The 2012 NFL Draft will be here before we know it, with the Super Bowl one week away.
While nothing is guaranteed in any draft, there are a host of players who are very impressive this time around. Sure, they won't all live up to expectations, but that's life. What I can say with confidence is that there are at least 10 players who will be drafted in the first round who will do well in the NFL.
All of the players drafted in the first round are physically ready and had exceptional college careers. What we can't predict is how they will react mentally at the next level. That is why Ryan Leaf fell apart, and Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. There are examples of this at every position throughout history.
Let's take a look at eight can't miss prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft who I feel will have great NFL careers.
Andrew Luck is the most highly touted quarterback in the last several years. He has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, checking in at 6'4" 235 pounds. He has a big arm and is an accurate passer, and most importantly he played in a pro style offense at Stanford. I would be shocked if the Indianapolis Colts don't draft him with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
I like Baylor QB Robert Griffin the third better as an NFL prospect, but Luck fits the Colts offensive scheme better. The Colts did hire former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, so things might change a bit. If anything, he will run the ball more often than the Colts have recently. He won't blow up the current scheme, especially if Peyton Manning stays in Indianapolis.
I highly doubt he does though, as the Colts would have to pay him an additional $28 million. It makes more sense to draft a new franchise quarterback and build for the future. Peyton's health is in question, having three neck surgeries in the last couple of years. It is a tough situation for the Colts and Peyton, but Andrew Luck will be the future.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is my favorite prospect in this years NFL Draft by far. He has unlimited potential and the talent to put it to good use. If he gets significant playing time his rookie year he could very easily break several records. This is a guy who has great running ability, an awesome arm, and the accuracy coaches dream of.
He doesn't lose his cool when the pocket breaks down either, I don't care how good or bad his competition was. This guy is an unbelievable quarterback. Replace Tim Tebow with Griffin this year and they would have been better off!
I think the Cleveland Browns would be smart to trade up and draft Griffin. They have decent players already in place, and Colt McCoy has regressed after showing some promise. Griffin has a bigger arm and can avoid the devastating hits McCoy has taken. Most importantly, this is a good move from a business standpoint. This pick would put butts in seats and sell a lot of jerseys, something the Browns desperately need.
Matt Kalil is the best offensive lineman prospect in the last few years. He simply has everything you could possibly want in an offensive lineman. He has great size at 6'7", 295 pounds, great footwork, and strength. His father played in the NFL, and his brother does now. I'm sure they have both given him great advice so he won't be overwhelmed at the next level.
The only knock I have seen on him is that he only has a couple of years of significant playing time. To me this should give teams additional confidence. If he is this good already, imagine how good he could be once he has been coached up.
I know it isn't a sexy pick to the average fan, but an offensive line can make or break a team. Adding a player of Kalil's caliber will make the whole line better no matter where he ends up getting drafted. As a Steelers fan I wouldn't be disappointed if the Steelers mortgaged half of their draft to get him! He is that good folks, write it down.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is a special player.
He may not be the tallest or fastest guy, but he makes up for that in a variety of ways. He has exceptional body control and attacks the football. He gets up in the air and takes the football, rather than letting it come to him. He is as physical as it gets too, you aren't going to see him shy away from contact.
He will probably end up with the Saint Louis Rams and young quarterback Sam Bradford. He would certainly be a primary target, and he can catch just about anything in his area. Despite not being overly fast, he seems to be able to get open deep. He is deceptive and shows a burst off of the line of scrimmage.
Veteran NFL coach Jeff Fisher would keep him in check, so I don't see his character concerns causing any problems. He has done some stupid things in college, but who doesn't? He will be a special player in the NFL, and there is no reason to think otherwise. If Bradford or whoever his quarterback ends up being can get the ball to him, he won't disappoint.
Morris Claiborne has been the best cornerback in college football for the last two seasons.
Claiborne has good size at 6'0'' and 185 pounds, and he has great speed. He has been clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has great instincts and good hands which leads to interceptions instead of deflections. He is a true game changer on defense, and can put points on the board in a hurry if he gets the football in his hands.
He also has great kick return ability which is a plus. Drafting speedy receivers and running backs to be kick return specialists is a waste of a draft pick now that Roger Goodell and the NFL rules committee ruined that part of the game with a rule change. Putting Claiborne back there is a threat in the event the kicker doesn't blast the ball through the end zone.
He is great in coverage and alright against the run. While he needs to improve against the run, his other skills make him a lock to succeed in the NFL for a long time.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson is built to succeed in the NFL.
He is as powerful as it gets and has enough speed to make defenses pay. He's listed at 5'11" 225 pounds, but plays like he weighs about 260. He runs the 40-yard dash at 4.5 seconds. Many a defensive player was carried down field by Richardson in his time at Alabama. If you don't hit Richardson hard and wrap him up, he's going to run you over or take you for a ride.
To be honest, he reminds me of former Pittsburgh Steelers great Jerome Bettis. His quickness isn't quite as good as the Bus, but it's great for his size. He makes good reads and finds the hole, and if he gets through look out. He can outrun many defensive players once he gets loose. He also has good hands and blocking ability, a legitimate starting running back.
This is a guy who can play 10 plus years in the NFL. He didn't suffer any major injuries in college, and didn't take too much of a beating.Considering he played behind Heisman winner Mark Ingram and only started one full season, he shouldn't have much wear and tear on his body. He will be ready to start day one depending upon which team drafts him.
Stanford Guard David DeCastro is one of the top interior linemen prospects to come along in quite a while.
He has very good size at 6'5" 310 pounds, and knows how to use it to his advantage. He isn't freakishly big, but his technique is so good he doesn't need to be. This is a guy who looks for people to hit, and opened running lanes for three seasons at Stanford. He has top ten talent in a draft that is deep with offensive linemen.
DeCastro is solid in pass protection, just ask Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. As I mentioned, he is an excellent run blocker. He could play either guard spot which makes him even more valuable. This guy will be an anchor on an offensive line for the next decade if he stays healthy. Whichever team drafts him will have chosen a great player.
Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams is a big man. Listed at 6'8" 320 pounds, you aren't going to find a bigger man in the 2012 NFL Draft. I know size doesn't mean success, but his stock is rising. He has developed into a very good run blocker who can overpower almost anybody he lines up against. Even at the NFL level, he is a huge man.
Although he missed several games as a part of the scandal at Ohio State, he is a durable player. He can play both left tackle and right tackle. I don't buy the comments from people who say he can't play left tackle in the NFL. He obviously played against good competition at Ohio State. He is very athletic for his size and is long enough to use his arms to gain a lot of leverage against his opponent.
He needs more work than Kalil and DeCastro, but he will develop after some coaching. There will be plenty of teams watching him on draft day, you can count on that.