17. ILB *Dont'a Hightower Alabama
I keep hearing size might be a negative for this player, but I disagree. Fluid athletic movement for size with a 4.68 40-yard dash at the Combine, which he will work to improve and finish all his Combine numbers at the Alabama Pro Day. A throwback middle linebacker that has the attributes to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. A thumper, to take on and shed blockers with escape-ability. Downhill disruptive player to play in the opponent’s backfield consistently. Dont’a had knee surgery in 2009; it will be interesting to see where teams place him after Combine medical exams.
18. OT/OG Cordy Glenn Georgia
Huge man, good athlete with great feet and movement skills in Combine drill work. Will need to further develop lower body explosion. Combine gave him a 5.15 40-yard dash, several scout sources clocked him in 4.97 and 4.98 which is extremely impressive for a athlete weighing 345. The question coming out of the Combine is where to play him. For me, I start him out at right tackle. If he struggles on the edge, move him inside to guard.
19. DT Brandon Thompson Clemson
I left the Senior Bowl extremely impressed and excited to go home and watch this player’s DNA (film). His athletic ability, competitive attitude, aggressiveness jumps off the screen at you, and he is also technique sound with strong use of hands. A powerful and explosive player with lateral chase and pursuit and is disruptive. At the Combine he measured out with prototypical size for the position, had 35 reps on the bench press along with a 31.0 vertical jump. Whichever team drafts this player will be drafting an impact player for the interior defensive line.
20. CB *Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama
Corner built like a safety and flashed movement of a safety as well. Good size but has short arms (30 5/8) with solid vertical jump of 35. This player might be a classic cover-2 corner. His DNA (film) tells me man coverage skills at the next level will be limited when asked to perform on a consistent basis. He has tight hips and adequate short-area burst to remain close, allows too much separation from receiver. He excels as a zone defender with awareness of both ball and receivers in space. A willing collision tackler with wrap vs. receiver and on force. Kirkpatrick addressed his off-field issues with the media and teams of interest and said told us his situation had been resolved. This player might slide into the second round, but I doubt it; teams covet and value his height for the position. Moved up from No. 24.
21. WR Kendall Wright Baylor
This is a classic “don’t move this player” where timed speed at the Combine doesn’t match the playing speed. Watching Robert Griffin III play pitch-and-catch was fun to watch. He has very good initial quickness to create separation, burst and acceleration, lower body explosion (38.5 vertical jump, 10.5 standing broad jump), soft hands and natural receiving skills to track, and change of direction. All this shows up in the Combine drills but the 40-yard dash. Don’t be fooled by the 4.61 time; I would still draft this player in the first round. A team will be getting a true talent and a solid return man for the next level. This kid is a player.
Update: Wright answered his critics with a 4.43 40 at his Pro Day March 21 on indoor field turf.
22. DE Courtney Upshaw Alabama
I really like this young man’s production, competitive attitude and compact explosion to defeat blockers on film and at the Senior Bowl. He only weighed in at the Combine, and will need to complete the entire Combine workout at Alabama’s Pro Day. Those numbers will be interesting. I see short-area quickness with burst, tight-hipped to launch himself at quarterbacks. Inconsistent to stick foot in ground and change direction with quickness. Good use of hands and plays with leverage to stack point of attack. I see him not as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but a base defensive end in a 4-3.
23. WR Michael Floyd Notre Dame
Tall receiver that is competitive on film with production. Very good production to put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Notre Dame. Put up some good numbers at the Combine with a 4.46 40-yard dash, 36.5 vertical jump. Floyd had to answer several question about a well-documented off-field issue that has a few teams worried. He also suffered a knee injury in 2009; if there are any issues the Combine medical exam will find it. I like the size and combination of quickness and speed for a tall receiver. Aggressive receiver to play above the defender and attack balls at the highest point. Big-time red-zone threat.
24. CB Janoris Jenkins North Alabama
Was the best cornerback at the Senior Bowl. An athletic, competitive corner with a good combination of burst, acceleration and speed. Strong one-arm bar punch to redirect receiver out of stance at Senior Bowl and on film. Great football instincts and ball skills. I went back and looked at Florida tape to really get a true feel for Jenkins’ skill set vs. SEC competition, because he was not challenged at North Alabama on the edge in 2011. The question on this player was not his ability to play at the next level in a press man or zone scheme, but teams wanted to dive into his personal life, past character issues and many other things. Injury history on his shoulder may be a concern as well. Very good football player; will be interesting to follow his career. Moved down from No. 20.
25. RB *David Wilson Virginia Tech
Early-out junior plays bigger then measured. Weighed in at 206 pounds at the Combine and put up numbers that correspond with his DNA (film). He was smooth in his 4.49 40-yard dash, displayed lower body explosion with a 41.0 vertical jump and had the best standing broad jump among all the running backs this year with an 11-foot leap. Extremely quick in short and tight space; changes direction with burst and acceleration. A perfect change-of-pace back that has return skills.
26. CB Stephon Gilmore Georgia Tech
SEC (Southeastern Conference) corner with the athletic ability and combination of size, speed and skill set for the first round. Smooth pedal with hips to flip and transition and mirror receivers deep. Is competitive and tough with good man press technique. Good awareness in zone coverage of both ball and receivers in and out of zone sector. Physical tackling skills like a safety. Gilmore had an outstanding Pro Day March 29. Moved into the first round.
27. DT *Jerel Worthy Michigan State
Big man had to answer many questions about the lack of passion, inconsistent motor and if he has a true love of the game by both media and teams in private and open sittings. I like his lower body girth and thickness. I saw the inconsistent motor, but I also saw an explosive athlete with quickness, and was disruptive when he wanted to be. Raw with upside, while he lacks the height and athletic ability of Kris Jenkins, this is how his report read until the Blue-Gray and Senior Bowl dominance. Moved down from No. 26.
28. DT Devon Still Penn State
Big man looks the part but I struggled to keep him in the first round. Athletic kid, with explosion and quickness, I really like his size and length but inconsistent motor to idle concerns me. Again, if you grade his flashes he deserves to be here. Still will need a hard-nosed tough coach to push him to the brink and get all the talent out of him.
29. OT *Jonathan Martin Stanford
Was very vocal with the media that he was the best offensive tackle at the Combine. I liked his confidence. Didn’t work out at the Combine because of a soft tissue problem; another source said he was sick. Has the size and skill set to develop into a starter in the NFL. On film, I liked his smarts and awareness but he doesn’t do any one thing special with the exception of use of hands in both pass and run game. This player has upside; I want to see the drill work numbers from Pro Day.
30. RB Doug Martin Boise State
This running back is the closet you're going to get to a Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) clone. Explosive compact running style, with collision YAC (yards after contact) production. Natural receiving skills, soft hands and vision in RAC (run after catch) production. Will probanly slide into the second round, but I like this runner's competitiveness, toughness and desire on each and every play. Moved into first round.
31. DE/OLB Andre Branch Clemson
This player had 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in the Clemson scheme. After watching him move at the Combine and then on film, I think he is neither a defensive end or outside linebacker, but a DPR (designated pass rusher). I question awareness in space consistently to drop and cover, or read and react at the next level. As a defensive end, he will need to develop a more stout aggressiveness at point of attack.
32. C *Peter Konz Wisconsin
The man in the middle for the Badgers. Very good size, with length and athletic ability. I really like his aggressive kick-your-butt attitude, and works to finish. Only lifted at the Combine and the results (18 reps) were disappointing and didn’t match what you see on film. He will need to complete the Combine workout at his Pro Day and increase the number of bench press reps. Solid first rounder, but could slide into the second.
WR *Alshon Jeffery South Carolina Coming into the Combine, Jeffery had to answer a few questions from all teams and it had nothing to do with off-field issues. He had to address weight-gain issues. Played the 2011 season at 237 pounds and came to the Combine weighing 216 and was 213 at South Carolina's Pro Day March 29. The question teams have is which player will show up to training camp if drafted, and will he eat himself into a tight-end position within a few years. The other concern was his speed, which was answered at his Pro Day (4.50). Per sources, a lot of teams are dropping Jeffery into the second round because of fear about weight issues, I have the same concerns. With the emergence of DC Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina, this player dropped off my Big Board. Moved down from No. 27 out of the first round.
Others in consideration for the Softli Big Board: Georgia Tech WR *Stephen Hill, Washington RB Chris Polk, Miami RB Lamar Miller, Clemson TE *Dwayne Allen, Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Syracuse DE *Chandler Jones, Georgia TE Orson Charles, Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler.