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2012 NFL Draft Updated Position Rankings

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 11, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Updated Position Rankings

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    With the NFL draft season heating up, here's the latest take on the top 200 players eligible for the 2012 NFL draft, with breakdowns by position.

    No Matt Barkley and no Landry Jones means someone is set to rise at quarterback, but do any of the players after Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III deserve a first-round grade?

    Find out which positions are strongest and weakest with this updated look at every position and its top players.

Quarterbacks

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    The 2012 quarterback class has been weakened by the decision of Matt Barkley to return to USC, but there are still a number of potential franchise quarterbacks in this class.

    Obviously, Andrew Luck is a name we all know. Luck is in an elite category of prospects and should be the no-brainer first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Behind Luck are two juniors who will make things interesting.

    Robert Griffin III from Baylor wrapped up a Heisman Trophy, a 10-win season and a bowl win. He's expected to enter the draft and will be a top-five pick if he does declare. 

    One name to watch is Nick Foles from Arizona. He's big, had a 69 percent completion percentage and has the arm every scout loves.

     



    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    1 Andrew Luck QB 1 Stanford rJr 6-4 235 4.73  
    2 Robert Griffin III QB 2 Baylor rJr 6-2 220 4.52  
    32 Nick Foles QB 3 Arizona rSr 6-5 240 4.96  
    46 Brock Osweiler QB 4 Arizona State Jr 6-7 240 4.83  
    49 Kirk Cousins QB 5 Michigan State rSr 6-3 205 4.8  
    65 Ryan Tannehill QB 6 Texas A&M rSr 6-4 222 4.65  
    85 Ryan Lindley QB 7 San Diego State rSr 6-4 230 4.92  
    100 Brandon Weeden QB 8 Oklahoma State rSr 6-4 218 4.92  
    112 Russell Wilson QB 9 Wisconsin rSr 5-11 210 4.59  
    135 Case Keenum QB 10 Houston rSr 6-1 210 4.94  
    161 Chandler Harnish QB 11 Northern Illinois rSr 6-2 220 4.72  
    191 Kellen Moore QB 12 Boise State rSr 6-0 195 4.98  
    192 Aaron Corp QB 13 Richmond rSr 6-3 205 4.76  
    197 Austin Davis QB 14 Southern Mississippi rSr 6-1 221 4.78  
    241 Jordan Jefferson QB 15 LSU Sr 6-4 223 4.64  
    257 Dominique Davis QB 16 East Carolina rSr 6-3 212 4.65  
    281 Patrick Witt QB 17 Yale rSr 6-3 220 4.87

Running Backs

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    The 2012 draft class is unique in that two running backs show up among my top 10 players—a testament to their talent, as well as the overall lack of elite prospects from this class.

    Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller have received considerable praise in this space all season, so allow me to introduce you to a sleeper first-round pick—Chris Polk of Washington.

    Polk has great size and is a true feature-back prospect. His strength, vision and ability as a receiver make him a very exciting late first-rounder.

     

    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    3 Trent Richardson RB 1 Alabama Jr 5-11 224 4.52  
    10 *Lamar Miller RB 2 Miami (Fla.) rSo 5-11 212 4.42  
    30 *Chris Polk RB 3 Washington rJr 5-11 222 4.48  
    60 *David Wilson RB 4 Virginia Tech Jr 5-10 205 4.42  
    63 Doug Martin RB 5 Boise State rSr 5-09 210 4.48  
    81 *LaMichael James RB 6 Oregon rJr 5-09 195 4.42  
    91 *Bernard Pierce RB 7 Temple Jr 6-0 218 4.59  
    97 Isaiah Pead RB 8 Cincinnati Sr 5-10 200 4.42  
    109 Dan Herron RB 9 Ohio State rSr 5-10 208 4.52  
    111 *Ronnie Hillman RB 10 San Diego State rSo 5-10 190 4.49  
    115 Cyrus Gray RB 11 Texas A&M Sr 5-10 200 4.47  
    126 Terrance Ganaway RB 12 Baylor rSr 5-11 240 4.62  
    133 *Robert Turbin RB 13 Utah State rJr 5-09 216 4.57  
    139 Vick Ballard RB 14 Mississippi State Sr 5-11 220 4.58  
    145 Brandon Bolden RB 15 Mississippi Sr 5-11 221 4.52  
    154 Jeff Demps RB 16 Florida Sr 5-08 191 4.26  
    160 Tauren Poole RB 17 Tennessee Sr 5-10 215 4.56  
    176 Davin Meggett RB 18 Maryland Sr 5-08 215 4.56  
    186 Bobby Rainey RB 19 Western Kentucky rSr 5-07 205 4.49  
    189 Chris Rainey RB 20 Florida rSr 5-08 175 4.36  
    195 *Darrell Scott RB 21 South Florida rJr 6-1 240 4.48  
    217 Marc Tyler RB 22 Southern California rSr 5-10 230 4.59  
    239 Mike Harris RB 23 Murray State Sr 5-10 198 4.64  
    240 *Bryce Brown RB 24 Kansas State rSo 6-0 220 4.52  
    244 Adonis Thomas RB 25 Toledo rSr 5-10 185 4.45  
    285 Foswhitt Whittaker RB 26 Texas rSr 5-10 202 4.49  
    300 Bryce Beall RB 27 Houston Sr 5-10 215 4.6

Fullbacks

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    Only four pure fullbacks were drafted during the 2011 NFL draft, and that's a pretty good year for a position used by less than half of the NFL. The 2012 class will feature roughly the same number.

    A favorite player of mine in this group is Cody Johnson of Texas. Prior to 2011, Johnson lined up at tailback and was used in a single-back set. He's moved to the role of fullback this season and showed remarkable burst, power and vision.

     

     

    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    177 Chad Diehl FB 1 Clemson rSr 6-2 260 4.72  
    190 Cody Johnson FB 2 Texas rSr 5-11 252 4.72  
    212 Evan Rodriguez FB 3 Temple rSr 6-2 250 4.67  
    264 Drake Dunsmore FB 4 Northwestern rSr 6-2 235 4.74  
    272 Devon Ramsay FB 5 North Carolina rSr 6-2 250 4.68  
    297 Joe Suhey FB 6 Penn State rSr 6-1 222 4.76

Wide Receivers

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    The wide receiver position has seen some back-and-forth between the top two players—Alshon Jeffery and Justin Blackmon—but we're back to our old standby at No. 1.

    Jeffery brings the size and deep-ball ability that Blackmon doesn't, which gives him the nod at the top. Both are talented, and each does different things well, but Jeffery is the player I prefer.

    The remainder of the receiver class is very solid. Michael Floyd looks like a future starter and solid intermediate option, Kendall Wright is a freakish deep threat and return option, while Mohamed Sanu is one of the more underrated overall athletes in the class.

     

    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    5 *Alshon Jeffery WR 1 South Carolina Jr 6-4 229 4.56  
    6 *Justin Blackmon WR 2 Oklahoma State rJr 6-1 215 4.54  
    12 Michael Floyd WR 3 Notre Dame Sr 6-3 224 4.54  
    21 Kendall Wright WR 4 Baylor Sr 5-10 190 4.42  
    37 Nick Toon WR 5 Wisconsin rSr 6-2 220 4.52  
    38 *Mohamed Sanu WR 6 Rutgers Jr 6-2 215 4.57  
    45 *Rueben Randle WR 7 LSU Jr 6-3 208 4.57  
    50 Dwight Jones WR 8 North Carolina Sr 6-4 225 4.53  
    78 Brian Quick WR 9 Appalachian State rSr 6-4 216 4.63  
    93 DeVier Posey WR 10 Ohio State Sr 6-1 210 4.54  
    94 Jarius Wright WR 11 Arkansas Sr 5-10 180 4.34  
    101 *Chris Givens WR 12 Wake Forest rJr 6-0 195 4.52  
    102 Marvin McNutt WR 13 Iowa rSr 6-2 215 4.52  
    107 T.Y. Hilton WR 14 Florida International Sr 5-10 184 4.48  
    118 *Stephen Hill WR 15 Georgia Tech Jr 6-4 206 4.57  
    122 Ryan Broyles WR 16 Oklahoma rSr 5-10 188 4.52  
    124 *Tommy Streeter WR 17 Miami (Fla.) rJr 6-4 215 4.49  
    129 A.J. Jenkins WR 18 Illinois Sr 6-0 190 4.49  
    134 Marvin Jones WR 19 California Sr 6-2 202 4.53  
    153 Jeff Fuller WR 20 Texas A&M Sr 6-3 220 4.52  
    167 Jordan White WR 21 Western Michigan rSr 6-0 215 4.54  
    168 Marquis Maze WR 22 Alabama rSr 5-08 184 4.49  
    169 Joe Adams WR 23 Arkansas Sr 5-11 190 4.38  
    172 B.J. Cunningham WR 24 Michigan State rSr 6-2 216 4.59  
    181 Rishard Matthews WR 25 Nevada Sr 6-1 215 4.54  
    194 LaVon Brazill WR 26 Ohio rSr 5-10 192 4.49  
    196 Derek Moye WR 27 Penn State rSr 6-4 210 4.54  
    209 Keshawn Martin WR 28 Michigan State Sr 5-10 190 4.44  
    214 Jermaine Kearse WR 29 Washington Sr 6-1 208 4.5  
    224 Travis Benjamin WR 30 Miami (Fla.) Sr 5-10 175 4.36  
    227 Greg Childs WR 31 Arkansas Sr 6-3 217 4.56  
    230 Lance Lewis WR 32 East Carolina Sr 6-1 209 4.5  
    237 Gerell Robinson WR 33 Arizona State Sr 6-3 222 4.58  
    245 Jarrett Boykin WR 34 Virginia Tech Sr 6-2 218 4.64  
    278 Juron Criner WR 35 Arizona Sr 6-4 215 4.62

Tight Ends

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    The 2012 NFL draft class of tight ends doesn't feature a rock-star prospect, but there is one guy worth taking a hard look at in the first round. That would be Orson Charles of Georgia.

    Charles is a very good athlete who fits the mold of a Jimmy Graham-style player. He's not a great blocker, but he makes up for it with wide receiver-like speed and hands. His concentration, route-running skills and speed will make him dangerous as a receiver.

    Outside of Charles, Clemson's Dwayne Allen is a keeper. Allen is no slouch himself when it comes to production and pass-catching ability. He could be a sleeper as a first-rounder.

    Keep an eye on Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame. He's a junior and unlikely to enter, but if he does he'll be our No. 1 tight end.



    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    34 *Orson Charles TE 1 Georgia Jr 6-3 242 4.64  
    42 *Dwayne Allen TE 2 Clemson rJr 6-4 255 4.76  
    56 Coby Fleener TE 3 Stanford rSr 6-6 245 4.77  
    104 Ladarius Green TE 4 La.-Lafayette Sr 6-6 236 4.64  
    120 Michael Egnew TE 5 Missouri Sr 6-5 245 4.6  
    151 Brian Linthicum TE 6 Michigan State rSr 6-4 245 4.82  
    170 Rhett Ellison TE 7 Southern California rSr 6-5 250 4.76  
    183 Kevin Koger TE 8 Michigan Sr 6-4 258 4.78  
    198 Kavario Middleton TE 9 Montana Sr 6-5 248 4.87  
    202 Anthony Miller TE 10 California Sr 6-3 260 4.88  
    221 George Bryan TE 11 North Carolina State rSr 6-5 265 5.14  
    254 Nick Provo TE 12 Syracuse rSr 6-3 249 4.78  
    262 Deangelo Peterson TE 13 LSU Sr 6-3 236 4.73  
    273 David Paulson TE 14 Oregon rSr 6-3 242 4.82

Offensive Tackles

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    There is no Joe Thomas or Jake Long in this class, but that doesn't mean the 2012 draft won't feature multiple offensive tackles drafted in the first round.

    Matt Kalil of USC will leave school early and figures to be a top-five pick. Kalil could see himself drafted as high as No. 2 overall, depending on how the draft order looks. Kalil is joined by top-10 talents Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin as three possible tackles drafted in the first 10 picks.

    The first round should see as many as five tackles drafted, with another impressive group of players hitting the second tier for those looking in Round 2.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    7 *Matt Kalil OT 1 Southern California rJr 6-6 295 5.05  
    8 *Riley Reiff OT 2 Iowa rJr 6-6 300 4.94  
    11 *Jonathan Martin OT 3 Stanford rJr 6-6 305 5.29  
    31 Mike Adams OT 4 Ohio State Sr 6-6 320 5.28  
    43 Zebrie Sanders OT 5 Florida State Sr 6-5 307 5.25  
    51 Andrew Datko OT 6 Florida State Sr 6-6 321 5.23  
    53 Nate Potter OT 7 Boise State rSr 6-6 298 5.18  
    82 Brandon Mosley OT 8 Auburn Sr 6-5 305 5.22  
    98 Levy Adcock OT 9 Oklahoma State Sr 6-5 322 5.23  
    110 Tony Bergstrom OT 10 Utah Sr 6-5 315 5.29  
    125 Matt McCants OT 11 UAB rSr 6-6 295 5.26  
    137 Mitchell Schwartz OT 12 California rSr 6-5 318 5.36  
    156 Tom Compton OT 13 South Dakota rSr 6-6 312 5.15  
    157 Matt Reynolds OT 14 Brigham Young rSr 6-4 305 5.28  
    174 Markus Zusevics OT 15 Iowa rSr 6-5 300 5.08  
    201 James Carmon OT 16 Mississippi State Sr 6-7 330 5.43  
    205 Jeff Allen OT 17 Illinois Sr 6-4 315 5.26  
    223 Jeff Adams OT 18 Columbia Sr 6-6 305 5.02  
    248 James Brown OT 19 Troy rSr 6-4 312 5.32  
    252 Landon Walker OT 20 Clemson rSr 6-5 305 5.18  
    271 Mike Ryan OT 21 Connecticut rSr 6-5 335 5.38  
    282 Don Barclay OT 22 West Virginia rSr 6-4 310 5.27  
    287 John Cullen OT 23 Utah Sr 6-4 300 5.23  
    288 Donald Stephenson OT 24 Oklahoma rSr 6-5 307 5.34

Offensive Guards

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    No offensive guard in my 10 years of scouting has ever been ranked as high as David DeCastro. He is that good, but this is also a class that lacks elite players outside the top five.

    DeCastro will be a plug-and-play starter at the next level. He's as game-ready as any offensive lineman in this class and will be an instant upgrade for whichever NFL team selects him.

    Outside of DeCastro, the guard class is very average. There are potential starters in Cordy Glenn (if he doesn't move to tackle) and a slew of players in Round 2 who could step in as rookies.

    A few players to keep an eye on this spring would be Brandon Washington and Kevin Zeitler. Both have the potential to move up with good workouts. 

     

    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    9 *David DeCastro OG 1 Stanford rJr 6-5 312 5.22  
    26 Cordy Glenn OG 2 Georgia Sr 6-5 348 5.28  
    55 *Brandon Washington OG 3 Miami (Fla.) Jr 6-4 320 5.36  
    59 Kevin Zeitler OG 4 Wisconsin Sr 6-4 318 5.26  
    76 Kelechi Osemele OG 5 Iowa State rSr 6-5 347 5.4  
    90 Amini Silatolu OG 6 Midwestern State Sr 6-3 324 5.42  
    113 Senio Kelemete OG 7 Washington Sr 6-3 302 5.23  
    144 Lucas Nix OG 8 Pittsburgh Sr 6-5 310 5.18  
    178 Ryan Miller OG 9 Colorado rSr 6-8 298 5.32  
    187 Antoine McClain OG 10 Clemson Sr 6-5 335 5.34  
    207 Jaymes Brooks OG 11 Virginia Tech rSr 6-2 308 5.05  
    235 Rishaw Johnson OG 12 California (PA) rSr 6-4 308 5.18  
    247 Derek Dennis OG 13 Temple rSr 6-3 328 5.45  
    253 Desmond Wynn OG 14 Rutgers rSr 6-5 295 5.14  
    261 Joe Looney OG 15 Wake Forest Sr 6-3 320 5.02  
    289 Brandon Brooks OG 16 Miami (Ohio) rSr 6-4 343 5.32

Centers

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    The 2012 class of centers is very good, with Peter Konz still looking like a first-rounder even after missing time at the end of the regular season. Konz carries a similar grade to 2011's Mike Pouncey.

    After Konz, there is no shortage of talent. Michael Brewster, who missed five games to suspension, could be a rookie starter. David Molk and Ben Jones also bring a good amount of potential and could be impact players. 

    There is little risk with this group of linemen. Whichever NFL team pulls the trigger on these players will find quality interior linemen.

     



    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    24 *Peter Konz C 1 Wisconsin rJr 6-5 315 5.16  
    70 Ben Jones C 2 Georgia Sr 6-3 316 5.26  
    123 Michael Brewster C 3 Ohio State Sr 6-4 305 5.17  
    128 David Molk C 4 Michigan rSr 6-2 288 5.18  
    171 Quentin Saulsberry C 5 Mississippi State rSr 6-2 300 5.16  
    185 Philip Blake C 6 Baylor Sr 6-2 320 5.26  
    188 William Vlachos C 7 Alabama rSr 6-1 295 5.25  
    250 Moe Petrus C 8 Connecticut rSr 6-2 302 5.04  
    265 Garth Gerhart C 9 Arizona State rSr 6-1 302 5.23  
    279 David Snow C 10 Texas Sr 6-4 295 5.28  
    283 D.J. Hall C 11 Texas State rSr 6-1 305 5.4

4-3 Defensive Ends

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    The increased role of the 3-4 defense makes scouting the defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker much more fun, but much harder to classify. Here are the rankings of players who fit well in a 4-3 defense.

    Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry headline a group of athletic pass-rushers who can really get busy off the edge. Both underclassmen will be drafted in the first round, with Perry showcasing his impeccable stats and Mercilus riding an impressive 2011 campaign.

    Melvin Ingram projects best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he's played almost every position in the South Carolina front seven and could stick at defensive end.

     



    Rank Player Pos Pos Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    14 *Nick Perry DE 1 Southern California rJr 6-3 250 4.64  
    16 Melvin Ingram DE 2 South Carolina rSr 6-2 276 4.82  
    19 *Whitney Mercilus DE 3 Illinois rJr 6-4 265 4.68  
    33 *Chandler Jones DE 4 Syracuse rJr 6-5 265 4.78  
    39 *Sam Montgomery DE 5 LSU rSo 6-4 245 4.56  
    48 Andre Branch DE 6 Clemson rSr 6-4 260 4.77  
    52 Vinny Curry DE 7 Marshall rSr 6-3 263 4.74  
    95 Jake Bequette DE 8 Arkansas rSr 6-5 271 4.62  
    116 Cam Johnson DE 9 Virginia Sr 6-3 270 4.76  
    127 Jacquies Smith DE 10 Missouri Sr 6-3 255 4.62  
    143 Trevor Guyton DE 11 California Sr 6-3 280 4.86  
    164 Malik Jackson DE 12 Tennessee Sr 6-5 270 4.82  
    165 Shea McClellin DE 13 Boise State rSr 6-3 255 4.74  
    208 *Olivier Vernon DE 14 Miami (Fla.) Jr 6-3 265 4.73  
    229 Jack Crawford DE 15 Penn State Sr 6-5 273 4.79  
    258 Julian Miller DE 16 West Virginia rSr 6-3 268 4.76  
    268 Tyrone Crawford DE 17 Boise State Sr 6-4 273 4.75  
    277 Cordarro Law DE 18 Southern Mississippi rSr 6-2 261 4.67  
    284 *Donte Paige-Moss DE 19 North Carolina Jr 6-4 260 4.67  
    286 Frank Alexander DE 20 Oklahoma rSr 6-3 255 4.82

3-4 Defensive Ends

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    The 3-4 defense is proving to be more than a fad. Currently six of the best teams in the NFL all run a 3-4 defense, including the top two seeds in each conference.

    As the 3-4 becomes more widespread and as more teams find ways to mix the disciplines of the 3-4 and 4-3 together, the need for big-bodied defensive ends who can control two gaps becomes more important.

    The 2012 draft class of 3-4 prospects at defensive end won't disappoint. There may not be a J.J. Watt-type player, but this class is deep from top to bottom.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time
    20 Devon Still DT 1 Penn State rSr 6-4 310 5.06
    26 Jared Crick DE 2 Nebraska rSr 6-4 285 4.82
    28 *Fletcher Cox DT 3 Mississippi State Jr 6-4 295 4.96
    42 Quinton Coples DT 4 North Carolina Sr 6-6 285 4.76
    56 Billy Winn DE 5 Boise State rSr 6-3 300 4.89
    81 Cam Johnson DE 6 Virginia Sr 6-3 270 4.76
    100 *Marcus Forston DT 7 Miami (Fla.) rJr 6-3 300 4.95
    104 *Kawann Short DT 8 Purdue rJr 6-3 310 5.22
    120 Kendall Reyes DT 9 Connecticut rSr 6-4 296 4.99
    121 Kheeston Randall DT 10 Texas Sr 6-5 305 5.07
    123 Trevor Guyton DE 11 California Sr 6-3 280 4.86
    136 DaJohn Harris DT 12 Southern California rSr 6-4 310 5.16
    156 Jaye Howard DT 13 Florida rSr 6-3 303 5.02

4-3 Defensive Tackles

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    The defensive tackle position has been rich in recent NFL drafts, with guys like Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Marcell Dareus dominating the top of the first round.

    The 2012 class doesn't have any one player who is on that same level, but there is a good group of middle-to-late first-round prospects worth taking a hard look at.

    If any player has a chance to move up his stock this year, it's Jerel Worthy of Michigan State. He has an ideal first step and is quick enough off the ball to cause problems in the backfield.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    22 Jerel Worthy DT 1 Michigan State rJr 6-3 310 5.04  
    23 Devon Still DT 2 Penn State rSr 6-4 310 5.06  
    27 Dontari Poe DT 3 Memphis rJr 6-5 350 5.36  
    35 Fletcher Cox DT 4 Mississippi State Jr 6-4 295 4.96  
    40 Quinton Coples DT 5 North Carolina Sr 6-6 285 4.76  
    44 Brandon Thompson DT 6 Clemson Sr 6-2 310 5.04  
    67 Josh Chapman DT 7 Alabama rSr 6-1 310 5.02  
    69 Alameda Ta’amu DT 8 Washington Sr 6-3 337 5.22  
    73 Sylvester Williams DT 9 North Carolina Jr 6-3 320 5.19  
    83 Kawann Short DT 10 Purdue rJr 6-3 310 5.22  
    96 Kendall Reyes DT 11 Connecticut rSr 6-4 296 4.99  
    121 Marcus Forston DT 12 Miami (Fla.) rJr 6-3 300 4.95  
    130 Kheeston Randall DT 13 Texas Sr 6-5 305 5.07  
    141 Mike Martin DT 14 Michigan Sr 6-1 304 4.98  
    149 DaJohn Harris DT 15 Southern California rSr 6-4 310 5.16  
    162 Brett Roy DT 16 Nevada Sr 6-3 280 4.88  
    166 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste DT 17 Baylor rSr 6-2 335 5.06  
    206 Mike Daniels DT 18 Iowa rSr 6-0 280 4.84  
    210 Derek Wolfe DT 19 Cincinnati Sr 6-5 300 5.16  
    216 Jaye Howard DT 20 Florida rSr 6-3 303 5.02  
    228 Hebron Fangupo DT 21 Brigham Young rSr 6-1 331 5.08  
    251 Matt Conrath DT 22 Virginia rSr 6-7 280 4.84  
    256 Christian Tupou DT 23 Southern California rSr 6-2 300 5.06  
    276 Tydreke Powell DT 24 North Carolina rSr 6-3 310 5.22

Nose Tackles

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    Drafting a nose tackle is never as easy as it sounds. The criteria for the position change depending on the team and the scheme they have developed. It's no longer as simple as drafting the biggest defensive lineman you can find.

    The 2012 class has talented players ready to jump in to the "0-technique" position once in the NFL. Memphis junior Dontari Poe headlines a solid, but small, group of very big men.

     



    Overall Player Pos Pos Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time
    40 *Dontari Poe DT 1 Memphis rJr 6-5 350 5.36
    60 *Sylvester Williams DT 2 North Carolina Jr 6-3 320 5.19
    65 Alameda Ta’amu DT 3 Washington Sr 6-3 337 5.22
    79 Josh Chapman DT 4 Alabama rSr 6-1 310 5.02
    129 Mike Martin DT 5 Michigan Sr 6-1 304 4.98
    187 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste DT 6 Baylor rSr 6-2 335 5.06

4-3 Outside Linebackers

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    The 2011 NFL draft saw a 4-3 outside linebacker drafted No. 2 overall when the Denver Broncos made Von Miller of Texas A&M their pick. While Miller does move around a lot, he's still technically a 4-3 'backer. There is no Von Miller in this class. Sorry.

    The lack of an elite prospect is cushioned by a very solid class otherwise. There are three outside linebackers ranked in the top 15—a rarity for the nature of this position—with a solid group of players filling out Rounds 2 and 3.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time
    18 Zach Brown OLB 1 North Carolina Sr 6-2 230 4.48
    54 Lavonte David OLB 2 Nebraska Sr 6-1 225 4.62
    58 Keenan Robinson OLB 3 Texas rSr 6-3 240 4.68
    62 Bobby Wagner OLB 4 Utah State Sr 6-0 232 4.69
    75 Sean Spence OLB 5 Miami (Fla.) Sr 5-11 224 4.58
    88 Travis Lewis OLB 6 Oklahoma rSr 6-2 228 4.72
    92 Tyler Nielsen OLB 7 Iowa rSr 6-3 235 4.54
    105 Nigel Bradham OLB 8 Florida State Sr 6-2 240 4.67
    119 *Terrell Manning OLB 9 North Carolina State rJr 6-3 225 4.63
    140 Josh Kaddu OLB 10 Oregon Sr 6-3 236 4.67

3-4 Outside Linebackers

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    The 3-4 outside linebacker position is one of the most fun to scout, but also one of the hardest to project at the next level. Look at Aaron Maybin and Vernon Gholston as evidence of that.

    The 2012 class is loaded with college defensive ends and outside linebackers ready to take on the task of blitzing the quarterback off the corner. This group is loaded with first-round talents and players who could have immediate impacts on playoff rosters.

    The most exciting player from this group is Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. He has the ability to play defensive end, inside linebacker or outside linebacker. Upshaw has Terrell Suggs-like skills.

     



    Rank Player Pos Pos Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time
    13 Courtney Upshaw OLB 1 Alabama Sr 6-2 265 4.76
    16 Melvin Ingram OLB 2 South Carolina rSr 6-2 276 4.82
    14 *Nick Perry DE 3 Southern California rJr 6-3 250 4.64
    19 *Whitney Mercilus DE 4 Illinois rJr 6-4 265 4.68
    33 *Chandler Jones DE 5 Syracuse rJr 6-5 265 4.78
    39 *Sam Montgomery DE 6 LSU rSo 6-4 245 4.56
    41 *Ronnell Lewis OLB 7 Oklahoma Jr 6-2 244 4.63
    48 Andre Branch DE 8 Clemson rSr 6-4 260 4.77
    52 Vinny Curry DE 9 Marshall rSr 6-3 263 4.74
    68 Bruce Irvin OLB 10 West Virginia Sr 6-2 245 4.54
    72 Brandon Lindsey OLB 11 Pittsburgh rSr 6-2 250 4.68
    95 Jake Bequette DE 12 Arkansas rSr 6-5 271 4.62
    116 Cam Johnson DE 13 Virginia Sr 6-3 270 4.76
    127 Jacquies Smith DE 14 Missouri Sr 6-3 255 4.62
    165 Shea McClellin DE 15 Boise State rSr 6-3 255 4.74
    208 *Olivier Vernon DE 16 Miami (Fla.) Jr 6-3 265 4.73
    258 Julian Miller DE 17 West Virginia rSr 6-3 268 4.76
    277 Cordarro Law DE 18 Southern Mississippi rSr 6-2 261 4.67
    284 *Donte Paige-Moss DE 19 North Carolina Jr 6-4 260 4.67
    286 Frank Alexander DE 20 Oklahoma rSr 6-3 255 4.82
    298 Jerrell Harris OLB 21 Alabama Sr 6-2 242 4.73


Inside Linebackers

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    The inside linebacker class is highlighted by a madman named Vontaze Burfict. A one-time top-two player on my board, Burfict has taken a tumble down the board slightly this season due to his inability to control his emotions on the field. Burfict has All-Pro ability, but keeping him under control will be a chore. 

    College football fans will recognize the name Luke Kuechly. The tackling machine from Boston College has been a staple on the awards circuit and will be among the most-followed draft prospects this spring. Kuechly is underwhelming though, making the majority of his tackles downfield and failing to show the strength to be an impact player on every down. I'm proceeding with caution.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    20 Vontaze Burfict ILB 1 Arizona State Jr 6-3 250 4.67  
    36 Luke Kuechly ILB 2 Boston College Jr 6-2 237 4.8  
    66 Dont’a Hightower ILB 3 Alabama rJr 6-4 260 4.78  
    106 James-Michael Johnson ILB 4 Nevada rSr 6-1 240 4.68  
    114 Audie Cole ILB 5 North Carolina State rSr 6-4 239 4.84  
    138 Mychal Kendricks ILB 6 California Sr 5-11 240 4.72  
    142 Emmanuel Acho ILB 7 Texas Sr 6-2 245 4.79  
    173 Jerry Franklin ILB 8 Arkansas rSr 6-1 245 4.6  
    218 Chris Galippo ILB 9 Southern California rSr 6-2 250 4.74  
    222 Chris Marve ILB 10 Vanderbilt rSr 6-0 242 4.86  
    259 D.J. Holt ILB 11 California rSr 6-0 242 4.84  
    269 Max Gruder ILB 12 Pittsburgh rSr 6-1 230 4.72  
    295 Garrick Williams ILB 13 Texas A&M rSr 6-2 232 4.74

Cornerbacks

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    The cornerback class in 2012 has the potential to be as strong as any position group this year. It all hinges on the decisions of key underclassmen.

    Morris Claiborne hasn't received the hype of teammate Tyrann Mathieu, but he's a much better cover man and NFL prospect. Claiborne even grades out higher than former LSU cornerback and 2011 first-rounder Patrick Peterson.

    After Claiborne there is no shortage of talent. Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore are locks for the first round if they declare. Alfonzo Dennard and Janoris Jenkins are both solid senior corners who should see their names called on the first two days of the draft.

     


    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    4 Morris Claiborne CB 1 LSU Jr 6-0 185 4.45  
    15 Dre Kirkpatrick CB 2 Alabama Jr 6-2 192 4.49  
    17 Stephon Gilmore CB 3 South Carolina Jr 6-1 193 4.52  
    25 Alfonzo Dennard CB 4 Nebraska Sr 5-10 205 4.49  
    57 Chase Minnifield CB 5 Virginia rSr 6-0 185 4.49  
    61 Jayron Hosley CB 6 Virginia Tech Jr 5-10 172 4.52  
    64 Jamell Fleming CB 7 Oklahoma rSr 5-11 192 4.54  
    74 Janoris Jenkins CB 8 North Alabama Sr 5-10 182 4.46  
    77 Trumaine Johnson CB 9 Montana Sr 6-2 204 4.52  
    80 Brandon Boykin CB 10 Georgia Sr 5-10 183 4.44  
    84 Shaun Prater CB 11 Iowa Sr 5-10 185 4.49  
    87 Leonard Johnson CB 12 Iowa State Sr 5-10 202 4.49  
    99 Coryell Judie CB 13 Texas A&M rSr 5-11 190 4.48  
    103 Josh Robinson CB 14 UCF Jr 5-10 192 4.47  
    108 Omar Bolden CB 15 Arizona State rSr 5-10 195 4.49  
    131 Donnie Fletcher CB 16 Boston College Sr 6-1 195 4.53  
    136 Casey Hayward CB 17 Vanderbilt Sr 5-11 188 4.53  
    146 Robert Blanton CB 18 Notre Dame Sr 6-0 200 4.53  
    150 Ryan Steed CB 19 Furman Sr 5-11 190 4.52  
    163 Asa Jackson CB 20 Cal Poly Sr 5-10 188 4.4  
    175 Keith Tandy CB 21 West Virginia rSr 5-10 199 4.54  
    184 Dwight Bentley CB 22 La.-Lafayette Sr 5-10 180 4.49  
    193 Robert Golden CB 23 Arizona Sr 5-11 200 4.54  
    199 Trevin Wade CB 24 Arizona rSr 5-11 192 4.56  
    200 Cliff Harris CB 25 Oregon Jr 5-11 168 4.49  
    204 Charles Brown CB 26 North Carolina rSr 5-09 205 4.49  
    219 D’Anton Lynn CB 27 Penn State Sr 6-0 208 4.53  
    225 Isaiah Frey CB 28 Nevada Sr 5-11 190 4.52  
    234 Terrence Frederick CB 29 Texas A&M rSr 5-10 187 4.52  
    243 Emanuel Davis CB 30 East Carolina rSr 5-10 182 4.52  
    249 Quenton Washington CB 31 South Florida rSr 5-10 195 4.5  
    255 DeQuan Menzie CB 32 Alabama Sr 5-11 198 4.65  
    275 Antonio Fenelus CB 33 Wisconsin Sr 5-08 190 4.49  
    290 Tashaun Gipson CB 34 Wyoming Sr 6-0 203 4.57

Safeties

18 of 18

    The two safety classes feature just one first-round talent—Alabama's Mark Barron. There are talented players in these two groups who could immediate see themselves called upon to start in the NFL, even if drafted in the second or third round.

    The spread of the 3-4 defense will surely help Alabama safeties Barron and Robert Lester, as both have been exposed to the Nick Saban defense and will be ready to step into the complex system once in the NFL. You have to think the New England Patriots would love to see Barron on the roster next fall.

     

    FREE SAFETY


    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    71 Markelle Martin FS 1 Oklahoma State rSr 6-1 198 4.47  
    86 Aaron Henry FS 2 Wisconsin rSr 6-0 210 4.52  
    89 Robert Lester FS 3 Alabama Jr 6-2 210 4.56  
    132 George Iloka FS 4 Boise State Sr 6-3 213 4.5  
    148 Trenton Robinson FS 5 Michigan State Sr 5-10 195 4.46  
    158 Eddie Whitley FS 6 Virginia Tech Sr 6-0 200 4.56  
    179 Tramain Thomas FS 7 Arkansas Sr 6-0 204 4.6  
    203 Blake Gideon FS 8 Texas Sr 6-0 205 4.64  
    215 Jerrell Young FS 9 South Florida rSr 6-1 209 4.57  
    220 Tysyn Hartman FS 10 Kansas State rSr 6-2 206 4.64  
    226 Brandon Hardin FS 11 Oregon State Sr 6-2 216 4.52  
    232 Damien Jackson FS 12 Mississippi Sr 6-2 210 4.58  
    267 Christian Thompson FS 13 South Carolina State Sr 6-1 218 4.45  
    270 Corey Mosley FS 14 Virginia rSr 5-10 200 4.51

     

     

    STRONG SAFETY



    Rank Player Pos Pos. Rank School Class Ht Wt 40 Time  
    29 Mark Barron SS 1 Alabama Sr 6-2 218 4.56  
    79 Antonio Allen SS 2 South Carolina rSr 6-1 202 4.57  
    117 Harrison Smith SS 3 Notre Dame rSr 6-2 215 4.55  
    152 Duke Ihenacho SS 4 San Jose State rSr 6-0 205 4.6  
    182 Sean Cattouse SS 5 California Sr 6-2 218 4.56  
    213 Matt Daniels SS 6 Duke Sr 6-0 210 4.53  
    238 Eddie Pleasant SS 7 Oregon rSr 5-10 210 4.54  
    242 Charles Mitchell SS 8 Mississippi State Sr 5-11 205 4.56  
    274 Kelcie McCray SS 9 Arkansas State rSr 6-2 195 4.48  
    280 Delano Howell SS 10 Stanford Sr 5-11 198 4.58  
    294 Sean Richardson SS 11 Vanderbilt Sr 6-2 220 4.54


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