It's never too early to look ahead to the next NFL Draft. In 2012, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be the most coveted prospect in years, but where will he land -- and will he have any competition for the top spot?
Who's ready to take a look at a 2012 NFL Mock Draft? Don't bother raising your hand; you're already here. The 2011 NFL Draft just came to an end, the draft grades are getting handed out, and already the hot topic in draft circles is what the top of next year's potential draft class looks like. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the headliner, of course, but there are other intriguing quarterbacks in this class, as well as a few strong pass-rushers, plenty of quality linebackers and tackles and a few big-time receiving prospects.
Where might Luck end up? Well, his former head coach probably wouldn't mind having him. Nor would pretty much every other NFL fan base. Let what is already affectionately known as the "Suck for Luck Campaign" officially begin! (Side note: the indomitable Andy Hutchins and I co-wrote this mock; blame him for picking the Packers to win it all again.)
1. San Francisco 49ers: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. Even with Colin Kaepernick on board, it's tough to imagine Jim Harbaugh turning down any opportunity to reunite with his Stanford protege.
2. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Even with their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, this team is probably going to struggle. Coples is an athletic marvel, and the Panthers need a pass rush.
3. Washington Redskins: Matt Barkley, QB, USC. During ESPN's draft telecast this weekend, John Beck's name was floated as a possible starter. So yeah, the Redskins are taking a quarterback early next year.
4. Tennessee Titans: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina. Jake Locker is Tennessee's future. If it's going to be a pleasant future, he'll need more offensive weaponry. Jeffery is very gifted.
5. Buffalo Bills: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. The Bills still don't have a long-term answer at quarterback; they have Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jones has done nothing but produce at Oklahoma, and has solid upside.
6. Arizona Cardinals: Matt Kalil, OT, USC. Quarterback will be a possibility, but Kalil is next year's top tackle prospect, and the Cardinals won't be able to ignore OT much longer.
7. Seattle Seahawks: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford. Seattle made their line a priority this year, and it will still be a priority next year. Martin would be a bookend for Russell Okung.
8. Cincinnati Bengals: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State. Geno Atkins is good, but may not be an every-down player. Worthy would team with fellow MSU product Domata Peko.
9. Denver Broncos: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Champ Bailey is getting no younger, and Kirkpatrick will enter the league polished and pro-ready, with huge upside.
10. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. The Browns have a nice mix of young receivers, but maybe not a true No. 1. Blackmon torched the Big 12 as a sophomore.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. The Vikings didn't address their offensive line enough in 2011. Reiff, a junior, comes from Iowa's pro-ready farm system, where everyone is seemingly coveted.
12. Miami Dolphins: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. The team got an okay back this year in Daniel Thomas, but Richardson has rare-back upside. He's outstanding.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M. They got their franchise quarterback in Blaine Gabbert. An ultra-productive receiver would look great next to him.
14. Oakland Raiders: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State. Burfict is an athletic marvel, which makes him a natural fit for the Oakland Raiders.
15. Houston Texans: Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina. This is a bit of a projection pick, but Paige-Moss profiles as a lethal 3-4 outside linebacker.
16. Detroit Lions: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma. After a third straight strong draft class, the needs are becoming fewer for Detroit. Lewis is a supremely athletic LB that fits perfectly into their defense.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU. The Chiefs could still use a right tackle to solidify their rock-solid offensive line, and that's exactly what Reynolds would give them.
18. New York Giants: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina. He's a little light, but the type of athletic linebacker prospect that the Giants do not currently employ.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. The Aqib Talib situation is not looking good, so expect corner to be Tampa's most pressing need by far next year.
20. Dallas Cowboys: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas. Running back lacks clarity in Big D, and Davis looks like an ascending star from a school that Jerry Jones is very familiar with.
21. St. Louis Rams: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Though the Rams have done a nice job building depth at receiver, they still don't have a go-to target for Sam Bradford.
22. Chicago Bears: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o has been highly-touted since he was a recruit, and he'd profile as a suitable replacement to Brian Urlacher.
23. San Diego Chargers: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson. Most expected them to address their edge rushing position this year; Branch looks like a potentially elite 3-4 outside linebacker.
24. Baltimore Ravens: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska. The Ravens crave versatility and impact up front. Crick is a penetrator in the body of a five-tech defensive end.
25. New York Jets: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon. LaDainian Tomlinson's career is quickly coming to an end, and this Heisman finalist looks like a perfect complement to Shonn Greene.
26. Cleveland Browns (f/ATL): Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama. Dick Jauron worked with Ted Washington, Keith Traylor and Urlacher in Chicago. He's got his big DTs; now he needs his massive linebacker.
27. Philadelphia Eagles: Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State. The Eagles are re-tooling their lines a bit, and Osemele fits their profile perfectly.
28. Indianapolis Colts: Chris Galippo, LB, USC. Indianapolis filled a lot of needs in 2011, which will allow them to focus on value more than ever next year. Galippo's an intriguing system fit.
29. New England Patriots (f/NO): John Jenkins, DT, Georgia. This JUCO transfer is a 340-pound menace that should be in Round 1 conversations by the midway point of the 2012 college season.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia. The Steelers are always looking for system fits and depth. Minnifield gives them both, and potentially an immediate starter. His father Frank played in the NFL.
31. New England Patriots: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. This local product is a perfect fit for the Patriots, even if they've already got Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes inside.
32. Green Bay Packers: Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon. Though he's a bit lithe, Harris is a phenomenal athlete, and a great fit in Green Bay's system.