By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
1. Matt Barkley USC QB He possesses good enough athletic tools, but is #1 because of a low floor not a high ceiling. The USC star has unmatched intelligence, experience, production and NFL readiness, but borderline height. He did show the ability to excel in USC vertical passing game, which is a great sign. With a talented team around him, however, he should again put up huge numbers and may hit the college football trifecta: National Championship, Heisman, 1st Overall pick.
2. Logan Thomas VT QB Thomas is here because of his very high ceiling. He is big, super athletic, strong armed and incredibly tough to bring down. You’ll see comparisons to Cam Newton, but he is also reminiscent of Big Ben with his massive frame and skill-set. Like Big Ben he tends to hang on to the ball a little too long, but gets away with it due to his strength to shrug off defenders.
3. Star Lotulelei UTAH DT He’s big and athletic with the strength to consistently push linemen backwards while commanding double teams, and agile enough to track the ball and swallow the ball carrier. He should continue to dominate PAC-12 opponents even while taking on double teams.
4. Tyler Wilson ARKANSAS QB Wilson has a live arm and was accurate and productive in the nation’s toughest conference, the SEC. He’s a decent athlete with some mobility, but can really spin it. He has a gunslinger’s mentality but he needs to tame his enthusiasm in throwing into tight windows.
5. Johnathan Hankins OSU DT Hankins has a nice combination of brute strength and athleticism. He’s a huge guy at 320 lb with huge potential and the power to force his way into the backfield and command the attention of extra blockers. I really love this guy and his ability to penetrate.
6. David Amerson NC STATE CB Amerson is a 6’3 ball-hawk with the sublime ball skills of a top wide out. He put up a ridiculous 13 picks last year and showed off impressive body control and soft hands. Amerson is a ball magnet and the skills to play the safety spot as well.
7. Barkevious Mingo LSU OLB/DE One of the best prospects from a loaded LSU defense, Mingo is 6’5 with long arms to create space from blockers. Not quite as fast as Jarvis Jones, but is incredibly quick and a much bigger frame that does need more bulk. His potential is off the charts.
8. Keenan Allen CAL WR Allen at 6’3 has the ball skills to beat defenders to the ball in the air, as well as the quickness, acceleration and change of direction that at times resembles a running back. He has big time play-making ability complemented by good size.
9. Robert Woods USC WR Woods has great speed and is a superior route runner who gets open and behind defenders. The speedster is a vertical threat who lacks the muscle to battle defenders in close quarters, a weakness masked by his ability to separate at the college level.
10. Jarvis Jones UGA OLB In today’s NFL a true pass rushing talent is highly coveted. Jones isn’t the most physical prospect and not a developed run defender, but boy can he explode off the edge and use speed to run around linemen on his way to the quarterback.
11. Sam Montgomery LSU OLB/DE Another stud from the Tigers defenseMontgomery is raw and lacks bulk, but flashes big time athleticism, speed, energy and unlimited potential with the frame to add extra weight.
12. Chris Faulk LSU OT Faulk plays LT and has the strength and weight to excel in run blocking, making him versatile enough to play both tackle positions. He also displays the necessary athleticism and decent agility to hold up well in pass protection.
13. Eric Reid LSU S Reid flies around the field with the speed and balance to make plays and cover running backs, tight ends and even receivers. He is not overly physical and could be limited in terms of run defense, but is the fast and athletic safety sure to thrive in the pass happy NFL.
14. Luke Joeckel TEXAS A&M OT At 6’6 Joeckel has fluid movement with the footwork to mirror defenders off the edge and the understanding of leverage to be effective in run blocking. He just looks so smooth despite his height suggesting he can match pass rusher’s athleticism on the edge.
15. Tyler Bray TENNESSEE QB Bray is a tall and thin cannon-armed quarterback with the confidence and velocity to make all the throws. He has some work to do becoming a bona fide leader, but has dynamic arm talent and major confidence, which is encouraging especially if he learns to avoid picks.
16. Kawann Short PURDUE DT Short is not short on talent, he is a strong and active athlete that carries his weight well and demands attention. Not quite the elite dynamic force of Hankins or Lotulelei but can penetrate and disengage from blockers to make plays.
17. Barrett Jones ALABAMA T/G/C Jones was a solid force on the Crimson Tide offensive line. Extremely versatile, the 6’5 311 lb lineman has logged a lot of quality time since his freshman year at RG, LT and is going to play C this upcoming season.
18. Manti Te’o ND ILB Te’o was a highly touted recruit and was a difference maker from the start. He is a strong athlete without blazing speed, but does have that important sideline-to-sideline ability while being strong enough to wade through traffic and rack up tackling numbers.
19. Jackson Jeffcoat TEXAS OLB/DE Jeffcoat has NFL bloodlines and the talent to drastically improve his game and draft stock. At 6’5 250 he has the athleticism and frame to add more strength to compliment his speed. Jeffcoat is a guy that has natural abilities and the size to make a run at the top 10 range.
20. Brandon Jenkins FSU OLB/DE The FSU defensive end will most likely transition to a 3-4 edge rushing linebacker with his ability to bend and accelerate on the pass rush arc. Jenkins doesn’t blow you away with speed and is more of a deceptively athletic guy who uses his hands and changes his body position to sneak past blockers. He was double teamed a bunch last year, but still provided great pressure.
21. Tyler Efiert ND TE At 6’6 with soft hands, ball skills and great overall athleticism Efiert gives any offense a great receiving option from the tight end spot. He is a quarterback’s best friend creating mismatches in the middle of the field and a wide catch radius that gives the QB a larger margin of error. However, he struggles as a run blocker.
22. Ricky Wagner WISCONSIN LT The Badgers have been producing big offensive line talent and next up is Ricky Wagner. A former tight end, Wagner shows the footwork and strength to be proficient both as a run blocker and a pass blocker.
23. Tony Jefferson OU S Jefferson also played running back in high school and his athleticism shows. He has excellent closing speed and has the ability to explode to the ball. He is very physical in coverage with the anticipation to make plays on the ball or deliver a big hit.
24. William Gholston MSU DE The Spartan defensive end is a monster physically at 6’7 275. Gholston’s imposing and long frame gives him the ability to get his hands on and control linemen. He’s had several on-field incidents including punching aMichigan player and his effort is not consistent.
25. Xavier Rhodes FSU CB Rhodes has a well-rounded game. At 6’2 he can battle wide outs for the ball in the air while possessing solid hip-turn as well as enough speed to turn and run with receivers. A willing tackler Rhodes loves to make physical tackles in run support. He does struggle keeping up with speedsters deep.
26. Knile Davis ARKANSAS RB Davis has a bit of an injury history and missed most of last year with an ankle injury, but his athletic talent is truly elite. He reportedly ran a 4.33 in workouts and when healthy showed great acceleration, balance and solid physicality to rack-up yards and quickly generate momentum to take on defenders.
27. Johnathan Banks MISS ST CB A physical 6’2 corner Banks plays aggressively and shows great tackling ability. He is light at only 185lb, but plays physically in run support. He shows good athleticism and hip transition to turn and run with receivers.
28. Tyrann Mathieu LSU CB The Honey Badger is under-sized at 5’9 175 but his game makes a big impression. Mathieu plays with an energy that permeates throughout the entire defense. He takes some risks but comes up with game changing interceptions, forced fumbles and sacks. He also is a truly dynamic return man with speed and superior change of direction and elusiveness. He could end up being a multi-positional defensive “weapon” to mask his size and confuse offenses while lining up mostly at nickleback and safety. His dismissal from LSU means he’ll have to prove his maturity to teams.
29. Justin Hunter TENNESSEE WR A tall (6’4), fast (4.4 caliber speed) big potential type WR coming off an ACL injury. He needs to return fully healthy, but in a limited sample size last year he had impressive production and with his combination of size and speed his talent level is on par with the other top prospects without question.
30. Marcus Lattimore S CAROLINA RB Lattimore was productive in the notoriously tough SEC and showed nice power and burst. A workhorse type back Lattimore can carry a full workload and provide tough running in between the tackles as well as the explosion to burst up field quickly. He is coming off an ACL tear.
31. Alex Okafor TEXAS DE Okafor has long arms that he uses to create a violent hand punch and takes good angles coming off the edge to provide pressure. Okafor is a productive and active defender with a nice overall game.
32. DJ Fluker ALABAMA RT Fluker is a mammoth of a man at 6’6 335 who can secure running lanes and handle big defensive linemen. His average athleticism prevents him from playing LT, but he did a great job at RT for the Crimson Tide and has the build to give you snaps inside as well.
33. Margus Hunt SMU DE The Estonian born Hunt is a freak of nature. He appeared at #1 on the College Football Freak List (cbssports.com). He reportedly benched 225 35 times, cleaned 384 lb, ran a 4.70 in his initial tryout, has a 36 inch vertical, all at 6’8 275 with an 82 inch wingspan. With little football experience he blocked 14 kicks throughout his career but recorded only 3 sacks in 2011. He’s a raw but unbelievably talented prospect.
34. Shayne Skov STANFORD ILB Skov is aggressive, instinctual, physical and flat-out makes plays. He plays with contagious energy and has great closing speed. He suffered a torn ACL and played in only 3 games last year. He was also suspended for the first game of 2012 for a DUI arrest. If he comes back healthy and stays clean he is a true football player with a tough on-field demeanor.
35. Bjoern Werner FSU DE Werner is a strong and powerful defensive lineman with a strong bull rush and enough athleticism to mix it up and challenge linemen on the edge. Against bigger NFL linemen he might not have the same success but he is tenacious and talented enough to adjust and add to his game.
36. Tyler Lewan MICHIGAN LT Lewan has the height, 6’8, and foot speed that are critical for an offensive tackle prospect, but needs to show he can locate and lock up defenders more regularly. He’s got the frame to add weight and therefore strength. If he can get a little stronger and more comfortable in space he will solidify his stock.
37. Geno Smith WVU QB Smith is more than comfortable playing in an up-tempo pass-oriented attack like the one he runs for the Mountaineers. He isn’t a standout in any one area, but has a good arm with a quick release. He is also able to avoid the rush and has good speed and agility to turn up-field to pick up yards. His numbers should explode with a full offseason in Dana Holgorsen’s high octane offense.
38. Marquess Wilson WASH ST WRWilson played well for a bag Cougars squad. He is likely not 6’4 as he is listed but should measure out at least 6’2. He demonstrated soft hands and great body control on the sideline. When running after the catch he is patient with good vision and speed.
39. Sean Porter TEXAS A&M OLB Porter is a less talented version of his former Aggies teammate and Denver Broncos star Von Miller. Miller had 4.4 caliber speed and was a break-out rookie last year. Porter isn’t that guy but is very active with great change of direction but slightly undersized. He will provide solid pressure off the edge this season and has a definite role at the NFL level.
40. TJ McDonald USC S The son of a former Trojans star, McDonald is aggressive and athletic. He enjoys giving a big hit and is versatile enough to play either safety spot. He explodes to the ball, but scouts will like to see him wrap-up and become more of a sure tackler.
41. Landry Jones OU QB Jones is coming of a disappointing season where the expectations for him were high. He is a pure pocket passer with little mobility. He needs to perform on a consistent basis as well as deliver in pressure situations to quiet his critics. Jones is 6’4 and the ball flies off his arm so with a little better production and composure he has the ability to play in the NFL.
42. Da’Rick Rodgers TENNESSEE WR At 6’3 215 Rodgers has the build to be a legitimate possession receiver. He is tough and more than willing to run routes over the middle. Due to his physicality and strength he is a load to bring down and can pick up yards after the catch without being overly fast.
43. Matt Elam FLORIDA S Elam lacks the strength and pure force of some safeties, but he flies around the field and is a real playmaker. With great speed and acceleration he can cover a lot of ground in a hurry and is eager to throw himself at the ball in order to make a tackle. He does need to improve his tackling skills though.
44. Jake Matthews TEXAS A&M OT The son of Hall of Fame inductee and former Titan Bruce Matthews, Jake has been a solid and productive RT for the Aggies. If Luke Joeckel wasn’t on the left side, Matthews may have been the starting LT. Matthews has great technique and footwork and at 6’5 305 he might be better suited as a LT where he can effectively mirror pass rushers without having to drive back defenders as often in run blocking.
45. Montee Ball WISCONSIN RB The insanely productive Ball was a Heisman Finalist last year. He benefited from a big group up front, but was more than just a product of the system. Ball doesn’t have elite speed and isn’t the most powerful back, but has tremendous lateral agility and a real knack for slipping through tackles to pick up extra yards on almost every play.
46. Sylvester Williams UNC DL Williams has an athletic build for an interior lineman with good strength and long arms. He is at times very active and determined to find the ball, but that energy isn’t consistent. He is versatile and can play tackle or end, but lacks the strength to be a 3-4 NT. His current ranking is based on his natural athleticism and build and could end up 20 spots higher or lower based on his 2012 season.
47. Michael Buchanan ILLINOIS OLB/DE Buchanan is an active and long athlete who at 6’6 240 could play as a standup 3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE if he puts on some weight. At this point he has a very thin frame, but the long arms and balance to attack defenders off the edge.
48. Robert Lester ALABAMA S Lester is a versatile safety prospect without elite physical traits. As a Nick Saban product he shows good discipline and plays more physical than his 6’2 210 frame. He can provide solid pass coverage as well as run support.
49. Tharold Simon LSU CB Often overshadowed by Morris Claiborne and the Honey Badger, Simon quietly had a nice season. At 6’3 Simon has unique height to challenge the ever-growing crop of tall, elite receivers. He also shows good athleticism, ball skills and fluid hip transition to turn and run with receivers down field. With Tyrann Mathieu’s dismissal Les Miles will count on him to be a rock in the secondary.
50. Cobi Hamilton ARKANSAS WR He’ll get a chance this year to show how talented a WR he is. To this point he had to share the field with three eventual draft picks, but still provided solid big play ability. He reaches his highest gear quickly and has a great burst and body control for a 6’3 guy.
Sleepers: Connor Vernon WR DUKE, Shamarko Thomas SS SYRACUSE, Levine Toilolo TE STANFORD, Justin Pugh OT SYRACUSE, Malliciah Goodman DE CLEMSON, Andre Debose WR FLORIDA, Chris Gragg TE ARKANSAS, DeAndre Hopkins WR CLEMSON, Dexter McCoil S TULSA, Quandre Diggs CB TEXAS (sophomore)