Players who dominate in college don't always go at the top of the NFL draft. This year will be different, as the guys who owned college football in 2011 should come off the board quickly in the 2012 NFL draft.
Here is my latest mock draft, highlighting the stars of the 2011 college football season and where they will land.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Luck was the best player in all of college football in 2011, and he's the best prospect in this draft. During his final two years at Stanford, the polished signal-caller completed 71 percent of his passes for 6,855 yards, with 69 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions.
The Colts have announced that they will take Luck with the top pick in this year's draft, but really, we've known that would be the case for months now. In fact, we've known that Luck would be the top pick in this draft for more than a year.
Indianapolis is going to be starting its rebuilding project with the best quarterback to enter the NFL in more than a decade. The team needs to fill out its roster around Luck if it wants to be successful, and general manager Ryan Grigson has a long way to go in that regard.
Luck will enter the league without much help, but as long as Colts fans keep their expectations in check for a year or two, then things should go smoothly in Indianapolis.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Griffin won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 after completing 72.4 percent of his passes for 4,293 yards, with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 699 yards and 10 scores on 179 carries.
That performance alone wasn't enough to solidify himself among the top players in this year's draft, but his off-the-charts showing at the NFL Scouting Combine was. After he blazed to a 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds and handled himself well in interviews, the Washington Redskins made a big trade to secure the No. 2 pick.
The right to select Griffin cost the 'Skins three first-round draft picks, but to get a franchise-type quarterback, sacrifices must sometimes be made.
Griffin was undoubtedly one of college football's biggest stars in 2011, and in Washington he will be handed the keys to the franchise. Under the tutelage of head coach Mike Shanahan, he should continue to develop as a passer.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings simply have to take Kalil here. He is the best offensive lineman to enter the NFL since the Miami Dolphins made Jake Long the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. He fills a need and should step in and perform at a Pro Bowl level immediately.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson was an absolute beast for Alabama in 2011. He ran the ball 283 times for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was the focal point of a BCS championship offense, not to mention a captain and leader for the Crimson Tide.
At 5'9" and 228 pounds, he has ideal size for an every-down back and also possesses the speed to run away from defenses at the second level. Richardson's vision and power are elite, and while he isn't a "moves" running back who will break defenders down, he is extremely hard to tackle.
He makes smart cuts and knows when to reverse field, and his legs are so strong that he almost never goes down on first contact. He runs like a bowling ball at times and is always leaning and moving forward.
The Browns need a running back after Peyton Hillis bolted for Kansas City in the offseason. Richardson is the best back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne will become a shutdown corner at the NFL level. Having watched hours of tape and broken him down, I truly believe the LSU product will be a Pro Bowler within a few years.
At 5'11" and 188 pounds, Claiborne has solid size and decent speed, but what sets him apart are his instincts. When you couple those with the elite ball skills he developed while starting his collegiate career at receiver, you get a guy who could be an interception machine. He had six as an integral part of LSU's incredible defense in 2011.
The Buccaneers signed Eric Wright in the offseason, but they still could use some help at cornerback. Aqib Talib's future is up in the air, and Ronde Barber will be entering his 16th season in 2012. Tampa Bay needs to grab Claiborne if he's here at No. 5. The Bucs won't regret it.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Rams have a serious need at wide receiver, and Blackmon is the best this draft has to offer. Over his final two seasons at Oklahoma State, he put up ridiculous numbers. In those two years, Blackmon hauled in 232 catches for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns.
At just under 6'1" and 207 pounds, Blackmon does not have elite size, but he plays much bigger than his actual measurables. He is strong, runs outstanding routes and is extremely tough to tackle in the open field.
Blackmon has outstanding ball skills, is a hard worker and will continue to improve with time. The pairing of Blackmon and franchise quarterback Sam Bradford should be a great marriage for the Rams.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Jacksonville needs to improve its pass rush, and the versatile Ingram is a big-time playmaker who should be an immediate upgrade.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
After missing out of Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Alex Smith this offseason, the Dolphins can't afford to let another quarterback pass them by.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Cox is a versatile guy who should give the interior of Carolina's defensive line some much-needed punch.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Bills badly need an offensive tackle, and Reiff is the second-best this draft has to offer.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Kuechly will step right in and be a stud in the middle of Kansas City's 3-4 defense.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Seattle needs a pass-rusher for its 4-3 defense, and at 6'6" and 285 pounds with ridiculous athleticism, Coples could be a stud.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Cardinals will jump on Floyd here, securing a solid No. 2 target to complement Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe's eye-popping combine workout was epic. Jerry Jones and Rob Ryan will love his measurables and should plug him in at nose tackle right away.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans to improve the middle of their defense; the addition of Barron will continue that process.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Upshaw is a tough, rugged player who Rex Ryan will love. He is versatile enough to rush the passer while being an excellent run-stuffer.
Gilmore is a top-15 talent in this draft, and the Bengals will snag him here to fill a need that has existed since Johnathan Joseph bolted for Houston last offseason.
18. San Diego Chargers: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
DeCastro will step in immediately and take over at left guard for the retired Kris Dielman.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Bears desperately need to improve their offensive line, and Martin has an incredibly high ceiling. He could develop into a Pro Bowler in a few years.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
With Cortland Finnegan off to St. Louis in free agency, the Titans need help at corner. Kirkpatrick will fit perfectly in Tennessee's zone-heavy scheme.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia
The Bengals need some help along the offensive line, and Glenn will give them a versatile player who could start at either guard spot or right tackle.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
At 6'7" and 323 pounds, Adams should be far more dominant than he is. Still, with the Browns he'll be able to develop across from five-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas.
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Detroit's current center, Dominic Raiola, is terrible. Konz is big, athletic and an extremely smart offensive lineman who will help quarterback Matt Stafford because of his ability to read defenses.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Brockers will eventually take over for aging nose tackle Casey Hampton; until then he can line up all over the defensive line.
25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Denver has a serious dearth of talent at defensive tackle. Worthy is a guy with a nonstop motor; he doesn't quit on plays and will be an immediate improvement.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wright is a legitimate No. 2 receiver who should be an outstanding complement to Andre Johnson. The Baylor product could be a big-time playmaker, and he should open up the offense for everyone else.
Bill Belichick needs to upgrade his front seven, and taking Jones will help with that. The Syracuse product is a tremendous athlete and while he is raw, Belichick will be able to mold him into exactly the kind of edge rusher he likes.
28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Perry is this draft's best pass-rusher, and the Packers really need to add some help for Clay Matthews coming off the edge.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Hightower will replace Jarret Johnson at outside linebacker in the short-term, but he'll eventually slide inside and replace Ray Lewis when the future Hall of Famer retires.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
At 6'4" and 215 pounds with elite speed, Hill could develop into this draft's best deep threat. The 49ers could really use someone who can stretch the field.
31. New England Patriots: Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut
Reyes is a smart, versatile lineman who should fit right in with the Patriots.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Eli Manning needs another target with Mario Manningham off to San Francisco. Fleener is a big, athletic tight end who should make an immediate impact.
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