The 2012 NFL Draft may be months away, but it's always entertaining to predict where the nation's top football players are going to start their professional careers.
And even though we're just in December, there are many questions already arising for the league's big event in April.
Which quarterback will Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon help?
Which defensive player will be selected first, Morris Claiborne or Quinton Coples?
Well, until the draft comes around, I'll answer these questions and more in my first round mock, Week 14 edition.
Andrew Luck going #1 overall is a clear no-brainer. The ability is there, the intelligence is there, and it looks as if he's the next big thing coming into the NFL.
Indianapolis, however, will be in perhaps the stickiest situation in the game's history. If they take Luck, which they will, what happens to the quarterback they have now? Maybe you've heard of him...Peyton Manning?
Will the Colts draft Luck and start him immediately? Will they take Luck only to place him under the wing of Peyton for a handful of the season? Or will Indy just cut ties with their longtime quarterback to make way for what looks like the second version of Manning?
There are many questions surrounding that potential scenario, but there are none when it comes to drafting Andrew Luck with the first pick in 2012.
If not for Andrew Luck, USC's Matt Kalil would be the best prospect in the 2012 draft.
The younger brother of Carolina's Ryan Kalil, Matt is another one sure-fire offensive lineman that'll keep his quarterback off the turf.
Luckily for Minnesota, if they remain second in the draft order, Kalil be available for the #2 selection.
Through 12 games, the Vikes' offensive line has allowed the fourth most sacks in the NFL. Drafting Matt Kalil would help protect the young Christian Ponder and provide some space for Adrian Peterson.
The St. Louis Rams have needs in every position besides the quarterback and perhaps the running backs spots. Seeing as how Justin Blackmon would be the best available player at this point, the Rams should go with the Oklahoma State Cowboy.
Blackmon is the top wide-receiving prospect in the draft and would give Sam Bradford a legitimate target to hit in the end zone. He has the size, the speed, and the hands to become an elite receiver in the NFL.
If Blackmon does not land in a position to be drafted by Jacksonville, the Jags would go with North Carolina's Quinton Coples. The 6'6", 275 pound defensive lineman has racked up 7.5 sacks with 10 tackles for loss in his 2011 campaign.
Coples would be a nice fit in Jacksonville considering their need for some type of pass rush, as they rank just 22nd in total sacks.
If you want to make somebody laugh, just say "Washington Redskins"and "quarterback" in the same sentence.
All kidding aside, Washington would be thrilled to take a crack at USC's Matt Barkley. Barkley, currently in his junior season in SoCal, has posted a stellar 2011 campaign. He threw for 39 touchdowns and 3528 yards while giving up just seven interceptions.
Behind Luck, Barkley is potentially the second best quarterback in the 2012 draft. The only factor Skins fans must worry about is Barkley returning for his senior season at USC, something he has reportedly considered.
Doesn't it seem like Michael Vick is always hurt? One solution to potentially fixing that problem would be drafting Iowa's offensive tackle Riley Reiff.
Reiff has certainly emerged as one of college football's best players as a result of his impressive 2011 season. He's 6'6", 300 pounds, and has been praised for his great fundamentals. Reiff has great footwork, bends very well, and has already played in a pro-style offense.
This pick would help the Eagles protect their huge investment in Michael Vick.
When it comes to putting a balanced team on the field, the Carolina Panthers are far from it. Their offense has become one of the league's most explosive under rookie sensation Cam Newton; however, the Panthers' defense is much too unreliable.
They give up the most passing yards per attempt at 8.4 and the sixth most rushing yards per attempt at 4.6. They also rank 21st in total defense and have allowed 27.0 points per game.
Adding LSU's Morris Claiborne would not only be the most logical choice for the Panthers, but a very easy one.
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Claiborne has been one of college football's best cornerbacks over the last two seasons. In fact, he may be the best defensive prospect coming out in 2012.
He has good hands, exceptional speed, and the ability to be an elite cover corner in the NFL. Drafting Claiborne would be a nice step for Carolina in their build back to playoff contention.
Miami's Matt Moore has played beyond many people's expectations this season. He's been passing the ball at a decent clip and has helped the Dolphins pick up wins in four of their last five games. But Matt Moore is not good enough to be the answer to Miami's extensive quarterback problem.
Enter Robert Griffin III, Baylor's superstar quarterback. In 2011, Griffin has passed for 36 touchdowns, 3998 yards, and has thrown just six picks. Griffin has also displayed his explosive run game, rushing for 644 yards and nine touchdowns.
There may be some question marks around Griffin's potential of transitioning his success into the NFL, but he is certainly worth a shot for Miami in this spot.
Without a perfect match with the first eight teams in the draft, Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson falls into the lap of the Cleveland Browns. Alabama's Richardson is far and above the best running back prospect in this group and would fit in Cleveland quite nicely.
Peyton Hillis may not be a permanent fix there after all of the drama he has gone through this season. Plus, Colt McCoy does need some offensive help in order to reach the next level. Richardson would be a great option for McCoy to hand the ball off to.
With Ronde Barber getting older, the Bucs may be in the market for a new cornerback. If so, they could go with Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard.
Although Dennard may not be the best corner prospect remaining at the 10th overall selection, he would be worthy of a pick here. Dennard has excellent speed, good athleticism, and displays great instincts. He does, however, need to improve on his reaction on coverage as well as his footwork to make better breaks on the ball.
Dennard does need some work, but has the tools to be a great corner in the NFL.
As the second best wideout in the draft, Alshon Jeffery could very well end up opposite Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona.
Jeffery, 6'4" and 229 lb, has an incredible combination of size and speed, making him a very desirable player in the upcoming draft. In three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery has hauled in 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 600 yard receiving mark each year.
If available here, Arizona would absolutely jump at the opportunity of snagging the wideout. They desperately need a counterpart to Fitzgerald and he would certainly help Kevin Kolb in his development as a starting quarterback.
Here's a question for the all the Seahawks fans:
Do you believe in Tavaris Jackson as a starting quarterback?
Well since I know all of you said no, I shall grant you Oklahoma's Landry Jones.
Jones, who is in his in junior season as a Sooner, is easily the third or fourth best quarterback in this considerably deep class. Landry threw for over 4000 yards with 28 touchdowns this past season and has shown he is worthy of a first round pick.
Jones' strengths include his accuracy, arm power, and footwork but does need to work on his elongated throwing motion.
After giving Ryan Fitzpatrick a fresh and very lucrative deal this past offseason, the Bills can continue to shower their Harvard QB with gifts by drafting Michael Floyd.
The wideout from Notre Dame has done nothing but dazzle during his collegiate year. In his four seasons at South Bend, Floyd has never failed to put up at least 700 yards receiving and catching at least seven touchdowns. Floyd raked in a bulky 95 passes in 2011, eight of them in the end zone.
If Buffalo takes Floyd, they will upgrade their offense and possibly find somewhere to dump off Stevie Johnson.
To be concise, the Kansas City Chiefs have a tough time getting to the opposing quarterback. They currently rank 29th in the NFL in sacks and would be willing to welcome an addition on defense.
With the top four quarterbacks off the board, the logical choice for Kansas City would be Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw has tremendous versatility in terms of positioning on defense. He has good speed, good strength, and is very quick off the ball.
Upshaw recorded 8.5 sacks this year and could help Kansas City get to those quarterbacks.
Stanford's Jonathan Martin would fill a need for the struggling San Diego Chargers.
San Diego's offensive line hasn't been exactly great in 2011, ranking 19th in pass protection. Add that to the continuous injury woes they've been dealing with on the line and you have a sensible pick in Martin.
The New York Giants would be thrilled to have the option of taking Luke Kuechly at this spot in the draft.
An inside linebacker is a huge need for the G-Men, and the Boston College product would provide some stability for Coughlin's (or not Coughlin's) defense come next season.
He is a sound tackler, displays good mobility, and is a very intelligent player. Kuechly also has good size and always seems to be in the middle of every play.
Whether Tennessee's offensive line was really to blame for Chris Johnson's slow start, it does need some upgrading. In fact, head coach Mike Munchak has already called out the line this season.
David DeCastro is the draft's top guard at the moment and could be a nice pickup for the Titans.
After taking Trent Richardson earlier in the mock, the Browns will have another first round pick to spend courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons.
Seeing as how the team does need to upgrade their run defense, plugging Manti Te'o into the mix would be great for the Browns. Te'o has great speed, great size, and hits as hard as just about anyone in college football. He is very athletic and has incredible strength to shed blockers.
It might be a stretch to see the talented Dre Kirkpatrick drop all way to Cincy. However, he addresses a need for the Bengals much more than any mid-round team picking before them.
At 6'2", Kirkpatrick is a considerably tall cornerback. He has great speed and has a knack for making big plays. Although he needs to bulk up for the NFL, Kirkpatrick is a nice grab for the Bengals at #19.
The Jets must upgrade their pass rush as well as their run defense in order to solidify their spot amongst the league's best defenses.
Rex Ryan's crew currently ranks 15th against the run, much lower than their top ten positioning from the previous two seasons. They also need a legitimate threat to rush the quarterback so Ryan doesn't have to use the blitz so much.
Zack Brown of North Carolina can come in and help the Jets. Brown is a sound athlete that has the speed and ability to get to opposing ball carriers.
Wouldn't this be a delightful pickup for Detroit?
Just a year after drafting Nick Fairley to add alongside Ndamukong Suh on their defensive line, the Lions could very well fill a need by picking a defensive end.
And no defensive end in college football was better in 2011 than Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus racked a gaudy 14.5 sacks in 2011 and has slated his name into the thick of the first round.
As they showed last year, the Lions usually go for the best available player.
Everyone knows how whiney Jay Cutler is when it comes to his offensive line. So in order to keep their franchise quarterback healthy, the Bears could go with Cordy Glenn.
Glenn is flat out huge, standing at 6'5" and 348 pounds. He is relatively nimble for a man his size and is very good in opening up holes for the run game.
By draft time, Vontaze Burfict may be going higher than #23 overall. But for now, the Arizona State Sundevil would be a great catch for Cincinnati.
Although the Bengals' defense has been quite impressive this year, it may be hard for Marvin Lewis to pass up on Burfict at this spot. He does need work in man-to-man coverage but carries the agility to break off blockers and get to the ball.
Since Houston's defense is simply one of the best thus far, they may look to add some help on offense.
Kendall Wright of Baylor could be an option here for the Texans. He has great hands, killer speed, and has the ability to break off big plays.
The Texans do need a wideout to sit opposite Andre Johnson, and Wright may be it.
There is no question Janoris Jenkins would be a higher selection if not for his off-field issues.
There is also no question that the Cowboys need to upgrade their vulnerable secondary after missing out on Nnamdi Asomugha last year.
So would Jerry Jones have a problem picking a player with attitude questions? Hell no! Jones has already shown us he'll take any player if he thinks it'll help his team win.
Jenkins is a gifted athlete and would help the Cowboys clamp down on opposing passing games.
All the Denver Broncos seem to do is run. They do it with Tim Tebow, they do it with Willis McGahee, and they'll do it with just about any other player that has two legs. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Anyway, drafting 'Bama's Barrett Jones would solidify the line to help force the running game into opposing defenses.
I'm sorry to say, but Ray Lewis won't be around forever. So it's time for Baltimore to start auditions for the next big linebacker.
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower could very well be that guy for the Ravens. Hightower has great size, speed, and is very effective against the run.
Since the Niners seem to have a legitimate quarterback in Alex Smith, they'll need to give him more protection. San Francisco has given up the seventh most sacks this seasons and could use Mike Adams to keep Smith off the ground.
Adams will also be appreciated by Frank Gore and the rest of the run-heavy offense in San Fran.
New England's pass defense has been nothing short of atrocious in 2011, ranking dead last in the NFL.
Devon Still, who would be the best available talent here, could provide some pass rush help to keep teams from getting off big passing plays.
The Patriots, however, may look to pick up a corner later in the draft.
Hey, it's later! Time for New England to pick up a cornerback to improve that terrible secondary.
Virginia's Chase Minnifield would be the next best available corner in the draft. He his nice speed, he hits hard, and has a knack for getting to the ball.
Ben Roethlisberger is tough, but the human body can only take so much. Including this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line has been amongst the very worst. They gave up the second most sacks in 2009, the eighth most in 2010, and the fifth most through ten games in 2011.
Kelechi Osemele of Iowa State would be a good pick for Pittsburgh here. He has tremendous size, plenty of strength, and plays extremely physical football.
Green Bay's pass defense certainly could use some help and may look to Vinny Curry for it.
At 6'4" and 263 lb, Curry is a very good pass rusher. He can put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks and give Green Bay someone to play across from Clay Matthews.