Six elite players atop board

The 2012 NFL draft class has clear headliners, but how does the overall talent level look up and down the board?

This draft-tiers document -- which breaks down the top players on my board into groups based on grade -- is helpful in answering that question for teams and fans.

The tiers show which portions of the class are deep and which are lean. There are some lean tiers near the top of the board, but the class is solid in Tiers 3 and 4.

The tiers also are a good tool for teams considering a trade. For instance, a team toying with the idea of trading back in the first round can judge whether a player from Tier 2 on its board will still be available with its new selection, or whether it will be stuck with a Tier 3 player at that point.

These tiers can help when trying to identify where there is depth -- or a lack thereof -- at certain positions. For instance, this year's tiers show that offensive tackle is lean after Tier 4, so we can expect the players from the top three tiers to be selected more quickly than usual.

Elsewhere, the depth of the defensive tackle class can be seen in the later tiers, and there are intriguing skill players late as well. Finally, the depth of the wide receiver and cornerback classes shows up in a big way in Tier 7.

Here's my seven-tier breakdown of the top prospects, listed in order of draft grade. Non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.