Senior Writer

Flash forward: Top 32 picks for the 2012 NFL Draft


As I prepared to do my early look at the 2012 NFL Draft -- why wait? -- just for reference sake I looked up my list of the top-32 players for the 2011 NFL Draft that I compiled last April.

How wrong was I?

Let's put it this way: I didn't have Auburn's Cam Newton, who went first overall to Carolina, in my 32. Nick Fairley, his teammate at Auburn who went 13th overall, also wasn't on the list.

But before you sear me like a steak on your grill, there were 15 first-round picks that were on my list last year. That's 15 of a possible 29 since three of the players on my list went back to school.

There were misses. I had two safeties: Deunta Williams and DeAndre McDaniel on the list and they weren't even drafted.


But both looked the part heading into the season, and then played poorly.

I had four quarterbacks on the list: Jake Locker, Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert.

Three of the four went in the first round and Luck went back to school, so not too bad. Locker was my No. 1 player, which he was on a lot of lists.

The No. 1 player on my list heading into the 2011 college season is Luck. But I wouldn't be shocked to see another quarterback, maybe USC's Matt Barkley or Oklahoma's Landry Jones, push him for the top spot.

Sound crazy? Just ask Jake Locker how things can change in a year or, for that matter, Cam Newton.

Barring injury, Stanford QB Andrew Luck should be the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. (Getty Images)  
Barring injury, Stanford QB Andrew Luck should be the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. (Getty Images)  
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (Jr.): He should be the top guy if he can stay injury free. I still wonder if he's OK with staying in school.

2. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. He's the latest in talented defensive players to come out of North Carolina. At 6-6, 270 pounds, he has Julius Peppers type of size. He had 10 sacks last season.

3. Matt Kalil, T, USC: There is a reason Tyron Smith, the Cowboys' first-round pick this year, played right tackle instead of on the left side. Kalil is that reason.

4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina (Jr.): He's another big receiver from the SEC like Julio Jones and A.J. Green. He caught 88 passes last season.

5. Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford (Jr.): One of the top left tackles in the nation. At 6-6, 310 pounds, he is the one who protects Luck's blindside. He has great feet and the system helps his stock.

6. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon (Jr.): This is a smooth cover player who can also return kicks. He plays a ton of man coverage at Oregon, which NFL scouts love.

7. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (Jr.): He's a 310-pound player who has good quickness to attack the line of scrimmage.

8. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: He's a big, strong, explosive receiver who would have been a high first-round pick if he came out in 2011. Now he gets another year to sharpen his skills

9. Donte Paige-Moss, OLB, North Carolina (Jr.): He plays end in North Carolina's defense, but he has that 3-4 look teams love.

10. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (Jr.): He will actually push for the second spot at quarterback. But it's time he lives up to all the hype and the talent.

11. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska: He was the other guy opposite Prince Amukamara, but now he's the top dog. He excels in man coverage.

12. Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State (Jr.): He had 14 sacks as a sophomore and should be even better in 2011. He is an end at FSU, but can move to an outside 3-4 rush linebacker.

13. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (Jr.): He's a big, strong-armed passer who threw 38 touchdown passes last season as a sophomore.

14. Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska: He has been a big-time contributor the past two years for the Huskers. He can play 4-3 tackle or end in a 3-4.

15. Matt Reynolds, T, BYU: He has good size at 6-6 325 pounds and he has good feet in pass protection. Plays in a pro-style offense, which helps.

16. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (Jr.): He's a big corner (6-2) who is getting schooled by one of the best in Alabama coach Nick Saban.

17. Nate Potter, T, Boise State: He's 6-6, 300 pounds and he plays in a pro-style offense where he does a lot of pass protection. That will help his value. A lot like Nate Solder, who went in the first round this year.

18. Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State (Jr.): He is an explosive, violent player who can run. There's a reason he was the top linebacker recruit three years ago.

19. Riley Reiff, T, Iowa (Jr.): He has been a starter since he was a freshman. The NFL loves Iowa linemen because they are so well coached.

20. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: He was a big-play linebacker in 2010, his first as a starter. He has the size and speed coaches love.

21. Ray-Ray Armstrong, S, Miami (Jr.): He is a big (6-3, 220) safety who can run. Armstrong packs a punch when he tackles.

22. Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: This former track star excelled last year on a talented North Carolina defense. His speed is what will be so attractive.

23. Mike Adams, T, Ohio State: This 6-8, 305-pound left tackle has all the tools to be a top player on the next level.

24. Greg Reid, CB, Florida State (Jr.): He's a good cover man from a school that has produced a lot of them. His 5-9 size might be a concern.

25. Mark Barron, S, Alabama: He's a big-hitting safety who also has range. The key to his draft stock will be his 40 time.

26. Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: After an impressive season in 2010, he has a chance to be even higher on this list by next April if he takes another step.

27. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (Jr.): He is a 6-6, 260-pound edge rusher who has the size/speed teams love.

28. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (Jr.): I think he's a better player than Mark Ingram, who went in the first round this year. He's more explosive.

29. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: He has the size (6-3, 210) and he's been a productive passer in a good conference for a couple of seasons.

30. Andre Branch, DE, Clemson: This former high-school linebacker has the speed scouts love. He flashed last season playing opposite Da'Quan Bowers.

31. Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College (Jr.): This kid is a tackling machine. He has been a starter since he stepped on campus.

32. Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: He is the son of former NFL corner Frank Minnifield. Like his dad, he excels in man coverage.

Just missed: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma; Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia; LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (Jr.); Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma; Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri (Jr.); Nick Foles, QB, Arizona; Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M; Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (Jr.); Bobby Massie, T, Mississippi (Jr.); Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State; Chris Galippo, ILB, USC; Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M; Marcus Forston, DT, Miami (Jr.); Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh; Billy Winn, DT, Boise State; John Simon, DT, Ohio State (Jr.) and Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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