2012 NFL Draft Predictions: Likely Landing Spots for Top College Stars

Daniel Mano Herberholz@danielmanoherbCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

There will again be a crop of deep-pick surprises in the 2012 NFL draft including college stars who will land with lucky teams.

The story of college stud turned pro star will continue this year, as NCAA players who starred at their schools are selected in the NFL draft and begin their journey toward prominence at the next level.

Not all of these campus legends will go in the first round, however.

Guys like Tom BradyTerrell Davis and Zach Thomas weren't taken until late in the draft despite promising collegiate careers. 

This year will be no different.

LaMichael James had national exposure while at a BCS school, Kellen Moore also received Heisman votes while at a non-BCS school and Jordan White is lesser known but a star in his own right.

Running Back LaMichael James, Oregon

Three years of dominance in college football seemingly don't erase the doubts surrounding Oregon's LaMichael James.

His 5'9" build calls into question his durability and impact in the NFL, particularly after a midseason injury in 2012.

James missed two games last season with the Ducks because of the injury—but he bounced back with five games of 140-plus yards in the final seven contests.

That yardage brought his junior year total to 1,805 yards, the third time he surpassed 1,500 yards. He also totaled 58 touchdowns in his three-year career—most on runs but also on catches and returns.

James utilized an electric speed in averaging 7.3 yards per carry a season ago, a quickness that has been touted as quite special.

His short-but-speedy archetype draws comparison to Darren Sproles.

His speed is surely an asset, clocking in around 4.4 in the 40-yard dash during Oregon's pro day.

Although he doesn't have the size or speed, James has the skill set and the desire to play in the NFL.

Another unknown is James' off-field conduct, after alleged domestic violence two years ago.

But a recent study showed that past issues are not a serious cause for concern when it comes to drafting players. In fact, the lowered draft stock means players can become bargain picks deeper in the draft.

James may well be that, as his explosive speed to run through defenders and around the edge make him a possible specialty back and/or punt returner

The San Diego Chargers are a team that has looked past issues of character (see Shawne Merriman) and size (see Sproles).

While the team added the big body of Le'Ron McClain, GM A.J. Smith is likely still searching for a true tailback to work alongside Ryan Mathews.

Prediction: Round 3, Pick 15 by the San Diego Chargers

Quarterback Kellen Moore, Boise State

You'd think the winningest quarterback in NCAA history would get a decent shot at a high-round selection.

But Kellen Moore's 50-3 record is unfairly overshadowed by his 6'0" stature.

Knocked for being short, Moore has a knack for finding his receiver. The four-year starter is an unquestionable pure passer with the accuracy of a surgeon.

Over the course of his four-year career, Moore has completed 69.8 percent of his 1,658 passes thrown. His high-water mark came as a senior, with a 74.3 accuracy rate to go with 3,800 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Even at his pro day, his only miss in 53 passes was just an inch too long on a deep ball.

The hit on Moore is his height, as quarterbacks at 6'0" and below are seen as questionable for careers in the NFL.

But there's one pro quarterback who's bucked that trend: sure-fire Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

Guess which team, according to The Idaho Statesman's Chadd Cripe, is the only one to host Moore?

Kellen Moore only did one visit/workout. He visited the Saints. "People are probably tired of me," he said.

— Bronco Beat (@IDS_BroncoBeat) April 19, 2012

Unfortunately, Brees is currently in hold-out hell. The obvious best option is for him to return and tutor Moore.

But if not, once the New Orleans Saints coaches return from suspension after the recent "Bounty-Gate" scandal, they should be able to work the same magic on Moore that they did on Brees.

In other words, put him in their offensive system, let him get accustomed to his receivers and watch Moore work his own magic. 

Prediction: Round 6, Pick 9 by the New Orleans Saints

Wide Receiver Jordan White, Western Michigan

Playing for a non-BCS school isn't an easy stepping stone to the NFL, but, according to a recent study, for wide receivers that doesn't matter. That's good news for Western Michigan's Jordan White.

Examples of lesser-known schools producing talented wide receivers begin with Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) and continue on in recent years with Brandon Marshall (Central Florida), Marques Colston (Hofstra) and Miles Austin (Monmouth).

The study used the latter three examples in its statistics that non-BCS receivers play three more seasons and gain 200 more yards on average than their BCS brethren.

White hopes to continue that trend.

The NCAA leader in receiving yards last season (1,911), he dominated opponents with clean route running and sure hands. Those opponents included BCS teams like Michigan (12 grabs, 119 yards), Illinois (14 catches, 132 yards) and UConn (12 snags, 173 yards).

White finished with the best game of his collegiate career—also against a BCS opponent in Purdue—by bringing in 13 balls for 265 yards and a touchdown.

Although not particularly fast (4.60 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day) or big (6'0", 208 lbs.), White proved last year that he has the skills to compete.

Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit told Scott Petrak of The Chronicle-Telegram that White is going to be a steal late in the draft:

“This kid produced since he’s been here. Somebody’s going to get real lucky with the kid. The other teams didn’t figure it out.”

Since the Kansas City Chiefs were the only organization to work out White, it's looking like K.C. is that lucky team.

And that makes sense since GM Scott Pioli has a history of picking crisp route runners who produce in the NFL.

Prediction: Round 7, Pick 11 by the Kansas City Chiefs


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