|Griffin III could be the '12 draft dark horse. He made a lot of believers after beating OKU. (Getty Images)|
If you're a fan of an NFL team in need of a young quarterback, this might just be your year. Everyone knows about Andrew Luck. Some argue that Southern Cal's Matt Barkley is as good or even better. After a stirring performance that led Baylor to its first win over Oklahoma in 21 attempts, Robert Griffin III has burst onto the scene as a potential high first-round pick, as well. Add to these three the high upside in Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill and we could see an even more quarterback-heavy first round than last year -- when four were among the first 12 picks of the draft.
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.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: When an athlete is the "consensus" top prospect in the draft for a year and a half, it is only natural for some to poke holes in his game. Forget the questions about arm strength. Luck's anticipation and accuracy more than make up for this perceived weakness. Luck is worth the hype and will be the first pick of the 2012 draft, regardless of which team owns the rights to the pick.
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2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama*: It is difficult to grade any running back on this level -- the value of the position simply doesn't warrant it. Richardson, however, is the elite talent likely to be available in 2012 not named Luck.
3. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal*: I'm not willing to agree with University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian that Barkley should be drafted higher than Luck, but I do believe the Trojan junior has narrowed the gap and is an elite prospect in his own right.
4. 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 being a top five pick (and future Pro Bowls) would appear likely in his future.
5. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU*: I argued that LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was the top player in the 2011 draft. Shockingly, Claiborne has been even better this season than Peterson, the fifth pick of the draft, was last year.
6. 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.
7. 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 could keep him out of the top half of the first round.
8. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Big, physical and (like Blackmon) faster on the field than he'll ever be timed in workouts, Floyd has the makings of a top 10 pick -- as long as he can convince teams he has the maturity to handle the pressure on and off the field that comes with such lofty expectations.
9. Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Still's talent has always been obvious, but until this season it has lied under the surface. Just as Phil Taylor rode a dominant senior campaign into a first-round pick, don't be surprised if Still is able to do the same -- especially if he can follow Taylor's lead and enjoy a stellar week at the Senior Bowl.
10. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa*: Possessing NFL size (6-6, 300 pounds), sound technique and better athleticism than his former teammate, Bryan Bulaga, Reiff is viewed by scouts as a pro-ready tackle capable of helping immediately at either left or right tackle.
11. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama*: Kirkpatrick's size, speed and physicality are rare for the cornerback position. He remains a bit raw in his technique, which is why Claiborne has leapt him on many draft boards.
12. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: When playing with passion, the 6-6, 285-pound Coples is arguably the elite defensive prospect in the country. Coples, who is lining up at defensive end this season after starring last year inside, hasn't been playing with the same intensity and thus is slipping. His raw talent is undeniable and should generate top 10 consideration.
13. Courtney Upshaw, ILB, Alabama: Among the most versatile defenders in the country, Upshaw's burst and strong, active hands make him a natural pass rusher capable of seeing the field early whether as a 4-3 defensive end or as either an inside or outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.
14. 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.
15. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford*: Martin's size (6-6, 305) and athleticism is very intriguing -- especially in a zone-blocking offense. Scouts wonder, however, if he has the physicality to be successful in every scheme.
16. Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Glenn struggled in the opener against Boise State, but has rewarded my faith in him since with his 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.
17. Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Quarterback Robert Griffin III gets all of the hype, but the playmaking Wright is a legitimate first round talent himself. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds Wright is significantly smaller than many of the other top receivers in this draft, but he brings very good open field running skills. Some scouts compare Wright to Carolina Panthers' star Steve Smith for their similar build and explosiveness.
18. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Scouts will want to investigate Adams' maturity considering his suspension as part of Tattoo-gate, but since returning to the field for the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-6, 320 pounder has proven himself to be the top senior offensive tackle in the country.
19. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: This is RGIII's first week on my Big Board. I had been impressed by the redshirt junior's athleticism and touch on the deep ball, but it was the poise and toughness he showed in upsetting Oklahoma that really caught my eye. Griffin isn't nearly as polished as Luck or Barkley, but he could prove a real gem, nonetheless.
20. 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.
21. Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: A free safety for the Crimson Tide, I have some reservations about Barron being able to hold up at this position against top-notch NFL passing games. That said, his reliable open-field tackling and instincts make him the clear top safety prospect.
22. Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers*: At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds Sanu possesses rare size and physicality to play outside in the NFL. He lacks elite speed, however, which limits his draft stock despite the fact that he's been as reliable as any receiver in the country this season.
23. Dontari Poe, DT/NG, Memphis*: At 6-foot-5, 350 pounds, Poe certainly has the bulk scouts are looking for. What is most impressive about him, however, is that at this size Poe is also light on his feet and plays with a high-revving motor. Poe is only a junior and is clearly raw, but in a relatively weak defensive tackle class, he could fly up the board.
24. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: As expected, Jenkins has been a man among boys at this level after starring at Florida. He's the most talented senior cover corner in the country and has returned three punts for touchdowns this season, including a school record 93 yarder against West Alabama on Saturday that helped UNA advance in the Division II playoffs.
25. Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College*: Kuechly locates the football as quickly as any defender in the country and he is a reliable open field tackler. He's finished second in the entire country with 158 tackles as a true freshman in 2009. He led the country last season (183) and is averaging nearly 2.5 more tackles per game this season.
26. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State*: Worthy, a junior, continues to struggle with consistency, but defensive tackles with his combination of size, strength and quickness don't last long on draft day.
27. Orson Charles, TE, Georgia*: Charles lacks the size at 6-foot-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.
28. 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 at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds has the versatility to play outside in the 3-4 or inside in the 4-3.
29. Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Brown's elite athleticism is going to draw raves at the Combine, but moderate instincts and physicality are potential red-flags that shouldn't be ignored.
30. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Texas A&M's struggles late in games is sure to rattle the confidence scouts have in Tannehill. However, the simple fact is he has all of the physical characteristics scouts are looking for and has thrown over twice as many touchdowns as interceptions in a pro-style offense over his career. Barring a horrendous finish, Tannehill deserves first-round consideration on upside alone.
31. Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal: Upside is also the key word with Perry. He's enjoying a breakout season for the Trojans and appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential. Sources close to the team tell me that Perry could run in the 4.6s at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, which will intrigue teams needing pass rushers for the 4-3 and 3-4, alike.
32. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma*: There is no denying Jones' production, size or strong arm. I have reservations about his poise and mobility in the pocket, which could make Jones a poor fit in some NFL offenses, including the popular West Coast offense.