2012 NFL Draft: 25 Bold Predictions for Next Year's Draft Class

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMay 23, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: 25 Bold Predictions for Next Year's Draft Class

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal warm ups against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    It might be the absence of free agency this summer, but chatter surrounding the 2012 NFL draft is already starting.

    It could also be that the 2012 NFL draft class has the makings of a historic class.

    Led by Stanford redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Luck the 2012 class looks impressive from top to bottom.

    Want a crazy-early look at 25 bold predictions surrounding the 2012 draft? We've got 'em.

25. Andrew Luck Will Be Drafted No. 1 Overall

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal throws pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40-12. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Starting this out with an easy one.

    Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Seems like a foregone conclusion, right?

    So did the thought that Jake Locker would be the first overall choice in 2011 after he turned down the supposed No. 1 overall slot in 2010's draft to return to school.

    How is Andrew Luck different? He's simply a more finished product.

    Locker's stock fell from No. 1 to No. 8 due to concerns about his accuracy—something Luck does not struggle with.

    In fact, we cannot find anything that Luck does struggle with.

24. The Indianapolis Colts Will Draft a Quarterback in Round 1

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    HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Peyton Manning, #18 of the Indianapolis Colts, looks for an open reciever during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. NFC won 55-41 over the AFC. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Peyton Manning turned 35 this spring, following his worst NFL season since his rookie year in 1997.

    It would be easy to say that Manning's skills are regressing...in fact that's exactly what is happening.

    The Colts do not want to go back to the days of 2-14 records, and to prevent a massive drop off once Manning retires Bill Polian must draft Manning's replacement while he has time to groom him.

23. The Carolina Panthers Hold the First Pick, Again

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Cam Newton, #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers holds up a jersey on stage after he was picked during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers will follow-up their 1-15 performance in 2010 with a solid 3-13 season, landing them with the No. 1 overall pick for the second year in a row.

    Only this time the Panthers won't draft a quarterback—although it would be hilarious for them to use three straight high picks on a quarterback.

    The Panthers will simply hold an auction for the No. 1 overall pick with the highest bidder walking away with the rights to draft Andrew Luck.

22. Oakland Raiders Sell the Farm for No. 1 Overall Pick

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    ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 18:  Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis speaks during a press conference on January 18, 2011 in Alameda, California. Hue Jackson was introduced as the new coach of the Oakland Raiders, replacing the fired Tom Cable.  (Photo by Justin Sul
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Who would be crazy enough to trade their entire 2012 draft class plus a 2012 first-rounder to the Panthers for the No. 1 overall pick and Andrew Luck?

    Well, duh, Al Davis is crazy enough to do that!

    What's not funny is this would actually be the best draft pick the Raiders have made in the last 20 years.

    Luck is, quite simply, worth the Raiders entire 2012 draft class.

21. Three Quarterbacks Are Drafted Top 10

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    PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans drops back to pass against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at the Rose Bowl on December 4, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL draft featured three quarterbacks—Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert—all being drafted in the first 10 picks.

    The 2012 class will match that.

    Stanford's Andrew Luck, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and USC passer Matt Barkley will all hear their names called early on Thursday night.

20. Three North Carolina Defenders Will Be Drafted in Round 1

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Teammates Marivn Austin #9 and Quinton Coples #90 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate with teammates after a 19-6 victory over the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Chapel Hill
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The North Carolina Tar Heels' have been on a roll as of late when it comes to sending defenders to the NFL.

    Their 2012 class just might be the best one yet.

    Quinton Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and Zach Brown all grade out as first-round picks before the season.

19. Five Offensive Tackles Will Be Drafted in Round 1

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 6:  (L-R) Matt Reynolds #70, Ray Feinga #76 and Dallas Reynolds #65 of the BYU Cougars look on during a break in game action against the Washington Huskies on September 6, 2008 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Cougars defea
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL draft class was not known for being talented at the top when it came to offensive tackles, rather having a large group of late-first round players.

    In 2012, we will see tackles flying off the board as early as No. 2 overall.

    Matt Kalil, Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff, Nate Potter and Matt Reynolds all figure to be drafted within the first 32 picks.

18. Landry Jones Will Be Drafted Before Matt Barkley

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Peters
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The USC Trojans may be the media favorites in college football but when it comes to the NFL draft where you played college football rarely matters.

    As such, it will be Oklahoma's Landry Jones—coming off a national championship win—who will be drafted as the second quarterback overall (after Andrew Luck).

    Jones has the better frame, better body of work and comes from the same system that produced Sam Bradford.

    Barkley is a bit undersized and has yet to set the field on fire with superb athletes surrounding him.

17. Matt Kalil Will Be Drafted before Jonathan Martin

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal calls a play in the huddle as Derek Hall #53, David DeCastro #52, Andrew Phillips #71 and Jonathan Martin #55 listen to the call against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When it comes to offensive tackles, there is little separating Nos. 1 and 2. Those players, Matt Kalil and Jonathan Martin, are both All-Pac 10 players with the credentials to be a top five pick in the 2012 class.

    We like Kalil if only slightly more than Martin. The one thing Kalil has going for him that Martin doesn't is NFL pedigree. His brother Ryan is a center for the Carolina Panthers and his father Frank played college ball at Arizona and Arkansas.

    Something so small, but it can mean the difference between No. 1 and No. 2.

16. Cliff Harris Will Be Drafted Before Dre Kirkpatrick

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Terrell Zachery #81 of the Auburn Tigers runs against Cliff Harris #13 of the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    We really, really like 'Dre Kirkpatrick's ability as a No. 1 cornerback. We simply love Cliff Harris.

    Both are dominant players in conferences that offer both pro-style schemes and NFL-level players. What separates the two at this time is Harris' pure athleticism and energy when he has the football in his hands.

    Kirkpatrick may be the better press cover man, but much like Prince Amukamara and Patrick Peterson from the 2011 draft, athleticism generally wins out.

15. New England Will Trade Both First-Round Picks to Move Up in Round 1

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 21: New England Patriot head coach Bill Belichick jokes with the media after missing breakfast during the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 21, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Bill Belichick's New England Patriots are known for stockpiling future draft picks year after year.

    Surely, just once, Belichick will make a shocking move and package two first-round picks to move up the board and snag a roster-changing player, right?

    We believe, and we even think 2012 is the year it happens.

    The Patriots are a young team and are very close to putting together the pieces around Tom Brady to claim another Super Bowl title. Where could they get better?

    Wide receiver.

    In the 2012 draft, the Patriots will trade their first-round pick and the selection received from New Orleans to move up and select wide receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State.

14. Surprise Player To Fall out of the Top 10: Justin Blackmon

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    STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys warms up before the college football game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  The Cowboys defe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Why would the 2010 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the first receiver to earn the honor, fall out of the top 10?

    Two things.

    Blackmon is not as physically imposing as most would assume. At just 6'1" and 211lbs, Blackmon could struggle to get free from press coverage in the NFL. Unlike Alshon Jeffrey of South Carolina, who is 6'4" and 220lbs, Blackmon can be neutralized at the line of scrimmage.

    Secondly, Blackmon was arrested for DUI in late October 2010. This could hurt his stock in the eyes of NFL general managers.

13. Surprise Player Drafted in the Top 10: Brandon Jenkins

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    NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 11:  Offensive lineman Donald Stephenson #59 of the Oklahoma Sooners grabs the facemask of Brandon Jenkins #49 of the Florida State Seminoles at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma.  (P
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Florida State's Brandon Jenkins emerged on the college football scene as a sophomore in 2010.

    Jenkins single-handedly turned around the FSU defense, recording 62 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. He was named Team MVP, First-team All ACC and Second-team All America.

    At 6'4" and 256lbs, Jenkins has the ideal measurables to covert to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the NFL level.

    The combination of size, speed and productivity will see Jenkins shooting up draft boards. Just remember you heard it here first.

12. Cleveland Will Trade One of Two First-Rounders for 2013 Pick

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    CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Owner Woody Johnson of the New York Jets talks with general manager Mike Holmgren of the Cleveland Browns prior to the start of their game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sulli
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns will hold two first-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft—their own and one from the Atlanta Falcons.

    We believe Mike Holgrem and co. will trade at least one of these selections for a future first-round pick in the 2013 class.

    Why would they do this? Because the NFL is a copycat league and always has been. Every general manager in the NFL has seen Bill Belichick's stranglehold on the NFL draft and his shrewd trading tactics.

    Holgrem and Tom Heckert will be tempted to emulate the NFL's best by trading away a pick this year for more in the future.

11. The Denver Broncos Will Draft Champ Bailey's Replacement

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Cornerback Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos stands on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeate
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Cornerback Champ Bailey will go down as one of the best to ever play his position and is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    He's also turning 33 this summer and has not been as dominant in recent years.

    The Broncos rewarded Bailey with a sort of "lifetime achievement" contract this summer, locking him up for four more years.

    This will allow Denver time to draft his replacement and also groom said player for the massive shoes he must fill.

10. Oregon Running Back LaMichael James Falls to Round 2

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs down field against the Auburn Tigers during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christia
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    We have been accused of not being fans of LaMichael James quite a bit this offseason, and while that is not necessarily true, we don't see him as being a real threat as an every down back in the NFL.

    At 5'9" and a listed 185lbs (we dispute this number), James would seem to have the measurables to produce in the NFL.

    One look at James and it's obvious he was weighed in pads, holding dumb bells, to reach 185lbs.

    James is an electric, exciting running back—but he's not an every down back in the NFL and will be drafted as such.

    Adding insult to injury, running backs simply aren't valued like they used to be.

9. Oklahoma State Quarterback Brandon Weeden Will Disappoint

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    LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys passes during the game against  the Kansas Jayhawks on November 20, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State is receiving a lot of hype this preseason as a possible dark-horse candidate for the first-round of the NFL draft. Heck, some are even saying he might have been a first-rounder in 2011 (he wouldn't have been).

    So why is Weeden listed as a player who will disappoint?

    First off, the expectations are too high for Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Both are expected to shatter Big 12 records this fall, and they will never be able to improve on video game-like numbers from 2010. Defenses simply know what to look for now.

    Secondly, Weeden has a new offensive coordinator and lost his star running back Kendall Hunter to the NFL draft.

    With defenses able to focus on Weeden and Blackmon, the offense will struggle and Weeden's draft stock will level off as around a fourth-round pick.

8. Zero Centers, Tight Ends and Safeties Are Drafted in Round 1

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Mike Brewster #50 of the Ohio State Buckeyes waits to snap the ball against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Dan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The 2011 draft saw a center drafted in the first 15 picks when Florida's Mike Pouncey was selected by the Miami Dolphins. Not one tight end or safety was drafted in Round 1.

    In 2012, there will be zero tight ends, centers or safeties drafted in Round 1.

    Ohio State's Mike Brewster is the best of the bunch in the 2012 class, and while he looks like an early second-round pick the chances of seeing him in Round 1 are slim.

7. Terrelle Pryor Will Sneak in to Round 1

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to run against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was suspended by the NCAA, along with four of his teammates, for the first five games of the 2011 season after selling memorabilia.

    That won't keep Pryor from being regarded as a first-round pick.

    Pryor's rare blend of athleticism, arm strength and field vision will endear him to NFL general managers and coaches.

    Added to that his leadership ability and team-first attitude will be a benefit. Pryor agreed to return to Ohio State for his senior season if allowed to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

6. Janoris Jenkins Will Not Be Drafted

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Janoris Jenkins #1 of the Florida Gators gets the crowd up during a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Janoris Jenkins has been in the news lately after he was dismissed by the Florida Gators football team, due to his second drug related arrest in 3 months.

    Those two drug arrests, as well as his attitude and character issues, will keep Jenkins from being drafted.

    Had Jenkins entered the 2011 draft, and kept himself out of jail, he could have been a late first-round pick. Instead, he chose to break the law, again, and will see himself struggling in undrafted free agency.

5. Notre Dame Wide Receiver Michael Floyd Falls to Round 3

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20:  Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish loses his footing against the Army Black Knights at Yankee Stadium on November 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd has the ideal size, speed and hands for the NFL. He also has a rap sheet that will keep him from hearing his name called in Round 1 or 2 of the NFL draft.

    Floyd has been arrested three times since 2009 over alcohol-related offenses. His third, coming in March of 2011 led to his indefinite suspension from the team.

    Arrests happen, unfortunately, but three in two years makes you wonder if there is a larger problem.

4. Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore Is Drafted in Round 7

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos warms up before playing against the Utah Utes in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State Won 26-3.  (Photo by Et
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Kellen Moore is a fabulous college football player. And that's all he will ever be.

    Moore's status as an NFL prospect is not great, despite what Boise fans may claim.

    Moore is small (6'0", 186lbs), he has a weak arm and plays in a system that allows him to deliver the ball quickly and allow his receivers to make plays after the catch.

    Moore's ability as an NFL passer, and to stretch the field with his arm, is limited.

    Moore is a great story and a fine young man. He may even win the Heisman Trophy in 2011. He just will not hear his name called in the first six rounds of the NFL draft.

3. Trent Richardson Enters Draft and Is a Top 10 Pick

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    We are not generally proponents of drafting a running back in the top half of the first round. Unless that running back has Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson-like skills.

    Trent Richardson does.

    Richardson was good enough to take carries from Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in 2010. He's also faster, stronger and a better receiver than the No. 28 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

    Richardson is a rare breed and deserves to be drafted within the top 10 picks of the 2012 draft.

2. 5 Quarterbacks Are Drafted in Round 1

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates after he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    An early look at team needs for the 2012 NFL draft shows seven teams with a clear-cut need at quarterback, either as a starter or future starter: Buffalo, Miami, Indianapolis, Oakland, Washington, Arizona and Seattle.

    You can also add in these four teams looking for a young back up to a veteran quarterback: Houston, Kansas City, Dallas and New Orleans.

    That equals 11 teams with a potential need at quarterback.

    Adding in free-agent acquisitions this summer, we can easily surmise that at least five quarterbacks will hear their name called in the 2012 first round.

    Those players will be, in order, Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles and Terrelle Pryor.

1. The Alabama Crimson Tide Will Have 4 First-Rounders

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 02:  Courtney Upshaw #41 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Florida Gators at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Alabama Crimson Tide may not have the experience at quarterback or wide receiver to win a national championship in 2012, but they will have a ton of talent in the first round of the NFL draft.

    Alabama features two linebackers, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, who could be drafted in the top 20 picks. Cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick should go within the top 10 selections. Add in running back Trent Richardson, who we also think will go top 10 and things look great in 'Bama.

    But that's not all.

    Round 2 will be loaded with Crimson Tide players too. Nico Johnson, Mark Barron, Robert Lester and Barrett Jones all carry solid second-round grades right now.

    Nick Saban is setting Alabama up as a football factory, with a pipeline heading straight to the NFL.