The 2012 NFL draft features a can't-miss prospect in Andrew Luck, an out-of-this-world athlete in Robert Griffin III and the best all-around running back in recent memory with Trent Richardson. Which players are ready to make the leap to the NFL, and which are prospects worthy of selecting now and grooming for the future?
The NFL scouting combine is a week-long job interview for the top 300 players eligible for the 2012 draft. Run better than expected, and you can make millions; fail to impress in interviews, and a player can fall out of the draft completely. The pressure is on for these 21- and 22-year-old men.
An early look at the class shows considerable talent at the top but a noticeable drop-off outside the top five players. Here's a look at the top 100 players heading into the NFL scouting combine.
1. Andrew Luck, Quarterback (Stanford)
The clear-cut No. 1 player in this class, Andrew Luck ranks as the best draft prospect since the great John Elway left Stanford in 1983. Some would even tell you he's better than that.
2. Robert Griffin III, Quarterback (Baylor)
RG3 turned around the program at Baylor, won the Heisman Trophy and defeated Texas and Oklahoma, and now he's ready to take the NFL by storm. The Indianapolis Colts will have a tough time deciding between Luck and RG3.
3. Trent Richardson, Running Back (Alabama)
The running back position has been devalued by late-round picks and undrafted free agents leading the league in rushing, but Trent Richardson is a special kind of prospect NFL teams could easily use a top-five pick on.
4. Morris Claiborne, Cornerback (LSU)
The shortage of true shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL has teams considering cornerbacks in new ways. Claiborne has better cover skills than his former LSU teammate and 2011 top-five pick Patrick Peterson.
5. Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver (South Carolina)
The wide receiver position lacks an elite talent, but Jeffery has the deep-ball skills and size to be a matchup nightmare in the red zone. Teams running the West Coast offense may not look his way, but any team with a strong-armed quarterback will be glad to.
6. Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle (USC)
The best of the many talented tackles in this class, Matt Kalil has the NFL pedigree (his brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center) and experience to be a Day 1 starter on the blind side.
7. Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver (Oklahoma State)
The ideal West Coast offense receiver, Justin Blackmon is reminiscent of Terrell Owens in terms of size, speed and ability to make plays after the catch.
8. David DeCastro, Offensive Guard (Stanford)
An offensive guard is rarely rated this high, but DeCastro has unreal talent at the position. He is among the safest bets in the entire 2012 class and could be the highest guard drafted in the last decade.
9. Lamar Miller, Running Back (Miami-Fla.)
Another running back cracks the top 10.
Miller's blend of burst, vision and agility is unmatched in this draft class. NFL teams will fall in love with his ability as a runner, receiver and return man.
10. Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle (Stanford)
Martin is the rare college tackle who is well versed as both a run- and pass-blocker. His solid all-around game will endear Martin to NFL general managers early in Round 1.
11. Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle (LSU)
Brockers left LSU after his redshirt sophomore season, but he's ready to be a starter as a 3-technique penetrator in the NFL. His potential is unmatched among defensive linemen in the 2012 class.
12. Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver (Notre Dame)
Floyd has the size, leaping ability and hands to be a major threat in the NFL. It's not unlikely that he will be drafted several spots higher than where he grades out due to the need for playmakers at his position.
13. Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Alabama)
Courtney Upshaw was the most solid defender on an incredibly talented Alabama defense, which describes his draft stock well. Upshaw lacks flash, but he's a solid player who won't make mistakes and can be lined up in any number of positions.
14. Nick Perry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (USC)
Nick Perry has the burst and athleticism to move up the draft board soon after the NFL scouting combine. He has the quickness off the line and ability to shed tacklers to make an Aldon Smith-like move up the board.
15. Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle (Iowa)
Reiff has fallen down the board slightly, but he's still viewed as a top talent and Day 1 starter along the offensive line. A former tight end, he has the ability to play both left and right tackle.
16. Chris Polk, Running Back (Washington)
Polk impressed all season, proving he's the inside-the-tackles runner who can take his all-around ability as a runner and receiver to the NFL. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Polk can thump between the hashes and then slide out and play in the slot as a receiver.
17. Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (South Carolina)
Few players had as big of an impact at the Senior Bowl as Melvin Ingram. Playing defensive end, tackle and linebacker, Ingram was a force to take on at the line of scrimmage. His versatility will excite NFL scouts.
18. Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback (North Alabama)
After being kicked off the University of Florida football team, Jenkins landed at North Alabama. His play at the Senior Bowl brought Jenkins' name back to the table. His ability to jam at the line and then turn and run with speedy receivers makes him an interesting prospect.
19. Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback (South Carolina)
Stephon Gilmore is an all-around cornerback who can step in from Day 1 as a cornerback in a zone or man scheme. He's also athletic enough to start as a punt returner—something he did well at South Carolina.
20. Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker (North Carolina)
Brown is a freakish athlete who may not take on blocks, but he's quick enough to skirt around them and still make plays without giving up yardage.
Looking for a weak-side linebacker? Brown is by far the best of the bunch.
21. Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Illinois)
Mercilus led the NCAA in sacks during the 2011 season, showing the burst and strength to be a factor coming off the edge. Mercilus' ability as a pass-rusher is exciting, but he has to prove he's more than a one-year wonder.
22. Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker (Arizona State)
Burfict started the season No. 2 overall on my big board but quickly started to fall after taking himself out of games mentally. Burfict has top-five talent but second-round self-control. If he can land in a veteran locker room, the sky is the limit.
23. Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver (Baylor)
Slot receivers are becoming more important each season in the NFL. As teams try to find their own Wes Welker or Victor Cruz, a quick but small receiver from Baylor named Kendall Wright will come to the forefront. His ability after the catch will translate very well to the NFL.
24. Dont'a Hightower, Inside Linebacker (Alabama)
Hightower's play in the BCS National Championship Game gave him a nice boost up the boards, but it begs the question of where the athletic linebacker we saw that night was hiding all season. Hightower is undoubtedly talented, but he has to play more consistently.
25. Jamell Fleming, Cornerback (Oklahoma)
A player moving up the board, Fleming has the size and strength to be an effective cover corner who can redirect players at the line of scrimmage. His Senior Bowl practices were among the most impressive of any player in Mobile.
26. Peter Konz, Center (Wisconsin)
An ankle injury cut short Konz's junior season, leading to what should be a thorough physical exam at the combine. If Konz checks out healthy, he's easily a first-round pick.
27. Orson Charles, Tight End (Georgia)
As the athletic slot tight end becomes more common in the NFL, players like Orson Charles will benefit. Charles has the speed of a big receiver and the run-after-catch ability of one too. He will be a favorite of teams trying to find their own Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez.
28. Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard/Tackle (Georgia)
There aren't many men with Cordy Glenn's size and agility.
Glenn played well at tackle and guard during his career. We like him best inside, where his strength and agility will make him a Pro Bowler.
29. Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle (Memphis)
The nose tackle position is rarely drafted in the first round, but this year will be different. Dontari Poe has the mass to plug holes and the quickness to chase down runners.
30. Quinton Coples, Defensive End/Tackle (North Carolina)
Others have Coples in their top five or top 10.
Coples is not a self-starter and struggles to come off blocks. He flashed against mediocre opposition at the Senior Bowl and rarely showed the same drive on film.
31. Mark Barron, Strong Safety (Alabama)
The best of the safeties in the 2012 class, Barron is a hard hitter with good range and cover skills. He is the type of safety who will be asked to help cover the suddenly popular athletic tight end like Rob Gronkowski.
32. Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback (Alabama)
An arrest for marijuana possession the day after he declared for the 2012 NFL draft doesn't help the stock of a player overrated due to the program he's coming from. Kirkpatrick needs to win more one-on-one battles before he's considered an elite prospect.
33. Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle (Ohio State)
Mike Adams impressed at the Senior Bowl, showing the size to block out the sun and the quick hands to handle pass-rushers. Forget that "waist-bender" talk—any 6'8" offensive tackle will bend a little in the middle. It's not a worthy concern.
34. Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle (Michigan State)
There is just one defensive tackle in the first round, but Jerel Worthy could see himself creep into the late first round come April. He's quick off the ball, but his production and effort didn't match his potential.
35. Chandler Jones, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Syracuse)
Chandler Jones isn't getting much publicity yet, but he will soon heat up on the national level as teams with needs at defensive end or outside linebacker start taking a look at the Syracuse pass-rusher.
36. Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback (Nebraska)
A first-round prospect for much of the year, Dennard struggles in space and isn't quick enough to recover at the line. He's falling down my board with each additional viewing.
37. Fletcher Cox, Defensive End/Tackle (Mississippi State)
Fletcher Cox has the look of a 3-4 defensive end, which could cause him to be drafted higher than he grades out. With so many 3-4 defenses drafting at the end of Round 1, Fletcher could see himself drafted there.
38. Devon Still, Defensive Tackle (Penn State)
A first-rounder on many boards, Still's lack of impact against Wisconsin (in essence, an NFL offensive line) stands out as proof of his inability to produce against elite talent.
39. Jared Crick, Defensive End/Tackle (Nebraska)
A torn pectoral muscle has Crick moving down the board. If healthy, he has potential to make a J.J. Watt-type impact at defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
40. Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver (Rutgers)
A versatile athlete, Sanu is hurt by the fact that he's not straight-line fast. He lined up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver this year, proving he has the athletic ability to make an impact with the ball.
41. Kelechi Osemele, Guard (Iowa State)
Osemele was throwing defensive linemen around at the Senior Bowl before struggling in the game at right tackle. His future is inside at guard, and a bright future it is. Osemele is a solid bet as a late first-round or early second-round pick.
42. Ronnell Lewis, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Oklahoma)
Ronnell Lewis has more potential than any pass-rusher in this draft, but he's struggled to stay healthy. If he checks out OK medically and puts on a show at the combine, his stock could soar well into the first round.
43. Dwayne Allen, Tight End (Clemson)
Allen is loved by many, but his lack of burst and impact after the catch keeps him in the early second-round range. He's a good all-around tight end who fits the classic use of the position as a blocker and receiver.
44. Brock Osweiler, Quarterback (Arizona State)
A freakish athlete who stands well over the competition at 6'8", Osweiler has the arm strength and footwork to be a rookie starter. He's raw when reading a defense, but he has the football IQ to make a quick jump to a starting position.
45. Doug Martin, Running Back (Boise State)
Martin has enjoyed a very good pre-draft season, showing up with the ideal physique at Senior Bowl weigh-ins and then impressing on the field. Martin's most impressive trait is his versatility, something NFL teams will love on film.
46. Billy Winn, Defensive End (Boise State)
An ideal candidate to slide out at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, Winn didn't have a great Senior Bowl week but shows up big on film.
47. Mike Martin, Nose Tackle (Michigan)
When you see Mike Martin you clearly notice his stocky build and short frame that make him a nose tackle. He has natural leverage and crazy strength.
Expect to see Martin climbing draft boards once teams catch him on film.
48. Andre Branch, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Clemson)
The 2012 class is full of pass-rushers who fit the end/linebacker hybrid model. Andre Branch doesn't have the elite quickness to be a first-rounder, but he's an all-around solid edge player who will be a value pick in Round 2.
49. Dwight Jones, Wide Receiver (North Carolina)
Jones has the size to be a problem for defenders in the red zone, but he's slow working back to the ball and doesn't have the agility to be a first-rounder. He could be a good contributor as a rookie in a vertical system.
50. Brandon Weeden, Quarterback (Oklahoma State)
Age is the factor here, as Weeden will be 29 years old when the season begins. It's possible a quarterback-needy club will reach for him, as Weeden is close to NFL-ready.
51. Vinny Curry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Marshall)
Curry has been impressive on film and in person, but there's something missing in terms of burst and athletic ability. Overall, he's a very good player who has the talent and mechanics to outplay his draft standing.
52. Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker (Nebraska)
Undersized for a classic outside linebacker position, David is an ideal fit in a Cover 2 defense or a system that relies on speedy linebackers instead of bulk on the edge. Think of Philadelphia, Detroit or New Orleans as a landing spot for him.
53. Brandon Washington, Guard (Miami-Fla.)
Washington is a raw athlete with good upside, but he needs work. The size and agility are there for him to potentially make a move to tackle once in the NFL, but he's not ready to be a Day 1 starter on the edge.
54. Coby Fleener, Tight End (Stanford)
A product of the system and a great quarterback, or a can't-miss target at tight end?
That's the debate surrounding Fleener, who caught a ton of passes from Andrew Luck. Film study points more to the system, but Fleener has the solid hands to make plays when open.
55. Rueben Randle, Wide Receiver (LSU)
A sleeper wide receiver prospect who hasn't received much pre-draft publicity, Randle has the size, separation skills and hands to make a sharp move up the board after the Combine.
56. Nick Foles, Quarterback (Arizona)
Foles is a solid option for teams wanting to draft and develop a quarterback. He has the arm strength, accuracy and size to be a starter down the road but must work on reading the defense and improving his footwork before he's ready to take snaps in the NFL.
57. Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle (Florida State)
An early second-rounder before the Senior Bowl, Sanders was destroyed by the pass rush of the North squad. He would look better on the right side, where his lack of agility won't be as much of a factor.
58. Chase Minnifield, Cornerback (Virginia)
Minnifield has the size to be an effective man cover corner but lacks the quick feet to be considered a first-round prospect. Al Groh turned out numerous NFL cornerbacks at Virginia, though, so expect Minnifield to be field-ready.
59. Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle (Clemson)
A one-time first-round prospect, Thompson hasn't shown the production or impact to match his potential. With a large list of teams needing defensive tackles and a weak class of players at the position, Thompson could find himself over-drafted.
60. Kevin Zeitler, Guard (Wisconsin)
Road-grading offensive guards are hard to come by these days. Kevin Zeitler has the experience in a pro-style offense and the strength/agility combination that NFL teams will fall in love with. He's a Day 1 starter.
61. David Wilson, Running Back (Virginia Tech)
Wilson has the electric ability to score from anywhere on the field, but he's not impressive when asked to turn through the tackles, as he lacks the strength to break free from defenders. He also has a history of fumbling.
62. Jayron Hosley, Cornerback (Virginia Tech)
Hosley has the size to step in at cornerback immediately, but there are questions about his ability to change direction and just how fluid he can be in coverage. A good showing at the combine will help move him up the board.
63. Bobby Wagner, Outside Linebacker (Utah State)
An impressive athlete, Wagner stood out in Senior Bowl practices as a rugged, dependable anchor on the edge of the defense. He'll make his money as a thumper in the NFL.
64. Keenan Robinson, Outside Linebacker (Texas)
More athletic than physical, Robinson can look like a finesse player at times but has the overall agility to be highly productive. He can play any linebacker spot in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
65. Luke Kuechly, Inside Linebacker (Boston College)
A highly productive inside linebacker, Kuechly has to learn to attack downfield and not make plays behind his starting point. His ability to tackle is good, but his placement and athleticism are questionable.
66. Joe Adams, Wide Receiver (Arkansas)
A Senior Bowl riser, Joe Adams' ability as a slot receiver will make his value soar once NFL teams see his film. Adams dominated in Mobile and has a shot to be drafted much higher come April.
67. Brandon Boykin, Cornerback (Georgia)
Another player who made himself considerable money at the Senior Bowl, Boykin has exceptional man cover skills and the quickness and flexibility to suddenly change direction and close on the ball.
68. Alameda Ta'amu, Defensive Tackle (Washington)
A massive interior lineman who should toss around smaller players, Ta'amu hasn't learned how to use his frame to dominate yet. If he can control his leverage and learn to use his strength, he can be unstoppable.
69. Ben Jones, Center (Georgia)
An athletic center who has experience in a pro-style offense, Jones had trouble with the quarterback exchange at the Senior Bowl and hurt his stock slightly with a bad week there. He will have a chance for redemption at the combine.
70. Markelle Martin, Free Safety (Oklahoma State)
Martin has good range and the physical presence to knock receivers off their routes, but his man coverage can be lacking. He's not a wrap-up tackler and too often tries to take the head off a player instead of securing the tackle.
71. Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback (Texas A&M)
A first-rounder on a lot of boards, Tannehill has issues with injury, a lack of experience and accuracy issues. He's a project pick by every definition of the word. Those talking about Tannehill in the first round are reaching.
72. Josh Chapman, Nose Tackle (Alabama)
Chapman played the end of the season with a torn ACL and then opted for postseason surgery, which will cut short his ability to perform before the draft. He's talented, and his toughness can't be questioned, but there will be issues with Chapman's rookie season availability.
73. Kirk Cousins, Quarterback (Michigan State)
The potential is there for Cousins to be an eventual starter in the NFL, but currently he lacks the consistency to be a starter. Once Cousins works on his footwork and accuracy, the rest of the tools are there for him to compete.
74. Sean Spence, Outside Linebacker (Miami-Fla.)
Undersized for the outside linebacker position, it wouldn't be surprising if NFL teams try Spence out at strong safety. He's very athletic with a nose for the ball, but his lack of size will be an issue when trying to come off blocks in the NFL.
75. Nick Toon, Wide Receiver (Wisconsin)
Toon has the pedigree, size and hands to make an impact in the NFL, but questions about his durability and lack of speed will keep him from hearing his name called in the top two rounds.
76. Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback (Montana)
Not having faced elite competition, Johnson needs to perform very well at the combine and do well in interviews to explain dropped charges from a party that led to a stun gun being used by police.
77. Andrew Datko, Offensive Tackle (Florida State)
Were it not for a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery that "didn't take," Datko could have been a first-round prospect. Currently, he's on the verge of falling off the board entirely if his shoulder doesn't check out healthy at the combine.
78. Brian Quick, Wide Receiver (Appalachian State)
A small-school guy with a big frame, Brian Quick showed the ability to separate from top-flight cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl. He will need to work on his route-running, but the natural ability to go up and get the football is there.
79. Antonio Allen, Strong Safety (South Carolina)
Allen impressed in interviews and on the field at the Senior Bowl. He's a long, lean safety with good range and a nose for the ball. He can match up with tight ends and slot receivers but isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and level a big hit.
80. Shaun Prater, Cornerback (Iowa)
Teams looking for a cornerback who can be physical at the line but turn and run will like Prater's ability as a mid-third-round prospect. He doesn't have the elite speed or ball skills to be drafted much higher, but he could turn into a quality starter.
81. Bruce Irvin, Outside Linebacker (West Virginia)
Irvin was surprisingly shunned by the Senior Bowl, which leads to questions about his stock among NFL teams. Irvin is slightly undersized for a defensive end, but he has the athleticism to make a switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
82. LaMichael James, Running Back (Oregon)
James is a "name" player whose stock is overrated by his college production. A lack of size, persistent elbow injuries and too many fumbles in key spots bring his realistic value down to the third round.
83. Brandon Mosley, Offensive Tackle (Auburn)
Mosley projects best at right tackle but could even be looked at for those wanting a big, road-grading guard. He comes off the line hard but doesn't have the agility to be used on the left side or in a zone scheme.
84. Aaron Henry, Free Safety (Wisconsin)
An All-Big Ten first-team player at safety, Henry has surprising range and was able to go up and get the ball well. He could make an earlier impact than his draft stock would indicate.
The biggest question mark for Henry will be testing his injured knee and proving his size (6'0", 200 lbs) isn't an issue.
85. Leonard Johnson, Cornerback (Iowa State)
Johnson struggled at times while at the Senior Bowl but has nice recovery speed and isn't afraid to go up and get the ball. As soon as he can work on getting stronger at the point of attack, he could be a quality starter in the NFL.
86. Dan Herron, Running Back (Ohio State)
Boom Herron missed five games due to suspension this year, something NFL teams will all want to know about. Upon returning, he flashed good balance and burst running inside. Somewhat limited physically, Herron could carve out a niche in the NFL.
87. Tommy Streeter, Wide Receiver (Miami-Fla.)
A player who will be largely drafted on potential, Streeter is an exceptional athlete but a raw wide receiver. His understanding of route trees and timing will be tested at the combine, where his athleticism should shine.
88. Amini Silatolu, Guard (Midwestern State)
A small-school guard whom one scout at the Senior Bowl compared to Mike Iupati in terms of ability and exposure, Silatolu pulled a hamstring and was forced out of Senior Bowl week. An invite to the combine could go a long way in securing his draft stock.
89. Bernard Pierce, Running Back (Temple)
Pierce is the type of back who doesn't do any one thing special but is a consistent factor in the run game. Pierce won't blind anyone with speed or open-field moves, but he picks up yards and has a knack for always falling forward.
90. Tyler Nielsen, Outside Linebacker (Iowa)
A sleeper prospect who wasn't invited to the Senior Bowl, Nielsen is a solid, tough football player. He won't win many races and doesn't stand out in shorts, but when the pads are put on, he shines as a tackler and run-stopper on the edge.
91. DeVier Posey, Wide Receiver (Ohio State)
Posey played in just three games this season due to suspension, and the rust showed at the Senior Bowl. Posey has amazing talent, as seen in the Ohio State loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, but he needs to prove he's not a problem off the field.
92. Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver (Arkansas)
The next Victor Cruz may be an Arkansas Razorback.
Wright has the ability to separate at any point on the field and has a knack for making impossible catches. His speed in the open field makes him a dangerous return man and a YAC guy.
93. Jake Bequette, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (Arkansas)
Jake Bequette was compared to Bill Romanowski at one point during the Senior Bowl—and in a positive way.
Bequette has the size to redirect tight ends off the line and the speed to close on the ball in space. He's an exciting prospect who will likely make a position change once in the NFL.
94. Kendall Reyes, Defensive End/Tackle (UConn)
Reyes didn't flash as much as expected at the Senior Bowl, but his size and strength make him more of a hole-plugger than pass-rusher. He has the ideal bulk for a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
95. Isaiah Pead, Running Back (Cincinnati)
Slightly undersized and a bit lean, Pead had a very good Senior Bowl week. His ability as a return man only adds to his value as a third-down-style back in the NFL.
96. Casey Hayward, Cornerback (Vanderbilt)
Hayward did the Commodores proud at the Senior Bowl, delivering the hit of the week in practices and following it up with solid play in the actual game. A top-120 player before the week, Hayward is carrying a solid third-round grade now.
97. Audie Cole, Inside Linebacker (North Carolina State)
Cole has the size to lock down the A and B gaps at inside linebacker but is fluid enough to play outside on the strong side of the ball. He is impressive locating the ball and has the strength to shed blockers on his way to the tackle.
98. Brandon Lindsey, Outside Linebacker (Pitt)
Another hybrid-type player who didn't get a Senior Bowl invite, Lindsey will have to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL. This is a very crowded position group that could cause high-profile players to fall on draft day.
99. Russell Wilson, Quarterback (Wisconsin)
The biggest question mark surrounding Wilson is his height, and measuring in at 5'10" didn't help things.
Wilson does show remarkable touch and zip on the ball. His passes come off high and tight, but there's still an issue of his play in the pocket. Wilson will have to beat considerable odds to make it as a starter in the NFL.
100. Harrison Smith, Strong Safety (Notre Dame)
Smith displayed a hard nose for the ball and better range than expected this season. He's big enough and has enough speed to make an immediate impact against the run and should also be a major contributor on special teams.
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