Sneak Preview of the 2012 NFL Draft Rankings: Early Top Ten


It’s never to early to begin looking ahead to the future in the NFL Draft world, and I realized today that I have yet to look ahead at who the elite crop of 2012 players are going to be. For the purposes of truly making this the best list, I will include all underclassmen, and we all know who is topping this list…

1. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford

I thought Luck was a lock to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, and it’s funny–we already know who is going to be the top pick in 2012 but not the top pick in 2011, only two weeks prior to the draft.

Luck is my leading candidate for the Heisman trophy, and is one of the most accurate passers in college football, if not the best in that category. He has the ideal size and good athleticism for the quarterback position, and is one of the brighter student-athletes you will find. There are really no glaring flaws to his game. He is truly a joy to watch, and will be a very good NFL player someday.

2. Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC

Kalil is probably as consistent as it gets as an offensive lineman. Tyron Smith–currently projected as a top 15 pick–was playing right tackle at USC largely because of how good Kalil is. It’s been said that he is a much better prospect than his brother, Ryan was, and he should be locked into a top five pick with a solid senior season.

3. Dre’ Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama

Has spent a lot of time playing behind some other great corners at Alabama, but Kirkpatrick is probably primed to be the best of the bunch. Blessed with an amazing 6’2″ 190 pound frame and excellent athleticism/ball skills, Kirkpatrick is going to be one of the more fun players to watch next season.

4. Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina

At 6’4″ 230 pounds, Jeffery is one of the most physically gifted prospects to come along at the wide receiver position since Calvin Johnson a couple of years ago. Whether or not he has that kind of athleticism remains to be seen, but Jefferey is a big target and a playmaker, and should be a top ten pick.

5. Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC

I’m still a skeptic of Barkley, but I think with another season as the starter at USC, he can vault himself into the upper-echelon of prospects this year, much like Mark Sanchez did a few years ago. Barkley is a fiery kid with solid intangibles, and I want to see him dominate as a passer this year, which I know he is capable of.

6. Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina

Filling in for the absent Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples had an outstanding season for the Tar Heels, and at 6’6″ 275 pounds, he is almost certainly going to be a high draft pick if he keeps that kind of production up.

7. Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama

Richardson is a 5’10” 220 pound back with good speed, vision, and most notably–strength. ESPN did a documentary on this kid for his prowess in the weight room. He’s obviously one of the hardest workers on the team, and I think he is better than Mark Ingram. He should be one of the leading Heisman candidates for 2011.

8. Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina

Gilmore, like his SEC counterpart Dre’ Kirkpatrick, is primed for a huge year, and has been blessed with an excellent combination of size, athleticism, and ability. He should be exposed this year as one of the best defenders in the country.

9. Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Arizona State

It’s been a while since there has been a clear-cut elite linebacker in a draft, but Burfict seems like he could be that guy. At 6’3″ 245 pounds with good athleticism, this guy seems like he could be an absolute stud in the NFL, and he has the numbers at ASU to back it up. If he can back up a 90 tackle sophomore season with another strong campaign, he should lock down a top 1o grade.

10.  Manti Te’o, Linebacker, Notre Dame

Possibly an even better linebacker prospect than Burfict, the 6’3″ 250 pound Te’o is the heart and soul of the Notre Dame defense and an absolute tackling vaccum. He is an excellent athlete and a solid leader, and had 123 tackles last season. He is always around the ball making plays, and he should be very, very good in the NFL.