January 15th marks the date for rookies to declare their intentions for the 2012 NFL draft. Until after that date, players appearing on this list may only be temporary should they decide to return to school and not enter the draft.
My rookie research is well underway and this is shaping up to be an interesting year. I’m higher on this draft class than I have been in recent years, especially within the quarterback and second tier running back positions. While normally I would begin my early draft articles with more commentary on each player, this year I am starting with an initial early ranking of the top ten within each position only while I continue to do more tape research on the players.
Let’s take a look at each position a bit before we get into the lists.
2012 looks to be a great year for the quarterback position. Headlining this list is Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who is considered by many to be the best quarterback prospect since John Elway from 1983. Behind Luck is 2011’s Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III who is as exciting a player as we’ve seen at quarterback since Michael Vick. Griffin, however, is also a superbly accurate passer as he is an exciting runner.
I should also mention that as I write this, the Colts have just locked up the first pick in the draft and will with all certainty draft Andrew Luck. Whether this means that Payton Manning will be playing elsewhere in 2012 or not cannot be answered at this time but if I were to hazard a guess, it is my belief that he will be back with the Colts in 2012.
Beyond Luck and Griffin are Landry Jones, Ryan Tannehill and the under-appreciated and overshadowed Nick Foles from Arizona. Any way you slice it, 2012 looks to be a banner year at the quarterback position.
All eyes remain on Trent Richardson in fantasy. He’s as clear-cut the top running back off the board as was Adrian Peterson. He’s big, physical, a work-horse and perhaps, most importantly, a high character individual. While I have reservations about his game in the NFL, he’s still clearly the marquee name at the position.
Following Richardson is a very interesting and intriguing set of backs. What makes this class interesting isn’t the clear talent of the group, but the diversity that they represent. Whether you like smaller backs with great receiving ability, between the tackle runners or three-down backs, 2012 is the class for you. What I particularly like is the size of this year’s group. All backs currently making my list are of good size. If you have a mid-first round selection and are looking for a running back, this is the draft for you. There will be solid selections in the 4-7 range and again in the early second round.
Much like both the quarterback and running back positions, the wide receiver group has a clear-cut first-off-the-board player in Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon. While not the ultra-dynamic physical specimen of Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, the shorter (6’1″) Blackmon is tremendously gifted and plays much taller than his listed size. I will be very interested to see his “official” height during the NFL combine.
Behind Blackmon are both Michael Floyd and Alson Jeffery. Both are gifted receivers in their own right but come with concerns that raise the risk factor. If you’ve followed my “By the Numbers” articles that break down fantasy relevance of individual positions related to their draft positions, you understand that the wide receiver position is risk-laden unless selected within the first five NFL draft picks.
Let’s get to my early rankings:
|3||Ryan Tannehill||QB||Texas A&M||6040||222|
|6||Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma St||6040||218|
|7||E.J. Manuel||QB||Florida St||6040||245|
|9||Kirk Cousins||QB||Michigan St||6030||205|
|10||Ryan Lindley||QB||San Diego St||6040||230|
|2||Lamar Miller||RB||Miami (FL)||5110||212|
|4||David Wilson||RB||Virginia Tech||5100||205|
|5||Doug Martin||RB||Boise St||5090||210|
|10||Cyrus Gray||RB||Texas A&M||5100||200|
|1||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma St||6010||215|
|2||Michael Floyd||WR||Notre Dame||6030||224|
|3||Alshon Jeffery||WR||South Carolina||6040||229|
|7||Jeff Fuller||WR||Texas A&M||6030||220|
|8||Dwight Jones||WR||North Carolina||6040||225|
In the following weeks, I will be delving deeper into the prospects within each of these positions, as well as highlighting some of the defensive players that those of you in IDP leagues will want to be aware of. The tight end group of 2012 is largely underwhelming save that of Dwayne Allen from Clemson. I was in a TSA security line next to Dwayne while he was in Orlando at an awards event early in December and while I expect him to fall short of his 6’4″ listed height, he’s still likely a late first round selection and certainly the first tight end off the board.
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