Just a week into the offseason, the 2012 NFL Draft picture is becoming somewhat clearer.
We've already seen some of what the seniors have to offer, we've learned a little bit about some players' off-field situations and we now know the class' top two quarterbacks will hold their respective pro days on the same day.
So as we ease further into this very young offseason, here is my newest mock of the 2012 NFL Draft's first round.
With their Week 17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts officially clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Even though they'll be on the clock for four months, we all know the pick must be Stanford's Andrew Luck.
Luck going No. 1 overall is a clear no-brainer. The ability and intelligence are there, and it looks as if he's the next big thing coming into the NFL.
Indianapolis, however, will be in perhaps the stickiest situation in the game's history. If they take Luck, which they will, what happens to the quarterback they have now?
Maybe you've heard of him—Peyton Manning?
Will the Colts draft Luck and start him immediately?
Will they take Luck only to place him under the wing of Manning for a chunk of the season?
Or will Indy just cut ties with their long-time quarterback to make way for what looks like the second version of Manning?
There are many questions surrounding that potential scenario, but there are none when it comes to drafting Andrew Luck with the first pick in 2012.
As the owner of the second overall pick, the Rams will have quite a few options to ponder. They could go with Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or USC's Matt Kalil.
There has also been some speculation that the team may ultimately trade the pick to the bidder most desperate for Robert Griffin.
Although the Rams could use a big time wideout and a trade would bring in a nice crop of picks, I see them grabbing Kalil at No. 2.
Quarterback Sam Bradford needs some immediate help, and Kalil will give him just that.
Kalil is 6'7", 275 lbs. and is probably the best prospect in the draft not named Andrew Luck.
The younger brother of Carolina's Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, Matt will surely help boost an offensive line that ranked dead last in pass protection.
Unfortunately, the Rams just took Minnesota's top target in Matt Kalil. The bright side of the pick, however, is that Minnesota would be in a commanding spot with their third overall pick. With teams such as Washington, Seattle, Kansas City, and perhaps Cleveland vying for the services of Robert Griffin, the Vikings can extract a nice heap of draft picks in exchange for this one.
So being that a trade in this upcoming draft seems rather inevitable, I will predict a swap between Minnesota and the Washington Redskins. The trade would certainly entail the Redskins surrendering their sixth overall pick to the Vikes, as well as a few more selections in either this draft or a future one.
Minnesota would be pushed down to the sixth spot, where they can grab a top offensive lineman in either Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin. While the Vikings will grab a huge need on their line, Washington will then fill their major need by taking this year's Heisman winner.
We all know about Washington's horrific quarterback history, so Griffin would be nothing short of a savior for the struggling franchise. He has ridiculous accuracy on his deep throws, can make plays with his feet and was college football's best player in 2011.
Griffin has passed for 36 touchdowns and 3,998 yards and thrown just six picks. He has also displayed his explosive run game, rushing for 644 yards and nine touchdowns.
After seeing Carolina take a risk that paid off huge dividends with Cam Newton, perhaps the Redskins will have no problems taking a calculated chance of their own on a quarterback with multiple tools.
I've had the draft's top wideout, Justin Blackmon, mocked here quite a few times. But as it goes in just about every draft, teams often flock towards the best available talent over a need.
In this case, Cleveland certainly gets the best available player while addressing a need. There's no doubt the team is starving more for a wide receiver than a running back. Trent Richardson of Alabama, however, gives the Browns a much better ratio of talent-to-need than Blackmon does.
Richardson is the undisputed champion when it comes to this year's crop of running backs and would most definitely give Colt McCoy and his offense some much-needed help. The 2011 Heisman candidate has nice vision, great speed and the hands to take some passes out of the backfield.
Cleveland's ultimate focus going into the 2012 season should be surrounding McCoy with some type of talent.
Given Peyton Hillis' foggy situation as well as the team's lack of a playmaker on offense, Richardson would be a positive step forward.
With Ronde Barber growing older and Aqib Talib on his way out, the Bucs will be in the market for a new cornerback.
If so, they would definitely grab Morris Claiborne with this pick. The LSU corner is easily the best prospect on the board at this point.
At 6'0" and 185 lbs, Claiborne has been one of college football's best cornerbacks over the last two seasons. In fact, he may be the best defensive player coming out in 2012. He has good hands, exceptional speed and the ability to be an elite cover corner in the NFL.
Tampa taking Claiborne would be yet another no-brainer in this draft.
Working off that forecasted trade with Washington, Minnesota will pick sixth. And since the Vikings desperately need a left tackle, they will be overwhelmed by the prospect of taking Iowa's Riley Reiff.
Reiff has emerged as one of college football's best players as a result of his impressive 2011 season. He's 6'6", 300 lbs and has been praised for his great fundamentals.
The former tight end has great footwork, bends very well and has already played in a pro-style offense. He would be a much-needed addition for an offensive line that allowed the fifth most sacks in the NFL.
He'll help keep the young Christian Ponder on his feet and open up some holes for the dangerous Adrian Peterson.
This could be a stretch, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Justin Blackmon land to Jacksonville at No. 7.
The two-time Biletnikoff winner would fall to the Jags as a product of the first six teams going for bigger needs and better talents.
Blackmon is the top wide receiving prospect in the draft. He has the size, footwork and hands to become an elite receiver in the NFL. Many compare Blackmon's skill set to that of Terrell Owens' minus the off-field baggage.
The now-former Oklahoma State Cowboy has racked up at least 111 catches, 1,522 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.
If Blackmon is indeed available for Gene Smith and company to select, we can expect Roger Goodell to step up to the podium in under 10 seconds.
Blackmon is the perfect fix for Jacksonville and will finally give Gabbert a No. 1 guy to hit.
Newly hired head coach Joe Philbin has announced his defense will work under a 4-3 scheme.
This means the Dolphins need a talented pass-rusher to add to a pretty thin defensive line.
So Quinton Coples of North Carolina would be an incredible value pick for Miami here. The 6'6", 275 lbs defensive lineman racked up 7.5 sacks with 10 tackles for loss in his 2011 campaign. He certainly looks to be the very best pass-rusher this draft has to offer.
Philbin can slot Coples on the opposite side of the team's top pass-rusher, Cameron Wake, to create one of the league's most dangerous defensive end duos.
Morris Claiborne should be gone by this point, so Carolina could look to provide Cam Newton with a nice weapon for next season. The best wide receiver at this point in the draft would be South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery, 6'4" and 229 lbs, has an incredibly promising skill set, making him a very desirable player in the upcoming draft. In three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery has hauled in 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 600-yard receiving mark each year.
There's no doubt the Panthers must improve their defense in order to compete. But with the NFL evolving into a passing league, Jeffery, who could wind up as one of the game's top wideouts, would be quite an investment for an already potent offense.
Cam Newton does have quite a few weapons. He already has help in Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But neither David Gettis nor Brandon LaFell appear to be future No. 1 wideout options.
If the Panthers take Jeffery, they'll supply Newton with a freakish No. 2 receiver for the next handful of seasons. And when Steve Smith eventually hangs them up, Jeffery would easily be a viable, possibly an All-Pro, No. 1. His tremendous upside should be enough to trump his potential bust factor for Carolina here.
As long as Jeffery pans out, the Panthers would have the ability to compete with the likes of New Orleans and Green Bay on the offensive side of the ball in the very near future.
In last year's draft, Buffalo took defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to improve their struggling line.
Dareus, however, needs some better talent next to him in order to make a greater impact. The Bills ranked 27th in sacks and were the fifth-worst rush defense in the league.
The pick could come down to Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram. But since Ingram is more fit to play the line, he would be the likelier option.
Ingram is incredibly athletic, has a good first step and is one of the draft's best pass-rushers. He chalked up 8.5 sacks in 2011 and could help the Bills increase their chances of getting to opposing quarterbacks. He may seem like a reach as of now, but I expect Ingram to increase his stock after his upcoming Combine performance.
Kansas City didn't have the worst offensive line in football last year, but passing up on Stanford's Jonathan Martin would be quite a mistake.
Martin is flat-out huge, standing at 6'6", 305 lbs. He has good footwork, has great mobility and is a very smart player. Martin has the ability to open holes for running back Jamaal Charles and keep their quarterback, whoever that may be, off the ground.
Instead of reaching for a quarterback in the first round, they can certainly help out their future play-caller with a great lineman in Martin.
This happens every draft. A team in need of a quarterback ignores the ol' big board and reaches for a potential play-caller.
The most recent instance of taking such a gamble came when Minnesota selected Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in last year's draft. But although he was considered by many as a second-round talent at best, Ponder did turn in an impressive rookie campaign with the Vikings.
Given Seattle's desperate need at the position, Ryan Tannehill could very well be this year's version of Ponder. Just like Ponder, Tannehill is not regarded as a first-round talent and could be taken well ahead of his time.
As we await for his performance at the combine, Tannehill looks to be a pretty decent prospect as of now. He threw for 3,744 yards along with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2011. Tannehill has a quick release, exhibits solid accuracy and is a very good athlete.
Some of his concerns lie in his ability to throw the deep ball as well as his inexperience at the quarterback position.
The Cardinals can go one of two ways with this selection.
They can either grab Stanford's David DeCastro to add some much-needed talent to a weak offensive line. Or they could look for a playmaker to sit opposite of their superstar wideout.
Although the line does need work, Michael Floyd may be too much to pass up for Arizona.
So if Michael Floyd is available, expect the Bears to take a very long look at the Notre Dame product.
The 6'3" receiver has done nothing but dazzle during his collegiate years. In his four seasons at South Bend, Floyd never failed to put up less than 700 yards receiving and catch at least seven touchdowns. He raked in a bulky 95 passes this season—eight of them in the end zone.
And although Floyd does carry some off-field baggage, that could be overlooked given his immense talent.
Much of Arizona's success in that magical '07-'08 season came as a result of having two elite receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
So if Floyd excels at the Combine, which I believe he will, he could be the long-awaited replacement for Boldin.
The Cowboys sit in a great spot at No. 14. With their three major needs being in their secondary, their pass rush and their offensive line, they'll have a handful of legitimate talent to pick from. They may have prospects such as David DeCastro, Courtney Upshaw, Devon Still and Dre Kirkpatrick still available to them when their turn comes around.
But if they want to prevent another upending from the New York Giants, the secondary should be addressed with their first rounder. They can't have Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham (if he stays) running the field as their corners constantly get lift behind in the dust.
As of now, Janoris Jenkins looks to be the front runner for Dallas' pick here.
Jenkins has incredible quickness and great body control and is very aggressive on coverage. He is a very gifted athlete and has potential to be an elite corner in the NFL.
There is also no doubt the North Alabama transfer is a typical Jerry Jones draft pick. He has tremendous ability but a handful of off-field questions. Jones has consistently shown that his appetite for talent vastly overshadows his concern for attitude.
The Cowboys brass will have to believe that Jenkins' dismissal from Florida last season was just a wake-up call for a very promising prospect.
Philly's linebacking corps have been nothing short of terrible. This problem has been plaguing their defense and needs to be addressed. So if Luke Kuechly of Boston College is still there for the Eagles, expect them to jump on him.
He is a sound tackler, displays good mobility and is a very intelligent player. Kuechly also has good size and always seems to be in the middle of every play.
Some may argue the Eagles should go with the best remaining wideout in order to fill a potential hole left by DeSean Jackson. But with or without Jackson, scoring is not a problem for this team. When you have Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin headlining your offense, you're going to score.
The Eagles should look to patch up a problem that's been pestering them for a number of years now by taking Kuechly.
The Jets must upgrade their pass rush as well as their run defense in order to regain their spot amongst the league's best defenses.
Rex Ryan's crew ranked 13th against the run and 17th in sacks, lower than their top-10 positioning from the previous two seasons. They need a legitimate threat to rush the quarterback so Ryan doesn't have to use the blitz so much.
Courtney Upshaw, the linebacker from Alabama, would give them an immediate boost. Upshaw has tremendous versatility in terms of positioning on defense. He has good speed and strength and is very quick off the ball.
Upshaw is also acquainted with 3-4 defense, something Rex Ryan will definitely like.
The Cincinnati O-line proved to be very effective this season, allowing the seventh fewest amount of sacks in the entire NFL. But with Bobbie Williams and Nate Livings entering the free agent pool this offseason, the Bengals may look to reinforce their line with their first pick.
I do believe the team will come to terms with the 36-year-old Williams. Livings, however, may not be so fortunate. Allowing Livings to walk would leave a hole at left guard in Cincinnati.
If so, selecting Stanford's David DeCastro would be one of the easiest picks in the draft. Not only is he the best guard in the draft, but he's by far the best remaining talent available.
DeCastro plays with a consistent mean streak and never takes a play off. He is also very athletic, exhibits nice footwork and is quite intelligent at his position. DeCastro is undoubtedly the best guard in the upcoming draft.
San Diego's Quentin Jammer, 33, may move from the cornerback spot to the safety position. To make this decision easier, the Chargers could go with a corner to affirm the transition or take a safety to prevent it.
Mark Barron, the draft's top safety, would be a logical selection here. Barron, a member of the great 2011-2012 Alabama defense, brings a number of tools to the table. He's solid against the pass, very good at stopping the run and a sure tackler. Barron also has some nice size at 6'2", 218 lbs.
Barron would be a nice complement for the team's current safety, Eric Weddle.
The Chicago Bears need to give Jay Cutler a true No. 1 target this offseason. So with Blackmon, Jeffery and Floyd off the board, Kendall Wright would seem like the logical choice. He is 5'10", has killer speed and possesses the ability to make game-changing plays.
Too bad Chicago already has that type of player. In fact, they have two of that player—Devin Hester and Johnny Knox.
It just really wouldn't make sense to give Cutler another short receiver. The Bears are much better off searching free agency or investing a second- or third-rounder in a taller guy. This draft is deep in wideout talent, so they can wait.
The logical choice is actually Mike Adams of Ohio State. He stands at a ridiculous 6'8" and weighs 320 lbs. Adams has great frame and often exhibits very nice footwork. Many believe Adams could be the third-best offensive tackle, ahead of Stanford's Jonathan Martin.
The Ohio State product would be a much-needed addition to a very thin offensive line.
The Tennessee Titans were on the cusp of a playoff berth this past season. If Tennessee can fill out a few needs, then they'll once again be a solid contender for a postseason spot.
One of the needs they have to address is their pass rush. In particular, the Titans have to sure up their defensive line. Defensive linemen Jason Jones, David Ball and Williams Hayes are all free agents, which may leave the team with little to no depth at the position.
So if Penn State's Devon Still is available at No. 20 for the Titans, they should not hesitate. The big defensive tackle fills a need and would easily be one of the best players remaining.
At 6'5", 307 lbs, Still is a very physical player. He has a strong upper body and uses his bull-rush well enough to get to opposing backfields. Tennessee ranked 31st in sacks this past season and could use Still in the middle of their line.
Dre Kirkpatrick drops to Cincinnati by virtue of Janoris Jenkins' Senior Bowl performance rather than his recent drug incident. I don't believe Kirkpatrick's marijuana situation will have teams throwing him off their draft board. It was just the fact he was in a car with an illegal drug just a month before the Combine. He did, however, have the charge dropped early this week.
Either way, he seems to be slipping behind Jenkins en route to becoming the third-best corner in the draft. This will give the Bengals a crack at the Alabama corner with the 21st overall selection.
At 6'3", Kirkpatrick is a considerably tall cornerback. He has great speed, elite size and a knack for making big plays. He is also extremely effective against the run thanks to his anticipation and that speed.
After grabbing Trent Richardson with their first pick this round, the Browns should be looking to nab a wideout.
Colt McCoy needs a legitimate target in order to move along his development as a franchise quarterback.
So Kendall Wright of Baylor could be an option here for the Browns. He has great hands, killer speed and the ability to break off big plays.
Although I have him as the fourth-best receiver in this draft, many others think of him as perhaps the third or even second alternative to Justin Blackmon.
After watching the Saints and Packers completely dismantle the Lions' secondary in their last two games, there must be something done at the cornerback position.
If the Lions want to surpass Green Bay in the NFC North, they must stop their aerial assault.
Alfonzo Dennard has excellent speed and good athleticism and displays great instincts. He does, however, need to improve his reaction on coverage. As well as improving his footwork, he also needs to make better breaks on the ball.
He does need some work but has the tools to be a quality corner in the NFL.
Team president Art Rooney II has stated he wants the "old" Steelers offense. By "old," Rooney wants a run heavy, grind-it-out type of offense.
Nothing says grind it out more than a 6'5", 348 lbs monster. Cordy Glenn would be a great match if Pittsburgh wants to emphasize its run game. He's relatively nimble for a man his size and is very good in opening up holes for the run game.
I'm sure he'll be much appreciated by Rashard Mendenhall as well as Ben Roethlisberger when he's throwing his huge body around in the trenches.
The Broncos could look to upgrade their defensive line after that horrific performance against New England. If that's the direction they choose, LSU's Michael Brockers would be an incredible value.
Although Brockers is still quite raw at the position, many draft experts regard him as the draft's best defensive tackle. He displays great quickness, has very powerful legs and is an overall freakish athlete. The most appealing aspect of his game is his size. Brockers stands at a ridiculous 6'6" and weighs a tad over 300 lbs.
It might take some time for him to develop, but Brockers and his tremendous upside will certainly find a spot in the first round. My only regret about this selection is that Brockers will most likely be taken well before Denver's turn comes around at No. 25.
The Houston Texans were a very good football team in 2011. In fact, they may have competed for the Lombardi Trophy had Matt Schaub stayed healthy. But the team can't look back on a season that could have been and must look forward to improving in 2012.
One position where the team needs some more depth is wide receiver. After Andre Johnson, the Houston wideouts get a little shaky. Kevin Walter is decent, and Jacoby Jones is all right. Neither, however, are legitimate No. 2 guys. The Texans need a real No. 2 to detract some attention from Johnson.
So with the best remaining receiver on the board in Mohamed Sanu, Houston may very well find its man. Sanu has good size, above average speed and a great set of hands.
Look for this Rutgers product to improve his draft stock at the Combine.
The Patriots could look to add another pass-rusher this offseason.
If so, Whitney Mercilus is the clear-cut choice here. Mercilus would be the best available player at this point and could help increase the team's sack total.
No defensive end in college football was better in 2011 than Mercilus.
He racked a gaudy 14.5 sacks in 2011. He has slated his name into the thick of the first round.
The Packers' defense has been extremely unstable this season.
They relinquished the most yards per game this season and only got to the quarterback 29 times—the fifth-lowest total in the NFL.
If USC's Nick Perry has a successful Combine, he may very well be the pick. Perry exhibits elite speed and great athleticism, uses his hands very well and is extremely versatile.
We could see Perry's stock soar after the Combine, but I'll mock him to Lambeau for now.
Although Ray Lewis is one of the greatest players ever to step on the gridiron, he's not going to last forever.
With that in mind, Baltimore should look for his successor this offseason. It'll give Lewis time to mentor whomever that may be and ease him into the defense once he's gone.
Vontaze Burfict would be a candidate if available. He does need work in man-to-man coverage, but he carries the agility to break off blockers and get to the ball.
Burfict carries a hell of a mean streak and would fit right into the hard-nosed Ravens system.
San Francisco's defense was nothing short of exceptional this season.
They finished fourth in total yards allowed and gave up just 14.3 points per game. The Niners, however, may look for an upgrade in their secondary.
Virginia's Chase Minnifield would be the next best available corner in the draft. He has nice speed, hits hard and has a knack for getting to the ball.
There's no question that New England's secondary needs some help.
They have given up 293.9 passing yards per game and eight yards per attempt.
With the pass defense as their major problem going into the 2012 offseason, New England should look to improve that with South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore has nice size and good ball skills and is an intelligent player. He's just another one of those very good corner prospects this deep draft has to offer.
The linebacker position is a huge need for the New York Giants, and North Carolina's Zach Brown would provide some stability for Tom Coughlin's defense next season.
Brown can come in and immediately help the Giants. He is a sound athlete with the speed and ability to get to opposing ball-carriers.