NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Heisman Memorial Trophy Award winner Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
For the 30 teams not playing in Indianapolis next month, attention turns to the league's other big offseason event, the 2012 NFL Draft. We try to guess where those teams might planning for April with the latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft from SB Nation.
The Super Bowl matchup is all set. Two more teams are heading home, and only one game remains. For fans of the 30 teams done playing until next September, attention now turns to filling that void in your life where football used to be. You could spend it with your family, fixing up the house, or gearing up for fantasy baseball.
Or you could get really fanatical about the 2012 NFL Draft.
Nothing like a 2012 NFL mock draft to stuff a little something into that gaping hole in your life. With the NFL taking a break to get ready for the Super Bowl, the draft really is front and center with the Senior Bowl happening in Mobile, Alabama, this week. It's the first big event in the lead up to the draft. Many of the players listed here will rise and fall up draft boards this week.
As always, feel free to debate our hard work in the comments, but try to keep my mother out of it. This is presented as a thought provoking exercise, rather than an attempt at clairvoyance. We welcome your discussion.
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Yawn. Can you recall a year where there was less intrigue about who would be drafted first overall? The real show in Indy is the Manning question. I think Peyton Manning is gone. Maybe he isn't, but the Colts need to be a smarter franchise than the one that leaned on their quarterback at the expense of the rest of their roster. Of course, Luck is the kind of quarterback that would allow a similar tact. Surely they've learned their lesson.
2. Cleveland Browns (Projected trade: from St. Louis), Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Trade! Huzzah! Surprise! The Browns sent both of their first round picks to St. Louis in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick and the rights to RG3. Actually, there is no surprise here. It just looks so wrong to put Griffin any lower than this, even for a mock draft. Cleveland may or may not trade up. I wouldn't be surprised if they stayed where they are out of organizational arrogance thinking that they can get something out of Colt McCoy. RG3 would make them relevant again, for years to come. They have to do something.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Minnesota took a quarterback in the first round last year with Christian Ponder. Now, they give him an insurance policy with one of the best tackle prospects to come along in years. Kalil is as can't miss as it gets in the draft this year.
4. St. Louis Rams (Projected trade: from Cleveland) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
There's a new regime in St. Louis, and they won't be willing to make the same mistakes of the last one, thinking that Sam Bradford can get by with a group of receivers led by Danny Amendola, the poor man's Wes Welker. Everyone keeps pointing out that Blackmon does not compare to last year's top receivers, but he has loads of talent.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
LaGarrette Blount isn't a feature back; Richardson is. Blount still has a role to play, but Tampa joins the rest of the league in having a multifaceted ground game. The best running back in the draft would add another dimension to Tampa's offense, helping not only as runner but as another option for Josh Freeman in the passing game.
6. Washington Redskins, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
What a break for the Redskins. Claiborne could easily get picked higher than this. The LSU product is the latest in the trend of bigger corners, and Washington will be glad to have him matched up against the other receivers in their division. Could they trade up for Griffin? It's possible, but the pressure to start winning again will probably send them looking for a veteran like Peyton Manning and/or a developmental option in the second round. Peyton Manning in Washington?
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Here's a news flash for you: College kids in their 20s smoke weed, regularly. They aren't always smart about it either. Kirkpatrick's a very talented cornerback who got busted with a little green bag by some overzealous Southern sheriff out of a Burt Reynolds movie, at least that's how I imagine it.
8. Carolina Panthers, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
There is no consensus around the defensive line prospects this season. Brockers, leaving school as a redshirt sophomore, might be the most talented of the bunch, but has some rawness after just one season as a starter. Carolina doesn't have to give him all the reps inside immediately.
9. Miami Dolphins, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
I think DeCastro is the second-best offensive lineman in the draft, behind Kalil. DeCastro has the chance to be something special on the inside, a difference maker who will make the players around him better.
10. Buffalo Bills, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Buffalo needs someone to get to the quarterback. Last season, they used more and more four-man fronts, which makes Coples a good fit the outside of the line. He's another player you could be hearing good things about this week from Mobile.
11. Seattle Seahawks, Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
Seattle is another team that mixes and matches their defensive alignments. Still looks more like a defensive tackle, but he has the skills to work from the outside as well. The Seahawks need pass rush help, and this pick could change as the spring events start shuffling opinions about defensive line prospects.
12. Kansas City Chiefs, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
If Barry Richardson starts on your offensive line, you need a new tackle. Reiff even has a little local market appeal, since the Chiefs pull some of the lucrative Iowa media market. That's not why Reiff appeals to them though. He's a very good tackle that can play on the left or right side.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
I mocked Adams pretty high last week, and nothing got me more hate mail. I can take it. I think his stock will get a big boost this week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Arizona needs all kinds of help along their front five.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Janoris Jenkins, CB,
Florida North Alabama
These kids and their grass! Jenkins used to be the top corner in the country, before getting banished from Florida. He's in Mobile this week, where I expect him to remind everyone about his football bona fides. Dallas can finally move on from Terrance Newman in the secondary.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
Does Philly still call Juan Castillo their defensive coordinator? Amazing. It's the only coaching staff in pro sports that seems to have a tenure system. Chastened by the experience in 2011, they know they need to get a linebacker. Kuechly is the best of the bunch.
16. New York Jets, Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Having the best cornerback in the league doesn't necessary make a team impervious to the pass. They gave up more than 800 passing yards to Tom Brady this year. A big-hitting, smart safety like Barron could really help the Jets against the Patriots' tight ends.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
I honestly think Wright could end up getting picked higher than this. Already, there's talk that he might be as good of a pick as Justin Blackmon, but measuring under six feet hurts him. The Bengals' offense with Wright in the slot and A.J. Green lined up outside, to me, makes them a real contender in the AFC North next year.
18. San Diego Chargers, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
San Diego really needs help getting to the quarterback. They would be really lucky if Upshaw fell this far in the draft given his talent and pass rushing ability.
19. Chicago Bears, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
This is a pretty obvious pick. Chicago has Jay Cutler and no one for him to throw to in the passing game. Floyd's hands will be a big help for Cutler in 2012 and beyond.
20. Tennessee Titans, Nick Perry, DE, USC
Pass rushing help is always appreciated. The Titans tried and failed moving Jason Jones to the outside. With Perry, they get someone who really knows how to get the quarterback. They'll beef him up, and make another run at the AFC South while the Colts wait for Andrew Luck to hit his stride.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Cincinnati really missed Johnathan Joseph this season. They have a very good defense, but the back of it leaks, which lessens the effectiveness of the talent they have up front. After drafting Wright with their earlier pick, they should be able to score points in bunches. Adding Dennard gives their defense a better backstop to help those points stand.
22. St. Louis Rams (Projected trade: from Cleveland via Atlanta), Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
How badly could the Falcons use this pick? Julio Jones is a very good player, but this season was evidence that they just weren't ready to swap all those picks for him. Cleveland will take it ... and give it to the Rams for RG3. New head coach Jeff Fisher made it pretty clear that the Rams will protect quarterback Sam Bradford, and they'll need an upgrade over Jason Smith to do so.
23. Detroit Lions, Kelechi Osemele, OG/OT, Iowa State
The Lions have some age on their offensive line that they need to start accounting for. Osemele can help on the inside, or he can step in for Jeff Backus, a 34-year old free agent. They have the offensive talent at the skill positions. Now, it's time to make a championship line.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
In case you didn't notice, the Steelers lost to the upstart Denver Broncos in the playoffs. They have needs along the offensive line, but they also need an injection of youth into their vaunted defense. Poe can replace the aging Casey Hampton.
25. Denver Broncos, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
The powers that be in Denver sure sound like they're committed to Tim Tebow and they have to be after what happened this season. Right or wrong, if they get him some speed to work with, they can make a pretty dynamic offense. I still think Kendall Wright would be ideal, given his ability as a downfield guy or someone that can play a role like Percy Harvin did during Tebow's time at Florida.
26. Houston Texans, Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
I'm already looking forward to next week's mock draft, one that will reflect the changing fortunes of players after the Senior Bowl. Jones, to me, looks like this year's break out receiver from Mobile. He's not the perfect complement to Andre Johnson, but he gives Houston another very talented receiver who can be their number one if Johnson has to deal with anymore injuries.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Ingram is a fast rising talent that will get picked in the first round because he can rush the passer. Nevermind the yak yak about his size being an odd fit for a 3-4 OLB. New England thrives because they value good football players over dogma.
28. Green Bay Packers, Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi State
Green Bay's defense needs help in the secondary, but not to the extent they need strength up front. Cox gives them help against the run. He also has the ability to disrupt the pocket from the five-technique spot, something the Packers really need.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Ravens line struggled against Vince Wilfork in the AFC Championship. Ben Grubbs has been a solid player for them, but is a free agent. Matt Birk is long in the tooth. Konz adds youthful zeal and real blocking talent to the inside of the Ravens' line.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
San Francisco needs another wide receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree. He definitely has some red flags to clear up between now and the draft. One strike against Jeffery is his speed, but that becomes less of a factor in the 49ers' West Coast offense, where his ability to get yards after the catch will be more valued than his forty time.
31. New York Giants, Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
The Giants offense surprised more than a few people already this season. They have the pieces in place on offense, but need to start turning over some of the age and cap space occupied by their offensive line. Glenn gives them a big boost in that department. He can also play tackle.
32. New England Patriots, Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
The Pats' defense surprised shocked the world in their win over the Ravens. They still need to get younger and tougher on the line. Crick bolsters their defensive front, giving it some power to stop the run and occupy blockers while the pass rushers do their thing.
For more 2012 NFL Draft coverage, visit SB Nation's draft site Mocking the Draft.