2012 NFL Draft: 1 Prospect from Each Round with the Most To Prove

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMay 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 1 Prospect from Each Round with the Most To Prove

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    Simply being drafted doesn't guarantee success in the NFL. Every draft has its fair share of players who need to prove they can succeed, and the 2012 NFL draft is no different.

    There are numerous reasons that prospects need to prove themselves, whether it's because of age, character concerns or a previous injury. Today, we will look at which prospect from each round, and the undrafted free-agent pool, has the most to prove. 

Undrafted Free Agent: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    When you start the college football season as one of the nation's premier prospects and find yourself as an undrafted free agent, it's safe to say that you have quite a bit to prove.

    Many considered Vontaze Burfict the top linebacker in all of college football before his uncontrollable attitude and lack of work ethic took over. Burfict saw his stock drop with every week that passed, and no team was willing to even take a chance on him as an actual draft pick.

    Now, Burfict will try his hand at making the roster of an up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals team, and being an UDFA end up being exactly what he needed to get his act together. It wouldn't surprise me in the least for Burfict to answer his critics and become a positive contributor as the Bengals make a run at the AFC North crown.

    As one of the most violent hitters in college, few doubted Burfict's talent and passion for the game. What he will have to prove in the NFL is that he is mentally stable enough to put it all together.

7th Round: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots might have found a real gem in the seventh round when they drafted cornerback Alfonzo Dennard from the University of Nebraska.

    Early in the draft process, Dennard was considered an early-round draft pick. However, he struggled to perform well at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day, leaving teams to wonder if he was ready for the NFL.

    On top of that, Dennard struggled with injuries throughout his college career, making him even more of a risk as a top draft pick.

    Still, the fact that Dennard fell all the way to the seventh round was one of the biggest surprises in the entire draft. This is a kid who has the physique and skills to succeed early in his career. He is athletic and has the type of short memory that you want in a cornerback.

    Though he has a short-term memory on the field, there is no doubt that Dennard will look to show up all of the 31 teams that passed him up for seven rounds in the draft. 

6th Round: Markelle Martin, S, Tennessee Titans

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    Markelle Martin was regarded as one of the best free safety prospects in a weak class for the position, but he still didn't hear his name called until the sixth round.

    As one of the most athletic defensive players in the draft, the big question surrounding Martin was his understanding of the game. He will need to prove to the Titans that he is intelligent enough to grasp the NFL game.

    If he can do that, he has the potential to become a difference maker for the Titans and prove that he wasn't just one of the best free safety prospects, but that he was the absolute best.

5th Round: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Buffalo Bills

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    With Zebrie Sanders' combination of size and athleticism, he has the potential to be an every-day starter in the NFL.

    Unfortunately, Sanders doesn't appear physically talented enough to succeed as a left tackle in the league. However, he could find a home at the right tackle position. 

    While the Buffalo Bills would be happy to get a starting right tackle out of a fifth-round pick, that shouldn't be enough for Sanders. He will be trying to prove from day one that he is more than capable of being a franchise left tackle in the NFL.

    It will be an uphill battle for Sanders, especially since the Bills used their second-round pick on Cordy Glenn, but Sanders should get the opportunity to prove he's worth a look at the blind side in Buffalo.

4th Round: Orson Charles, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Had Orson Charles not gotten arrested for drunk driving just weeks before the NFL draft, he likely would have been one of the first tight ends selected.

    Charles has unique athleticism for a player his size and should be able to force some major matchup issues with opposing defenses. He has the potential to make an impact with the Cincinnati Bengals comparable to what Aaron Hernandez did for the New England Patriots.

    What Charles needs to prove is that he can put his off-field issues behind him and become the impact player that people expect him to be. If he can get his life straightened out, Charles could become one of the top offensive players in this year's draft.

3rd Round: Bryan Anger, P, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    If you are drafted in the third round as a punter, you are going to have quite a bit to prove no matter what. In fact, Bryan Anger might have the most to prove out of any player drafted this year.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised the world when they drafted Anger this early, and it was widely considered to be the worst draft pick in the entire process.

    It will be difficult for Anger to prove that the Jaguars didn't make a mistake, but if he can quickly develop into one of the league's best, the pick won't look quite as bad in hindsight. 

2nd Round: Devon Still, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

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    While cornerback Janoris Jenkins has much to prove, Devon Still has an even bigger chip on his shoulder. It was pretty common knowledge that Jenkins would fall past the first round, while Still was highly regarded as one of the top defensive tackles in the entire draft class.

    However, Still had to wait until late in the second round to hear his name called, and now he will have to prove that he should have been a first-round pick. He has an NFL-ready game and should be able to contribute early in his career. 

    The biggest issue surrounding Still is his motor, and whether he can play at 100 percent every week could make or break his career. If Still can prove in the first few weeks of the season that he never takes a play off, he could be quite the steal as a second-round pick.

1st Round: Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns

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    There are a handful of first-round quarterbacks that have a lot to prove, but Brandon Weeden has to be effective straight away, even more so than players like Andrew Luck or Ryan Tannehill. The reason for this is because of one thing and one thing alone—age.

    Weeden will be 29 years old at the halfway point of the 2012 season, and few rookies, especially quarterbacks, get drafted in the first round when they are that old. Weeden will not only need to prove that age is not an issue for him, but that it will actually benefit the Cleveland Browns to have an older starting quarterback.

    While Weeden has all the tools you want in a starting quarterback, he doesn't have a year or two to learn the pro game. He needs to be able to produce right away and prove that his age isn't as big of an issue as everyone is making it out to be.