2012 NFL Mock Draft: Where 2012's Top Prospects Will Likely Fall in the Draft

Chelena GoldmanContributor IApril 12, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Where 2012's Top Prospects Will Likely Fall in the Draft

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    Well, here we are ladies and gents—the final stretch before the 2012 NFL draft.

    It seems like we’ve been talking about for forever, doesn’t it?

    Actually, if you consider the Indianapolis Colts have had their eyes on Andrew Luck since halfway through last season, then yeah, we have been talking about it for a long time.

    So without further ado, let’s take—one of many—updated looks at the stocks of some of those top prospects.

Matt Kalil—Offensive Tackle

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    Kalil has been touted as a top 5 prospect before his final season of college ball had come to a close.

    He is a football thespian from a football family, and several teams have tried to woo him— including the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.

    And while his stock hasn’t taken any type of a dive, teams’ needs for a franchise quarterback—ahem, Ryan Tannehill—could affect how high Kalil gets picked.

    But that shouldn’t keep the Vikings from drafting Kalil with the No. 3 pick overall. His speedy footwork, solid frame and quick hands would make him a huge asset to a Viking offense that needs to keep young QB Christian Ponder well protected.

    Kalil’s stock is still high. It would be a shock if Minnesota didn’t take him, and he fell below the No. 5 slot.

Trent Richardson—Running Back

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    Much like Kalil, Richardson is a top 5 worthy prospect, but the need for quarterbacks could potentially force him down the list.

    And I say “potentially” because the Cleveland Browns would be crazy not to draft this 2011 Heisman contender.

    His size, speed and agility would do nothing but help improve the Browns’ 28th-ranked rushing offense. NFLDraftGeek.com goes so far to say that Richardson “could be a Hall of Fame running back, if he stays healthy.”

    Richardson has elite athleticism and a killer work ethic. And although he's had knee issues, he was healthy and impressive at Alabama’s pro day on March 29.

    If his stellar stock hasn’t all but secured him the No. 4 slot—nothing will.

Morris Claiborne—Cornerback

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    I only bring Claiborne into the mix because he’s been in the news for the dismal score on his Wonderlic test.

    Honestly, a sub-par intelligence test shouldn’t have a major affect on his draft stock this late in the game.

    And it obviously didn’t discourage the Minnesota Vikings from inviting Claiborne to an April 3 dinner that included Justin Blackmon and Matt Kalil.

    A recent surgery hasn’t appeared to hurt his draft stock either.

    Although Claiborne is currently rehabbing his wrist after surgery after LSU’s pro day, NFLDraftScout.com believes it “isn’t likely to knock Claiborne off his perch atop the cornerback rankings.”

Ryan Tannehill—Quarterback

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    Texas A&M’s Tannehill has gone from “top 20 material” to “top 10 material” to “the most overrated in the draft class” in a rather small period of time.

    NFL Network analyst Brian Billick has gone as far as comparing Tannehill to 2007’s ill-fated overall draft pick—cover your ears, Raider Nation—JaMarcus Russell.

    And yes, the huge rise in his draft stock has a lot to do with how starved for a franchise QB some teams are. But is that enough to catapult Tannehill to a top 5 pick?

    He might be hyped, but I don’t think that hype is going to shoot Tannehill up the ranks anymore than he already has.

    If he absolutely has to go in the top 10, then he should go to Miami with the No. 8 pick; not just because the Dolphins are in dire need of a quarterback, but because Tannehill already has history playing for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in College Station.

Brandon Weeden—Quarterback

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    With so much attention on Tannehill, OSU’s Brandon Weeden—who NFLDraftGeek was originally calling the draft’s most overrated QB—hasn’t gotten as much press time as of late.

    The 28-year-old is even opting to not go to the draft at all, and watch it on TV at his parent’s house.

    But that hasn’t stopped Weeden’s stock from steadily rising him to a potential second-round pick in this year’s draft class.

    Sure, his age has something to do with his stock being a little lower. But even non-believers can’t deny the accuracy and strength of his throwing arm.

    And he has my vote over Tannehill because he’s healthier. ESPN’s David Ubben goes so far as to see Weeden as a "7-8 year franchise quarterback."

    He will probably be drafted early-to-mid second round, even though I would love to see him go higher.

Luke Kuechly—Inside Linebacker

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    The on going flux of Kuechly’s stock makes him an ever-interesting prospect.

    Boston College’s former inside linebacker has been on NFL teams’ radars for some time now. Kuechly’s instincts on the field would benefit any team that drafts him.

    And, as Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com points out, Kuechly has “either led the country or finished second in solo and total tackles in each of his three collegiate seasons.”

    Unfortunately, the need for an inside linebacker isn’t a desperate need for NFL teams with the passing game becoming increasingly popular by many professional teams.

    Kuechly has been touted as top 20 for the majority of the 2012 mock draft frenzy. He could either go closer to the No. 10 slot or slip all the way down to the bottom of the first round come draft day.

Dont'a Hightower—Inside Linebacker

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    The Crimson Tide’s two-time captain doesn’t get a whole lot of credit in my opinion. And this is a guy whose stock fluctuates, depending on which mock drafts you choose to follow.

    As mentioned with Kuechly, inside linebacker isn’t a desperate spot to fill in the first round.

    But despite suffering an ACL tear in 2009, Hightower is still a top-tier linebacker, with the size and instinct to make him a threat in the NFL.

    Even with a good draft stock, Hightower could land anywhere within the top 20 come draft day.

    While Charles Davis from NFL Network sees Hightower going to the New York Jets with the No. 13 pick, the Sports XChange sees him being available later in the first round and getting picked up by the Baltimore Ravens.