2012 NFL Draft Big Board with NFL Team Needs

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterNovember 7, 2011

2012 NFL Draft Big Board with NFL Team Needs

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    It is generally understood in draft circles that Andrew Luck of Stanford is not only the best player in the 2012 NFL draft class, but the best player from the last 10-25 years of draft classes. If Luck is the consensus No. 1 overall player, who is No. 2?

    There is no consensus, and even on my big board the spot at No. 2 has been a revolving door. Vontaze Burfict made an appearance, as have Alshon Jeffery and Matt Kalil. It should come as no surprise then that this week there is a new No. 2 overall player.

    Who are the 32 best draft-eligible players in the country? Find out here.

32. Dont'a Hightower

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    When I watch Dont'a Hightower play, I am always a little disappointed. He's a great college linebacker, but to play at the next level he will only fit as an inside linebacker, and only in a 3-4 defense at that.

    Over the years of watching him I've seen Hightower lose speed and quickness. He is very stiff-hipped and struggles to adjust his angle and pursue the ball carrier. These are traits that would make him a good outside linebacker—he has the size for the position—but this lack of flexibility and burst make him a TED linebacker in my eyes.

    NFL teams with need: Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens

31. Courtney Upshaw

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    Courtney Upshaw is enjoying a very good season at Alabama—but stats in the SEC don't always translate to the NFL. 

    Upshaw is an athletic player who could play inside or outside once in the NFL. He reminds of Jerod Mayo, albeit a less fluid version of him. 

    Upshaw could find a home in almost any system; his versatility could be a big asset and a reason he'll be drafted earlier than I currently grade him.

    NFL teams with need: New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals

30. Peter Konz

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    The first appearance of a center on the big board all season features one of the most intimidating interior linemen in the country. Peter Konz is a nasty blocker from the center of the Wisconsin Badger offensive line. Only a junior, he'll be a hot name should be enter the 2012 NFL draft.

    Konz is a strong run blocker and smart enough to quickly handle line calls once in the NFL. He's unquestionably the top center in this class.

    NFL teams with need: Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys

29. Janoris Jenkins

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    Were it not for a string of off-field issues, Janoris Jenkins would be a top-15 player. But the arrests for drug possession happened, as did the dismissal from the University of Florida. Those black marks aren't coming off my scouting report for Janoris Jenkins any time soon.

    Jenkins is incredibly talented, and if he were put in a strong locker room he could do very well, similar to what the Baltimore Ravens did when drafting troubled cornerback Jimmy Smith in the 2011 NFL draft.

    Jenkins is a press-cover corner who will excel in aggressive schemes. As such, those are the only listed below.

    NFL teams with need: Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28. Brandon Jenkins

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    The play of Brandon Jenkins has dropped off as the season has progressed, which is why he sees a considerable drop this week.

    Jenkins is a classic 'tweener who will project well to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. With the innovation of the Wide 9 defense being run in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, there is also a chance Jenkins could see himself placed at defensive end.

    The best bet for Jenkins, and the best use of his talent, would be to place him in a 3-4 scheme.

    NFL teams with need: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs

27. Luke Kuechly

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    Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine for Boston College, but there are disagreements as to where and how well he projects to the NFL.

    I see Kuechly as a classic 4-3 MIKE linebacker. While he is great at flowing to the football, he can get held up in traffic and hasn't shown the strength to work through blockers at the second level. Playing behind two defensive tackles in a four-man front, Kuechly would be free to read and react.

    NFL teams with need: Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Denver Broncos

26. Alameda Ta'amu

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    When you look at the size of Alameda Ta'amu, you naturally think "nose tackle" but I haven't seen the strength or low center of gravity needed to play the zero technique position at a high level.

    Ta'amu is definitely a huge man, but he's more finesse than power right now. He could be coached up to play assignment football and make a move to nose tackle, but entering the NFL that is not his strength.

    Ta'amu is great at splitting gaps and using his surprising burst to create pressure in the backfield. He does have the size to block out gaps, but more often than not he's running through the gap instead of squatting in it to take up blockers.

    NFL teams with need: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings

25. Jared Crick

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    Nebraska's Jared Crick screams 3-4 defensive end to me. He has the body type, strength and motor to handle playing head-up on offensive tackles and being tasked with setting the edge in the run game.

    That's not to say Crick couldn't make it in a 4-3 defense, I think he could, but his natural position is defensive end. He lacks the sudden movement ability to play as a right end in a four-man front, but would dominate in a 3-4.

    Crick will be the type of player targeted at the end of Round 1 to anchor a winning team's defensive line.

    NFL teams with need: New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins

24. Cordy Glenn

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    The beauty of a player like Cordy Glenn is that you can stick him at guard—on either side—or even at tackle. Players with this much raw ability and experience don't last long once the NFL draft starts.

    Glenn has experience playing inside and out at Georgia, and it's that ability that intrigues me most. At 330 lbs, Glenn is able to move in space and get off the line to protect on the edge. He's a brick wall when he sets his feet and digs in, something that would make him a damn fine right tackle in the NFL.

    NFL teams with need: San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets

23. Matt Barkley

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    Matt Barkley is on the move down again after further scouting over the week. I'll be digging into Barkley's scouting report in more detail this week, but here's what's bothering me.

    Barkley gets credited as being a top prospect, but what never gets mentioned is his wild arm when throwing outside the hashes. Barkley is a good downfield passer, but when asked to set his feet and deliver a 15-yard out, the pass floats. I need to see Barkley stand in the pocket and deliver accurate passes to the flats and beyond before I can trust him as a franchise quarterback.

    These are correctable mistakes—I saw the same issue with Cam Newton's mechanics last year—but not all quarterbacks take to coaching as well as others.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos 

22. Brandon Thompson

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    The need for defensive tackles in the NFL hasn't been as great as the current need in my 10 years on the job. What's unfortunate is that the crop of players entering the 2012 draft doesn't meet the need for players in starting lineups across the league.

    Brandon Thompson may find himself overdrafted due to this phenomena. A solid late first-rounder, Thompson is the draft's best interior lineman and will be looked upon to fill needs at tackle. 

    A quick athlete with some speed and moves, Thompson is strictly a 4-3 defensive tackle who will need to play in the three-technique position to utilize his full set of skills.

    NFL teams with need: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings

21. David DeCastro

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    The best guard of the 2012 draft class, David DeCastro's college success could make him an early pick in the first round of the draft.

    A right guard for the Stanford Cardinal's pro-style offense, DeCastro could play left or right guard once in the NFL. He's an accomplished run blocker and an underrated pass protector. Playing in an offense that asks the quarterback to move around in the pocket, DeCastro does a great job getting out in space to protect a mobile passer.

    NFL teams with need: Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns

20. Dre Kirkpatrick

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    I've been down on Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick at times this season—he's redeemed himself a bit this week.

    Kirkpatrick was brilliant in holding LSU wide receiver Reuben Randle to just two catches. Kirkpatrick's ability to lock down an elite wide receiver with speed on Saturday night was impressive. 

    My black mark on Kirkpatrick's report was initially that he lacked the speed to keep up with fast-moving wide receivers in the NFL. I'll be revisiting Kirkpatrick's full report soon.

    NFL teams with need: San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

19. Quinton Coples

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    Having played both defensive end and defensive tackle at North Carolina, Quinton Coples is an ideal player to make the move to the left side of a four-man defensive line once in the NFL.

    Similar to Cameron Heyward in the 2011 NFL draft, Coples could also play in a 3-4 defense if asked. He's quick, strong and does a nice job using his arms to keep blockers at bay. Coples would be a good choice at defensive end on either style of defensive line—and even on a defense that uses both a three- and four-man front.

    NFL teams with need: New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers

18. Stephon Gilmore

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    When scouting cornerbacks I like to find physical players who excel in run support and pass coverage. If you can find a player who does these two things well, you draft them as early as you can. The 2012 draft has a player who can stop the run, cover No. 1 wide receivers and return kicks and punts.

    Stephon Gilmore is an all-around player who can step into any defensive system and make early contributions. His value as a No. 1 cornerback—and a return man—make him a lock for the first round.

    NFL teams with need: San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

17. Zach Brown

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    With the spread of the 3-4 defense across the NFL over the past five years, there is less of a focus on draft prospects who fit the 4-3 defense at linebacker. As opposed to the flashy pass rushing skills of their 3-4 counterparts, a 4-3 linebacker is asked to be a more complete player.

    North Carolina's Zach Brown is both an elite player and a lock as the draft's best 4-3 outside linebacker. He has the speed and flexibility to drop into coverage while also showing the ability to come up in run support. 

    NFL teams with need: Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots

16. Melvin Ingram

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    Finding one position for Melvin Ingram has been tough—and maybe not even necessary. 

    Ingram is a big man, tipping the scales at 270 lbs, but he moves like a linebacker and has excelled in space when asked to play there. He's quick, strong and a very good overall athlete.

    The big question mark surrounding Ingram is how well he will play away from the talented linemates in South Carolina. We've seen far too often where a good unit makes a player shine, when in fact the individual is subpar.

    I don't see that with Ingram, but only time will tell how dominant he is outside the system.

    NFL teams with need: Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals

15. Michael Floyd

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    Michael Floyd will leave Notre Dame ready to step into an NFL offense. Based on his time under Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly, Floyd has been exposed to NFL systems during his time in South Bend.

    Floyd looks considerably quicker in 2011, showing a burst and second gear he hadn't flashed in previous years. His hands, size and this newfound speed make Floyd one of the more dangerous players in college football and the 2012 draft.

    Floyd would be a great fit in a timing-based offense. Put him in New England, Cleveland or St. Louis and he could immediately benefit the offense.

    NFL teams with need: New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

14. Ronnell Lewis

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    The 3-4 defense is here to stay, with new variations popping up in places like San Francisco and Green Bay over the last few seasons. With the switch to the 3-4 becoming more prevalent in recent years, so has the need for pass rushers to fill the two outside linebacker spots.

    The 2012 draft doesn't feature a Von Miller, but there is a Ryan Kerrigan-esque playmaker from Oklahoma.

    Ronnell Lewis is a quick athlete who plays on the line for the Sooner defense. He's quick off the edge and is a constant presence on the field. Watch an Oklahoma game and you can't help but lock on to No. 56.

    NFL teams with need: Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys

13. Lamar Miller

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    The running back position may not be justifiable as a first-round need in many cities, but teams lacking a true threat at the running back position will disagree.

    Ask the Cleveland Browns how important a running back is? The loss of Peyton Hillis this season has set their offense back. On the flip side, two running backs in Houston are carrying the Texans while Andre Johnson is hurt.

    Lamar Miller is a complete back, and as a redshirt sophomore he would leave Miami will little wear and tear. His ability as a runner and receiver reminds me of LeSean McCoy. You can get a good number of NFL teams would love to have that player in their backfield.

    NFL teams with need: Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, New York Jets

12. Manti Te'o

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    Finding a linebacker with the natural athleticism, toughness and instincts to perform well at any of the four linebacker positions is almost unheard—but that's what I see when scouting Manti Te'o.

    Te'o lines up at middle linebacker for the Irish and has experience in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. I like his ability most as the MIKE linebacker in a 4-3, where his speed will make him an excellent sideline defender and allow him to drop into deep coverage.

    NFL teams with need: Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Denver Broncos

11. Riley Reiff

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes' offensive line did not play particularly well against Michigan, but Riley Reiff was excellent in shutting down the outside pass rush.

    Reiff's long arms and slender frame may fool you, but he's a dominating pass blocker. He has natural athleticism and is quick enough to kick out and stop the edge rush. I do worry a little about his strength and ability to drop anchor against a bull rush, but to date I haven't seen anything to concern me about his ability.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts (LT), Kansas City Chiefs (RT), Miami Dolphins (RT), San Diego Chargers (RT), Detroit Lions (LT), Minnesota Vikings (LT), Arizona Cardinals (LT), Chicago Bears (LT), Atlanta Falcons (LT), Pittsburgh Steelers (LT), Philadelphia Eagles (RT)

10. Jonathan Martin

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    Jonathan Martin is a smooth operator at left tackle. He's tall, lean and athletic, with a nasty streak in the run game that makes him one of the best.

    I would trust Martin with protecting my quarterback for the next 12 seasons, and you can bet that many NFL teams will be lining up for the services of this standout left tackle. Martin is currently a safe bet for a top-12 pick should he decide to enter the 2012 draft.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts (LT), Detroit Lions (LT), Minnesota Vikings (LT), Arizona Cardinals (LT), Chicago Bears (LT), Atlanta Falcons (LT), Pittsburgh Steelers (LT)

9. Landry Jones

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    Landry Jones is falling a bit this week after seeing him play poorly in consecutive weeks. The stat sheet may not show it, but Jones is still too inconsistent when throwing the football.

    I do like Jones quite a bit, as I think his issues are much more correctable with proper technique, but he isn't the finished product that most thought he was entering the season. Jones looks like the type of quarterback who would be best served sitting for at least one season in the NFL, or playing his rookie season in a wide-open offense that didn't ask him to make many reads outside the safety and MIKE.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins

8. Justin Blackmon

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    When you see Justin Blackmon on film he stands out from the pack. At 6'1" with a chiseled frame, Blackmon is the ideal size for a possession receiver in today's NFL. His frame and strength give him the ability to beat press coverage, something he'll see often in the NFL.

    Blackmon isn't the deep threat that other receivers in this class are, but his play inside the first 15 yards is good enough to make him a top-10 player. He uses his body well to shield from defenders and is sure-handed under fire. I'd love to see Blackmon in a West Coast system like the ones run in St. Louis and Cleveland.

    NFL teams with need: Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals

7. Morris Claiborne

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    Morris Claiborne just keeps getting better. In big spots and blowouts, Claiborne rises to the occasion each week to make big plays and shutdown coverage. 

    There will be a large number of teams looking for cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL draft—and this year's crop should be loaded with talent—but no player in this class has the special blend of skills that Morris Claiborne shows. 

    He has the height (6'1") to lock down taller receivers, is fast enough to turn and run on quicker guys and has a toughness that makes him difficult to beat off the line of scrimmage. He may not be a Darrelle Revis-type prospect, but he has Nnamdi Asomugha potential.

    NFL teams with need: St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6. Vontaze Burfict

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    There are few players in this class that I like more than Vontaze Burfict. His meanness and violence at the position are a throwback to days when football players were still allowed to hit each other—and that's the type of football I get excited about when scouting defensive players.

    Burfict has the attitude of a Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley—guys who played hard right up to (and maybe a little after) the whistle. They take the rules and run right up to the wall, sometimes crashing into it head first. 

    There's a place in the NFL for a middle linebacker with 4.4 speed and a temper. Burfict, like Suh, will find a way to harness his aggression and use it to intimidate the opposition.

    NFL teams with a need: Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts (OLB), New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles

5. Robert Griffin III

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    A full scouting report on Robert Griffin is in the works, but until then let me tell you a little about this player.

    Griffin is a quarterback, and I say that because too many people see his athletic ability and think he's a runner or a receiver. He's a quarterback. No questions asked.

    Griffin is completing 74 percent of his passes, and not in a Kellen Moore dink-and-dunk way either. The Baylor offense is asking him to push the ball deep, and he's doing it with regularity. 

    Griffin is clutch. He's completing almost 73 percent of passes on third down with more than seven yards to go. He's great when pressure mounts.

    Take away all the running ability from Griffin and you'd have a good late first-round prospect at quarterback. Add in the running ability and pocket presence and you have a top-five talent.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos

4. Matt Kalil

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    There is a lot to like about Matt Kalil. As a three-year starter at USC he has become the best tackle in the country. He's smart, athletic, strong and has the ideal build to last on the edge for 10-plus seasons once in the NFL.

    I like Kalil's ability to play either left or right tackle, although I would prefer to keep him on the left side to take full advantage of his athletic ability and pass-blocking skills. NFL teams may see Kalil's experience on both sides and decide he's a perfect fit on either side of their line.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts (LT), Kansas City Chiefs (RT), Miami Dolphins (RT), San Diego Chargers (RT), Detroit Lions (LT), Minnesota Vikings (LT), Arizona Cardinals (LT), Chicago Bears (LT), Atlanta Falcons (LT), Pittsburgh Steelers (LT), Philadelphia Eagles (RT)

3. Alshon Jeffery

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    Alshon Jeffery hasn't had the type of season expected of him statistically because of horrible play at quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks. That doesn't take away from his raw ability as a receiver.

    Jeffery isn't perfect; there are some question marks about his speed and his conditioning habits, but he has amazing potential—and that's all we can grade when looking at draft prospects.

    Jeffery has the ideal size and concentration to make his mark as an outside receiver in a vertical passing attack once in the NFL. He's never going to be an elite route runner, but he will be able to get behind the coverage and make plays over the top.

    We could either be looking at the next Andre Johnson or the next Mike Williams.

    NFL teams with need: Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings

2. Trent Richardson

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    I mentioned this earlier when talking about Lamar Miller, but to some there is no way you draft a running back early in the first round anymore. The feeling is that players like Ray Rice, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy and even Arian Foster all came outside the first round and are doing just fine.

    That's true, but look at Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden or LaDainian Tomlinson. All were top-10 draft choices and all became elite players (in the case of McFadden, when healthy). You can find a running back outside the first round, but chances are he won't have the elite ability of an earlier pick.

    Trent Richardson combines everything I'd want in a running back into one package. He's blessed with rare speed, shifty hips and a receiving ability that will keep him on the field when other backs have to sub out. This is a player you build your offense around.

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

1. Andrew Luck

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    Andrew Luck continues to play the brand of football that has NFL scouts excited about his potential in the NFL.

    Ignore folks like Phil Simms, who said Luck didn't make "NFL throws," as they try to be contrary if only to draw attention to themselves. Luck is the real deal.

    The ideal scheme for Luck would be a shotgun system that lets him sit back, analyze the defense and make quick throws. The Stanford offense actually puts Luck under center often, but in the NFL he'll be asked to spread the field more and utilize his receivers—where at Stanford he often hits backs and tight ends. 

    NFL teams with need: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos 

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