With the NFL Combine taking place next week, we are officially in the heart of draft season. Free agency starts on March 13 and the draft itself is just over two months away.
In the coming days, as team executives get up close and personal with prospects, the first-round picture will become much more clear. Until then, we can still take some educated stabs at the first 32 picks.
This year's draft class is loaded with talent, from franchise quarterbacks to explosive skill players to fearsome defenders. I'll break down the best of the best in this week's 2012 mock draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
At this point, Andrew Luck could sleep with Jim Irsay's wife, and he'd still be the first overall pick.
Luck is as much of a sure thing as there can be in the draft. He has every tool necessary to become the NFL's best quarterback in a few seasons.
With the Peyton Manning era coming to a close, the Colts are not only rebuilding their organization, but their identity as well. Luck would be the perfect face of their franchise moving forward.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams desperately need someone to protect Sam Bradford, and Kalil is the best offensive lineman available. He is legitimately one of the best offensive-line prospects in the last decade.
St. Louis could also give Bradford another weapon by adding Justin Blackmon here.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Vikings have multiple needs and might be better off landing more draft picks.
If they do keep the pick, I like Claiborne here. The Vikings have one of the NFL's worst secondaries, and Claiborne is a shutdown corner. With his size, speed, balance and instincts, he should be a Pro Bowl regular over the next decade.
The Vikings will also gladly take Kalil if the Rams pass on him or trade out of the top two.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
If RG3 falls to Cleveland, the Browns will probably snag him. However, I'm expecting someone to trade up and draft him at No. 3.
If that happens, the Browns should draft Richardson, who is unquestionably the best running back available. Peyton Hillis was a huge bust this season and will likely be leaving in free agency.
Richardson would be the perfect replacement. Everyone loves Luck, but Richardson will be the best player from this class. With his physical tools and work ethic, he will be a monster in the NFL.
He's got great speed, awareness and power. He's one of the most violent runners I've ever seen.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Buccaneers have plenty of issues, but the most glaring is their horrible secondary. They need to upgrade at cornerback, and they will do that by adding either Claiborne or Kirkpatrick.
If Minnesota does trade its pick, Claiborne should still be available. If he isn't, Kirkpatrick is a great consolation prize.
He's got good speed, size and balance. With some help, Kirkpatrick could help turn the Bucs back into the defensive juggernaut they were last decade.
6. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins will have to trade up if they want RG3, but I think they'll do whatever it takes to get him to the nation's capital.
Washington needs to put the Rex Grossman era behind it immediately, and the addition of the Heisman Trophy winner would finally give the fanbase something to be excited about.
Griffin III isn't as polished as Luck, but he could certainly have the better career. He's a natural leader and a proven winner with a skill set that suited perfectly for the modern game.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Jacksonville will be ecstatic if Blackmon falls to the Jaguars at No. 7.
The Jaguars need another weapon for young quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and Blackmon is the best wide receiver in this class.
Don't be shocked if someone trades into the top five to draft him, especially if the Rams pass on him at No. 2.
8. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
This isn't a sexy pick, but the Dolphins need some help on the offensive line. They also need a quarterback, but unless they trade up for RG3, it isn't happening in this year's draft.
The Dolphins will make a strong push for Peyton Manning (if he's available) and Matt Flynn in free agency. But regardless of who's under center, he will definitely need some better protection.
Reiff would be a real asset on the O-line.
9. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Personally, I would love to see Carolina trade up to get Blackmon. It's scary to think what Cam Newton could do with Blackmon on the outside.
However, if Carolina stays put, it should improve its defensive line. No receiver outside of Blackmon is worth a top 10 pick, and Brockers will be an animal at the next level. At 6'6", 305 pounds, Brockers has the size and athleticism to make life a living hell for offensive linemen.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Upshaw didn't get a ton of headlines this season, but he was a critical part of Alabama's championship defense. He was highly productive in the SEC and his versatility will be a major asset at the next level.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The Chiefs could use an offensive tackle, but with Kalil and Reiff off the board, they should turn their attention to defense.
Kuechly is a tackling machine with outstanding instincts. Last season, he racked up double-digit tackles in 11 of 12 games, including his ridiculous 23-tackle performance against Duke in September.
By pairing Kuechly with Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs would immediately have one of the best linebacker duos in the league.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Seahawks have plenty of holes to fill, and if Red Bryant leaves for free agency, they will look at Coples. He's the most talented defensive prospect in this draft, and although he struggled against extra attention last season, I can't picture him failing in the NFL.
I expect his stock to rise after the combine, so it's unlikely he'll still be around at No. 12. If he is, the Seahawks will happily select him.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals have multiple needs, but I think they would be smart to address their offensive line here.
Martin didn't get much media love last season (what offensive linemen do?), but he was a major factor behind Andrew Luck's heavily documented success.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
If the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs next season, they must add a defensive back. Barron is the best available at this point. He's a versatile safety who excels in both pass and run coverage.
The Cowboys could also go with cornerback Janoris Jenkins here, but I think they'll shy away from him because of his past run-ins with the law.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
The Eagles have loads of talent, but until they upgrade their linebacker corps, they will continue to have disappointing seasons.
Burfict would be a great fit. The violent tackler has all the tools necessary to be Ball So Hard University's next great linebacker.
16. New York Jets: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus led the NCAA with 16 tackles last season. Comparing him to Aldon Smith might be a bit of a reach, but given his size and vision, it's not totally unrealistic.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Bengals need help in the secondary, and Jenkins would be a huge steal at this point in the draft.
Jenkins is an exceptional talent, but he was dismissed from Florida after numerous run-ins with the law.
If he keeps his nose clean, he could eventually be the best cover corner in the league. But if he has more off-field trouble, his career will be closer to Pacman Jones' than Deion Sanders'.
18. San Diego Chargers: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Vincent Jackson is headed for free agency, and I wouldn't be surprised if he bolts.
Even if he stays, Philip Rivers could use another weapon. Wright is small (5'9", 190 pounds), but he's elusive and has exceptional speed, a la Steve Smith (Carolina version).
Wright won't be able to blow by defensive backs as easily in the NFL, but if he polishes his route running, he could become the best wide receiver in this class.
19. Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Jay Cutler needs a new toy to play with, and the Bears will be content with drafting either Wright or Jeffery.
Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller as Jeffery going way higher than this, but I'm not sold on the South Carolina product.
Jeffery is a big dude (6'4", 229 pounds), but he's raw overall. If he doesn't improve his technique and consistency, he'll never pan out.
20. Tennessee Titans: Nick Perry, DE, USC
The Titans desperately need to put more pressure on the quarterback, and Perry is the best pass-rusher available at this point. He's quickly rising up draft boards, but if he still hasn't been picked yet, the Titans will gladly select him.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Bengals could use an upgrade at running back, and I'd like to see them package their two first round picks to move up and draft Trent Richardson.
If they don't, DeCastro is a great option to help solidify the offensive line. He was the best interior lineman in the country last season.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Browns desperately need some more weapons for Colt McCoy, and Floyd is one of the best playmakers in the draft.
He's got electrifying speed and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. If the Browns can add Richardson at No. 4 and Floyd here, they will be the biggest winners of the first round.
23. Detroit Lions: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Detroit has one of the most talented young offenses in the NFL, but they could use some better protection for Matthew Stafford.
Adams is just massive (6'7", 325 pounds) and has great footwork and mobility. I'm expecting him to rise up draft boards in the coming weeks, but the Lions will be very happy if they can snag him here.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still wreaks havoc in the middle of the offensive line, disrupting plays with regularity. He's great at penetrating into the backfield and tackling running backs for loss.
If the Steelers pick up Still, they'll improve an already scary defense.
25. Denver Broncos: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
This wouldn't be a popular pick in Denver, what with that Tim Tebow guy being there and all. However, I'm not sold on Tebow as the quarterback of the future, and John Elway is practically begging for an excuse to replace him.
26. Houston Texans: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Texans could use a No. 2 receiver to draw attention away from Andre Johnson, but I doubt they'll reach for one here.
Look for them to upgrade their D-line by picking up Cox. If they do decide to go wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers would be the smart choice. He'll skyrocket up draft boards in the next few weeks.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Patriots have plenty of options with their two late picks, but I expect them to beef up their defensive line. Adding the 6'3", 310-pound Worthy would do just that.
28. Green Bay Packers: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
The Packers desperately need to improve their secondary and Smith is the best defense back available at this point. He's got great instincts, both in the run and passing game. He'd fit in well with Charles Woodson and Co.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Ravens should be looking for the successor to Ray Lewis' throne in the middle. The hard-hitting Hightower would be the perfect apprentice.
With some proper teaching, Hightower could be the best linebacker from this draft.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
Randle kinda got screwed over in college, as a horrible quarterback situation made his numbers look minuscule. Still, he's got all the talent in the world, and Alex Smith needs another weapon.
Vernon Davis and Randle would finally give the 49ers a formidable passing attack.
31. New England Patriots: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jarvis Jones was one of the most productive pass rushers in college football, racking up 13.5 sacks and 70 tackles. He would be a good fit in San Fran.
32. New York Giants: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Running back isn't the Giants' biggest need, but Ahmad Bradshaw isn't an elite back, and Brandon Jacobs is getting awfully expensive.
Miller would be a cheap and effective addition for New York. He's an explosive running back and kick returner who's capable of scoring every time he touches the ball.