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These prospects will define the draft's first round.
Up until the moment Commissioner Roger Goodell starts announcing picks from the podium at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Thursday, April 26, the draft stocks of NFL prospects will fluctuate like the NASDAQ. From the pages of Athlon Sports Monthly, here’s a rundown of the blue chips, risers and fallers in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Can’t Miss Blue Chips
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are this year’s pre-draft cover boys, but there are other players with a chance to make it to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Matt Kalil, LT, USC
A dancing bear with the requisite size (6'7", 306), arm length, athleticism and pedigree (older brother, Ryan, is a Pro Bowl center in Carolina) to experience both immediate and sustained success as a franchise left tackle.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
A 5'9", 228-pound bowling ball with a rare combination of power, speed, balance and vision. Plus, the two-time BCS national champ still has tread on his tires after splitting carries with Mark Ingram early in his career.
Bullish First-Round Risers
Due to Combine success, position scarcity and/or team needs, these prospects may hear their names called earlier than expected.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Last year’s draft saw four quarterbacks selected within the first dozen picks of the draft — several of whom had supposed late first-round grades. After Luck and RG3, Tannehill should be the next passer off the board.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The 6'4", 346-pound 3-4 nose tackle made himself a rich man at the Combine — running a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash, ripping off 44 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and skying for a 29.5-inch vertical leap.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill burst onto the scene at the Combine — running a 4.36 in the 40 after weighing in at 6'4" and 215 pounds — and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Yellow Jackets Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.
Bearish First-Round Fallers
Once thought to be candidates to go in the top 10, these players are beset with concerns that may result in a longer than anticipated wait on draft day.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
A former Florida standout who was kicked off the team following his second drug arrest, Jenkins also has a bar fight and four children by three different women on his rap sheet résumé. But …he’sshown remorse and off-the-charts talent.
Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
Labeled “soft” by many, Martin had a subpar Pro Day that did nothing to help his draft stock. Playing alongside the top guard (David DeCastro) and quarterback (Andrew Luck) prospects may have inflated Martin’s perceived value.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
He was compared to Ray Lewis after his Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year season, but Burfict’s inconsistent play, abrasive personality, lack of discipline and poor conditioning may result in “undrafted free agent” status.
Other NFL Draft-Related Content
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III