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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Ranking the Pac-12's NFL draft prospects

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Mel Kiper has made two lists of top NFL prospects by positions: top seniors and and top juniors (or draft-eligible sophomores).

As for the Pac-12 prospects on his lists, it appears the conference is stronger among juniors than seniors. Of course, a lot of early-round talents don't last until their senior seasons. And the offensive talent far eclipses the defensive talent.

Here's where Pac-12 seniors rank among his top five seniors by position. (Note the lack of highly rated defensive players.)

Quarterback
No. 3 Nick Foles, Arizona

Kiper comment: "Is Foles more of a physical prototype than a QB?"

Receiver
No. 4 Juron Criner, Arizona
No. 5 Chris Owusu, Stanford

Tight end
No. 3 David Paulson, Oregon
No. 4 Coby Fleener, Stanford

Offensive guard
No. 2 Ryan Miller, Colorado

Kiper comment: Miller could be the second top-OL guy from Colorado in as many years, following Nate Solder.

Center
No. 4 Garth Gerhart, Arizona State

Safeties
No. 5 Lance Mitchell, Oregon State

Punter
No. 1 Bryan Anger, California

And here's Kiper's take on Pac-12 juniors (and draft eligible sophomores).

Quarterback
No. 1 Andrew Luck, Stanford
No. 2 Matt Barkley, USC

Kiper comment: Amazing that, in terms of eligibility, Luck is still a junior. He'll command the most attention, for sure. Even with a new coach, he will be a front-runner for No. 1 in the 2012 NFL draft from August onward. Barkley has had two solid seasons at USC -- and this while thrown into a pretty tough situation.

Running back
No. 3 LaMichael James, Oregon

Fullback
No. 5 Taimi Tutogi, Arizona

Offensive tackle
No. 1 Matt Kalil, USC
No. 2 Jonathan Martin, Stanford

Kiper comment: Kalil has been a guy pro scouts have known since he arrived at Southern Cal. He has the bloodlines, the frame and the footwork to be a future left tackle in the NFL. Nobody will be under a bigger spotlight at the position this year than Martin, who protects the blind side of Andrew Luck.

Offensive guard
No. 1 David DeCastro, Stanford

Kiper comment: Stanford has a wealth of talent on the offensive line, and the departure of Jim Harbaugh shouldn't diminish what they're able to accomplish. When it comes to the running game, watch DeCastro, who will maul on the interior.

Linebacker
No. 1 Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Kiper comment: There are some scary hitters on this list, starting with Burfict, who was most productive against ASU's toughest competition last season. The guy was a force, quite literally, the moment he stepped on campus. Imagine if he'd stayed with USC.

Outside linebacker
No. 2 Chase Thomas, Stanford

Cornerback
No. 2 Cliff Harris, Oregon

Safety
No. 4 T.J. McDonald, USC

Punter
No. 1 Jeff Locke, UCLA