The footsteps of a few skill position players can be heard creeping up the draft board. For various reasons, these guys' stock is seemingly on the rise despite the fact that the college season is ancient history.
Time will tell if these players prove to be worthy of this growing buzz, but in the meantime they are about to cash in on it in the NFL draft.
The players who fit this bill are highlighted below in my full first-round mock draft.
Langford's 2012 NFL Mock Draft
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts can't fool us. We all know Luck will be the first pick.
2. Washington Redskins via St. Louis: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Perhaps this draft should just start at No. 3 because there is zero suspense involved with the first two picks.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings have a tough call at No. 3, but they will not be able to pass on this franchise LT.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Why Richardson's Stock is Rising
Richardson's stock has always been high. He has been firmly planted in the top 10 in almost all mocks and in the top five in most.
Richardson solidified that with a great showing at his pro day, and now his value is rising not so much as to when he will be drafted, but what teams may trade in order to draft him.
Richardson offers something that no other back in this draft does, and that is a complete and well-rounded game. He is has the tools to dominate on every down and in every situation.
This makes him extremely valuable to teams in need of an every down back—like the Browns, or others like the Jets and Bengals. Don't be surprised to see a big trade here.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne is as pro ready a corner prospect as you'll ever find, and more pro ready than most already on the Bucs roster.
6. St. Louis Rams via Washington: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon is an overrated prospect, but there are plenty of teams out there that disagree, and the Rams will prove to be one of them.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Coples will give the Jaguars' anemic pass rush a much-needed boost.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Why Tannehill's Stock is Rising
At the end of the season, Tannehill was seldom portrayed as a first-round pick. Now he is essentially a top-10 lock.
Tannehill has been held back by an underwhelming college record and the fact that he spent just two college seasons as QB.
However, his talent and potential are beginning to win people over. He has good size and arm strength with solid accuracy. He is also a good athlete.
Tannehill is not going to last beyond the QB-needy Dolphins pick, and he may not even last that long.
9. Carolina Panthers: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Panthers are thin and lacking talent at DT. They need to address that in the draft.
10. Buffalo Bills: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Buffalo will look past Kirkpatrick's character concerns in order to fill their unavoidable need in the secondary.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
DeCastro is a bulldozing interior lineman who will be elite in the run game.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Seattle's promising defense is an elite pass-rusher away from being dominant.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Johnathan Martin, T, Stanford
Martin will add toughness and run blocking to the Cardinals' offensive line.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Dallas defense will benefit greatly from Kuechly's instincts and consistency.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Philadelphia must make upgrading its offensive line a priority.
16. New York Jets: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe has shocking athleticism for a man his size. He will be able to play end in the Jets 3-4.
17. Cincinnati Bengals via Oakland: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Cincinnati needs to find an every down back in this draft to help young QB Andy Dalton continue to grow.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus is making a steady climb up draft boards, and his fierce athleticism will be a nice addition to the Chargers.
19. Chicago Bears: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Bears are in a perfect position to grab the best center in this draft. They would be fools to not take advantage of that.
20. Tennessee Titans: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Titans will be ecstatic if Barron is still on the board when they make their pick.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins is a risky pick because of off-the-field issues, but not because of talent.
22. Cleveland Browns via Atlanta: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Why Weeden's Stock is Rising
Brandon Weeden is exceptionally old to be in the draft. He will be turning 29 not long after the season starts.
This is the first thing about Weeden that grabs your attention. For the most part, it has left him to fly in under-the-radar for this draft.
However, once you get past his age, a solid QB prospect emerges. He is a good-sized QB with a strong and accurate arm. He is clearly the fourth best QB prospect in this draft, and with the other three slated to go early, Weeden is going to be a valuable commodity as the first round rolls on.
And while his age will hold him back, teams are realizing that it is not a deal-breaker. He can still come in and contribute five to eight seasons of solid QB play.
23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Glenn is the exact kind of bulldozing lineman the Lions need to get their running game going.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Pittsburgh has failed to address its offensive line issues in past drafts. They cannot make that mistake again.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Broncos have to upgrade their thin defensive tackle position somehow. The first round seems to be the perfect spot.
26. Houston Texans: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd has crept up in many mock drafts, and his buzz is growing. In the end, his character concerns will hold him back.
27. New England Patriots via New Orleans: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Patriots need to identify the best defensive player on the board and draft him.
28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Green Bay needs to boost its pass rush. That is Perry's specialty.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The physical and fierce Hightower was born to be a Raven.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The 49ers strategy to improve their WR corp appears to be catching lightning in a bottle. They will prove that again with this pick.
31. New England Patriots: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
See pick No. 27 and reapply logic here.
32. New York Giants: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Giants will ensure their defensive line stays deep and talented.