2012 NFL draft: First Big Board
As Luck would have it, Andrew tops the Big Board yet again. But surprises follow.
Kiper By Mel Kiper
Almost a year ago this week, I released my first Big Board for the 2011 NFL draft. Looking back at that list, you can see that of the top-10 players listed eight went in Round 1 a year later. Ryan Mallett obviously tumbled a bit during the draft, and one player wasn't taken at all ...
... which is why Andrew Luck tops the Big Board again this year. The amazing thing about Luck, who shocked many when he opted to return to Stanford even as the likely No. 1 overall pick, is that he could conceivably come back again next year for a fifth year on The Farm. At that rate, he might be Dr. Luck by the time he takes an NFL snap.
As to this list, a few highlights: There are 20 juniors or draft-eligible sophomores on the list; there are three quarterbacks among the top-10 players; of those top-10, Stanford has as many players as the SEC. As I always remind, this is a reflection of value, not some prediction about where guys will be picked. And as always, juniors and draft-eligible sophomores are noted with an asterisk.
Big Board Bar
1 - Andrew Luck *, QB, 6-4/235
Analysis: Luck is the total package. Arm strength, size, smarts, demeanor -- it's all there. And perhaps best of all, check the accuracy rate. He completed 70.7 percent of his 2010 throws.
2 - Quinton Coples, DE, 6-5/276
Analysis: They haven't been lacking defensive talent in Chapel Hill. Coples is next in line, a gifted pass-rusher suited to be a pure 4-3 defensive end at the next level.
3 - Matt Kalil *, OT, 6-6/300
Analysis: Another NFL-ready offensive lineman at Southern Cal. Kalil has the size, athleticism, footwork and bloodlines. He projects as a blindside tackle.
4 - Alshon Jeffery *, WR, 6-4/233
Analysis: A perpetual mismatch, Jeffery has been unstoppable since he got to campus. A huge target, makes all the catches and shows surprising burst, given such a huge frame at wideout.
5 - Matt Barkley *, QB, 6-2/220
Analysis: He struggled as a true freshman starter, but you love the growth Barkley has shown. Completed 62.6 percent of his passes as a sophomore and he's piling up experience.
6 - Jonathan Martin *, OT, 6-6/304
Analysis: In the spotlight as the guy protecting the back of the likely No. 1 overall pick, Martin has ideal size, athleticism and a great approach in the run game.
7 - Justin Blackmon *, WR, 6-1/211
Analysis: Had a chance to go in the first round had he entered the 2011 NFL draft. Versatile, explosive and really works to get open. Potential true No. 1 target.
8 - Jerel Worthy *, DT, 6-3/305
Analysis: My top defensive tackle in a class that's a little more shallow than we've seen over the last couple years. Good size, plays with an edge and should be scheme-versatile.
9 - Dre Kirkpatrick *, CB, 6-3/192
Analysis: One of three players on the Crimson Tide to crack the Board. Great length for the position. Kirpatrick is solid technically and well-schooled.
10 - Landry Jones *, QB, 6-4/230
Analysis: Perhaps quietly, Jones has put up remarkable numbers in Norman and will draw inevitable comparisons to Sam Bradford. Showed improved accuracy in 2011. Experienced.
11 - Riley Reiff *, OT, 6-6/300
Analysis: Dependable blocker, Reiff has all the attributes and is well-coached. A first-rounder right now in a class that offers more than the 2011 class at O-line.
12 - Vontaze Burfict *, LB, 6-3/252
Analysis: A dominant force in the middle of the field, the one-time USC commit has been solid since he arrived in Tempe, where he started immediately. A high position for an ILB.
13 - Trent Richardson *, RB, 5-11/224
Analysis: A physical freak, I see Richardson as a better overall pro prospect than former teammate Mark Ingram. Explosive and so hard to tackle.
14 - Donte Paige-Moss *, DE, 6-4/270
Analysis: He's bigger than a lot of people have him listed. Paige-Moss gets a bump here because he exploded in the second half of 2010. He needs to carry that momentum into 2011.
15 - Cliff Harris *, CB, 5-11/172
Analysis: A speedster in the return game, Harris is also a fantastic cover corner. Solid timing and ball skills, very adept at breaking up passes. Deadly punt returner.
16 - Luke Kuechly *, LB, 6-3/235
Analysis: Dependable tackling machine, Kuechly's tape shines. Makes great reads, sees the play developing, sheds blockers well and has a ton of experience in just two years.
17 - Jayron Hosley *, CB, 5-10/170
Analysis: One of the most instinctive corners I've ever seen. Led the nation in interceptions and seems to have a sixth sense on routes.
18 - Ray-Ray Armstrong *, S, 6-4/220
Analysis: Currently the top safety on the Board. Armstrong has seen the field plenty in just two seasons. Good size, takes good routes and can play near the line.
19 - Stephon Gilmore *, CB, 6-1/194
Analysis: Another SEC corner with good size, Gilmore has played well against some top competition. Well-schooled, he has a chance to move up the Board this season.
20 - Manti Te'o *, LB, 6-2/255
Analysis: A known commodity since he arrived in South Bend, Te'o is a classic middle linebacker, making a ton of tackles. A rugged player, has ideal size and range for the position.
21 - Chase Minnifield, CB, 6-0/185
Analysis: The last corner on the Board, Minnifield has been dependable and was the best corner on a team that saw Ras-I Dowling drafted early in 2011.
22 - Jared Crick, DT, 6-6/285
Analysis: Had a chance to be drafted within the top-40 picks in 2011 but opted to return to Lincoln. The J.J. Watt of this class, should be a good fit as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.
23 - Marcus Forston *, DT, 6-3/300
Analysis: A big-time recruit, Forston has continued to develop and could move up the Board if he adds consistency. Dominant at times, but has had some off games, too.
24 - Andre Branch, DE, 6-4/265
Analysis: Another defensive end coming out of Death Valley, Branch can get to the passer and has a lot of experience, and will be a fifth-year senior in 2011.
25 - Courtney Upshaw, LB, 6-2/265
Analysis: A solid linebacker, another in a very talented Bama defensive unit. Upshaw saw the field as a freshman and has continued to progress.
Mel Kiper has been the premier name in NFL draft prospect evaluations for more than three decades. He started putting out his annual draft guides in 1978, and started contributing to ESPN as an analyst in 1984. For more from Mel, check out his annual draft publications or his home page. He can also be found on Twitter here.
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