Let’s be clear straight away – this is not a serious attempt to try and project how things will play out next April. In previous years I’ve waited until November/December to publish what constitutes as a first ‘go’ at projecting the draft. There are two reasons why I’ve decided to put this on the blog this early:
1 – Despite a lot of internet snobbery over mock drafts or the fact people are even talking about the draft one week into the NFL season, the subject is more popular today than it’s ever been. Fans of teams that aren’t guaranteed contenders want hope. The draft provides hope. This isn’t a real attempt to guess who’s going to be a first round pick, it’s an attempt to highlight a group of individuals who could be. And if this offers any kind of use to anyone during the CFB season, then it serves a purpose.
2 – I had a bigger database for saving games last year, meaning I could stockpile tape and go back and watch it over the summer. When prospects have been highlighted by other writers or bloggers, I’ve been able to go back and take a look for myself. For example, I had a lot of North Carolina games saved as we were looking at guys like Quinton Coples, Zach Brown and Dwight Jones last season. I’ve since been able to review a number of other UNC prospects, highlighted in today’s piece.
It’s unlikely I will re-start the weekly mock updates until later in the year, but I wanted to start the ball rolling. In a week or two, we’ll be able to return to this list and see who has boosted or damaged their stock. For example – I have the Seahawks taking a raw JUCO transfer who is two games into his SEC career. So far so good, but can he maintain his early production and put himself in position to become a high pick?
Another thing worth noting – there are prospects out there I haven’t had the chance to look at yet. Some of the guys below I’ve seen 10-20 times, others I’ve seen two or three times. It’s far too early in the process to make an accurate judgement and if a player is low or not included on the list, it may just be that I haven’t been able to devote enough time to watching their tape.
I’ve used the NFL.com Power Rankings for week one (written by Elliot Harrison) to determine draft order. I’ve tweaked a few things based upon my own views – such as Cleveland picking 2nd overall instead of Indianapolis (the Browns play in a much tougher division and will probably lose more games as a consequence). I’ve also listed a few players who just missed the cut at the bottom.
|#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
In this scenario I’d guess Miami trades the pick to the highest bidder. It’s unlikely they’ll get a RGIII-type deal, but Barkley is special.
|#2 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
He’s the best pass rusher in college football. A great athlete who just keeps making plays.
|#3 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
Elite talent, a fantastic nose tackle prospect. He’s 350lbs+ but moves well. Teams will love this guy. Immovable object.
|#4 Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
I’m not convinced he’ll turn pro in 2013, but he might be tempted with a good year. Big, strong and makes good decisions.
|#5 Brennan Williams (T, North Carolina)
May be the best left tackle in a class without that clear franchise LT prospect. Has NFL bloodlines – his father played in Seattle.
|#6 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
He could be better than J.J. Watt – he’s that type of player. Already has five sacks in 2012.
|#7 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
Physical in run support and can cover better than Dre Kirkpatrick. All-round skill set makes him the clear #1 cornerback prospect.
|#8 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Very raw talent, but needs to be more consistent. Highest ceiling in the draft, but gets blown up too often in the run game.
|#9 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
Excellent three-technique prospect. Knifes through, plays strong at the line. More consistent than Lotulelei.
|#10 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Too early for a guard? This guy will start in week one as a rookie and not look back. Superb prospect. Pass-pro specialist.
|#11 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
The 3-4 teams will be interested in Mingo’s speed off the edge. He’ll be so important for LSU this year.
|#12 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Raw, former JUCO transfer. 6-3, 205lbs playmaker with great speed and could be the most explosive receiver in the SEC.
|#13 Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
Virginia has two excellent tackles this year. Aboushi is the money pick as a potential blind-side blocker.
|#14 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
Just a great footballer. Doesn’t have elite size, but he plays with such intensity and is always around the ball.
|#15 Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
Tall, physical cornerback who will make plays. He had a great game against Auburn, picking off two passes.
|#16 Chaz Green (T, Florida)
Very athletic tackle prospect. Has the kind of skill-set that teams will fall for.
|#17 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
He’s 6-7 and 245lbs. Scouts and GM’s will salivate over his freak-of-nature potential. But he’s not a technician yet.
|#18 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Playmaking linebacker off the production line at Alabama. Above average in coverage and plays like a ‘Bama defender.
|#19 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
Production machine with rare skills. Problem will be size and perhaps a so-so performance at the combine. Will be a value pick next April.
|#20 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Tough tackle who projects to the right hand side at the next level. No-nonsense type and part of a great line at A&M.
|#21 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
He doesn’t have a great QB situation at Cal – so Allen’s stock will likely be determined by how well he tests at the combine.
|#22 Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
Orthodox speed-rusher who’s having a good start to 2012. Slightly undersized but gets to the quarterback.
|#23 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Not the tackle-machine type like Luke Kuechly, but he makes more impact plays. Leads by example.
|#24 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
Jerry Jones loves Arkansas! Wilson’s concussion issues are a concern. He’s a gun-slinger, but there are some technical/release issues.
|#25 Terry Hawthorne (CB, Illinois)
Another cornerback with good size. Didn’t have a great game against Arizona State but has a chance to bounce back.
|#26 Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
Isn’t quite back to 100% after injury. Undoubted quality, but teams will probably wonder if they can rely on that knee.
|#27 Jonathan Franklin (RB, UCLA)
He looks like a different player this year. Explosive. Can he keep this up for the rest of the year?
|#28 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
He’s incredibly strong and dominates against the run. He could be a top-20 pick like Jonathan Cooper.
|#29 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
No, Baltimore won’t take a QB in round one. But Smith has the skills to get into this range, forcing someone to trade up.
|#30 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
Like Marcus Lattimore, he’s talented but returning from a serious knee injury. It’s a concern until he proves he’s 100% recovered.
|#31 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
Another great football player. This guy will bring it every single down.
|#32 Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
Needs to have a big year. Great athleticism and speed off the edge but can be man-handled sometimes.
Just missed the cut
Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State), Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois), Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas), Morgan Moses (T, Virginia), Barrett Jones (C, Alabama), William Gholston (DE, Michigan State), TJ McDonald (S, USC), Kawann Short (DT, Purdue), Alex Ogletree (LB, Georgia), Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State), Eric Reid (S, LSU)
Next quarterback on the list?
After two weeks of college football I’d probably go with Tyler Bray (QB, Tennessee). He can get the ball downfield, he’ll put up big numbers if he can stay healthy. He’s also erratic and needs to find a level of consistency, while cutting out the occasional head-scratching decision. But teams will like his throwing ability and he has enough playmakers at Tennessee to build momentum. The game against Florida is a big one for Bray because he struggled against the Gators last year. He’s also got a ways to go to become a trusted, mature leader off the field. His raw skill set is impressive though, more so than Landry Jones’ at Oklahoma. Both could be second round picks next year, although I wouldn’t take either in that range personally. Not on the evidence we’ve seen so far.