Trent Richardson will be better than Andrew Luck.
Believe it or not, he's not the only player coming out of the 2012 NFL draft that will end up trumping the likely No. 1 overall pick.
As long as the NFL continues to evolve into a passing league, the value of quarterbacks will be greater than that of any other position group. That's why the best quarterback in the draft has been the No. 1 choice four out of the last five years (h/t NFL.com).
Higher value doesn't automatically equal better performance, though, and there are a handful of players coming out of this year's class that will end up being better in the long run than Luck.
Consider last year's draft class.
Cam Newton came out and smashed the record books in a number of key statistical categories in 2011 (h/t ProFootballTalk). He is clearly well on his way to changing the culture of the Carolina Panthers, and I'm looking forward to watching him grow in his capacity as a true leader for that organization.
That being said, he wasn't the best player in his class.
Von Miller and Aldon Smith showed the league what true defensive dominance is going to look like for the next decade, and A.J. Green looks like he could become a legend at the wide receiver position.
Here are the players coming out of this year's class that will be better than Luck.
David DeCastro will be a perennial Pro Bowler, and it wouldn't shock me to see his first selection come in his rookie year.
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News writes, "Considered by some to be the best interior offensive lineman to enter the draft since Steve Hutchinson in 2001."
High praise, indeed.
DeCastro is as technically sound and physically imposing as any prospect in any position this year, and he will make a major impact on whichever team is smart enough to draft him.
He is a punishing run-blocker and an agile pass-protector; a true can't-miss prospect that will become one of the league's best players in short order.
According to Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com, Morris Claiborne is a better cover corner than Patrick Peterson, has better range than Joe Haden and is the best cornerback to come out of college since Darrelle Revis in 2007.
There have been some concerns over his alleged score of four out of 50 on the Woderlic test (h/t ESPN), but I'm not in the least bit troubled by those allegations.
Neither are most experts. NFL.com's Charley Casserly had this to say on the matter:
In the case of Claiborne, I watched five games on tape and did not see him make any mental errors...The reportedly low test score certainly has not affected his play. I do not see this impacting his draft status. I expect him to come off the board between No. 3 and No. 6. He is the best defensive player in this draft and the Wonderlic score would not affect my thinking in the least.
The way the NFL is constructed these days, elite cornerbacks are nearly as valuable as elite quarterbacks.
NationalFootballPost.com summed up their evaluation of Claiborne thusly:
The top corner in this year's draft. He's tall and long which allows him to play big off the line. However, he showcases the footwork, balance and quick-twitch ability of a much smaller corner out of his breaks. With improved technique he should mature into one of the leagues best.
Claiborne may take some time to get himself up to speed, but once he settles into the pace and speed of the NFL game he will be one of the league's top players.
Many mock drafts have the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Melvin Ingram to be a defensive end. I don't see him excelling in that role. In my mind, he's a clear 3-4 weak outside linebacker with the tools to become a devastating pass-rusher.
When I watch him on tape, Ingram reminds me of a slightly bigger version of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock, via ProFootballTalk:
Melvin Ingram, for me, is a really fun puzzle to try to figure out. At 272 pounds, short arms, where do you play him? At South Carolina they did a great job moving him around. He played defensive end, outside linebacker, he played defensive tackle in their sub package. and I think that’s what you need to do in the NFL.
For me, he’s a first-round pick, he’s a Top 15 player, and I think the 3-4 teams are really going to like him. Very similar to Harrison and Woodley.
One of the best things Ingram brings to the table is his sudden and explosive first step. He is a raw prospect that may take a year or two to develop, but in the long run, Ingram will be considered as one of the best players taken in the 2012 NFL draft, provided he is utilized correctly.
Trent Richardson is going to take the NFL by storm during his rookie campaign.
He was Alabama's best running back last year when Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was still on the team, if that tells you anything.
Blessed with elite God-given physical talents and football instincts, Richardson is widely regarded as the best prospect to come out at his position since Adrian Peterson.
Per the National Football Post:
The best running back prospect I've seen since Adrian Peterson. His running style might limit his shell life a bit in the NFL. However, he's the kind of back you can ride like a rented mule from day one and should become one of the NFL's top runners early on.
Richardson can run between the tackles, bounce it outside, stop on a dime, reverse fields, catch the ball as well as many receivers and pound the ball into the end zone at the goal line. He is a complete football player that would be able to step right into the starting lineup for just about every team in the NFL.
He is ridiculously strong, too. Check out this YouTube video of him destroying a scout at his pro day in a blocking drill. Normally, young running backs entering into the NFL have trouble with blocking schemes, but something tells me Richardson won't have those kinds of issues.
Richardson may very well be one of the NFL's best overall players in two years. He is an amazingly talented young man who will bring success to his home team and their fans .
He and the other three men on this list will all be better than Andrew Luck—just wait and see.