Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 4/23/12

We are 3 days away from welcoming the newest class of players into the NFL at the 2012 NFL Draft.  Each team, after months of going over almost every player in college football, will be ready to hunker down in the war rooms with their Top-Secret Draft boards.  Teams will be calling other teams, they will be calling players, they will be calling agents.  Teams will be getting calls from other teams offering trades of both picks and players to get “their guy.”  Players will be waiting, either at home or possibly in the green room at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, for the phone to ring and the Commissioner, Roger Goodell, to read off their name and the name of the team they will start their future with.

So who will be the top of the class? We already know the 1st pick will be Stanford QB Andrew Luck, as the Colts informed both Luck and the media this week that he will be their pick at #1.  Who else will be millionaires in just a few days?

To answer that, lets take a look at the top 20 prospects in this Draft.

#1 – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford   Height – 6’4″  Weight – 235lbs  40 yard dash – 4.67 seconds

Andrew Luck has been the top of this draft class since the end of the 2011 Draft last April.  He is everything you want in a Franchise quarterback.  He can make all the throws.  Deep passes, short passes, from the pocket, on the run, it doesn’t matter with Luck.  He is also an excellent athlete for a QB and can be a weapon not only with his arm but if he has to roll out or scramble.  Beyond his God-given talents, he is also a very hard worker and a student of the game.  Luck has great football IQ and puts as much work in the film room as he does the weight room.  He won’t be able to fill Peyton Manning’s cleats in Indy right away, but he has all the tools and the drive to be the next great QB for the Colts.

#2 – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor  Height – 6’2″  Weight – 223lbs  40 yard dash – 4.41 seconds (4.38 unofficial)

With the recent success of quarterback Cam Newton, and the varied success of the likes of Tim Tebow and Michael Vick, some teams are shifting towards a more athletic quarterback who can be as much of a weapon running the ball as they are throwing it.  With that in mind RGIII is the newest of that breed.  After a very successful career at Baylor, RGIII blew up the combine with the fastest 40 time ever for a QB.  There isn’t much to criticize about his work on the field.  He is obviously dangerous running the ball, but he is just as dangerous from the pocket and has avoided the tendency of some athletic quarterbacks to just tuck and run if their first receiver isn’t open.  He is believed to be going #2 to the Redskins as they need a QB and gave up everything but the kitchen sink to move up to the #2 pick.

#3 Matt Kalil, OT, USC  Height – 6’6.5″  Weight – 306lbs  Bench – 30 reps

With at QB sitting at #1 and #2 in the rankings, its obvious that the most important position on your football team is the quarterback.  So logically your next priority should be to protect that guy.  Matt Kalil is a prototypical franchise left tackle.  He is an enormous man who is every bit as athletic and agile as he is strong.  He moves his feet very well mirroring defensive ends in pass protection.  He is a mauler in the running game and gets to the second level very well to take on linebackers and defensive backs.  He could use a little work polishing his technique but he can start from day one at left tackle on almost any team in the league.  Whichever team drafts Kalil will not have to worry about the LT position for the next 10 years.

#4 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama  Height – 5’9″ Weight – 228lbs  40 yard dash – DNP due to recovering from injury. 4.5 range at pro day, said to be 80% healed

Trent Richardson is a monster running back.  He can juke you out of your shoes, he can outrun you down the sidelines, or he can lower his shoulder and run you over.  He has good hands out of the backfield and is a great runner with a nose for the end zone.  The need and use for a 3-down workhorse back has gone down in recent years.  The NFL has gone very pass happy, and if it wasn’t for that Richardson might be challenging Griffin for the #2 spot on this list.  He is the best running back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson and will make an instant impact no matter which team he goes too.  Like all rookie running backs he will need to work on his pass blocking at the NFL level and may need to tone down his bruising style a little if he wants to prolong his career.  Richardson is the best RB in this class by far and one of the most explosive offensive players in the draft.

#5 Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU  Height – 5’11″  Weight – 188lbs  40 yard dash – 4.47 seconds

Morris Claiborne has everything you want in a starting corner.  He has great speed, he has fluid hips and changes direction well.  He can play well both in the zone and in man to man coverage.  He was a play maker and often stood out on an outstanding LSU defense that is full of play makers.  He isn’t as blinding fast as his former team-mate, and current Arizona Cardinal, Patrick Peterson but he is a better corner.  Claiborne is very technically sound and is always in position to make a play.  He has special teams experience as a returner which teams will like as well.  Claiborne is the consensus top CB in the draft and will not fall out of the top 10.

#6 Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College  Height – 6’3″  Weight – 243lbs  40 yard dash – 4.50 seconds

Luke Kuechly was a tackling machine at Boston College.  In 3 years as a starter Kuechly had 532 tackles including 35.5 for a loss.  He has outstanding instincts and a very high football-IQ.  He diagnoses plays very quickly and gets into position to make a play.  Not the most outstanding athlete, Kuechly relies on his amazing instincts and knowledge to get into position and shut-down plays.  Kuechly has almost no weakness’ in his game and will make any defense he is added too instantly better.  People may worry a little about his slightly average athletic ability, but all they have to do is put on tape of him and they will see he is the by far the best ILB in this draft class.

#7 Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State  Height – 6’1″  Weight – 207lbs  40 yard dash – 4.45 seconds

Blackmon has been arguably the best wide receiver in the NCAA over the last two seasons.  In those two years he has 232 receptions for 38 TD’s and 3304 yards.  It didn’t seem to matter who was lined up against him, he was going to make the catch.  The knock on Blackmon is his measurables.  He does not have typical #1 receiver numbers as far as height (only 6’1) and his on field speed(plays a lot slower than his timed 4.45).  What Blackmon doesn’t have in the measureables department he more than makes up for with his hands, tenacity, and intelligence.

#8 David DeCastro, OG, Stanford  Height – 6’4″  Weight – 314lbs  Bench – 34 reps

David DeCastro is the best guard prospect in years.  He is considered by many to be the safest pick in the draft.  Due to team needs and the value placed on the guard position, DeCastro will not likely be taken in the top 10 but as far as prospect talent goes he deserves to be up here.  DeCastro beat anyone who he was lined up against this year, shielding Luck in the passing game and plowing holes in the running game.  DeCastro is amazingly athletic for his size and pulls very well.  Any team that takes DeCastro will have a ProBowl G for the next decade.

#9 Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, South Carolina  Height – 6’1″  Weight – 264  Bench – 28 reps

Ingram has flown up draft boards this off-season.  He has surprised everyone with this amazing athletic ability.  Ingram’s change of direction and explosiveness are the best in the class of DE/OLB hybrids.  After playing DE in college, Ingram has shown amazing ability in linebacker drills and dropping into coverage.  He out shined his counterparts at the combine and senior bowl in drills and was borderline unblockable.  The only knock on Ingram is his size.  At only 6’1″ and with arms that are just under 32″ teams may be worried about his ability to fight off blocks in the NFL.  With that being said, Ingram is a potential game changer and has the chance to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

#10 Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame  Height – 6’3″  Weight – 220  40 yard dash – 4.47 seconds

Michael Floyd has the perfect numbers to be a #1 receiver.  He is a big body who is surprisingly fast and very physical.  In 4 years for the Irish Floyd had 271 receptions for 3686 yards and 37 TD’s.  Floyd is a physical receiver who goes up and fights for the ball and gets his body between the ball and the defender.  Floyd posted a great time of 1.57 over 1o yards, which combined with his size is scary for any CB that may have to match up with him in press coverage.  Floyd has some character concerns after a few DUI’s early on in college, but all signs are that he has matured and left that part of his life behind him.  Even though I have him ranked under Blackmon, Floyd could very well have a better Pro career than Blackmon due to his size and ability.

#11 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina  Height – 6’6″  Weight – 284lbs  Bench – 25 reps

Coples is kind of a sad case.  He is a physical freak with all the tools you could dream for in a DE.  However, he has questionable work ethic and motor on the field.  His senior film shows flashes of dominance while also showing him being a non-factor on a lot of plays.  In 3 years playing at UNC Coples had 40 TFL and 24 sacks.  His best fit would be a 4-3 DE but could also possibly play the role of a pass rush specialist as an OLB in a 3-4, though that might require him to drop a few pounds to increase his explosiveness.  Teams will question his motor and desire but if he goes to a team with a strong locker room and good coaching staff, his ceiling is very high.

#12 Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State  Height – 6’4″  Weight – 298lbs  Bench – 30 reps

Fletcher Cox is another physical freak.  At almost 300lbs he was able to run the 40 yard dash in 4.79 seconds with a 10 yard split of 1.63 seconds.  Cox is very athletic and uses it very well.  His natural position is inside at DT in a 4-3 but is athletic enough and big enough to slide out to DE in a 3-4.  In 3 seasons at Mississippi State Cox had 116 tackles including 23.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks.  Cox has great size and a non stop motor and will be a disruptive force on the DL from day 1.

#13 Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama  Height – 5’10″  Weight – 193lbs  40 yard dash – 4.44 seconds

Jenkins could be in the top 5 or 6 if it wasn’t for his off the field issues.  Starting his college career as a Florida Gator, Jenkins had multiple issues with drugs and was kicked off the team.  He cleaned himself up and transferred to Northern Alabama where he dominated this lower level competition.  Jenkins is has fluid hips and is very smooth in his change of direction.  Jenkins is a pure cover corner who can play great man coverage or zone very well.  If a team believes he has turned the corner on his off the field issues, or don’t really care, Jenkins will be a first round pick and is possibly the most talented cover corner in the draft.

#14 Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama  Height – 6’2″  Weight – 186lbs  40 yard dash – 4.43 seconds

Kirkpatrick is a big physical corner that a lot of coaches now covet.  He has the size and speed to keep up with the bigger faster WR’s that are in the NFL.  Kirkpatrick is not a real ball hawk, grabbing only 3 interceptions in college, however he is always in position to make a play with 19 passes defended over the last two seasons.  Kirkpatrick is a good tackler on the outside with 82 tackles including 8 TFL over the last two years.  Some off the field concerns with the company he keeps, was arrested with a friend who had marijuana on him, however if he interviews well teams will be able to mark that as a minor concern.  Kirkpatrick had the advantage of playing on Nick Saban’s NFL style defense and could be a starter very early on in his rookie season.

#15 Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa  Height – 6’5.5″  Weight – 313  Bench – 23 Reps

Reiff is the latest in a long line of starting quality O-linemen from Iowa.  Reiff has been described with all the words you would like to hear said about your offensive lineman: “mean,” “nasty,” “bully.”  If you are an offensive line coach, those words are music to your ears.  He mauls defensive linemen and linebackers in the running game.  The biggest negative on Reiff is his shorter than desired arm length at 33 1/4″ but with his tenacity and strength that is not a huge concern. Reiff is the second best tackle in the draft and since tackle is such a valuable position he will go in the top half of the first round.

#16 Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor  Height – 5’10″  Weight – 196  40 yard dash – 4.45 seconds (pro day)

Wright was RGIII’s favorite target this season collecting 108 passes for 1663 yards and 14 TD’s.  He is an explosive receiver who makes his money on deep patterns.  He is very precise in his route running most of the time and makes very quick cuts without losing speed.  Many people panicked at the combine when he ran a 4.61 but when you watch him on tape, along with the 4.45 from his pro day, all those worries should disappear.  Floyd, Blackmon, and Wright are all slightly different styles of receiver and all excel at what they do, making them almost interchangeable in the rankings.  Wright is this far down due to his size possibly limiting him to slot duties the majority of the time.

#17 Michael Brockers, DT, LSU  Height – 6’5″  Weight – 322lbs  Bench – 21 reps (pro day)

Michael Brockers is a raw prospect that could have a very high ceiling.  He has a huge frame and good athletic ability, but is still very raw.  He is a 1 year wonder at LSU with 54 tackles this season including 11 for a loss and 2 sacks, along with a blocked kick.  With his frame and the flashes of dominance he showed this season, teams will rate him high for his potential.  With a good off-season program getting him stronger, and learning his new defense, Brockers could make an impact early on but will most likely start to blossom in year 2 and 3.

#18 Mark Barron, S, Alabama  Height – 6’2″  Weight – 213lbs  40 yard dash – 4.54 (pro day)

Barron is another star from the Alabama defense under Nick Saban.  Barron is the best S in this draft and is considered to be NFL ready.  He has great size and uses it well as a punishing tackler.  Barron has impressive all around stats from his 4 years at Alabama with 235 tackles, 5 sacks, 13 TFL, 12 INT, and 34 PD.  The biggest concern with Barron is if he can stay healthy.  After missing time in each of the last two seasons due to different injuries teams may worry that he can’t stay healthy.  Due to his performance when he is on the field, and the fact that this is such a weak safety draft, Barron will go somewhere in the middle of the 1st round.

#19 Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois  Height – 6’4″  Weight – 261  10 yard split – 1.56

Mercilus is a 1 year wonder, but what a year it was.  This season Mercilus had 16 Sacks, 22.5 TFL, and 9 forced fumbles.  He beat everyone he lined up against including 1.5 sacks against projected first round left tackle Mike Adams.  If Mercilus stayed for his senior season and had even close to the same production as this year he would be a lock to go in the top 10.  Teams will be worried about his 1 year wonder status and some people worry that he may not be able to play OLB.  However with strong showings at both the combine and his pro day in positional drills as a linebacker Mercilus has solidified his 1st round status and could become a force on the outside.

#20 Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis  Height – 6’4″  Weight – 346lbs  Bench – 44 reps

Poe blew up the combine.  After weighing in at 346lbs, Poe turned in a jaw dropping unofficial 4.87 40 yard dash and crushed the bench press with 44 reps of 225lbs.  Poe, however, only flashes dominance.  After watching more tape he did not dominate as much as he should have at the college level.  He seems to take some plays of and has a questionable motor.  If a team with good coaching and good leaders in the locker room can get him to play to his potential he could be a dominating force as a 3-4 NT in the likes of Haloti Ngata on the Ravens.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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