2012 NFL Draft preseason scouting report: Offense
Nothing has happened to knock Andrew Luck from the top of the 2012 NFL Draft
Trent Richardson projects as a better pro than former teammate Mark Ingram
By staying in school, Justin Blackmon has a chance to up his draft stock
Scouting for the 2012 NFL Draft starts in earnest this weekend with the kick off of the college season. Underclassmen will drive a number of positions on offense and defense next April, as has been the norm for almost two decades. The quarterback position offers a lot of potential while the running back and wide receiver class are also strong. Here's a look at the top NFL prospects from the scoring side of the ball -- the players who could impact next April's draft.
Andrew Luck, Stanford* -- Before the 2010 draft we rated Luck as our top quarterback prospect and nothing has changed. The Stanford junior will be graded as the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. He is the odds-on-favorite to be the top pick in the 2012 draft.
Matt Barkley, USC* -- Barkley is another Pac-12 underclassman who projects well to the next level. He possesses an NFL arm and has the ability to make all the throws. Barkley is very accurate with both the long and short passes. He does not possess classic pocket passer size, yet his combination of physical tools and signal-caller intangibles screams first round.
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State -- The top senior quarterback on our board is one of the most physically gifted signal callers from his class. He drives the deep pass and gets the ball through the tight spots. His defensive reads and propensity to stare down targets are a concern, yet Cousins offers a large degree of upside potential.
Kyle Padron, SMU* -- Offensive genius June Jones may finally have a complete quarterback prospect to work with. Padron offers a major league arm with the ability to accurately place passes anywhere on the field. He needs to improve his defensive reads, yet could make a big move up draft boards if he continues to improve.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M* -- After Andrew Luck, there aren't many passers who offer the intangibles or game day intelligence as does Tannehill. He's always in control of the situation and constantly makes proper decisions. Tannehill lacks the rocket arm. He's more of a timing passer who would excel in a West Coast offense.
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State -- He could be the most underrated senior prospect in the nation. He has a terrific combination of physical skills and football smarts, and displays outstanding accuracy and decision-making in the pocket. He's a much better prospect than former Aztec Kevin O'Connell, taken in the third round of the 2008 draft.
Sleeper: Cody Endres, Slippery Rock -- Endres was expected to grab hold of the starting position at UConn this season but several off-field incidents led to his dismissal from the program. In the times he stepped underneath center for the Huskies in the previous two seasons, Endres displayed enough talent to develop into an NFL passer.
Overrated: Landry Jones, Oklahoma* -- Let the outrage begin! Jones is a terrific college quarterback with the moxie and intellect to lead one of the nation's better programs. His physical skills -- including average arm strength and poor skills throwing in motion -- just don't translate into the first-round prospect many have pegged him to be.
Trent Richardson, Alabama* -- The Alabama running game won't miss a beat despite the departure of Mark Ingram to the NFL. Richardson is just as skilled handling the ball and projects better to the NFL. He can pound the ball on the inside but is also elusive. Richardson grades as a true feature runner for the next level.
Bernard Pierce, Temple* -- Another all-purpose running back, Pierce is the best NFL prospect most fans are unfamiliar with. He offers a great combination of instincts, creativeness and skill. Pierce weaves through traffic on the inside and beats opponents around tackle. His style is similar to that of former All-Pro Curtis Martin.
Andre Ellington, Clemson* -- The next in the long line of explosive ball carriers from the Clemson program, Ellington offers skills similar to former Tigers first-round pick C.J. Spiller, but adds a lot more toughness to his game. He's a game-breaking threat who will excite offensive coordinators in the NFL.
Doug Martin, Boise State -- This versatile skill player produces whether carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield. He projects as a terrific third-down back at the next level.
LaMichael James, Oregon* -- The slippery James is a home run hitter who can score from any spot on the field. His footwork leaves defenders grasping at air, while his speed has them gasping for it as they try to run him down. His small frame is a limiting factor and will prevent him from being anything other than a situational back in the NFL.
Sleeper: Ryan Houston, North Carolina -- Houston was one of the many causalities from the ongoing NCAA investigation at North Carolina and missed the 2010 campaign due to a violation of rules. He's big-bodied, with the strength and size to be a feature runner in the NFL for a power offense.
Overrated: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M -- NFL scouts love Gray and many grade him as the top senior running back prospect. Our disagreement is based on the fact Gray is nothing more than a situational ball carrier at the next level. He possesses only average size/speed numbers and really has no single outstanding aspect to his game.