2012 NFL Draft: Players Who Will Make Late Surge into 1st Round

Steven MarinoContributor IIIFebruary 8, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Players Who Will Make Late Surge into 1st Round

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    The 2012 NFL Draft is a few months away.  After an exciting college football season with two SEC opponents going face-to-face in the national spotlight, college football has much to offer in this year's NFL Draft.

    With Andrew Luck as the clear number one, the first round has multiple names who will impact a NFL franchise instantly.  

    Talents such as Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, and Justin Blackmon, this year's draft is loaded with future superstars in the National Football League.

    With the top half of the first round almost solidified, I have devised a list of players who could make a last minute surge into the back-end of the first round.

Chandler Jones: Syracuse

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    Chandler Jones might not be your household name, but accumulating 147 tackles in his Syracuse career makes up for that.

    This past season, the defensive end emerged with 39 tackles, 31 of those tackles being by himself, and 4.5 sacks.  He accomplished these feats only playing in seven games this season.

    Jones also picked off one interception in the final game of the season against Pittsburgh.

    Given his strengths of being able to stop the run and being a fine tackler, he could find his way into the late first round.

Brandon Washington: Miami

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    Standing at 6'4" 320 pounds, the offensive guard from the University of Miami has tremendous upside.

    Brandon Washington's immense strength and natural athleticism could land him as a possible starter his first year into the NFL.

    A proven pass protector, Washington is also a force in creating a team's running game.

    With his natural guard build and a solid pro day workout, Brandon Washington could find his way into the first round.

Dwight Jones: North Carolina

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    Dwight Jones would be a solid wide receiver for any NFL franchise.

    This past season Jones caught 85 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had five games with over 100 receiving yards, including two games with over 130 receiving yards.

    In three games this season Jones caught multiple touchdown passes, including three in a game against in-state rival Duke.

    For a team lacking wide receivers, Jones possesses tremendous speed and reliable hands.

    His 2011 season statistics are comparable to most receivers in this year's draft, which is why he could slip into the first round.

Bobby Massie: Mississippi

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    Dealing with a three quarterback rotation, all requiring different pass protection technique, Bobby Massie is a solid 6'6" 320 pound offensive guard.

    Preparing for the NFL combine, Massie has improved footwork and strength, to go along with dropping weight and adding muscle to his massive frame.

    In his four year college career, Massie didn't miss a single snap. With the capability to play both the tackle and guard position, Massie creates a tremendous upside to his talents.

    Lined up on the right side, Massie will be a hybrid guard in the NFL. With a solid combine performance, Massie could be a first round draft choice. 

Stephon Gilmore: South Carolina

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    Playing in the SEC is no easy feat. Gathering 46 tackles and four interceptions during the season, including four solo tackles and one interception in their bowl game against Nebraska, Stephon Gilmore was a top caliber cornerback in college football.

    Standing at 6'1" and weighing 193 pounds, Gilmore possesses great size to match up with NFL receivers.  

    With the average height of a NFL cornerback being 5'11", Gilmore has the height and knack for making big plays to make it as an instant starter.

    Stephon Gilmore has a good chance of being selected in the first round in this year's NFL draft.

Juron Criner: Arizona

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    Suffering from an appendectomy early in the season, Juron Criner reached the 100 yard receiving mark five times his senior season.

    Criner caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns. His season opening performance included six receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown.

    Criner had three games with multiple touchdown performances including three touchdowns against Pac-12 rival, UCLA.

    The keys to Criner's successes are his excellent hands and tremendous size. Standing at 6'4" and weighing 215 pounds, Criner will provide an instant impact to any NFL team and become a red zone threat.

    Having one of the top quarterbacks in college football, and future first round draft pick, in Nick Foles throwing him the football certainly helped Criner's play.

    With tremendous upside, Criner has a good chance at breaking into the first round.

Chase Minnifield: Virginia

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    Senior cornerback Chase Minnifield provided the University of Virginia with 50 tackles, one and a half sacks, and three interceptions, including an interception against Duke which he ran back 54 yards for the touchdown.

    Minnifield's solid defensive skills and his ability to excel in zone coverage was a key factor in his success this past season.

    Minnifield plays the run extremely well, has excellent body control and is a proven tackler.

    Invited to the NFL combine, expect Minnifield to show off his athletic ability and six foot frame to provide him with the chance to be selected in the first round.