National Football League Draft

Amazingly just 8 days away, the annual NFL draft is a time for me to “geek out” with my favorite hobby. It helps me be a better, more informed fan of the incoming players and how they fit into existing schemes and it gives me a greater appreciation for the “Behind the scenes” activity of an NFL General Manager and scouting department.  I am a big fan of college football, so I don’t need to rely on others to tell me who the good players are etc. There are 4 “can’t miss superstars” in this draft in my view: Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Running back Trent Richardson and Linebacker Luke Kuechly. So sparing you the other positions, here are my rankings and thoughts for the top “skill position” players in the 2012 Draft.

* = value as returner

QB

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford
2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
4. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St
5. Brock Osweiler, Arizona St
6. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
7. Nick Foles, Arizona
8. Kirk Cousins, Michigan St
9. Kellen Moore, Boise St
10. Case Keenum, Houston

Only 3 QBs are ready to start week 1: Luck, RG3 and Weeden. We all know Luck and Griffin will be the top 2 picks, and deservedly so. Problem with Weeden is his age (already was drafted into and quit minor league baseball) – he’ll be in his 30s when his first contact expires. Tannehill is not ready just yet but his skill set is too tantalizing to pass up – likely will be taken in the top 10. Osweiler is a huge dude with a huge arm and huge potential – he’ won’t make it out of round 2. If  Wilson were 3 inches taller, he would likely be a 1st round pick. Foles is worth developing as he put up great stats and seems to have the arm and smarts for the next level. I watched Cousins his whole career, and he will almost certainly be over-drafted; best case for him is a career backup. Moore and Keenum put up MONSTER numbers but their games probably won’t translate to the pros.

RB

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama
2. Doug Martin, Boise St
3. Cyrus Gray*, Texas A&M
4. David Wilson, Virginia Tech
5. Chris Polk, Washington
6. LaMichael James, Oregon
7. Bernard Pierce, Temple
8. Lamar Miller, Miami
9. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati
10. Tauren Poole, Tennessee
11. Brandon Bolden, Mississippi
12. Vick Ballard, Mississippi St
13. Robert Turbin, Utah St
14. Edwin Baker, Michigan St
15. Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
14. Rodney Hillman, San Diego St
15. Chris Rainey*, Florida

Richardson is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. He and Martin are every down bellcows who will start immediately and pay big dividends. One guy I LOVE (and nobody else has him this high) is Gray; he is a little smaller than you would like but he does it all and does it with gusto. Some team is going to get an absolute steal IMO. Wilson and Polk are explosive and have the bodies to take the NFL pounding. James was a college stat monster but is too small for a full time role in the NFL. Pierce could be a great goalline runner right away. Most have Miller much higher but I just don’t see it. The rest of the list are either 3rd down backs or short yardage types, destined for committees at best.

WR

1. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St
3. Juron Criner, Arizona
4. Ryan Broyles**, Oklahoma
5. Kendall Wright, Baylor
6. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
7. Ruben Randle, LSU
8. Brian Quick, Appalachian St
9. Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina
10. AJ Jenkins, Illinois
11. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
12. Chris Givens*, Wake Forest
13. Greg Childs, Arkansas
14. TY Hilton*, Florida Intl
15. Rishard Matthews, Nevada
16. Marvin Jones*, California
17. Junior Hemingway, Michigan
18. Marvin McNutt, Iowa
19. Nick Toon, Wisconsin
20. Tommy Streeter, Miami

*Dwight Jones, North Carolina

Everybody and their mother has Blackmon as the top WR in this draft, but I think Floyd is superior in most every way. He is a true #1 receiver and will make the Pro Bowl as a rookie in the right situation. Blackmon has a lot of Terrell Owens to his game, but he’s about 2 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. Another of my gems this year is Criner; NOBODY has the guts to rank him this high but “the tape don’t lie” + he is big, strong, fast and ready to be a #1 WR. Broyles is not your typical stud receiver, but he is the next Derrick Mason. IE will never put up huge stats but will play for 10+ years and come through in the clutch again and again. A torn ACL last season will push his stock down, but I wouldn’t let him get past the 2nd round. Wright and Hill are just too darn fast to pass up for NFL teams; speed still kills. Randle doesn’t really impress me as a star but it seems some team will take him and expect big things. I would also keep an eye on Quick – small school competition, but he looks to have it all and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to have him start quickly and become some team’s #1 WR ala Marques Colston. There are at least 3 others with WR1 ability – all in all a great WR class this year. (Dwight Jones has the size and aggression the NFL badly wants but has multiple red flags and may go undrafted)

TE

1. Coby Fleener, Stanford
2. Dwayne Allen, Clemson
3. Orson Charles, Georgia
4. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette
5. Taylor Thompson (former DE), Southern Methodist
6. Kevin Koger, Michigan

Fleener is a sure fire starter from the gate and played great in a pro style offense. Allen, Charles and Green should all start in a year or two. A guy to watch is Thompson – he was a physical freak at Defensive End at SMU but now will turn that athleticism to the offensive side of the ball. Koger is a favorite of mine from the great University of Michigan. 🙂  Very underutilized but has an NFL build and can make things happen after the catch.

Will be drafted too high/busts:

LB Vontaze Burfict – viewed as a 3rd rounder by some, shouldn’t be drafted in ANY round

QB Kirk Cousins – see above; 5th rounder is about right

DT Dontari Poe – I see why teams want him based on the combine, but he did nothing in college to justify being a 1st rounder
Will be drafted too low/bargains:

WRs Ryan Broyles and Juron Criner- see above; anything lower than a 2nd is a steal

RB Cyrus Gray – see above; anything lower than a 3rd is a steal

WR Junior Hemingway – deserves to be drafted; doesn’t have the stats because of Michigan’s extremely run-heavy scheme, but has the size and RAC ability to play in this league

 

Of course, feel free to comment, criticize, and ask questions! Bring on the Draft!

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