It’s that time of the year for College Football fans to sit back and watch as their favorite players are honored with this season’s awards. I don’t care much, since I never have a horse in the race, but what I do care about is what these guys can do on Sunday’s, so let’s take a look at the DRAFT ELIGIBILE award winners and see where and how they project in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor:
Award- Heisman Winner, Davey O’Brien (National Quarterback Award)
Projections: Few, if any prospects have moved up the draft boards like RG3. At the beginning of the season most had him pinned for a day 2 pick if he decided to forgo his senior season, something that was very unlikely at the time.
Now, he is almost an almost unanimous choice to be the second or third quarterback drafted.
He lacks ideal size, more of the Drew Brees/Mike Vick sized QB, but makes up for it with elite athletic ability.
He has a big arm, and can make all the throws necessary at the next level, but has struggled in some games against weak defensive competition.
Griffin III will find himself in the top 10 of the NFL draft, and looking at the teams drafting, could end up as high as 5 to Washington or as low as 7 to Cleveland.
Best Case Scenario: Michael Vick meets Drew Brees
Worst Case: Jeff Garcia w/ a better arm
Andrew Luck, QB Stanford:
Awards- Maxwell Award (Outstanding Player), Walter Camp (Player of the Year), Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Outstanding Sr. QB).
Projections: There is no doubt at this point, and it would be an upset of epic proportions if Luck was not the first player taken in this year’s draft.
He is the best QB prospect to come out since Peyton Manning in 1998, and soon enough he will either be teaming with or replacing Manning on the Colts roster.
Luck has the entire tool box to be a dominant, franchise quarterback in this league and will be the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Best Case Scenario: Peyton Manning
Worst Case Scenario: Matt Ryan
Trent Richardson, RB Alabama:
Award- Doak Walker Award (National Running Back Award)
Projections: It’s weird to project running backs at this point, because of the shift in the RB landscape in the NFL. People like Mark Ingram and Ryan Williams, the top two running backs selected in 2011’s draft, would have been mid 1st rounders 5 years ago. Now, with the platoon system and shift to the air, RB’s are not in demand, or needed.
Over the last decade a total of 10 RB’s have been selected in the top 10 in the NFL draft, and six of those have made at least one Pro Bowl, the exceptions being Cadillac Williams, injury prone, Reggie Bush, on pace to make his first Pro Bowl, Cedric Benson and Darren McFadden, two of the better runners in the league right now. The point being, there are few actual busts at RB when they are drafted in the top 10 and Trent Richardson has the talent to join that group come April
With his combination of power and speed, his elite vision, and ability to run in between and outside of the tackles, he is going to be a special player in this league.
Richardson should go in the top 10, he is too good to fall further than that, but he is in a weird situation because so few teams need a running back at this point. I will maintain that the Bengals should use those two first round picks they have and move up and take Richardson, giving them someone to split carries and eventually replace Benson.
Best Case Scenario: Emmitt Smith
Worst Case Scenario: Thomas Jones
Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma St
Award- Fred Biletnikoff (Outstanding WR)
Projections: I have Blackmon as my second rated prospect going into the 2012 NFL Draft. I am well aware that is rare air for a WR, but Blackmon’s body of work over the past two seasons’ warrants such high praise.
He has physically dominated the competition, and should be able to step into almost any team and become the number one target.
Strong, great route running and fantastic body control make up for the lack elite top end speed and size.
Blackmon will likely, if Matt Kalil does go back to school, be the second player drafted between the Rams and Vikings, both in dire need of weapons for their young QB’s.
Best Case Scenario: Anquan Boldin plus
Worst Case Scenario: Michael Crabtree
Dwayne Allen, TE Clemson
Award- John Mackey (Outstanding TE)
Projections: Allen came into the season as the best TE prospect in college football, the only question was could he continue to grow as a receiving target and sneak himself up the draft board.
He did that with ease playing in Clemson’s high tempo offense, eclipsing his career totals with a strong junior year: 48receptions 577yards and 8td’s.
What sets Allen apart from other TE prospects is not just his willingness to block, but the fact that he truly enjoys it, and does it better than any other top TE prospect in a long time.
Allen is going to come into the NFL and start immediately, and will bring the TE position back from being just an additional receiving threat because of his ability to help block in the run game.
With the way playoff teams are lining up you could see Allen fitting in nicely at the end of the first round, or early in round two.
Best Case Scenario: Healthy Todd Heap
Worst Case Scenario: Kevin Boss
Barret Jones, OT Alabama
Award- Outland Trophy (Outstanding Interior Lineman)
Projections: Barret Jones came into the season moving outside from guard, and many wondered if he could make the transition to LT or if they would be better served moving uber prospect DJ Fluker over to the blind side.
The results speak for themselves and now he has worked his way into the first day of the draft, likely going as high as top 20 if Kalil does indeed return to USC for his senior season.
He has always been a strong run blocker, but he showed elite foot speed and an ability to sit down and protect with good slide protection and a strong base.
Best Case Scenario: Donald Penn (2011 version)
Worst Case Scenario: Levi Brown
Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College
Award- Vince Lombardi/Rotary (Outstanding Lineman) Dick Butkus (Outstanding Linebacker)
Projections: Kuechly is a heady, physical leader on the defense and a solid playmaker. He may lack elite athleticism like some of the other top MLB prospects have, but he makes up for it with a consistent, relentless effort and the ability to diagnose and make all the plays in front of him.
He is a true sideline to sideline player, who also is able to drop into coverage fluidly and can be effective on the blitz.
As I have broken down in the past, this is one of the best drafts for a MLB to come out in, as there are at least 10 teams that have a need at the position.
Kuechly is far ahead of his peers right now in, Te’o and Burfict, but could see his stock drop a little bit if his measurable come in low. Anyone drafting him though will see that, and see the film and how productive he is on a game to game basis.
Best Case Scenario: Keith Brooking (Atlanta years)
Worst Case Scenario: Gerald Hayes
Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
Award- Jim Thorpe (Best Defensive Back)
Projections: The best CB back and likely top defensive player coming out in the 2012 draft, Claiborne doesn’t get nearly the recognition he deserves getting over shadowed by teammate and Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu,
Claiborne was a lock down CB in every sense, and is only going to get better with more time spent on the defensive side of the ball. He is fluid in coverage, makes great breaks on the ball, and with his background as a WR, he knows how to go after and make plays on the ball.
Claiborne is raw still as a corner and can get lazy because of how athletic he is, but he has all the tools to come into the league and make an impact.
Claiborne is going to be the first defensive player drafted, and with so many teams at the top needing CB help, he could go as high as top 5.
Best Case Scenario: Asante Samuel
Worst Case Scenario: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
David Monz, C Michigan
Award – Rimington Trophy (Outstanding Center)
In what is one of the more surprising award winners in a while, David Monz took home the Rimington Trophy. One of the more undersized centers in CFB, Monz is a heady player that relies on tenacious effort and good angles more than he does overpowering his opponent.
Monz will likely be an undrafted free agent coming out, with little interest being shown at this time from teams.
Best Case Scenario: Lyle Sendlein
Worst Case Scenario: Never makes it