Much shuffling in new projection
A third QB is now in the top 10, while WRs and linemen continue to rise
The NFL combine has come and gone, so what better time for an updated 2012 mock draft? On-campus pro day workouts and the upcoming free agency period and on-campus pro day workouts will shift team needs and draft projections over the next few weeks, but as things stand right now we have a good idea what holes teams need to fill and where prospects fit on the overall draft board.
The combine and film study have wrought plenty of changes since my last projection, as has the declaration by the St. Louis Rams that the No. 2 overall pick is essentially up for auction for teams wishing to draft Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.
A third quarterback has joined Griffin and Andrew Luck in the top 10, while five defensive tackles are now in the first round mix along with seven offensive linemen.
Alabama leads all schools with five players among the top 32 picks, with Stanford (four), Baylor (two) and LSU (two) being the only others with more than one prospect on the list.
Here's how the entire board shakes down at this point in the process.* = draft-eligible non-seniors
It's never easy to say goodbye to a legend like Peyton Manning -- a Super Bowl winner and the face of the franchise since his first day in training camp -- but using the No. 1 overall pick on a once-in-a-generation prospect like Luck is an opportunity the Colts can't pass up. Luck's NFL-ready skill set and demeanor set Indianapolis up for another decade-plus with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
With the Rams intent on trading down, this projection is made with the assumption they will pick somewhere between No. 4 and No. 8 overall. Blackmon is the top receiver on the board and would give QB Sam Bradford the kind if perimeter weapon he needs. St. Louis could also opt for help in the secondary with LSU CB Morris Claiborne, and there are even rumblings Alabama RB Trent Richardson could be in play as a complement to Bradford.
The Vikings just missed out on being able to cash in with the second overall pick, but with Baylor QB Robert Griffin III likely to be the pick there, Minnesota is in a position to finally begin shoring up its offensive line with an elite prospect. Kalil is one of the top left tackles I have ever evaluated coming out of college, with a skill set equal to Joe Thomas and a mean streak to go with it.
Again, this is a player/team match made under the assumption the Browns' considerable resources -- two first-round picks this year, likely a Day 2 pick this year or next -- will allow them to trade up and get Griffin. It will be interesting to see how things play out in free agency and how long Cleveland might bluff, but in the end the smart move is to go get Griffin and lock down the franchise quarterback the team has been looking for since it re-entered the league in 1999 and drafted Tim Couch first overall.
This could be a tough call for Tampa Bay, which would strongly consider taking Richardson in this scenario. However, Claiborne is also among the five elite talents in the 2012 class, and he plays a position of greater value with a longer shelf life. He's clearly the top cover corner on the board, and with Ronde Barber turning 37 before the draft and Aqib Talib carrying off-field baggage, Claiborne makes plenty of sense.
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