As the 2011 college football season is in full swing, it is never too early to look at potential stars coming for the 2012 NFL Draft class. Drafting players from college is far from a science as plenty first round draft picks turn out to be busts and stars are found in late rounds.
Four games into the college season, mock drafts and big boards are already starting to pop up with the usual suspects of Andrew Luck, Quinton Coples, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Alshon Jeffery and Justin Blackmon around the top.
It is quite early and certainly a lot will change between now and the days leading up to the draft, but here are some prospects that could shock the 2012 NFL draft class and become great players in the NFL. Some of the players included in the list are juniors and could potentially decide to stay in school for another year.
When it comes to the quarterback position and the 2012 NFL Draft, it's all about Andrew Luck. Beyond Luck, there are some quality quarterbacks, but none that possess the athletic ability to match Robert Griffin III from Baylor.
The Baylor Bears quarterback has been sensational in the first three games of his 2011 campaign while leading his team to three high scoring wins. Griffin has completed 70-of-82 passes for an amazing completion percentage of 85.4 percent. Touchdowns have come often for Griffin, throwing five touchdowns in two of the games and three in another. Griffin's 13 passing touchdowns have him tied for third in passing touchdowns in the FBS.
Another aspect of Griffin's game that sets him apart from other prospects is his scrambling ability. In three games, Griffin has rushed for 167 yards on 24 carries for an average of 6.96 yards per rush. Along with his 13 passing touchdowns, Griffin also reached the end zone on a rushing attempt.
Griffin's accuracy and athletic ability may allow him to overcome his smaller size, but his 6'2", 220 pound frame could present a problem against bigger NFL defenders. Currently, Griffin's 40-yard dash time is remarkably low for a quarterback at 4.52.
Another issue for Griffin could be his inability adjusting to facing NFL defenses. At Baylor, Griffin has not called plays or made very many audibles. It may take a while for Griffin to adjust to the complexity of an NFL offense, but it isn't a deal breaker.
The Washington running back was overshadowed last season by quarterback Jake Locker, but had an extremely consistent season with 1,415 yards and nine touchdowns for the Huskies. Polk is looking to build on his 2010 campaign with another strong season filled with improvement for the 222 pound back.
So far this season, Polk has 422 rushing yards, 112 receiving yards and four total touchdowns in Washington's first four games.
Polk could be great fit for team using a zone blocking scheme as he has decent vision as a one cut and go runner. His size allows him to burst through holes and keep running over defenders.
Polk is a bigger back listed at 222 pounds and standing at 5'11" that still posses solid speed with a 4.48 40-yard dash time. Polk has been the anchor of Washington carrying the ball at least 20 times in the teams first four games.
West Virginia's Bruce Irvin is one the most athletic defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids available in the 2012 draft. In the NFL, Irvin fits the model for a 3-4 hybrid DE/LB as he is listed at 6'3" and 245 pounds. Possessing great speed with a 4.54 40 time, Irvin also has the strength to pass rush.
Statistically off to a slow start for the Mountaineers, Irvin has shown great potential at the position and could develop into a great NFL player with the right coaching. In the first four games of the season, Irvin has a combined 13 tackles, four tackles for a loss and one sack.
In 2010, Irvin was an absolute beast racking up a conference-leading 14 sacks in 13 total games. He also added a forced fumble during the season. The biggest concern with Irvin is his play against the run and when he is forced to drop back into coverage.
With improvements in rush defense and coverage, Irvin has a good chance to be a first round draft pick and successful transition to the NFL as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense.
As LSU continues to rise up the ranks of college football, so does their star cornerback Morris Claiborne. Among scouts, Claiborne is listed as the second cornerback behind the much-hyped Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama.
This season, Claiborne has two interceptions in the four games that LSU has played. He has also added 17 total tackles on the year. This comes following his 2010 season where he intercepted five passes and registered 37 total tackles.
Kirkpatrick will most likely be the first cornerback taken in the draft, but the team that finds itself getting Claiborne in the draft will be very fortunate. Claiborne is a smaller defensive back than Kirkpatrick standing close to two inches shorter and seven pounds lighter, but makes up for it in speed.
Claiborne has also dominated this season returning kicks for LSU. He is averaging 32.4 yards on his nine kickoff returns this season. In a huge game against West Virginia, Claiborne took a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to halt the Mountaineers mounting momentum.
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd dominated opponents in the Fighting Irish's first two games of the season catching a combined 25 balls for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Floyd played better than anybody on the field in those two losses, but has cooled off in the last two games for Notre Dame.
In the four games this season, Floyd has 35 receptions for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Floyd is trying to build on his impressive 2010 season that saw him catch 79 balls for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his four year career, he currently rests at 2,963 yards for his Notre Dame career.
Floyd has good size standing 6'3" and 224 pounds while running a pretty decent 4.54 40-yard dash. A recent DUI incident has brought up potential character issues surrounding Floyd. If Floyd is able to mature, there is no reason why he can't shock the 2012 NFL draft class.