2012 NFL Draft Early Entries
By Pete Fiutak
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- 2012 Early-Entries
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- 2012 Early-Entries
- The Offensive Replacements
- 2012 Early-Entries
- The Defensive Replacements
Several NFL teams in need of a quarterback
Andrew Luck will be an Indianapolis Colt, and Robert Griffin is moving up the draft boards fast enough to possibly go to Cleveland with the fourth pick or Washington with the sixth. Miami at either the eighth or the ninth pick – depending on a coin flip – Buffalo at the ten, Kansas City and Seattle at the 11 and/or 12 – depending on a coin flip – Arizona at the 13, the Jets at the 15, and Denver late in the first all need a quarterback. The Bills aren’t going to take one after the financial investment made in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Broncos are too lost in the Tim Tebow haze to take a quarterback in the first round, but the other teams would’ve liked the option to upgrade their passing games.
Matt Barkley would’ve been a top six pick, meaning Griffin probably would’ve moved down to the Dolphins. Landry Jones would’ve been a top 15 pick, Tyler Wilson probably would’ve snuck into the first round, and Aaron Murray, height issues and all, would’ve been an option in the top 50. All of a sudden, the quarterback class thinned out in a big hurry meaning someone might have to overpay to move up to get Griffin.
It’s not like Stanford is Alabama, Oklahoma, or Ohio State and can simply reload year after year with NFL prospects, and it’s possible that four starting offensive stars will go in the first round. The Cardinal was going to lose tight end Coby Fleener, but that was about it in terms of departing pro players outside of the juniors.
The team spent 2011 playing with house money, considering Andrew Luck could’ve and should’ve left a year early to be the No. 1 overall pick. While there’s no replacing the once-in-a-generation passer like Luck, it’ll be just as difficult to come up with star talents on the line to take over for David DeCastro, the best guard in the draft, and Jonathan Martin, a top 15 pick at tackle.
Even an NFL talent factory like Alabama feels the pinch when it loses a slew of star players. The Tide won the national title after losing Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and James Carpenter to the NFL, but this year the losses might require more rebuilding, especially on defense.
It could’ve been worse; linebacker Nico Johnson and defensive tackle Jessie Williams would’ve been mid-round selections. The offense got the big breaks with tackle Barrett Jones stunningly returning for one more season, and with tackle Tyler Love - with time - and guard Chance Warmack also good enough to start at the next level had they taken off.
The biggest loss is running back Trent Richardson, who’ll likely be the top running back taken and should be a top ten selection. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Dont’a Hightower is a late first round/early second round prospect, and corner Dre Kirkpatrick was ready to go pro from the time he first chose to go to Alabama and will go in the first round.
The writing was on the wall for the Hurricane players that might have wanted to stick around, but saw the possible sanctions coming from the NCAA for the Nevin Shapiro case. The team underachieved in 2011, but it was really, really close in game after game to coming up with a great record. A veteran team would’ve had a shot to make some noise in the 2012 ACC title chase, but several key seniors are gone including linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Travis Benjamin. And then came the loss of a several key juniors to gut the team’s core.
On the positive side, Ray Ray Armstrong would’ve been the first safety taken had he chosen to leave, but he’s the one star player coming back. Lamar Miller would’ve been the centerpiece of the offense, but he’s a possible first round pick and likely the second running back off the board after Trent Richardson. Guard Brandon Washington is a second round prospect and would’ve been one of the anchors for the offensive front had he stayed for another year, while pass rushing end Olivier Vernon could’ve used another season and will likely be a mid-to-late round selection.
Receiver Tommy Streeter is a big speedster who would’ve been a key part of the passing game, and defensive tackle Marcus Fortson would’ve been one of the main interior linemen that everything would’ve worked around. Instead, they’ll likely go somewhere in the top 100 picks.
The Boston College defensive front
It wasn’t a total shocker for Boston College to lose two of the best players from the defensive front seven, but for a team that finished well and was looking to rebuild, things just became a lot harder.
Luke Kuechly has been college football’s best-tackling linebacker for the last three seasons, and after finally getting the recognition he deserved on the award circuit, he’s gone and should be a first round pick. The best pure interior tackler in the draft, he’ll be someone’s defensive anchor, while Max Holloway will hope to be a valuable free agent pickup after leaving early. The tweener can be both a smallish end and a quick outside linebacker who can get into the backfield, but he probably won’t be drafted. About to turn 25, he needed to get out now.
The Tigers got some good news when speedy receiver Russell Shepard changed his mind and chose to return for another year, but now he has to play up to his prep hype and actually produce after the offense lost top deep threat Rueben Randle a year early.
The LSU defense might still be loaded coming into next year, but it’s losing two heart-and-soul stars in Thorpe-winning corner Morris Claiborne - who isn’t Patrick Peterson talent-wise, but still should be a top five pick – and Michael Brockers, a redshirt sophomore who should slip into the first round. Had these two chosen to come back for one more year, the Tigers would’ve been the slam-dunk preseason No. 1.
The Spartans only lose two underclassmen, but they’re going to be missed in a rebuilding year.
The receiving corps has to go on without B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol, Keshawn Martin, and tight ends Brian Linthicum and Garrett Celek. Someone needs to throw to the new targets with quarterback Kirk Cousins done.
Safety Trenton Robinson and guard Joel Foreman are also done leaving big holes in their respective spots. The biggest loss, though, is at defensive tackle where big Jerel Worthy is leaving early. While he’s projected to go in the second round, he’s a top five talent with no consistency whatsoever. The loss of running back Edwin Baker isn’t a killer, and his role was being diminished, but he provided quality depth.
The Hokies are losing several key parts from the ACC runner-up including Jaymes Brooks and Blake DeChristopher off the offensive line, receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and defensive backs Eddie Whitley and Cris Hill, but they were seniors. The real hurt comes from the two juniors who should end up going in the top 50.
Virginia Tech always finds ultra-productive running backs, but David Wilson was the unsung hero for an offense that needs someone to work around. He finished the year with over 1,700 rushing yards, while corner Jayron Hosley was one of the nation’s top punt returners and a playmaking machine on defense with three picks and 12 broken up passes on the year. These two were the difference between a good season and a Sugar Bowl appearance.