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Big Board: Prospects still have time to make moves

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

With half of college football's regular season in the books, projecting the top prospects likely to be in the draft class of 2012 is becoming easier. Now scouts are left to judge how that talent might project to the NFL.

We all know that quarterback values will rise as the draft approaches.

Though they don't receive the same hype, players who can harass quarterbacks -- pass rushers and defensive backs -- also see a rise in value as April nears.

Assuming a few key underclassmen join the party, the 2012 draft could be loaded with cornerbacks. The same does not appear likely to be true, however, among pass rushers. Teams desperately in need of them, however, aren't often willing to wait. Therefore, some pass rushers with chinks in their proverbial armor could still hear their name called during the first round.

Creating a "Big Board" at this point in the year isn't necessarily designed to predict who will be the first 32 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Obviously, with a full season, all-star games, workouts and interviews each playing critical roles in determining a player's final grade, much will change between now and April.

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1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford*: In 12 years of scouting professionally, Luck is my highest-graded player. Second on the list? Ndamukong Suh. Third? Calvin Johnson. Getting the idea as to how good I think this guy will be?

2. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal*: Barkley doesn't have Luck's size, athleticism or arm strength, but few are Luck's peers. Barkley is a top-notch prospect and in a normal draft would be generating No. 1 overall buzz.

3. Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal*: Kalil isn't as fundamentally sound and consistent as scouts would like, but he possesses such great size, athleticism and balance that a top-five pick (and future Pro Bowls) would appear likely in his future.

4. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State*: Blackmon ultimately won't get drafted this high due to concerns about his straight-line speed, but he's virtually unstoppable at this level and will prove to be No. 1 option in the NFL.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama*: Bigger, stronger and faster than his former teammate and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Richardson won't have to wait until the end of the first round to get his name called.

6. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: An All-ACC pick last year as a defensive tackle, Coples was moved to his "more natural" defensive end position this year and has been one of the country's greater disappointments, thus far. Scouts hope that moving him back inside could result in a return to dominant play as a pro.

7. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: At 6-2, 300 pounds, Thompson lacks the size most scouts prefer in an elite interior d-line prospect. His combination of power and quickness, however, has made him virtually unblockable this season.

8. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa*: Possessing NFL size (6-6, 300 pounds) and impressive athleticism, Reiff has the look of a top-10 pick.

9. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama*: Physical, fast and athletic, Kirkpatrick has the athletic traits scouts look for in a top-10 prospect. To ultimately be selected this high, he'll need to play with greater consistency.

10. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: As anyone who watched Jenkins play well for Florida might have expected, Jenkins has been a star at the D-II level for North Alabama. Scouts have plenty of concerns about his maturity, but not about his ability.

11. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford*: An athletic left tackle who has capably protected Andrew Luck's blindside, Martin looks smaller than his listed 6-6, 304 pounds and may lack the physicality for some schemes.

12. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Floyd's talent has never been the question and he can look unstoppable. To earn a first-round selection, however, he'll need to prove to scouts he's matured, especially off the field.

13. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU*: There isn't a cornerback in the college football playing better football than Claiborne right now. If he can continue his spectacular junior season, he could leap to the top of the rankings at his position -- and a spot in the top ten.

14. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina*: Scouts have reservations about Jeffery's straight-line speed, but his size, physicality and body control have dominated SEC competition -- and that speaks volumes.

15. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford*: In terms of consistent dominance, there hasn't been an offensive or defensive lineman I've graded higher thus far this season than DeCastro. Only the fact that he plays guard may keep him out of the top half of the first round.

16. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma*: Jones has undeniably more impressive physical traits than Matt Barkley, my No. 2 overall prospect. Questionable poise and decision-making, however, make him a significantly riskier projection in an NFL offense.

17. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska: Finally back to health, Dennard is showing signs of being the physical shutdown press corner that led some scouts to grade him this season as the country's elite senior prospect at any position.

18. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame*: Instinctive, physical and athletic enough to beat backs to the edge, as well as remain on the field on third down, Te'o has emerged as the country's best all-around middle linebacker.

19. Billy Winn, DT, Boise State: Kellen Moore gets all of the hype, but Winn is clearly Boise State's best pro prospect. Winn has been impressive against top competition and only needs to play with more consistency to warrant a first-round selection.

20. Orson Charles, TE, Georgia*: Charles lacks the size at 6-3, 242 pounds of the traditional tight end, but his athleticism, reliable hands and surprising physicality as a blocker makes him my top-rated prospect at the position.

21. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: Worthy continues to struggle with consistency, but defensive tackles with his combination of size, strength and quickness don't last long on draft day.

22. Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: In a draft lacking elite outside linebackers, Brown's athleticism and versatility stands out. Scouts would like him to be more physical.

23. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina*: Not the caliber of ball-hawk that some of the other top corners on this list are, Gilmore is one of the more sound tacklers and aggressive run defenders of the group. Some view him as a potential candidate to move to safety.

24. Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Glenn struggled in the opener against Boise State, but has rewarded my faith in him since with much improved play at left tackle. He may not be able to remain here in the NFL, but looks like a possible future Pro Bowl candidate on the inside.

25. Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech*: At 5-10, 170 pounds, Hosley certainly lacks the frame scouts prefer, but his instincts, quick feet and ball skills make him arguably the top cover corner in the country.

26. Courtney Upshaw, ILB, Alabama: Upshaw and teammate Dont'a Hightower were each recognized as a semifinalist for the 2012 Butkus Award this week. Upshaw's team-leading 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks speak to his ability to attack the line of scrimmage.

27. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin*: Rarely does an underclassmen center deserve mentioning this early on a Big Board, but Konz is special. His size and strength inside and fluidity when blocking at the second level could allow him to join the Pouncey twins, Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns) and Eric Wood (Buffalo Bills) as the fifth center drafted in the first round over the past four drafts.

28. Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College*: Kuechly's instincts and open-field tackling skills are impressive, but he's not as stout as scouts would prefer for playing inside in the NFL and may lack the athleticism to make the switch to outside. Some scouts feel Kuechly ranks among the country's most overrated pro prospects.

29. Alameda Ta'amu, DT/NG, Washington: The Stanford Cardinal knew exactly where Ta'amu was on each snap in Saturday's game. The Cardinal gashed the Huskies for a jaw-dropping 446 yards and five touchdowns on the ground - but most of the damage (including every touchdown) was directed away from the Huskies' big man.

30. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Despite the 2011 season being Tannehill's first as the full-time starting quarterback, he's already demonstrated the physical traits teams are looking for in a future franchise quarterback. Is he raw and prone to inconsistency? Sure. But his upside and team needs keep him in the top 32.

31. Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Like the two other defensive tackles on this list (Worthy, Ta'amu), Still has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career. However, he's played at a high level as a senior and could emerge as a first-round prospect should his improved play continue through the all-star circuit.

32. Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: At only 6-2, 276 pounds Ingram lacks the traditional size teams are looking for in a first-round pick. However, his instincts and versatility make him a natural playmaker; he could rise up the draft board in a class lacking pass rushers.


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