Most major college football programs have played their annual spring games by now, and many players finish with school and begin preparing on their own for the 2013 season.
A very select few of them will be next year's Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and David DeCastro.
As of now, next year's draft class looks to be strong at a few positions. The class appears to be loaded with quarterbacks, wide receivers, nose tackles, and safety's and above average at tackle, tight end, and cornerback. The classes weakness appears to be interior offensive line and 4-3 linebackers but obviously, this is all just projections right now and is subject to massive changes.
This isn't a traditional mock draft, but rather, a list of the top 32 players as of now in the draft class for next year. We really have no way of knowing who will pick where for obvious reasons. Use this list as a sort of "players to watch" guide for college football next year.
1. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia - This will be the first time in a while that the #1 player is not a quarterback. Jarvis Jones had 13.5 sacks last year in the SEC and will look to build on that this year. He has the ability to be one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL as soon as he gets drafted.
2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC - Barkley would have been a top five pick this year and he is the favorite to be the number one pick next year. He has all the tools (big arm, good accuracy, great vision, toughness, intelligence, etc.) to become a great quarterback and depending on who is drafting number one next year, he could be the number one pick.
3. Robert Woods, WR, USC - Robert Woods is not your biggest wide receiver (only around 6'1") but all he does is produce. He has become Matt Barkley's favorite target and with his speed and great hands, he could become a dominant force in the NFL. He will likely be destroyed during the Draft Process because of his height but whoever gets him next year will be very lucky.
4. Johnathan Hankins, NT, Ohio State - Hankins is a monster (6'4" 320 pounds) with great athleticism, great strength, and a great motor. He looks like he will be the highest drafted nose tackle in a long time (possibly ever) and has the tools to be a top five pick if he can have another strong season. He will likely impress at the combine like Dontari Poe did, but unlike Poe, he will have great game tape to go along with it.
5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas - Tyler Wilson had a great year last year and would likely have been the third QB taken but he decided to return to school and try and lead Arkansas to a BCS bowl game. He has incredible arm strength and he is a hard worker and if he can have another solid year he can be a top five pick next year.
6. Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU - Montgomery was a big part of LSU's dominant defense last year because of his ability to bring pressure off the edge. He had 9 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss last year as only a sophomore and if he can build that up to the double digits, he could be a top five pick next year.
7. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama - Fluker - To this point in his career, the mammoth tackle from Alabama has only started at right tackle. If he does not make the shift to the left side this year, he will drop down this list because he will be considered a right tackle only. However, with his size and athleticism, one would figure he could shift to the left side.
8. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee - Bray has a huge arm but still makes some dumb mistakes. If he can fix those stupid mistakes, he could end up being higher on this board. On terms of raw talent, he might have the most of all the quarterbacks in this class.
9. Keenan Allen, WR, California - Allen has the size to make him potentially be the #1 WR taken next year. At 6'3" and 206 pounds, he will not have any concerns over his size. He matches that up with great production (as a sophomore, he had 89 receptions for 1261 yards and 6TDs). If he can improve his route running a little and work on his hands, he could be the #1 wide receiver drafted in next year's class.
10. David Amerson, CB, N.C. State - Amerson comes into the process as the #1 cornerback in the class. The main reason why is his size. He is 6'3" and 200 pounds and seems to play very fast on the field. As a sophomore last year, he intercepted 13 passes which shows just what type of ballhawk he is. If he has another great season, he could actually end up being a top 3 pick.
11. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame - Manti Te'o was a projected top 20 pick in this year's draft but he decided to go back to Notre Dame. Last year, as a junior, Te'o recorded 4.5 sacks and 120 tackles. The production, matched with his athleticism, will make him a possible top 10 pick and will draw comparisons to Patrick Willis throughout the draft process.
12. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - Matthews will only be a junior next year, but already he is being talked about as possibly the best tackle in the class next year. He has a lot of experience playing at 3 spots on the offensive line (LT, RT, LG) and could definitely leap frog Fluker for the top tackle in the class.
13. Barret Jones, OT/OG/C, Alabama - Jones in his career at Alabama has played left tackle, both guard spots, and center. That kind of versatility combined with his talent will make him a high pick next year. The reports are that he will be the center next year for Alabama and if that is true, he could become the highest drafted center in the past five years.
14. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU - Mingo is an athletic monster with massive upside. As a sophomore, he had 8.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Like Montgomery, if he can get that number up to double digits and continue to get stronger, he could be a top five to ten pick.
15. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State - Rhodes has great size at 6'2" and 210 pounds and has shown the ability to lock down his side of the field without any safety help. However, he is kind of like Ike Taylor in the fact that he has stone hands. Last year, he had just one interception and dropped several more. That might keep him from being a top 10 pick but as seen with Dre Kirkpatrick, he could still be a top 20 pick in the draft next year.
16. T.J. McDonald, S, USC - McDonald is the best of a loaded safety class next year. His athleticism and size (6'3" 205 pounds) make him a possible candidate to play corner but he could be best at safety. He is a big hitter and also had 3 interceptions last year.
17. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina - Marcus Lattimore is a monster and was on his way to dominating the SEC again last year before a devastating leg injury. If he can recover and have another great season next year, he could be a top five pick. However, I am going to be conservative on him until he proves he can play at the same level he was at before the leg injury.
18. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU - a.k.a. The Honey Badger, Mathieu is a ball hawking corner that can also be explosive in kick returns. Any time the ball is in his hands, he is a threat to take it to the house. As a sophomore, he forced 6 fumbles, lead LSU with 70 tackles, averaged 16.2 yards per punt return, and was named 2011 National Defensive Player of the Year by rivals.com. The thing holding him back from being a top 10 pick is his size. He is only 5'9" but because of his explosiveness and ability, he should still be a first round pick.
19. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech - Logan Thomas has the athletic ability and arm strength of Cam Newton. The question is whether or not he will make the same strides that Newton made in his final year at Auburn to improve his passing accuracy and decision making. If he can do that, like Newton did, he could be the first pick in the draft next year. If not, he will still likely be a mid first round pick because of his potential.
20. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State - Marquess Wilson has the height (6'4") and production (82 receptions for 1388 yards and 12TDs) to be the first WR taken next year. If he has another year at that production level, I do believe he will be picked in the top 10. As a sophomore, he had 2 games where he went over 225 yards receiving and 4 more where he was over 100 yards. He is capable of taking over a game and will be a highly sought after commodity in next year's draft.
21. Tyler Eiffert, TE, Notre Dame - Eiffert is massive (6'6" 250 pounds) and is a great receiver (63 receptions for 803 yards and 5TDs as a sophomore). He is also a great blocker and a hard worker. If he has another good season at Notre Dame, he could be a top 15 pick in the draft next year.
22. Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah - Lotulelei is a massive guy (6'4 and 325 pounds) with an incredible ability to eat up double teams. He had 1.5 sacks last year and 46 tackles so he has the production to match his size. If he can have another strong year, he could be a top 20 pick in the draft next year.
23. Kawann Short, DE/DT, Purdue - Short's size and weight (6'3 and 310 pounds) makes him a versatile player. He can either play 3-4 DE or even 4-3 DT. He is incredibly strong and is also a good pass rusher. As a junior, he had 6.5 sacks (3 vs. Ohio State and there great offensive line) and 54 tackles so he has the production to match his physical attributes. If he has another strong season he should be a top 15 to 20 pick.
24. Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida - Jenkins is built very similarly to new Pittsburgh Steeler, Sean Spence. At 6'0" and 230 pounds, he does not have great size but he does have great athleticism, instincts, and production. He is not an elite pass rusher (only 2 sacks as a sophomore) but is great in pass coverage and is a sure tackler. Because of his lack of pass rushing skills, he likely won't be a top 20 pick, but late in the first round he could present great value. He is the #1 4-3 OLB in the class as of now.
25. Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma - Tony Jefferson is a big hitter with great production. As a sophomore, he had 74 tackles and 4 interceptions. He is a great athlete and is always around the ball. He also has shown the ability to cover slot WRs. His versatility and instincts should make him a candidate to be a first round pick next year.
26. Robert Lester, S, Alabama - Lester is big (6'2" 210 pounds), fast, and has great instincts. As a junior, he had only one interception, but that was probably an anamoly because as a sophomore he had an SEC best, 8 interceptions. This drop off in interceptions is likely why he returned to Alabama for his senior year, because if he can get that INT total back up to 5 or more, he could be the first safety taken. A lot of scouts compare him to Ed Reed because he has a great ability to play center field.
27. Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State - At 6'2", Banks has great size and he is also a great athlete. Banks has shown ballhawking abilities, with 5 interceptions as a junior. He also has shown the ability to run a corner blitz successfully, finishing his junior year with 3 sacks. He is a sure tackler and has the ability to rise up boards with a strong senior season.
28. Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State - Jenkins had a monster sophomore season in 2010 but regressed slightly in 2011 (going from 13.5 sacks to just 8). However, if he can get that number back up to double digits, he could be a top 15 pick. He looks more like a 4-3 DE than a 3-4 OLB at this time.
29. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State - Werner is 6'4 and 272 pounds so he is likely a 4-3 DE prospect and not a 3-4 OLB prospect. That lack of versatility might hurt him a little bit but his production (7 sacks) and his great game film will help him out. At FSU last year, even when he was not getting sacks, he was contributing because he was great in run support and also got double teamed often.
30. Kwame Geathers, NT, Georgia - At 6'6" and 355 pounds, Geathers is the biggest of the nose tackle prospects in this class. He is not a pass rusher and will not record stats (only 14 tackles last year) but if you watch film, you don't see a single play where he is not double teamed. He is always collapsing the pocket and that will make him a coveted prospect next year.
31. Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia - Aboushi started all 12 games last year at UVA at left tackle and having two years of starting experience will help him during the draft. He has good size (6'6 and 310 pounds) and has the ability to move up draft boards with a strong season.
32. Chris Faulk, OT, LSU - Faulk is big (6'6" and 325 pounds) and strong (as seen by his 73.5 knockdowns as a sophomore). He was the reason that Joseph Barksdale (a 2011 NFL Draft pick) played right tackle and not left tackle. It would not surprise me at all to see Faulk be the first tackle taken next year.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Murray, Knile Davis, Cobi Hamilton, Ricky Wagner, Khaled Holmes, Nico Johnson, Baccari Rambo, Alex Okafor, Devin Taylor