2012 NFL Draft Projections: Where Each College Award Winner Will Go
Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and quarterback Andrew Luck will be the most coveted prospects in this year's draft.
After all, they dominated at their respective QB positions throughout the season. However, they are but a couple college football players that won postseason awards this season.
Here are my projections for where every college award winner will end up.
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Andrew Luck to the Indianpolis Colts
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Andrew Luck might have been a runner-up in the Heisman race, but that didn't stop him from winning multiple other awards this season.
Luck won the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player), Walter Camp Award (player of the year), and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (best senior quarterback).
Barring a change in owner Jim Irsay's plans, I expect the Indianapolis Colts to select Luck with the first overall pick in the draft.
Luck will likely be starting quarterback right out the gate, which isn't a surprise. Luck has displayed his physical tools the last few years, with his accuracy and mobility appearing to be his best qualities.
However, it is his respect and intelligence for the game of football that will make him an instant leader in the locker room.
The Colts will miss Peyton Manning, but may have found the best quarterback prospect since Manning in this year's draft.
Robert Griffin III to the Cleveland Browns
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With over two months remaining until the draft, the future of this year's Heisman Trophy winner is tough to predict.
The St. Louis Rams are expected to trade out of the No. 2 overall pick, as multiple teams are coveting the rising star out of Baylor.
However, the Cleveland Browns appear the most desperate team in need of a franchise quarterback.
Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur gave Colt McCoy a year under the new offensive scheme. Unfortunately, in today's NFL, teams are expecting immediate production out of their quarterbacks.
And in the case of the Browns, they would greatly benefit from Griffin's abilities. His throwing is underrated, as many view Griffin as only an athletic signal-caller.
His arm strength has gone unnoticed, and that shouldn't be the case. He can make all of the throws in the NFL, and with time under his belt, can become a franchise quarterback.
Morris Claiborne to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Morris Claiborne anchored an LSU defense that carried the team the BCS National Championship Game.
Considered a top five overall prospect by most draft experts, Claiborne will make an immediate impact in the Buccaneers secondary.
New head coach Greg Schiano has been a defensive mind his entire coaching career, and will want to improve an inconsistent secondary.
Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his career, and Aqib Talib cannot be counted on with his track record.
The Buccaneers will make a smart choice to begin the Schiano era by selecting Claiborne.
Trent Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks
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Trent Richardson was the best running back in college football last season and helped carry the Crimson Tide to a national championship.
The stock of top-flight running backs has decreased drastically. Just ask former Heisman winner Mark Ingram.
However, the Seattle Seahawks will make a serious push for Richardson. There is uncertainty on the future of Marshawn Lynch, who will want a new contract after his breakout season in 2011.
With the quarterback situation not expected to change with Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks can't afford a significant hit on the offensive side of the ball.
There are pressing needs on defense, but if Lynch departs the Seahawks need to replace him with Richardson.
Justin Blackmon to the St. Louis Rams
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When deciding between the Rams and Dolphins, the idea of coaching the young Sam Bradford likely led to Jeff Fisher's decision to go with St. Louis.
Now, it's time to provide Bradford with weapons in the passing game. Here enters Justin Blackmon, who proved even on the biggest stage that he is the best receiver in college football.
In fact, he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award (best receiver) the last two years.
There are pressing issues on the offensive line, but Bradford will never reach his potential unless Blackmon is the No. 1 target on this offense.
Whitney Mercilus to the New England Patriots
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In the 2011 season, Whitney Mercilus exploded in his junior year with the Illinois Fighting Ilini.
Mercilus led the nation in sacks with 16, despite being the only consistent pass-rusher on the Illinois defense.
He will be viewed as a late-first round selection, which will lead to a better situation for Mercilus.
Vince Wilfork cannot be the only lineman that provides pressure on the quarterback. Belichick would get great value with their first-round selection by selecting Mercilus.
Luke Kuechly to the Philadelphia Eagles
Luke Kuechly enters the NFL combine as one of the more underrated prospects in this year's draft.
For those who are unaware, Kuechly won the Rotary Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker), Lott IMPACT Trophy (outstanding defensive player) and Bronko Nagurski award (defensive player of the year).
With his outstanding year, Kuechly put himself in a position to be selected in the first round of this year's draft. The Philadelphia Eagles will use their first-round pick on Kuechly.
The Eagles defense was a disappointment last season. It was evident that they were especially vulnerable against the rush, especially up the middle of the field.
Kuechly would fill the void immediately and allow the Eagles defense to live up to their expectations.
David Molk to the Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens are prepared to address potentially multiple positions on the offensive line. With Matt Birk contemplating retirement, the Ravens will select a prospect who can take over the reigns next year.
Certainly, general manager Ozzie Newsome would prefer to have Birk return and allow him to mentor a young rookie center.
David Molk, the Rimington Trophy winner (most outstanding center) from Michigan, could be the option for the Ravens, though It is unlikely the Ravens will go against their drafting formula (which means they will look to address their O-line needs after the first round).
Molk paved the way for his quarterback Denard Robinson, and, if selected, the Ravens will hope he can open up the running lanes for Ray Rice in the future.
Dwayne Allen to the Atlanta Falcons
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Dwayne Allen proved to be the best tight end in the country in 2011 after being a crucial component of the high scoring Clemson Tigers offense.
Tight ends haven't been popular in the first round of recent NFL drafts. However, these talented playmakers continue to make an impact early on in their careers.
Tony Gonzalez could be playing football for the last time this season, and if Allen makes it past the first round, the Falcons can draft a future replacement who can gain valuable experience under Gonzalez.
Randy Bullock to the Washington Redskins
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This year's NFL playoffs once again proved the crucial nature and role of special teams.
Kickers are at a premium in this year's draft, but Texas A&M's Randy Bullock sticks out as the best that college football has to offer.
He successfully made 29 of 33 field goals for the Aggies this past season. There is a good possibility that the Lou Groza Award winner could join the Washington Redskins come April.
Mike Shanahan watched his team lose many hard-fought games due to a poor kicking game.
He will address the weakness this offseason with a young, cheap option in Bullock.