2012 NFL Mock Draft: Which Prospects Are Trending Up, Down?
The Shrine Game. The Senior Bowl. The NFL Scouting Combine. Pro Days. Interviews. The list goes on and on.
After players have suited up one last time for their college teams, they have an enormous amount of opportunities to either raise or lower their personal "draft stock."
Here is a look at how the top 32 picks in the 2012 NFL Draft will shake out, including whether each prospect's stock is on the rise or decline.
1. Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts are taking Andrew Luck and there isn't really much new to report. His athleticism at the combine was as good as expected and no new flaws have suddenly appeared.
If he could go higher than the first pick, he would.
2. Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Robert Griffin III has been the consensus second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft for the last few months. The Washington Redskins tipped their hand early and traded a boatload of picks to the Rams in order to draft the dynamic Baylor quarterback.
The trade package might have been a little better than most analysts predicted, but we all knew it was going to take a pretty penny to out-bid the other suitors for RG3.
3. Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Matt Kalil has been the best offensive tackle on tape all year long. Nothing he did at the 2012 NFL Combine changed that.
Kalil should start the transition on the offensive line in front of 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder.
4. Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Morris Claiborne has done nothing to make teams question that he is the top cornerback in this draft. The question of who is No. 2, however, is now up in the air—Janoris Jenkins, Dre Kirkpatrick, Jayron Hosley, Josh Robinson and Stephon Gilmore could all claim that title.
When there is confusion as to who is the second best option, the best option becomes even more attractive.
STOCK: Rising Slightly
5. Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson is without question the best running back in the 2012 NFL Draft, the only question is how teams will value Richardson in today's NFL.
I feel that Richardson is enough of a potential game-changer to warrant a top-five selection.
6. Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
In some people's minds, Justin Blackmon needed to run in the 4.4's to warrant a top-10 selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. Speed isn't what makes Blackmon tick. That would be his sudden quickness and ability to contort and control his body.
Blackmon's sub-4.5 time at his pro day merely firmed up our impression of him as the top "X" receiver coming out this year.
7. Jaguars: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Some people feel that Kendall Wright's stock is slipping. I am not one of those people. They will point to his "official" 4.6 time at the NFL Combine. I will point to the mountain of cornerbacks that Wright burned on the field.
Wright isn't going slip down many team's boards due to one time on one day—especially when many observers had Wright in the high 4.4's.
8. Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are spoken for. Matt Flynn and Peyton Manning can only play for one team each. When the game of musical chairs ends, Ryan Tannehill is going to be the big winner.
Tannehill will need at least until the bye week—preferably longer—before he is ready to start, but his upside easily places him as the third quarterback to come off the board.
9. Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Dontari Poe's athleticism is obvious on tape. Even then, we were surprised at just how well Poe tested at the 2012 NFL Combine.
Already a first-round lock, Poe now might not make it out of the top 10.
10. Bills: Nick Perry, DE, USC
Like Dontari Poe, Nick Perry tested very well at the NFL Combine, running fast and showing that he has the explosive qualities that teams are looking for.
Those are the sort of measurables that get teams to take a chance and reach for a prospect that could contribute double-digit sacks for a decade.
STOCK: Rising Fast
11. Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Continuing a theme here, Kuechly was also very impressive at the combine, assuaging a lot of doubts some scouts had about his athleticism.
As Jerod Mayo showed, top-notch middle linebackers, even if they don't make a ton of impact plays, get picked early.
12. Seahawks: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
I first saw Fletcher Cox on tape while watching Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard. I thought he was a good player, but since he was a true junior I didn't focus on him. After declaring for the draft, I dove into more Cox tape and have loved what I saw.
Add an impressive combine performance to his already good tape, and you have a defensive lineman that is going to be picked before most people expect.
STOCK: Rising Fast
13. Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OL, Iowa
Depending on where you have had Riley Reiff ranked, his stock is either rising or falling. I had him in the top 10 not long ago, but hearing that some NFL teams like him better as a guard is not encouraging for being drafted that high.
Others are finally coming around on the Reiff story, realizing that he does have Pro Bowl skills. Add the two sides together and you end up with a "flat" stock report.
14. Cowboys: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Stephon Gilmore has long been one of my favorite cornerbacks, ever since watching tape on Cliff Matthews last year. With an impressive combine combined with some concerns with Dre Kirkpatrick in the interview room, Gilmore is now in contention to be second corner taken.
15. Eagles: Devon Still, DL, Penn State
The combine didn't help or hurt Devon Still as his athleticism was never really in question. In order to get him moving up boards, he would really have to answer his motor and pad level questions, and you can really only do that on the field.
Still could be a monster in the NFL if he stays more consistent.
16. Jets: Jonathan Martin, OL, Stanford
Jonathan Martin might not be worth a top-20 pick, but position scarcity is going to start forcing tackles higher into the first round, just like quarterbacks.
Martin hasn't been able to address his physicality concerns, but hasn't had any major setbacks this offseason that would make him fall too far down draft boards.
17. Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
After initially side-stepping off-the-field issues this winter, Dre Kirkpatrick reportedly didn't deal well with questions concerning the incidents during interviews at the 2012 NFL Combine.
If NFL teams are concerned about his trustworthiness, they may pass on Kirkpatrick early on in the first round.
18. Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Courtney Upshaw didn't have the impressive combine that many people were hoping for. He came in short and didn't impress in any of the drills.
That said, Upshaw isn't going to fall too far because when those lights turn on, Upshaw transforms into a man with a purpose. That purpose is punishing whoever has the football.
STOCK: Falling Slightly
19. Bears: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears might have to end up trading up for Michael Floyd. His impressive 4.4 time at the NFL Combine as well as showing some good hands, have Floyd in contention for a top-15 pick again.
If he doesn't get drafted in the top 10, which is certainly a possibility, falling to within Chicago's range becomes a possibility.
20. Titans: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Melvin Ingram was impressive at the 2012 NFL Combine, but many expected the former Gamecock to perform very well in Indianapolis. Everyone knows about his athleticism, but the question is whether or not Ingram has a place to play.
Sam, Will, DE and 3-4 OLB are all in the conversations, but can he consistently win at any of them?
21. Bengals: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
I'm not sure anyone has helped himself more in the 2012 calendar year than Doug Martin, except maybe the guy on the next slide. Martin had a wonderful bowl game, impressed at the Senior Bowl in Mobile and ran wonderfully at the combine.
Other than Richardson, Martin is the most complete back in the nation.
22. Browns: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
As we alluded in the last slide, Stephen Hill has helped himself the most in February and March. The funny thing is, it had next to nothing to do with anything on the football field. He tested very well, coming in tall and running a 4.3.
After showing better hands in Indianapolis than he did at Georgia Tech (see the picture), NFL teams have certainly taken notice.
STOCK: Rising Slightly
23. Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
I'm not ready to take Janoris Jenkins out of the first round yet, but it is getting close. His incredible talent is beginning to be overshadowed by his off-the-field issues once again.
If NFL teams start uncovering more dirt on Jenkins, his incredible skills may be passed for more "clean" prospects.
STOCK: Approaching a Cliff
24. Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Pittsburgh
Dont'a Hightower surprised nobody by not testing overly well in Indianapolis. Like Brandon Spikes, formerly of Florida and currently with the Patriots, Hightower is merely a football player.
I doubt that too many teams are going to overlook Hightower's production, instincts and tackling for a number on a paper.
25. Broncos: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
David DeCastro is a phenomenally gifted offensive lineman. Unfortunately, he plays what some teams consider a "throw-away" position.
If he falls into the latter half of the first round, one lucky team is going to find a great value.
STOCK: Falling Slightly
26. Texans: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
After a poor performance in the BCS Championship game, Rueben Randle had nowhere to go but up. Like Stephen Hill, Randle's performance at the combine and his ability to go deep will have teams looking hard at him late in the first round.
27. Patriots: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
Injuries during the pre-draft process are a tricky subject. Sometimes they will push a project down a round or two, other times they have no bearing on where a prospect ends up being drafted.
Despite his injury, Mark Barron is easily the top safety in the 2012 NFL Draft. Positional scarcity will neutralize any impact of his double-hernia surgery.
28. Packers: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU
Michael Brockers' draft stock has acted like a hot IPO. After a surprising early entry into the 2012 NFL Draft, Brockers shot to the top of the DT class in many analyst's opinions.
After taking a harder look at the film and his production, rather than just his frame and athleticism, Brockers is rightly being slotted in the second half of the first round.
29. Ravens: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Cordy Glenn looked amazing at the NFL Combine, running incredibly well for a man well north of 300 pounds. He showed the athleticism to play outside in the NFL, but I still think his best position is left guard.
If a team likes him as a tackle, he could go much higher than this.
STOCK: Rising Slightly
30. 49ers: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Coby Fleener's stock is rising not only because of his impressive senior campaign, but also because of an impressive weigh-in at the 2012 NFL Combine. Also helping him out is the fact that another premier "F" tight end, Orson Charles, has had a horrible March, earning a DUI and some slow 40 times.
Fleener should be the first tight end taken in my book.
31. Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
As many pass-rushers have failed to have an outstanding offseason, Whitney Mercilus has been one of the few to really impress. He has looked very quick, both at the combine and his pro day that Patriots scouts attended.
If teams are fine drafting a "one-year wonder," Mercilus looks awfully attractive.
32. Giants: Peter Konz, OL, Wisconsin
Peter Konz is as solid as they come as an interior lineman. Unless medical red flags came up during the NFL Combine, Konz should be a top-40 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Like DeCastro before him, teams just don't see interior linemen as premium positions.