So what if Zeke is a rookie? And they didn't draft him #4 overall, given that he's a prototype 3-down back, to have him in a timeshare with Morris or McFadden. Behind that line, coupled with his skills as a runner, receiver, and pass blocker, there's no way he should fall past the first round.
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. Previous Rank: 1 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: No surprise. Luck and the public have been told by the Colts that he will be their selection with the first-overall pick.
Luck had an excellent showing at the Combine. He produced strong numbers and displayed more athletic ability than many gave him credit for having. At his pro day, Luck threw the ball well and impressed scouts.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: In 2011, Luck had a superb season. Overall, he was highly efficient and continued his rock-solid play, leading Stanford to an 11-2 record. After a signature win over USC late in the season, Luck didn't have his best games against Oregon and California. While those outings weren't his prettiest, he was extremely accurate this year and excellent in his decision making. Luck's intelligence and composure are very advanced for a quarterback prospect. His mobility to run with the ball and throw precisely while scrambling are very rare.
To end the season, Luck played well against Oklahoma State, and if it weren't for some missed field goals, he would have led Stanford to a victory. In 2011, Luck completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,517 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Three of his picks came on tipped passes. The cerebral signal caller took over a lot of the play calling for the Cardinal, making them from the entire playbook, not just a choice among three or four plays.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Andrew Luck is the real deal, and looks like one of the safest quarterbacks to enter the NFL in the past decade. The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder is extremely intelligent and has worked hard to master a pro offense. Luck completed an amazing 71 percent of his passes as a sophomore. He threw for 32 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. Luck also ran for 453 yards and three scores. There is a big target on Luck entering the season, but he is good enough to overcome extra attention. .
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Previous Rank: 2 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Griffin will be the second-overall pick to the Redskins. The announcement is just a formality.
Griffin was one of the biggest stars of the Combine. He really impressed teams with his intangibles. On the field, Griffin showed his elite athleticism by racing an official 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds. Griffin threw for NFL scouts at his pro day and reportedly looked outstanding. He worked well under center, which was impressive considering he rarely did that at Baylor. It just illustrates what a dynamic athlete Griffin truly is.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Griffin's legend has been added to the elite of college football history since he won the Heisman Trophy. It was much deserved as Griffin did the most with the least this year. Despite a bad defense and suspect offensive line, he led his team to unlikely victories throughout the regular season, starting with TCU and ending with Oklahoma and Texas. The redshirt junior finished college with a good performance against Washington in the Alamo Bowl.
Amazingly, Griffin pushed the Bears to a 45-38 last-second victory over the Sooners. It was the first time in school history that Baylor beat Oklahoma. Griffin has the 'it' factor where he raises the level of play of those around him. In crunch time, he takes his play to another level and comes through in the clutch.
Griffin has a powerful arm with unbelievable accuracy on passes downfield. He is extremely athletic and his track speed is evident with how difficult it is for defenses to contain him. In 2011, Griffin completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,293 yards with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns.
11/1/11: Griffin has been one of the best players in college football this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pounder is a big play machine. He has a strong arm and is extremely accurate throwing the ball. Griffin is also very intelligent and a high character individual. He has the makings of a franchise quarterback.
NFL Matches: After the trade between the Redskins and the Rams, Griffin is locked in for Washington as the second-overall pick. He is a good fit for the offense, and it wouldn't be surprising if Griffin provides a big impact as a rookie in a similar manner to Cam Newton or Andy Dalton. Griffin is already regularly meeting with the Redskins' coaches to go over the playbook.
Matt Kalil, OT, USC. Previous Rank: 3 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Kalil (6-6, 306) had an impressive Combine and ended any talk of being the second-rated offensive tackle. He looks strong as a top-five pick.
Kalil was said to have had an impressive pro day. Charley Casserly compared him to Joe Thomas. Since the end of this season, Kalil, an early-entry, has added 10 pounds of muscle that should help him to improve his run blocking.
2/21/12: Regular season and post-season summary: Throughout 2011, Kalil was a superb blind-side protector for Matt Barkley. Kalil even played well against Stanford, and the Cardinal's pack of dangerous edge rushers. Last season, the junior tackle had a string of dominant performances as a pass protector.
In the NFL, Kalil is going to need to add some more power. That is the one thing missing from his game. He doesn't blast linemen off the line of scrimmage in the ground game. Adding strength will allow Kalil to improve his run blocking. However, Kalil's pass blocking is phenomenal, and he has the makings to be an elite tackle to protect a franchise quarterback. Some pundits are rating him behind Riley Reiff, but Kalil is a better pass protector who faced a tougher schedule of pass rushers. Because of that, he is the safer pick as a blind-side protector in the NFL.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Matt Kalil is a top-flight, left tackle prospect. His quality play kept Tyron Smith on the right side last year. Kalil has the agility to be a top pass blocker. Kalil's father played in the NFL and his brother Ryan is a good center for the Carolina Panthers. If Matt Kalil stays healthy, he should be at or near the top of the first-round next April.
NFL Matches: Despite all the noise, Kalil should go to Minnesota with the third-overall pick. The Vikings have made noise that they prefer LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, but that seems more like Minnesota trying to generate a trade market with Cleveland, Tampa Bay or St. Louis. It would be a mistake if the Vikings pass on Kalil.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. Previous Rank: 4 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Blackmon (6-1, 207) did not run the 40 at the Combine, but he did some of the field-receiving drills. At his pro day on March 9th, Blackmon silenced the ridiculous speed questions when he ran his two 40s in the 4.41-4.45 range. Blackmon was said to have impressed Cleveland, Minnesota and St. Louis. All three teams were reported to have heavy contingents at his pro day.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: To end his collegiate career, Blackmon had a dominant game against Stanford while playing through a leg infection. He recorded eight receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Blackmon showed how fast he is with scores of 67 and 43 yards. The Cardinal had no answer to stop him.
Blackmon was a mismatch for all the defenses in the Big XII in 2011. He saw constant double teams and still remained productive. Blackmon can get separation running routes in all levels of the defense. He has speed, quickness, size, strength and, normally, good hands. The only thing Blackmon needs to work on entering the NFL is his ball security. He looks like a future No.1 receiver with Pro Bowl potential.
This year, Blackmon had big games against: Arizona, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M. When the Cowboys when up against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, he had his multi-season streak of 100-yard receiving games broken. After 14 straight 100+ games, Blackmon was held to 57 yards on seven receptions with one touchdown. In 2011, he had 121 receptions for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. Blackmon announced on the field after the win over Stanford that he will enter the 2012 draft. It was nice to see a player be clear for once and not stir up the dramatics by delaying their announcement for some university press conference.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Justin Blackmon almost entered the 2011 NFL Draft but decided to return to the Cowboys. Blackmon was a dynamite playmaker in 2010. He combines good quickness, straight line speed and route-running to constantly gain separation from defensive backs. Blackmon produced 1,782 yards on 111 catches with 20 touchdowns. He also was extremely consistent. Blackmon had over 100 yards receiving in every game he played in last season. A DUI arrest caused him to miss a game last year, but if Blackmon is able to stay out of trouble and be productive, his draft stock shouldn't be affected.
NFL Matches: Blackmon could go as high as No. 3 to the Vikings or to the Browns at No.4. It seems extremely unlikely that the Rams would pass on him at No. 6, and he shouldn't fall further than the Jaguars at No. 7.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Previous Rank: 5 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Claiborne performed well at the Scouting Combine. He didn't have an all-world 40 time at 4.47, but was excellent in the field drills. Claiborne did what he needed to cement his status as the first cornerback to be drafted in the draft.
At his pro day, Claiborne was impressive, although he revealed that he will undergo wrist surgery from an injury sustained in 2011. Claiborne should be ready for his rookie season. His terrible Wonderlic score of a four shouldn't impact his stock significantly. There is talk that Claiborne has a learning disability.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: All season, Claiborne was a consistent playmaker for LSU's superb defense. He had a signature performance for the Tigers in their first game against the Crimson Tide. The junior was rock solid in pass coverage and had an excellent interception that he returned 33 yards. Claiborne made a good read, picking up the H-back running an out route, and was able to jump the route. His clutch interception set up the game-tying field goal that would eventually force overtime. Claiborne also had three tackles and a pass broken up in the game. He was solid but quiet in the rematch.
Claiborne had great performances against Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Arkansas and West Virginia. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder had 51 tackles with six passes broken up to go along with his six interceptions this season. Furthermore, Claiborne averaged 26 yards per punt return. He provided excellent pass coverage in man and zone. Claiborne possesses a special combination of speed and instincts.
NFL Matches: Claiborne shouldn't fall out of the top 10. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Carolina all could consider him. He should go in the No. 4-6 range. The Buccaneers look like his most likely landing spot. Claiborne won't fall further than the Panthers at the back of the top 10.
Top 10 Prospects:
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 6 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Richardson was unable to work out at the Combine following the minor knee surgery he had after the season. Richardson held a work out for scouts, and the returns were that he looked phenomenal.
The devaluing of the running back position was working against Richardson, but his stock has enjoyed a recent surge. He is projected by many to go with the fourth or fifth pick. Many place Richardson ahead of Blackmon and Claiborne, but I rate the others higher because of longevity. They could have productive careers into their 30s while Richardson could be nearing the end of his career at or before hitting 30 years of age. That's just the way it goes for running backs in the NFL.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Richardson had a dominant 2011 regular season, shredding the SEC's talented defenses. He fought hard and performed well in the BCS Championship Game, Part I. Richardson ran the ball 23 times for 89 yards and caught five passes for 80 yards. In the rematch, he ran for 96 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. Richardson produced in both games even with the Tigers' talented defense focused on stopping him. He had also big games against Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn and Penn State.
In 2011, the junior running back had 24 total touchdowns (21 rushing, three receiving). He ran for 1,679 yards while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Richardson also caught 29 passes for 338 yards. He is a three down back who has the complete package with speed, power, elusiveness and vision. Richardson decided to go pro and skip his senior season.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Trent Richardson finally gets the chance to be the lead dog at Alabama. He combines good size (5-11, 224) with excellent speed to break off long runs. After averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his first two seasons, Richardson is poised to have a big season in 2011 when he is the focal point for Alabama's offense.
NFL Matches: The highest Richardson could hope to go would be to Cleveland at No. 4. Tampa Bay or St. Louis could take him at No. 5 or 6, respectively. Right now, it looks like he will be the fourth or fifth pick.
Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College. Previous Rank: 7 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Kuechly had a massive performance at the Combine with strong 40 times (4.58 official and 4.50 unofficial) and good numbers in all the tests. He also did well in the field drills. Kuechly proved that he is an underrated athlete by putting on display that he has the complete package: speed, strength, explosiveness and intelligence.
Kuechly told Walterfootball.com that he would sit on his Combine numbers at his pro day and just do position drills. At the pro day, Kuechly was reported to execute well in the linebacker drills. He could be a 10-year fix at linebacker and is one of the safest picks in the draft class.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Kuechly was extremely torn about leaving school, but he entered the draft. Kuechly had a fantastic ending to his career. Against Miami, he set ACC and school records for career tackle totals, along with providing the game-winning score on a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. Kuechly had nine tackles and his interception, plus a pass breakup that came deep downfield in tight coverage on wide receiver Tommy Streeter.
Kuechly was all over the field against Florida State, recording 20 tackles (plus helped force a fumble, but was not officially credited with it). He had a nice blitz and hit on quarterback E.J. Manuel. All game, Kuechly made big plays, and he was always around the football.
This season, the junior was a dynamic (and seemingly omnipresent) player who showed top-notch intelligence and instincts. For the year, he amassed 191 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and three interceptions. Kuechly was the lone bright spot on a disappointing team. If Boston College had been bowl eligible, he would have, almost certainly, exceeded 200 tackles for 2011, and perhaps won even more postseason awards. Kuechly's collegiate career tackle total will stay at 532.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Kuechly led the nation in tackles in 2010 with 183. That included 110 solo tackles. The All-American also contributed 10.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions. Kuechly has fabulous instincts and is extremely intelligent. He is extremely hard-working and should do a good job of picking up an NFL playbook quickly. While Kuechly is not the most athletic prospect, he is a pure football player.
NFL Matches: It wouldn't be surprising if Kuechly goes to a surprise team in the top half of the first round. Kansas City, Arizona and Seattle could use linebacker help, while Philadelphia at No. 15 clearly would receive an instant, massive upgrade in Kuechly. He could even crack the top 10. In his interview with Walterfootball.com, Kuechly said he has pre-draft visits set up with Carolina and Tennessee. He will have a big appeal to teams that want linebacker help because there is a big drop off after him. Kuechly is said to be on the short list for the Panthers pick at No.9.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina. Previous Rank: 8 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Ingram was one of the top defensive performers at the Combine. He blazed an unofficial 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds. In the bag drills, Ingram was dominant. His lateral movement and agility to play in space were extremely impressive. He is a unique athlete who showed the capacity to be an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. Some pundits are questioning his ability to play in a 4-3 defense.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: All week at the Senior Bowl, Ingram was dominant in pass-rushing one-on-ones. He has fabulous speed to go along with real power. Ingram bull rushed linemen while also blazing by them around the corner. He has a good rip move and spin move to beat offensive linemen.
Ingram is special player who routinely makes game-changing plays. In 2011, he had 48 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions and two passes batted away. Injuries slowed him down in the middle of the season, but Ingram played well against Nebraska and finished his career on a high note. He is a well-rounded player who does everything well.
Ingram has versatile size (6-1, 264) that allows him to play both defensive end and tackle in a 4-3 defense. He is a special athlete with a unique combination of speed and agility. In the first game of 2011, the senior recorded an interception against East Carolina. Facing Georgia, Ingram ran a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and returned a fumble five yards for another touchdown after beating Cordy Glenn on the play. He also recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Vanderbilt.
In 2010, Ingram was third in the SEC in sacks with nine (which led the Gamecocks). He also had 11 tackles for a loss, 28 tackles and one forced fumble. Ingram is strong at the point of attack and has the ability to rush from defensive tackle on passing downs. South Carolina played him at end and tackle.
NFL Matches: Ingram looks like he could crack the top 10 via the Jaguars. If they pass, the Dolphins, Panthers and Seahawks could all consider Ingram, and he would be a good fit in any defense. Ingram shouldn't fall further than the middle of the first round. The Jets could end that fall at No. 16, and there are rumors that New York will trade up for him.
David DeCastro, G, Stanford. Previous Rank: 9 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: DeCastro was rock solid at the Combine. He glided through the field drills with ease and showed phenomenal knee bend. DeCastro was spectacular in the bag drills at his pro day. However, he took some snaps at center and scouts were said to be unimpressed with his snapping. A position change to center doesn't sound likely.
Still, DeCastro is one of the safest picks in the entire draft and is probably the best guard prospect to enter the NFL since Steve Hutchinson.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: DeCastro was dominant all season, opening up holes in the ground game and doing superbly in pass protection. He also had an overwhelming performance against Washington. Unfortunately, DeCastro rarely went against standout defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, but when they matched up, DeCastro beat him on every rep.
The 6-foot-4, 316-pounder was the leader of Stanford's offensive line, and he was also a leader on a par with Andrew Luck in the Cardinal locker room. One of the reasons why is because DeCastro backs it up with superb play on the field. He is a powerful run blocker who blasts open holes. Furthermore, DeCastro gets to blocks on the second level of the defense and pulls well. He is also an excellent pass blocker. DeCastro should be able to start immediately in the NFL and play well. He decided to join teammates Luck and Martin and enter the 2012 draft.
NFL Matches: There are many teams that could use guard help, and it wouldn't be surprising if a team trades up for DeCastro. He is that dominant and that safe of a pick. In the teens, the Chiefs, Cardinals, Cowboys, Bengals, Chargers and Bears are all options to pick up the dominant guard.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Previous Rank: 10 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Floyd (6-3, 220) put any concerns about his speed to rest when he ripped off a 4.47 40-yard dash time with a 10-yard split of 1.57. It was an striking time for a wide out who has Floyd's height and strength. In the field drills, he displayed good hands and smooth route running.
It is imperative for Floyd that he makes a good impression during his team visits. He is taking a ton of team visits, with trips to: Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tennessee and the New York Jets.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Floyd roasted many secondaries in 2011. He had big games against Purdue, Navy, South Florida and Michigan. For the regular season, the senior collected 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He was extremely consistent as a producer for the Fighting Irish. In 2010, Floyd caught 79 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 44 receptions for 795 yards and nine touchdowns. Floyd had a strong debut as a freshman in 2008 with 48 catches for 719 yards and seven scores.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has excellent size, speed, quickness and body control. He is a nightmare matchup for defensive backs. The big target also has very good hands and seldom drops passes. Floyd has character concerns, but he is a special player on the field. Floyd looks like a No.1 receiver in the NFL with big-play ability and should be a good fit in any pro offense.
NFL Matches: There are a lot of teams that could consider Floyd in the top 20. The Jaguars, Dolphins, Panthers, Cardinals, Eagles, Jets, Chargers, Bears and Titans all need receiver help. He shouldn't fall out of the top 20, assuming teams are convinced that his off-the-field troubles are behind him. Floyd is likely to go in the top half of the first round.
Top 15 Prospects:
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Previous Rank: 11 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Coples (6-6, 284) had a mixed outing at the Combine. He had a fast 40-yard dash (4.72), but was just average in the field drills. Members of the media are questioning Coples' motor and desire. Impressing teams on his pre-draft visits is going to be critical.
Coples was said to be strong at his pro day, impressing in the defensive line drills and faring decently in the linebacker drills. In an interview on NFL Network, he admitted to producing below his capabilities as a senior, and it wouldn't be surprising if Coples slides lower than expected on draft day.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Coples had a dominant week at the Senior Bowl. He resoundingly won matchups against potential first-round offensive linemen with a combination of speed and power. Coples was the highest-ranked prospect at the Senior Bowl, and he validated that evaluation with a dominant week. Coples is a developed pass rusher who has moves to go along with his unique skill set.
The Tar Heels' standout finished the regular season strong with big games against Duke, Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson. He had a sack-fumble against Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd on a speed rush versus the left tackle. Coples had another sack on a bull rush through a guard, but a facemask penalty by a teammate canceled out the play. There were a few sacks this year that he lost due to penalties.
Coples had a solid 2011, collecting 55 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a plethora of quarterback hurries. He faced consistent double teams but steadily pressured the quarterback. Coples played the run well all year. He is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. Coples has the power to rush from defensive tackle, and the special speed to beat tackles around the edge. He also played well as a 3-4 defensive end when North Carolina went to that scheme.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: After producing five sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2009, Quinton Coples doubled his sack total last season. He also contributed 15.5 tackles for a loss, 59 tackles and two forced fumbles. At 6-foot-6, 284-pounds, Coples is powerful at the point of attack and mixes speed and strength to beat blockers. Coples looks like a prototypical defensive end for a 4-3 defense.
NFL Matches: Coples should go in the top half of the draft with Carolina, Miami and Buffalo all in the market for a defensive end. With the Dolphins going to 4-3 defense, they need an end like Coples. The Seahawks also need help at end, and it is possible that he could fall to their pick.
Other teams in the top 20 that could consider Coples if he has a draft free fall include Cincinnati, Chicago and Tennessee. Interestingly, Coples has only had pre-draft visits to teams picking in the top 10: St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Miami.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama. Previous Rank: 12 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Jenkins has been on a real draft Odyssey. As a player, his stock is going up, and many believe that he is the best cover corner in the draft. Off the field, Jenkins is a mess and that is scaring a lot of teams off. He was about to switch agents when his former agent claimed that he fired Jenkins. Sources said it was a case of the agent trying to save face and dump Jenkins before he could be dumped.
Some anonymous scouts have stated Jenkins continued to use drugs at North Alabama, a charge that has been denied by Jenkins and the university. They've stated that Jenkins had frequent random drug tests and he passed all of them.
Jenkins had pre-draft visits with the Rams, Colts and Eagles. He needed to nail them in order to be sure he goes in the top 35 on draft day.
Jenkins performed well at the Combine. He was very fluid and quick in the field drills to show his natural potential as a man-coverage cornerback. Jenkins ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 with a 10-yard split of 1.47. The interviews with teams were even more critical for him than what he did at the workouts.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Jenkins (5-9, 191) does not have huge size, but he has a top-15 skill set as a pure cover corner. His biggest negative is multiple drug arrests that got him kicked out of Florida. If Jenkins had stayed out of trouble, he easily would have been a high first-round pick.
For those that may have forgotten, Jenkins showed why he was viewed as a top-15 pick in the 2012 draft at the Senior Bowl. All week, he had blanket coverage on receivers. Jenkins is very fast and athletic, having the ability to run with receivers in and out of their routes. Not one of the receivers at the Senior Bowl was too much for him.
This year, for North Alabama, Jenkins returned 18 punts for 390 yards (21.7 average) with three touchdowns and a long return of 92 yards. He also had 53 tackles with four tackles for a loss, two interceptions, six passes broken up and a fumble returned 49 yards for a score. Obviously, Jenkins dominated the weak competition, as he was supposed to. His draft stock is dependent on him staying out of legal trouble and interviewing well with teams in the months prior to the draft.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Jenkins was a starter as a true freshman, opposite Joe Haden, in 2008 when the Gators won the National Championship. Jenkins recorded three interceptions in 2010 to go along with 44 tackles and eight passes defensed. He is fast with great feet and athleticism. Jenkins can flip his hips and run with speed receivers. Even at under six-foot, he had success going against the best big receivers he saw in the SEC. Georgia's A.J. Green and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery didn't record a 100-yard game against Jenkins.
NFL Matches: Jenkins' landing spot is hard to predict because of his off-the-field problems. The Cowboys and Bengals both need cornerback help. Kirkpatrick could land with one while Jenkins could be with the other. However, he could also have a draft-day slide. If Jenkins falls into the 20s, he could land with Detroit, Denver or New England. It is possible that Jenkins could fall to day two of the draft and land with the Rams or Colts.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Previous Rank: 13 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Cox is a fast and versatile athlete who had a fabulous performance at the Combine, looking good in every test. The big defensive tackle displayed quick feet and athleticism in the bag drills. The 6-foot-4, 298-pounder also had a 40 time of 4.79 with a 10-yard split of 1.63. Those are fast times for a tackle pushing 300 pounds. He sat on his Combine numbers and just did field drills at his pro day. His stock is rising.
Cox had a good 2011 season where he put some heat on the quarterback and was a quality run defender. Even though suspended for the first game of 2011, he still recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and one forced fumble.
For the NFL, Cox has the ability to play tackle in a 4-3 defense, but also the flexibility to slide outside at defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He was moved around the line at Mississippi State and displays the length, power and speed to do that in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Because of his versatility, Cox could go to many teams that need defensive line help. There are rumors that he is in play for the Rams pick at No.6. The Panthers could consider him with the ninth selection. Cox also looks like a good fit for Philadelphia in the middle of the first round.
Tennessee needs help on its defensive line, and Cox would be a nice fit for the team, but it would probably have to trade up for him. He could land with a surprise team. Cox has visits with the Cowboys, Rams and Titans.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 14 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Kirkpatrick had a rather average Combine, although some were of the opinion that he hurt himself with his performance in the field drills. Kirkpatrick ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds. He was said to have performed better at his pro day and solidified his stock in the top 20 of the draft.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Kirkpatrick had the charges dropped from his arrest for pot possession shortly after declaring for the draft. The marijuana allegedly was owned by a friend who was in the car with him. Having the charges dropped definitely helps Kirkpatrick, but NFL teams will still question his decision making and his off-the-field associations.
Kirkpatrick had a solid season for Alabama and featured tight coverage throughout 2011. He played well in both contests versus LSU. Kirkpatrick did an excellent job of virtually shutting down wide receiver Reuben Randle in both games. Kirkpatrick was a standout in the rematch with tackles for a loss.
The junior did his part to limit Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers during their matchups. Kirkpatrick also played well against Arkansas and Penn State. This year, he had 30 tackles (24 solo) with nine passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but did not record an interception. Kirkpatrick has a unique skill set with his combination of height and speed. He looks like he could quickly be a starting cornerback in the NFL.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: In his first year as a starter, Dre Kirkpatrick lived up to the hype from his days as a highly touted recruit. He is a physical defender who combines imposing size and physicality with very good speed. At 6-foot-3, 192-pounds, Kirkpatrick has the height and leaping ability to play with any big receiver in the NFL. He recorded 53 tackles with three interceptions and seven passes broken up last year. Teams will probably throw to the other side of the field in 2011, so that could hurt his stats but it shouldn't hurt his draft status.
NFL Matches: There are lot of teams that will host the Crimson Tide cornerback on pre-draft visits to get to know him better. They include: Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Dallas, Tennessee, Detroit and Baltimore. Kirkpatrick shouldn't fall out of the top-25 picks with teams like Cincinnati and Detroit badly needing a young cornerback.
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. Previous Rank: 15 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Reiff had a disappointing Combine. His arms, 33 1/4", are short for a left tackle and that is a legitimate concern about him. The rest of his Combine was rather average. Reiff maintains a high draft grade in large part because of the demand at the position.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Reiff was rock solid in 2011. He had a series of dominant games protecting his quarterback's blind side, but did not go up against any elite ends who really tested him. In the Insight Bowl, Reiff did not allow a sack to Sooners defensive end Frank Alexander, the best pass rusher on the Hawkeyes' schedule. However, Reiff was beaten for two sacks in that game, but one of them wasn't his fault, coming on a dumb play by his quarterback.
Throughout 2011, Reiff was a functional run blocker. However, he could use some more power and football functional strength for the ground game in the NFL.
Reiff saw a quality test against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive end Brandon Lindsey. Reiff excelled against Lindsey, containing him on almost every play that they were matched up on. Reiff allowed a sack by Pittsburgh's Aaron Randle, but that could have been a result of a miscommunication with an Iowa guard. It was good for Reiff's draft stock that he could demonstrate success against two of the better pass rushers on his schedule in Lindsey and Alexander.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Riley Reiff is a big and athletic left tackle. He is a good downhill run blocker and has good technique as a pass blocker. Reiff has good feet and mirrors defensive ends well as they try to get upfield.
NFL Matches: Reiff could go as high as No. 9 to the Panthers. After Carolina, there are a few teams that could target the Iowa standout. Buffalo, Kansas City and Arizona are all potential landing spots. Right now, it looks like Reiff has a good shot of going to the Bills with the 10th pick. If Buffalo passes on him, he probably will go to Arizona.
Top 20 Prospects:
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. Previous Rank: 18 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Brockers has had a late surge in his draft stock and is now being projected by many to be a mid-first-round pick. He is the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in the draft.
Brockers had somewhat of a disappointing Combine, logging only 19 reps in the bench press. Some great NFL defensive linemen have had low totals in the bench, but it still was a disappointing total. He also didn't impress in the 40 or the other tests.
Brockers was said to perform better during his pro day, but again logged a disappointing total on the bench press with 21 reps. It doesn't appear that Brockers worked very much to improve his bench-press performance in the month between the Combine and his pro day.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Brockers was one of the leaders of a group of future NFL defensive linemen. He was a disruptive force in 2011. Brockers totaled 54 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and one blocked kick this season. Fast and strong, he is a well-rounded player. He is a fantastic run defender that should improve his pass rushing in the NFL. The 6-foot-5, 322-pounder could stay as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or move to defensive end in a 3-4 set.
NFL Matches: Brockers' stock has been all over place. He could go as high as Carolina, or fall into the 20s. His ability to be a five-technique defensive end opens him up to 3-4 defenses. Good fits for him include Philadelphia, Denver, New England and Green Bay. Brockers is taking more pre-draft visits than any other prospect. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that he is grading out in the No. 10-30 range on teams' draft boards. Thus, a lot of teams feel they could have a shot at him and are looking to get to know him better.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. Previous Rank: 16 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Poe rocketed into the top 25 after his superstar performance at the Scouting Combine. The mammoth defensive tackle created a stir with his combination of power and speed. He topped the Combine with 44 reps on the bench press. The 6-foot-4, 346-pounder also ran staggering unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.87 and 4.94 seconds (his official time was 4.98).
Poe's draft stock suffers from criticisms that he takes plays off and questions as to why he didn't produce more against weak competition considering his elite athleticism. Those are valid concerns that Poe needs to address adequately in his team visits.
The early-entry totaled 33 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 2011. He had 41 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks as a sophmore.
Entering the Combine, Poe was already the top 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the 2012 draft class, and he drastically increased his grade. Poe's position can be a hard one for 3-4 teams to find. A quality one-technique can have a huge impact, and there are a number of 3-4 defenses that are looking to find a new nose tackle.
Poe's movement skills are tantalizing for defensive coaches to place him at different spots on the defensive line to create size/speed mismatches. He will also have a big appeal to 4-3 teams looking for a dynamic interior presence on the defensive line. After his Combine performance, Poe has moved into the top 20 of the draft, and he could warrant consideration in the top 10.
NFL Matches: Poe could be a fit for the Panthers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cowboys and Eagles in the first half of the first round. That would put him in the No. 9-16 range of the first round. Allegedly, Dallas likes him a lot. Poe could fall in the draft, but shouldn't get past a team like the Steelers at pick No. 24.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Previous Rank: 17 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: At the Combine, Wright (5-10, 196) ran much slower than expected with an official 40 time of 4.61. For the speedy playmaker, it was surprising that he didn't challenge for one of the fastest 40 times among the wide outs.
Wright bounced back at his pro day with 40 times in the mid 4.4s. That is the range that he was expected to run at the Combine. There also was praise for how Wright looked in the receiving drills, so he did his part to stop his slide and send his stock back toward the top-20 picks of the draft. More important than the two workouts, Wright has a lot of good tape.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Wright was the No. 1 target for star Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 2011, Wright torched Big XII defenses with big plays downfield. All season, he raced through secondaries with special deep speed to get open for Griffin.
Wright is very adept at getting separation downfield because of good route running to go along with how fast he is. Wright is very good at running go routes and stop-and-go routes. Even when cornerbacks give him a sizable cushion, he eats up the space quickly and gets onto corners before they expect him. The only defensive back who really defended Wright reasonably well was Washington's Desmond Trufant.
As a senior, Wright caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. It was his best collegiate season, and he improved his production each season. As a freshman, Wright had 50 receptions for 649 yards and five scores. In 2009, he made 66 catches for 740 yards and four touchdowns. As a junior, Wright snatched 78 for 952 yards and seven touchdowns.
For his career, the senior had 302 receptions for 4,004 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also totaled 425 yards rushing and two scores. Despite being undersized, Wright never missed a game with an injury during his collegiate career. He had at least two receptions in every game he played at Baylor.
NFL Matches: Finding smaller speed receivers is en vogue in the NFL, and Wright should definitely benefit from that. He could fit a lot of teams in the first round including the Jaguars, Panthers, Jets, Bears, Titans, Browns, Broncos, Texans and Patriots.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois. Previous Rank: 19 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Mercilus has also had a late upswing in his draft stock with many moving him into the top 20. His 2011 tape is just too productive to ignore.
Mercilus was solid at the Combine. He had an unofficial 40 time of 4.63 with 27 reps on the bench press. Mercilus also looked good with his movement skills and agility in the field work. His performance is evidence that he could be considered as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Mercilus was said to have a strong pro day and has solidified his draft stock even further.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: A typical game from Mercilus in 2011 featured a sack and a forced fumble. He led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles. The junior stockpiled 57 tackles with 22.5 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
Mercilus showed no mercy this season to offensive tackles and quarterbacks. All year long, he beat tackles with a combination of speed, strength and athleticism. Mercilus is extremely fast and gets upfield in a hurry. His speed puts offensive tackles on their heels, and he possesses the athleticism to drop his hips and shoulder to be able to turn toward the quarterback. Mercilus' strength can take linemen by surprise, and he has a powerful bull rush. In run defense, Mercilus anchors and holds his ground well. He needs to work on shedding blocks in order to be able to make more tackles in the ground game.
Facing Wisconsin, Mercilus played well against the best offensive line he has saw this season. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder recorded a sack-fumble came when he bull rushed offensive tackle Josh Oglesby (6-7, 330) into the quarterback and tossed him aside to smack the ball out of Russell Wilson's hands and take him down hard. Previously, Mercilus beat Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams for 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Mercilus has declared for the 2012 draft.
NFL Matches: Mercilus could push his way into the consideration in the top half of the draft. He has a season of phenomenal tape from 2011. The Browns, Lions, Bears and Titans are 4-3 teams that could consider him in the latter half of the first round.
Mercilus also has the speed and athleticism to serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That would make him an option for the Jets, Chargers, Patriots and Packers.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 20 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Upshaw had a disappointing Combine performance. He looked a little too big in the linebacker agility drills, so Upshaw may want to trim down to try to stay in that role in the NFL. He also had a less than expected total of 22 reps on the bench press.
Upshaw didn't workout at his pro day because of knee tendinitis and, allegedly, he is frustrating some evaluators. Later on, Upshaw did a work out for scouts, but he didn't do enough to answer concerns about his scheme fit. Upshaw may be too heavy for outside linebacker and that could force him to play defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He didn't play that position in college, so that makes him a bigger draft risk.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Upshaw was an unrelenting pass-rushing force at the Senior Bowl. The muscular senior checked in at 6-foot-1, 273-pounds. That was heavier than expected, but Upshaw carries that weight extremely well and looks like a bear. On the field in Mobile, it was amazing to see how much speed and flexibility he possess at that weight.
Upshaw has natural pad level that he uses to get under the pads of linemen and bull rush them back into the pocket. Upshaw also has the speed to go around the edge. The Senior Bowl showed his ability to be a 4-3 defensive end as well as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Part way through the 2011 season, Upshaw got on a hot streak. He had good games against Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas. Upshaw gave the LSU offensive line all it could handle in both contests. He was consistently pressuring the quarterback and defended the run well. Upshaw had one sack but had a number of near sacks with hits on the quarterback in the first outing. He finished the evening with six tackles and the sack. In the rematch, the senior had seven tackles with a sack.
This year, Upshaw recorded 52 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. He is proving to be the top 3-4 outside linebacker in the 2012 draft. Upshaw has a good repertoire of moves off the edge. He is strong and fast while playing the run well.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Courtney Upshaw offers the schematic flexibility that many 3-4 teams love to add in their front seven defenders. Last season, he led the Crimson Tide with seven sacks. Upshaw also contributed 52 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. He could be a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
NFL Matches: If Upshaw trims down to play outside linebacker, he looks like he would be a great fit for the Jets at pick No. 16. Another team that could use him is the Chargers at No. 18. One San Diego beat writer said the Chargers won't pass on Upshaw if he gets to their pick. The Bengals, Bears, Titans and Lions could also consider him for their 4-3 defenses. Cincinnati is said to want Upshaw badly. If he falls in the draft, Upshaw could be an option for the Texans, Patriots and Packers in the 20s.
Top 25 Prospects:
Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Previous Rank: 21 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Barron is the most NFL-ready safety in the draft class. He was unable to work out at the Combine or his pro day after having double-hernia surgery following the end of the season. The biggest negative with Barron's draft stock is concern about his durability. After all, he also missed time in each of the last two seasons, with a pectoral tear in 2010, and with torn rib cartilage in 2011. Teams are going to want to examine his health in the lead up to the draft.
There is a need at safety and that helps Barron's draft stock. He had a strong senior season, totaling 68 tackles (43 solo), five passes broken up, five tackles for a loss, one sack and two interceptions. Barron played well against LSU this year, making six tackles and a pick in the first game and recording a sack in the National Championship. He is one of the hardest hitting safeties in the draft.
Barron also has excellent instincts. He stays around the ball and has the propensity to make clutch plays. Entering the NFL, Barron has a lot of experience in a complex defense and should be able to make a quick transition to the next level.
8/26/11: Mark Barron had some inconsistent play in 2010, followed by a misdemeanor arrest this spring. He broke out with a dynamite sophomore season, recording seven interceptions with 76 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 11 passes broken up. Last year, Barron had 75 tackles with three interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble. There were times where Barron was beat in pass coverage, and he will have to fix that in 2011 to improve his draft stock. Barron is a hard-hitter, and a very good safety in run support who is consistently around the ball. He definitely looks like a strong safety in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Barron is projected to go in the middle of the first round. The Jets, Cowboys, Bengals and Chargers seem to be his most likely landing spots. If he falls into the 20s, the Lions, Steelers, Patriots, Packers and Ravens could all consider him. It seems more likely that Barron will land with Dallas, Cincinnati or the New York Jets. There are reports that the Bills could take him at 10, but that sounds like Buffalo attempting to get a team to trade up for Barron.
Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 23 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Hightower showed off excellent speed (a 4.62 in the 40) at the Combine for such a big, heavy linebacker. He has the size of a defensive end with the speed of a starting linebacker. Hightower performed well in the field drills too. He stood out at the Crimson Tide's pro day also. The two performances have validated his stock as a first-round pick.
Hightower had a good season for Alabama. He was a tough, in-the-box defender and increased his splash plays. Hightower has shown the ability to be a dangerous blitzer as well. He looks much faster than he did in 2010 when he was in his first season back from knee surgery. Hightower had 85 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception and three passes batted away this season. He had a dominant game against Tennessee and played well versus LSU. Against Georgia Southern, Hightower blocked a field goal and it looked like he was spiking a volleyball.
Hightower is a real presence in the tackle box, and would fit well on the inside of a 3-4 defense. On passing downs, he could rush the passer from outside linebacker, or blitz from the interior. Hightower may not have the speed and movement skills to be a three-down linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
8/25/11: Dont'a Hightower is a physical, in-the-box defender. He takes on and beats offensive linemen regularly without difficulty. The intelligent Hightower is the signal caller for the Crimson Tide defense, a complex collegiate scheme. A season-ending knee injury cost Hightower the majority of the 2009 season. He came back last year to record 69 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss. Hightower should be more productive in 2011 as he gets further away from the injury. He has looked slow at times, especially early in the year, and did not look as fluid as he did before the injury. Hightower looks like he would have to be a 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL. He does not have the range to be a 4-3 middle linebacker that can get to runs on the perimeter.
NFL Matches: The consensus opinion is that Hightower will go to the Steelers at No. 24. If he falls past them, he could land with Houston or Green Bay. Some think that Hightower could be a surprise player that goes in the top 20.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State. Previous Rank: 24 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: McClellin improved his draft stock with a quality season, but it was hurt when he weighed in at 248 pounds at the Senior Bowl. At that weight, McClellin is really only an option to be a 3-4 outside linebacker and does not have the size necessary to be a 4-3 base end.
In the month leading up to the Combine, McClellin added 12 pounds. He then had an excellent performance in Indianapolis with a fast 40 (4.62) and a great showing in the field drills. At the heavier weight, some 4-3 teams may consider McClellin for end, but he still will fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. McClellin's stock has been rising high over the past few months and he could crack the first round.
McClellin recorded 50 tackles, seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a blocked kick in 2011. Aside from playing as a traditional defensive end, he lined up for the Broncos as both a stand-up rush linebacker and an inside linebacker.
Playing all over the front seven took McClellin out of some pass-rushing situations, which hurt his sack production this season. That versatility makes him a good fit for the 3-4 in the NFL. Against a future NFL offensive lineman, Georgia's Cordy Glenn, McClellin was phenomenal. He is quick and features a relentless motor.
8/21/11: Shea McClellin broke into the starting lineup early in his sophomore season and had 36 tackles with six tackles for a loss and three sacks. Last year, he made a big improvement. McClellin led Boise State with 9.5 sacks. He also contributed 13.5 tackles for a loss.
McClellin had one of his best games against one of Boise's best opponents, Virginia Tech. In that contest, he recorded 2.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss, and six tackles. McClellin has a good motor and is a hard worker.
NFL Matches: McClellin could get consideration in the top 20. The Jets, Chargers, Bears and Titans are all interested in McClellin. If he falls into the 20s, the Texans, Patriots, Packers and Ravens could take him. McClellin could be an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker for those teams.
Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC. Previous Rank: 22 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Perry (6-3) checked into the Combine at a much heavier weight than expected, 271 pounds. Still, he had a phenomenal unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.50 with a 10-yard split of 1.57. His official time was 4.64. Perry led all the defensive linemen with a 38.5-inch vertical jump. He also produced 35 reps on the bench press. The Combine gave his stock a nice boost.
At his pro day, Perry did some outside linebacker drills, but he looks a little stiff in that role and doesn't seem as comfortable. It looks like Perry would be best in a 4-3 defense in the NFL.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Perry became a real force for USC in 2010. This season, he recorded 54 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss with two passes batted and three forced fumbles. Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin prevented Perry from recording a sack or tackle for a loss in their matchup, but he held his own, getting pressure on Andrew Luck.
Perry is extremely quick off the snap and his speed is tough for offensive tackles to contain. He also is very good with hand fighting to shed blocks and work himself free to the quarterback. Perry is very fast and has a solid repertoire of moves. In 2010, Perry had four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. He had a strong debut in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, with eight sacks.
NFL Matches: Perry is a bit of a wild card in the draft. He could go as high as the middle of the first round, or fall deep into the 20s. There are multiple teams that could consider him in the No. 16-32 range. Chicago, Tennessee, Detroit and Cincinnati are 4-3 defenses that Perry would fit nicely. He also could get consideration from 3-4 teams like Houston, Green Bay or New England.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford. Previous Rank: 25 4/26/12: Combine, pro days and visits: Martin didn't work out at the Combine because of food poisoning. He needed to have a good pro-day performance and came through with a solid showing. The consensus opinion is that Martin grades out in the lower half of the first round, but the need for offensive tackles could cause him to go earlier than his grade.
2/21/12: Regular season and postseason summary: Martin finished the season extremely well, against Oklahoma State. The senior opened up holes in the ground game and won his matchups when he went against the Cowboys' best pass rusher, Jamie Blatnick.
Martin was dominant in many contests this year. He had some false start issues early in the season but cleaned that up. Martin protected his quarterback well and did a very good job in run blocking. Additionally, he demonstrated the excellent athletic ability to hit blocks on the second level of the defense. While Kalil is rated ahead of Martin because of pass protection, Martin is a strong run-blocking left tackle who is much better than he's given credit in the ground game.
Martin will need to work on his pass protection as a pro, but if he improves there, he could be a very balanced and effective left tackle in the NFL. Martin is foregoing his last year of eligibility and entering the 2012 NFL Draft.
8/24/11: Preseason summary: Jonathan Martin has been an excellent player at Stanford, and he dominated the PAC-10 last season. Martin (6-6, 304) has the pass-protecting tools and good run blocking to be a special left tackle.
NFL Matches: Martin could go to a variety of teams. Buffalo, Kansas City, Arizona, San Diego, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Houston all need tackle help. Thus, he could go in the No. 10-26 range. Some teams could consider him at right tackle. There has been a lot of criticism of Martin with some suggesting he could fall to the very end or out of the first round all together.