'Twas the week before the 2012 NFL draft, and all through the league,
Every GM is still stirring, fighting off impending fatigue.
The big boards were shuffled and reshuffled with all too much care,
In hopes that those college stars whose stock has risen, would be there.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Andrew Luck's been at the top of the heap for more than a year now, and the Colts (surprise, surprise) have reportedly told him that he's their guy...
...which leaves the Redskins with the obvious choice of Robert Griffin III at No. 2.
So, please, can someone tell the collective punditry to stop debating in which order these two guys will go?
RG3 has been the No. 2 QB in the draft for some time, though his rise toward the top was meteoric nonetheless. The Baylor grad began the 2011 college football season projected as a second- or third-round pick, perhaps a late first-rounder, at best.
A Heisman Trophy-winning season changed all that rather quickly, as did the realization that the kid has a cannon for an arm, runs like a gazelle and is about as intelligent and down-to-earth as anyone in his position would hope to be.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
It didn't take long for scouts everywhere to realize that tackles of Matt Kalil's caliber don't simply grow on trees.
They're too big for that; they grow out of the ground as roots instead.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The only thing that could've kept Trent Richardson from going this high is if the Redskins hadn't traded up to No. 2, leaving the Browns to pick up RG3.
Even then, Richardson, who's far and away the best running back in this draft class, probably would've wound up at No. 5 with the Buccaneers...
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
...and since the Browns swooped on the top running back, the Bucs will be left to take on Mo Claiborne, this year's No. 1 corner—especially now that Ronde Barber is making the move to safety.
6. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
If anything, Justin Blackmon has dropped over the past few months, though his decline is more the product of St. Louis' decision to trade back in the draft than anything else.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Slowly but surely, Melvin Ingram has worked his way up the big board to be the best all-around defensive line prospect in the draft.
That honor once belonged to Quinton Coples, though the 6'6" stud out of North Carolina has since seen red flags waved in his face on account of his lack of a track record and questions about his "motor."
Jaguars GM Gene Smith is known and prone to stick with the safe pick, which Ingram just so happens to be. If the Rams pass on Blackmon for some reason, though, he will almost certainly wind up as Blaine Gabbert's buddy in Florida.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Ryan Tannehill can (and probably should) thank Matt Barkley and Landry Jones for opting to stay in school.
Otherwise, the Texas A&M standout wouldn't be so much as sniffing top-10-pick status at this point.
Without those two in the pool, Tannehill's established himself as this year's third-best quarterback prospect, all the while drawing praise as the potential No. 3 pick from some, and comparisons to JaMarcus Russell from others.
In any case, don't be surprised if he winds up with the Dolphins, back under the tutelage of former Aggies head coach Mike Sherman.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The battle for the title of "best defensive tackle" has come down to a two-man race between Fletcher Cox and Dontari Poe. Both are tremendous prospects, with size, strength, versatility and consistent effort of the variety that has scouts everywhere drooling over the possibilities.
Cox, in particular, has been the subject of quite a bit of buzz lately and might actually be the safer pick than Poe.
Either way, the Panthers will more than likely spend this pick on a tackle to shore up their defensive line.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Riley Reiff's been the No. 2 offensive tackle for a while, and should give Ryan Fitzpatrick some much needed protection up front.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The Chiefs could use some assistance at inside linebacker, and Luke Kuechly's the best of the bunch.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Quinton Coples has dropped (not risen) in recent weeks, but he's still an excellent value pick at this point in the draft.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd's been a top-15 talent for some time now. Only recently have teams (and by teams, I mean draft gurus) begun to cop to that while setting aside his off-field issues.
As for Floyd's fit with the Cards, he'd be an excellent complement to Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
Again, another guy who's the best at this position but has only recently found his way this far up the draft board.
Mark Barron's not an elite talent per se, but fills a long-standing need at strong safety for the Cowboys. What's more, he's just the sort of intelligent leader who can lead a defense and compensate for his deficiencies in other areas on the field.
And the kid's a winner, with two national titles under his belt.
Assuming that means something in the pros, of course.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Chances are the Eagles will opt for whomever, between Fletcher Cox or Dontari Poe (or even Michael Brockers, if still available at No. 15). Poe was a beast at the combine, turning in eye-popping numbers in the 40-yard dash and in just about every strength-based drill.
The Memphis product could parlay those physical gifts into a beastly NFL career under the watchful eye of Jim Washburn.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Depending on who you ask, Courtney Upshaw is either a versatile, pass-rushing star who should fit perfectly into a 3-4 scheme, or a 'tweener who's not big enough to play end and not fast enough to play linebacker.
Here's thinking Rex Ryan falls into the former category, at least enough to ignore the latter claim.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Raiders): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
David DeCastro represents both a solid value at No. 17 and a need-filler for a Bengals squad that could use an upgrade on the interior in both run-blocking and pass protection.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE, Illinois
Whitney Mercilus has been up and down the first-round big board, but should settle in nicely as the next great Bolts pass-rusher.
19. Chicago Bears: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Character concerns have dogged Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick all along, paving the way for Stephon Gilmore to rise through the draft and into the top 20. The South Carolina product possesses the mature attitude and the smarts to succeed in the NFL from day one, just as he did upon his arrival in Columbia.
He may not drop quite as many jaws in drills as Jenkins or Kirkpatrick might, but he's still more than capable of making all the necessary plays, and he fills a glaring need at corner for the Bears in the pass-happy NFC North.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Titans won't mind Dre Kirkpatrick's off-field concerns quite as much once the 6'3" stud steps in for Cortland Finnegan at corner.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The run on corners continues, with Janoris Jenkins stepping all too readily into the Bengals' culture of misfits.
22. Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Whoever ends up calling the shots under center in Cleveland this season could use a tackle like Jonathan Martin to watch his back.
23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OG/T, Georgia
Cordy Glenn can play just about anywhere along the offensive line, and might need to if the Lions can't keep Matthew Stafford upright next season.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Dont'a Hightower's been both a mid-to-late-first-rounder and a perfect fit for the Steelers' aging defense all along.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Like so many others, Michael Brockers has been all over the board this year, though he should find life along Denver's defensive line to suit his talents quite well.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
What better way to open up the field for Andre Johnson—and the passing game, as a whole, for Matt Schaub—than with a straight-line speed demon like Kendall Wright?
27. New England Patriots (via Saints): Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The ebb and flow of the NFL draft process has lifted Nick Perry into the top 10 and dropped him out of the first round with equal frequency. The USC stud's a bit raw, but should find his abilities put to good use under Bill Belichick's tutelage.
28. Green Bay Packers: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Like Perry, Chandler Jones is still a bit rough around the edges.
Unlike Perry, Jones comes complete with a successful family pedigree—his older brother, Jon "Bones" Jones, is the youngest champion in the history of the UFC.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Word on the street suggests that the Ravens have soured on Peter Konz. They do, however, still have a deficiency at tackle, one that a talented-but-inconsistent prospect like Mike Adams could address under the proper circumstances.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Forget about Randy Moss and Mario Manningham—Stephen Hill is the future at wide receiver in San Francisco.
31. New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame
How long can the Pats go with Joe Schmo (or Kevin Schmo, if you'd prefer) at safety before the whole operation falls apart? The Hoodie probably doesn't want to find out.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
With the top offensive tackles off the board, Big Blue opts for Coby Fleener, the best tight end in the draft, as insurance behind Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, both of whom went down with injuries during the Super Bowl.