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2012 NFL Draft Big Board Week 5

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterOctober 3, 2011

2012 NFL Draft Big Board Week 5

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    Who would you build your team around from the 2012 NFL draft class? That's the question I ask myself every Sunday when looking over the notes from the weekend of college football. It's the same question NFL general managers ask each week and will ask again in April when the NFL draft takes place.

    Which of the available redshirt sophomores, juniors and seniors would you choose to build your NFL franchise around? Would it be star quarterback Andrew Luck, whose accuracy and arm strength make him the safest quarterback prospect of the last decade? Or would you choose the athletic runner/passer in Robert Griffin III? Maybe you love defense, in which case, Vontaze Burfict just might be your cornerstone.

    No matter your draft philosophy or team needs, the 2012 NFL draft is loaded with talent. How do the top 32 players stack up after five weeks?

32. Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia

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    Last Week:  32
    Trending: Even

    The sack numbers haven’t been there for Bruce Irvin this season, and that’s becoming an issue. Irvin is supposed to be a pass rushing nightmare off the edge, but so far, he isn’t showing the same motor or aggression that he displayed in 2010.

    One game that I keep going back to is Week 4 versus LSU, when Irvin was shut down by the Tiger offensive line.

    Irvin is on the verge of a move off the big board if he has another bad week.

31. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

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    Last Week: 31
    Trending: Even

    I love the potential that Devin Taylor brings at defensive end, but it’s time for him to get going this season. Taylor has looked average against both Georgia and Auburn, with his best games happening against weaker opponents. Taylor, like Bruce Irvin, needs to get it going in a hurry.

    Some will say that Taylor could project well at outside linebacker, but so far, I have not seen the quickness or agility to make it as an outside edge rusher in a 3-4 defense.

30. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

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    Last Week: 30
    Trending: Even

    I am still struggling with the disappearing act that Courtney Upshaw performs at times. For a player with such dominating ability, he’s not playing up to his amazing potential.

    Upshaw is still here because of his ability to play as an inside or outside linebacker and due to his pass rushing ability from both the inside and outside. That talent is hard to find in the NFL, and it’s something that causes me to overlook a few so-so games, but at some point, you have to see production that matches potential.

29. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

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    Last Week: 21
    Trending: Down

    The match up of the week was Alfonzo Dennard versus Nick Toon of Wisconsin, and Toon dominated the game.

    Dennard played horrible; there is no other word for it. He was slow to help in run support, weak in press coverage and consistently let Toon get inside and outside of him on routes. Dennard may have been rusty from missing time early this season, but he also played with zero fire.

    The preseason hype surrounding Dennard, and those saying he would be better than Prince Amukamara, look pretty far off right now.

28. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    Last Week: 17
    Trending: Down

    More film study of Matt Barkley this week continues to show too many issues and inconsistencies in his game for the next level. I will say that Barkley had a great game this week, statistically, but there are underlying problems that show up on film.

    Barkley’s size will be an issue for me all season, even though his height is definitely something I could get over if the rest of his game was exceptional. But it’s not.

    Barkley too often checks down, and too often, he’s throwing off his back foot. I also need to see him work the field more instead of forcing the ball to the same receiver on every down. That sort of predictability will kill Barkley against a good defense.

27. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

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    Last Week: 27
    Trending: Even

    Those waiting for a big game from Jerel Worthy finally saw a spark from him this week.

    Worthy played well against Ohio State, turning in a performance more reminiscent of his 2010 play. Worthy has all the talent in the world, but that lack of consistency and motivation has been a factor for him in the past, and it appears to be an issue still.

    If Worthy can get on a hot streak like the one Marcel Dareus started this time last year, he too could make a huge jump up the big board.

26. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

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    Last Week: 24
    Trending: Down

    Brandon Thompson has been almost invisible this season…not what you would expect from a first-round prospect.

    Thompson hasn’t shown the burst that made him a force in the past. It should be noted that Thompson has never been a big numbers guy, but his play was notable because of his ability to split the gaps and create pressure on the backfield. Even that has been lacking this season.

    Thompson is close to being replaced on the big board by another defensive tackle, Alabama's Josh Chapman.

25. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

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    Last Week: 23
    Trending: Down

    There is a lot to love about Luke Kuechly’s ability, but there are a few questions that need answered as well.

    Can Kuechly consistently get through traffic to make the tackle at an NFL level? We’re talking about an undersized middle linebacker who does a great job beating college blockers to the ball, but he will be playing against much better guards in the NFL who aren’t going to hesitate getting to the point of attack.

    I like Kuechly, but I do have doubts about his ability at the next level.

24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

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    Last Week: Not Ranked
    Trending: Up

    One of the great things that happens when scouting top players is that you discover talent around them. That is what has happened with Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro, whom I’ve been keying on more and more when scouting quarterback Andrew Luck.

    DeCastro has an amazing track record at Stanford, and he’s proving to be one of the best guards in the college game. DeCastro is smart, physical, quick and mistake-free. He could see a Danny Watkins-like rise up draft boards this fall.

23. Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

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    Last Week: 22
    Trending: Even

    I know of some scouts who have Zach Brown in their Top 10 right now, but I just do not see it.

    Brown is a great athlete, but his production has been down this year on what should be a better defense at North Carolina. The more I check film of North Carolina, the less impressed I am with Brown and the other top players on the roster.

    Brown’s size (6’2”, 230 lbs) also limits the style of defense he will be able to play in. Little factors like this combine to move players down in a hurry.

22. Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina

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    Last Week: 8
    Trending: Down

    It’s time to start moving down players who started the year high based on potential and 2010 production but have not matched that promising in 2011. The No. 1 player on that list is Donte Paige-Moss.

    Expected to become a pass rushing nightmare off the edge at defensive end for the Tar Heels, DPM has been disappointing from the first game. A player who was supposed to wreak havoc this season has just eight tackles and one sack in five games.

21. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

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    Last Week: 28
    Trending: Up

    I have been hard on Michael Floyd as a prospect due to the number of off-field issues he’s chalked up over the past two years. At some point, Floyd will be graded on his talent, and those off-field issues will be forgotten if he’s able to stay out of trouble.

    If Floyd were mistake free, he would be a Top 10 player for the 2012 draft, no questions asked. He’s big, strong, fast and has amazing ability to go up and get the football from the air. His physical ability is unquestionably good. Once the off-field stuff can be checked and vetted, Floyd could move up in a hurry.

20. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

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    Last Week: 21
    Trending: Even

    Each week, I get closer to making Stephon Gilmore the No. 2 cornerback on my big board…this week, he finally takes his much deserved place at the table.

    Gilmore does it all well. He’s a very good man cover corner who has the size to match up against NFL wide receivers. He’s also very good at attacking the football and making plays once he creates a turnover. I also see some potential here as a punt returner should Gilmore start out his career as a nickel cornerback.

19. Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State

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    Last Week: 19
    Trending: Even

    Florida State was off this week, so there is no change for the top 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in the 2012 class.

    Jenkins has been great this season, showing the type of speed and strength off the edge to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the NFL.

    FSU doesn’t face an elite offensive tackle the rest of the season, which puts expectations high for Jenkins’ production.

18. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon

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    Last Week: 18
    Trending: Even

    The more Cliff Harris is on the field, the better he looks. Harris missed time early this season after a suspension, but his play since returning, combined with his excellent track record from the 2010 season, makes Harris a strong candidate for the first round.

    The Pac-12 is loaded with excellent quarterback play, giving Harris plenty of chances to prove himself this season on the field. Harris still needs to prove he’s matured and also show that he can put weight on his 170 lb frame.

17. Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska

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    Last Week: 16
    Trending: Even

    The match up of Jared Crick versus the Wisconsin Badger offensive line on Saturday night will be film that I go back to many times this season when evaluating both sides.

    Crick played well enough Saturday, notching four quarterback pressures against a very good offensive line and a mobile quarterback. Crick is showing the quickness to perhaps line up at defensive tackle in the NFL, a position that I’ve always shied away from lining him up at.

    Crick, to me, is the quintessential 3-4 defensive end prospect in this class.

16. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB/FS, Alabama

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    Last Week: 13
    Trending: Down

    I mentioned before that Stephon Gilmore is now the No. 2 cornerback prospect on the big board, so why is Dre Kirkpatrick ranked five spots ahead of him? Because Kirkpatrick should move to free safety in the NFL.

    The hype surrounding Kirkpatrick as a cover corner hasn’t been earned, nor is he doing anything to prove doubters wrong. The quickness needed to flip your hips and run with receivers isn’t there when I see Kirkpatrick play. This means he’ll either be limited to zone schemes, or he will move to free safety.

    At free safety, Kirkpatrick could be dominating. At cornerback, he could be very good.

15. Quinton Coples, DE/DT, North Carolina

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    Last Week: 7
    Trending: Down

    Before the season, I had three North Carolina Tar Heels ranked in the Top 15. Today, there is just one left.

    Quinton Coples made the move from defensive tackle to defensive end this season, and most expected a monster year from the freakish athlete. It hasn’t happened.

    Coples has been compared to Julius Peppers, but he’s playing more like another former Tar Heel,  Kentwan Balmer.

14. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Last Week: NR
    Trending: Up

    I had not listed Manti Te’o on the big board this season because I did not expect him to leave Notre Dame after his junior season for the NFL draft. That’s changed with the unimpressive play of the Irishmen this season.

    Te’o has exceptional talent at middle linebacker. He’s fast to the edge, strong at the point of attack and tough enough to fight through traffic to make plays in the run game.

    You won’t see many “big plays” from Te’o, but few linebackers are more solid from front to back. If you were to find one knock on Te’o it would be that he can be neutralized with a zone blocking scheme. Michigan was able to take him out of the game in their win over Notre Dame this year. That’s something I will be keeping an eye on.

13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington

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    Last Week: NR
    Trending: Up

    Here is another player previously unranked that is making a big move up the big board with strong play through five weeks.

    Ta’amu has the body style to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, a position that is becoming more valuable every season. Ta’amu is built in the mold of Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots, a player considered widely to be the best at his position.

    I will be keeping an eye on Ta’amu as the Pac 12 season heats up.

12. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)

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    Last Week: 14
    Trending: Up

    Why more people aren’t on the Lamar Miller bandwagon, I do not know. I’m glad to be leading the charge.

    Miller has the size (6’1”, 212 lbs), speed (4.42) and vision to be a featured running back in the NFL. In a day and age where running backs have to be fast, strong and a reliable receiver, Lamar Miller will be a valuable prospect if and when he decides to enter the NFL draft.

    If you haven’t found time to watch Miller play yet, the team takes on Virginia Tech this coming weekend in a must-see game.

11. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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    Last Week: 12
    Trending: Even

    Riley Reiff and the Iowa Hawkeyes will be tested this weekend when they face off against the aggressive Penn State defensive line. Reiff has been largely untested this season, shutting down a Pitt defensive line that was previously overrated.

    I still contend that Reiff will be a damn fine right tackle in the NFL. He’s in the same mold as Eric Winston and Sebastian Volmer, two of the best right tackles in the NFL right now. He’s quick, strong and smart as hell.

    Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers need to find a way to land Reiff in the first round of the 2012 draft.

10. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

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    Last Week: 10
    Trending: Even

    Putting a running back in the Top 10 is not something I do often, but Trent Richardson is unique. His ability as a runner, receiver and blocker make him NFL ready right now. And more than just ready, Richardson would be one of the most talented running backs in the NFL if he were playing on Sundays.

    Richardson’s skill set is ideal for the NFL, and he’ll be a valuable selection in the Top 10 picks as soon as he enters the draft.

    Get ready for the comparisons to Marshall Faulk and Darren McFadden.

9. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

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    Last Week: 9
    Trending: Even

    I don’t worry about the scheme that Landry Jones runs at Oklahoma, and I don’t worry about his arm strength or mobility. I do worry about his accuracy, and the fact that he makes too many bad throws when pressured.

    Pressure is not something Jones has seen much of at Oklahoma, but teams like Florida State and Missouri were able to rattle Jones by hitting him in the pocket. You can expect him to be hit plenty in the NFL, and he must learn to adapt to pressure and still make plays when everything falls apart around him.

8. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

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    Last Week: 5
    Trending: Down

    I would love to see more power from Jonathan Martin this season. The Stanford offense has been almost unstoppable this season, but Martin has struggled at times to dominate at left tackle.

    I do like Martin, and I think he’s a future All-Pro in the NFL, but he needs to bring it every weekend if he wants to move from a very good offensive tackle to an elite draft prospect. The size and skill set are all there for Martin, but getting stronger and then showing that strength on the field will be paramount to his draft status.

7. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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    Last Week: 6
    Trending: Even

    Will Justin Blackmon be able to separate from NFL coverage? That’s the biggest question I have after seeing Blackmon dominate the Big 12 for the past two seasons. An important factor for Blackmon will be refining his route running to learn how to separate not with speed, but with technique. DeSean Jackson was able to learn this after leaving Cal, and if Blackmon can do the same he will be among the best players at his position in the NFL in a hurry.

    The production and size you see from Blackmon are jaw-dropping. Cleaner routes and a little more burst would ease many concerns I have about him right now.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

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    Last Week: 10
    Trending: Up

    I am going out a on a limb this week and starting to formulate a more defined view of the 2012 draft and the available prospects. When putting together all notes from this season and looking at the players who have stood out the most, no one at cornerback has looked better than Morris Claiborne.

    Claiborne has the size, speed and technique to walk in to the NFL and cover the best of the best today. I would put Claiborne up against the best cornerbacks from the last several draft classes, and I think he could more than hold his own against them.

    Claiborne’s name will get hotter once the season ends, and he makes his intentions clear for the 2012 season.

5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

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    Last Week: 15
    Trending: Up

    The most exciting player in college football this season has been Robert Griffin III at Baylor. RGIII has been dominant as a passer and runner, showing a refined ability to push the ball upfield with improved accuracy and touch on the ball.

    Griffin has shocked many, myself included, with his improved play. Each week, Griffin proves that his 2011 season is not a fluke, but proof that he’s ready to take the next step and become a legitimate Top 5 draft prospect.

4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

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    Last Week: 4
    Trending: Even

    In one play, Alshon Jeffery showed the NFL draft world why he’s ranked so high on my big board.

    Jeffery’s ability to go up and get the ball, and then his strength and presence of mind to break the tackle and get to the end zone shows exactly the type of player we’re talking about. Let the comparisons to Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson continue. Jeffery is the real deal.

    If you are the GM of the Cleveland Browns or St. Louis Rams, how excited would you be to hand your franchise quarterback this weapon at receiver?

3. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

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    Last Week: 3
    Trending: Even

    Week in and week out, Matt Kalil continues to separate himself from the talented pack of offensive tackles eligible for the 2012 draft class.

    Kalil’s athletic ability, size and IQ at the position rank up there with the elite tackle prospects of the past five years. While he may not be quite to the level of a Joe Thomas or Jake Long, Kalil is certainly worthy of mention right below them. And that’s pretty damn good.

2. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

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    Last Week: 2
    Trending: Even

    It would be hard for Vontaze Burfict to beat his game-saving interception against USC, but he put together another solid game this week.

    Burfict isn’t appreciated by all scouts. Some see him as too untraditional, too much of a freelancer and too wild for the position. I see an aggressive, violent middle linebacker who will frighten the opposition each week and cause match up nightmares for offensive coordinators.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

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    Last Week: 1
    Trending: Even

    What more can be said about Andrew Luck? Each week, he shows again the consistency and top-level talent that will make him the most promising prospect to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning left Tennessee.

    Luck could be expected to have a down year without coach Jim Harbaugh, but he’s still playing the high quality football we’ve seen for the last two years.

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