2011 NFL Draft: 10 College Prospects Who Could Be NFL Pro Bowlers in 2012
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Football at any level of competition is a team game with a small emphasis on individual accomplishments. For roughly 250 NFL hopefuls, the case is exactly the opposite as the NFL Draft will kick off during the last weekend of April and teams will be looking to add the pieces necessary to lead them to a Super Bowl victory.
For teams that don't make it to the big show, their best players are honored in the annual Pro Bowl where NFL stars from each conference join together and play in one final game.
This list focuses on 10 current college prospects that could possibly make a big enough impact to be NFL Pro Bowlers in their very first seasons.
No. 10: Mike Pouncey G, Florida
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Mike Pouncey seems to be great fit no matter where he plays on the offensive line.
Brother of Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, the Florida Gator has blocked for some of the best offensive teams in college football over the course of the last several years and has shown great improvement every season.
Pouncey has very good size and speed for his position and should translate well to the professional game.
If Pouncey happens to get drafted to a team that is run heavy, it is possible we will see him in the Pro Bowl as early as his first season.
No. 9: Casey Matthews ILB, Oregon
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Casey Matthews comes from one of the best football bloodlines in the world but has shown on the field that he has the ability to be just as good as his family members before him.
The son of Cleveland Browns great Clay Matthews, and brother of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, Casey impressed professional scouts and sports writers alike with his quality play in the BCS National Championship Game.
Matthews made name for himself as he stripped Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of the football and gave the Oregon Ducks great field position to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
In 2010, Matthews had 79 total tackles with three sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
It is hard to determine where Matthews will land when it comes to the draft in April, but given the family he has grown up with and football mentality he has displayed, he may be the biggest Pro Bowl lock on this entire list.
No.8: Mark Ingram RB, Alabama
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Mark Ingram has had a quality college career and will make his intentions to declare for the NFL Draft official within the next few days.
Ingram rushed for almost 900 yards in 2010 on only 158 carries and also tallied 13 touchdowns.
Ingram's best season came in 2009 when he rushed for over 1,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and also caught 32 balls.
Ingram should make a significant impact on any team that may have the good fortune of drafting him. Even though his health may be of some concern after suffering many small injuries in college, if Ingram can get in the right system there is no limit to how effective he could be.
No. 7: Stephen Paea DT, Oregon State
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Paea is a foreign native player with a huge upside as far as his play on the field is concerned.
Standing at 6'2'' and weighing in at 311 pounds, Paea is more than just size when he stands in on the defensive line.
Paea has shown great ability to get off the ball and one of his strengths is to create plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Paea battled the injury bug throughout his college career but if he can remain healthy he should be a physical freak for whoever drafts him in April.
No. 6: Jonathan Baldwin WR, PITT
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Jonathan Baldwin can best be described as a physical specimen for the Pittsburgh Panthers and potential NFL teams.
Standing at 6'5'', Baldwin towers over many defensive corners and displayed great playmaking ability in the Steel City.
In 2010, Baldwin caught 53 balls for over 800 yards and five touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play.
Baldwin can make an impact for many NFL teams immediately if he is given the proper opportunity. Although he is not refined enough yet to be a No. 1 receiver, he is a quality deep threat and can even be used in the slot against some of the more physical linebackers.
No. 5: Blaine Gabbert QB, Missouri
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Blaine Gabbert is considered by many to be the most "NFL ready" quarterback in the 2011 draft class.
With a QB rating of 127.03 and a bit over 3,000 yards passing in 2010, it is easy to see why Gabbert is turning into a hot topic among NFL teams searching for a quarterback.
Gabbert has gained so much hype that Andrew Perloff of NFL Insider has him as the No. 1 overall pick in his 2011 NFL mock draft.
The only way Gabbert will be successful at the NFL level is if he has time to sit on the bench and learn from veteran quarterbacks in front of him.
Gabbert may have the ability but he lacks experience and awareness, but with strong coaching he should be ready to go in a few seasons.
No. 4: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
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Akeem Ayers is exactly the physical presence at the OLB position that every team dreams about.
Standing at 6'4'' and weighing in at 250 lbs, Ayers has very quick feet and has already displayed that he has the ability to perform in big games.
I think Ayers will be most effective in the NFL when he lines up on the line of scrimmage at the DE position. Ayers significantly improved on his ability to shed blocks from 2009-2010 and was really the only standout on a decently mediocre UCLA defense.
The key to Ayers' NFL successes and failures will be his ability to learn from his coaches and keep improving.
No. 3: Cam Newton QB, Auburn
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There is really not much to say about Cam Newton that has not already been said by every college football writer in the nation.
Newton took the college game by storm and pulled off one of the best production based seasons out of any player in history.
It is hopeful to think that Newton's off-the-field issues have finally been laid to rest and pro scouts can focus on his National Championship victory and the elements that he brings to the game.
Newton will need some work in the NFL but every quarterback that is drafted always takes time to get their feet wet.
If Newton can be as effective at the professional level as he was in college it may be MVP awards rather than Pro Bowls that he will be collecting in the future.
No. 2: Nick Fairley DT, Auburn
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Nick Fairley completes the back to back set of Auburn players on this list as he displayed his physical presence all season long for the Tigers.
Fairley solidified himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the nation during the BCS National Championship Game, and barring a complete meltdown during offseason workouts should be a lock at the top of the draft.
Fairley was also the second player in Auburn history to win the Lombardi Award in 2010.
Fairley's size and speed will translate well into the NFL style of play but will more than likely take a little time to develop completely.
Look for Fairley to really make an impact during his second and third seasons in the league.
No. 1: A.J. Green WR, Georgia
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A.J. Green will forgo his senior season at Georgia to enter the 2011 NFL Draft and teams at the top of the draft order could not be happier.
After serving a four game suspension at the beginning of the season, Green snagged a total of 57 passes for 848 yards and nine touchdowns.
Green is considered by most to be the best overall player in the entire draft class and there is no reason to believe that his success will take a downturn as he moves on to the next level.