The 2012 draft is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.
We have a quarterback that is being compared to John Elway and another that put up one of the best statistical seasons in recent memory.
There’s a receiver who will be penciled in for 1,000 yards in his rookie season and a running back that is as good, if not better than Adrian Peterson.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about the defense.
Here is my latest mock draft with a spotlight on the players that have a Pro Bowl appearance in their future.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Not only is Luck 6’4", 235 pounds, but he has a tremendously strong and accurate arm that is capable of making every throw a professional quarterback has to make.
His ability to call his own plays is unheard of in college and Luck put up one of the greatest collegiate careers without the aid of a strong receiver.
Considering Cam Newton and Andy Dalton went to Hawaii this year, there is no reason to doubt Luck’s chances of being a Pro Bowler in his rookie season.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams have to get better protection for Sam Bradford and Kalil is as good as it gets.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Vikings have a glaring hole at the position and need to give second-year QB Christian Ponder help. Blackmon is the top playmaker available in the entire draft.
He is big, physical and has outstanding hands. While he may not have top-shelf overall speed, he more than makes up for it with his ability to outjump defenders and run them over.
If he lands on the Vikings, Blackmon will instantly become the top target, which means 80 catches is in the realm of possibility. If Blackmon ends up with 80 catches his rookie year, he’s going to be Pr- Bowl bound.
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I’m not sold on RGIII.
He had one heck of a junior season, no doubt about it.
But I still have concerns about his ability to throw for a high percentage downfield and when he’s flushed out of the pocket. He is certainly no lock to last in the league for five years, let alone make a Pro Bowl.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The marijuana possession charge will be a distant memory by the time April rolls around. After he shows his absurd athletic attributes at the NFL combine, all will be forgotten.
6. Washington Redskins: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The 5’11", 225-pound back is a physical specimen that hasn’t been seen coming out of the draft since Adrian Peterson. There is no question he can handle a 16-game schedule and Richardson already has two games of championship experience under his belt.
What gives him the opportunity to become the best running back in football is his ability to explode after being hit. Most players go down after a defender strikes, Richardson bounces off them and bursts.
Don’t forget, he caught 29 passes for 338 yards and three TDs as well. He is the complete package and would be a top fantasy draft pick if he lands in the run-heavy Redskins offense that is predicated on a strong running back. This guy has the potential to win an MVP award and I think at least five Pro Bowls are in his future.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne may have not gotten the headlines of Tyrann Mathieu, but he had just as good of a season for the No. 2 ranked defense in the country.
His ball and recovery skills are something special. The Pro Bowl is in his future. The question is how many?
8. Carolina Panthers* (subject to coin flip): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Panthers defense was one of the worst in the league in 2011. Ingram can bring solid pressure on a team that ranked 23rd in the NFL in sack percentage.
The problem is his lack of consistency. He took too many plays off and that will keep Ingram from making a strong contribution in the league.
9. Miami Dolphins*: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Dolphins have a quietly-strong defense, but lack several pieces on offense to become a contender. Landing Reiff produces consistency on the line and the sort of work ethic that the ‘Fins need to infuse on offense. His experience allows him to start from Day 1.
10. Buffalo Bills: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
One of the riskier picks in the draft, few players have the size of Coples. His 6’6" reach allows him to shove opponents away. If the Bills can convince him to play hard every down, their D-Line will be set for years after drafting Marcell Dareus No. 3 overall a season ago. The problem is Coples reminds me a lot of Nick Fairley, who had a less than stellar rookie season because of his lack of work ethic.
The jury is still out.
11. Kansas City Chiefs* (subject to coin flip): Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Chiefs must shore up their O-Line and Martin did a remarkable job of protecting Luck in college.
12. Seattle Seahawks*: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
At 6'4", 230 pounds, Jeffery has the sort of size and raw athletic ability that are so coveted at the professional level. I think his stock is only going to rise as the draft process moves forward.
Once he laces them up, it remains to be seen if he can mentally handle everything that goes with being a professional football player. Penciling him for the Pro Bowl is a risky bet at this point.
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The best interior lineman in the draft should help clear up the unpredictability of the Cardinals' running game.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The 6'2", 265-pound pass rusher can team up with DeMarcus Ware to form a lethal 1-2 punch.
Upshaw made an immediate impact at ‘Bama as a freshman and has shown steady improvement throughout his entire collegiate career. The defensive MVP of the 2012 championship game and second-team AP All-American will be able to contribute from Day 1.
He is one of the most NFL-ready players in this entire draft. The Magic Eight Ball sees multiple Pro Bowls for Upshaw.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
There is no question that Philly needs a linebacker that can step in right away and Kuechly is the guy. The 6'3", 240-pound Kuechly has the speed and size to justify a spot in the top 15.
The leading tackler in the nation will be helpful from Day 1, but the ceiling on Kuechly isn’t as high as some of the other linebackers available.
16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Skipping the Senior Bowl isn’t the smartest of ideas, but his talent will erase any doubts at the combine. He holds multiple records at Notre Dame and his senior season (1,147 yards, nine TDs) is more than enough to get excited about an outstanding pro career.
He has ideal size (6'3", 225 pounds) and outstanding hands. He also has the speed and explosiveness out of breaks to create separation from corners.
Aside from Blackmon, Floyd has the best chance to make the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver in his rookie season.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Glenn is a tremendous value pick at No. 17. He excels in a power running scheme which is the style Cincinnati implements. Perfect fit.
18. San Diego Chargers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Adams is vaulting up the draft board with his strong performance in the Senior Bowl and would be a mammoth help to a depleted Chargers O-Line.
19. Chicago Bears: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Miller is a relatively unknown player that doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
A red-shirt sophomore with fresh legs, the 5’11’, 212-pound back possess the ability to run between the tackles while also possessing the speed to bust off a huge run. He is a one-cut runner that has great vision and the agility to squeeze into tiny holes.
I’d put money on watching Miller make at least one appearance in Hawaii.
20. Tennessee Titans: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still has the bulk strength that translates instantly. If he continues to develop in the weight room, there’s a chance Still becomes the strongest player in the league at some point. He will be a standout at the combine.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
When the Bengals lost Leon Hall for the year it was clear the defense wasn’t the same. Adding depth at corner is a huge area of need for Cincinnati.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins was a top-10 pick last year but blew his senior season with a marijuana bust. He is still a first-round talent, but needs to mature in the next three months. Assuming he has a strong next couple of weeks, Jenkins is going to be in a team like the Browns’ rotation rather quickly.
23. Detroit Lions: Baylor Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
The Lions need to draft a linebacker in Round 1 and Burfict is the best available.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Casey Hampton and the majority of the D-Line is getting old and drafting young guys needs to happen now.
25. Denver Broncos: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Incredibly fast at 5'10", 190 pounds, Wright had an eye-popping 1,663 yards and 14 TDs his senior season, but how much of that was because of RGIII?
I’m calling first-round bust for Wright, especially if Tim Tebow is his quarterback.
26. Houston Texans: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Dennard has the speed and strength to be a third corner right away. He didn’t impress at the Senior Bowl and needs to have a strong showing at the combine to stay in the first round.
27. New England Patriots (from Saints): Chris Polk, RB, Washington
He had a stunning college career and has the foot speed to break off a huge run on any given play. The Pats have two picks to play with and grabbing Polk at No. 27 would be a steal.
He has the size and speed to instantly be a factor in an already stellar offense. Polk displays impeccable patience as he waits for his blocks to come to fruition and hits the crease at 100 miles an hour.
Polk rounds out a terrific trio of first-round backs that are all capable of making the Pro Bowl multiple times.
28. Green Bay Packers: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
The Packers had the poorest pass defense in the NFL this season and their safeties were a big offender. Martin is the best available.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
Adding more depth to keep everybody fresh would make the No. 1-rated rush defense even deadlier. The 49ers were close in 2011 and only need to apply minor alterations with the roster. Grabbing a receiver here wouldn’t be a bad move either.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Ray Lewis is reaching the end of his career and grooming a potential replacement is the right move.
31. New York Giants: Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
Brown is a strong tackler that is just the kind of tough-minded defender that head coach Tom Coughlin covets.
32. New England Patriots: Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
If it wasn’t for a season-ending injury in October, Crick would be much higher. It’s a perfect blend of drafting for need and best available player. The only reason I believe he will fall so far is an injury that robbed him of the last two months of his collegiate career. Crick is going to end up as one of the big surprises in the ’12 draft regardless of where he’s drafted.
The last player drafted in the first round is a perennial Pro Bowler because of his speed and ability to punish O-Lineman in his way.