2012 NFL Draft Big Board Week 8
We have a new Top 5 this week as the college football season hits the midway point. Andrew Luck may reign supreme among draft prospects, but who will be the second player off the board when the April draft rolls around?
The 2012 class is potentially loaded at quarterback, offensive tackle and cornerback. As many as four quarterbacks, three offensive tackles and one cornerback could make up the Top 10 picks of the first round. Who are those players?
There's only one way to find out. Get to reading!
32. Donte Paige-Moss
Last Week: 32
One sack through eight games just isn’t good enough for Donte Paige-Moss.
This is a player who started the season on my Top 10 list. Now he’s dangerously close of falling off the Big Board altogether.
There is no doubting DPM has talent, and he’s still a great prospect as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker, but my strong recommendation right now would be that he return to North Carolina for another season and more experience.
31. Courtney Upshaw
Last Week: 24
You could argue that no defender in the country has been more impressive than Courtney Upshaw these last two weeks.
Against Ole Miss he logged two sacks. He followed up that performance with a one-sack day against Tennessee.
Upshaw is a great threat as a hybrid defender, playing either inside or outside linebacker.
While he is a great college player, I don’t see a parallel impact for Upshaw once in the NFL. He will be a starter early, but he lacks the speed and agility to make the same plays in the NFL that he’s making at Alabama.
That’s why there is a move down for a linebacker with three sacks in the last two games.
30. Cordy Glenn
Last Week: NR
The versatility of Cordy Glenn is intriguing.
He’s played at guard and tackle while at Georgia, making the comparisons to Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs all the more fitting.
Glenn is a massive man, and at 6’5” and 335 lbs, it would seem likely he makes a move to guard once in the NFL, but he has the footwork to make a move to tackle once he’s in the league.
I could see Glenn starting at tackle in Pittsburgh or Detroit next year.
29. Devin Taylor
Last Week: 30
A talented and accomplished pass-rusher, Devin Taylor has many excited about his potential as a right defensive end in the 4-3 defense.
Taylor has all the measureables to make an easy transition to the NFL once drafted.
He’s showing the burst and flexibility to be an impact player off the edge as a pass-rusher. If he could add strength and improve against the run, Taylor would be dangerous.
28. Luke Kuechly
Last Week: 29
The best pure tackler in college football, Luke Kuechly has a big following among draft scouts and analysts.
Kuechly benefits from playing in a defense built to accentuate his ability to react to the offense and make tackles, but I worry about his ability to beat blockers to the ball and if he has the strength to fight through traffic.
Kuechly is a good player, but he will have to play in a 4-3 base defense to see his impact match the hype once in the NFL.
27. Alameda Ta’amu
Last Week: 26
Alameda Ta’amu has the look of a nose tackle at the next level, but I question whether or not he has the strength to hold up against a double-team on every play in the NFL.
Ta’amu may be as big as a nose tackle, but he doesn’t have the strength or low pad level that all nose tackles must show to be a starter in the NFL.
Ta’amu is talented, but he may be better served as a one-technique player in a 4-3 defense.
26. Janoris Jenkins
Last Week: 27
There is no doubting that Janoris Jenkins can flat out play.
If based purely on talent, Jenkins would be a Top 15 player. But talent isn’t the total package.
Character is a big part of the grade, and in that category Jenkins is failing.
Multiple drug-related arrests led to his dismissal from Florida before the season, creating a huge red flag on Jenkins’ record.
His play is good enough that NFL teams will let themselves overlook the off-field problems, but they have to be mentioned here, because the arrests will cause him to be valued lower than if he had a clean record.
25. Cliff Harris
Last Week: 20
Cliff Harris didn’t have to do much this week as the Oregon Ducks rolled the Colorado Buffaloes 45-2, but just getting Harris on the field each week will do a lot to help his draft status.
I’m moving Harris down this week based on a number of reasons—the biggest among them is his lack of size.
At 5’11” and 165 lbs, Harris is too thin for the NFL. He will need to add at least 20 lbs to his frame to be up to par among his peers in the NFL. That’s a lot of weight for such a small player.
Add a lack of size to an early-season suspension and off-field issues, and Harris’ stock should level out around the late first-round range.
24. Brandon Thompson
Last Week: NR
I am moving Brandon Thompson back onto the Big Board today after several solid weeks.
Thompson has been establishing himself as the top defensive tackle prospect in the country.
Thompson is quick off the snap, strong at the point of attack and has a motor like none other. I am not as sold on him as others seem to be, but he’s clearly the best tackle in the class.
23. Stephon Gilmore
Last Week: 16
Previously my No. 2-ranked cornerback, I’m moving Gilmore down a bit this week, but only to move other players up.
Gilmore has played well all season, and he’s given me no reason to think differently of his game.
This move down is just an adjustment to get players who are playing up to their potential ahead of him.
I still like Gilmore as a rookie starter in the NFL. He would be a great pickup for the Detroit Lions at the end of Round 1.
22. Zach Brown
Last Week: NR
As one of three North Carolina defenders in my Top 32, Zach Brown may be the most impressive overall.
A slightly undersized outside linebacker, Brown would be a great fit in Detroit or Philadelphia, where the 4-3 defense asks them to play speedier linebackers.
Brown is more than just speed, though—he’s tough at the point of attack and a willing tackler. His ability in coverage is equally impressive.
21. Jared Crick
Last Week: 32
Crick is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Based on his play this season and in the past two years, Crick will be a first-round pick regardless of the injury.
20. Michael Floyd
Last Week: 22
Michael Floyd was shut down by the USC defense this weekend, grabbing just four catches for 28 yards.
Floyd’s lack of production is not a product of bad quarterback play, as Notre Dame quarterbacks threw for 226 yards against the Trojans.
Floyd was simply covered well and failed to get open. That’s been my complaint about him on the field all season.
19. Dre Kirkpatrick
Last Week: 21
Dre Kirkpatrick is regarded by many as an exceptional athlete with the potential to become a star at cornerback once in the NFL.
This is Kirkpatrick’s first season as a starter, and he is predictably raw.
I’m moving Kirkpatrick up this week based on his raw ability. No cornerback other than Morris Claiborne has more potential at the position.
You have to like what you see from Kirkpatrick’s measureables. His play hasn’t been as inspiring, but Alabama is seeing few teams willing to challenge Kirkpatrick.
18. Matt Barkley
Last Week: 19
Some like Matt Barkley more than others. I am on the others side of this.
Barkley is a good quarterback, but he hasn’t shown me anything that would warrant placing him above Landry Jones or Robert Griffin III.
Barkley must not only answer questions about his size, but he has to prove that he’s not the product of a system that allows him to make one read and deliver the ball to exceptional athletes.
I do like Barkley’s skill set, but I have a lot of questions about his game.
17. Brandon Jenkins
Last Week: 17
Brandon Jenkins had another great game this weekend, logging 1.5 sacks against Maryland on Saturday.
Jenkins continues to impress in space. While Melvin Ingram may be ranked higher, Jenkins is the more proven player as a pure pass-rusher crashing off the edge.
Teams looking for a college defensive end they can stand up and rush the passer with will fall in love with Jenkins.
While not quite to the level of a Von Miller, Jenkins could have a similar rise up draft boards once the NFL Combine rolls around. The Top 10 isn’t out of the question.
16. Ronnell Lewis
Last Week: 18
After another good week by Ronnell Lewis, he continues to climb up the board.
Oklahoma may have lost on Saturday, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or production from Lewis, who had one sack, eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss on Saturday.
He even showed some ability in coverage by breaking up one pass.
Lewis is moving up the board steadily. More performances like this could put the outside linebacker in my Top 15.
15. Quinton Coples
Last Week: 15
The North Carolina Tar Heels may have had their tails kicked by Clemson, but Quinton Coples still had a good game.
For the second straight week Coples notched a sack, this time a big one that caused Clemson a 10-yard loss.
You can see the talent when you watch Coples play that makes him a great prospect as a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end.
He could have a similar draft expectation as former Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan, who played all over at Cal and was drafted to play left end by the New Orleans Saints in the first round.
14. Lamar Miller
Last Week: 14
One week after a bad outing against North Carolina, Lamar Miller was back on track this week against Georgia Tech.
Miller totaled 93 rushes on 27 carries against a defense that stacked the box to take away the run game.
What you have to remember with Miller is that Miami has no consistency with the passing game and has an offensive line that is failing to open up holes for him.
Miller’s talent and ability is unquestionable when you look deeper than the stats.
13. Manti Te’o
Last Week: 13
Finding a tough, compact linebacker who can run with tight ends and take down runners inside the tackles is rare.
That’s Manti Te’o, though.
Chances are that Te’o will not leave Notre Dame after this season, but if he does he could find himself drafted in the Top 15 picks. His ability to play inside or outside will make him a favorite of teams like the Cleveland Browns, who need help at linebacker and will most likely have an early pick.
12. Melvin Ingram
Last Week: 12
The best defensive end in the 2012 class comes from South Carolina.
Melvin Ingram is big, strong and fast. He’s also pretty good in space.
There’s a chance Ingram will make a move to outside linebacker once in the NFL, if drafted by a team running the 3-4 defense.
Ingram’s ability to lock down the edge and get upfield in rushing the passer makes him a scary prospect.
11. Riley Reiff
Last Week: 11
I continue to think that Riley Reiff may be the best right tackle from this class once in the NFL.
Reiff has played left tackle at Iowa, but he has the strength and agility to make a stand at right tackle in the NFL.
It’s very possible we will see three offensive tackles and three quarterbacks drafted in the Top 10 this year. How amazing would that be?
Reiff has Nate Solder-like ability. He will make one NFL quarterback very happy next year.
10. Jonathan Martin
Last Week: 10
Left tackles with the athleticism and intelligence of Jonathan Martin are few and far between.
Martin has every skill set I look for in a franchise left tackle.
Were it not for Matt Kalil, we’d be talking a lot more about Martin as the top tackle in this class.
Martin is a much better pass-protector than run-blocker right now, but he’s getting better each week.
By the time he's in an NFL starting lineup next fall, Martin will be a complete blocker and a scary starter at left tackle.
9. Justin Blackmon
Last Week: 8
It’s been a tough few weeks for Justin Blackmon.
Against Texas in Week 7, Blackmon a decent day against a fast secondary. That did little to ease concerns about his ability to separate from top-level cornerbacks.
This week against Missouri, Blackmon left the game early with what looked like a shoulder injury and concussion.
I do like Blackmon’s ability, but too often people get caught up looking at just his stats. That inability to separate could be a big problem for Blackmon.
I’m looking forward to seeing him against Oklahoma.
8. Landry Jones
Last Week: 6
Landry Jones gave his all in the Oklahoma Sooners' loss this week to Texas Tech, but those watching would have seen a horrible display of accuracy from Jones when the game mattered most.
The stat line will show that Jones threw five touchdowns and for more than 400 yards, but Jones had a season-low completion percentage of 54.5 percent on 55 pass attempts.
That’s not good enough.
7. Morris Claiborne
Last Week: 7
I was a little surprised by the lack of impact by Morris Claiborne against Auburn, but with fellow starter Tyrann Mathieu out this week with a suspension, Auburn wisely avoided Claiborne and instead went after Ron Brooks, who had a solid game himself.
Claiborne is still burning up college football.
His athleticism and aggressive style of play make him my No. 1 cornerback. Just remember you read it here first many weeks ago.
Claiborne will start to move up the boards of all other analysts soon, if he hasn’t already.
6. Vontaze Burfict
Last Week: 2
I am finally moving Burfict down this week after several so-so games.
Burfict is undoubtedly talented and impressive, but his out-of-control play has become too much.
The major issue with Burfict is that he either plays too recklessly and causes penalties or he plays too careful and gets beaten off the ball.
He has to find a way to play fast, aggressive and controlled football.
5. Trent Richardson
Last Week: 9
Running backs are rarely drafted in the Top 10 picks anymore, but Trent Richardson will be.
Richardson is the most complete back college football has seen in years. He’s a dangerous runner who can move the chains with tough running, but he has the speed to break away for long runs.
He’s also a great receiver out of the backfield, a good blocker and even a capable return man.
Richardson is as close to “can’t miss” as any running back since Darren McFadden left Arkansas.
4. Robert Griffin III
Last Week: 5
Robert Griffin III continues to impress me. Expect to see a feature on RGIII very soon.
Griffin is showing me the perfect blend of mobility and accuracy to make a major impact on the NFL.
I scouted Michael Vick, and Griffin is a far better quarterback. He has a better accuracy, much better vision and a better feel for what the passing game needs.
When Vick left Virginia Tech he was a running back with a strong arm. Make no mistake—Griffin is a quarterback.
If you hear anyone talk about moving Griffin to running back or wide receiver, you can almost guarantee they haven’t seen him play this year or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
3. Matt Kalil
Last Week: 4
If you need an offensive tackle this year, left or right, Matt Kalil has to be the player you hope your team lands.
Kalil is a complete player with the size and strength to have a big impact immediately. Put it this way—he would have been the first tackle drafted in the 2011 class.
Kalil’s experience at USC has him prepared to play either left or right tackle once in the NFL.
Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts should be excited about the possibility here.
2. Alshon Jeffery
Last Week: 3
With a bad quarterback and an injured star at running back, Alshon Jeffery hasn’t had the monster season that could have been possible.
While he’s not tearing up the stat sheet, Jeffery is showing the separation ability and size to dominate at the next level.
Put Jeffery in an offense that looks to throw deep, and he’ll have a huge impact as a rookie.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jeffery could be a Top 5 wide receiver in the NFL by 2015.
1. Andrew Luck
Last Week: 1
Andrew Luck’s thorough take-down of the Washington Huskies was just another week of proof that this Luck kid is pretty damn good.
I’ve gone on record to say Luck is the best prospect I have ever scouted, but here’s the thing—he’s actually underrated.
How could the clear-cut No. 1 prospect be underrated?
Because fans and analysts haven’t grasped just how great Luck is now and how high his potential is.