Correctly predicting the NFL draft, like a perfect March Madness bracket, is as rare as winning the lottery. The elusive odds make gambling all the more enjoyable.
The 2012 NFL draft appears extremely volatile; only the first two picks are universally agreed upon. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, two NFL-ready quarterbacks, will almost certainly be selected first and second, respectively. After that, it's anyone's ball game!
Though the order is far from certain, most analysts have the same players going within the first 10 picks.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Indianapolis Colts officially announced Andrew Luck as their pick. Though the Colts publicly toyed with the idea of drafting Robert Griffin III, the sentiment never gained ground.
The Stanford quarterback has big shoes to fill. The Colts were Manning. Without him, they floundered to the league's worst record of 2-14.
Luck is heralded as much for his physical abilities as his mental ones. Like Manning, he is extremely cerebral. Luck excels at reading defenses and adjusting with audibles.
Because of Luck’s pedigree (son of Oliver Luck, former NFL quarterback) and play style, he is seen as a safer pick than Robert Griffin III.
RGIII is the real deal. Unlike initial skeptical reports of the Baylor quarterback’s abilities, he is a dual threat with a pass-first mentality. He boasts more than just impressive speed (4.41 40-yard dash); RGIII has a powerful and precise arm. He completed 72.4 percent of his passes last season and only threw six interceptions to 37 touchdowns. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)
University of Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil will most likely go third. He is viewed as one of the most complete tackles in recent history, ready to contribute immediately as a rookie.
Credit Kalil’s success to his bloodline and work ethic. Like Andrew Luck, the Kalils boast a family history of NFL players. Matt’s father, Frank Kalil, is a former offensive guard and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Matt’s brother, Ryan, plays center for the Carolina Panthers.
Kalil is a tireless worker. At the NFL Combine, he shared how his father practiced with him, constantly working on drills at the park and reviewing tape during college breaks at home.
With a roaring motor and excellent pass blocking skills, the Vikings will not pass on Kalil.
In the modern NFL era, winning offenses are run through star quarterbacks. High draft picks should not be spent on running backs, as productive backs have frequently been found in the later rounds. The ground game has also shifted to back-by-committee, with runs spread across multiple players.
Trent Richardson bucks the trend. He’s too complete to ignore and will be taken early in the first round, at least within the first 10 and as early as fourth by the Cleveland Browns. While not the quickest runner around (40 time of 4.49), Richardson’s game is physical; he runs over defenders and is not afraid to block.
Richardson rounds out his repertoire with soft hands. In his last season at Alabama, he recorded 29 receptions for 338 yards. Three of those receptions were for touchdowns. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)
Morris Claiborne is widely viewed as the best cornerback prospect of the 2012 draft. He may be picked as early as fourth and will likely be gone within the first six.
Although concerns linger over Claiborne’s low Wonderlic scores, his on-field production cannot be denied. Together with Patrick Peterson, the duo formed one of the most formidable cornerback combos at the college level.
After Peterson's fifth overall drafting, Claiborne continued his success as the No. 1 cornerback. He plucked six interceptions and, because of his experience at quarterback and wide receiver, averaged 28.8 yards per return. (Stats courtesy of sports-reference.)
Another defensive player sure to go in the top 10 and possibly as early as six, Fletcher Cox is a natural athlete and can play defensive tackle or defensive end. He is strong with surprisingly quick feet, boasting of his abilities to keep up with linebackers and safeties.
As a defensive tackle for the Mississippi Bulldogs, Cox tallied 56 tackles and five sacks last season. He won’t necessarily lead the league in sacks, but he has the talent to draw double teams. However, as he is still quite raw, double teams severely limit his production.
Stephon Gilmore is the second-best cornerback draft prospect and another candidate to be picked within the first ten selections.
Gilmore is faster and taller than fellow SEC cornerback Morris Claiborne. So why is Gilmore not the first cornerback prospect?
He is not the best man defender and relies on his athleticism to cover for his poor footwork. In the NFL, his athleticism may even be outmatched. Gilmore is also criticized for his inconsistency.
After failing to court Matt Flynn and Alex Smith, the Miami Dolphins are in obvious need for a quarterback. Ryan Tannehill, the third-best quarterback prospect this year, will likely be selected by the Dolphins.
If the Dolphins pass on the Aggie quarterback, don't expect to see Tannehill in the top 10. Tannehill's college career saw a lot of snaps not behind center, but lined up as a wideout. He only started as the Aggies quarterback for the last season and a half.
Like running backs, wide receivers are not often seen as worthy of top draft picks. Still, the No. 1 WR prospect, Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State will likely be picked ninth by the Carolina Panthers.
His talent is undeniable. Blackmon caught 121 balls for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.) He is physical, plays larger than his 6'1" frame and faster than his 4.48 40-yard dash suggests.
His biggest strengths is the yards he picks up after the catch. His strength, especially in the lower body, allows him to break tackles and pick up additional yardage.
Blackmon is not without question marks. His off-field behavior should worry teams. The receiver was arrested for a DUI in 2010.
Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine. The inside linebacker from Boston College totaled 191 tackles in his 2011 season. That's an average of nearly 16 a game!
Kuechly was able to attain such a feat with grit, hustle and above-average athleticism. He runs a 4.58 40-yard dash and holds a 38-inch vertical. Although Kuechly lacks top speed, he defends the run extremely well racks up the tackles by finding and making gaps in the line. His limited speed also limits his ability to rush passers.