GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: Andrew Luck (R) #12 of the Stanford Cardinal congratulates Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys after Oklahoma State Cowboys won 41-38 in overtime during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The 2012 NFL draft is only hours away at this point and, outside of the first two picks, there's plenty of intrigue in this draft.
The 2012 NFL Draft is only hours away at this point and throughout the week the rumors have been increasing at a rapid rate. What we do know is that the top two picks are set, the real intrigue with the draft starts with the third pick and Ryan Tannehill probably won't fall outside of the top 11 picks.
Those and other draft nuggets are reviewed as we await the start of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The first two picks are set in stone. The Colts have already said they're taking Stanford's Andrew Luck and the Redskins have said there's a 99.9 percent chance they'll take Baylor's Robert Griffin III. I don't remember a draft that had such little drama at the very top. Quarterbacks are a difficult piece of the puzzle to find and with two of the better ones in this draft the Colts and Redskins won't be passing on either of them. Each move is a no-brainer.
The intrigue in the 2012 NFL draft starts with the third pick. The Vikings have a few options including USC OT Matt Kalil and LSU CB Morris Claiborne. Each one fills a big need on the Vikings and mock drafters have gone back and forth on who they'll select. The favorite for some time has been Kalil but there's strong momentum for Claiborne lately. There's also the possibility of a trade. The Vikings have done their best to drum up trade interest but not much is there. The target in any trade-up would probably be Ryan Tannehill, who is a candidate for the Browns and the fourth overall pick.
Could Kalil fall in the draft? Consider the Vikings passing on Kalil. How far does he drop? The Bucs or Rams would probably think long and hard about him with the fifth and sixth pick, respectively. The Jaguars may be tempted with the seventh pick. If those three teams pass on Kalil, he could end up slipping to the bottom of the top 10, which would be a big fall considering he's long been projected as the best offensive tackle prospect in this draft.
Trent Richardson won't fall in this draft. Yeah, Richardson is a running back and that position has been devalued in recent years but he's up there in the class of Adrian Peterson. Every few years a running back like that comes out that makes a legitimate case for a top five pick. Richardson fits the bill in that regard. The Browns are probably the favorite to land him right now with the fourth pick. The Bucs may not pass on him either with the fifth pick. And I can't see any scenario in which the Rams would pass on him at No. 6.
Ryan Tannehill probably won't make it past No. 11 Tannehill could go as high as the third pick, if a team trades with the Vikings to select him. The next team to watch is the Browns at No. 4. That possibility seems to have cooled in recent weeks. From there, Tannehill would likely fall to the Dolphins with the eighth pick. Miami is Tannehill's most likely landing spot, but if Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland isn't sold on him then it's feasible the Dolphins could pass. If he gets past Miami, then Tannehill could tumble all the way to the 11th pick, which is held by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a candidate to select Tannehill but more than likely they would offer up that pick to the highest bidder and be done with it. So I see the floor of Tannehill's draft stock at the 11th pick.
Brandon Weeden is a candidate for the first round. We're sure at least three quarterbacks will be first round picks -- Luck, Griffin III and Tannehill. But what about a fourth? Brandon Weeden could be that guy. He's considered the fourth best quarterback available in the NFL draft and could go as high as No. 22 to the Cleveland Browns. He could also fall tot the second round but my guess would be Weeden ends up going somewhere in the 20s. Teams are desperate for quarterbacks and many will reach to acquire one. Weeden is a solid prospect with his biggest knock being his age (28). If I know the league as well as I think I do, Weeden won't fall out of the first round.
Mark Barron is turning into a wild card. He was previously considered to be a mid first round prospect. Mock drafts often sent him to the Cowboys with the 14th pick but lately we're seeing repots of Barron going as high as No. 6 to the Rams. That would be quite the leap for him. Several NFL draft experts are on record as saying Barron won't make it to the Cowboys and the 14th pick. Candidates to select him before Dallas includes the Bills (10) and Chiefs (11).
There's one elite guard in this class. Every year there's a "once-in-a-decade" player at a particular position. Often times that's nonsense but this year it may very well be true with David DeCastro, easily the top guard in the 2012 draft class. He's considered a day one starter who's floor is just a couple of Pro Bowls. There's an incredible amount of praise for DeCastro, who is one of the safest picks in the draft.
Trades are expected to heat up. We say this every year (it seems, at least) but there very well could be more trades this year. The NFL's rookie wage scale has made the top of the draft a lot more attractive with the financial obligations plummeting compared to 2010 and prior. Many people consider there to be six elite players in this draft -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson and Matt Kalil. Any trading up into the top five would likely involve one of those players.
Keep an eye on the other trade market. Teams, like the Redskins, will trade draft picks in order to move up in the NFL Draft. But keep an eye on veteran players being traded. We saw Asante Samuel get shipped off to the Falcons the day before the draft. The Colts are reportedly considering the same with Dwight Freeney, who is entering the final year of his contract. With a boatload of money due to him in 2012, Freeney may not draw as much interest in the trade market as you'd expect but with the Colts needed to upgrade a number of positions, Freeney could be available.
Which team will make the biggest surprise? Every year, there's a team that makes a move that no one saw coming. Whether that's making a surprise selection, or a bold trade, someone will do something on Thursday night that will be surprising. My candidate for the move-you-never-saw-coming is the Eagles. They tend to surprise us with personnel moves, like trading Donovan McNabb, signing Michael Vick and landing Nnamdi Asomugha. Those are all moves that surprised people in the past. I think the Eagles are the team to watch if you're looking for a draft day surprise. They hold the 15th overall pick and could make a move if their player starts to fall.
Three teams have two first round picks this year. Those teams are the Cleveland Browns (4 and 22), Cincinnati Bengals (17 and 21) and New England Patriots (27 and 31). Of those teams, the Patriots are probably most likely to move around, as they've done in the past. Teams without a first round pick include the Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
ESPN and NFL Network won't totally ruin the NFL draft for you. Both networks have committed to not showing draft prospects on the phone before a pick comes in. Basically, the NFL wanted to keep the surprise element involved in the NFL Draft, instead of TV cameras showing the name Roger Goodell is about to announce minutes before he arrives at the podium. That said, reporters from both TV networks will still be on site to report on which player a team will select. They just won't physically show a prospect on the phone in the green room.