It’s never too early to think about the NFL Draft, even when your team is top dog in a strong AFC. Daniel Radov, EbonyBird.com’s new Draft Specialist, gives you his current top 10 prospects. Underclassmen are included. Watch out for a 32-man board in the near future, and keep an eye out for the board to infinitely grow larger until April.
In this list, we’ll be counting down from #10 to #1, and sharing a few quick thoughts about each of the top 10 prospects. This list reflects a combination of college performance, pure talent, potential, and NFL projectability, and factors in things like character issues, leadership skills, physical tools, and the ability to make an immediate impact at the NFL level.
Top 10 list after the jump.
10. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida- Organizations often cringe at the words, “the University of Florida.” Yes, Emmitt Smith did hail from Gainesville, but in recent years, first round disappointments, such as Reggie Nelson and Derrick Harvey, continue to haunt general managers. Jenkins is different. Of course, speed is not an issue, and his hands are above average for a still-developing cornerback. The only worry for Jenkins is his aggressive style of play. He is often victimized by deceptive routes, especially double moves. Yet, Jenkins’s aggression has parlayed into numerous defensive touchdowns for the Gators in 2010. He has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel.
9. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn– Fairley is very athletic, and he excels at rushing the passer, mostly from the defensive tackle position. Keep in mind that Auburn has quite a weak secondary, so Fairley receives little help from additional blitzers to wreak havoc on the quarterback. He resembles a poor man’s Ndamukong Suh.
8. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State– Although he falls short of last year’s stellar class of interior defensive lineman, Paea appears to be set for NFL success. Blessed with incredible strength and quickness, he has forced Pac-10 opponents to double team him constantly. Keep in mind that Paea’s value will only increase if he can prove to be effective on all three downs. Paea has a great chance to follow in the footsteps of Haloti Ngata as a top-notch Tongan (thanks to commenter “mataremz” for the correction) defensive lineman in the NFL.
7. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska– The Cornhuskers’ star is clearly the second best cornerback in the 2011 class. He is a converted running back, and Amukamara displays impressive hands in coverage. Scouts worry about his ability to match speedy receivers.
6. Marcel Dareus, DE, Alabama– Having not played all year, Dareus’ stock will continually drop until he starts participating in pre-draft workouts. I would have liked to see the 6-foot-2, 303 pound defensive tackle without the aid of the Baltimore Ravens’ Terrence Cody in 2011. Nevertheless, Dareus expects to contribute in the NFL immediately.
5. Robert Quinn, DE, UNC– In terms of potential, Quinn rivals any other player in this class for the top spot on the board. With that said, he hasn’t played all season, after receiving money from an agent in the off-season. Quinn still should excel on the NFL level, but teams should be wary of his troubled past. He faces the same dilemma as Dareus, which could hurt his draft stock as the draft process takes its course.
4. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson– Although not as talented as Quinn, Bowers is a force to be reckoned with around the edge. He has great closing speed to the quarterback and a knack to constantly be around the football. If there is criticism surrounding Bowers, it centers around the Clemson program, having also produced speed rusher Gaines Adams, who failed to meet expectations at the professional level.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia– Although having been the subject of an NCAA violation this season, Green is not truly a problem off the field. Scouts should only worry about how to cover the junior standout wide receiver. In his freshman year, alongside Matthew Stafford, Green likely could have been a first round pick. Green poses little risk of disappointing in the NFL.
2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Peterson has ideal size for the NFL. Coupled with elite speed and dynamic explosiveness, he project to be a multi-faceted threat on Sundays. Peterson, however, has displayed some trouble with locating the ball in coverage. Add Peterson’s return skills into the mix, and you’re looking at the most versatile player in this class.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford– Considered the most intelligent college quarterback coming out of college since Peyton Manning, Luck possesses all the tools to become an NFL superstar. While he was battling Jake Locker for QB supremacy in the beginning of the college season, the Stanford signal-caller has made it a one-horse race at the top. Luck shares some common attributes with another native Texan quarterback, Drew Brees.