Real Football Services has returned for another year to report on and analyze the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, the NFL Draft, the free agency signing period and more for visitors to newyorkjets.com. Today's first piece of the offseason kicks off Real's coverage with a view of the top 20 names currently atop the independent personnel group's big board:
This year's draft class doesn't consist of all that many seniors, at least at the very highest levels of the draft board. Of the top 25 players on our board, only 10 are fourth- or fifth-year seniors. Another 10, led by Stanford QB Andrew Luck, are redshirt juniors. The final five, all ranked in the top 20 at this point, are true juniors.
In fact, the first seven spots are taken by underclassmen. Luck is joined by Robert Griffin III, Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner, as the only QBs in that elite group, and offensive tackles Matt Kalil of USC and Riley Reiff of Iowa will also be at the top of many boards.
The player most believe to be the top receiver in the country, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, fills one of the top spots on our board, as does Alabama RB Trent Richardson. LSU's Mo Claiborne is the only defensive player in the top seven and may be the only option for a team looking for a top corner, given Dre Kirkpatrick's arrest on drug possession this week.
Penn State DT Devon Still is the first true senior to show up on the board, at No. 8, but he and fellow DT Quinton Coples of North Carolina could be in high demand come draft day.
Here are some quick notes on our top 20 at this point.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford — The worst thing about a great player like Luck coming back for another year of college is that everyone spends the season picking your game apart. Luck is still the best QB in this draft and doesn't have the issues that some critics might have you believe.
2. Matt Kalil, T, USC — Voted Pac-12's top O-lineman, Kalil started at LT for a unit that allowed 0.67 sacks per game.
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor — A great all-around athlete with agility and speed, Griffin is more of a pocket passer than most realize and possesses above-average arm strength. His 189.5 passer rating in 2011 was second-best in NCAA FBS history.
4. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU — Prototypical man cover corner with excellent height and long arms. Claiborne plays with tenacity and, as a former WR, has the hands to make plays on the ball.
5. Riley Reiff, T, Iowa — With good size (6'6", 300), sound technique and more athleticism than Bryan Bulaga, his Hawkeyes predecessor, Reiff can play right away at the next level at either RT or LT.
6. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama — Richardson is a naturally talented runner who has the speed to gain the corner and the size and strength to run through tacklers. Can be explosive.
7. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State — Though only a full-time starter for one season, Blackmon is a big, physical receiver who knows how to use his size and has strong hands and the quickness and agility to make defenders miss in the open field.
8. Devon Still, DT, Penn State — A strong run defender on the interior with the size and strength to play in a two-gap system in the NFL. Still is sometimes inconsistent but has good bloodlines — he's a cousin of Art Still and Levon Kirkland. A guy who could fall in the coming months.
9. Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford — The man who spent the past two years defending Luck's blind side may not show particularly well on the workout circuit, but Martin can flat-out play left tackle in the NFL.
10. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame — Possesses prototypical size and strength and can be a playmaker. Scouts have concerns over his injury history and character issues, but Floyd's tape reminds some of Dwayne Bowe.
11. David DeCastro, G, Stanford — Smart, tough and technically sound, DeCastro is a tough guy who paved the way for a dominant Stanford rushing attack and just does not get beaten in pass protection.
12. Quinton Coples, DT, North Carolina — Coples is strong and powerful with a great bull rush. He played DT at UNC, but his height, long arms and explosive first step make him an ideal DE at the next level.
13. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama — Possesses prototypical size and strength to be a formidable press cover corner in the NFL. Excellent attitude and work ethic and enough athleticism to make plays all over the field. However, Kirkpatrick's recent arrest may cause him to fall off some team boards.
14. Nick Perry, DE, USC — A natural pass rusher who led the Pac-12 with 9½ sacks in 2011. But Perry's just 250 pounds, so teams will be looking to see if he has the athleticism to drop in coverage and play as a standup pass rusher in a 3-4 defense.
15. Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina — Versatility is going to be the key to Ingram's success in the NFL. He played DE for the Gamecocks, moved inside to DT on third downs, and has rushed from a standup position as well.
16. Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor — Wright does not possess great size, but he has everything else NFL scouts look for. He's explosive and elusive as a runner, has strong hands and is an excellent route runner as a receiver who will fight for balls and gain yards after the catch. A fearless and confident player who was extremely productive.
17. Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College — An unbelievably productive player who averaged 14 tackles a game. Kuechly (pronounced KEEK-lee) plays with a relentless motor and is always around the ball. He won the Butkus, Nagurski, Lott and Lombardi awards and is the most decorated defensive player in BC history.
18. Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State — A high-effort player with good natural strength. Cox is a powerful player who can play strongside DE or DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4. A versatile player with tremendous upside.
19. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska — A tough, physical player in press coverage, but Dennard also has the size, closing speed and sure tackling ability to succeed in zone coverages. Plays with attitude and confidence and will make plays on the ball.
20. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State — Worthy is explosive off the snap, has quick feet, and uses his hands well, making him an ideal fit in both one-gap and two-gap systems.