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Top 5 2011 NFL Draft Prospects:

Influential collegiate players will get the chance of a lifetime

In no particular order, these five players will await their phone call on draft day come April. Some from this list may be selected in the top five picks; others could be on the outside looking in, making a strong push for their case.

* A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

His above average heights at 6'4 combined with his NFL type hands and speed at 4.38 makes him perhaps the top receiving prospect in the NFL draft. Projected to get drafted in the top 5 overall, Green has proved himself as NFL ready and waiting. He can run just about any route in the playbook, and is equally good over the top and as a deep threat down the sidelines. His weight, at just 212, is a concern, however. But at just 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to gain muscle mass and adapt to NFL quality cornerbacks.

* Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

His overwhelming talent negates most of his negatives as opposing offensive lines took note of his ferocity. His senior season he drew added attention in the form of double teams and still managed to put up 3.5 sacks with 51 tackles. He excels in both the pass rush and in run stoppage, and will make his living in the opposing back field. But he needs to learn patience and discipline to become an elite NFL defensive end, as sometimes his abilities mentally get the best of him. He tends to over pursue from time to time, and that can get him into trouble

* Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Although his numbers may be less than impressive, opposing offensive coordinators were wise to game plan around him due to his shut-down abilities. At 6'1, 222 pounds, he is above average in size for a cover-corner, but can stick with just about any type of receiver. His first step quickness gives him marvelous speed and adds to his value as a special teams' kick return ace. There is little room for concern in his transition from college to pro football. A top 5 pick in the upcoming NFL for Peterson is almost a guarantee.

* Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

This might be a bit of a stretch to put him into the top five, but he made immense draft progress in 2010. Going from JUCO ball in 2008, to just a pair of starts for Auburn in 2009, he made a name for himself quickly by becoming an influential defensive tackle this past year. He would be a difficult assignment for centers around the NFL at 6'5, and just under 300 pounds, he does not congest so much space due to size alone. It's rare to find a big man with such athletic versatility. However, his lack of experience will probably keep him out of the top 5 and make him more like a top 10.

* Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

It's difficult not to see a quarterback in the top five, and perhaps Andrew Luck's decision to go back to school has boosted Mallet's value. A cannon for an arm, along with rapid improvement in his throwing accuracy and decision making makes him worthy of note. Physically, he is there, but like many other collegiate quarterbacks, he has a flaw or two. Many collegiate specialists would say he made a smart choice by returning to the Razorbacks for his junior year after his concussion. But his sub par collegiate record slightly degrades his value.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.