On April 26th, the first round of the 2012 NFL draft will take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Somewhat coincidentally, the National Football League has invited 26 players to attend the first round personally, including the overwhelming favorites to be the first two picks in quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
There were some rather startling omissions, including Stanford guard David DeCastro, but that's tough cookies for him. As DeCastro dines on Oreos, let's turn our attention to a few of the players who were invited, and project which snazzy New Era hat they will don when they step to the podium to shake Roger Goodell's hand.
Be careful guys, I hear he's a biter.
Ryan Tannehill: QB, Texas A&M
As the consensus third-best quarterback prospect in the 2012 draft class behind Luck and Griffin, few players have generated as much press over the past week as Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M.
The 6'4", 221-pound senior was hugely productive for the Aggies last year, topping 4,500 passing yards, but Mike Freeman of CBS Sports warns that a team reaching for Tannehill in the top 10 may be suffering from a case of passer fever.
Tannehill vaulting upward like Carl Lewis is more a sign of teams desperate for a quarterback and wishful thinking. There are two great throwers in this draft: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. After that, it's more of a hodgepodge. After that, for the most part, it's a cluster of second-tier guys, and you're fooling yourself if you believe Tannehill's drastically superior than some of the other quarterbacks.
However, there is a team in the top 10 that just went through a miserable free agency period filled with the failed pursuit of a franchise quarterback. That team also has an owner who has made it clear that acquiring a quarterback is a priority for the team, so with the eighth overall pick (if not sooner) Tannehill will be selected by...
The Miami Dolphins
Stephon Gilmore: CB, South Carolina
In today's pass-heavy National Football League, solid cover cornerbacks are worth their weight in gold. While there's little question that LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is the top prospect at the position this year, the issue of the second best cornerback is quite a bit murkier.
NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock believes that distinction belongs to Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina.
Trust me, six-foot corners with long arms are rare, especially when they run 4.4 with his movement skills. I’ve got him as the No. 2 corner for a reason. I think he’s a Top 10 to Top 15 pick. Not a lot of people have him that high.
Some NFL front offices may not share Mayock's lofty assessment but Gilmore's considerable skills are sure to appeal to a team with a need in the secondary, of which there are several in the middle of the first round.
One of those teams in particular could stand to add a promising young cornerback after their top option at the position departed in free agency, and so the 6'0", 190-pound junior will find himself a top 20 pick when he's taken by...
The Tennessee Titans
Dontari Poe: DT, Memphis
Every year a monstrous performance at the NFL combine sends a player's draft stock soaring, and such was the case in 2012 with Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who amazed scouts in Indianapolis with his combination of speed and power.
However, the 346-pound beefeater has been coming back to earth a bit (so to speak) recently, and one NFL scout told Mark Eckel of the Trenton Times that he wasn't overly impressed by what he saw in game film of Poe.
He’ll be overdrafted. He did all of that at the combine, so some team will take him way higher than he should go. I mean watch him play, just watch. He didn’t do anything. And he wasn’t playing at a very high level, either.
All I know is he had one sack last year and it came against Austin Peay. You probably didn’t even know Austin Peay had a football team.
Poe's bulk makes him a prototypical fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, and while the behemoth may take some time to develop the potential he demonstrated with a sub-five second, 40-yard dash time and 44 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, makes him a tantalizing "project" type for a team with an aging starter at the position.
Not only is there a team in just such a position towards the end of the first round, but it's a situation that would likely be optimal for Poe as a player as well, so it will be a win-win selection when Dontari Poe is drafted 24th overall by...
The Pittsburgh Steelers