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2012 NFL Draft: Which Players Are the Hardest to Project

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIDecember 22, 2014

2012 NFL Draft: Which Players Are the Hardest to Project

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    Projecting what player goes where can be tough. Toward the last few weeks leading up to the draft, everyone's draft boards start to converge and look about the same, and they're all wrong.

    One team making a surprise pick (like the Titans last year) changes the dynamic of the whole thing.

    Then there are some players that are just hard to figure out. They may be a special talent in a position that isn't in high demand, they may be the best player at their position in a weak class or they could be completely different prospects depending on what scout you ask.

    This is a list of those guys. Here are the seven players I have the most trouble figuring out this season.

1. Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

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    Luke Kuechly has seen his stock rise since the combine, where he had a great workout. However, his spot on draft boards remained largely unchanged.

    Inside linebackers are, generally, not very valuable in the NFL, and to make matters worse for Kuechly, only a few teams picking in the top half of the draft need a middle linebacker.

    Kuechly has been projected as high as No. 5 overall to the Buccaneers, which makes sense as far as need goes, but little as far as positional value goes. He's also fallen as far as No. 20 to the Titans, who might sign him up to play the weak side.

    For pretty much every team between those spots, he's a possibility, He won't fall past the Titans; he's just too good a prospect. However, the team that picks him will almost certainly be forsaking a need to do so.

2. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

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    David DeCastro's problem is similar to that of Kuechly's. DeCastro is a special prospect who happens to play guard, which has a low positional value.

    DeCastro went No. 9 overall to the Panthers in Bleacher Report's community mock, but that's the highest I've seen him go. I've also seen him fall as far as the Bears and hve seen him on nearly every team in between.

    Most seem to be placing him on the Cardinals, which makes sense, but the Cardinals also really need a left tackle, so they could take Jonathan Martin instead.

    I think that there's no way DeCastro falls past the Bears, but he could go to any team before that.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

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    Trent Richardson is probably the No. 2 player on several teams' big boards right now. The Browns like him, but they need a quarterback and a wide receiver, so they could pass on him. The Buccaneers like him, but they really need a corner. The Rams like him, but they need a receiver.

    Once Richardson falls out of there, anything could happen. The Jags could trade down with a team that really wants him, he could slip past them to the Dolphins and he could even fall to the Chiefs.

    All the teams who are actively looking for running backs are picking later in the draft, and there's no way that a prospect like Richardson falls that far, so anything could happen.

    Then again, as running backs become less and less valuable in the NFL, a lot of teams could pass on him and he may fall further than expected. We simply don't know.

4. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

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    I don't really like Stephon Gilmore as a prospect. Mike Mayock, NFL draft guru, loves him. Several others agree with him.

    However, a lot of people, like me, just don't see it. He was consistently inconsistent in college and didn't produce the numbers you want to see from a first-round corner.

    The NFL scouting community is probably equally divided, which makes where he'll go next to impossible to predict. While one franchise could pass on him because they see him as a lesser player than some others, another team might even try to trade up for him.

    With that kind of divisiveness among the teams, Gilmore could be the second, third or fourth corner taken in the draft. Only time will tell.

5. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

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    Peter Konz is, by a pretty fair margin, the best center in the 2012 class, and he'll go in the first round. However, this year's center class is pretty weak. Konz is the only NFL-ready center in the class.

    There are guys like Michael Brewster, Ben Jones, Philip Blake and David Molk who could develop into good centers, but none will be ready to go from Day 1. With all the teams needing centers (Baltimore, Chicago, Tennessee and Detroit for starters), that could push Konz's stock up.

    The Lions and the Bears have the most dire need for better linemen, and a center is the biggest need for Tennessee right now, so any of them could snag him before he falls to the Ravens, even if better players are available.

6. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

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    Michael Brockers is all over the place on big boards. In the Bleacher Report community draft, the Cowboys traded up to snag him, while in Walterfootball's latest mock, he fell to the Titans (who pick six spots below the Cowboys).

    Brockers declared much earlier than expected, which is why he's so tough to nail down. The former linebacker packed on 60 lbs in a year to play defensive tackle. If you watched any of LSU's games last season, then you know how effective their defense was.

    With his tremendous upside, Brockers will be valued very highly by some teams, while others will fear his bust potential. Depending on how much risk a team is willing to take, Brockers could go very early or slip very far into the first.

7. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

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    Ryan Tannehill is perhaps the toughest player to mock in this entire draft. He's a potential franchise quarterback, which means he'll go higher than he probably should. The question is just, how high?

    Last year, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder all went early in the first round. Locker and Gabbert had been projected pretty highly, but went even higher. Ponder was considered a Day 2 prospect, but he went No. 12 overall.

    Teams will reach for quarterbacks like nobody's business. The same thing could happen to Ryan Tannehill this year. The Browns will consider him at No. 4, the Dolphins could take him if he falls to No. 8, and any other quarterback hungry team could trade up for him after that.

    The absolute worst case scenario for Tannehill is to go No. 21 overall to the Browns, but his chances of being on the board that long are slim.

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