Older article, but probably still a decent primer...
Big Board: Best for 2013 heavy on quarterbacks, D-linemen
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
May 14, 2012 6:11 PM ET
The 2012 NFL Draft is barely in the rearview mirror, but scouts are already well down the road scouting prospects for next April, as is the staff at NFLDraftScout.com.
Predicting player performance is never going to be an exact science -- due to injury, issues off the field or simply a poor season, some of the prospects on this list will fall out of my Top 32 as we move forward.
Remember, a year ago at this time, Arizona State middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller looked like potential first-round prospects. Of course, there will be several others who catapult themselves into consideration with impressive efforts in 2012. Few, for example, anticipated Robert Griffin III or Michael Brockers rising to stardom when projecting the value of the 2012 draft class. The "Big Board" isn't a mock draft. It is a ranking of the best potentially NFL-eligible prospects in the country. Underclassmen are denoted with an asterisk (*) and NFLDraftScout.com is underlining their talent, not recommending an early exodus to the pro game. If the 2013 draft were held today, here are the top 32 prospects teams should be considering. Based on a strong first look, the 2013 draft could be chock full of quarterbacks and defensive linemen.
1. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal: Barkley's lack of ideal size (6-1, 218) and arm strength mean that he's no shoo-in as the No. 1 overall prospect for the 2013 draft, but his accuracy, mobility and experience in a pro-style offense would have earned him a spot in the top five in 2012.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: The reigning Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-12's most dominant defensive lineman, the 6-3, 325-pound Lotulelei is earning comparisons from regional scouts to former Oregon Duck and current Baltimore Ravens' star Haloti Ngata.
3. *David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State: Thanks to his unique combination of size (6-2, 193), speed and ball skills, Amerson exploded onto the scene last season with 13 interceptions. To warrant a grade this high he'll need to prove his breakout sophomore campaign was no fluke.
4. *Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU: An explosive edge rusher with the frame (6-4, 240) to intrigue scouts operating for NFL teams utilizing the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, alike, Mingo's speed, agility and surprising strength could result in a monster 2012 season.
5. *Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: Blessed with a similar combination of size (6-3, 335), strength and athleticism as Dontari Poe, Hankins could see a similar rise up draft boards. Like Poe, however, Hankins' lofty grade is based more on his potential than his play thus far.
6. *Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal: Possessing more unique traits than No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon, Woods is pro-ready despite entering just his junior season with the Trojans. Consider that last season, as a true sophomore, he broke Keyshawn Johnson's school and conference record with 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.
7. *Chris Faulk, OT, LSU: With so much attention heaped upon their defense a season ago, Faulk's spectacular first season starting at left tackle for the Tigers didn't get the national attention it warranted. If the baby-faced 6-6, 325-pound Faulk performs as well on the blind side again, he'll get plenty of attention, too.
8. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: An arrest in May might create some doubt with scouts about Okafor until they've fully investigated his background. But his game provides plenty of answers about who he is on the field. Okafor doesn't possess elite speed off the edge but is powerful, well-schooled in his hand technique and has a high-running motor.
9. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: Frankly, had this Boilermaker had the type of season he enjoyed in 2012 (54 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks), fans across the country would know the 6-3, 305 pounder's name by now. Short has a thick, wide frame and plays with excellent strength and leverage, making him a potential nose guard candidate.
10. *Keenan Allen, WR, California: While USC's Robert Woods earned most of the hype in the Pac-12 a year ago, Allen is similarly gifted and at 6-3, 205 pounds has even better size than the Trojans' star. Despite inconsistent play at quarterback last season, Allen caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns.
11. *Eric Reid, FS, LSU: Overshadowed by talented defensive backs that have been churned out regularly from LSU in recent seasons -- Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and current CB Tyrann Mathieu -- Reid has quietly established himself as the elite safety.
12. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas: More athletic than his higher-rated teammate Okafor, Jeffcoat projects nicely as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 rush linebacker due to his burst upfield, lateral agility and natural pass rush skills. He lacks Okafor's strength at this time, but as the son of former NFL standout defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, he knows better than most what it takes to make it at the next level.
13. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU: It has been over a quarter century since the last time a SMU Mustang was selected in the first round (1986), but in the Estonian-born Hunt, Southern Methodist may have the unique talent needed to warrant such a lofty selection. A two-time gold medal winner in the 2006 World Junior Championships (discus, shot put), Hunt was deservedly listed as the No. 1 "Freak" athlete of 2012 in Bruce Feldman's article as his combination of size (6-7, 288), strength (35 reps of 225 pounds), speed (4.70) and explosiveness (36-inch vertical jump) add up to off-the-charts measurables. In just three seasons of college football, Hunt has an astounding 14 blocked kicks.
14. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame: He can't boast the gaudy tackle numbers that Luke Kuechly produced at Boston College, but pro scouts will certainly see first-round characteristics in this middle linebacker. With another stellar campaign, Te'o will wrap up his Notre Dame career as the first Irish defender to earn a first-round draft selection since defensive end Renaldo Wynn was selected No. 21 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997.
15. Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin: The latest in a long line of talented Wisconsin offensive linemen, Wagner started his career at right tackle with 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi manning the blindside position but handled the transition to this all-important position well a year ago. His versatility, experience and size (6-6, 315) should earn him consideration early next April.
16. *Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: Blessed with as talented a roster as there is in all of college football, you can expect a great deal of buzz this season around the Seminoles. While he's overshadowed a bit, the German-born junior might be the most pro-ready prospect on the team already due to his size (6-4, 273), strength and tenacity.
17. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Blessed with a strong arm, good mobility and the toughness to take a shot and still deliver passes, there is a lot to like about the Arkansas quarterback. Scouts would be wise to take a wait-and-see approach with Wilson as he acclimates to John L. Smith's offense after starring in Bobby Petrino's wide-open attack and being aided by a supremely gifted receiving corps that included Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, each of whom was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.
18. *Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Considering the immediate success enjoyed in the NFL by Cam Newton, scouts can't wait to see what improvements the similarly gifted Thomas is able to make in his second season as a starter for the Hokies. The 6-5, 254-pound redshirt junior showed off a strong arm and mobility last season in earning second-team All-ACC honors but will need to make significant strides this season to warrant his hype.
19. *Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: Big (6-1, 215), physical and athletic. Rhodes has been a standout for the Seminoles throughout his entire career and may have considered leaving after completing his redshirt sophomore season a year ago had he not suffered a slight knee injury against Michael Floyd and Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
20. *Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Listing Hunter this high is certainly a projection, as he missed most of the 2011 season with a torn ACL. When healthy, however, the 6-4, 205 pound Hunter showed a rare combination of size, straight-line speed and ball skills to compete with USC's Woods, Cal's Allen and Clemson true sophomore Sammy Watkins for the right to be considered among the country's truly elite receivers.
21. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State: Like Virginia Tech's Thomas, Manuel boasts the combination of size (6-4 245), mobility and arm talent to earn comparisons to Cam Newton. Manuel has struggled with consistency and injury, but made strides in his first season as a starter (completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,666 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions) despite FSU struggling to protect him.
22. *D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: Having produced four first-round picks in back-to-back drafts, the Crimson Tide may have to wait longer than they've grown accustomed to see their first player drafted in 2013 but no coach more consistently produces talent than Nick Saban. Fluker doesn't often get the media attention that his linemate Barrett Jones receives but as the more physically gifted player, the powerful run blocker could hear his name called first.
23. *William Gholston, DE, Michigan State: At an imposing 6-6, 278 pounds, Gholston lacks the burst upfield as a pass rusher that makes so many of the nation's other defensive ends so intriguing. But his length and strength make him an intriguing candidate as a five-technique capable of setting the edge for a 3-4 defense.
24. *Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: Lattimore, like fellow SEC star Justin Hunter, will have to prove that he's over the torn ACL that ended his 2011 season prematurely to warrant listing this high. Just as Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were the unquestioned top backs each of the past two seasons, however, there is no doubt that if Lattimore is healthy, he's established himself as a superstar.
25. *Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Murray, like my top-rated prospect, Matt Barkley, does not possess the ideal measurables for the quarterback position but he does boast the arm talent, toughness and success in a pro-style offense against quality competition to make him an easy projection to the NFL.
26. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M: Despite measuring in at just 6-2, 230 pounds, Porter was asked to rush the passer off the edge in the 3-4 scheme utilized under head coach Mike Sherman. With new head coach Kevin Sumlin bringing in a 4-3 scheme, Porter's speed and agility could prove even more effective against the run and in coverage.
27. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: Overshadowed by all of the elite defensive talent that came through North Carolina during Butch Davis' tenure in Chapel Hill, Cooper has quietly emerged as one of the steadier interior linemen in the country.
28. *Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: If one were to vote on the Heisman based strictly on players making big plays in big games, the Honey Badger was as deserving of the award as any defensive/special teams' player is ever likely to be. Despite his production, Mathieu isn't a shutdown corner who'll earn a first-round grade from every scout. As a nickel corner, run supporter, blitzer and returner, however, Mathieu's ability to make game-changing plays warrants listing him here despite his scary lack of size (5-09, 179).
29. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama: Frankly, only the fact that Jones isn't an elite athlete keeps him this low on my list. He started every game at left tackle for the Crimson Tide in 2011 and saw playing time at three other spots -- right tackle, left guard and center. He did this after starting the previous two seasons at right guard. At every position he's played well -- and against obviously top-notch competition. The reigning Outland Trophy Award winner as the nation's top offensive lineman, Jones isn't flashy ... he's just so damn reliable.
30. *Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: There have been some lean years in the Palouse since Ryan Leaf helped lead the Cougars to the Rose Bowl in 1997, but in Wilson, Washington State has a legitimate NFL-caliber weapon. The 6-2, 188 pounder didn't generate the attention of fellow Pac-12 star receivers Woods and Allen in terms of national exposure, but his production (82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns) was every bit as impressive and Wilson -- and he didn't have the talent around him that USC or Cal offers. The addition of pass-happy head coach Mike Leach should make Wilson that much more productive as a junior.
31. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: After a disappointing junior season, Jones made the right choice in electing to return to Norman to improve his decision-making and footwork. The 6-4, 230-pounder boasts the strong, accurate arm that scouts are looking for and could re-emerge as a top ten candidate with an improved 2012 campaign.
32. *Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn: Blessed with an explosive first step and a high-revving motor, Lemonier (pronounced leh-mon-EER) ranked as one of the more productive pass rushers in the entire country a year ago, finishing with 47 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He's currently not as effective in disengaging from blocks as his statistics would indicate but could be on the verge of great things.