Tracking Nebraska Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

Phil Harrison@@PhilHarrisonCFNCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

Tracking Nebraska Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    We are on the doorstep of the 2012 version of the NFL draft. It's so close that we're ringing the doorbell, taking the shoes off and getting ready to snuggle up on the couch with meat products and fermented beverages.

    While the festivities of draft day are a hoot for NFL fans and hecklers of Roger Goodell, it's also another opportunity to root for your favorite college team to make a splash by ratcheting up the NFL football factory—and to garner some bragging rights.

    Like most big-name programs, Nebraska also has a few good men looking to go from hobby to the launching of a career via millions of adoring fans—and plenty of coin.

    And while the 'Huskers aren't forecast to have guys taken at the very top of the draft board, there is still plenty of twisted plot lines and stories to follow throughout the seven rounds of supremely good theater as Nebraska's best walk the stage in New York.

    They do play a little defense in Lincoln, and that's the side of the ball that will be showcased this year. The first player projected to be snatched is linebacker LaVonte David, but we'll also keep an eye on where Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick and Marcel Jones go.

    You know the drill—it's time to put the kids to bed, bribe the wife and lock yourself and some buddies up in the man-bunker for three days because it's about to get interesting.

    We'll be covering every player drafted for Nebraska real time, so keep the laptop and smart-phones handy as everything unfolds beginning at 8PM ET Thursday, through the final selection made on Saturday.

    Who's comin' with me?


    You can follow Phil on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Lavonte David, LB, Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2nd Round (58th Overall)

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    While the trend of spending high draft picks on 4-3 outside linebackers without great pass-rush ability is going out of style, Lavonte David is still a solid all-around football player with enough athleticism to give him upside. 

    David flies all over the field with his blend of speed and instincts, and is unafraid to take on blockers and be physical at the point of attack. 

    He is also a great coverage linebacker, which is becoming more and more of a rarity in today's NFL

    Here is Chad Reuter of CBS on David:

    Tough player with excellent instincts and quick reaction time, involves himself in many run and pass plays all over the field...Strong in coverage, often used as the only linebacker on the field against spread defenses...Good football work ethic and intelligence. Possesses strong character and humble attitude, called "coach's dream" by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

    Early in his career, David has a chance to start on linebacker-needy teams. He would be a great fit as a weak-side linebacker in a Cover 2 scheme because of his athleticism and coverage ability. But running a strict Cover 2 system is really going out of style in the league.

    Nonetheless, David is a talented player with plenty of upside who takes his craft seriously, making him a very safe draft pick.  

    He'll fit in nicely with the young Tampa Bay defense and could be a solid contributor from the very beginning. 

Jared Crick, DE, Drafted by the Houston Texans, 4th Round (126th Overall)

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    At 6'4", 280 pounds, Jared Crick is a bit of a tweener. Crick impressed during his time in Lincoln, though, and projected as an early-round pick.

    As a sophomore and junior, Crick was extremely productive, racking up 19 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. As a senior, however, Crick struggled with injuries and failed to produce at a high level prior to a season-ending pectoral injury.

    Matt Miller wrote about Crick:

    Even before the injury his senior year, he just wasn’t the dominant player he was during his 28 starts as a sophomore and junior totaling 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss in the five games he played. He also got routinely worked by one of the best guards in this year’s draft in Kevin Zeitler as well as arguably the best junior center in the nation in Peter Konz in the Wisconsin game. If he could just learn to play with more leverage, he could very well be a force to be reckoned with. Either way, I don’t see him being able to play on the inside in the NFL or on the outside in a 4-3. His best bet is to play as a 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme.

    Crick's biggest problem is his lack of a true position. He's not athletic or explosive enough to play defensive end, and he's not big or strong enough to be a defensive tackle.

    He does offer versatility, though. Crick can move around the defensive line, rushing the passer from the inside and defending the run from the outside.

    In a 3-4 defense, Crick may be able to play the 5-technique, but must add strength in order to anchor against the run.

    Crick is unlikely to contribute much in 2012. He will need to either gain or lose weight before he is ready to see a ton of playing time, and he'll serve as depth until his second season.

    Crick's versatility will fit in perfectly for the Texans.  With J.J. Watt's fierce DE presence on the end, the Texans look to scare the rest of the AFC South and land back in the playoffs with a renewed defensive presence.  

Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Drafted by the Patriots, 7th Round (224th Overall)

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    Alfonzo Dennard is one of the more confusing corner prospects in this year's draft. He has good size for the position and plays well in man coverage. However, he was exposed at the Senior Bowl, getting burned by some of the more mediocre receivers at the event. As a result, his previous status as a first-round pick is gone.

    Further, to his advantage, Dennard played with a lot of quality defenders around him at Nebraska, including Prince Amukamara on the other side of him.  

    Here is Pro Football Weekly's take on Dennard:

    Feisty, highly confident and competitive with a short memory, Dennard is a man-cover corner who always will have size limitations. However, has starter-caliber ability combined with desirable football character. Ideal inside nickel back with a ceiling as a No. 2.

    Having an alleged ceiling of being a No. 2 corner hurt his draft stock, but in the right situation, Dennard has a chance to be a good player.

    At first, Dennard may be limited to action on special teams; barring a massive need at corner, he won't start there on day one. But with some time adjusting to the pro level, Dennard has all of the physical tools to be a starting corner.

Marcel Jones, OT, Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, 7th Round (234th Overall)

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    Nebraska's Marcel Jones stands at 6'6", 320 lbs, an impressive size even for an offensive lineman. 

    During his four years at Nebraska, Jones played in 39 games, however various injuries slowed him down and caused him to miss most of the 2010 season. He would continue to be bothered by injuries in 2011, however he was able to start the final eight games of the season at left tackle, where he was part of a Nebraska offensive line that protected a 16th-ranked rushing attack in the country and allowed only 21 sacks all season. 

    Jones has the size and footwork to compete for a starting left tackle job in the NFL. He possesses impressive 34-inch arms to go with great footwork and athleticism as well as decent fundamentals. A tough player that will be a challenge for any defensive rush, Jones can block any defensive end with his impressive size. He has proven that he can block the run but is also adept at protecting the passer. 

    However, Jones' problems staying healthy is definitely a weakness. While he possesses the talent to protect the quarterbacks' blindside and can start in his rookie year, he will likely start off on the right side until he develops the flexibility needed for the left tackle position. Jones also has poor balance and is not as physical as one would expect an offensive tackle to be. At times he can struggle with his man in space and while he can sustain his man at the line, he has problems blocking linebackers at times.