You know we are in the draft season when we start to see updates about the Senior Bowl practice. This is the point of the year where prospects have an opportunity to dramatically improve their draft stock. It is usually a point time with the top athletes really make a move up the board.
We have already seen someone like Ohio State's Mike Adams gain some buzz because of the measurements taken at the Senior Bowl. However, the prospects play on the field is what truly matters and is why some players hold a steady draft stock.
Pick: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
We continue to grow closer and closer to the date were Peyton Manning's career as an Indianapolis Colt comes to an end. His massive salary and uncertain future make it an almost guarantee that the Colts will add Stanford's Andrew Luck with the top overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Luck possesses the physical attributes and football IQ needed to step in and make an immediate impact. He would gain no benefit from sitting on the bench for year or two, which is one of the main reasons Indianapolis will move on from Manning.
A Colts team with Andrew Luck will be improved but still not a playoff contender. However, the new management can rest easy knowing they have their franchise quarterback in place. Finding a top-level quarterback is the most important and toughest part of building a team.
Pick: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
Baylor's Robert Griffin III isn't as polished as Luck but might actually have a bit more upside. He combines elite level athleticism with the ability to deliver an accurate football. Adding Griffin III to any roster immediately makes the offense more explosive. The Cleveland Browns had one of the least explosive offenses last season.
Colt McCoy hasn't been able to solidify the long-term starting position. His play actually points toward nothing more than an average NFL quarterback. The 2012 draft will be Cleveland's best opportunity to land an elite quarterback.
The St. Louis Rams move out of this spot and pick up some extra assets.
Pick: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
The Minnesota Vikings absolutely need to add a top-level left tackle at some point during the offseason. Their best opportunity will be during the draft and with the No. 3 overall selection. Stanford's Jonathan Martin is the most fluid offensive tackle in this draft, which allows him to protect the quarterback.
Minnesota has committed to moving forward with Christian Ponder as the quarterback, and finding someone to provide him enough protection is very important. Martin won't only protect the quarterback, but he also does a good job opening up running lanes. With Adrian Peterson signed a long-term contract the Vikings will always feature a strong ground attack.
If the Vikings feel they can add a left tackle in a different way they could target either LSU's Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. This spot may also be another potential trade area for someone looking to land Robert Griffin III.
Pick: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
The Cleveland Browns decision to move up and select Robert Griffin III would be a perfect scenario for the St. Louis Rams. This would allow them to move back a few slots, gain some assets and also get more value from their pick. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is a dynamic playmaker, but would be a stretch to come off the board at No. 2 overall.
Adding Blackmon with the No. 4 pick would both fills a need and gives the Rams value for their selection. This football team needs to find someone capable of providing Sam Bradford with a legitimate go-to receiver. Blackmon's ability to both stretch the field and work underneath routes makes him a great all-around prospect.
Don't count out the Rams going defense with this pick, as new coach Jeff Fisher comes from a defensive background. LSU's Morris Claiborne would be a great addition to the Rams secondary.
Pick: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
There a lot of questions surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, especially at the cornerback position. Both Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib face uncertain futures, and with a new coaching staff eventually coming in both players could be on the way out. Losing your two starting cornerbacks would be a big-time disaster.
LSU's Morris Claiborne possesses both the instincts and athletic ability needed to step in and start from day one. He's a versatile player that can fit multiple schemes, thanks to his toughness and fluid hips. Adding Claiborne to the mix would solve more than a few issues on the defensive side of the ball.
Shutdown cornerbacks have a tendency to help increase the pass rush and allow coverage to rotate to the weaker side of the field.
Pick: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
USC's Matt Kalil is a massive player who also boasts good quickness. His combination of size, strength and fluidity allow him to provide excellent pass protection. However, it's his toughness and tenacity in the running game that makes him an elite player.
The Washington Redskins have to be concerned about the future of Trent Williams, who ended the season on suspension. Even without the suspension, Williams struggle to protect the passer and looked more like a right tackle. Adding Kalil would allow Williams to shift to the right side effectively improving both tackle slots.
Washington will be one of the teams considering moving up to land Robert Griffin III. However, they may also target free agents, such as Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning.
Pick: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
North Carolina's Quinton Coples is the top overall defensive line prospect in this draft. His ability to create pressure off the edge and also hold strong against the run makes him a complete player. Teams running a 4-3 scheme will target him to play defensive end. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been searching for a pass rushing defensive end for several years.
Coples bring something that the failed experiment of Derrick Harvey and Aaron Kampman didn't, and that's a well-rounded player. Harvey was all about speed and Kampman was more about technique and hustle. Coples possesses the quickness, length and technique needed to provide a consistent pass rush.
Jacksonville will also consider adding a top-flight receiver with this pick. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey are the leading candidates. However, someone like Baylor's Kendall Wright may find himself in play at this position.
Pick: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
The Carolina Panthers have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball, but that doesn't mean they will ignore upgrading the offense. Iowa's Riley Reiff represents more value than a defender like LSU's Michael Brockers or Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. Reiff brings both short-term and long-term benefits.
Jeff Otah has struggled to remain healthy and at this point absolutely cannot be counted on to be in the starting lineup. Otah's injuries are combined with the age of starting left tackle Jordan Gross, making the tackle spot more of a need than most realize. Adding Reiff will give the Panthers two above average starting offensive tackles.
He can line up at right tackle until Gross is no longer capable of protecting the quarterbacks blindside.
We are still a couple months away from the actual draft, which means player stocks will continue to fluctuate. It is possible that a defender will make a push up the board and warrant this selection.
Pick: Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker, Alabama
Trade: Matt Flynn and No. 28 Overall to the Miami Dolphins for No. 9 Overall
Matt Flynn is technically a free agent this offseason, but I don't see the Green Bay Packers letting him go without receiving some sort of compensation. The most likely scenario is a franchise tag and then trade. The Miami Dolphins desperately need a quarterback and with new head coach Joe Philbin having ties to Flynn this makes perfect sense.
Swapping first-round picks is something that has been done in the past, most recently with the trade of Matt Schaub. This move solves the Dolphins quarterback problems and gives the Green Bay Packers an opportunity to add a difference maker.
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is exactly what this Green Bay Packers defense needs to improve. He will line up opposite Clay Matthews at outside linebacker. His addition will improve the pass rush and their ability to stuff the run. However, Upshaw's biggest contribution might be the fact that he will draw double teams away Clay Matthews.
Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills recent draft history shows that they go for value over need, with the best example being the selection of C.J. Spiller. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick boasts the potential to develop into a shutdown cornerback. His skills would make him an immediate starter on this Buffalo Bills defense.
Neither Drayton Florence or Leodis McKelvin are playing an extremely high level. Buffalo's inability to create a pass rush means they need to have top-notch play from the cornerback position. Adding Kirkpatrick opposite rising star Aaron Williams would give this defense a solid secondary.
Ideally, the Bills would love to have someone like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. With him already off the board their forced to go in a different direction.
Pick: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
The Kansas City Chiefs have Jamaal Charles coming back from a major knee injury, but that doesn't mean they can't add to a strength. Charles is a gamebreaker who loves the bounce it outside and operate in space. Alabama's Trent Richardson would be a great complement to Charles' ability.
Richardson excels at running between the tackles and picking up yards after contact. However, he also possesses the speed needed to score from anywhere on the field. The majority of NFL teams prefer to utilize a two back system. There wouldn't be a better combination of running backs then Richardson and Charles.
Kansas City will be one of many teams considering adding Iowa's Riley Reiff. However, it appears as though they may have to make a trade in order to land his services.
Pick: Michael Brockers, Defensive Line, LSU
The Seattle Seahawks run a very unique type of defense, which is kind of a hybrid of 4-3 and 3-4 principles. One thing this defense requires is a handful of versatile defensive lineman. LSU's Michael Brockers boasts the size and athletic ability needed to fill multiple roles.
Pete Carroll will likely rotate him between the 5-technique defensive end, nose tackle and 3-technique slot. This type of versatility is what makes Brockers such an intriguing prospect.
I personally don't feel that he is worthy of a top-20 selection. However, mock drafts are intended to predict what the team will do, not who I feel they should select.
Pick: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line surrendered 54 sacks this past season, second worst in the entire league. The unit struggles as a whole, but the biggest problems came at both tackle positions. Levi Brown is not suited to play left tackle in the NFL and needs to be shifted to the right side.
Adding Ohio State's Mike Adams will allow the Cardinals to make that adjustment and get better play from both the right and left tackle position.
Arizona invested a lot of assets and money into Kevin Kolb and now they need to ensure that he is protected. Quarterbacks who face consistent pressure can become gun-shy and erratic, which appears to have happened to Kolb.
Pick: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
The interior of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line doesn't feature the players capable of consistently helping their team win. Stanford's David DeCastro boasts the size, strength and tenacity needed to excel at the next level. His ability to use leverage and constantly keep his feet moving helps him open up running lanes.
That commitment to keeping his pad level low also helps him absorb contact and protect the passer.
Ideally, the Cowboys would love to add somebody at the cornerback position. However, it would be a reach to add somebody like North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins or South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. DeCastro fills a need and provides great value.
Pick: Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker- Arizona State
The main reason for the Philadelphia Eagles defensive struggles this season was the lack of consistent play from the linebacking unit. Often times, the linebackers were out of position or just plain missed tackles. Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict is capable of stepping in and instantly improving the play of the defense.
Burfict's size and aggressiveness make him a great run defender, something the Eagles currently lack. Philadelphia's wide-nine technique puts a ton of pressure on the linebackers, and almost makes it necessary for these guys to have some good size and strength. Burfict is exactly what this Philadelphia Eagles defense needs.
There are more than a few question marks surrounding his character. However, it only takes one good interview for a franchise to overlook some maturity questions.
Pick: Melvin Ingram, Linebacker- South Carolina
Typically, a Rex Ryan coached defense ranks among the NFL's best pass rushing units. However, this season the New York Jets defense really struggled to generate consistent pressure. If it wasn't for the emergence of Aaron Maybin this team would have been in much more trouble. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram boasts the explosiveness needed to generate pressure off the edge.
Ingram's versatility will also be something that Rex Ryan values. While at South Carolina, he lined up at linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle and played an important role on special teams.
New York also needs some help along the offensive line and could target a right tackle like Georgia's Cordy Glenn.
Pick: Mark Barron, Safety- Alabama
The combination of Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson was exposed in the Cincinnati Bengals playoff game against the Houston Texans. Both struggled to come up and support the run and had more than a few mistakes in coverage. Alabama's Mark Barron is a versatile player whose capable of supporting the run and covering a lot of ground in the backend of the defense.
Adding Barron allows the Cincinnati Bengals to sure up the back end of their defense. The fact that this team owns two first-round selections gives this team options.
The biggest option might be the ability to package those picks and move up to select Alabama's Trent Richardson. This offense lacks an elite level running back, something that would really help the development of Andy Dalton.
Pick: Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver- South Carolina
The San Diego Chargers are very likely to lose the services of Vincent Jackson. His loss would leave a gaping hole at the wide receiver position. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey fits the mold of a Chargers receiver. San Diego prefers bigger targets that are capable of stretching the field and making tough catches in traffic.
Philip Rivers remains the most important player on the team, making it necessary to surround him with playmakers. The combination of Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown isn't enough to get this team back into the playoffs.
San Diego may also be forced to address the offensive line early in the 2012 draft. They face the real possibility of losing three starters including Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman and Nick Hardwick. If any one of these players are unable to return next year adding to the offensive line would become the main focus.
Pick: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver- Notre Dame
Former GM Jerry Angelo placed little value on having a No. 1 receiver, feeling the likes of Devin Hester and Earl Bennett were enough to get the job done. Angelo is out the door and the new GM will likely have a different point of view. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd is a legitimate No. 1 receiver prospect. His combination of size and speed make him a big play threat.
Quarterback Jay Cutler would really appreciate having a target taller than six feet. This will help him in situations where the ball doesn't come out cleanly or is delivered in traffic. Adding this type of threat also helps open things for Matt Forte and the running game.
Head coach Lovie Smith will continue to have a lot of influence on the way this team drafts, which means you can't rule out a defensive selection. South Carolina's Stephan Gilmore would be a great addition to Smith's cover-two style defense.
Pick: Kendal Wright, Wide Receiver- Baylor
The Tennessee Titans must come out of this off-season with explosive playmaker at the wide receiver position. Their current roster features the unreliable Kenny Britt and still developing Damian Williams. Adding a speedster like Baylor's Kendall Wright would have a major impact on the effectiveness of this offense.
Wright's playmaking ability will provide either Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck another option, but maybe more importantly help open things for Chris Johnson and the running game. The most successful NFL offenses have the ability to create mismatches, which isn't something this current Titans offense can accomplish.
Tennessee is another team that could be in the market for a cornerback, as it appears unlikely that Cortland Finnegan will return next year.
Pick: Zach Brown, Linebacker- North Carolina
Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard did a nice job this past season, but neither provide a ton of upside. North Carolina's Zach Brown boasts the quickness and instincts needed to make a difference. His ability to make plays from sideline to sideline will allow him to make immediate impact. Neither Lawson or Howard possess the same type of athletic ability Brown brings to the table.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cincinnati Bengals would be wise to package their two first-round selections in order to move up and land Alabama's Trent Richardson. Cedric Benson found success during his time in Cincinnati, but his off the field problems make him unreliable. Richardson also provides an instant upgrade and greater potential.
Pick: Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver- Rutgers
Earlier this mock draft, the Cleveland Browns made a move to add quarterback Robert Griffin III. This means it's absolutely necessary that they add a receiver with their second first-round pick. Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu is a versatile athlete who brings both size and speed to the offense.
Adding Sanu to offense already featuring Greg Little and Robert Griffin III will greatly improve the explosiveness of this unit. Cleveland's offensive production was among the worst in the entire NFL. Colt McCoy has received a a lot of blame for those struggles, but the lack of playmakers is also a contributing factor.
The direction Cleveland goes of this pick depends on how to utilize the No. 4 overall selection.
Pick: Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback- North Alabama
North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins may have the most uncertain draft stock of all the potential first-round prospects. His dismissal from Florida really raised some red flags, as multiple drug citations do not reflect well on one's character. However, he's still an extremely talented player with a ton of upside. The Detroit Lions have shown a willingness to add players with some character concerns.
Maturity issues aside, adding Jenkins to this defense would help them elevate their play. His instincts and ball skills make him a threat to produce interceptions. Detroit's ability to create pressure on the quarterback and hurry throws will only increase Jenkins opportunities to make a plan the football.
Detroit continues employed the strategy of selecting best player available. At this point, one could argue that Jenkins is the best player available and still fits a need.
Pick: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback- South Carolina
The Pittsburgh Steelers playoff loss to the Denver Broncos showed some of the concerns on the defensive side of the ball. This unit is starting to show signs of its age, especially in the secondary. Pittsburgh's preference to feature a blitz heavy attack makes it necessary to have top level defensive backs.
South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore is a physical player capable of playing either man-to-man coverage or off zone. Gilmore's toughness and strong work ethic makes him a great fit for the Steelers locker room. He would be able to step in and replace William Gay, and eventually replace Ike Taylor.
The Steelers will also consider adding help along the offensive line. This team knows the importance of offensive line depth and versatility, as they suffered several injuries within this unit.
Pick: Devon Still, Defensive Tackle- Penn State
The Denver Broncos surprise playoff run really raises the expectations for next season. One of the biggest reasons for their success was the play of the defense. Their ability to create pressure and get into the backfield helped disrupt the opposing offense. Penn State's Devon Still was one of college football's most disruptive players last season.
Adding him to the interior of the defensive line will make major impact on the performance of this unit. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil's ability to create pressure off the edge will force the quarterback up into the pocket and into the waiting arms of Still.
The best way to the Denver Broncos to support Tim Tebow is by continuing to improve the defense. If Tebow has proven anything it's that he's unpredictable, but if the game is in reach he knows how to pull off a win.
Pick: Brandon Thompson, Nose Tackle- Clemson
Shaun Cody is the current starting nose tackle for the Houston Texans. He provides consistency but lacks great potential. Clemson's Brandon Thompson has the ability to hold at the point of attack and collapse the pocket. His a much more explosive player than Cody and will have a greater impact on the defense.
The nose tackle position isn't very glamorous but plays a important role. Adding Thompson's versatility will give the Texans somebody capable of holding at the point and also providing some penetration. Wade Phillips is an excellent defensive coordinator who knows how to make use of top level talent.
Houston will also heavily scout the wide receiver position, as they really need to add someone opposite Andre Johnson.
Pick: Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker- Illinois
The New England Patriots coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for their ability to get good production out of Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. Both of these players were let go by their previous teams because their inability to generate a consistent pass rush. However, Bill Belichick was able to coax 10 sacks each out of these overlooked veterans.
Illinois' Whitney Mercilus will provide this defense with more youth and explosiveness. Belichick cannot count on Carter and Anderson to have the same type of production they did this year. Mercilus' ability to attack the edge will help the team generate a more consistent pass rush.
He also brings some versatility to the table, as he can play either defensive end or rush outside linebacker. This will provide Belichick the option of switching back to a 3-4 alignment.
Pick: Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line- Georgia
Trade: Miami Dolphins trade No. 9 Overall to the Green Bay Packers for Matt Flynn and No. 28 Overall
The Miami Dolphins own this pick because of their acquisition of Matt Flynn. This trade stripped them the opportunity of landing a top 10 player, but they find an answer at quarterback and still get to add first-round talent. Georgia's Cordy Glenn is a massive offensive lineman who immediately upgrades the Dolphins right tackle position.
And offensive line featuring Jake Long, Mike Pouncey and Glenn will be able to consistently open running lanes and also protect the quarterback. All of a sudden, this Miami Dolphins offense looks to have a ton of firepower.
If the Dolphins hang on to No. 9 selection they could target someone like Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick or Iowa's was Riley Rieff. If Green Bay's picking this spot look for them to add a pass rusher.
Pick: Peter Konz, Center- Wisconsin
At age 35, the Baltimore Ravens starting center Matt Burk faces an uncertain future. Playing in the AFC North means that you need to have excellent play from the center position. The teams in the AFC North feature massive nose tackles like Casey Hampton. Wisconsin's Peter Konz boasts the size and strength needed to move these giant players off the line of scrimmage.
Baltimore's bread-and-butter is the ability to run the football, making the center position even more important. Even if Burk does return next season his career is just about over. Adding Konz makes sense for both the short-term and long-term.
If one of the top linebackers happen the drop to the spot the Ravens will absolutely consider him. Someone like Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict may be available at this point in the draft.
Pick: Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback- Nebraska
The San Francisco 49ers face the realistic possibility of losing Carlos Rogers to free agency. During last off-season, he signed a one-year deal which makes him a pending free agent and one likely to gain a lot of attention. Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is the type of physical defender who will allow this defense to continue their aggressive style play.
Even if Rogers is retained this team could use a replacement for Tarrel Brown. The combination of Dennard, Rogers, Brown and Chris Culliver helps this defense matchup against the likes of the New Orleans Saints.
Outside the cornerback position, the San Francisco 49ers will take a close look at each of the wide receiver prospects. Someone like Baylor's Kendall Wright would provide this team with an explosive playmaker on the outside.
Pick: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker- Boston College
The fact that the New York Giants made the Super Bowl with Chase Blackburn as their starting middle linebacker is very impressive. They may have been able to make do this season but moving forward the need to find a long-term solution. Boston College's Luke Kuechly is the type of instinctual player needed to man the middle of the defense.
He possesses the leadership ability and high football IQ required to make the on field adjustments. Finding the right middle linebacker isn't just about athletic ability, it's about also finding someone to lead your defense.
Pick: Kendall Reyes, Defensive Line- Connecticut
The New England Patriots need to head into the 2012 NFL draft focused on adding help on the defensive side of the ball. Their main agenda should be finding players with versatility which would allow them to play either a 4-3 or 3-4 system. Connecticut's Kendall Reyes is one of the more underrated players in this draft.
Because he is a bit raw, his best football is still had of him. However, his combination of size and athletic ability will allow him to make an immediate impact. He fits as either a three-technique in a 4-3 scheme, or is a five-technique in a 3-4 system.
New England should also consider packaging their two first-round picks in order to move up the draft to land a more impact player. They have the ammo to move up and add somebody like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw.