Before you know it, the 2012 NFL Draft will be upon all of us, with no lockout on the horizon. That being said, we can get excited about whose names we'll be hearing in April. As I've done for the past few years, here are my top NFL Draft eligible prospects, in no certain order (as of today) for you to watch this season.
QB Andrew Luck
Jr. 6'4" 235 lb.
The Prototype. Would go number one in nearly every draft over the last 12 years.
QB Matt Barkley
Jr. 6'2" 220 lb
The full package and, potentially, the only guy who could unseat Luck next season.
WR Justin Blackmon
Jr. 6'1" 211 lb
Most explosive wideout in this draft and would've gone in top 12 in 2011.
QB Nick Foles
Sr. 6'5" 245 lb
Sidearm motion, but ball comes out hot and in a hurry. Has the size and strength to be a first round selection. Must be more consistent against better defenses.
WR Juron Criner
Sr. 6'4" 210 lb
Deep threat with great receiver instincts and ability to hurt defenses all over the field. Did miss spring practice with what the school termed an "internal issue", but he's back and eady for the season.
WR Michael Floyd
Sr. 6'3" 227 lb
Red flags off the field, but an incredible talent on it. Smooth catching the ball and catches nearly everything, but you do worry about the baggage and whether he can leave that immaturity behind him when he graduates from Notre Dame.
LB Manti Te'o
Jr. 6'2" 255 lb
Best inside linebacker we've seen in a while, could also transition out to Sam linebacker in a 4-3. Trust me, I'd love to see a team put him at 3-4 OLB, but I love his ability inside too much to think of him moving outside just yet.
QB Landry Jones
Jr. 6'4" 230 lb
The 'Stache has come a long way in 2 seasons as a starter. Can't wait to see how much progress he's made in year three. If it's what's expected, we'll see Jones' name called early in the 2012 draft.
OLB Travis Lewis
Sr. 6'2" 232 lb
Plays well in space and is the prototype WLB in a 4-3 at the next level. He may need to put on a few pounds to play 3-4 OLB, but he's been nothing but productive in three years as a starter.
DT Jared Crick
Sr. 6'6" 285 lb
Had great second half last year but could ultimately move out to 3-4 DE as former Penn State DT Jared Odrick did when he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Has the versatility and quickness to play either position at the next level.
DE Quinton Coples
Jr. 6'6" 285 lb
Quite frankly, he's the best defensive prospect on the board going into the 2011 season. Made many forget Robert Quinn who went 14th in the most recent NFL Draft. With his burst and strength, he is the prototype 4-3 DE, but could be a quality 3-4 DE as well, which can only raise his value.
DE Brandon Jenkins
Jr. 6'3" 258 lb
Think Von Miller with his hand on the ground. Not nearly as explosive, but is that type of player. If he progresses as expected, he can be in that class one day. Thank god, FSU DEs are back!
S Kenny Tate
Sr. 6'4" 220 lb
One big physical specimen who will run through receivers and ball carriers. Decent range, but his presence is intimidating for certain.
CB Jayron Hosley
Jr. 5'11" 170 lb
Small but great instincts. No one in the game has a nose for the ball, with, perhaps, the only exception being FSU's Greg Reid. Speaking of Reid...
CB Greg Reid
Jr. 5'8" 175 lb
Multi-dimensional player who finds a way to impact the game with a punt return or turning a team over with an interception. Ultra-dangerous with the ball in his hands and FSU will find more ways to get him the ball. However, the best part of his game is his coverage ability.
S Ray-Ray Armstrong
Jr. 6'4" 215 lb
Physical specimen who follows in long line of former Miami safety stars—has some pop, needs to be more consistent and control the aggressiveness just a bit.
LB Vontaze Burfict
Jr. 6'3" 243 lb
Hotheaded and explosive—tough to balance those two attributes, but this kid can play if his head is screwed on properly.
CB Janorris Jenkins 1
Sr. 5'10" 190 lb
Kicked off the team for a third marijuana arrest, so he transferred to North Alabama for his final season. Those red flags might drop him, but know this, he's a stud, but we've seen teams stay away from players like this, especially ones that can't stay away from smoking the "tree".
ILB Dont'a Hightower
Sr. 6'3" 260 lb
Inside smasher, not near as explosive as before his injury in 2009, but should be even better in 2011. Alabama's coaching staff moves Hightower all around the field and will even line him up as a fourth defensive lineman with his hand on the ground. It was clear in 2010 that he wasn't quite "right". But, now two years removed from his knee injury, he should reclaim the explosiveness prevalent in his game.
RB Trent Richardson
Jr. 5'11" 224 lb
A beast, pure and simple—will get majority of carries this season and that's a good thing. Doesn't let one guy tackle him in space and he'll punish defenders a bit more than Mark Ingram did the last few years.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Jr. 6'3" 192 lb
Has size, length and a little experience, now needs work on his technique and production on the field.
RB LaMichael James
Jr. 5'10" 190 lb
Speed personifies his game, tremendous year in 2010, but he'll be the focus of opposing defenses all year long.
WR DeVier Posey
Sr. 6'3" 205 lb
Did not have his best year in 2010 and will miss 5 games in 2011 but if he bounces back in the last seven, he can shine.
CB/PR Cliff Harris
Jr. 5'11" 175 lb
Speedy corner with confidence. Great recovery speed and breaks on the ball like a shot. Will miss some time after being indefinitely suspended, but if he rebounds, he has shutdown cover corner abilities.
LT Jonathan Martin
Sr. 6'6" 297 lb
Plays in a pro style offense and has the responsibility to protect Andrew Luck – better pass protector than run blocker; however, he's a solid combination of both traits.
RB Knile Davis
Jr. 6' 230 lb
Things changed last season when he took over as "the Man" at RB. Like his ability to project into a power scheme back or a zone blocking scheme back. Doesn't dance, one cut runner with burst to the second level. This is a young guy, even in his third year, but his maturity as a runner is quite apparent.
WR Greg Childs
Sr. 6'3" 217 lb
If he comes back healthy…we'll just stop there until we see him back on the field.
OT Matt Reynolds
Sr. 6'6" 315 lb
Prototype left tackle, has some nasty as well. Could eventually move over to the right side, but has grown up in the traditional BYU passing game, so the transition to the next level should be relatively smooth.
WR/KR TY Hilton
Sr. 5'10" 183 lb
The 2011 version of Jerrel Jernigan—has electric skills when he has the ball in his hands. TY is the type of player a team craves at the next level who can do a little bit of everything. But, most importantly he can "house it" every time he touches the stone.
RB Chris Polk
Jr. 5'11" 214 lb
Strong, quick and if he runs 4.4 at the Combine in Feb 2012, he'll be a late first rounder.
DE Donta Paige-Moss
Sr. 6'4" 260 lb
Got the opportunity to star opposite Quinton Coples after Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin sat out the entire season. Will be overshadowed by Coples, but with the focus on Coples, Paige-Moss should excel, showing his full array of strength and quickness.
CB Stephon Gilmore
Jr. 6'1" 194 lb
Best big corner in the draft class currently. Could play in most NFL secondaries this year, but another year in the SEC will improve his stock.
DE Ethan Johnson
Sr. 6'4" 300 lb
Has size to be a player, but just has to reach his enormous potential right now.
LB Courtney Upshaw
6'2" 265 lb
I'm a huge Upshaw fan, but he MUST to stay healthy. Regardless, even banged up last year, he was a monster out on the edge rushing the QB in the Tide's 3-4 defense. Don't be surprised to see Upshaw make a bid for a ton of post-season awards and top 5 status in the 2012 NFL Draft.
TE Orson Charles
Jr. 6'3" 240 lb
Is one hell of an athlete who'll see the ball much more now that AJ Green is gone.
DE Devin Taylor
Jr. 6'7" 248 lb
Has length to be special, but has to be more productive rushing the quarterback.
WR Alshon Jeffery
Jr. 6'4" 233 lb
Has the size, hands and strength that all teams covet, but he doesn't possess the long speed that'll make him a top 5 pick.
TE Drake Dunsmore
Sr. 6'3" 235 lb
Reminds me of Owen Daniels from the Houston Texans. Love his full array of skills.
QB Kirk Cousins
Sr. 6'3" 202 lb
Solid decision maker who spins it well. Must erase the memory of a horrid bowl game, but has the tools to be effective NFL QB in the future.
LG Joel Foreman
Sr. 6'4" 310 lb
Guards not often respected that much, but Foreman has the nasty demeanor that teams covet in either a power or zone scheme.
NT Jerel Worthy
Jr. 6'3" 305 lb
Getting by on natural ability right now and has the ability to be a superstar 4-3 DT, either at the 3 tech or over the nose. However, his technique hasn't met up with his potential.
S Mark Barron
Sr. 6'2" 218 lb.
Must rebound from late 2010 surgery, a season in which he played with one arm. Love his physical nature and the fact that he's always around the ball.
G Barrett Jones
Jr. 6'5" 311 lb
Gotten better each year at Alabama, could move to right tackle some day. Grinder with strength and good feet.
WR Jeff Fuller
Sr. 6'4" 215 lb
Big, not blazing fast but has hands of glue, very similar to Alson Jeffery. He's more agile than Jeffery, but both provide similar assets on the perimeter.
WR Dwight Jones
Sr. 6'4" 225 lb
Speaking of big receivers, Jones is a beast who seemingly came into his own after Greg Little was suspended for the 2010 season.
QB Brandon Weedon
Sr. 6'4" 213 lb
Weedon is a former baseball player who is a few years older than the rest of his peers. But, his quick release and ability to adapt to the up-tempo OSU offense, combined with his ability to read and decipher rapidly has scouts attention.
DT Alameda Ta'amu
Sr. 6'3" 330 lb
Not well known, but with his size and strength make him a candidate to be a 3-4 NT. That duality, so to speak, can and should increase his value in the NFL Draft in 2012.
DE Jake Bequette
Sr. 6'5" 271 lb
Bequette has improved immensely every single season. He has great motor and is relentless off the edge. Pass rush skills are improving and with another ten pounds he could transition to 3-4 DE at the next level.