NFL Draft 2012: An Early Look at the Top Player from Each Position

Matt SmithContributor IIIMay 7, 2011

NFL Draft 2012: An Early Look at the Top Player from Each Position

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    The College Football season is far from over, so the draft isn't anywhere close. Heck, the season hasn't even started yet.

    Player stock is constantly in flux and by the end of the season, these players may very well change although it's expected that some will stay the same.

    You all know the big name players, like Andrew Luck, but there are certainly some other fantastic players that you should know about.

    So here goes the preseason top players at each position for the 2012 NFL Draft.

QB: Andrew Luck, Stanford

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    Luck is the best QB in this draft, followed by Matt Barkley of USC.

    Although Luck is a great QB, some are calling him the best prospect since Peyton Manning. And he might very well be, as Luck should turn out to be quite a fine player.

    Had he left for the draft this year, the Stanford Cardinal's QB would have likely heard his name called by Roger Goodell first. But he didn't.

    So enough reflecting on the past. Luck has a combination of arm strength, accuracy, and the intangibles that anyone would want in their QB.

    He could be a Pro Bowler in his second or third year.

RB: Trent Richardson, Alabama

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    Though some may not agree with the thought that Richardson is better than the likes of Knile Davis or LaMichael James, I believe him to be the better prospect.

    James can dominate in the college world and will likely win the Doak Walker Award, but he's small and scouts will undoubtedly question whether he can take the physicality of the NFL.

    Richardson is a powerful and fast runner who has had to share time with Mark Ingram. Now that Ingram is out of his way, he'll get the bulk of the carries.

    His combination of size, speed and contributions in the pass game will land Richardson as the top running back in the 2012 NFL Draft.

FB: Cody Johnson, Texas

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    This was an easy one, as Cody Johnson is clearly the best fullback here.

    Johnson was one of the more productive fullbacks who also played some tailback. He ran the ball 134 times for 592 yards. With the incoming running back class for Texas, he won't run as much.

    Still, he's a suitable blocker who will be able to put his blocking powers more on display this next season.

    At 5'11", 250 pounds, Johnson is a good blocker and a downhill runner who should be the first FB selected.

WR: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

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    Although it seems that Justin Blackmon is more of a household name, there are several reasons as to why Jeffery is better than Blackmon.

    Jeffery is a taller (6'4") and has a more filled out frame (233 lbs) than Blackmon does. His frame will help him be better against the more physical cornerbacks.

    In addition to his height, this standout receiver can jump out of the building.

    Blackmon is faster, but Jeffery has deceptive speed and runs better routes.

    This isn't to say Blackmon is bad, because he's an outstanding receiver who just lacks some polish, but the truth is is that Jeffery is a better overall receiver.

TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri

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    Egnew is pretty much in a class of his own for this years draft.

    Like Kyle Rudolph in the 2011 NFL Draft, Egnew is the clear-cut No.1 TE of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    In a league that is starting to use tight ends as passing threats, that is exactly what Egnew is. He is basically an oversized receiver, at 6'6", 235 pounds.

    His blocking needs to improve, but if it does, then his 90 receptions last season speaks for how good he could be.

OT: Matt Kalil, USC

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    The 6'7", 295 pound player out of USC is being talked about as a top five pick.

    He forced this years top offensive tackle, Tyron Smith, to the right side of the USC offensive line. Smith was the No.9 pick overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

    That alone speaks about how dominant Matt Kalil is.

    He has great size, athleticism and footwork. Kalil was a dominant tackle last season and paired with Smith to make the USC line great.

    If he isn't a Top 5 or Top 10 pick, I would be very surprised. 

OG: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

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    The biggest thing people like about Osemele is his versatility on the offensive line.

    Osemele played left tackle for the Cyclones this season. However, he is 6'5", 335 pounds and like most big tackles could transition to the right side in the NFL.

    In addition to that, he could also kick inside to guard.

    If you have tons of holes on your offensive line and aren't quite sure which one to fill (or could use any of them), Osemele might be your guy.

C: Mike Brewster, Ohio State

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    The Tattoo Five returning for Ohio State will be a big boost for the Buckeyes this season, and Terrelle Pryor must certainly be happy that Brewster is returning.

    An up-and-coming senior, Brewster will be an integral part to the success of the Buckeyes season.

    Their wasn't much competition for this position, even though Brewster may not be selected in the first round as Centers normally don't.

DE: Quinton Coples, UNC

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    The only problem here is that Coples is a bit of a tweener. At 275 pounds, depending on what scheme he will be drafted into may depend on what position he plays.

    If he can add some weight he could likely could get away with playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

    Anyway, Coples is an absolute stud. He recorded 10 sacks in the 2010-2011 season, which was double what he had in 2009.

    If Coples continues to improve and dominate the ACC, Robert Quinn's replacement will cement his position as the premier defensive player of the 2012 class.

DT: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

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    Worthy isn't the stat sheet stuffer that many would like, but that doesn't prevent him from being the top defensive tackle.

    He does a fairly good job of recording his share, as he accumulated 40 tackles and 4 sacks. Solid enough numbers for what else he does.

    Worthy's production won't ward off teams, as he was mostly double teamed and opened up opportunities for others.

    He clogs the middle and makes sure nothing gets by. Worthy will be a force in the middle for a team in the Top 15 of next year's draft. 

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

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    This is going to be one of those positions that McShay and Kiper will debate about soon enough.

    Do you give this to Vontaze Burfict, the freakish athlete out of Arizona State, or do you give this spot to Luke Kuechly? Or perhaps do you include Manti Te'o in this discussion?

    Well, I gave this spot to the ultra-productive Kuechly. Production is key, and Kuechly recorded 183 tackles, one and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.

    When you only have one single digit tackling game, you know you're a machine.

CB: Cliff Harris, Oregon

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    Like the players at linebacker, their are also several more-than-worthy cornerbacks who'll be talked about a lot.

    Jayron Hosley out of VT is a ball hawking animal who recorded nine interceptions. Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama has the makings of a potential shutdown corner.

    But the one who takes the cake is Cliff Harris.

    Not only does Harris give you a sterling cornerback, but if you need him to be he's also an above-average return man.

    It doesn't hurt to mention that he led the nation with 23 passes defended. 

S: Robert Lester, Alabama

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    Although the 2011 safety class was the weakest in recent memory, the 2012 class will try to erase that memory.

    Lester and Ray-Ray Armstrong are the top two in the class and look to be two of three safeties selected in the first round next year.

    The Alabama product is a standout safety who made plays all over the ball, coming in second in the nation with eight interceptions.

    He isn't strongest in run support but could look to improve that next season.

K: Blair Walsh, Georgia

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    There isn't much to say about the kickers this year, as their won't be any Sebastian Janikowski's and they won't be selected before round six at the earliest.

    Sitting at the top of the class is Brian Walsh.

    Walsh connected on 20 of 23 field goals and nailed 46 of his 47 extra point attempts. He hit on 4-6 from the 40-49 yard range and was 2-2 from 50+ yards.

P: Drew Butler, Georgia

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    Though Punter and Kicker aren't the most relevant positions on the planet, it would still be cool to have the top kicker and punter in the nation at your school.

    Butler booted the ball an average of 44.5 yards each time his foot connected. In 2009, he had a career high long of 75 yards.

    He's got the leg, and the NFL teams have the picks. Question is, who's going to take him?