2012 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting the Draft's Can't-Miss Prospects

John RozumCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2011

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting the Draft's Can't-Miss Prospects

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    Obviously the NFL Draft is an inexact science otherwise every first round pick would have an insanely great career. And aside from those receiving the most recognition (Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, etc.) there is plenty of can't miss talent in round one.

    Some you may know more than others but nonetheless, each are a "can't miss" this spring. However, although it would be shocking to see them drop, don't be shocked. We've seen studs drop in previous years.

Robert Griffin: QB, Baylor

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    The fact that Robert Griffin is from Baylor could be a reason why some teams pass on him. For one, Baylor's football program is vehemently overlooked since it's in the Big 12.

    Playing against powerhouses and traditional/historic programs like Oklahoma, Texas, and formerly Nebraska (through 2010) has kept the Bears on the back-burner. Even schools like Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech would have a great year to contend once in a while.

    However, Baylor was never looked at as a consistently solid program until Robert Griffin. This season he's a Heisman candidate, defeated Oklahoma, and has a chance to beat Texas this week.

    Having thrown 56 TDs to just 13 INTs the past two seasons with not much talent around him is damn impressive. Not to mention he has added 30 rushing TDs (seven this year) and 2,170 rush yards throughout his career.

    What's interesting though, is that he's not a run-first/option QB. He's a pocket passer that just has the uncanny ability to know when to scramble. Hence, Griffin's football IQ is arguably his best attribute.

Alshon Jeffery: WR, South Carolina

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    South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery may be going somewhat overlooked due to not having a solid QB tossing him the rock. First it was Stephen Garcia (fail) and now it's the inexperienced Connor Shaw.

    Nonetheless, Jeffery has still put up some good numbers (614 yards, seven TDs, 45 receptions). Now as you can see those aren't even close to what he accomplished in 2010, but the Gamecocks were also a much healthier bunch back then.

    This season Alshon has been subject to a lot of double-teams and it's not that he can't out-jump anyone, but it's having been targeted much less this season. And what that comes down to is QB play. If you put a QB like Robert Griffin under center, there's no telling how insane some of his numbers would be.

    To that end, Alshon stands at 6'4" and weighs 230 pounds, so his size will prove to be rather beneficial in the NFL.

    Just don't be disappointed if he drops lower than expected because although that would be surprising, he's still going to be a solid pro player.

Manto Te'O: LB, Notre Dame

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    Since the Charlie Weis-era at Notre Dame came and went, the Irish were hardly known for defense, even when a stud freshman named Manti Te'O was on the field in 2009.

    Under Brian Kelly however, the Irish have begun to establish and build a solid defense around Te'O, but he remains the key piece to the puzzle. He's a LB that is laterally quick and reads draws and screens arguably better than anyone in the nation.

    But, because the Irish haven't had a consistently stellar program like their rich tradition, there's a chance Te'O may slip past some teams. Which would also be very surprising because this year has some serious LB talent and Te'O is arguably the best of the bunch.

    In any event, his 6'2" 250-pound size is ideal for the middle in the pros as he reacts fast enough to the run, is big enough to cover TEs, and would thrive in a 3-4 front as it's more ideal with the NFL being a passing league.

    Not to mention on a blitz he'll cause solid pressure because with the fullback position practically obsolete, no undersized RB is going to block him one-on-one.

Nick Toon: WR, Wisconsin

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    Mainly because he plays in the Big Ten and for the Wisconsin Badgers is Nick Toon going somewhat under the radar.

    He's a first round talent WR playing in a run-oriented offense however, he may arguably be the most complete WR in the nation. Since the Badgers run the ball so much, it's imperative that Toon be a consistent stock-blocker down field.

    For one, that shows effort and unselfishness and two, makes him that much more of a receiving threat. The reason is because when he comes off the line, a DB in man-coverage won't know whether Toon is coming out to block him or break on a route.

    And by the time the DB does figure out what Toon is doing, it'd be only because Toon either knocked him down or made him look foolish in coverage. This season he's having by far his best year statistically, with nine TDs on 52 catches for 788 yards.

    Being on a team with two stud RBs and a dual-threat QB, in addition to Nick being a possession receiver is damn good. Also, the Badgers have two games remaining this season, so those numbers are sure to increase.

    When the combine and draft approach, if your team needs a WR, he is a great pick.

Alfonzo Dennard: CB, Nebraska

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    With the SEC having so much defensive talent and most of it in the secondary, it's easy to overlook any DB from the Big Ten. And not just because the Big Ten is a more run-oriented conference, but because it's having somewhat of a down year from top-to-bottom.

    Well, discount all that because Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is as good as it gets. After Prince Amukamara was gone it was uncertain as to who would really emerge as the next defensive stud from the Cornhuskers.

    This season that has been Dennard and although he stats may not appear as impressive as 2010, that's basically because QBs defer from throwing in his direction.

    Additionally, he's great on run support, is physical, and has great awareness. However, because he went up against only three good WRs this season (BJ Cunningham, Nick Toon, Marvin McNutt), compared to those from the SEC, Alfonzo may go overlooked.

    Which is unfortunate, because he is a first round talent and is a definite can't miss in the draft, especially those needing a CB.

    2012 NFL First Round Mock Draft

    1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB (Stan.)

    17. New York Jets: Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)

    2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR (Okla. St.)

    18. Denver Broncos: Alfonzo Dennard, CB (Neb.)

    3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, DB (LSU)

    19. Tennessee Titans: Alshon Jeffery, WR (S. Car.)

    4. Miami Dolphins: Matt Barkley, QB (USC)

    20. Detroit Lions: Zach Brown, LB (UNC)

    5. Carolina Panthers: Brandon Thompson, DT (Clem)

    21. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G (Stan.)

    6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR (ND)

    22. Cleveland (From ATL): Jeff Fuller, WR (Tex. A&M)

    7. Arizona Cardinals: Trent Richardson, RB (Ala.)

    23. Cincinnati (From Oak): Jonathan Martin, OT (Stan.) 

    8. Seattle Seahawks: Matt Kalil, OT (USC)

    24. Chicago Bears: Nick Toon, WR (Wisc.)

    9. Cleveland Browns: Vontaze Burfict, LB (ASU)

    25. Dallas Cowboys: Quinton Coples, DE (UNC)

    10. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB (Baylor)

    26. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, OG (Georgia)

    11 .Philadelphia Eagles: Manti Te'o, LB (ND)

    27. Houston Texans: Jerel Worthy, DT (Mich. St.)

    12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devon Still, DT (Penn St.)

    28. N.E. (From N.O): Cam Johnson, DE (Virginia)

    13. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, LB (Ala.)

    29. New England Patriots: Mark Barron, S (Ala.) 

    14. Kansas City Chiefs: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Ala.)

    30. San Francisco 49ers: Chase Minnifield, CB (UVA)

    15. Buffalo Bills: Janoris Jenkins, CB (N. Ala.)

    31. Baltimore Ravens: Luke Kuechly, LB (B.C.)

    16. New York Giants: Mike Adams, OT (Ohio St.)

    32. Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE (S. Car.)

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