More so than previous years, the "talking heads" seem in agreement as to who is the top prospect at each position, but as they say " It aint over till the fat lady sings", and some draft analysts are sure to be singing a different song after the combine.
Who do you feel has the greatest hold on their position, and who do you feel needs to be looking over their shoulder?
QB : Current thinking is that only a disaster would keep Luck from being the top pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and nothing Robert Griffin III can do will allow him to overtake Luck. Even is RG3 breaks the combine record for a QB in the 40, it wouldn't be enough to change the Colts mind; or would it?
RB : Trent Richardson was so good in college, that even when he was a back-up, many felt he was a better pro-prospect than Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Richardson is frequently listed as the only RB drafted in the first round (including mine), but could Miami's Lamar Miller be higher on some teams board the way Edgerrin James was drafted higher than Ricky Williams? Additionally, David Wilson is also likely to be a combine star, but will it be enough to close the gap between he and Richardson?
Ten years ago, Richardson may have evoked Jim Brown comparisons, but in today's NFL could teams see him as only a more talented Marion Barber?
WR : Justin Blackmon has been "mocked" as high as the second pick overall, quite high for a WR, but some teams may prefer the size of Alshon Jeffery, the speed of Kendall Wright, or the over-all game of Michael Floyd?
Kalil has two things going for him in his attempt to hold off Iowa's Riley Reiff. First, is the widely-held belief that Iowa offensive lineman are so well coached by Hawkeyes coach Ferentz, that they are nearly "maxed out" by the time they are in the NFL. Second is that prevailing wisdom states Kalil was so good at USC that he kept last years top OT (Tyron Smith) at RT. However, Smith played most of his junior year at 265, thus the safer plan would be to keep Kalil on the blind side. This one may not be over yet.
G/C : To make for a better debate, I grouped both David DeCastro and Peter Konz together, however DeCastro is expected to go 10 spots higher than Konz.
Two questions arise, one is DeCastro better at his position than Konz at his? Second, is the difference between Konz and the second ranked center Ben Jones greater than the difference between DeCastro and other guards like Kevin Zeitler?
To further complicate the equation, DeCastro has to hold off two collegiate LTs who will likely be NFL guards in Cordy Glenn and Kelechi Osemele; each are larger than either DeCastro or Kotz.
TE : Here is where I expect the biggest debate, with a virtual three-way tie near the bottom of the first, top of the second round. Dwayne Allen goes into the combine with a slight lead, however some teams may prefer Coby Fleener who is 2-3 inches taller and lined up in-line in a more pro-style offense. Still others may prefer to smaller Orson Charles who although not quite the match-up nightmare Aaron Hernandez presents, is still the fastest and most agile of the three.
CB : On the defensive side, most believe CB Morris Claiborne will not only be the first corner, but the first defensive player taken. He has a big lead, especially with the off-field issues surrounding both Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins. Kirkpatrick is about two inches taller and five to ten pounds heavier than Claiborne, and some could see him as matching-up better with the Calvin Johnsons and Larry Fitzgeralds of the NFL.
S : Mark Barron benefits from a weaker safety class that could have had USC's TJ McDonald, Miami's Ray-Ray Armstrong, and former Bama teammate Robert Lester had not all three decided to return to school. However, Barron is more of an in-the-box safety and will not be able to compete at the combine due to a double-hernia surgery. This could allow someone like Harrison Smith, Markelle Martin, or George lloka to eclipse him.
ILB : Luke Kuechly looks like he may be one of those rare inside LBs drafted in the first round; putting up staggering tackle numbers during his three years at Boston College. However, only once in the last ten years has more than one ILB been drafted in the first round, and this could be the best ILB class in the last decade. At 6-4 - 258, Hightower could enter the NFL as the largest ILB in league , and Vontaze Burfict's tough-guy persona may appeal to some clubs.
Pass-rushers : To add more to the debate, I decided to include all the pass-rushers, both OLBs and DEs. Currently DE Quinton Coples potential has him sitting higher than many with better production. Expected to be a combine star, he may be able to get away with playing not to get hurt better than Carlos Dunlap, and Allen Bailey did before him. Having a great Senior Bowl helped his cause. There are still likely to be teams turned-off by his poor effort in 2011, and some have suggested he could be a "contract-year" player.
That being said, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry, and Bruce Irvin have also shown the ability to get to the QB, and one of the deep field could easily overtake Coples if teams like the Jaguars decide to look elsewhere.
DT : In a close race, I have the sophomore Brockers ahead of the senior Still (both of coarse could be drafted as 3-4 DEs). Certainly the combine may be the deciding factor in which will be taken first. Additionally, a NT like Dontari Poe or Alameda Ta'amu could fill a need better for 3-4 teams; and don't forget Fletcher Cox, Jerel Worthy, and Brandon Thompson.
OLB : Zach Brown is thought by many as a first round OLB especially appealing to teams still running a Tampa-two (are there any) In a line by RotoWorld.com I had to repeat : "Another player certain to test well is North Carolina LB Zach Brown, who holds the Tar Heels' 60-meter indoor track record. Keep in mind Brown plays without physicality on the field. His hands resemble pillows on contact, instead of delivering a solid pop." Questions ranging from poor instincts to maturity have prevented me from placing Brown in my top 32, knowing similar OLBs like Travis Lewis, Ronnell Lewis, and Lavonte David could be better value and less risky.