Andrew Luck isn’t the only franchise savior expected to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Stanford Cardinal is the best QB prospect to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning, but there are plenty of consolation prizes to be had.
We all know about Oklahoma QB Landry Jones and USC QB Matt Barkley. These are the top three franchise signal-callers heading into next year’s draft. We’re going to take a look at non-QBs who must be drafted inside the top 10 because they will be franchise cornerstones for years to come.
5. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
LSU seems to breed cornerbacks. It produced my No. 1 prospect in the 2011 class, CB Patrick Peterson. He fell to No. 5 to the Arizona Cardinals and is already making a major impact for that organization.
Claiborne isn’t Peterson, but he’s damn close. Claiborne has been fantastic for the Tigers this season. He is making acrobatic plays on the ball, which would lead people to believe he was a wide receiver on first glance. He has great recovery speed, but it is his Peterson-like ball-hawking skills and instincts that warrant a top 10 selection.
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He wasn’t my No. 1 cornerback a few months ago, as I had Dre’ Kirkpatrick ahead of him, but Claiborne deserves every bit of praise he will surely receiver for the next few months.
4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The ongoing debate was between Oregon’s LaMichael James, Arkansas’ Knile Davis and Alabama’s Richardson. James, a Heisman hopeful in 2010, hasn’t started the season like we envisioned. Davis was also lost for the season.
It’s all about Richardson right now.
He has been spectacular to start the season, carrying an inexperienced Crimson Tide offense. Richardson has the envious combination of speed, agility and strength. He is elusive enough to wiggle between the tiniest holes, but he also has the strength to bulldoze his way in short-yardage situations.
He doesn’t have the same speed, but he could be Chris-Johnson-lite in the NFL. Like last year, we’ll probably only see one running back selected in the first round. If there’s any running back in college twho should be selected there, it’s Richardson—and he deserves to be inside the top 10.
3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
You do not want to mess with this Cowboy. Just ask New York Giants first-round CB Prince Amukamara.
Blackmon is a downright abusive wideout. He will annihilate any cornerback in the nation with his supreme size, speed and strength. He’s not looking to run around you. Instead, he’ll run right through you.
Blackmon is even a very good and underrated run-blocker. He’s been criticized for being immature, but he’s been good to start the season. He resembles a young Terrell Owens with his uncanny strength and imposing physical nature. Like Owens, Blackmon isn’t afraid of going over the middle and will fight for every rock thrown his way.
That’s easier to do when your radius is that of a two-car garage…
He would be a perfect fit for Jay Cutler in Chicago or Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville.
2. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Perhaps the scariest defensive prospect ever.
It is only fitting that Vontaze Burfict plays for the Arizona State Sun Devils since he is a menacing freak of nature with the intensity of the devil inside of him. You thought Ndamukong Suh was nasty? I don’t know if you’ll ever want Burfict staring into your eyes for he could steal your soul.
Burfict is the most intense and emotional player this side of Baltimore’s Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. He has the closing speed and strength of San Francisco’s future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis.
He is still a raw specimen, which is frightening because once he becomes disciplined, he could become the best defender in the league.
Burfict has no regard for his own body, so just imagine the poor ball carriers who feel his wrath. He destroys ball carriers with his immense power and blows up offensive game plans with his desire and determination to wreak havoc in the backfield. The man will literally dive over or run through entire offensive lines to annihilate the opposition.
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Arizona desperately needs a linebacker of Burfict’s caliber, but then again, so does everybody else in the NFL.
1. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Gamecock is the best WR prospect to enter the season since Calvin Johnson. Many said the same about Cincinnati Bengal A.J. Green, who was selected No. 4 overall in 2011, but Jeffery is even better than him.
Jeffery has similar speed, leaping ability, hands and footwork as Green, but Jeffery is bigger and stronger. It his rare combination of size, strength, leaping ability and separation skills that warrants the Megatron comparison.
It is nearly impossible not to watch the kid play with your jaw on the floor and eyes popping out of your head. He explodes off the television screen and will be an instant megastar.
It would be perfect to see Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers land this man. Considering how phenomenal Newton has been to start his rookie campaign, the Panthers would have one of the top QB-WR tandems in the NFL immediately.