|Alix Drawec / NFL|
|Andrew Luck has been under close watch by NFL teams for quite some time.|
As eyes begin to shift toward the 2012 NFL Draft in New York in late April, NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks presents his top 50 prospects right now.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: The most polished quarterback prospect to enter the league since Peyton Manning. Luck was the likely No. 1 pick a season ago, and remains the top prospect in this year's draft class.
2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC: The best offensive tackle prospect to hit the league in years. Kalil displays remarkable athleticism and technique, and is a franchise-caliber left tackle poised for stardom.
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Michael Vick-like playmaker with extraordinary passing skills. Griffin is more polished in the pocket than Cam Newton at this stage of his development, which bodes well for his potential to make an impact as a rookie.
4. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Explosive catch-and-run playmaker with a more refined game than his Oklahoma State predecessor Dez Bryant.
5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Talented runner with a rock-solid game. He can handle the dirty work between the tackles, while also providing a big-play element as a runner/receiver on the perimeter.
7. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Talented edge player with an impressive set of physical skills, but teams should be concerned about his questionable motor.
8. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: A skilled technician with the size, strength and athleticism to develop into an all star-caliber edge blocker.
9. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Athletic tackle prospect with all of the tools that scouts covet, but must display more grit and toughness as a pro.
10. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: Rangy corner with the length and athleticism to match up with the big, physical receivers that are dominating the NFL.
11. David DeCastro, G, Stanford: Tough, scrappy interior blocker with underrated athleticism. DeCastro's ability to excel on the move makes him a scheme-diverse prospect with unlimited potential as a pro.
12. Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina: Athletic defender with speed and quickness. Ingram is capable of wreaking havoc off the edges and is the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker.
13. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: Tackling machine with exceptional instincts and awareness. Scouts question his athleticism, but his production and intangibles will keep him atop draft boards across the league.
14. Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: Tenacious edge player with outstanding instincts and rush skills. Ideally suited to play as 3-4 OLB, but capable of filling a role as a DE in some 4-3 schemes.
16. Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Big, physical defensive tackle coming off a stellar senior season. Still needs some technique refinement, but his ability to control the middle makes him a coveted prospect.
18. Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Athletic interior defender with his quickness and athleticism to dominate as a three-technique in a 4-3 scheme.
19. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech: Electrifying runner with speed to burn. Wilson excels at making plays on the perimeter, but is also capable of grinding out tough yards between the tackles.
20. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: Viewed as a one-year wonder by some after his dramatic surge in production as a junior, but a close look at his game suggests he has the ability to develop into a double-digit sack artist a pro.
21. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: A violent hitter who brings an intimidating presence to the middle, but his undisciplined game and lack of self control could plummet his stock.
22. Cordy Glenn, G/OT, Georgia: Versatile blocker best suited to play on the interior as a pro. Glenn possesses the strength to move defenders off the ball, while also displaying the agility to shadow quick rushers in tight quarters.
23. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: Disruptive defender with impressive first-step quickness and agility. Worthy's motor can run a little low at times, but his ability to create disruption makes him an intriguing prospect.
24. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami: Silky smooth runner with great vision and cutback skills. Flashes some Clinton Portis-like ability in his game, which is a good sign for teams looking for a dynamic feature runner.
25. Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina: Freakishly athletic linebacker with the speed and rush skills that defensive coordinators covet. Could experience meteoric rise up the charts after he tests at the NFL Scouting Combine.
26. Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Savvy ball hawk with high football IQ. Barron's superior instincts and awareness exceed his athleticism, but coaches will covet his ability to handle the mental responsibilities in the backend.
27. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Exceptional defensive playmaker with outstanding ball skills in the mold of Asante Samuel. Jenkins has some character concerns that must be addressed, but he is a top talent worthy of consideration early.
28. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: Massive interior defender with the size, strength and power to dominate the line of scrimmage in the middle.
29. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: Scrappy pivot man with outstanding technique. Not a power player, but wins with consistent hand placement and body positioning.
30. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska: Undersized cover corner with ultra-competitive demeanor and sound game. Dennard's size and speed remain question marks after watching the film, but he could alleviate those concerns in workouts.
31. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Former WR has blossomed into a potent passer from the pocket. Still needs some work, but Tannehill's athleticism and potential has pushed him up the charts.
32. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: Big, athletic pass catcher with outstanding ball skills. Jeffery is raw in several aspects of the position and doesn't appear to have elite speed, but his ability to put the ball in the paint makes him an intriguing option as a No. 1 receiver.
|Dont'a Hightower could see his draft stock rise before the draft. (Marvin Gentry/US Presswire)|
33. Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: Stout inside linebacker with exceptional instincts and awareness. Hightower's size leads to questions about his ability to thrive in coverage, but he can address those concerns with strong workouts in the spring.
34. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Gifted edge blocker with tremendous physical tools. Adams hasn't played to his potential consistently, but his flashes of brilliance will lead teams to nudge him up the board as a left tackle prospect.
35. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson: Swift H-back type with the speed and athleticism to create mismatches in the passing game. Allen has displayed a mastery of the route tree, but needs to develop into a better blocker as a pro.
36. Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson: Explosive edge rusher with extraordinary first-step quickness. Branch is still viewed as a one-trick pony due to his reliance on his speed, but his potential and production has sent his stock soaring up the charts.
37. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Rangy receiver with deceptive speed and quickness to complement his outstanding ball skills. Sanu is not a burner in the mold of former Rutgers standout Kenny Britt, but he flashes the ability to make plays at every level.
38. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: Rugged run defender with the strength and power to stack at the point of attack. Thompson doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but his ability to collapse the pocket is invaluable.
39. Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: Versatile edge blocker with experience playing on both sides. Sanders is ideally suited to play right tackle as a pro, but his sound footwork makes him a viable candidate as a backside player.
40. Brandon Washington, G, Miami: Rugged interior blocker with size, strength and athleticism. Not polished in the finer aspects of the position, but potential places him near the top of most draft boards.
41. Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: Smooth technician with instincts, awareness and ball skills. Slender frame works against Minnifield in matchups with big receivers, but toughness and competitiveness allows him to compete despite size limitations.
42. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Talented passer with the physical tools to excel in pro system despite spending the past four years running a version of the spread at Arizona. If Foles can play well on the all-star game circuit and show his ridiculous numbers weren't solely a byproduct of the Wildcats' system, he will continue to climb up the charts prior to draft day.
43. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: Could experience a late rise up the charts as scouts spend more time poring over his film. Athletic and disruptive, Brockers appears to be a great fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 base defense or at the five-technique in four-man fronts.
44. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: A rare tight end with extensive experience playing in a pro-style system. Fleener is not only a polished route runner and pass catcher, he is also a respectable blocker capable of staying on the field as an every-down playmaker.
45. Billy Winn, DE, Boise State: Underrated edge player with size, strength and rush moves. Winn doesn't play with energy consistently, but flashes dominant ability when motivated to play at a high level.
46. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska: Slightly undersized linebacker with outstanding speed and quickness. Excels as a run and chase player, but questions persist about his ability to take on blockers in the hole.
47. Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech: Instinctive ball hawk coming off a sub-par year due to injuries. Led the nation in interceptions a season ago, but needs to show speed and movement skills in workouts to cement his status as a top cover man.
48. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: The most explosive runner in college football is downgraded a bit due to his lack of prototypical size. Viewed as a potential change of pace back/returner, James is a luxury pick in this year's draft.
49. Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State: Gritty blocker ideally suited to play on the interior as a pro. Possesses the size and strength to win within tight quarters as a mauler.
50. Chris Polk, RB, Washington: Crafty runner with a workmanlike game that is built for the pros. He excels between the tackles, but is an underrated receiver capable of staying on the field as a three-down weapon.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.