2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post-BCS Championship Game version
Now that Alabama and LSU have officially put an end to the college football season, all attention will start turning toward the prospects who are leaving school behind for a chance to play in the NFL and how the draft's first round might go.
Four quarterbacks went in the first 12 picks last season, and several teams want to start over at the league's most important position this year. But the options became limited when Matt Barkley and Landry Jones chose to go back to school. At this time, Robert Griffin III hasn't officially made his decision, but teams are going to be eager to trade up for the Heisman winner if he decides to go pro.
A lot could change in Indy between now and April. By the time the Colts are called to the podium they'll know about Peyton Manning's future and will either draft Luck or trade the pick. Luck could end up in a tough spot. He'll say the right things, but he wants to play right away, so co-existing with Manning would be difficult. If Manning leaves, Luck will face huge expectations and be surrounded by very little talent.
The Rams don't need a quarterback, but with a manageable price tag for rookies because of the salary slotting system, they'll get calls from Cleveland, Miami and Washington about moving up to land Griffin. After last season's draft-day trade with the Falcons, the Browns have an extra first-rounder and can put together the best package. Griffin may have more tools than Luck, but Luck is more valuable because he ran a pro system at Stanford. Griffin completed 72.4 percent of his passes, a dazzling number even in the defensively challenged Big 12. Cleveland ranked No. 29 in offense with Colt McCoy running the show and would likely be ready to hand the keys of the offense over to Griffin immediately. Pat Shurmur is a West Coast guy, but would adjust his system to suit Griffin's talents if he had to.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman told quarterback Christian Ponder they wouldn't draft someone to compete with him. Instead, they'll try to beef up a line that allowed 49 sacks last season. Kalil didn't allow a sack at USC last season and he has the bloodlines -- his brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center on the Panthers.
Blackmon may not run a blazing 40, but neither did Larry Fitzgerald or Jerry Rice. Blackmon's dominant performance in the Fiesta Bowl put to rest any notion he benefits from Oklahoma State's wide-open offense.
The Bucs need someone who can make a play on defense. They've already tried drafting D-linemen high, and the players they've taken have shown promise but can't stay healthy. Claiborne is the top shut-down corner in the draft.
The Redskins need a quarterback, but may be forced to turn to free agency because the right signal-caller won't be available at this spot. Instead, they'll draft the best player available. The Redskins' strength is their defense, which ranked 13th in the NFL last season, but adding the big, physical Kirkpatrick in the secondary could make life even easier for their talented pass-rushers.
Everything depends on who the Jaguars hire at head coach and what systems they run. We'll give them the best available talent for right now. With so many needs, including receiver, the Jaguars could conceivably trade down from this spot.
The Panthers have needs all over their defense and would benefit greatly by improving in the middle of the line. Brockers, a redshirt sophomore, will be the best prospect from LSU's outstanding defensive line if he declares himself eligible for the draft in the coming days.
Lots of questions still remain about what systems the Dolphins will be using next season, given their unsettled coaching situation. Brown is the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the draft and would help take some pressure off Cameron Wake.
Coples disappointed some scouts this season, but the Bills need more pressure up front and he has a lot of natural talent. The big question with Coples is attitude. He'll have to prove he wants it in pre-draft interviews.
The Chiefs need to infuse their offensive line with attitude, and Reiff plays nasty. He fits every stereotype of an Iowa lineman in a good way.
The former college wide receiver will shine during the pre-draft process. He has athletic ability and the brains to wow teams in interviews. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has to be smarting that Matt Barkley returned to USC, but will still go quarterback to develop someone behind Tarvaris Jackson.
The Cowboys need help in the defensive secondary, but may not be in a good spot to get an elite cornerback here. Therefore they'll will go with the best player available.
Andy Reid doesn't draft linebackers, but the need is so glaring now, Eagles fans may revolt if the doesn't. It's been long enough for them to get over drafting Mike Mamula back in 1995.
The Jets defense took a step back this season, in part because safety Jim Leonhard was hurt. Even if Leonhard is back, they need to strengthen the secondary, and Barron can help at multiple positions.
Teams don't draft running backs in the first round as much any more, but Richardson is a pretty safe bet. He's short, but exceptionally strong. Richardson went to Escambia High in Florida, alma mater of Emmitt Smith, and the Bengals hope he joins quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green in a Smith-Troy Aikman-Michael Irvin type of triumvirate.
The Chargers are still looking for an explosive pass-rusher. There's some doubt about whether Upshaw can play standing up, but he may be worth the risk.
The NFL seems to have trouble evaluating Notre Dame products, but Floyd fits the mold of the tall, fast receiver the Bears need.
The Titans ranked 31st in the NFL with just 28 sacks last season. Perry had 9.5 sacks as a junior and could move up in the draft process as teams study his work at USC.
The lasting image of the Bengals' playoff loss to the Texans is Pacman Jones getting juked out of his shoes by Andre Johnson. Cincy needs a cornerback to solidify a secondary that still needs to replace Johnathan Joseph.
If the Rams go offense early, they will try to improve their 22nd-ranked defense. Jenkins has some character questions, but teams have to be willing to take risks to find quality cover guys in today's NFL.
The Lions could also turn to Jenkins, but Dennard is a lot tougher. The 5-foot-10 cornerback doesn't back down, even though there is a real fear he'll struggle against tall receivers.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton is 34 and will likely have knee surgery. The 6-5, 350-pound Poe is cut out of the same mold and should be a strong force in the middle of a 3-4 line.
Tight ends are usually a great aid to quarterbacks who struggle with accuracy. Allen won the Mackey Award for the nation's top tight end and could quickly become Tim Tebow's best friend.
Hightower showed his versatility in the BCS title game and will fill a need on the Giants' defense. They could also look for depth in the secondary.
The Texans are looking for a tall, fast receiver and the 6-2 Sanu will add a needed dimension to a productive offense. Sanu had 115 catches last season, and could move up if he comes up with a dazzling 40.
The Patriots are never predictable, but you have to figure they'll go pretty heavy on defense in this draft. They've seemed hesitant to take a pass-rusher, but they need to improve in that area. Scouts are waiting to see how Ingram runs to see where he'll be slotted. New England could also look at Clemson DE Andre Branch here.
The Ravens could have multiple needs on the offensive line depending on how their offseason goes. Osemele is listed at 347 pounds and could thrive in a system that has had success developing offensive linemen. They also could try to land a receiver, possibly LSU's Reuben Randle.
The explosive receiver deserves a lot of credit for Griffin's Heisman. His ability to make plays after the catch would be a huge addition to the Niners' ho-hum offense.
Hosley had nine interceptions in 2010, but was banged up last season and took a step back. The Pats have been using converted offensive players in their secondary; they need bodies.