On the field, 2021 was indeed not the year for the Pac-12 conference.
You know the story: Big-time programs failing to produce, 0-5 in bowl games and all the shortcomings that fall in those gaps.
However, as the 2022 NFL Draft quickly approaches, the Pac-12 is sure to see some of their talent selected among the top in the country.
Although the overall success of the Pac-12 showed a lot was left to be desired, the stage of the NFL Draft in Las Vegas should see a much different story.
At least, that's what ESPN's Mel Kiper foresees in his most recent mock draft that sees a total of five Pac-12 players gone in the first 32 picks, with three in the top 15 and two in the top 10.
Five Pac-12 Players Selected in First Round of ESPN Mock Draft
2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
"The Lions finished with the same number of wins (three) as the Jaguars, but doesn't it feel as if they're in a much better position? Well, maybe not so fast. The defense allowed the second-most points in the league (27.5 per game), and the offense had major consistency issues, which led to coordinator Anthony Lynn's firing. This is a roster that could use talent upgrades at several positions.
"That's why it's a no-brainer to take Thibodeaux or (Aidan) Hutchinson here, whoever is still on the board. Thibodeaux, who was a No. 1 overall high-school recruit, has elite upside. His get-off at the snap is lightning-quick, and though he's still developing secondary pass-rush moves, he doesn't need them when he can blow by offensive tackles before they're out of their stance. Thibodeaux had half as many sacks (seven) as Hutchinson this season, but he had the second-best pressure rate in the country (17.8%). Charles Harris, who led Detroit with 7.5 sacks this season, is a free agent, which makes this even more of a problem position."
10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC
"Quarterback Zach Wilson had a rough rookie season, as the Jets finished near the bottom in most offensive statistics. So if I'm giving them defensive help with the No. 4 pick, let's give Wilson a target here, because his best pass-catchers in 2021 are all better out of the slot. Elijah Moore , Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios are good players, but they're never going to be down-the-field aerial threats.
London -- who is 6-foot-5 and also played on the USC basketball team -- has a chance to be a special outside receiver. He caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games this season. His record-breaking year ended in late October because of a fractured right ankle, but he is expected to be ready for the 2022 season. He can be Wilson's top target, giving the Jets a huge red-zone threat. The Jets, by the way, also have an extra second-round pick from the Sam Darnold trade, and they could address the offensive line on Day 2 of the draft."
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
"This is the first of three Eagles picks in the next five, this one coming from the Dolphins in last March's order-busting trade. And I know that some folks are going to connect Philly with a quarterback, but I'm not buying that; Jalen Hurts earned the 2022 job by his play down the stretch, even if he didn't have a great playoff game. This team needs more talent on defense, so that's where I'm going with the first two of these picks.
"I had to dive deep back into my research to find the last time the Eagles took a linebacker in Round 1, going all the way back to Jerry Robinson in 1979. I was 18 years old at the time of that draft. This is both a need and value pick, as Lloyd is coming off a tremendous season. I've compared him to Tampa Bay's Devin White -- he's an off-ball linebacker with speed, versatility, range and run-and-hit ability. He had eight sacks and four picks last season. This would be a major boost to the Philly D."
27. Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
"Buffalo doesn't have many holes on its roster, but Tre'Davious White's season-ending knee injury in November put the focus on its cornerback depth. This late in the first round, teams are hoping for rookie starters, but they'll also take high-upside prospects who could grow into starters in time. McDuffie can cover wideouts outside or from in the slot, so the versatility is a plus.
"He was very good in man coverage for the Huskies. I also thought about a guard here, and the Bills' running backs were disappointing again in 2021, even though Devin Singletary had a couple of good games to end the season. This is a little too high for a back on my board, but we could see risers after the combine, so keep an eye out."
31. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
"I really liked Caleb Farley in the 2021 class, but a torn ACL ended his season after just two games, and that was after a back injury dropped him to the Titans in Round 1. That injury history is a little scary, which is why the Titans could go with back-to-back first-round corners.
"Like his college teammate Trent McDuffie, Gordon has some scheme versatility and the ability to play in the slot as well as outside. He improved a lot in 2021, picking off two passes and breaking up seven throws. He can also tackle, and I think he'll test well at the combine."