2012 NFL Draft: 10 First-Round Prospects with the Biggest Questions
With the conference championship games wrapped up and the draft order almost fully set, many are getting ahead of April's draft by unveiling their own mock drafts.
While all of these mock drafts are different in some way, the constant is that they each contain players with big questions to answer.
Some prospects have histories as clean as a whistle, others have been arrested multiple times, while most fall somewhere in the middle.
Each prospect's question is different, but all are equally important.
It's up to team executives and coaches to find the answers in time for April's draft.
One bad pick can set a franchise back years at a time.
But no pressure, right.
When a prospect has a question attached to his name, teams must find the answer.
Regardless of their eventual answers, here are 10 first-round prospects who have the biggest questions.
Kendall Wright, WR
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Simply put, Wright dominated the past season of college football.
He dominated to the tune of 108 receptions, 1663 yards and 14 touchdowns, which is truly an incredible season.
The issue is that his teammate Robert Griffin III also had a dominant, Heisman trophy winning season.
During the lead up to April's draft, teams will have to ask if Wright's dominant season shows that he is a talent worthy of a first-round pick or just a product of RG3's magnificent season.
His elite speed will allow him to get separation and gain yards after the catch at the next level. What troubles scouts is that Wright is considerably small for a wide receiver at only 5'10".
There are incredibly talented players and players from talented systems, and it will be up to Wright to prove he is the former.
Brandon Weeden, QB
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No, Weeden is not currently a projected first-round pick, at least not yet.
But as last year's draft showed, teams are willing to reach for the quarterback position. At this point last year, you would have been ridiculed if you mocked Jake Locker and Christian Ponder being drafted in the top 15.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that a team trades up into the bottom of the first-round to reach for Weeden.
Lets be clear taking Weeden, who will be 29 years old when the regular season begins, in the first-round or early second will be a reach.
What Weeden must prove is that he is worth being reached for.
His production is undeniable. Last year he nearly threw for 5,000 yards, a 37–13 touchdown/interception ratio and a passer rating of 133.2.
As a former minor league baseball player, Weeden has all the required arm strength and is very accurate with his throws. He studies hard and his age makes him one of the most mature players in the draft.
If Weeden can prove that can be a productive quarterback, even for a shorter time than the others in this class, he may have a shot at hearing his name called before the 32nd pick.
Michael Floyd, WR
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In Matt Miller's scouting report, he calls Michael Floyd, "the safest option at wide receiver in the 2012 class."
If your just looking at film, Miller may be right.
Floyd has good but not great height at 6'3", weighs a solid 224 lbs and had a fairly productive season with 100 catches resulting in 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.
Considering the shaky quarterback play at Notre Dame this past season, those numbers are very impressive.
What's not quite as impressive are Floyd's three alcohol related arrests since 2009.
In his latest run in with the law, Floyd was arrested for drunk driving after a test showed his blood–alcohol level was the double the legal limit.
Floyd has also been arrested for underage drinking twice.
Many first-round talents have seen their stock drop for less. If Floyd wants to remain in the first-round he'll have to prove these arrests are in the past.
Quinton Coples, DE
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Coples might be the most volatile prospect in the entire draft.
I have seen him mocked in the top 10 and I have also seen him fall out of the first-round.
Coples is a versatile lineman who can play defensive end or tackle and has some scouts gushing at his potential to be a double–digit sack artist in the NFL. Additionally, his 6'6" frame will allow him to add weight to his current 285 lbs.
However, this past season, the year when Coples should have preformed at his best to increase his draft stock, he was only average.
In 13 games last season, Coples collected 7.5 sacks. For any potential prospect this would a good season, but for Coples it may have cost him status as an elite prospect.
But the biggest criticism of Coples is in regard to his effort. There have been reports that he has weak motor, occasionally takes plays off and was playing this year not to make plays, but not to get hurt.
Throughout the draft process, especially the interviews, Coples must change his perception to teams that question his work ethic.
Most injuries will heal, but a prospect's draft stock will never recover from a perceived lack of effort.
Whitney Mercilus, DE
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To say that Whitney Mercilus had a coming out party this past season would be a drastic understatement.
Mercilus was bar-none the best pass-rusher in college football last season. He led the nation not only in sacks with 16, but also in forced fumbles with nine. At the end of the season, he was awarded the Ted Hendricks award.
He has great size, athleticism and solid assortment of pass-rush moves. They were all put on display when Mercilus blew by another first-round prospect, Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, for 1.5 sacks this past season.
Based on this one incredible season, Mercilus finds himself as a first-round prospect.
But it would be naive for teams to overlook his previous two seasons in which he only had two sacks total.
Mercilus's biggest challenge will be to prove that last season was no fluke and that he will continue to play at an elite level in the NFL.
Being known as a one-year wonder can heavily damage a prospect's stock, so having a dominant combine and pro day will be key for Mercilus to retain his elite status.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
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If there is one definite hit-or-miss prospect in this draft class, it is Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery is an imposing physical specimen at 6'4", has tremendous leaping ability and his smooth hands are routinely on display, as they especially were during the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska.
However, his route running is incredibly raw and he looked lazy in and out of his breaks. What's worse is that he lacks No. 1 receiver speed, which hindered him in getting separation before and after catches this past season.
The plain fact that he seemed lazy running routes is enough to raise the proverbial red flag for most teams, especially those picking in the top half of the first-round.
In addition, he was also completely out of shape during the offseason, further questioning his work ethic
It also looked as if he primarily tried to use height and athleticism to overmatch his physically inferior defenders instead of trying to gain separation on routes.
If Jeffery wants teams with high picks to even consider taking him, he must show improved willingness and form in his route running.
There have been many specimens who just didn't work out, just ask Vernon Gholston.
Trent Richardson, RB
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Trent Richardson is not a prospect with any red flags.
The real question for Richardson: What is his worth?
Yes, Richardson had a Heisman-caliber season in which he rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Yes, he has shown all the traits of a feature back in the NFL.
But the question remains: What is the value of a feature back?
Ever since experts began unveiling their mock drafts, Richardson has slowly slid from top five to top 10 to top 15.
Teams will be hesitant towards taking Richardson high for numerous reasons.
The first being the wealth of talent from mid–round draft picks, exemplified by the likes of Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice and others.
The second reason being that if the league thought former Heisman trophy winning running back Mark Ingram's draft value was at the 28th overall pick, why should Richardson warrant top five consideration?
The reason is that Richardson is a completely different player than Ingram and also wasn't coming off an injury filled season.
But if Richardson wants to remain in the top five conversation, he must do something to prove he is an elite talent and must prove he is in the Adrian Peterson class of running backs.
Janoris Jenkins, CB
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Some people probably thought that Janoris Jenkins had blown his chances of making the NFL after he was dismissed from Florida after repeatedly abusing substances.
But then he pulled it together, enrolled at North Alabama, then proceeded to dominate the inferior competition.
If Jenkins was never kicked off of the Florida squad, which he claims wouldn't have happened if Urban Meyer was still the head coach, the only slight on him would be his lack of size.
Jenkins has displayed great fluidness and has a knack for making plays on the ball. He also has good speed and is very able to cover a receiver man-to-man.
The one area he may be exposed is the red zone because of his lack of height.
If Jenkins has an impressive combine followed up by some tremendous interviews, don't be surprised to see him make a late push up draft boards.
But to do that he'll have to prove he has left substances and their subsequent arrests in the past.
A clean test at the combine is the first step.
Vontaze Burfict, MLB
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Stop me if you've heard this one before, but there's a linebacker known for his violent hits and their subsequent personal fouls.
Boy, is Vontaze Burfict lucky that the NCAA doesn't issue fines.
If you were wondering where Burfict and his aforementioned personal fouls were during Arizona State's blowout bowl loss to Boise State, it was because he barely played.
Burfict is a beast, and this is just as much a good thing as it is a bad thing.
At times, his athleticism and closing speed make him look like the next Patrick Willis. At others, his flagrant fouls and undisciplined play suggest he won't last long in the NFL.
For Burfict to retain his lofty draft stock he must show composure and control in his combine interviews.
But hey, taking Burfict high in the first-round wouldn't be the first time a team took a linebacker with character questions.
Go ask the Baltimore Ravens how it worked out for them.
Andrew Luck, QB
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No, there are no undisclosed injuries.
No previous drug arrests.
So what question could the consensus top pick have to answer after two consecutive Heisman–caliber seasons and a squeaky clean past.
Can he live up to the hype?
In my entire football watching life, I have never seen a prospect as hyped as Andrew Luck is.
It's not everyday that the term savior is thrown around.
This is not a question that Luck can answer leading up to the draft.
But it's one he will be asked every Sunday for the rest of his career.
There have been many who haven't lived up to their lofty expectations.
Colts fans are praying that Luck is different.