2012 NFL Draft: 50 Draft Picks Guaranteed to Become Stars

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 7, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 50 Draft Picks Guaranteed to Become Stars

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    Super Bowl XLVI is over, and with it another football season.

    That is, if football ever ends.

    As one season closes, another begins, and while the New York Giants get showered with ticker tape (or eco-friendly parade shower microtofu beads or whatever), 31 other teams will busily begin preparing for April's NFL draft in the hopes of getting a leg up on identifying the stars of tomorrow today.

    They could have just saved themselves some time and asked me, but noooooooooo, "they" won't return my phone calls (or e-mails or telegrams) so I'll just have to outline them here, with 50 2012 NFL draft picks guaranteed to become stars, as well as detailing the adversities they will overcome in order to do so (such as attending the University of Michigan).

Andrew Luck: QB, Stanford

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    Might as well get one right.

    Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck seems to be a pretty safe bet to be a successful NFL quarterback, but if he turns out more like Ryan Leaf than the player he's replacing (I'm not saying his name this week any more than I have to), then some Colts fans are likely going to be...displeased.

Matt Kalil: OT, USC

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    Some NFL linemen can't go three plays without letting a quarterback get sacked.

    (I'm not saying who, even the lousy ones are as big as a house.)

    Tackle Matt Kalil didn't give one up his entire junior year at USC.

Trent Richardson: RB, Alabama

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    Alabama running back Trent Richardson gained over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year and scored 24 touchdowns.

    In other words, he single-handedly outperformed the Cleveland Browns offense.

Jonathan Martin: OT, Stanford

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    The great thing about drafting offensive tackle Jonathan Martin is that not only can he block extremely well for your quarterback, but since he went to Stanford, after the game Martin can also do his taxes.

    Well.

Morris Claiborne: CB, LSU

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    In today's pass-happy NFL, having a shutdown corner can be a fantastic asset, and the 2011 Jim Thorpe winner is the top of his class at the position this year.

    What, you want a joke every slide?

Zach Brown: LB, North Carolina

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    Zach Brown is far and away the best 4-3 weakside linebacker prospect in the 2012 draft class, and the North Carolina standout had a fantastic Senior Bowl.

    Unfortunately for Brown, there's about as much market for 4-3 WLB this year as there is for "Pats World Champs" gear.

    Much like the guy left holding a box of those shirts, Brown's a victim of circumstance.

David DeCastro: OG, Stanford

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    A consensus All-American, Stanford guard David DeCastro is one of the best guard prospects to come along in some time and should be the foundation of the interior on an NFL offensive line for many years to come.

    Over which time he can offer his teammates significant tax breaks by showing them how to open a Roth IRA.

Robert Griffin III: QB, Baylor

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    In everyone's reported zeal to trade up and acquire the rights to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin in April, has anyone taken a moment to consider the historical "success" of Heisman Trophy-winning QBs in the NFL?

    No worries though, I'm sure he'll be fine.

Justin Blackmon: WR, Oklahoma State

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    Just a note to Blackmon's agent: Given past precedent with Oklahoma State wide receivers, no way in hell is Justin going to Jared, and someone else will just have to kiss Kay.

Courtney Upshaw: DE, OLB, Alabama

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    Not for nothing, but I wonder how many of the 37 Alabama Crimson Tide defensive players, including Courtney Upshaw, that will be drafted this season will be taking pay cuts?

    (I'm kidding...I think.)

Devon Still: DT/DE, Penn State

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    Not one thing was funny about anything that happened at Penn State this season, but you have to think that defensive tackle Devon Still is more than a little relieved to be waking up from that nightmare to pursue his NFL dream.

Quinton Coples: DE, North Carolina

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    Another player that had a solid Senior Bowl, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples is being projected anywhere from the late first round to the top ten, which means that obviously one of those predictions will have to be wrong.

    My money's on the second guy being the idiot.

Luke Kuechly: MLB, Boston College

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    Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NCAA with approximately 9,621 tackles last year, winning the Butkus and Nagurski Awards, which either means that he's really that good or the rest of the Golden Eagles defense was really that bad.

    Glass half-full. Kid's good.

Michael Floyd: WR, Notre Dame

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    No fanbase may be focused on one player this year more than the Chicago Bears are on Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, and the 6'3" wideout is apparently warming to the idea himself.

    Should it come to pass, there will be no middle ground. Either he succeeds and the Bears get the big receiver they need, or it all goes to h**l in a fireball.

Dre' Kirkpatrick: CB, Alabama

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    Alabama cornerback Dre' Kirkpatrick might have been a top-10 pick in April, right up until he decided that driving around in a car full of pot would be a good idea.

    The charges were dropped, but so has Kirkpatrick's draft stock, which may actually turn out to be good news for the team he falls to.

Janoris Jenkins: CB, North Alabama

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    While we're on the subject of pothead cornerbacks.

    After being booted from the University of Florida following some run-ins with the sticky-icky, Janoris Jenkins seems to have kept his nose relatively clean (there's another joke in there somewhere, but I'll let it go) at North Alabama.

    A strong Senior Bowl and solid combine could get arguably the draft's most talented corner back in the first round.

Alshon Jeffery: WR, South Carolina

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    Not only is South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery a fine football player and likely a first-round pick, but if the above video is any indication, he's also a student at the Andre Johnson Cornerback Conflict Resolution Academy.

Vontaze Burfict: ILB, Arizona Cardinals

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    Look at it this way.

    At least once Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict hits the NFL, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will get some competition for most personal fouls in the league.

    Hell, Burfict may get two at the Draft.

Riley Reiff: OT, Iowa

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    Riley Reiff is a capable and versatile offensive tackle who is a likely first-round draft pick that will be a fine NFL player for many years.

    Oh, and he likes corn.

    It's a state law in Iowa, Three ears a day or it's the lockup.

Dont'a Hightower: ILB, Alabama

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    We have breaking news!

    Inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower will in fact be returning to the University of Alabama, as he and the University have agreed on a four-year, $38 million "scholarship stipend" that will keep him with the Crimson Tide through 2015.

    (Still kidding.)

Alameda Ta'amu: DT, Washington

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    If I'm All-Pac-12 honorable mention defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, I'm hoping that I get drafted by a landlocked team like the Tennessee Titans or Kansas City Chiefs, because every time the big man goes to the beach, four hippies keep trying to push him back into the ocean.

Cordy Glenn: OT/OG, Georgia

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    Cordy Glenn is a beast of a man capable of playing just about every spot on the offensive line, and his skill and versatility portend a long and successful NFL career.

    However, I saw a site today that lists Glenn at 320 pounds, and I'm pretty sure that the Georgia standout's left leg weighs more than that.

Lamar Miller: RB, Miami Dolphins

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    Lamar Miller is an explosive running back that would be great fit in the West Coast offense.

    The Cleveland Browns are a team with a need at running back that employs the West Coast offense.

    I have just doomed Lamar Miller.

    That is all.

Ryan Tannehill: QB, Texas A&M

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    I get the distinct impression that Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill's foot "injury" occurred when he realized that he might be drafted by the Washington Redskins or Jacksonville Jaguars and smashed his own foot with a hammer in a fit of panic.

Whitney Mercilus: DE/OLB, Illinois

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    Whitney Mercilus' sack total at Illinois from 2009-2010: Two

    Whitney Mercilus' sack total at Illinois in 2011: 16

    Great, next we'll have eighth graders going nuts in "contract years" before they make the jump to high school.

Dontari Poe: DT, Memphis

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    I'm not making any wisecracks about a guy that can lift 405 lbs. easier than I can a bottle of beer.

Dwayne Allen: TE, Clemson

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    The 6'4", 255-pound tight end from Clemson is widely considered the best player at his position in the 2012 class.

    However, after being spoiled by the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham last year, for Dwayne Allen to impress NFL fans early he'll probably have to sprout wings from his butt.

Alfonzo Dennard: CB, Nebraska

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    I'm pretty sure that after his Senior Bowl fiasco, Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has been doing one of two things:

    1. Rehabbing furiously in an attempt to revive his flagging draft stock;

    2. Trying to invent a time machine so he can go back and fix the whole thing.

    You went to Nebraska, Alfonzo. Pretty sure No. 1 is your best bet.

Kendall Wright: WR/KR, Baylor

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    I had a hilariously scathing remark jotted down about Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright of Baylor, but just as I was typing it out the speedy little guy flew through here and grabbed the piece of paper.

    Gotta admit, he's fast.

Kelechi Osemele: OG/OT, Iowa State

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    I am both confident and hopeful that Iowa State offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele will make it big in the NFL.

    "Confident" because he is a solid offensive lineman with a bright future.

    "Hopeful" because I can't wait to hear broadcasters try to wrap their tongues around that mouthful of a name.

Nick Perry: DE/OLB, USC

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    USC defensive end Nick Perry plays football like a madman, but his name sounds like a reality show contestant that should be belting out a crappy a capella version of "Bye Bye Bye" while Paula Abdul sucks on a rum and Coke and leers at him.

    Oh well, at least he already has a second career lined up.

Mike Adams: OG/OT, Ohio State

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    Offensive lineman Mike Adams is a fantastic football player, a fine human being, a great example to us all and he hails from the finest university in the world.

    Hey, I'm just surprised it took me this long to go homer on you folks.

    GO BUCKS!

Melvin Ingram: DE, South Carolina

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    Defensive end Melvin Ingram may not have made his mark on the NFL yet, but the South Carolina star comes to the pros ready for a nickname.

    "T-Rex."

    Because he's a ferocious predator with short little arms.

    (Just playin', Mel...no need to kill, you know, me.)

Chase Minnifield: CB, Virginia

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    Chase Minnifield's father Frank was a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns in the 1980's and one of the progenitors of the "Dawg Pound" phenomenon.

    Of course, that has absolutely nothing to do with the University of Virginia cornerback, nor does the video attached to this slide.

    I think the Super Bowl pregame show may have caused me some mild dain bramage.

Chris Polk: RB, Washington

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    Chris Polk of Washington might be the best "between the tackles" back in this year's draft class, but it didn't help alleviate concerns about his durability and conditioning when he showed up at the Senior Bowl looking a little, um, "McNabby."

Ladarius Green: TE, Louisiana-Lafayette

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    The 6'6" small-school star is another of the top tight end prospects in the 2012 Draft, but much like Dwayne Allen, you have to come big if you want to impress early in your NFL career at tight end.

    That said, all I think Green needs to do is transform into a Dodge Challenger at midfield and plow to the end zone at about 120 miles an hour.

    With the ball, of course.

    Otherwise that would just be nuts.

Brian Quick: WR, Appalachian State

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    We'll go with two small-schoolers in a row, and while Brian Quick's 6'4" frame is certainly appealing to pro scouts, his technique and 40 time leave plenty of room for him to get "Quicker" before the draft.

    OK, that one sucks, but it's late, and these names are getting harder to bag on off the get.

    Must...focus...

Peter Konz: C, Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin center Peter Konz is the top prospect at his position in this year's NFL Draft, which means having all those quarterbacks' hands near his butt all these years is finally going to pay off.

    Congrats kid. You earned it.

Audie Cole: MLB, N.C. State

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    I feel bad for North Carolina State linebacker Audie Cole for two reasons:

    1. It's a pretty soft draft market for 4-3 MLB;

    2. Didn't people stop naming children Audie sometime in the 1920's?

Mark Barron: SS, Alabama

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    I feel even more sorry for Alabama safety Mark Barron than I do for Cole, as not only are the spots for "in the box" strong safeties drying up around the NFL, but given Alabama's current salary cap situation, I don't think Saban can afford to re-sign him.

    (Still kidding, SEC folks. Put the gas cans down.)

Brandon Weeden: QB, Oklahoma State

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    Although Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden will be 28 when the 2012 season begins, he was able to alleviate some of those worries with his play in the Senior Bowl.

    However, there was a moment of concern on the third day of practice when he tried to take passing drills from his Hoveround.

Doug Martin: RB, Boise State

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    There may have been no player whose 2012 NFL Draft stock jumped more after the Senior Bowl than Boise State running back Doug Martin, who is now receiving a first-round grade from some scouts.

    However, the biggest concern with Martin continues to be his ability to translate his game to a field that's, you know, green.

Nick Foles: QB, Arizona

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    Arizona quarterback Nick Folds (oops, typo) certainly has the 6'5" frame and strong arm that NFL scouts covet. It's not fair to blame the Wildcats dismal 2011 season completely on Folds (did it again, my fault).

    However, at times, Foles' decision-making was just awful, and whatever team that drafts him will be looking at a "project" type who may never be more than a backup.

    Of course, they said that about Tom Brady, too.

Brock Osweiler: QB, Arizona State

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    Let the tour of mediocre Arizona quarterbacks continue.

    Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler is another big kid (6'8") and he may have been much better served staying in school one more year (or not, as Tempe is a mess), but the young man's biggest challenge may be attempting to become a successful NFL signal-caller with a last name like "Osweiler."

    Name one...ever. He needs to change it to something cool, like....

    "Falco."

Jake Stoneburner: TE, Ohio State

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    The Buckeyes' passing game's regression into the 15th century in 2011 just about eviscerated tight end Jake Stoneburner's draft value, which is sad on one very fundamental level.

    How cool a football name is "Jake Stoneburner"?

Tank Carter: LB, TCU

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    The esteemed Mr. Carter will, and must, succeed in the National Football League, not because of such middling concerns as college production, draft position, talent or situation, but for one very pertinent reason.

    His name is Tank.

    That kind of logic is just unassailable.

Marvin McNutt: WR, Iowa

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    Little-known fact about All-Big Ten wide receiver Marvin McNutt of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

    McNutt honed his pass-catching skills by reeling in buttered ears of corn from 35 yards out at the Iowa CornFest, which runs annually from January 2nd to December 35th (math isn't a real big deal in Iowa).

    OK, so maybe it's not a "fact" in the typical definition of the word.

    (Kidding, Iowans, and I'm done bagging on my fellow Midwesterners.)

    And for the record, roast corn dipped in butter is awesome.

Michael Brockers: DT, LSU

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    Many draft pundits consider Louisiana State defensive tackle Michael Brockers the top of the 2012 class at his position, but I'll admit that I've found myself waffling on the issue quite a bit, as I usually do before the combine.

    It could all be moot though if head coach Les Miles decides to use the franchise tag on Brockers and bring him back to LSU next year.

    (Last SEC joke. Scout's honor.)

Derrick Shelby: DE, Utah

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    In this regard I am completely sincere.

    Defensive end Derrick Shelby somewhat quietly had a very solid season for the Utah Utes in 2011, tallying 52 tackles, four sacks, returning an interception for a touchdown and earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors at his position.

    I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mr. Shelby back on January 17th, and he struck me as a very bright young man that was knowledgeable and passionate about the game of football, and I have no doubt that he'll achieve his goal of playing in the National Football League.

    I don't get to interview players much, especially defenders (I'm a defense guy), so it was a treat for me, and this list gave me a chance to relive it for a second.

    Writing can be a chore sometimes, but at others it's about as cool as it gets.

All the Players I Missed

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    I'm fully aware that there are any number of players who did not make the cut for this list, from first-round picks to fan favorites to any player that kicks anything. There are a number of reasons for this:

    1. There are only so many hours in the day, and at this point I'm about to hit 15 straight, and that's without proofreading;

    2. I, um, dislike the School that Shall Not be Named, and since there was no huge need for me to do so here I didn't. If the "shoe" was on the other foot, the Boys in Blue would reciprocate;

    3. Some guys I couldn't think of anything remotely funny to say about, and this is supposed to be at least remotely funny.

    There are players on this list that will surely star in the NFL, some that will likely fall flat and a few that may just surprise by becoming the next Victor Cruz. In the days and weeks leading up to the combine and the draft, we will all talk about, speculate about, mock about and otherwise disseminate about these youngsters to the point of ridiculousness.

    And then we'll sail right past it and talk some more.

    The point of this slideshow, as much as it was to bring attention to some of these players, was to poke fun at them a bit, too, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

    There'll be plenty of time for more "serious" football talk, some of which I'll be writing today.