The most popular collegiate players don't always make for the most highly-touted prospects once the NFL draft rolls around.
Sometimes they prove their college careers were true indications of their talent, and sometimes their struggles prove just how different the game is on a professional level. In any case, landing in the right situation is key.
Here are a few well-known prospects and the perfect landing spots for them.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
I've always liked Te'o. He has tremendous instincts, and he's an excellent leader. His above-average hands and deceptive speed allows him to play zone coverage extremely well.
After four years at Notre Dame where he improved every season, he is still the best middle linebacker prospect in the draft. There are a few teams in need of help at the position, but the best landing spot for Te'o is in Baltimore.
Yes, he would be succeeding perhaps the greatest player to ever play the position in Ray Lewis, but he would be surrounded by talent. If the Ravens retain Dannell Ellerbe, as they should, Te'o wouldn't even have to play the position from Day 1.
The Ravens' system and defensive line gives inside linebackers the space and freedom to read and react. Te'o does that as well as any interior linebacker available.
If Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft is correct, Te'o won't be around for the Ravens at No. 32. He has Te'o slated for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 13.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Many scouts were down on Barkley by the end of last season, and though I'd still take Geno Smith over him, I believe Barkley can be a solid NFL quarterback.
The best landing spot for Barkley is with the Arizona Cardinals. The team has tons of issues at the quarterback position, and Barkley could provide some much-needed stability.
Kevin Kolb can't stay healthy, Ryan Lindley wasn't impressive as a rookie and John Skelton is clearly not the answer. It would be a shame to waste even more of Larry Fitzgerald's career.
It makes no sense having one of the NFL's best receivers and no one to get him the ball.
Barkley may not be a freakish athlete with a mega-strong arm, but he's a leader. He works hard, and he understands pro-style offenses.
I see him as a Chad Pennington-like player, and someone who could help solidify the Cardinals' QB situation for the next five to seven years.
Some mock drafts don't even have Barkley going in the first round, so the Cardinals may not have to take him with the seventh overall selection. Getting him with the 38th or 69th selection could be the steal of the draft.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
I really like Lacy as a prospect, and he has seemingly vaulted Giovani Bernard as the top running back in the draft.
He has good burst, he's built compactly, and he's a north/south runner, which can be under-appreciated with all the jitterbug-style backs in the sport. Playing for the two-time defending national champions only helps his intangibles.
A few teams need a playmaker at running back, but no team would benefit from Lacy's talents more than the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals offense is missing an explosive threat out of the backfield, and Lacy could be that type of player for them.
The play-action pass could become an even bigger weapon for the Bengals with Lacy in the fold.
A.J. Green requires a double-team in most situations, and having a back that can get to the second level consistently will make teams pay for committing a safety to cover deep.
If this happens, the Bengals will be in position to seriously challenge the Ravens in the AFC North.
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