11. The 2012 NFL Draft season is in full swing, however it hard not to look ahead to next year’s draft and not get excited. Based on the seniors who returned to school and the juniors who could enter the draft, it figures to be one of the deeper drafts, especially at the premium positions that we have seen. Quarterbacks such as Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones and underclassmen Tyler Bray and Logan Thomas could all be first round picks. Running Back Marcus Lattimore, despite a torn ACL this year is in that elite class of RBs. The WR position will be highlighted by USC’s Robert Woods who looks to me like a top five pick and will be joined by Arkansas’s Cobi Hamilton, Cal’s Keenan Allen and Baylor’s Terrance Williams. However, it’s the pass rushers that figure to be available in the next two years that have most scouts excited. As of right now pass rushers who could end up in the first round next April are Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, South Carolina’s Devin Taylor, LSU’s Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, Texas’s Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, Auburn’s Corey Lemonier, Michigan State’s William Gholston, Florida’s Ronald Powell and Florida State’s Brandon Jenkins. I can’t remember a draft that could feature such quality at that position. Not to mention other defenders like Manti Te’o and Tyrann Mathieu, the 2013 NFL Draft is shaping up to be the best in a long time.
12. With Wisconsin having their Pro Day yesterday, some news came out of Madison that NFL scouts actual like C Peter Konz not only as a center, but some like him at OG and some even like him at RT. I personally have Konz ranked as the number one center in the draft and it’s not close. There has been some momentum building that Konz might be a guard at the next level, but this is the first time I have heard RT. Konz is 6’5″ so he is a little tall for the center position, however with his technique and strength, the height didn’t effect him at all. I also find it interesting that Konz’s teammate OG Kevin Zeitler is receiving a lot of interest from NFL teams who want to move him to center. Zeitler is one of the top four OG in this draft and projected to go in round two. It appears the Konz and Zeitler may end up flip flopping positions in the the NFL, which just goes to show the quality of offensive linemen that they produce at the University of Wisconsin. I personally would keep Konz at center, just because I think he could be an All-Pro at the position. However, Zeitler may increase his value if he proves to scouts he can play in the middle.
13. As I was writing this article, Justin Blackmon ran his forty yard dash at his pro day in Stillwater, OK. Blackmon officially posted a 4.46, which is a great time for him. Many people in the industry questioned Blackmon’s straight line speed simply because he doesn’t look that fast on film. Running in the 4.4’s should solidify Blackmon’s status as the top WR in this year’s draft. Blackmon has two years of outstanding game film to back up any questions people may still have about him. He was as dominant and as productive as any WR in this draft, making big play after big play. He’s a tremendous competitor and one of the few WR in this draft who actually uses his hands to snag the ball out of the air. He is able to win with his strength and body positioning ability and breaks a lot of tackles after the catch. With a verified 40 time, teams who are picking at the top of the draft, don’t have to worry about him being fast enough to be a number one guy in the pros. It was also reported that Blackmon was running routes out of the slot at his pro day. Blackmon was primarily an outside WR at Oklahoma State, but with his big strong body, he would be a tough match up to cover out of the slot.
14. I was able to touch on next year’s draft class a little bit earlier in this post. The one thing I can’t wait to watch next year during the college football season is going to be the USC passing attack. Not only am I a huge fan of Matt Barkley, whom I think would have been the number two pick ahead of RG3, had he entered this year’s draft. I am also a huge fan of Robert Woods, who is one of the most polished college WRs I have seen in a long time. It’s going to be extremely fun to see Barkley and Woods build on the chemsitry that they had last season at USC. Both players had tremendous seasons and expectations this year are going to be sky high. Barkley is going to enter the season as the consensus number one pick in th 2013 draft and Robert Woods won’t be far behind. When you mix in Sophomore Marquis Lee and Lane Kiffin’s offensive creativity, the USC offense is going to be as explosive as any we have seen in college football in a long time.
15. I spend a lot of time talking about all the big name prospects I have high grades on for this year’s draft. However, over the last week and a half with the combine included, I have been able to take a harder look at a number of the smaller school players who I have been impressed by. Some of those players include Presbyterian CB Justin Bethel, who ran very well at the combine and who I thought looked very fluid in the positional drills. Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly is another small school DB who impressed me not only at the combine but also at the Senior Bowl. Amini Silatolu, whose a OG from Division II Midwestern State, is one of the meanest and most physical offensive linemen in the draft. Trumaine Johnson who played CB at Montana but profiles as a FS in the NFL is someone I have ranked highly. If I had to bet on who would be the first non-division I player off the board, I would say Silatolu goes within the first half of round two, with a few more small school guys following close behind him.