2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post-BCS Championship Game version
Expect a QB-needy team to trade with the Rams for their No. 2 overall pick
The Patriots will look heavily at improving their pass rush and in the secondary
Ryan Tannehill's stock will rise once teams get a chance to study him more
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.
(* - pending coin flip, # - underclassman who hasn't declared yet. Note: Picks 25-32 will be determined by pending playoff results)
1. Indianapolis Colts -- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
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.
2. Cleveland Browns -- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (Trade with St. Louis)
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.
3. Minnesota Vikings -- Matt Kalil, OT, USC
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.
4. St. Louis Rams -- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (Trade with Cleveland)
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.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU#
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.
6. Washington Redskins -- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama#
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.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Devon Still, DT, Penn State
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.
8. Carolina Panthers* -- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU#
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.
9. Miami Dolphins* -- Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
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.
10. Buffalo Bills -- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
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.
11. Kansas City Chiefs* -- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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.
12. Seattle Seahawks* -- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
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.
13. Arizona Cardinals -- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals want to see their investment in quarterback Kevin Kolb pay off and will try to bolster the offensive line. Expect them to let veteran offensive tackle Levi Brown go in the offseason.
14. Dallas Cowboys -- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
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.
15. Philadelphia Eagles -- Luke Kuelchy, LB, Boston College
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.
16. New York Jets -- Mark Barron, S, Alabama
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.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders) -- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama#
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.
18. San Diego Chargers -- Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
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.
19. Chicago Bears -- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The NFL seems to have trouble evaluating Notre Dame products, but Floyd fits the mold of the tall, fast receiver the Bears need.
20. Tennessee Titans -- Nick Perry, DE, USC
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.
21. Cincinnati Bengals -- Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
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.
22. St. Louis Rams -- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama (Trade with Cleveland Browns, from Atlanta Falcons)
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.
23. Detroit Lions -- Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
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.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
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.
25. Denver Broncos -- Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
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.
26. New York Giants -- Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama#
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.
27. Houston Texans -- Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
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.
28. New England Patriots (From New Orleans Saints) -- Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
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.
29. Baltimore Ravens -- Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State
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.
30. San Francisco 49ers -- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
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.
31. New England Patriots -- Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
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.
32. Green Bay Packers -- Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi State
The Packers weren't able to replace Cullen Jenkins this season and no one could get to the quarterback other than Clay Matthews. Cox was a first-team All-SEC performer with five sacks last season.