Teams with most NFL prospects[Kiper]
Quote:Teams with most NFL prospects
Even without the Honey Badger, the LSU Tigers lead the rankings
Updated: August 23, 2012, 10:58 AM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
With college football kicking off, it's time to look at the teams with the top NFL talent on the roster as of today. Quickly, since a lot of you don't bother to read them before commenting, some parameters up front.
• These teams are ranked based on players who would be given an NFL draft grade right now, based on my grades, and where they stand among NFL evaluators.
• This list omits freshmen except for exceptional cases. Jadeveon Clowney, for instance, might have been accounted for last year, because had he been eligible, he's one of the rare freshmen who would have been considered capable of making an NFL team.
So think of this list as a ranking of teams with the most players currently considered NFL prospects. In some cases, a final audit on the rosters in the years to come could show more players drafted, but this is where we stand now.
1. LSU Tigers
No Tyrann Mathieu, no problem … at least as far as NFL scouts are concerned. Pass-rushing tandem Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery could both become top-10 picks overall. Bennie Logan should become a great one on the defensive interior. The secondary has a pair of legit prospects in cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid. The defense is loaded, but consider the fact that even their transfer quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, is a legit prospect. Keep an eye on youngsters Odell Beckham and La'el Collins.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
UGA is in a virtual tie with USC, and consider that the Dawgs' best prospect is a Trojans transfer. Jarvis Jones could be the best pass-rusher in the draft next April. John Jenkins is a rising defensive tackle, and this is a huge year for Aaron Murray in the eyes of evaluators. Keep an eye on Malcolm Mitchell, a potential star both ways, a la former Georgia great Champ Bailey.
3. USC Trojans
The Trojans already look like an NFL team at the skill positions, with more on the way. Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are all big-time prospects, and both tight ends will end up drafted when ready. The offensive line is stacked with NFL potential, and the secondary will get looks with T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey.
4. Florida State Seminoles
Jimbo Fisher's aggressive recruiting has paid off, and the roster is starting to again resemble the 1990s Seminoles, which fed the NFL talent yearly. Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins are pass-rushing prospects, DB Xavier Rhodes is a first-round talent, and the young offensive line is on the radar. Don't forget EJ Manuel, who has a chance to rise fast.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
The NFL has taken its fair share of Tide talent, but the cupboard isn't bare. Start with the offensive line. Every one of these guys could land in the NFL. D.J. Fluker, Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and Cyrus Kouandjio could make running easy. Jesse Williams (DT) and Dee Milliner (CB) are major prospects on D, as are youngsters Trey DePriest (LB) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (DB).
6. Ohio State Buckeyes
The defensive line, with Johnathan Hankins at D-tackle and the versatile John Simon, is elite, and the usual depth of prospects is there in Columbus. Keep an eye on young wide receiver Devin Smith.
7. Stanford Cardinal
It shows just what Jim Harbaugh left behind that Stanford still has so much talent even after the departure of Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Johnathan Martin this year. Defensive talent is there with Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, and perhaps no team has a better pair of tight ends, with Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo around. There's a lot of young talent on this roster as recruiting has picked up.
8. Texas Longhorns
The Horns have major talent at corner led by Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs, and at defensive end with Alex Okafor and the still-improving Jackson Jeffcoat. Running back tandem Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron could both become feature backs at the next level.
9. Oklahoma Sooners
Landry Jones is back, and free safety Tony Jefferson leads the prospect surge on defense. Kenny Stills will have a big year catching the ball, and Demontre Hurst will look to become a shutdown corner. The talent isn't spectacular in Norman, but there's a lot of good youth.
10. Michigan Wolverines
Taylor Lewan could be the next great tackle from Michigan. Jordan Kovacs (S) and Kenny Demens (LB) are both good players, and there are several underclassmen who could emerge. Denard Robinson? He's definitely a prospect, but at wide receiver.
The next dozen
These are schools with a good amount of NFL talent but that fall outside of the top list. Because so many of them are in a virtual tie (seven of these schools came in with 13 current prospects), I grouped them together.
Clemson Tigers: Sammy Watkins highlights the young talent, and Stephone Anthony could become a star at linebacker.
Michigan State Spartans: If William Gholston plays to potential, he could be a top-10 pick in April at defensive end. Max Bullough and Johnny Adams both have a first-round ceiling. Running back Le'Veon Bell should have a big year.
Tennessee Volunteers: Tyler Bray will draw debate, but he's a prospect. The receivers are very talented, with Da'Rick Rogers (currently suspended) and Justin Hunter leading the way for a group that has depth.
Oregon Ducks: Look for defensive end Dion Jordan to put up big sack numbers. Safety John Boyett is a good one, as is corner Jordan Poyer.
Virginia Tech Hokies: There's some rebuilding going on, but Logan Thomas could turn into the No. 1 overall pick if he has a great year with a so-so supporting cast.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: This isn't a star-studded group, but Mike Gundy has better depth than ever. Joseph Randle could push to be the top RB taken next spring.
Florida Gators: They will get even better next year, because the freshman and sophomore classes are loaded. Ronald Powell (DE), Sharrif Floyd (DT) and Matt Elam (S) are names to watch.
Auburn Tigers: Corey Lemonier is a big-time pass-rush prospect for the Tigers.
West Virginia Mountaineers: The Geno Smith-to-Tavon Austin combo will be witnessed by scouts every week.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Tight end Tyler Eifert might be the country's best, and linebacker Manti Te'o would be a first-rounder if we drafted today.
TCU Horned Frogs: Don't be surprised, as the Frogs have increased their depth of talent in recent years. Casey Pachall could end up being drafted higher than Andy Dalton (35th overall in 2011).
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Kicker Brett Maher is a good one, but there is depth, if not elite talent, all over.