathon Massaquoi/Troy

4-3 Outside Linebackers

The crop of 4-3 outside linebackers in this year’s draft is just okay and comes with a lot of question marks. Nebraska’s LaVonte David is the best of the bunch and is rising up draft boards and could even sneak into the first round, but is likely to be selected early in the second. He is a hardworking playmaker that is always around the ball and has the ability to sniff out plays before they happen. His size is a concern as he might not be big enough to play linebacker and could eventually be moved to safety. However, whether he is at outside linebacker or safety, he has the potential to be an every down starter with the ability to be a triple-digit tackler on the right team. Zach Brown of North Carolina is an incredible athlete that may be the best in the entire draft. He has unreal speed for a linebacker with the ability to run the 40 in the 4.4s. While his athleticism is through the roof, he is still very raw and needs more seasoning and coaching, but his upside and potential is something very special.  The next set of outside linebackers are solid mid-round prospects and will find spots in lineups throughout the league, but they all have major questions. Is Sean Spence to small? Is Travis Lewis injury-prone? Does Nigel Bradham take too many penalties? Is Kyle Wilbur overrated? All of the questions and concerns exist among this group of outside linebackers.

  1. LaVonte David, Nebraska, Late First/Early Second Round
  2. Zach Brown, North Carolina, Second Round
  3. Sean Spence, Miami-Florida, Third Round
  4. Nigel Bradham, Florida State, Third/Fourth Round
  5. Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, Late Third/Fourth Round
  6. Demario Davis, Arkansas State, Fourth Round
  7. Kyle Wilbur, Wake Forest, Fourth Round
  8. Josh Kaddu, Oregon, Fourth Round
  9. Terrell Manning, North Carolina State, Fifth Round
  10. Miles Burris, San Diego State, Fifth Round

Worth Mentioning: Emmanuel Acho/Texas, Brandon Lindsay/Pittsburgh, Danny Trevathan/Kentucky, Alex Hoffman-Ellis/Washington State

Inside Linebackers

It looks to be a pretty average year for the 2012 inside linebacker draft class. It consists of two top 20 studs in Luke Kuechly of Boston College and Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, along with a solid group of potential rotational players that could produce a couple of nice finds that might turn out to be something more. The great thing about the top of this class is that Kuechly is the ideal 4-3 middle linebacker, while Hightower is a perfect fit on the inside of a 3-4 defense. To put it plain and simple, Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine. He’s everything that a team would want in a franchise middle linebacker to build a defense around. A leader and extremely hard-worker, he possesses great fundamentals, incredible instincts and is always in the right position to make a play on the ball-carrier and always completes the tackle. He is just as good dropping into coverage as he is when playing against the run, which really sets him apart from others. Dont’a Hightower is a big, physical athlete that plays with a mean streak and was the leader of Alabama’s BCS National Championship Defense. He’s a ferocious hitter with the burst and ability to rush the passer from the inside and on the outside, where he may eventually end up. After Kuechly and Hightower come off the board in the first round there are a couple of very interesting prospects to watch for like California’s Mychal Kendricks, who’s athletic abilities blew scouts away at the Combine, but may ultimately end up as a safety due to his lack of size for a linebacker. Utah State’s Bobby Wagner is another terrific athlete that is an excellent tackler with some solid leadership ability and James-Michael Johnson of Nevada possesses incredible upside and potential. This year’s crop of inside linebackers actually could have been something pretty special had Kuechly and Hightower been joined by Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, who was being rated among the top ten prospects and ahead of both Kuechly and Hightower before he decided to return to school for his senior season, along with Kevin Reddick, who chose to return to North Carolina for another year to improve his draft stock after a slightly disappointing season, but was still being looked at as a potential late first rounder. Of course, there was also the epic fall from grace of Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict from elite superstar prospect to an overrated, undisciplined head case that is now a likely Day 3 selection possibly as late as the sixth or seventh round.

  1. Luke Kuechly, Boston College, First Round/Top 20
  2. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama, First Round
  3. Bobby Wagner, Utah State, Second Round
  4. Mychal Kendricks, California, Late Second/Third Round
  5. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, Late Third/Fourth Round
  6. Keenan Robinson, Texas, Fourth Round
  7. Tank Carder, TCU, Fifth Round
  8. Audie Cole, North Carolina State, Fifth/Sixth Round
  9. Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State, Fifth/Sixth Round
  10. Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, Seventh Round

Worth Mentioning: Najee Good/West Virginia, Chris Galippo/USC, Shawn Loiseau/Merrimack

Free/Strong Safeties

The safety class this year is downright awful. There is one star in Alabama’s Mark Barron, one good prospect in Harrison Smith of Notre Dame and not a whole lot else. Barron is a complete prospect at an elite level. He hits like a truck, is solid in coverage, contributes at a high level versus both the run and the pass and is an outstanding leader that has the ability to quarterback a defense. Much like Barron, Smith is a pretty complete prospect in all aspects, he’s just not as talented and doesn’t have as high a ceiling as the Alabama product. He’s smart, productive and always seems to be in the right place. He possesses excellent leadership and should be a solid starter for someone for a number of years. Both players are immediate starters. After Barron and Smith, there is a steep drop-off but there still are a couple of intriguing mid-round prospects like the underappreciated Brandon Taylor, who comes from the vaunted LSU program where talented, well-coached defensive backs are churned out every year along with the two top rated free safeties; Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin and the massive George Iloka of Boise State. This safety class won’t provide much, but Barron and Smith will be two names that fans will often hear over the next 10 to 15 years with Barron a possible potential Pro Bowler every year.

  1. Mark Barron (SS), Alabama, First Round/Top 15
  2. Harrison Smith (SS), Notre Dame, Late First/Early Second Round
  3. Brandon Taylor (SS), LSU, Third Round
  4. Markelle Martin (FS), Oklahoma State, Third/Fourth Round
  5. George Iloka (FS), Boise State, Late Third/Fourth Round
  6. Antonio Allen (SS), South Carolina, Late Third/Fourth Round
  7. Trenton Robinson (FS), Michigan State, Fourth Round
  8. Brandon Hardin (FS), Oregon State, Fourth/Fifth Round
  9. Aaron Henry (FS), Wisconsin, Fifth Round
  10. Christian Thompson (FS), South Carolina State, Fifth/Sixth Round

Worth Mentioning: Duke Ihenacho/San Jose State, Justin Bethel/Presbyterian, Eddie Pleasant/Oregon, Sean Richardson/Vanderbilt, D.J. Campbell/California, Janzen Jackson/McNeese State


Written By: Mark Scott

The NFL released its list of invitees to the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday with a record 26 prospects getting the call to attend the event. For the 26 future draft picks it should be a good sign as the NFL only invites prospects with first round grades and a high likelihood of being taken on Day 1. The SEC lead the way with 12 prospects including a record five players from reigning BCS National Champion Alabama; running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw. LSU has the next highest representation with three players in cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and wide receiver Reuben Randle, who is one of the more surprising names that was invited. South Carolina’s defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram and fast rising cornerback Stephon Gilmore will represent the Gamecocks, while Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn will also be in attendance from the SEC.

Three other teams will send two players each as well as Stanford’s quarterback Andrew Luck and tight end Coby Fleener, Baylor’s quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide receiver Kendall Wright, and USC’s offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry will be at the draft in April. Eight others from various schools got the call to attend including three wide receivers; Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. A pair of defensive tackles in Memphis’ Dontari Poe and Penn State’s Devon Still, along with North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples and another surprising invite, linebacker Shea McClellin of Boise State. Texas A&M’s quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is rising faster and higher than anyone over the last month rounds out the list.

There were a few surprising invites among the list especially considering the NFL doesn’t like guys sitting around and sweating out the night in the green room, but Reuben Randle, Stephen Hill, Devon Still, Shea McClellin and Coby Fleener could be sitting there a while and at least a couple of them could very likely be still available on Day 2. All five could be possible late first round selections, though it would be pretty surprising if any of them are selected among the top 20 picks. A fantastic performance at the Scouting Combine has raised Hill into first round discussions, while Fleener boosted his stock at Stanford’s pro day and also benefited from poor pre-draft workouts from other top ranked tight ends, Dwayne Allen of Clemson and Georgia’s Orson Charles. McClellin has started to hear his name talked about more and more over the last couple weeks and is starting to make a late push into the first round similar to that of Brooks Reed last year, although he wasn’t selected until the tenth pick of the second round, but still received considerable late first round buzz leading up to the draft.

Some notable snubs from the event include Luck and Fleener’s Stanford teammates; offensive guard David DeCastro and offensive tackle Jonathon Martin, who have both consistently been rated as first round picks for most of the year. DeCastro is widely considered to be selected in the top 15 and rated among the ten best prospects in the draft. Another pair of likely top 15 picks; Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff will also be absent from draft day. Pass rushers Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones and Andre Branch of Clemson have received first round grades as well, along with Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and cornerback Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama. Of course all of these prospects won’t be selected in the first round as only 32 players can be, but there were certainly some interesting choices and snubs among the group.

2012 NFL Draft: Official List of Declared Underclassmen

Written By Mark Scott

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft has passed by and a total of 65 prospects have officially declared for the 2012 NFL Draft. The group is led by the ACC with 15 players, while the SEC has 12 draft eligible underclassmen. Of the record 65 prospects, 25 of them have first round grades and could really dominate the first two days of the draft. Players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon headline the group. In the end there were some surprises like potential early first round selections Matt Barkley, Landry Jones and Manti Te’o deciding to return to school, while Darron Thomas, Brock Osweiler and a number of ACC players chose to enter the draft despite mostly unfavorable draft grades as of right now.

ACC (15)

Luke Kuechly BC, Max Holloway BC, Dwayne Allen CLEM, Stephen Hill GTCH, Aldarius Johnson MIA, Brandon Washington MIA, Lamar Miller MIA, Marcus Forston MIA, Olivier Vernon MIA, Tommy Streeter MIA, Terrell Manning NCST, Donte Paige-Moss UNC, David Wilson VTCH, Jayron Hosley VTCH, Chris Givens WF

SEC (12)

Don’ta Hightower ALA, Dre Kirkpatrick ALA, Trent Richardson ALA, Barrett Trotter AUB, Orson Charles GEOR, Michael Brockers LSU, Morris Claiborne LSU, Reuben Randle LSU, Bobby Massie MISS, Fletcher Cox MSST, Alshon Jeffrey SCAR, Stephon Gilmore SCAR

PAC-12 (10)

Brock Osweiler AZST, Vontaze Burfict AZST, Cliff Harris OREG, Darron Thomas OREG, LaMichael James OREG, Andrew Luck STAN, David DeCastro STAN, Jonathon Martin STAN, Matt Kalil USC, Nick Perry USC

Big Ten (7)

Whitney Mercilus ILL, Riley Reiff IOW, Edwin Baker MCST, Jerel Worthy MCST, Tiree Eure MIN, Ken Plue PUR, Peter Konz WISC

Big 12 (6)

Robert Griffin III BAY, Bryce Brown KSST, Ronnell Lewis OKLA, Johnny Thomas OKST, Justin Blackmon OKST, Jamison Berryhill TEX

Big East (5)

Mohammed Sanu RUTG, Darrell Scott SFLA, Chandler Jones SYR, Dorian Graham SYR, Phillip Thomas SYR

Non-BCS (10)

Janzen Jackson McNST, Dontari Poe MEM, Mike Ball NEV, Ronnie Hillman SDST, Jewel Hampton SILL, Bernard Pierce TEM, Eric Page TOL, Damaris Johnson TULS, Josh Robinson UCF, Alvester Alexander WYO

*Washington’s Chris Polk has entered the draft, but it was determined that he is actually a Senior as he had exhausted all of his eligibility. He will be at the Sr. Bowl. Utah State’s Robert Turbin was also actually a Senior and not Junior and will be in the draft as well.