LaMichael James', Other Top Pac-12 Stars' Teams Predicted for 2012 NFL Draft
The Pac-12 is sending some of the biggest stars in its history to the NFL draft this year, but not all of them are projected to go in the first round. Some will inevitably be taken late, and some may not even be drafted at all.
Of those that are drafted, a select few will go on to successful NFL careers filled with Pro Bowls, Super Bowls and maybe even MVP awards.
Here I give you a preview of the top stars from each positional unit and where they will go in the draft.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck
Selection: Round 1, pick No. 1
Team: Indianapolis Colts
What more is there to say about Andrew Luck?
The Stanford grad is a near-perfect quarterback; he's got great intangibles to add to his skill—it's all been said before, and it's all true. That's why he's going to be drafted No. 1 overall.
Robert Griffin III has worked his way into the No. 1 overall conversation, mostly because as a mobile quarterback, he might have a higher ceiling. But Luck isn't a bad runner in his own right, and his crisp mechanics are something the Colts scouts will drool over and ultimately see as the deciding factor in the Luck vs. Griffin III contest.
Running Back: LaMichael James
Selection: Round 2, pick No. 49 overall
Team: San Diego Chargers
Whether LaMichael James falls this far in the second round remains to be seen, but it's definitely a possibility considering the quality of running backs in the draft. Trent Richardson may be the only one taken in the first round, but with James, Lamar Miller, Chris Polk and David Wilson; there could be a logjam in the second round.
James had a great combine, however, and that has helped him stick his head out ahead of the pack, at least for now. The former Oregon Duck is trying to brand himself as a Darren Sproles-type player, which the Chargers missed dearly last season.
If James is available when San Diego is due to pick, he will become a Charger.
Wide Receiver: Juron Criner
Selection: Round 2, pick No. 61 overall
Team: Baltimore Ravens
It's no secret that the Ravens need help at wide receiver, as Anquan Boldin has hardly flourished, and picking up veterans like Dante Stallworth hasn't worked out either.
They seem to have gotten a good one in Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft, so why wouldn't they try to get two-in-a-row with Juron Criner?
At 6'3", 224 pounds, Criner is a bigger receiver than Smith and can be used in a different way. Other receivers like Nick Toon or even Marvin Jones may be drafted before him, but he could be a big help to Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.
Tight End: Coby Fleener
Projection: Round 1, pick No. 32
Team: New York Giants
The Giants won the Super Bowl, but they lost two tight ends in Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum. Both guys suffered serious knee injuries, and it's doubtful how effective they can be in the NFL in the future.
Fortunately for the Giants, however, Stanford tight end Coby Fleener should fall right to them in the NFL draft.
Fleener was Andrew Luck's top target and because of that, it's clear that he could be used in a way that the New England Patriots use Rob Gronkowski. He'd be a receiving tight end, and that paired with receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz would amount to a very dangerous passing attack.
Offensive Line: Matt Kalil
Selection: Round 1, pick No. 3
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil is essentially the Andrew Luck of the offensive line. He's got everything you want, everything you need and then some.
At 6'7" and 306 lbs., Kalil is big and strong. He's got huge hands and can block just about anybody and will be a great fit for the Vikings, which could really use a better left tackle.
It looks like Kalil will be headed toward a career similar to that of his brother Ryan Kalil's, which already includes three Pro Bowls.
Defensive Line: Nick Perry
Selection: Round 1, pick No. 28
Team: Green Bay Packers
There's a particularly deep field of defensive ends in this draft, as Nick Perry will likely fall behind at least Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram and Whitney Mercilus.
However, that will only help him get on a successful team easier.
With the 28th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers will choose Perry. Mel Kiper has this happening in his latest mock draft, and I agree with him. The Packers could use help in their secondary, but as a defense built on forcing turnovers, a great pass-rush is absolutely essential.
Perry gives them a boost there and will put them in a better position to return to the Super Bowl in the near future.
Linebacker: Vontaze Burfict
Selection: Round 3, pick No. 93 overall
Team: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens and Vontaze Burfict always looked to be a perfect fit because the retirement of Ray Lewis is inevitable, and he needs to be replaced. The difference between now and six months ago is, however, that the Ravens will be able to snag Burfict in the third round instead of the first.
That's because Burfict's off-field problems and on-field mental makeup are cons that are starting to outweigh his pros. Those pros include incredible athleticism and great strength, but this first-round talent will fall to the third or even fourth because of his issues.
The Ravens will look past them, though, just as they did with cornerback Jimmy Smith in last year's draft. That gamble looks to be paying off for them so far, and they may take their chances once again.
Defensive Back: Cliff Harris
Selection: Round 6, pick No. 170 overall
Team: Carolina Panthers
Cliff Harris is another playmaker whose off-field issues have hurt his draft stock.
After being suspended most of his junior year at Oregon as a result of several incidents with marijuana, Harris needs to prove that he's still the dynamic cornerback and kick returner he was in 2010.
The Panthers could use help on defense, but if they end up with Harris, I see it mostly as a move to bolster their return team. They had no punts returned for touchdowns and only one kickoff returned, and their average yardage on returns wasn't great either. Harris is a guy who could definitely help in that aspect of the game.
Special Teams: Bryan Anger
Selection: Round 7
Team: Whichever wants him
Bryan Anger is good enough to get drafted, and one of those 32 teams will relish the opportunity to get a decent punter at a rookie price.
Some teams are already set with great punters, as the Raiders are with Shane Lechler. Others, like the Philadelphia Eagles, drafted a punter last year.
Anger deserves his shot and it's likely that he will get it. He may even be this draft's "Mr. Irrelevant."