Top prospects for 2011 NFL Draft
UNC's Robert Quinn has shown Julius Peppers-like talents for rushing the passer
Julio Jones and A.J. Green, both SEC wideouts, will vie to be the first WR drafted
North Carolina has five prospects among the 2011 top 40 -- all defenders
The book is closed on the 2010 NFL Draft, yet it's never too early to start thinking ahead. Already NFL scouting services are processing information to prepare for next April's event, and it looks as though the 2011 draft will again be stacked with top defensive line prospects. Here's a list of the top 40 draft-eligible players who have the potential to impact next year's draft (*Denotes underclassmen):
1) Robert Quinn*/DE/North Carolina: Quinn comes from the Julius Peppers mold and is a sensational defender who constantly makes plays behind the line of scrimmage.
2) Ryan Mallett*/QB/Arkansas: The strong-armed pocket passer would have been a first-round pick had he entered this year's draft. He'll be the first signal-caller selected and a top-10 pick.
3) Julio Jones*/WR/Alabama: The Tide's game-breaking receiver has a terrific combination of size and speed.
4) Marcell Dareus*/DL/Alabama: Several scouts think Dareus could end up as the best NFL prospect from an Alabama defense that's been loaded with next-level talent.
5) Cameron Heyward/DL/Ohio State: He considered entering this April's draft but opted for another year in Columbus. He offers great upside and has improved his game every season at Ohio State.
6) Prince Amukamara/CB/Nebraska: Amukamara sits atop what looks to be a talented class of cornerbacks. He consistently shuts down opposing receivers and offers the size teams want in a starting corner.
7) Bruce Carter/OLB/North Carolina: Carter is a terrific outside linebacker prospect whose size and style perfectly fits a traditional 4-3 alignment.
8) Patrick Peterson*/CB/LSU: The LSU junior is a great talent and possesses a large upside to his game. His combination of size, speed and ball skills will awe scouts.
9) AJ Green*/WR/Georgia: Green displayed NFL skills the minute he stepped on the field as a freshman at Georgia. He's a complete wideout with very reliable hands.
10) Jake Locker/QB/Washington: Locker's decision to return to Washington for his senior campaign was a bold move, yet the correct one. He's a great athlete with terrific upside potential.
11) Greg Romeus/DL/Pittsburgh: Romeus has terrorized opposing quarterbacks the past three seasons and makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. His decision to return to Pitt for one more year should enhance his draft grade.
12) Mark Ingram*/RB/Alabama: The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner moves toward 2010 as the top running back prospect in the land. He possesses the size and speed to be a feature runner on the NFL level.
13) Von Miller/DE-OLB/Texas A&M: Miller has been a pass-rushing terror at the defensive end position for A&M but some scouts project him to outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Miller could make a big move up draft boards this season.
14) Andrew Luck*/QB/Stanford: Luck was instrumental in Stanford's resurgence in 2009. He's a talented passer with a bright future.
15) Ras-I Dowling/DB/Virginia: Dowling's game really improved last season, and the large defensive back has the talents to play cornerback or safety.
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