2012 Senior Bowl: Ranking the 50 Best Prospects in Mobile

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2012

2012 Senior Bowl: Ranking the 50 Best Prospects in Mobile

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    Though the top spots in the 2012 NFL Draft class are occupied by underclassmen, the Senior Bowl remains an important showcase for some of the best college talent in the nation.

    This year's game features no less than 10 players who could be drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    While some carry great college production with them, others are all projections and potential.

    Let's see how they stack up.

1. Quinton Coples, North Carolina DL

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    Quinton Coples has everything an NFL team could want in a defensive end.

    He's huge (6'5", 281), but is still able to squeeze around corners and find his way to the quarterback. He can excel as a defensive end in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Coples is a balanced player that can hold up equally well in running and passing situations.

2. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina DE

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    Melvin Ingram is an incredible athlete, in the mold of Julius Peppers at the defensive end position.

    He's big enough to hold up against the run, but really shines with his ability to rush the passer. Ingram racked up 10 sacks in his senior season, in addition to a couple of highlight-reel touchdown returns.

3. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama LB

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    Coming out of Nick Saban's system at Alabama, Courtney Upshaw has supplemented his physical talents with outstanding read and recognition skills.

    His deep understanding of the game allows Upshaw to play fast. His overall tackling numbers aren't impressive, but he lived in opponents' backfields while at Alabama—making 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

4. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska CB

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    Much like his former teammate Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard has all the physical traits you'd want in an NFL cornerback. He's tall enough to contest jump balls and thick enough to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage.

    While didn't pick off a pass in 2011, that was mostly due to opposing passers avoiding his side of the field.

5. Cordy Glenn, Georgia OG

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    Even among offensive linemen, Cordy Glenn is a mountain of a man. At 6'5" and nearly 350 pounds, he's unstoppable in the running game.

    Glenn was a four-year starter at Georgia and he'll slot into a similar role early on in his NFL career.

6. Zach Brown, North Carolina LB

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    Zach Brown is an explosive and versatile linebacker. He's just as comfortable rushing the passer as he is playing in open space.

    He racked up 105 tackles this season, including 13.5 behind the line of scrimmage.

7. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State OT

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    Zebrie Sanders was in a tough position this season, trying to stabilize a Florida State offensive line littered with inexperienced starters.

    While his production wasn't outstanding, he has a projectable frame as an NFL offensive tackle.

    Sanders excels in run blocking with the quickness and long arms to hold off pass rushers.

8. Brandon Thompson, Clemson DL

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    Brandon Thompson is a tough, hard-working and versatile defensive lineman. He will most likely end up as a defensive tackle, but could shift over to end in a 3-4 scheme.

    Thompson is stout against the run with the quickness and agility to do more than just take up space.

9. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama CB

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    Janoris Jenkins' off-field issues have dropped him from what looked like an assured first round status. Still, Jenkins is the most physically gifted cornerback in this game.

    He'll need to adjust to tougher competition after spending the year at North Alabama. But if he has his head on straight, Jenkins will shine.

10. Nick Foles, Arizona QB

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    While his Arizona teams didn't have much success, Nick Foles was undeniably productive as a passer.

    He finished third in the FBS in passing yards per game and completed nearly 70 percent of his throws.

    Foles has prototypical quarterback size, but lacks mobility. If he lands on a team that can protect him, Foles can develop into an effective NFL passer.

11. Chris Polk, Washington RB

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    Chris Polk is a hammer.

    Even as he carried the ball nearly 300 times in 2011, he was still able to grind out better than five yards per carry.

    He's shifty, but doesn't have great straight-line speed. Polk is also capable as both a blocker and receiver in the passing game.

    He is more than capable of holding a backup role right away in the NFL, taking on third down duties in addition to 8-10 carries per game.

12. Mike Adams, Ohio State OT

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    Mike Adams has been a steady offensive tackle as a three-year starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Beginning in 2012, he'll be the same thing for one lucky NFL team. At 6'7" and 323 pounds, he has prototypical size for either tackle position.

13. Billy Winn, Boise State DL

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    Billy Winn's combination of size and quickness gives him the versatility to play almost anywhere along the defensive line.

    He carries 300 pounds well, maintaining enough speed to get to the quarterback and track down runners from behind.

14. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State QB

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    Kirk Cousins leaves Michigan State as the owner of just about every passing record in Spartan history.

    He's completed at least 60 percent of his passes in each of his three seasons as a starter.

    Much like current New England Patriots backup (and former Spartan) Brian Hoyer, Cousins is a low-risk prospect with the potential to eventually develop into a starter.

15. Keenan Robinson, Texas LB

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    Keenan Robinson is a terrific athlete. He'll cover a ton of ground as a rookie, but until he adds some bulk, Robinson will get pushed around in the running game.

    He has the frame to get bigger, and if he's able to add size while maintaining his speed, Robinson could be a star.

16. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin OG

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    At nearly 6'4" and 315 pounds, Kevin Zeitler is everything you'd expect from a Wisconsin offensive lineman.

    He's equally proficient as a run and pass blocker and plays with an edge that extends just slightly after the whistle.

17. Alameda Ta’amu, Washington DL

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    At nearly 340 pounds, Alameda Ta'amu projects as a stout nose tackle for a 3-4 defense. He's strong at the point of attack, but also has the ability to work his way into the backfield.

    Almost half of his tackles in 2011 came behind the line of scrimmage.

18. Doug Martin, Boise State RB

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    Say what you want about Boise State's strength of schedule, but Doug Martin has been exceedingly productive in his Broncos career. He's averaged over 96 yards per game in each of his final two seasons.

    With players like Titus Young and Kyle Wilson have become NFL contributors after starring in Boise, Martin can do the same.

19. Vinny Curry, Marshall DL

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    Playing under the radar at Marshall, Vinny Curry quietly finished sixth in the nation with 11 sacks—an impressive total but one less than the 12 quarterback takedowns he posted in 2010.

    At 265 pounds, Curry is a little bit on the small side. But his mastery of the sack/fumble will give him value right away as a situational pass-rusher.

20. LaVonte David, Nebraska LB

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    LaVonte David has been one of the most productive tacklers in college football over the past two seasons.

    David has been the leading stopper for the Nebraska Cornhuskers over that time, racking up 285 career tackles.

    David's productivity can translate to the NFL. But at only 225 pounds, he'll need to land with a defense with linemen that can keep him free to roam.

21. Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma State DB

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    Jamell Fleming has the body of an NFL corner, and proved his capability with a productive career in a conference loaded with talented passers and receivers.

    As the top cornerback for the Oklahoma Sooners, he broke up 19 passes and picked off two more in 2011.

22. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State DB

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    Markelle Martin was a consistent performer on one of the best ball-hawking defenses yet somehow managed not to pick off a pass this season.

    It's a bit of a statistical anomaly, but it shouldn't overshadow Martin's potential at the next level.

    He has great range in coverage and ball skills that will eventually translate into turnovers.

23. Sean Spence, Miami (FL) LB

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    Sean Spence comes from a school with a fantastic tradition of producing devastating NFL linebackers.

    While Spence isn't on the level of Ray Lewis or even Dan Morgan, he does bring an NFL-ready skill set.

    He's not a particularly imposing physical presence, but he makes great reads and has fantastic range in coverage.

24. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin QB

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    Russell Wilson is short and it's going to be hard for him to overcome that to excel as an NFL quarterback.

    That said, he has a great set of physical tools outside of his height. Wilson is athletic, accurate and has the ability to make every NFL throw.

    A comparison to Drew Brees is appropriate in terms of skill and college production, But like Brees did early in his career, Wilson will have no shortage of doubters.

25. Brandon Boykin, Georgia DB

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    While Brandon Boykin isn't the best corner in this game, he has value as both a defender and a returner.

    As a senior at Georgia, he averaged almost one pass breakup per game.

    In the return game, he chipped in over 1,000 total return yards on the season.

26. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame DB

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    Harrison Smith reminds me a bit of former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams in that he attacks in every phase of the game.

    His style leads to stuffs in the run game and picks in the passing game, but it also leads to occasional big plays for the offense.

    Smith is a physically gifted safety and if he can improve his consistency in coverage, he can bloom into an NFL starter.

27. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State QB

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    Brandon Weeden is an interesting case as he'll enter the NFL as a 28-year-old rookie.

    He's already a fairly polished passer, but his age will absolutely scare some teams away.

    Weeden doesn't have as much tread on his tires as a typical quarterback of his age, and he has incredible record of production at Oklahoma State. The Senior Bowl will be an important showcase for him to prove he can succeed without Justin Blackmon and the Cowboy's air-raid offense.

28. Joe Adams, Arkansas WR

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    "Breakaway speed" doesn't even begin to describe Joe Adams.

    As one of the fastest players in college football, Adams can immediately contribute as a receiver and punt returner, much like DeSean Jackson.

    Adams needs to bulk up, but players with his combination of straight-line speed and elusiveness are invaluable in today's NFL.

29. Ben Jones, Georgia OG

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    There isn't much outstanding about Ben Jones, but he's started 49 games for the Georgia Bulldogs against some of the best defensive linemen in college football and proven that he can hold up.

    Jones is a steady performer and will deliver great late-round value for a team in need help on the offensive line.

30. Michael Egnew, Missouri TE

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    Michael Egnew enters the NFL Draft bearing a potent combination of physical prowess and past productivity.

    His 6'6" frame fits nicely with the emerging breed of big play tight ends and his 140 receptions over the last two seasons speak to his ability to translate his talent to the field.

    The only concern is his drop in production from 2010 to 2011—but much of that is due to catching passes from James Franklin instead of Blaine Gabbert.

31. Ryan Lindley, San Diego State QB

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    Lindley is unrefined, but physically gifted.

    He tossed 23 touchdowns against just eight picks in 2011. But completed only 53 percent of his passes.

    He's a project at this point that could grow into a starting passer if he can improve his accuracy.

32. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati RB

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    Coming out of a spread offense at Cincinnati, Isaiah Pead can translate smoothly into a third-down back role at the next level.

    He's an agile runner and a capable receiver out of the backfield, with enough speed to run away from linebackers.

    As the lead back for the Bearcats, Pead averaged over 96 rushing yards per game in 2011.

33. Brian Quick, Appalachian State WR

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    Brian Quick is dripping with natural ability, but his production at Appalachian State has to be taken with a grain of salt.

    While he has all the tools, he can be inconsistent at times.

    Quick is unproven, but he could deliver a huge reward later in the draft.

34. Kendall Reyes, Connecticut DL

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    At 6'4" and 300 pounds, Kendall Reyes has great size in the middle of the defensive front

    But in his senior season at UConn, he was much more than just a space-eater.

    Reyes consistently broke through the offensive line, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on the year.

35. Dan Herron, Ohio State RB

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    Dan "Boom" Herron is, as his nickname would suggest, a punishing runner.

    Even with suspensions limited him to only eight games and playing in the Big Ten conference loaded with tough defenses, he still managed to average 85 rushing yards per game.

    Herron probably won't ever be a lead back, but he can help a team right away as a change of pace.

36. George Iloka, Boise State DB

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    George Iloka has safety size, but proved at Boise State that he can hold his own at cornerback as well.

    That would make him a perfect fit as a nickel defender, especially against tight ends flexed out into the slot.

    He won't start right out of the gate, but his versatility will make him a valuable contributor.

37. Jake Bequette, Arkansas LB

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    Regardless of whether he transitions to linebacker or stays a defensive end, Jake Bequette's role in the NFL should highlight his pass-rushing abilities.

    In a conference loaded with talent along the offensive and defensive lines, Bequette averaged a sack per game in his senior season.

38. Matt McCants, UAB OT

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    Matt McCants has prototypical size for an offensive tackle, but his skill set is unpolished. He can lose his way against line stunts and zone blitz schemes, something that he'll have to improve in order to earn any playing time as a rookie.

39. Cam Johnson, Virginia LB

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    Cam Johnson played mostly defensive end during his final season as Virginia Cavalier, but in the NFL, he'll fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

    He racked up at least 11 tackles for loss in each of his last two seasons, using an explosive combination of strength and quickness to overwhelm opposing tackles.

40. Bobby Wagner, Utah State LB

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    Bobby Wagner has been a prolific tackler for the Utah State Aggies, but it's tough to predict if his performance in the WAC will translate to the next level.

    He has good size for an NFL inside linebacker but may struggle to keep up with a faster game.

41. Donnie Fletcher, Boston College DB

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    Donnie Fletcher was a four-year contributor for the Boston College Eagles, amassing 11 career interceptions.

    At 6't tall, he's got great height for a defensive back in the NFL.

42. Devier Posey, Ohio State WR

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    Devier Posey has all the physical tools, but never played with a skilled passer at Ohio State. He's unpolished coming out of college, but showed an ability to stretch the defense downfield.

    He'll be a bit of a project in the NFL, but he can provide immediate value as a deep threat.

43. Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt DB

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    Casey Hayward, while tall, is but fluid and agile enough to defend quick receivers in the slot.

    As that position becomes more and more of a focus for NFL offenses, players like Hayward will play a vital role in nickel defensive packages.

44. Marvin McNutt, Iowa WR

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    Marvin McNutt was one of the most productive receivers in college football this season; only 12 other receivers averaged at least 100 yards per game.

    McNutt has an NFL-ready body and above-average athleticism, but his real skill lies in his ability to find holes and seams in zone coverage.

    He can contribute right away as a possession receiver, especially on third down.

45. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada LB

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    James-Michael Johnson doesn't have the jaw-dropping athleticism of Dontay Moch, his former teammate at Nevada, but he does have good speed for his position.

    Johnson is unrefined, but has sideline-to-sideline range as a middle linebacker.

46. Mike Martin, Michigan DL

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    Mike Martin has run-stuffing size with a motor that never quits. By sheer determination alone, he became a disruptive force in the middle of the Michigan Wolverines defense.

    Martin won't be a starter in the NFL but he can be a valuable rotation player on the defensive front.

47. Emmanuel Acho, Texas LB

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    While Emmanuel Acho has great instincts and good size for an inside linebacker, he doesn't have the speed to roam sideline-to-sideline.

    He did average nine tackles per game as a senior. But in the NFL, he'll need to be surrounded by speed and focus on just patrolling the middle of the field.

48. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M WR

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    Jeff Fuller is a bit of an enigma.

    He was a big play threat in 2010 but that part of his game all but disappeared this past season.

    Fuller caught only two fewer passes, but his per-catch averaged dropped by three yards and his touchdowns were cut in half.

    His draft stock has plummeted as a result. But if a team can revive his physical tools, they can get a steal in the late rounds.

49. Brian Linthicum, Michigan State TE

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    Brian Linthicum is a well-rounded player, coming out of a Michigan State offense that schools its tight ends in both blocking and receiving.

    He has average size for the position and can slot in as a second or third tight end in the NFL.

50. Kellen Moore, Boise State QB

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    Kellen Moore leaves Boise State as the best player in school history and one of the most efficient college quarterbacks of all time. He led the FBS in completion percentage in 2011, hitting on nearly 74% of his passes.

    Unfortunately, Moore just doesn't have the size or arm strength of excel on the next level. While his physical toolkit is reminiscent of Chad Pennington, Pennington was four inches taller.

    He'll absolutely earn an invite to an NFL camp—but it may be as a rookie free agent.