2012 NFL Draft: Assessing the Class' Strengths and Weaknesses

Steven YangCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Assessing the Class' Strengths and Weaknesses

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    With every new draft come standard strengths and weaknesses from that particular class. 

    This year has had its fair share of drama, ranging from injuries to firings and, for some, re-signing of players. 

    The futures of some superstars are still in question, while others have just recently signed big extensions on their contract.  For rookies, it will be interesting to see the progression from college into the pros. 

    Players with more hype such as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be looked at under a microscope this coming year.  Whether or not they will succeed is too early to determine. 

    The 2012 NFL draft is just around the corner, and seeing what positions are strong and weak will be vital for the front office to evaluate before signing day.  

Strength: Quarterbacks

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    As mentioned earlier, players such as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are going to be heavily looked at a scouted.

    This year is particularly deep at the quarterback position, with so much talent entering the draft.  For example, players such as Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson are less looked at in comparison to other players.  However, they have proven during their college careers that they have potential to become just as good as Andrew Luck. 

    Russell Wilson had gaudy stats this past year, and it seemed as if on paper he was one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft.  However, he is ranked as low as 188 on some “expert” draft boards.

    The quarterback position is fairly deep in this year's draft, which is great for teams that cannot afford a first-round draft pick.  This might be one of the better years in terms of return on the amount spent for rookie quarterbacks.  

Strength: Offensive Lineman

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    Four of the first 11 expected draft picks are offensive tackles and guards.  Obviously, this can be slightly skewed if looking at the entire draft length.  However, the closer it gets to signing day, the more it looks like teams put value on lineman. 

    This is reasonable considering linemen are one of the staples for any team developing. 

    Quality lineman are even sometimes more valuable than a decent quarterback.  Being effective at the line requires a solid understanding of defenses, offensive schemes and cohesion with the quarterback.

    If a team can find a solid lineman in the draft, they have drastically bumped up their team output.

    Some key names that come to mind from this year's draft include Matt Kalil (USC), Riley Reiff (Iowa), Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and David DeCastro (Stanford). 

    Out of those names, Kalil is expected to be drafted No. 2 in the draft, which is proof for how offensive tackles and guards are looked in today’s game.  

Strength: Defensive Lineman

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    According to most draft boards, there is an expected nine defensive lineman ranked in the top 50. 

    For teams that are young and talented, having a solid defense behind can be the difference between the playoffs and going home early.  Although, in recent years, people have dubbed the league “a quarterbacks league,” the importance of a defense is vital. 

    The San Francisco 49ers are a testament to how beneficial a solid defense can be.  With an average offense and a rock-solid defense, the 49ers were one game away from playing in the Super Bowl.

    Tom Coughlin also showed us one of the strongest parts of the world champion Giants defense, and that was the defensive line.  With players such as Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Canty, the effectiveness they were able to play at seemed to basically stop Tom Brady in the fourth quarter. 

    With multiple defensive linemen being scattered in the draft, it will be important for teams to get talent with a reasonable contract. 

    The first round draftees will obviously make their big contracts, but it looks like there is plenty of depth at this position in the later rounds for teams to get a deal in.  

    Some big names include Michael Brockers (LSU), Nick Perry (USC) and Brandon Thompson (Clemson). 

Strength: Linebacker

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    Seven of the top 50 projected players look to be either inside or outside linebackers.  This position is pretty deep in the draft board, and they are scattered in all the rounds. 

    This year has not seen any spectacular players at this position.  However, for the football enthusiast, there is plenty of players that have the talent to be successful. 

    In the NFL, there is a premium on great linebackers due to the fact that they are basically the quarterbacks on defense.  It is their job to get the formation correct and relay messages to individual players. 

    That being said, this position is one of the toughest to transition into (at least quickly).  If a college player has the talent and potential to develop into a Ray Lewis-type player, they will get drafted as soon as possible. 

    Some big names that come to mind include Luke Kuechly (Boston College), Dont’a Hightower (Alabama) and Courtney Upshaw (Alabama). 

    Hopefully those players do not end up being busts in the NFL, because their college careers have shown huge promise for any team looking to strengthen their defense.  

Weakness: Running Back

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    With all the strengths of this year’s draft, some real concerns arise when discussing the running backs position. 

    Some years have shown great talent at this position, including Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.  Those names were highly-touted in college and have made a pretty solid impact in the NFL today.

    That is what teams are looking for when they draft these young physical running backs.  However, the only big name out there (for now) looks to be Trent Richardson (Alabama).  Richardson looks to be the only first-round pick in the running back class.  This is not to say that the position is completely dead, but in comparison to some other positions, it looks pretty weak.

    Second and late-round picks look to be the destination for most of the running backs on the board.  A big name that might slip further down than expected would be LaMichael James (Oregon). 

    James was in the running for the Heisman at one point, but fell off later in the season.  He was one of the main reasons for Oregon’s spectacular run and hopefully he can be a mid draft pick with huge upside.  

Weakness: Centers

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    This position is arguably one of the hardest to grasp right out of college.  In the NFL, the schemes are more complicated and the players are much more physical.  College centers who come into the league and make a direct impact are rare.  This is probably the reason for there only being two centers rated in the top 100 draft choices. 

    Peter Konz (Wisconsin) and Ben Jones (Georgia) are both great players who played for some big-time schools.  This will most likely help out scouts to understand the kind of poise and talent that these two players have. 

    However, after these two players, the talent severely drops in the rest of the draft.  There are plenty of centers out there that can fill a backup role, which is fine.  They will most likely not be picked until later rounds, which can hurt their contract numbers. 

    Overall, compared to quarterbacks and other specialty positions, the center position is pretty weak in terms of depth and talent.  Hopefully some of these no-name players can end up being a household topic of discussion.