Each and every year there is many questions surrounding how the 32 first-round draft picks will be used. However, one thing for certain: the consensus 32 best players available seldom (if ever) go in such order. Annually in late April, there are the surprise prospects who’ve peaked the interest of certain teams and catch some of the viewing public off guard by being selected in the initial round.
Here is a handful of prospects who could be the 2012 NFL Draft’s “surprise” first-round draft picks:
QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State (6’6″ 242 lbs.)
-On the heels of a strong pro day, the sizable and athletic ASU passer — evaluated as possessing all of the endearing physical qualities any NFL organization would want out of a franchise quarterback, but remains mechanically raw and undeveloped in secondary read-making — has made his push up a few boards. Gil “The Godfather” Brandt, an astute evaluator and former VP of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys wrote that Osweiler had “vaulted himself into the first round on draft day,” following the pro day. Naturally, the lengthy but agile former basketball star looked good in shorts at his workout. Question marks regarding his throwing motion and identifying blitzes make him a bit of a project. I graded him out as a 2nd-3rd round value, but Osweiler has the physical parts to tempt teams seeking a long term answer at the most important position on the football field.
RB Doug Martin, Boise State (5’9″ 223 lbs.)
-One player who’s moved up draft boards steadily throughout the pre-draft evaluation process has been Boise State runner Doug Martin. Despite playing a position with little value at the top-end of the draft, Martin has the look of an every-down player who possesses the physicality and toughness to succeed in the NFL. Although fellow runners David Wilson and Lamar Miller are possible first round players as well, Martin — who compares, in my mind, favorably to 49ers running back Frank Gore — doesn’t have the agility or breakaway speed of his counterparts, but has the dependability and polish to be taken before them. And perhaps in late round one. Mid-late second round grade, but I do feel Martin is a safe selection even at the bottom of the first.
WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (6’1 211 lbs.)
-A thickly built possession target who also features some nice run-after-catch ability. He’s firmly behind 5-6 other receivers who possess a grade ranging from the first-early second round, but with Sanu’s big-play ability — helped by strong hands, body control, and physicality — the experienced three year starter could intrigue a few teams in the late stages of round one. A mid-second round grade from me.
OT Bobby Massie, Ole Miss (6’6″ 316 lbs.)
-A very impressive athlete off on the edge with an NFL-ready kick slide and notably quick feet. Can neutralize speed rushers and possesses the bulk and size to withstand bigger defenders. Run blocking technique and consistent use of leverage are still coming along, but the overall potential indicates Massie — the former top prep school recruit in the nation, who was pursued heavily by Alabama’s Nick Saban — can be one of the top three players at his position in this class. A player I see possessing many of the qualities Dallas Cowboys stellar-rookie OT Tyron Smith had last season. Like Smith, Bobby Massie was a muscularly built and athletic college right tackle who has the skill-set to kick over to the blindside in the pros. Tyron Smith excelled on the right side in his rookie season and will be making the transition to the left tackle spot this upcoming season. Massie’s upside suggests he could follow a similar career path as well. I’ve graded him as a late first round, early second round value, and have remained high on the player since his declaration to enter the 2012 draft.
OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State (6’3″ 311 lbs.) // OG Kevin Zeitler, (6’3″ 314 lbs.)
-With Stanford’s David DeCastro, Georgia’s Cordy Glenn (OG/RT prospect), and perhaps even Wisconsin center Peter Konz all pegged to be first round picks, you look at the remaining interior offensive line prospects and there are a couple capable of sneaking into round one. One being another Badger lineman, Kevin Zeitler, with the other being the small school standout Amini Silatolu. Two prospects at different ends of the spectrum. Zeitler a well coached, experienced technician with polish and the ability to contribute early / Silatolu a raw blocker with physical skills who’s value is based primarily on upside. Both have entered late first round consideration, with the underdog Silatolu truly being a legitimate possibility despite hailing from a D-II program. Both are second round grades.
DE Vinny Curry, Marshall (6’3″ 266 lbs.)
-A well put together defensive end with natural pass rushing ability and an excellent understanding of leverage. Curry can play effectively in either the pass rush or run defense against bigger blockers. Although he doesn’t have the eye-popping physical skill-set of other rushers in this class, the three-year starter simply knows how to play football, and is more than deserving of the late 1st round grade I’ve place on him, in my estimation. A dynamic defensive end who can be relied on to play aggressively and stay durable. Other rushers capable of being “surprise” first round picks include Syracuse’s Chandler Jones and Boise State’s Shea McClellin — both of which are generating a buzz with the draft a mere week away.
DT Kendall Reyes, UConn (6’4″ 295 lbs.)
-A power player who primarily features an active motor, an understanding of leverage, and scheme versatility. Reyes fits all over the board: 4-3 strongside-defensive end, 3-technique defensive tackle, a squatty 4-3 zone-type nose tackle, 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4, etc. A prospect with few holes in his game who’s opening a lot of eyes as the draft approaches. The physicality to Kendall Reyes’ game makes him an interesting late-first round option worth keeping close eye on.
LB Lavonte David, Nebraska (6’0″ 233 lbs.)
-David has risen to the top spot of my 4-3 outside linebacker ratings. Unfortunately he’s a bit undersized and isn’t an ideal 3-4 linebacker, which diminishes his league-wide value. That being said, he’s a superb mover, instinctive & intelligent, plays with physicality, and makes plays on the football. As noted, the teams interested in David’s services on day one are likely to be on the limited side, but the teams who do have interest will certainly be tempted in the latter portion of round one.
CB Josh Robinson, Central Florida (5’10” 199 lbs.)
-A lot has been made of Josh Robinson following his Combine-best 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash, but despite the fact that his footwork and coverage-technique are still in the process of development, he has flashed indefinite playmaking ability. Robinson features an ideal blend of athleticism and ball skills, as well as the willingness to be physical and make tackles against bigger players. Coverage-versatility and can be worked into either a man or zone format. The UCF standout is not by any means a finished product, but he has significant potential, and if a team doesn’t feel he will be around in the mid-late second round range, he could be taken late on day one.
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