|Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Alabama's Trent Richardson and LSU's Morris Claiborne all make scouts salivate.|
As we move closer to April's 2012 NFL Draft, prospect evaluation kicks into overdrive for every NFL franchise. The NFL Scouting Combine -- which runs from Wednesday, Feb. 22 through Tuesday, Feb. 28 -- provides a vital platform for prospective NFL players to showcase their talents. (NFL.com and NFL Network will provide comprehensive combine coverage, so stay tuned.)
Though judgments have already formed on some some highly gifted players. We're talking about the so-called "can't-miss guys." And it begins with Andrew Luck, the ultra-hyped Stanford quarterback and presumed No. 1 overall pick.
But beyond Luck, who is the most can't-miss prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft?
LSU's Claiborne should make an immediate impact as a lockdown cornerLSU CB Morris Claiborne is the most can't-miss prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft besides Andrew Luck. He has a versatile game built upon a solid set of fundamentals that will lead to immediate success in the pros.
Claiborne is more refined than former LSU teammate Patrick Peterson was at this point, and he should make an immediate impact as a lockdown corner. There are other players with flashier games, but no one is better prepared for the NFL than Claiborne.
RG3 will go second overall and could mirror Cam NewtonRobert Griffin III could have a Cam Newton-esque ascent. The overall skill set is phenomenal. I don't think the height will prove to be a real detriment, and this kid is going to go second overall for a reason. He is the real deal on and off the field, and whether it's Cleveland, Washington or someone else, a team will trade up to land him. He's going right after Andrew Luck. Period.
As teams learn more about him, they will become more attracted to him. The leadership traits will blow them away. There are just too many QB-hungry trams out there, and at a time with such a weak free-agent crop at that position, it's all there for this kid to make an immediate impression.
Oklahoma State WR Blackmon will contribute from Day 1There seem to be several prospects who are labeled "can't miss." When I watched Stanford play Oklahoma State last month, I couldn't help but notice what a great player Cowboys wideout Justin Blackmon could (should) be right out of the gate at the next level. Playing wide receiver in the NFL has historically been a difficult transition for rookies. Only a few, like Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss and Terry Glenn, have been good from Day 1. But Blackmon's acceleration and ability to cut, change directions and play with the agility of a smaller man is impressive. His catch radius (his ability to give a quarterback a larger window to make a completion) is something colleague Charles Davis discussed extensively on Total Access and warrants comparison to Calvin Johnson.
Want the complete package at running back? Richardson's a no-brainerNormally when you look for a can't-miss prospect, your best bet is an offensive lineman. The finest one in this year's draft is Matt Kalil. He played left tackle at USC, and if he can't make it there, he can move to the right side.
But to me, the second-best player in this draft is Alabama RB Trent Richardson. He is a complete back. He can run inside and outside, as well as block and catch the ball. I believe Richardson is a better player at his position than Kalil is, so that's why I'm going with him.
Notre Dame wideout Floyd is going to be a monsterWhile the 2012 draft may be short on superstars, it's chock-full of solid, long-term productive players. The offensive line and defensive back prospects alone will help half the league. But I want a can't-miss game-breaker, so I'm taking Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd. I'm not concerned about the off-the-field alcohol issues, because two of them were for underage drinking -- which 98 percent of all college students could be cited for. On the field, he's not as fast as you'd like, which will turn some teams off. That's a mistake. The guy he reminds me of wasn't fast either, but Keyshawn Johnson didn't seem to have any problem getting the damn football.
Floyd is big (6-foot-3, 224 pounds) and has a knack for shielding defenders away from the football. But most importantly, he showed up huge in every big game Notre Dame played the last couple of years. There were no instances where he was invisible, which is incredible, because that occurs with virtually all the other top receivers in college football at some point. He did it against one of the strongest schedules in the country year in and year out. Nobody could stop him. There were times when he was triple-covered in clutch situations and still came down with the ball. He got better every season at Notre Dame. He's going to be a monster.