Top 25 prospects for '11 NFL draft
Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers looks like the consensus No. 1 prospect at this point
A handful of QBs stand to benefit from Stanford's Andrew Luck staying in school
North Carolina LB Robert Quinn has the athleticism and skill of a potential No. 1
With the college season completed and another SEC team crowned national champion, the scouting process for the 2011 NFL Draft moves to its next phase. The Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is fast approaching and the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl is right around the corner. Then, everyone heads to Indianapolis for the combine. Before that all comes to fruition, here's a quick breakdown of the top 25 players in April's draft. (*Denotes underclassman)
1. Da'Quan Bowers*/DE/Clemson: The Tigers' dominant pass rusher has displayed himself to be nothing short of a disruptive force from his defensive end position. He has the tools to be an impact player at the next level -- if he makes football a priority.
2. A.J. Green*/WR/Georgia: Green is a game-breaking receiver who takes over contests. He stretches defenses vertically while also making the tough catch in the middle of the field. Green projects as a No. 1 wideout on the NFL level and the type of player opposing defenses must concentrate on.
3. Marcell Dareus*/DL/Alabama: The Tide's forceful lineman is adept at stuffing the run as well as rushing the passer. Versatility is key for Dareus, who has the ability to be effective in numerous defensive systems.
4. Nick Fairley*/DL/Auburn: Fairley is another player with possibilities at a variety of defensive line positions, including tackle in a conventional four-man line or end in a 3-4 alignment. He came out of the gate hot this season and was dominant right through the BCS title game.
5. Prince Amukamara/CB/Nebraska: Amukamara is a skilled cornerback who will be an asset to any organization, on and off the field. He possesses the size, athleticism and football abilities to line up as a No. 1 corner in the NFL.
6. Patrick Peterson*/CB/LSU: The junior from LSU does not possess Amukamara's polish on the field, yet has more upside and could be a better player in two years' time. Peterson also brings the element of dynamic return specialist, which enhances his value.
7. Robert Quinn*/DL-LB/North Carolina: Justifiably mentioned as the draft's top pick one year ago, Quinn sat on the sidelines all season after being ruled permanently ineligible by the program. He's out of the conversation as a top-three selection, yet still grades as a disruptive defensive front-seven player.
8. Blaine Gabbert*/QB/Missouri: Gabbert's value increased by virtue of Andrew Luck's decision to bypass the draft. He's a big-armed quarterback with NFL size but needs work on his passing game.
9. Tyron Smith*/OT/USC: Scouts speak glowingly of Smith, the athletic junior lineman who can line up at both tackle spots. He's a terrific athlete with a great deal of upside potential.
10. Cameron Jordan/DL/California: Jordan showed continual improvement on the field the past two seasons and has developed from a primary pass rusher into a complete defensive lineman.
11. Aldon Smith*/DE/Missouri: Smith is a dynamic prospect who struggled through the season with a leg injury. He has all the qualities to be a special player at the next level and could end up as one of the gems from this year's draft.
12. Mark Ingram*/RB/Alabama: Ingram is another whose draft stock is taking a hit because of injury. He still rates as the best running back in this draft.
13. J.J. Watt*/DL/Wisconsin: The former Central Michigan tight end has terrorized opponents since switching to the defensive line. He's a terrific athlete with outstanding size and growth potential.
14. Julio Jones*/WR/Alabama: Jones has shown big-time ability since his freshman campaign, but scouts were concerned about his consistency entering the season. He quelled much of the criticism with a terrific year and has many thinking he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the NFL level.
15. Von Miller/OLB/Texas A&M: Miller moves toward the draft as the top 3-4 outside linebacker prospect on the board. He's athletic and intelligent on the field, displaying talent defending the run or rushing the passer.
16. Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa: Clayborn entered the season ranked as one of the top senior prospects in the nation, but his star has dimmed after a disappointing campaign. He's still a legitimate NFL starter. He previously displayed great skill as a pusher. He improved his play defending the run this season.
17. Cameron Heyward/DL/Ohio State: Opinions on Heyward vary as some rank him as a top-five talent while others peg the Buckeye senior as a fringe first-rounder. This is for sure: He's consistent and does the little things well. He'll quickly move into the starting lineup at the next level.
18. Akeem Ayers*/OLB/UCLA: Ayers is one of the most complete linebackers in the draft, despite coming off a slightly disappointing season. He has the athleticism to cover running backs down the field, as well as the size and strength to play over tight end.
19. Ryan Mallett*/QB/Arkansas: Mallett is a prototypical pocket passer with great size and arm strength to match. His game is incomplete because his accuracy and decision-making leave a lot to be desired at times. Mallett does offer a large upside with starting potential at the next level for the team willing to patiently develop his skills.
20. Cam Newton*/QB/Auburn: The Heisman Trophy winner who led Auburn to the national title is the flavor of the day in the draft world. Scouts see Newton as a big ball of clay; a tremendous athlete with amazing upside yet a prospect who will need to be molded and polished before he's ready to be put on display in the NFL.
21. Derek Sherrod/OT/Mississippi State: Sherrod made a lightning move up draft boards this season, improving his stock almost two full rounds. He's a terrific pass-blocking left tackle with the athleticism necessary to play in a zone blocking system.
22. Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard is a sleeping giant in this draft. The athletic lineman tormented opponents the past two seasons from both the defensive end and tackle positions. He moves his 300-pound frame around the field like a linebacker and offers potential in a variety of defensive systems.
23. Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue: Kerrigan is one of the surest and safest players in the draft. He's a terrific pass rusher who plays with a nonstop motor and works hard on and off the field. He'll be a great fit in a four-man front.
24. Allen Bailey/DL/Miami: Bailey is another of the many prospects in April's draft who offers the versatility to line up at several spots on the defensive front. He won't "wow" anyone with his combine workout yet is a solid defender who makes positive plays every game.
25. Anthony Castonzo/OT/Boston College: Costanzo entered the season as the top senior offensive tackle prospect, but has since slightly slipped. He offers size, growth potential and the possibility to hold down the all-important left tackle spot.
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