Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012 Senior Bowl: Top 10 South Prospects

As I do every year, I'm taking a look at the top prospects from each roster at the Senior Bowl. Because the South won the Civil War (I assume, I dropped out of school in third grade), we'll start with them, with the top North roster prospects coming tomorrow.

1. DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

A two-year starter for the Tar Heels, Coples racked up 22.5 sacks over his final three seasons despite having to fill in at defensive tackle as a junior before moving back to his natural end position in 2011. The two-time All-ACC selection was investigated by the NCAA for attending draft-day parties with Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, but was ultimately cleared of any wrong-doing.

The biggest concerns about Coples seem to be about his work ethic and on-field motor. He's a natural athlete with the versatility to play inside or outside in a 4-3 defensive line or even outside linebacker in the 3-4. With a good pre-draft showing, Coples could land himself in the top 10 and won't fall much farther.

2. OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Crimson Tide's top pass rusher over the past two seasons, Upshaw totaled 104 tackles, 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles since the 2010 season began. He was a first-team All-SEC selection after racking up 9.5 sacks (fourth in the SEC) for the national champions.

A complete player that can get to the quarterback, stop the run and even drop into coverage, Upshaw played outside linebacker in Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme but could also play defensive end in a 4-3. The biggest knock on him right now is his height (officially 6'1½) but he compares well to the Steelers' LaMarr Woodley and should go in the first round.

3. OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia

A three-year starter primarily at left guard, Glenn served as the Bulldogs' left tackle as a senior and earned first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors. In all, he started 49 games in four seasons at right guard, left guard and left tackle.

Despite being over 6-foot-5 and 348 pounds, Glenn carries his weight very well and has great athleticism for his size. He obviously has the ability and versatility to play outside, although he's best suited for guard and is the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the draft at that position. He has mid-first round upside and should go soemwhere on the first day of the draft.

4. LB Zach Brown, North Carolina

Brown began his collegiate career as a special-teamer before starting 11 games over his sophomore and junior seasons. Despite starting just five games in 2010, Brown ranked second on the team with 72 tackles. He went on to lead the Tar Heels in tackles as a senior with 105 stops, earning first-team All-ACC honors.

He's not the biggest got at just over 6-foot-1 and 236 pounds, but he's got incredible speed and athleticism for a linebacker. He's still raw in terms of coverage and isn't the biggest hitter, but his upside should land him in the first round of the draft.

5. QB Nick Foles, Arizona

A three-year starter for the Wildcats, Foles improves his completion percentage, passing yards, yards per completion, and touchdowns every season since his sophomore year began. He closed out his career with 4,334 yards (fifth in the NCAA) and 28 touchdowns as a senior in 2011.

Foles' most impressive aspect is his size, as he measures in at 6-foot-5 and 244 pounds with big hands and long arms. He's not all that mobile but can move around in the pocket well enough. He's still developing as a passer, but teams will fall in love with his physical tools. Initially viewed as a day two pick, it wouldn't be surprising if he snuck into the first round in this quarterback-needy league.

6. CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

Jenkins was a freshman All-American for the Gators in 2008 as well as a first-team All-SEC selection as a junior in 2010. Jenkins totaled 121 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, eight interceptions and 25 pass deflections in three years in Gainesville before being kicked off the team prior to the 2011 season after two arrests for marijuana possession in a three-month span.

Jenkins transferred to Division II North Alabama for his senior campaign in 2011 and racked up 36 tackles (four for a loss), a fumble recovery, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and a blocked kick in 12 games while earning second-team All-American honors.

A natural athlete, Jenkins has great instincts and good ball skills for a cornerback. His 5-foot-9 height isn't ideal, but he more than makes up for it with his anticipation and coverage ability. The issue for him is maturity and the off-the-field troubles he's had, but if he can stay out of trouble and impress in team interviews he should be a first-round pick based on talent.

7. OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State

A four-year starter for the Seminoles, Sanders opened 50 contests in four seasons. After serving as a right tackle for most of his first three years in Tallahassee, Sanders started all 13 games at left tackle as a senior in 2011 and was a first-team All-ACC selection.

A tremendous blocker when he's not staying motionless throughout the play, Sanders measures in at just under 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds with extremely long arms. There is concern he might be better suited for right tackle in the pros and he's struggled with elite rushers in the past, but he could play on the left side in the right system and should go somewhere in the late first round.

8. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Despite a standout prep career, Weeden played minor league baseball straight out of high school after being selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2002 draft. After spending five seasons in the minor league systems of the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals while reaching high-A ball, Weeden enrolled at Oklahoma State and redshirted on the football team in 2007.

Assuming the Cowboys' starting quarterback job as a junior in 2010, Weeden threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection. He was even better as a senior, completing a higher percentage of his passes for 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. However, he was relegated to second-team All-Big 12 honors behind Baylor quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Weeden has the measurables (6'3½, 219) and the arm you look for in a pro quarterback, and he obviously has the production to match it. The issue with Weeden is his advanced age. Because of the five years he spent playing minor league baseball, Weeden will be 29 a month into his rookie NFL season. There's also the question of whether his physical maturity boosted his ability at the college level.

While he doesn't exactly fit the mold of a franchise draft prospect because of his age, someone is going to fall in love with him and expect seven or eight good years out of him. He has the talent of a first-rounder and might make that happen if he impressed in pre-draft workouts, but at worst he's a second- or third-round pick.

9. DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Ingram began his collegiate career as a linebacker in 2007 before missing the 2008 season with a foot injury. He returned to a backup role the following season and started just one game in 2010, but still led the team with nine sacks. As a full-time starter as a senior, Ingram totaled 10 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss as a first-team All-SEC selection.

He's a big like Courtney Upshaw in the sense that he's a quality SEC pass rusher that doesn't have ideal height. Measuring in at 6'1⅞ and 278 pounds, Ingram is good against the run but can be a bit inconsistent getting off the ball. Although he started his career at linebacker, I don't see him standing up in the pros and view him as more of a 4-3 end that moves inside in pass-rushing situations. He could sneak into the first round, but I think he'll go sometime soon after.

10. DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

The No. 39 prep prospect in the nation according to in 2008, Thompson made an immediate impact for the Tigers as a true freshman and went on to start his final three seasons. In 53 games (38 starts) at Clemson, Thompson totaled 208 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 47 quarterback pressures, and nine pass breakups.

The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Thompson is one of the most well-rounded defensive tackles in this year's class, with good ability to stuff the run and great burst from inside to get to the quarterback. He profiles best as a 4-3 defensive tackle and should find a home in the second round.

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