With the college football regular season wrapped up, NFL.com draft expert Bucky Brooks is rolling out his top 10 college players by position. The schedule is as follows:
(Denotes underclassmen; only players three years removed from high school considered)*
1. Morris Claiborne*, LSU, CB (6-0, 185): Claiborne is the most complete cover corner in college football. He displays a versatile game that suits any defensive scheme, and his ability to routinely snuff out the opponent's top receiver makes him a potential shutdown corner.
2. Dre Kirkpatrick*, Alabama, CB (6-2, 192): It is hard to find tall corners with exceptional movement skills and instincts, but Kirkpatrick appears to be the complete package. He is polished in zone and man coverage and is one of the best tacklers I've seen at the position in years.
3. Jonathan Banks*, Mississippi State, CB (6-1, 185):Banks doesn't receive the national fanfare of his SEC brethren, but his game is certainly on par with his counterparts. He is silky smooth in coverage, displays exceptional ball awareness and is a legitimate playmaker in the clutch. Factor in his underrated blitz skills, and there is a lot to like about Banks' game.
4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama, CB (5-9, 182): Jenkins would possibly rank higher on the list, if not for his questionable decisions that led to his dismissal from Florida. He is an aggressive ball hawk with outstanding instincts and awareness. He is a capable of blanketing receivers in man or zone, and he shows an Asante Samuel-like knack for getting his hands on the ball. With coaches and scouts enamored with adding playmakers to their respective rosters, Jenkins will generate heavy discussion in war rooms across the league despite his character concerns.
5. Mark Barron, Alabama, S (6-1, 223): As football leans more towards the passing game offensively, the desire to find safeties with the instincts, athleticism and versatility to make plays in space is a must. Barron certainly possesses those traits, while also bringing the toughness needed to align as an eighth defender in the box against the run. Throw in the fact that he is arguably the best ball hawk in country, and there is no doubt Barron is the top safety in college football.
6. Chase Minnifield, Virginia, CB (6-0, 185): Minnifield's NFL bloodlines (father, Frank, earned Pro Bowl honors while playing for the Browns from 1984-92) certainly attracted the attention of scouts, but it has been his rock-solid game that has placed him prominently on this list. His penchant for getting his hands on the ball is due to his keen understanding of the nuances of the position. In addition, he plays with an aggressive demeanor that is reflected in his tenacious tackling on the perimeter. As coaches narrow the list of top corners on the board, Minnifield's consistent performance over his career will keep him near the top of the chart.
7. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, CB (5-9, 205): If size didn't rank as a major consideration in the evaluation process, Dennard would have a chance to rank higher on this list based on his steady performance at Nebraska. He has a solid overall game without many glaring flaws and is one of the toughest competitors you'll find on the perimeter. He challenges receivers at every turn and makes even elite pass catchers earn their production. Although his diminutive stature will affect his positioning on some draft boards, the comparisons to Antoine Winfield will keep him afloat as a top candidate for most teams.
8. Jayron Hosley*, Virginia Tech, CB (5-10, 172): From a performance and production standpoint, Hosely appeared to take a step back in 2011 due to a nagging hamstring injury. He didn't display the burst or acceleration that led to his nation-leading nine interceptions a season ago. However, he started to show glimpses of his stellar form near the end of the season and scouts love his ball skills and awareness. Throw in his dynamic return skills and penchant for playmaking, and there is still a buzz swirling around Hosley's game.
9. Trumaine Johnson, Montana, CB (6-2, 205): Teams looking for big, physical corners will place Johnson higher on the board than some of the more recognizable names on this list. He possesses a combination of size, speed and athleticism that is hard to find, and evaluators love his dominance of small-school competition. How he fares when matched up with an elite player at the next level is a concern, but his immense talent and potential warrants his inclusion on this list.
10. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, S, (6-0, 198): Martin is far from a polished product, but scouts love his prototypical size and athleticism. He is fluid mover with the instincts and awareness to develop into a playmaker as a pro. Although his game is still marred by inconsistencies in coverage and tackling, his upside and potential could be too enticing for teams to bypass in the early stages of the draft.