Conventional wisdom is a tricky thing.
It provides you with the comfort of knowing you're not alone, that your manlove foris shared by someone, somewhere. On the other hand, it's less wise and more conventional.
With that in mind, I have ten prospects who I think could be in for a big 2012 campaign, raising their stock well above where it is right now.
After the jump, some notes on those ten.
Casey Pachall (QB, TCU - Jr.)
There's a lot of love going around for Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Logan Thomas in the pre-2012 season draft hype, but Casey Pachall is someone who I think could explode in 2012. Were it not for the 2-point loss to Baylor to open the season (awesome, awesome game...) and the overtime loss to SMU (slightly less awesome), TCU would have been in the BCS mix, and I doubt Pachall would be as overlooked as he has been.
Nevertheless, he finished the season with arguably his three worst games after a spectacular performance against Boise. And with Josh Boyce primed to break out himself, I think Pachall might be racing up boards this year.
(Rams-specific notes: I wouldn't be surprised if the Seahawks or Cardinals are in the mix for Pachall in next year's draft.
Christine Michael (RB, Texas A&M - Sr.)
It's been a roller coaster college saga for Michael. The 2009 Big XII Offensive Freshman of the Year, Michael's sophomore campaign was cut short in late October when he broke his leg against Texas Tech. In his absence, up stepped Cyrus Gray, now a Kansas City Chief. Last year, the two were sharing time successfully into November...when Michael tore his ACL (Gray himself would miss the last two games with a stress fracture in his shoulder).
Michael's the much better pro prospect in my mind. And without Gray to share time with (and no, Ben Malena is not on that level), Michael has the chance to use A&M's first season in the SEC to his personal benefit. Now if only his knees allow him to do so...
(Rams-specific notes: I don't want Michael in this division. He's got a top RB skill set, and if he can get in a good run of healthy play, he's going to be someone I don't want to deal with every year.)
Jonathan Cooper (G, UNC - RS Sr.)
Hands off, every other team besides the Rams. That is all.
(Rams-specific notes: Yes. Yes. Prior to last season even, yes.)
Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia - Sr.)
The Brooklyn-bred Aboushi wasn't touted as much as fellow Cavalier OT Morgan Moses (large person) on his way to Charlottesville. Yet it's been Aboushi who has impressed more during his time under head coach Mike London.
In the video, I mistakenly thought that Virginia had the Seminoles on the docket this year. They don't. Boo. We'll still get to see Aboushi face off against Virginia Tech's James Gayle and North Carolina's Kareem Martin, so there are still some worthwhile matchups to check out this year.
(Rams-specific notes: Depending on what we get out of Roger Saffold and Jason Smith this year, Aboushi's someone Rams fans should keep an eye on.)
Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida St. - Jr.)
That being said, I really wanted to see Aboushi deal with Florida St.'s D-line. The Seminoles' defense as a whole is very impressive, but the bookends of Werner and Brandon Jenkins are going to cause fits for O-line coaches in the ACC Atlantic Division.
Werner has a plus game in the power, athleticism and acceleration facets of the position. He's going to get thecomp...not going to mention skin color...not going to do it...with a Virginia Tech-Maryland-Florida trio to finish the regular season, Werner will be studied heavily in November.
(Rams-specific notes: With Chris Long and Robert Quinn, it's pretty safe to say that Werner's not coming to St. Louis. Honestly, I don't see him as a great fit for anyone in our division, though I wouldn't entirely discount Seattle.)
Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida - Jr.)
Yes, the November 24th game between Florida and Florida State looms large, but getting through the SEC alive and without those ants close to those testicles is no small task. Floyd is going to spend some time on the outside as the Gators switch out their 3-4 and 4-3 packages. But at nearly 300 lbs., he's on track to be a tackle at the NFL level.
Once head coach Will Muschamp has his entire line healthy, it's going to be an impressive unit. If Floyd can stand out, we'll be seeing his name appear higher on draft boards than it is today.
(Rams-specific notes: The entire Florida line is worth checking out in general. I could see the Rams dipping into the defensive tackle pool late on day 2 next year if Kendall Langford doesn't impress.)
Zaviar Gooden (OLB, Missouri - RS Sr.)
With three new defensive line starters for the Tigers, the linebackers are going to be the nucleus of their defense in their first season in the SEC. With Andrew Wilson and Will Ebner, they form arguably the best linebacking corps in the conference. That's a hell of a statement.
If you watched the Independence Bowl last year between Mizzou and North Carolina, you were treated to a full spectrum view of Gooden's game - range, physicality and awareness. Plays like this are all you need to know about Gooden's nose for the ball.
(Rams-specific notes: This one makes too much sense, no?)
Kenny Tate (OLB/FS, Maryland - RS Sr.)
Oh, Kenny Tate. No matter what, you will always have our sympathies. The former free safety stud who moved to linebacker because of a hole in the roster, Tate's now in no man's land. No, not Maryland. He's a safety who did what his coach asked and has seen his stock drop (fairly, I might add).
He struggled early in the year with the transition, but was coming along before being injured and missing the rest of the season. I say "being injured" and not "injuring his ______" because Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall hasn't actually said what the injury was. Also, nobody likes Randy Edsall. Nobody.
(Rams-specific notes: I'd stay away. He's been Edsalled. Sad story, but maybe he can resurrect his game in the AFC.)
Greg Reid (CB, Florida St. - Sr.)
Greg Reid is small. So what? No, he's not a true cover corner at the NFL level. But I've seen people put Tyrann Mathieu in their top 3 CBs for next year. I'm not saying they're the same prospect, but if you can put Mathieu's size in context, you can do the same for Reid.
While Xavier Rhodes will likely get the majority of the focus (and he should -- Rhodes looks the part of a top CB prospect), Reid's being shortchanged IMO. Hehe. SHORTchanged. Hehe. Short people.
(Rams-specific notes: He's not headed our way with Cortland Finnegan on the roster, methinks. Definitely worth tracking along with Rhodes for NFC West options.)
Jawanza Starling (SS, USC - Sr.)
A member of the 2012 All-Name team, Starling is a phenomenal athlete. A two-sport Trojan (Starling played baseball for USC in 2010), he dedicated himself to the football team a year later after his 2010 season was cut short by a hamstring injury. A year later, he played through shoulder and rib injuries and finished with his best three game stretch of his career.
As USC prepares for postseason play, Starling is one of many Trojans who will finally have the chance to impress NFL scouts in a bowl game. Don't be surprised if he does just that.
(Rams-specific notes: I've twice mocked USC FS T.J. McDonald to us, so I'm gonna roll with that for a minute. Starling's an interesting prospect whose best football is ahead of him. With as many USC fans as we have here, let's just see what happens in 2012.)