The 2012 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday in New York City, and while some NFL teams will be searching for the last piece to a playoff puzzle, for other clubs this year's draft is just one step towards raising their franchises from the depths of futility.
Those teams will probably find themselves selecting early in the first round again when we return to New York City in April 2013, and while it's incredibly early and this is incredibly speculative, here's a super-sneak preview of how the first round will unfold when next we all hop on the merry-go-round.
1. Cleveland Browns: Matt Barkley, QB, USC: In 2011, the Indianapolis Colts "Sucked for Luck", and draft speculation this season in the NFL will likely center around the pursuit of the Southern Cal signal-caller in the quest to "Go Splat for Matt."
2. Indianapolis Colts: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: The addition of Andrew Luck solves only one of the Colts' approximately 4,000,000 problems, and the team will be right back at the head of the line next year looking to address the offensive line.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Robert Woods, WR, USC: Percy Harvin's health is a constant concern and the Vikings have very little else behind him, which should send the team looking in that direction next season.
4. Miami Dolphins: Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU: Any number of needs on both sides of the ball and the potential arrival of a rookie quarterback will lead to another top 10 draft pick and the opportunity to continue the transition to a 4-3 defense in Miami.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: David Amerson, CB, NC State: Nearly the Jaguars entire secondary will hit free agency in 2013, which will leave Jacksonville with needs galore in the defensive backfield.
6. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: The Rams allowed the most sacks in the National Football League in 2011, and that's not a problem that's going to be remedied overnight.
7. Oakland Raiders: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: The Oakland Raiders gave up a lot to get quarterback Carson Palmer, but that ultimately futile pursuit of a 32 year-old noodle-armed passer will eventually lead the Silver and Black back to the drawing board under center.
At 6'4" and 216 pounds, Oklahoma's Landry Jones may well have been a first-round selection had he declared for the 2012 draft, and the Tulsa World posits that returning to Norman for his senior season may be a decision that Jones ultimately regrets.
It wouldn't be a stretch to think Jones' name might be thrown around as a top five selection by now. Will he still be a first-round lock in 2013? You would guess so (he's currently rated by some as the No. 2 QB prospect behind USC's Matt Barkley), but things do change. Everyone knows the story of former USC quarterback Matt Leinart, and you wonder if he ever regrets his decision to stay in school for one more season.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: It wouldn't be an NFL draft without a bevy of quarterbacks going early, and another season of spotty play from Kevin Kolb may get him the hook in the desert.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: If LeGarrette Blount doesn't solve his fumbling issues, then the Buccaneers will all but certainly address the position next season.
10. Seattle Seahawks: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal: Sidney Rice has been a bust in the Emerald City to this point, and Allen topped 1,300 receiving yards for the Bears last season.
11. Buffalo Bills: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: Terrence McGee has had problems staying healthy and Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin have had problems not getting destroyed by opposing receivers.
12. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: The Rams don't presently have a wide receiver on their roster who topped 450 receiving yards a season ago.
13. Carolina Panthers: Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida: The Panthers need help at outside linebacker given Thomas Davis' extensive injury history, and Jenkins has promise if he can add a bit more bulk.
14. Tennessee Titans: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: The Tennessee Titans ranked 31st in the NFL last year in sacks, and after getting to the quarterback a measly 28 times in 2011, the team needs to overhaul the defensive front.
Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short amassed 54 tackles and 6.5 sacks for the Boilermakers in 2011, and the 6'3" 310-pound senior hopes to build on that performance in his final year in West Lafayette, according to ESPN's Brian Bennett.
When a 6-foot-3, 310-pound force of nature announces that he's going to playing with more fire, that's not exactly what interior offensive linemen hoped to hear. Short was already one of the best defensive tackles in the Big Ten last season, posting 6.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He squats over 600 pounds, bench presses in the 400s and has nimble feet as a former standout high school basketball player. Good luck moving that out of the way.
15. Denver Broncos: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: Nate Irving has been slow to adjust to the NFL and D.J. Williams can't stay out of trouble, which leaves the Broncos with a hole at linebacker.
16. Kansas City Chiefs: Johnathan Hankins, NT, Ohio State: The Chiefs may well address the nose tackle spot this season, but if they try to make do with patchwork up front they'll certainly be looking for an upgrade next year.
17. Chicago Bears: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU: The Bears brought back veteran defensive end Israel Idonije on a one-year deal, which means they'll be looking to address the defensive line again next season.
18. New Orleans Saints: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama: At this point, I struggle to even consider what might happen to the New Orleans Saints over the next six months.
19. San Diego Chargers: Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin: Another year of missing the playoffs in sunny San Diego will likely mean a new brain trust and fixing an offensive line that is springing leaks.
20. Cincinnati Bengals: Barrett Jones, G/C, Alabama: The interior of the offensive line is an area of need for the Bengals, and the 311-pound Jones can play both the guard and center positions.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia: The Dallas Cowboys franchise-tagged outside linebacker Anthony Spencer this season, but if Spencer doesn't turn it on this year, Dallas may be forced to look to the draft to find DeMarcus Ware and the pass rush some help.
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones tallied a whopping 13.5 sacks in 2011, and the 6'3", 241-pound junior credits increased time in the film room for his breakout campaign, according to ESPN's Edward Aschoff.
While probably bigger, stronger and faster than the average individual, Jones said his year of SEC success following his transfer from USC happened because of his brain power. His time in the film room and time analyzing every move and twitch of his opponents helped him be the monster and All-American he was in 2011.
22. New York Jets: Michael Dyer, RB, Arkansas State: Off the field troubles have made the talented Dyer a headache for his coaches, which makes him a perfect fit for the three-ring circus that the Jets have become.
23. Atlanta Falcons: Khaled Holmes, G/C, USC: The Falcons have needs at both the guard and center positions, which makes the 310-pound senior a nice fit in this spot.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Mike Vick is 31 years old and prone to getting hurt, and soon the Eagles are going to have to address the future of the franchise under center.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah: Starter Casey Hampton is the wrong side of 30 and recovering from an ACL injury, which means that the Steelers are going to be in the market for a beefeater soon.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Robert Lester, S, Alabama: Ed Reed has been a fixture in the Ravens secondary for several seasons now, but the end of the road is growing closer by the day, and Baltimore needs to procure an heir.
Alabama safety Robert Lester chose to return to school for his senior season after his interception total dropped from eight in 2010 to two a season ago, and the 6'2" 206-pound senior is hoping for one last big year with the Crimson Tide before entering the NFL according to The Birmingham News.
"The standard," Lester said, sounding like Saban. "We want to keep the standard. We have a lot of high expectations from last year's team. Defensive-wise, we were No. 1 in a lot of areas, and we don't want to slack off. If you want to come in and play on this defense, you have to pick up the slack were we left off. You have to contribute."
28. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: Carlos Rogers played well last season but will be 31 when the season starts, so by this time next year the 49ers will be looking to get younger in the secondary.
29. New York Giants: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin: The 214-pound Badgers bellcow would be an excellent late-round infusion of youth and toughness into the New York backfield.
30. Houston Texans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: The departure of DeMeco Ryans leaves the Texans with a need at inside linebacker, and Mosley's experience in the 3-4 defense would likely appeal to Houston.
31. New England Patriots: Xavier Nixon, OT, Florida: The retirement of Matt Light leaves the Patriots with the need to at least add depth at tackle over the next few drafts, and Nixon has boatloads of potential and a 6'6" frame.
32. Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: Charles Woodson is 35 years old and may be headed for retirement or a switch to safety in 2013, leaving the Packers with a void at cornerback.
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