44 Chase Thomas, Linebacker, Senior 6’4″ 248 pounds
Thomas is one of the top linebackers in the country, and is in line to be one of the first drafted in 2013. He has really good instincts, great production, and outstanding size for an outside linebacker. Obviously, with Stanford playing in a 3-4 scheme, it seems natural for Thomas to make that switch to the NFL as well. He is a really versatile linebacker who can be moved all over the place, and mainly because of his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Last season, he received some All-American votes after he had 17.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and five forced fumbles. He has once again shown up as a senior and proved that he is truly one of the top players in the country at his position. At the NFL level, he could be similar to a Clay Matthews type, being moved all over the field at the linebacker spot blitzing up the middle, rushing the quarterback from the edges, or dropping back in coverage. Very solid linebacker prospect.
11 Shayne Skov, Linebacker, Senior 6’3″ 242 pounds
If not for a torn ACL, I think Skov would be a much more highly touted prospect. This is a guy who would have likely been an All-American if he had not gone down with an injury last year, after a sophomore season where he was quite dominant. I really like his ability to play the inside linebacker position with his great size, athletic ability, and instincts. He is able to make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well as out in space. I think as he continues to recover from that ACL injury, he might be an even better professional than he is/was a college player. He has had some off-field issues in the past as well, so he might go under-drafted when he hits the NFL in 2013. He does have some problems staying healthy, but he’s played in eight games so far in 2012, so it’s looking like he’s creeping his way back up. I think he is a very solid inside linebacker prospect who should be a starter at the NFL level for a long time if he can stay on the field.
93 Trent Murphy, Linebacker/Defensive End, RS Junior 6’5″ 261 pounds
Murphy is emerging as one of the top hybrid linebacker/defensive ends in the country in 2012. Through the first nine games of the season, he’s not only racking up tackles (41 through nine games) but he is making plays behind the line of scrimmage with 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He also has broken up two passes, forced a fumble, and picked off a pass which he took 40 yards for a touchdown. This is a really interesting prospect with great size and athletic ability who can get pressure on the quarterback, and he could be a hot prospect by season’s end. Really great length and closing speed to the quarterback. He has the ability to be scheme diverse at the next level as well, and could be similar to a poor man’s J.J. Watt.
49 Ben Gardner, Defensive End, Junior 6’4″ 275 pounds
Gardner is a big, productive defensive end prospect who has good overall size and should be able to add weight without losing athletic ability going to the next level. Had 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a junior and is already on pace to break both of those totals in 2012 by a long shot. Very productive defensive lineman who can set the edge and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Has good overall length and upper-body strength to hold off tackles at the point of attack. Not a flashy prospect, but does a lot of the dirty work and does it well.
29 Ed Reynolds, Safety, RS Sophomore 6’2″ 207 pounds
Redshirt sophomore saw action as a true freshman before missing his sophomore season with an injury. Came back in 2012 as a redshirt sophomore and has been an awesome playmaker for the Cardinal. The big, rangy safety has picked off a total of five passes thus far in 2012 (which leads the team) and has returned three of them for touchdowns, totaling 221 yards in those returns. Obviously has the ability to make plays on the ball, and has a really bright future ahead of him. With his injury history, he could certainly choose to leave for the NFL Draft but I anticipate he will return to Stanford for at least one more year.
33 Stepfan Taylor, Running Back, Senior 5’11” 215 pounds
Big, quick running back who has been an underrated reason for the success of Stanford’s return to glory over the last couple of years. Taylor has been arguably the most consistent and durable tailbacks in the country since he was a sophomore in 2010, where he rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns. Followed that up as a junior with 1,330 yards and 10 more scores, continuing to develop as a pass catcher as well. in 2012, he is the focal point of the Stanford offense and as a senior, he is doing a great job of cementing his draft stock as one of the top running backs in the country. He has a good combination of speed, quickness, and power, but his greatest asset could be his vision and ability to pick up yards after contact. I don’t see any reason why Taylor can’t be as good in the NFL as Doug Martin, one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top picks. He’s not as compactly built, but they have a very complete overall game. Does a very solid job in blitz pickup as well, and can really contribute on all three downs. If he’s not a top 64 pick, it will be a bit of a surprise.
86 Zach Ertz, Tight End, Junior 6’6″ 252 pounds
Ertz is an absolute mismatch at the tight end position with great quickness out of his breaks as well as great hands and the ability to make plays in the red zone. He is a consistent blocker with good length, but he’s not overly polished in this area. Doesn’t have great straight-line speed like Coby Fleener (4.5 range) but he can hold his own. One of the top returning prospects at the tight end position in the country and the leading receiver for the Cardinal through the team’s first nine games of the season. Love his production potential in red zone situations, as well as his ability to be a mismatch with linebackers over the middle of the field. He’s proven in his career that he can make linebackers look silly and he can get the ball in the end zone.
11 Levine Toilolo, Tight End, Junior 6’7″ 265 pounds
Absolutely a massive tight end prospect with good hands and big play ability, but has not shown the consistency you would have liked to have seen after the high expectations going into the season. He is averaging nearly 20 yards per reception so far this season, but has just 18 catches through the first nine games. He is really effective as a blocker in the running game, and has drawn comparisons to Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis. He may need some more time at Stanford to refine his overall game as a receiver to be more consistent in that area, but I think when he comes out, he will be a dangerous weapon at the NFL level.