2012 NFL Draft: 25 Most Explosive Draft Prospects

Jon DoveContributor IOctober 20, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: 25 Most Explosive Draft Prospects

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    The NFL consists of tremendous athletes who each year, get bigger, faster and stronger. NFL franchises are always on the lookout for the next great athlete. The NFL draft is like a schmorgous board of the most gifted athletes in the world.

    Draft eligible players are put through a battery of tests, including the combine. These tests are orchestrated to determine a prospects physical abilities. The players who test well usually see their draft stock rise. This lust for athletic talent puts a focus on the explosiveness of each player.

    The term explosive has a different meaning for each position. The explosiveness of a wide receiver is measured differently than that of an offensive lineman. Yes, there are plenty of offensive linemen that play with a lot of explosiveness.

    For me, an explosive player is pretty easy to identify. He usually stands out from the rest of the players on the field. These players tend to always be a step ahead of everyone else.

    I look for two specific things when trying to measure explosiveness: a player's first step and second gear. A football player needs to quickly get off the ball. This is about timing, but also about the ability to explode out of your stance. A quick first step is important for every position on the football field. It is what allows defensive linemen to penetrate the pocket while also allowing receivers to get into their routes. A player who lacks a quick first step will always be at a disadvantage.

    A good athlete also possesses a second gear: that ability to accelerate. Having a good second gear is something that separates good athletes from great athletes. That second gear is what allows running backs to break off long runs, while also allowing defenders to close on the football.

    The upcoming slides will breakdown some of the most explosive 2012 NFL draft prospects.

Devon Still: Defensive Tackle, Penn State

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    Penn State's Devon Still is beginning to make a big move up draft boards. He has a ton of talent, combined with good size and strength. Still is easily one of the most explosive defensive tackles in all of college football. Each and every week, he can be found making plays in the opponents backfield.

    Still has an excellent first step off the ball. He does a good job anticipating the snap count, then exploding out of his stance. His explosiveness is what allows him to consistently penetrate the pocket. So far this season, Still has recorded 10 tackles for loss and two sacks.

    His stats do not tell the whole story, as Still constantly is disrupting the timing of the offense. NFL defenses are always looking for a defensive tackle capable of playing in the backfield. Still appears to be a perfect fit for a team searching for a 3-techinque.

David DeCastro: Offensive Line, Stanford

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    An explosive offensive lineman looks a lot different than other positions. The offensive line is rarely asked to make plays down the field, making it tough to really see their athletic ability. These massive players are surrounded by smaller quick athletes, making them appear slower.

    Stanford's David DeCastro is an explosive player, but it is only noticeable within a phone-booth. DeCastro's explosiveness is in his first step off the football. He fires out of his stance, rolling his hips into the defender. His ability to explode out of his stance allows him to drive defenders off the ball.

    An easy way to identify an offensive lineman's explosiveness is by watching the initial contact. DeCastro typically delivers a violent punch, allowing him to gain position.

Jerel Worthy: Defensive Tackle, Michigan State

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    Defensive tackles are some of the most explosive athletes on the football field. It is amazing how these players are able to move their massive bodies so quickly. What is even more impressive is the players that can explode into the backfield while also holding at the point of attack.

    Michigan State's Jerel Worthy is one of those special players who can penetrate and also play two gap football. Both skills require an explosive athlete. In order to penetrate the pocket, Worthy uses a quick step to get out of his stance. This allows him to beat the offensive linemen off the ball and shoot the gap.

    Holding at the point of attack requires a different type of explosiveness. In this case, Worthy explodes off the ball while rolling his hips and delivering a violent punch. Without that strong initial jolt, Worthy would be unable to gain position and hold his ground.

Kendall Reyes: Defensive Tackle, Connecticut

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    Connecticut's Kendall Reyes is one of the most underrated NFL draft prospects. He doesn't receive a lot of attention because he plays for Connecticut. While he doesn't receive media attention, you can be sure that opposing teams are aware of his play.

    Reyes is another one of those explosive defensive tackles who is capable of playing in the offensive backfield. He is a disruptive force, already registering 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. His production is more impressive due to the fact that opposing teams game-plan to shut him down.

    What makes Reyes an impact player is his ability to explode out of his stance. He is so quick off the ball that he typically beats the offensive line to the point of attack. Reyes is capable of both penetrating the pocket and occupying blockers.

Zach Brown: Linebacker, North Carolina

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    Every position in the NFL requires some level of explosiveness. However, one can argue that a linebacker cannot be effective without great explosiveness. A linebacker needs to be able to pursue the football, break on the ball in coverage and close on the ball carrier. All of these skills require a high level of explosiveness.

    North Carolina's Zach Brown is known for his quickness and explosive play. He has the ability to cover sideline to sideline while pursuing the football. Brown's ability to identify the ball career and close it what makes him a special player. He has the short area burst needed to make a play on the football.

Vinny Curry: Defensive End, Marshall

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    Marshall's Vinny Curry is one of the better pass rushers in the 2012 draft class. He is able to create pressure due to his explosiveness. Curry plays defensive end at Marshall, a position that requires an explosive player. Defensive ends are typically expected to be the main pass rushers. In order to create pressure, a defensive end needs to fire off the football.

    Curry has an excellent first step, which allows him to threaten the edge. He puts a ton of pressure on the offensive line as they attempt to protect the quarterback. His quick first step is what allows him to turn the corner and pursue the quarterback.

    Without an explosive first step, Curry would struggle to reach the edge. His ability to threaten the edge is what allows him to employ his many different counter moves.

Brian Quick: Wide Receiver, Appalachian State

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    Wide receivers come in many different shapes and sizes. There is not an ideal mold, as we have seen different type of success stories. The explosiveness of a wide receiver also comes in different forms. There are players who are quick off the ball, quick out of their breaks and explosive leapers.

    Appalachian State's Brian Quick relies on his quickness out of his breaks and leaping ability. He has the ability to quickly get in and out of his breaks, which is what allows him to gain separation. He doesn't have the second gear to out pace defensive backs, meaning he also needs to rely on his leaping ability.

    At 6'5", 220 pounds, Quick is more of a possession receiver than a deep threat. However, that doesn't mean he isn't an explosive player.

Donte Paige-Moss: Defensive End, North Carolina

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    North Carolina continues to pump out high level defensive talent. This year, they have more than a handful of players that could end up in the first round.

    Donte Paige-Moss is one of the those players who will be highly sought after. He currently plays defensive end, but some feel he can move to outside linebacker.

    Paige-Moss is an explosive edge rusher who is capable of putting pressure on the quarterback. He utilizes his quick first step to gain the edge. Paige-Moss then uses his second gear to close on the quarterback and register the sack.

    So far this season, Paige-Moss has not been able to really make an impact. However, he is still an explosive player with a ton of upside.

Michael Egnew: Tight End, Missouri

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    We are in the middle of a changing environment for the tight end position. In the past, the tight end was seen as more of a blocker than a pass catcher. Slowly, teams started to find a way to get tight ends more involved in the game-plan.

    The NFL today features a new look tight end who is closer to a receiver than an offensive lineman. Missouri's Michael Egnew is one of those tight end prospects who will be expected to be a playmaker. In order for Egnew to make plays, he needs to utilize his explosiveness.

    Egnew has excellent short area quickness. He is able to burst off the line and quickly get into his routes. His ability to quickly get in and out of his breaks allows him to create separation. Egnew has the speed to threaten the seam of a defense.

Shea McClellin: Defensive End/Linebacker,Boise State

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    Boise State's Shea McClellin is a very unique prospect, as he has the capability to play multiple positions. Boise State uses McClellin at both defensive end and outside linebacker. His main responsibility is to get into the backfield and disrupt the offense.

    In order for McClellin to be effective, he needs to get a good jump off the ball. He is able to gain a step on the offense thanks to his explosiveness. His ability to attack the edge is because of his quick first step. McClellin is able to make tackles behind the line of scrimmage due to his closing ability.

    In the NFL, McClellin will likely play outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He has the potential to be one of the better pass rushers in the 2012 draft class.

Matt Kalil: Offensive Tackle, USC

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    The NFL is full of explosive pass rushers who excel at attacking the edge. In order to protect the quarterback, every team needs an athletic offensive tackle. These offensive tackles need to be able to quickly get out of their stance. They also need have an explosive and violent punch.

    USC's Matt Kalil is an athletic left tackle prospect capable of protecting the edge. He does a great job quickly getting into his set, showing the ability to beat defenders off the ball. Kalil also is able to sit into his stance and deliver a strong jolt.

    In the running game, Kalil explodes out of his stance and into the defender. He is able to generate enough power to get a good push off the line.

Brandon Thompson: Defensive Tackle, Clemson

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    Clemson's Brandon Thompson is different than the other defensive tackles on this list. Typically, he doesn't use his explosiveness to shoot the gap and create pressure. Thompson prefers to explode into the offensive line and pushing the pocket.

    He possesses the quick first step that would allow him to shoot the gap. However, he is more disruptive because he can occupy blockers while also pushing the pocket. His ability to collapse the pocket is attributed to his explosive first step and violent jolt.

    The offensive line has a hard time anchoring after Thompson's initial contact. He makes it really difficult to for the offensive line to control his movements.

Isaiah Pead: Running Back, Cincinnati

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    The NFL features a few type of running backs. There are power backs, scat backs and those capable of both. The scat back is typically smaller in stature, but possesses excellent quickness. Their ability to quickly hit the hole is what separates them from the power runners.

    Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead is one those smaller backs who possesses excellent quickness. He presses the hole as quick as anyone in college football. His ability to explode towards the line helps him outpace defensive angles. Pead is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

    Pead is an effective runner because he uses his quickness to go north and south. He identifies the hole and quickly attacks.

Muhamed Sanu: Wide Receiver, Rutgers

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    Rutgers' Muhamed Sanu is a terrific athlete who is just starting to understand the ins and outs of playing wide receiver. He has been able to make plays based on his athleticism, but as he develops more of a feel for the game, he will improve.

    Sanu's explosiveness comes from his ability to quickly reach his top speed. This ability makes him a danger when in space. He has the ability to quickly start and stop, resulting in a lot of missed tackles. Offensive coordinators love players like Sanu, as his skills allow them to draw up different plays.

    There might be a few question marks surrounding Sanu's long speed, but that shouldn't really impact his draft stock. He reminds me a lot of Randall Cobb, a player that is more quick than fast.

Billy Winn: Defensive Tackle, Boise State

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    The Boise State offense and Kellen Moore get all the national attention. However, they are winning football games because of their defense. Without the play of the defense, Boise State would not be ranked No. 5 in the nation. Billy Winn is the top playmaker on the Boise State defense.

    Winn plays defensive tackle, with this main responsibility being to create pressure. He excels at getting into the backfield and disrupting the flow of the offense. His ability to wreak havoc can be attributed to his explosive first step.

    The NFL will no doubt see Winn as a 3-technique defensive tackle. His ability to create pressure is something that many teams covet.

Morris Claiborne: Cornerback, LSU

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    Often times, cornerbacks are measured by their 40 time. However, that measurement doesn't typically give a good picture of a player's potential. Cornerbacks need to have a good short area burst in order to break on the ball. Lack of long speed can be overcome by good instincts.

    LSU's Morris Claiborne has seen his draft stock skyrocket in the past few weeks. He is actually being discussed as a top 10 prospect. His rise can be attributed to his ability to click and close on the football. He possesses a great short area burst, allowing him to close and make a play on the ball.

    Claiborne's ability to close is combine with excellent ball skills. He is not only able to reach the football, but also come down with the interception. He has a career total of eight interceptions. Claiborne is an explosive player who is constantly making an impact.

Ryan Broyles: Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles recently set the career record for the most receptions. He has had a remarkable individual career while also helping Oklahoma remain perennial championship contenders. A lot of Broyles' success can be attributed to his excellent quickness.

    Broyles' career is full of explosive plays, as each season, he has at least one catch of over 50 yards. While watching Broyles play, you will notice that he heavily relies on this speed and quickness. He doesn't have a great feel for the openings in the defense. His success has come because he is able to outrun the defenders.

    He has also been able to create a lot of separation. This is due to his ability to explode in and out of his breaks. His short area quickness is also a major contributor to his success.

Brandon Jenkins: Defensive End/Linebacker, FSU

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    Florida State's Brandon Jenkins is listed at 6'3", 265 pounds, but looks much leaner. His build and overall bulk will play a key role in what position he plays in the NFL. What Jenkins lacks in bulk, he makes up for with quickness.

    Jenkins has an explosive first step, which allows him to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. His ability to attack the edge makes him a feared pass rusher. Last season, Jenkins registered 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Those numbers just backup what you see on the field.

    I feel that Jenkins possesses enough athletic ability to make a smooth transition to outside linebacker. However, asking him to drop into coverage would negate his strengths.

Quinton Coples: Defensive End, North Carolina

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    North Carolina's Quinton Coples is the top rated defensive end in the 2012 draft class. He is one of the few defensive linemen that appear worthy of a top ten selection. His ability to rush the pass is what makes him such an attractive prospect.

    Coples possesses a combination of good size and quickness. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, typically beating the offensive line to the edge. His ability to quickly get off the football puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line. Coples features a good array of pass rushing moves that complement his speed rush.

    Attacking the edge is just one part of Coples pass rushing arsenal. He has the ability to roll his hips into the offensive line, generating a nice jolt. This allows Coples to employ a good bull rush technique.

Ronnell Lewis: Linebacker, Oklahoma

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    Each year, a handful of college defensive ends are identified as someone who needs to change positions. They typically need to switch to outside linebacker due to a lack of size. These players are always extremely good athletes who excel at rushing the passer.

    Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis is having a good season, showing the ability to create pressure. He utilizes his explosive first step to attack the edge. His ability to beat the offensive linemen out of their stance allows him to turn the corner and purse the quarterback.

    Lewis doesn't possess the size or strength to play defensive end at the next level. He will be asked to lineup at outside linebacker, likely in a 3-4 scheme.

Vontaze Burfict: Linebacker, Arizona State

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    Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict is an explosive playmaking linebacker. He is constantly around the football making plays. His combination of size and athletic ability will make Burfict highly sought after come April.

    Burfict possesses an explosive short area burst. This burst helps Burfict fill the open running lanes and attack the ball carrier. He has the quickness to cover sideline to sideline, making him a threat to always make a play. Burfict combines his explosiveness with a nasty disposition, striking fear into offensive players.

    A lot of Burfict's explosiveness is unleashed when he is making a tackle. He explodes into the the ball carrier, rolling his hips and delivering a punishing hit. A linebacker needs to have that ability to quickly reach any part of the field.

Justin Blackmon: Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

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    Wide receivers have the best opportunity to display their explosiveness. A wide out that consistently makes plays deep down the field typically is an explosive playmaker. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is arguably the most explosive receiver in college football.

    Each week, Blackmon finds a way to make his presence felt. He is a touchdown machine, routinely finding a way into the endzone. Blackmon is a true playmaker, possessing the ability to attack the deep part of the field, as well as create with the ball in his hands.

    Blackmon is a quick twitch athlete, showing the ability to get up to full speed in a hurry. This allows him to out pace defensive backs and stretch the field. Blackmon's explosiveness will be attractive to a team looking to add a deep threat.

Bruce Irvin: Linebacker, West Virginia

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    In the past, West Virginia's Bruce Irvin would be a man without a position. However, the development of the 3-4 defense makes Irvin a coveted playmaker. He will be a prospect that every 3-4 team looks at, seeing a potential pass rushing threat.

    Irvin doesn't have great size, but has the ability to create pressure. At West Virginia, Irvin sees a lot of snaps at defensive end, but will not play that position in the NFL.

    Irvin is able to create pressure because of his explosive first step. He has the ability to beat the protection to the edge. His ability to attack the edge, flatten out and purse makes him a true pass rushing threat. Irvin will need time to adjust to playing linebacker. However, he has the athletic ability to make a quick adjustment.

Cyrus Gray: Running Back, Texas A&M

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    NFL teams searching for a home run threat need to focus on Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray. Gray presses the hole as quick as any running back in the country. He quickly identifies the open running lanes and shoots up field. Gray is a quick-twitch athlete, capable of quickly reaching his top speed.

    He has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Gray has a highlight reel of long and explosive running plays. He is the type of player who needs to be apart of an offensive game-plan. Players like Gray should get around 25 touches a game.

    Gray can make plays in both the running and passing game. He is a danger with the ball in space while also showing the ability to run between the tackles.

Robert Griffin III: Quarterback, Baylor

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    In recent years, we have seen some extremely athletic quarterbacks find success in the NFL. Cam Newton is the most recent, as he has taken the NFL by storm. He was expected to struggle in the NFL due to his tendency to run with the football. However, he has set several rookie passing records.

    Cam Newton's success has opened the door for players like Baylor's Robert Griffin III.  Griffin III is one of the most gifted, if not the most gifted athlete in all of college football. He has sprinter speed combined with a powerful throwing arm. His ability to run with the football has taken attention away from his ability to throw the football.

    Griffin III is the poster boy for explosive plays, as he is capable of breaking off long runs and completing passes deep down the field.