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2012 NFL Draft: Highlighting the Best Player at Every Position

Soven BerySenior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Highlighting the Best Player at Every Position

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    With the NFL Scouting Combine right around the corner, the drafting process will start to get serious. 

    NFL organizations will look draft players based on positional needs. If a team has their quarterback situation settled, then the head honchos might look to draft a running back or linebacker. 

    By just looking at rankings of draft prospects, a fan will never be able to understand which player is best for his favorite team.

    This positional list will help to clear up the confusion heading into draft day. 

    It's getting closer and closer, and with that in mind here is a look at the top players in the 2012 NFL draft.

Linebacker

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    Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

    Upshaw paired a tremendous season with a solid Senior Bowl performance, and he has scouts drooling.

    The 6'1", 273-pound monster posted 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and an interception on the season. 

    He is a versatile player that can line up in many different places on the defensive side of the ball. He is best at rushing the passer with huge bursts of speed and finishing the explosion of a sack. He uses his hands well and can get inside the pocket. 

    Upshaw founded The 41 Fund in the spring of last year to raises funds for the victims of the Alabama tornadoes. While that has nothing to do with football, the NFL loves to honor players that help out the community and the explosive Upshaw could find his place in the league both on the field and off it. 

    On the Radar: Zach Brown, North Carolina

Safety

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    Mark Barron, Alabama 

    Without a doubt, Barron is the top safety in this class.

    The only problem that could derail his track is a recent double-hernia surgery. He won't be able to attend the Scouting Combine or the Crimson Tide's pro day on March 7. 

    The injury isn't expected to keep him out of his projected first-round slot.

    Barron is a hard-hitting safety with 66 tackles on the season, including 42 solos, four tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry, five pass breakups, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. 

    He is the cream of the crop for this position and, if healthy, should be a star in the NFL. 

    On the Radar: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia 

Defensive Tackle

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    Michael Brockers, LSU 

    Right now, this is a race between Brockers and Devon Still.

    It depends on a matter of personal preference, and I think that the former Tiger has the edge. 

    Brockers was disruptive this year totaling 54 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and even a blocked kick.

    This 6'5", 306-pound giant has an unmatched balance between size and strength. 

    The only knock against him is that Brockers is a sophomore. But his fountain of youth makes his ceiling nonexistent. This season Brockers played well beyond his years and can keep that level of intensity throughout his NFL career. 

    On the Radar: Devon Still, Penn State 

Defensive End

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    Quinton Coples, North Carolina

    Coples is a curious player.

    Some experts are high on him, while others don't think he will be a star in the league. I'm neutral with the UNC product. 

    He played brilliantly in the Senior Bowl, beating up on offensive linemen with his unmatched combination of strength and speed.

    The 6'6", 285-pound monster is a developed pass rusher that has a wide arsenal of moves to beat you with. 

    This season, facing a constant double team, Coples had 55 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

    He should explode onto the NFL scene. 

    On the Radar: Melvin Ingram, South Carolina 

Cornerback

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    Morris Claiborne, LSU

    Picking Claiborne is another no-brainer. The LSU product has been providing excellent pass coverage and big returns this season.

    Claiborne led the nation in interception return yards, with 173 to go along with his six picks.

    He is a shutdown, speedy corner and will probably be the first defensive player off the board come April. 

    Claiborne has a bright future in the league and should morph into a premier corner. 

    On the Radar: Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama 

Kicker

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    Randy Bullock, Texas A&M

    The kicker position has proven to be extremely important in the NFL—just ask Billy Cundiff.

    Bullock has shown this year that he has a solid leg and can get three points under pressure. 

    He was 29 for 33 on field goals and an impressive 55 for 57 on extra points.

    The kid has a bright future kicking in the league. 

    On the Radar: Blair Walsh, Georgia 

Punter

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    Bryan Anger, California 

    Anger is the best pro prospect on the Cal Special Teams squad.

    He was named first-team all-conference, while averaging 44.6 yards per punt.

    Anger has a bright future in the league because he is skilled at landing the ball inside the 20-yard line.

    On the Radar: Shawn Powell, Florida State 

Wide Receiver

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    Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

    Everyone can agree that Blackmon is the No. 1 receiver in the country, and he will be a definite boost to any quarterback that lands him. 

    The OK State product fights for yards after the catch and is able to run block when needed.

    He is a physical presence and will create a big mismatch. 

    Blackmon has already proven that he is an elite receiver lighting up stadiums with his physicality and speed.

    He is tough as nails and a true fighter. We could be seeing Blackmon touchdowns for a while to come.

    On the Radar: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 

Running Back

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    Trent Richardson, Alabama 

    Richardson is a special player.

    Teams do not get the chance to scout an athlete of his caliber every day, and the Alabama product will be a great addition to whichever organization picks him up. 

    With the league turning into a pass-happy environment, Richardson can bring back memories of illustrious runners and be an elite back in the NFL.

    This season, he killed the mighty defenses of the SEC with his speed and gift to keep a play going by breaking tackles. 

    Richardson can do it all and will be a day-one NFL starter. 

    On the Radar: Lamar Miller, Miami 

Tight End

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    Dwayne Allen, Clemson 

    As shown this year, the tight end position is growing increasingly valuable in the NFL.

    The league is looking for athletes to play the position and turn a six-yard pass into a 30-yard touchdown.

    Enter Dwayne Allen. 

    The Clemson star is a playmaker and is incredibly hard to cover. He has great hands, but lacks blazing speed and top-notch blocking ability.

    That being said, he wants to be great and takes the game very seriously.

    Clemson uses a NFL-style offense, and Allen can make the transition to the pro level easily. 

    On the Radar: Orson Charles, Georgia 

Fullback

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    Evan Rodriguez, Temple 

    Rodriguez is not expected to go before the fifth round, but the team that lands this "fullback" will have a very versatile player on their roster.

    He has been described as a poor man's Aaron Hernandez and lines up at fullback and tight end. 

    He is a natural athlete that can block and is also a good pass catcher. 

    Rodriguez has great vision, whether he is tracking the ball or taking on contact as a lead-blocking fullback. 

    But there is a huge red flag when it comes to drafting the Temple product.

    For all the potential this kid has, he has done little with it. Rodriguez is undersized and lacks strength. It also hurts that he was considered lazy in his first three seasons. 

    The potential is there and Rodriguez is an intriguing prospect. 

    On the Radar: Brad Smelley, Alabama 

Offensive Guard

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    David DeCastro, Stanford 

    DeCastro is ranking in the top 15 in many mock drafts. What makes his tale even more surprising is that guards usually don't rank that high.

    That just goes to show how good DeCastro is. 

    He is a can't-miss prospect at the guard position and a big reason for the success of Andrew Luck.

    It is simple—DeCastro never gets beaten.

    Whether he is pulling or pass blocking, he plays his heart out until the whistle.

    On the Radar: Cordy Glenn, Georgia 

Offensive Tackle

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    Matt Kalil, USC 

    Kalil is the best offensive tackle prospect since Jake Long.

    Big and athletic, with an eye for blitzes, he will be a guaranteed opening day starter.

    I see the Vikings picking up this former Trojan. He would give Christian Ponder time to make good passes and let a healthy Adrian Peterson run wild.

    Kalil will be the franchise tackle Minnesota is looking for. 

    On the Radar: Riley Reiff, Iowa 

Center

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    Peter Konz, Wisconsin 

    The ankle that sidelined Konz in the last three games of his college career seems to be healing well, but there are still durability concerns with him after the Badger missed time each of his past three seasons with several injuries. 

    That being said, Konz is aggressive and tough. When pass blocking, he shows extreme balance and shoots his hands into defenders to hold blocks for extended periods of time. 

    Konz is athletic and has a bright future in the league—if he can stay healthy. 

    On the Radar: Michael Brewster, Ohio State 

Quarterback

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    Andrew Luck, Stanford

    No surprise here: RG3 is a great prospect, but pales in comparison to Luck. He is the classic, drop back pocket passer who could save the Indianapolis Colts.

    In the age of Facebook and Twitter, Luck has been hyped up with no signs of slowing down. He is the best prospect by far and is as much of a sure thing as there can be in the draft. 

    It would take a lot of hard work for Luck to screw up. 

    On the Radar: Robert Griffin III, Baylor 

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