With the 2011 NFL Draft now in the books, now is a great time to look ahead to 2012. Florida State is clearly a program on the fast track back to national prominence. Thanks to massive upgrades in coaching and player development, coupled with improved recruiting, FSU should begin to carry the ACC in the draft once again. The 'Noles have 13 seniors, but few of them are legitimate candidates to be drafted. For that reason, I'll be focusing on the juniors and 3rd-year sophomores. Here is a look at defensive end and cornerback.
Brandon Jenkins is the main threat for early departure at end. At 6'3" and 258 pounds, the question is whether Jenkins is a defensive end or an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense? Can he play at 265-270 pounds? At only 6'3", his arm length will be a question. People in FSU's program say that Jenkins is more quick than fast. That may not be a bad thing, but slower 40-times do scare some teams.
There are some promising edge prospects for this draft. Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss of North Carolina, Andre Branch of Clemson, Adewale Ojomo and Olivier Vernon (also a junior) of Miami, Cam Johnson of Virginia, Vinny Curry of Marshall, and Vince Browne of Northwestern. Oh, and a host of other underclassmen who will eventually emerge.
Jenkins is a very good college player who, if he improves against the run, could be a great college player. But he is not a physical freak in the NFL sense, and the guys who go pro early are often the freak athletes. His play against the run, continued physical development, and finding a position will determine whether he goes early.
Also on the list is Cornellius "Tank" Carradine. It's too early to make any projection here, and it's not even thought that Carradine will start, but the JUCO transfer is 6'5" 255 pounds and is a physical freak. But he has a lot to learn about technique.
The first name for many here will be Greg Reid. That is a mistake. Those 'Nole fans who have Greg Reid as a high draft choice are just as delusional as the Miami fans who do the same for Sean Spence. Both are good college players who are really small for the pro game. Reid is 5'9" and 180 pounds. The first 5'9" corner drafted this year was taken in the last round. Heck, 5'9" Kendrick Burney of UNC didn't even get drafted and he was 1st-team ALL-ACC in 2009. If Greg Reid goes pro early it will be a bad thing for all involved. Why? Because he won't be going pro early based on talent, but because of something that made it impossible or difficult for him to continue at Florida State. Reid needs to stay in school to amass as much good tape as possible to prove to scouts that he can play in the league.
But Xavier Rhodes, a third-year sophomore is a legitimate threat to leave early if he improves a bit and stays healthy through the 2011 season. At 6'2" and 209 pounds, Rhodes is a physical freak. He played very well last year when healthy and is the best corner in Tallahassee. In fact, a good way to tell whether someone knows what he is talking about is to ask who is Florida State's best corner. If they don't say Rhodes, you might want to disregard their other opinions on the 'Noles as well.
As with defensive end above, we need to look at the other players at the position. And this is something FSU fans will definitely be keeping an eye on. Corner was considered pretty full a few weeks ago, but since then Janoris Jenkins of Florida was booted from the Gators and will enter the supplemental draft, and Omar Bolden of Arizona State tore his ACL and will miss the year. Those two were widely considered two of the top five corner prospects. There will certainly be many more to emerge, but those two losses certainly make the draft a more attractive option for underclassmen.