Scouting Combine: Best Player By Position
This story originally published on PackerReport.com
QB Andrew Luck (Kirby Lee/USP)
QB Andrew Luck (Kirby Lee/USP)
packwriter2002@yahoo.com
Posted Feb 23, 2012


Using Scout.com's player rankings and our extensive 13-part "Research" series, we provide a fresh look at the best player at every position. Plus, we have a video discussing the Packers' draft needs.

Here is a rundown of Scout.com’s top-ranked players at each position for the Scouting Combine, which begins today. The capsules are part of Packer Report’s extensive 13-position preview series.

Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Stanford (6-4, 235): Luck, the son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, figures to be the No. 1 overall pick of the draft. He would have been the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has said. Even while playing only three seasons, he ranks first in school history with 80 touchdown passes (John Elway had 77 in four years) and third with 9,083 passing yards. In 2011, he broke his own school record with 35 touchdown passes.

Running back

Trent Richardson, Alabama (5-11, 224): After leading Alabama to the national title, winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back and finishing third in Heisman Trophy balloting, Richardson elected to turn pro with one year of eligibility remaining. A complete back with power, speed and hands (39 catches in 2011), he’ll potentially be a top-five pick. Only Richardson, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow rushed for at least 20 touchdowns in a season in SEC history. Of his 1,583 rushing yards this past season, 787 of them (49.7 percent) came after contact. In 614 career touches, he lost just one fumble. He rushed for 2,090 yards as a senior at Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla. — the same school that produced Emmitt Smith.

Wide receiver

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (6-1, 215): Blackmon, a junior, produced triple-digit catches for the second consecutive season, finishing with 122 receptions for 1,522 yards (12.5 average) and 18 touchdowns. He was even better as a sophomore, with 111 receptions, 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver both seasons, joining Michael Crabtree as the only two-time winner of the award. In his high school yearbook, his photo is next to a caption that reads, “most likely to appear in Sports Illustrated.” He’s a natural, whether being an all-state football and basketball player in high school to quickly picking up snowboarding, roller hockey and the long jump (he won the state title in his only year competing). He even played the drums at halftime for part of his high school career.


Combine Preview

Like what you’re reading? Here’s the entire 13-part series for PackerReport.com subscribers. Subscribe today and get a second month for free!

Part 1: 19 Quarterbacks.

Part 2: 30 Running backs.

Part 3: 47 Wide receivers.

Part 4: 14 Tight ends.

Part 5: 20 Interior offensive linemen.

Part 6: 35 Offensive tackles.

Part 7: 22 Safeties .

Part 8: 37 Cornerbacks .

Part 9: 31 Defensive tackles .

Part 10: 14 Inside linebackers .

Part 11: 19 Outside linebackers .

Part 12: 28 Defensive ends .

Part 13: 12 Specialists .

Tight end

Dwayne Allen, Clemson (6-4, 255): Allen, a consensus All-American and the winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, declared for the draft with one year of eligibility remaining. He finished the year with 50 receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns — all setting school records for a tight end — to help Clemson to its first ACC Championship in 20 years. Two of those touchdowns came in the conference title game victory over Virginia Tech.

Offensive tackles

Matt Kalil, USC (6-7, 295): Kalil entered the draft following a junior season in which he was named to most All-American teams and won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top lineman. He’s expected to be a top-five pick. Kalil didn’t allow a sack in 2011 and used his height to block four kicks. Football is in his DNA. His father, Frank, was a center who was drafted by the Bills and played in the USFL for two seasons. His brother, Ryan, played for USC’s national championship teams in 2003 and 2004 and plays for the Panthers.

Interior offensive line

— Guard: David DeCastro, Stanford (6-5, 310): DeCastro is the only early entry among the guards and is a potential top-10 pick. After redshirting as a freshman, DeCastro started every game of his three seasons at right guard. A first-team All-American, he anchored an offense that averaged 207.9 rushing yards per game — even with Andrew Luck at quarterback. In his three seasons, Stanford gave up just 22 sacks. Stanford coach David Shaw compared DeCastro to Steve Wisniewski because of the strength he shows as a dominant run and pass blocker. “David speaks when something needs to be said,” Shaw said of DeCastro’s demeanor. “When he speaks, you better listen.”

— Center: Peter Konz, Wisconsin (6-5, 315): Konz, earned some first-team All-American honors and was a Rimington Award finalist as a junior, his final season in Madison. He was first-team all-Big Ten on the field (media vote) and in the classroom. Konz started at center all three seasons but also missed two or three games each year. Since 1999, the Badgers have had 13 linemen selected in the draft, behind only Notre Dame’s 15. An all-state offensive and defensive lineman from Neenah, Wis., Konz arrived at Wisconsin as a defensive lineman but was moved to center about a week into his first fall camp. He’s intelligent with a great sense of humor. “Against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, I got this guy in my grip and I’m just driving him back,” Konz recalled. “After the play ends, he gets up under my facemask and starts giving me stern eyes. I don’t like to play those games and waste energy, so after a few seconds of me staring back, I just smile and go, “Hi!” We both started busting out laughing. It was such a unique moment. All of the sudden the Rose Bowl went from this intense battle to just a game like I used to play in my back yard.” He's considered a first-round prospect.

Defensive tackles

Devon Still, Penn State (6-5, 310): The start of Still’s career was derailed by a torn left ACL in 2007 and a broken ankle in 2008. He broke through in the Outback Bowl following his junior season, when he piled up seven tackles and 3.5 tackles for losses. As a senior, he won the Big Ten's Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year and was a consensus All-American. The team captain paced the team with 17 tackles for losses and added 4.5 sacks. Cousins Art Still and Levon Kirkland enjoyed standout NFL careers. Going back to his ankle injury in 2008, he could have earned a medical redshirt had he missed the entire season. Instead, Still wanted to play — and he did, getting in for the final 10 snaps of the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten-clinching win over Michigan State.

Defensive ends

-- Quinton Coples, North Carolina (6-6, 285): Coples was a first-team all-ACC selection after leading the Tar Heels in tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (7.5). Forced to play inside at defensive tackle as a junior, he responded with 10 sacks. He was named first-team all-ACC and considered entering the NFL draft but was scared off by the lockout. He ranked fourth in the country among active players with 24 career sacks and enters the NFL with five forced fumbles. Coples’ take on sacking quarterbacks: “I really kind of feel bad for them after I hit them because that’s my specialty. That’s what I’m made for.” Coples’ sporting focus during his first couple of years in high school was on basketball until his godfather explained that there are more spots on an NFL roster than an NBA roster.

Outside linebackers

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama (6-2, 265): On a defense of playmakers, Upshaw was top dog for the national champions. As a senior, he had team highs of 8.5 sacks, 17 tackles for losses, 11 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and the Lombardi Award (best linebacker or interior lineman). Even while slowed by a high-ankle sprain, he tallied seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses as a junior. The football coach at Eufaula (Ala.) High School, Dan Klages, first saw Upshaw while coaching a youth football camp. Upshaw was in fourth or fifth grade at the time and easily the tallest kid there. Then, during a game of touch football, Upshaw came up crying after getting hit. “”Oh, my God, he’s a big softie. He’ll never amount to anything,” Klages recalled in a superb story by AL.com.

Inside linebackers

Luke Kuechly Boston College (6-3, 237): Kuechly started all three seasons before entering the draft. There was nothing else to accomplish. How’s this for a junior campaign: nation-high 191 total tackles and 102 solo tackles. He became Boston College’s first two-time consensus All-American, and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Lott and Nagurski awards. He had at least 10 tackles in 33 consecutive games. In three years, he rang up 532 tackles. That’s two short of the NCAA record (since the NCAA made tackles an official stat in 2000), with Northwestern’s Tim McGarigle recording 534 over the course of four seasons. Kuechly, a three-star recruit out of St. Xavier in Cincinnati, figured he’d redshirt as a freshman but started in place of Mark Herzlich, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer, and team captain Mike McLaughlin, who had torn his Achilles.

Safeties

Mark Barron, Alabama (6-2, 218): Barron, the top safety in the 2011 draft, had a big junior season but elected to come back as a senior. Even while slowed late in the season by torn cartilage in his ribs, Barron helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship and was a first-team All-American. Barron, a first-team all-SEC pick in each of his final three seasons, ranked eighth in the nation with seven interceptions as a sophomore. He added three as a junior and two as a senior. Barron recently had surgery for a double hernia and will not test at the Combine. Barron, a terrific all-around athlete, was recruited by Auburn to play running back, and Scout.com listed Barron as it’s No. 1-ranked weakside linebacker. And how’s this: As a senior at St. Paul Episcopal in Mobile, Ala., Barron won state track and field titles in the long jump, triple jump, shot put and discus.

Cornerbacks

Morris Claiborne, LSU (6-0, 185): LSU is “DBU,” with Claiborne following Patrick Peterson into the NFL. Claiborne entered the draft following a junior season in which he was named a consensus first-team All-American and claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, an award Peterson won in 2010. In 2011, he intercepted six passes and led the SEC with a 25.1-yard average on kickoff returns. He scored twice: on a kickoff return against West Virginia and a pick-six against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. His 11 career interceptions rank sixth in school history. As a senior at Fair Park High School in Shreveport, La., Claiborne produced 30 touchdowns as a quarterback (and won the 400 meters), and he arrived at LSU as a receiver. Early in his first fall camp, in part on the urging of Peterson, Claiborne started playing offense and defense at practice. One day about a week into practice, he went stride for stride with Terrence Toliver and broke up the pass. From that day, Claiborne was a cornerback.

FoxSports.com Packers Scouting Combine preview

Packer Report’s Bill Huber looks ahead to the Scouting Combine with Fox Sports’ Erin Hartigan. (We also previewed free agency, but that got left on the cutting-room floor after the Jermichael Finley signing.)



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