NFL Draft 2012: Prospects Who Could Rise over the Course of the CFB Season
Earlier this week, I came out with my big board of the 25 best NFL prospects for the 2012 draft. But, if you look at any preseason "big board" list and see how it evolves over the course of a college football season, you'll notice one glaring trend.
There are the many less heralded or even unheralded players who come out of seemingly nowhere to appear on these boards by December and January thanks to their play during the season.
This article attempts to identify some of those under-the-radar players who appear primed to break out on the national scene with their performances in 2011.
While these players really don't come out of nowhere, sometimes it just takes a while to get noticed because the player shared the spotlight previously, or were overshadowed by another player, or even come from a less visible football program.
Whatever the reason, here are five players who are ready for the "big reveal" this season.
1. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
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Call it east coast ignorance or just the fact that some of us don't get the Washington Huskies on television very often, but people simply aren't paying enough attention to Polk.
He rushed for over 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010.
His watershed moment so far was his offensive MVP performance in the 2010 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska's top notch defense. Polk rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown in a 19-7 victory.
Polk injured a knee during the summer but looked good in the team's opener against Eastern Washington in rushing for 125 yards.
If he puts up similar numbers to 2010 with his almost ideal 5'11", 215-pound frame, he will go in the 2012 draft's first couple of rounds.
2. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
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Most of the Texas A&M headlines these days deal with the team's struggle to move to the SEC. Any discussion of the actual players seems to fall on talented running back Cyrus Gray or wide receiver Jeff Fuller, but a player starting to gain steam with the national media is Tannehill.
The 6'4", 220-pounder is a converted wide receiver who only has a few games under his belt after making the switch last season.
Of course in his first start, all Tannehill, a former walk-on, did was set a school record with 449 yards passing in a win against Texas Tech. He finished the season with big wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas with an incredible passer rating of 149.5
If he can put a full season together, he will catapult up the quarterback prospect list.
3. Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut
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If Reyes played at a more high profile program, there is little doubt fans would be more aware of his considerable ability. This 6'4", 300-pound defensive tackle is an athletic talent who is more than just a single-gap plugger. He has added value because I could see him playing ably in multiple defensive schemes.
Reyes doesn't have overwhelming career statistics with just seven sacks and 14.0 tackles for a loss, but he was a First-Team All-Big East Selection in 2010 and he will be in the running for some national honors this season with some gaudier production in 2011.
4. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
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Wilson is an electric player who will only get better if he stays healthy. He scored 11 total touchdowns last season (five rushing, four receiving and two on kick returns).
This year, expect Wilson to get a ton of carries as former Hokie teammate Ryan Williams headed to the NFL after last season.
In case you were wondering, in Virginia Tech's first game of the 2011 season, Wilson had 16 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns in a rout of Appalachian State. Five of his carries went for at least 15 yards. He also scored the first time he touched the ball.
5. Carmen Messina, LB, New Mexico
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Because Messina plays in the Mountain West Conference you probably haven't heard much about him. However, if he leads the league in tackles for a third consecutive season (115 stops in 2010) you might just hear his name mentioned a little more often nationally.
Messina is a vocal leader with excellent speed and strength. The comparison you will start to hear as the season progresses is to another former Lobo middle linebacker who goes by the name of Urlacher.
Have you heard of him?