• Top prospects in the NFL draft
    April 22,2012
     
    AP FILE PHOTO

    It’s no surprise that the Indianapolis Colts will take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as the top pick in the NFL draft on Thursday.

    NEW YORK — Notable offensive players in the 2012 NFL draft, grouped by projected NFL positions.

    QUARTERBACK

    —Andrew Luck, 6-4, 234, Stanford: A prototypical NFL QB with superior decision-making abilities, arm strength and mechanics. Father, Oliver, was also an NFL QB.

    —Robert Griffin III, 6-2, junior, 223, Baylor: A fast runner and polished passer, Griffin could be a game-changer. Smart player with intangibles through the roof.

    —Brandon Weeden, 6-4, 221, Oklahoma State: A 28-year-old who played minor league baseball before college football, Weeden brings maturity, accuracy and NFL-caliber arm strength and size. He has nice quick release and good touch. Struggles to retain accuracy and decision-making under pass rush.

    —Ryan Tannehill, 6-4, 221, junior, Texas A&M: Good accuracy and a constant running threat, making him a raw project with promise. Converted from QB to WR and back to QB in college.

    —Kirk Cousins, 6-3, 214, Michigan State: Three-year starter with more than three dozen starts in a prostyle system and demonstrated good decision-making ability. Arm strength, athleticism probably never going to be more than OK.

    ———

    RUNNING BACK

    —Trent Richardson, 5-9, 228, junior, Alabama: Compact, strong and polished downhill runner with excellent vision and acceleration. Good enough skills as a pass catcher to start. Could be best RB to enter draft in years.

    —Doug Martin, 5-9, 223, Boise State: Another polished, instinctual prospect, Martin does everything well, with the possible exception of holding onto the ball. More quick than fast, his speed is still a strong asset.

    —David Wilson, 5-10, 206, junior, Virginia Tech: Dazzling, raw ability with higher risk and higher reward than a player such as Martin. Has speed and vision, though sometimes the cutback lanes he spies are too small.

    ———

    WIDE RECEIVER

    —Justin Blackmon, 6-1, 207, junior, Oklahoma State: Jumping ability, open-field speed and possession-receiver toughness help cover for lack of elite wiggle and crisp route-running.

    —Michael Floyd, 6-3, 220, Notre Dame: Big, physical player who is a threat for the deep ball and in red-zone situations. Blocking ability a plus. Had off-field issues at Notre Dame.

    —Kendall Wright, 5-10, 196, Baylor: Savvy and athleticism help him play above his physical limitations. Can space out at times.

    —Stephen Hill, 6-4, 215, Georgia Tech: Serious deep threat who lacks polish in the short and sideways passing games favored by the NFL. Rawness evident in number of drops. Good blocking skill, though.

    ———

    TIGHT END

    —Coby Fleener, 6-6, 247, Stanford: One of the few pro-ready options in a draft that’s thin on tight ends, Fleener is a strong red zone target and athletic enough to get himself open often. Not much of a blocker.

    ———

    OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

    Tackles:

    —Matt Kalil, 6-6, 306, junior, Southern Cal: Two-year starting LT with size and strength to protect blind side in NFL. Good in the run game, but will be tested by the better edge rushers.

    —Riley Reiff, 6-6, 313, junior, Iowa: Not as strong as Kalil, but nimbler and more technically sound.

    —Jonathan Martin, 6-5, 312, junior, Stanford: Has everything you want in a top tackle prospect. Quick and savvy, though occasionally plays off-balance.

    —Cordy Glenn, 6-5, 345, Georgia: Athletic and smooth blocker who can probably hold down a tackle or guard spot. Played all four years.

    —Mike Adams, 6-7, 323, Ohio State: A notch or two below elite, but a definite contributor. Makes inconsistent use of physical gifts.

    Guards/Centers:

    —David DeCastro 6-5, 316, junior, Stanford: Three-year starter who can get on linebackers quickly in the running game. Nimble and strong.

    —Peter Konz, 6-5, 314, junior, Wisconsin: Heady and athletic, probably better as a run blocker, but seems to have ability to anchor a good NFL line. Big for a center, but makes it work.

    —Kevin Zeitler, 6-4, 314, Wisconsin: A big ol’ road-grader in the run game, he could stand to get a bit faster and lighter.



    DEFENSE

    DEFENSIVE END

    —Melvin Ingram, 6-1, 264, South Carolina: A smart, athletic player who could be a hardworking contributor as OLB in some schemes.

    —Quinton Coples, 6-6, 284, North Carolina: A big, powerful player who can disappear from time to time.

    —Courtney Upshaw, 6-2, 272, Alabama: Cannonball of a player who can make plays in the backfield or sort through wash to find the ball carrier. Room to improve as rusher and in coverage.

    —Andre Branch, 6-4, 259, Clemson: A supremely gifted pass rusher who shows promise against the run, too. Height and less than elite strength versus OLs may push him to LB.

    —Chandler Jones, 6-5, 247, junior, Syracuse: A 4-3 DE whose toughness, big frame and motor show much upside.

    —Whitney Mercilus, 6-3, 261, junior, Illinois: Fast and sudden in pass rush or against run, he can be a home-run swinger who sometimes strikes out. Long arms, relentless.

    —Vinny Curry, 6-3, 266, Marshall: Athleticism and quickness makes him a pure pass-rushing player, something NFL teams generally seem fine with taking earlier in the draft every year.

    ———

    DEFENSIVE TACKLE

    —Fletcher Cox, 6-4, 298, junior, Mississippi State: Furiously aggressive player who is strong, but raw. Goes for the big play.

    —Michael Brockers, 6-5, 322, junior, LSU: Has come this far on substantial physical and mental gifts, could reach potential anywhere along the line.

    —Dontari Poe, 6-3, 346, junior, Memphis: Big, strong and athletic, but not quite fast or nimble enough to move outside. Definitely an interior space-filler, which is not a negative.

    ———

    LINEBACKER

    —Luke Kuechly, 6-3, 242, junior, Boston College: A ready-made pro at inside linebacker, where he can find ball carriers and cover tight ends.

    —Dont’a Hightower, 6-2, 265, junior, Alabama: Can shed blockers well and get to running backs. More instinctual than athletic. Some durability concerns.

    —Lavonte David, 6-1, 233, Nebraska: Fast and smart, which makes up for his lack of size, though stature will be more of a concern in NFL.

    —Nick Perry, 6-3, 271, junior, Southern Cal: A defensive end in college whose instincts, athleticism and size probably play better at OLB.

    —Zach Brown, 6-1, 244, North Carolina: Speed a major plus, makeup may give teams pause as his effort can be inconsistent. The right coaching staff can get great value here.

    ———

    DEFENSIVE BACKS

    Cornerback:

    —Morris Claiborne, 5-11, 188, junior, LSU: A talented athlete with a receiver’s ball skills. Can velcro himself to WRs as long as he keeps his pads low enough.

    —Stephon Gilmore, 6-0, 190, junior, South Carolina: Physical player who can disrupt WRs routes, but may struggle with advanced techniques

    —Dre Kirkpatrick, 6-1, 186, junior, Alabama: Size may indicate a switch to safety, where his speed would play better, too. Sure tackler, but not great on balls in the air.

    —Janoris Jenkins, 5-10, 193, North Alabama: A shutdown man-coverage player with athletic ability and awareness to excel. Was kicked off team at Florida after run-ins with police.

    Safety:

    —Mark Barron, 6-1, 213, Alabama: Polished safety who can tackle and cover well. Excellent awareness highlights all his physical skills, which are strong across board.

    —Harrison Smith, 6-2, 213, Notre Dame: Has physical and mental attributes to be instant starter in NFL. Good athletic ability, but zone coverage is stronger than man.

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