The first pick in the 2013 NFL draft? That's easy. It's going to be …
The 2012 NFL draft is over, and so is spring football (well, except for UCLA, which will be the last team to hold its spring game when it plays Saturday).
So what's there to do for a football fan? Why, look ahead to the 2013 draft, of course.
Here's an early look at how the top 10 picks could go. (There are four players from the SEC, three from the Pac-12 and one each from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.)
10. DE William Gholston, Michigan State
Buzz: This is a leap of faith of sorts: Gholston has a ton of talent but has lacked consistency in his first two seasons. He is freakishly athletic for a guy his size (6 feet 7 and 275 pounds). Gholston had a number of huge performances last season: 15 tackles and a sack against Nebraska; seven tackles, two sacks, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery against Georgia; 14 tackles and a forced fumble against Minnesota. If he plays with more consistency, big plays will be the result – and big plays make you big money in the NFL. His cousin is former Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston, a first-round pick who has been an NFL bust.
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9. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Buzz: He's a workhorse when healthy; he has had five games of 25-plus carries and 10 games of 20-plus carries in his 20-game college career. He also has scored 30 total touchdowns in those 30 games, including 27 on the ground. He is an effective receiver out of the backfield, too, with 48 career catches. Lattimore loves playing against Georgia: 358 yards and three TDs in two games. But he is coming off a severe knee injury, and that bears watching.
8. DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Buzz: He and fellow DE Barkevious "KeKe" Mingo should wreak havoc coming off the edge this fall. Montgomery, like Lattimore a South Carolina native, had nine sacks last season as a sophomore; it was his first season as the starter. Two of those sacks came against Alabama, which allowed just 17 sacks all season. Montgomery played at about 250 pounds last season and can be expected to add some weight this season without losing his quick first step.
7. CB David Amerson, North Carolina State
Buzz: Amerson had one of the best seasons in NCAA history in 2011, finishing with 13 interceptions, which was more than 77 teams. He took two of those picks back for scores. Amerson also had 55 tackles and five pass breakups. He also has excellent size (6-3/195), which gives him the nod over LSU star CB Tyrann Mathieu, who is listed at 5-9. Amerson will be a junior this fall and is heading into his third season as a starter. He was a safety in high school in Greensboro, N.C.
[Related: Boise State's Kellen Moore overlooked again, this time by the NFL]
6. DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Buzz: He is a force in the middle of the line for the Utes, winning Pac-12 defensive lineman of the year honors last season, his second with Utah after transferring in from junior college. Lotulelei is massive (6-4/325), extremely strong and generally occupies two blockers. "Star" is his nickname; his real first name is Starlite. (Go ahead, make fun of it. We dare you.) His last name is pronounced "lo-too-LEH-lay."
5. OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Buzz: We called Lotulelei "massive" and probably should have saved that term for Fluker, who is 6-3 and (ahem) 335 (yeah, OK). Fluker will be a junior this fall and is set to be a third-year starter. He is an absolute road-grading masher on the right side of the line. He grew up in New Orleans, but he and his family left the city right before Hurricane Katrina hit. Legend has it that Fluker was 6-3 and 400 pounds as an eighth-grader. While he goes by D.J., his name is Danny Lee Jesus Fluker.
4. WR Robert Woods, USC
Buzz: Few receivers in college history have been as productive as Woods through his first two seasons. He has 176 receptions for 2,084 yards and 21 TDs despite catching just 13 passes in the first five games of his college career. Woods has more than made up for that relative inactivity; he had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He also has flashed his talents as a kick returner. Woods (6-1/190), who has excellent speed, should become USC's career leader in receptions this season, and he also has a shot at the career receiving yards record.
[Michael Silver: Rams roll dice on Janoris Jenkins, promise to nurture him]
3. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Buzz: His dad, Jim, enjoyed a 15-year NFL career and was a 1983 first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys. Jim Jeffcoat finished his NFL career with 102.5 sacks. His son had 7.5 as a sophomore last season, his first as a starter. Expected continued improvement will get the younger Jeffcoat a double-digit sack total next season. He also can be expected to be tougher against the run.
2. OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Buzz: Meet the best pure pass rusher in the nation. He signed with USC out of high school in Columbus, Ga., but suffered a neck injury during a game in his true freshman season of 2009. USC doctors would not clear him for spring ball in 2010 and he transferred "home." After sitting out the 2010 season, he exploded on the scene in a big way last fall, finishing with 13.5 sacks, tied for second nationally. He also had 70 tackles, seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Could he play the run better? Sure. But elite pass-rushing linebackers are far more valuable than elite run-stuffing linebackers. Georgia plays a 3-4 scheme, which should further endear Jones to numerous NFL teams.
1. QB Matt Barkley, USC
Buzz: The moment he announced he was returning for his senior season, three things happened: USC became a legit contender for the national title, the Heisman race had a front-runner and Barkley set himself up to be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. Quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall in four consecutive drafts, and Barkley could go No. 1 overall 10 years after former Trojans great Carson Palmer was taken with the first pick. Six USC quarterbacks have been first-round selections; Barkley is going to make it seven. He should become USC's career leader in passing yards, completions and TD passes this season.
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