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Brockers, Coples, Kuechly among first round's wild cards

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/
As April 26 nears and columnists all over the country begin to shift their attention to the 2012 NFL draft, enthusiasts are bound to see mock drafts popping up with more frequency than spring flowers. Three players -- LSU's Michael Brockers, North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Boston College's Luke Kuechly -- will be apart of all of them. Just where they'll wind up among the draft's top 32 picks, however, makes them three of the 2012 draft's biggest wild cards.

Take Brockers, for example. Considering his incredible physical potential, there isn't a team in the league that isn't intrigued by him. Having left LSU after just his redshirt sophomore season, however, he's very much a work in progress. Teams, themselves, don't seem to be sure what to think of him. Consider that of the NFL's 32 teams, approximately half have scheduled private meetings with Brockers, according to a source. What makes Brockers all the more of a wild card when it comes to projecting where he might wind up on draft day is the huge disparity in draft position of the clubs investigating him further. Brockers has meetings set up with teams picking early, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 5 overall), St. Louis Rams (No. 6), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 7) and Miami Dolphins (No. 8) but also with clubs currently slated to pick much later, like the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 17, 21), Tennessee Titans (No. 20) and New England Patriots (No. 27, 31).

Despite using all of his collegiate eligibility, as well as dominating the Senior Bowl, Coples' stock is similarly volatile among NFL scouts. No one doubts his talent. A year after the New York Giants won the Super Bowl again largely based on their ability to pressure the opponents' quarterback with their front four, every team in league has to be intrigued with Coples' blend of size (6-6, 284) and power. Coples' terribly inconsistent tape, however, could scare teams even desperate for pass rush help.

Considering Kuechly's incredible consistency -- he's either led the country or finished second in solo and total tackles in each of his three collegiate seasons -- he might seem an unlikely player to mention as a wild card. Despite his consistency and the fact that he proved significantly more athletic during Combine testing that expected, Kuechly's position could lead to a surprise drop on draft day.

Many, including myself and's Dane Brugler, are projecting Kuechly to be drafted inside of the top 12 picks. The Kansas City Chiefs (No. 11) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 12) are especially popular landing spots for Kuechly in early mock drafts. The reality is, however, that inside linebackers have lessened in value as NFL offenses increasingly turn to the passing game. Should Kuechly "slip" past Kansas City and Seattle, there are very few teams with obvious needs at inside linebacker.

One veteran NFL scout, in fact, cautioned that should Kuechly slip outside of the top 12 picks, his slide might not end until the Giants pick at No. 32.
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