2012 NFL Draft: Latest News and Analysis for Defensive Risers and Fallers

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 13, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Defensive back Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama participates in a drill during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and whether it's breaking stories or disinformation campaigns spread by NFL teams (not that they would ever lie, mind you) the internet is chock full of updates and reports about the collegiate stars hoping to hear their names called on April 26th.

With that said let's take a look at some of the latest news regarding some of college football's top defensive players and how that news could impact their stock in the upcoming draft.

Janoris Jenkins past problems precursor to plummet?

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama is a smothering force in coverage, and given today's pass-centric NFL, one would think that a player of his talents would be a shoo-in to be a first-round selection. However, the 6'0", 190-pound senior is apparently every bit the headcase that he is a talented defensive back, and Marc Sessler of the NFL Network reports that Jenkins' laundry list of off-field issues may have eviscerated his draft stock.

"They gave him every chance in the world at Florida, and it didn't work," one NFC personnel executive told Albert Breer. "And he gets to North Alabama, and he's still smoking because he's got this big-fish, little-pond thing going. I don't see him going in the first round, and a lot of teams have him off their board completely."

I wrote an article Friday for Bleacher Report opining that Jenkins' considerable skills make him worth the risk to the New England Patriots with one of their two late first-round selections, but with all the clouds of uncertainty (if that's what it is...why am I suddenly in the mood for a Pop Tart?) surrounding Jenkins it's entirely possible that even the cornerback-needy Pats will decide Jenkins just isn't worth the potential headaches.

Fletcher Cox feeling the love

The National Football League released the list of the 26 players who have been invited to Radio City Music Hall for the first round of the NFL draft, and among the players who will be attending the event is Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who tallied 56 tackles, five sacks, and a forced fumble for the Bulldogs in 2011.

Cox has seen his draft stock rise after a stellar performance at February's NFL combine, and the 6'4", 298-pounder is apparently drawing interest from a pair of NFC East teams picking in the middle of the first round according to reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Fort-Worth Star-Telegram.

I'm guessing Jim Washburn is drooling over Cox's athleticism and versatility. He lined up at both tackle and end at Mississippi State. I know the mock drafts generally swing and miss at the Eagles' pick, but if Cox is there at 15, I have to think there's a strong possibility the Eagles snag him.

It looks as if the Cowboys are going to go defense early with cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Mark Barron and defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Poe and Brockers the likely targets. The Cowboys like Cox but believe he will be gone by the time they pick.

Kiper thinks Perry to Pats too Pricey

There are any number of teams selecting towards the end of the first round of the 2012 draft in need of pass-rushing help. Among those clubs is the aforementioned New England Patriots, and NESN columnist Jeff Howe believes the Patriots may be targeting USC defensive end Nick Perry, who led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks in 2011.

Perry projects as an instant pass-rushing specialist who could grow into a more complete player with more experience. Perry has great speed and explosion, and he's got a true knack for getting to the quarterback. While he prefers to play defensive end, he could also move to outside linebacker in the 3-4, though that will take an adjustment period. At the very least, he projects to have the versatility to play in multiple fronts for the Patriots.

However, ESPN's Mel Kiper recently reported that he feels Perry is more workout warrior than gridiron gorilla, and the draft expert said he expects the Trojans star to drop into the draft's second round.

His performances in games don't match up to the combine and workout numbers he puts up. What's the old expression from NFL scouts—looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane? Not saying that Perry fits into that category, but I am saying he has worked out better than he has played. He still is expected to go somewhere in the second round, though, and even could creep into the bottom of the first if a team likes him enough.

With teams such as New England and the Green Bay Packers (who did alright with another USC product in Clay Matthews) picking toward the end of the first round that are desperate to improve the pass rush, my guess is some team will like Perry just fine, and odds are the 6'3" 271-pound junior will get his chance to mug for the cameras in New York on the 26th.