The 2012 NFL Draft features a deep pool of NFL prospects, including the 'can't miss' QB prospect Andrew Luck from the Stanford Cardinal. Luck is expected to go #1 to the Indianapolis Colts but after that, things could get interesting. Keep in mind that this is the first draft with a rookie salary cap. We expect this to result in more trades and deals as the top picks will no longer get monster contracts. In recent years, the salaries paid to top picks was so high, it often prohibited teams from being able to trade those spots. Here's a look at some of the top college football players entering the draft:
Trent Richardson, Alabama Crimson Tide:
He is the no-doubt top rated RB prospect in this draft. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist and showed significant production for the last 2 years for the national champion Crimson Tide. However, running back has become a lesser valued position in the NFL now as the passing game gets all the attention. For that reason, Richardson could even be selected outside of the Top 10 spots.
Matt Kalil, USC Trojans:
Kalil is the consensus top offensive lineman in this draft, considered the best tackle prospect since Jake Long was selected first overall by the Miami Dolphins. Kalil could be coveted by the St. Louis Rams at #2 or the Minnesota Vikings at #3, both teams need help on the line.
Andrew Luck, Stanford Cardinal
we've all heard 'Suck for Luck' since about September as Luck is the most prized QB prospect since Peyton Manning. In fact, Luck may have been the #1 pick last year if he chose to enter the draft then. Luck possesses the physical skills needed to be a top line QB, as well as the intelligence and drive to lead an NFL team. Luck is a Stanford University graduate: those boys aren't dumb. There is very little doubt that the Colts will select Luck.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor Bears:
The 'other' QB in the 2012 NFL Draft is Heisman Trophy winner RGIII. With a cannon arm and excellent running abilities, Baylor's Griffin offers a very enticing set of physical skills. Some NFL scouts actually prefer Griffin over Andrew Luck. With Matt Barkley and Landry Jones returning to college for 2012, RG3 will be in high demand as more teams need elite new QBs than there is available. We expect the Rams to trade the #2 draft pick to a team wanting Griffin.
Morris Claiborne, LSU Tigers:
The LSU secondary was deep and talanted across the board this past year but Claiborne is a notch ahead of his teammates, and the top cornerback in the NFL draft. CB is still a premium position in the NFL and LSU's Claiborne is likely going to be a top 5 selection this April.
Riley Reiff, Iowa Hawkeyes:
There's a long tradition of successful offensive lineman from the Big 10 and the Iowa Hawkeyes Reiff is the conference's top dog in 2012. Along with Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Reiff isn't as elite as Kalil but he will be drafted in the top half of round one. Reiff played left tackle for the Hawkeyes but could also play right tackle at the next level.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and Courtney Upshaw, Alabama Crimson Tide:
Seeing as a stifling defense led Alabama to the BCS National Title, we will see more than one 'Bama player from that side of the ball playing in the NFL in 2012. These 3 all rate highly and could well be first round picks in April. Cornerback Kirkpatrick is likely the best prospect of these three and could be the 2nd Crimson Tide player selected after Trent Richardson. With talent this deep, is it any wonder Nick Saban is in the national title picture every year?
For more information on the 2012 NFL Draft, check out ESPN.com's Draft page.