For those of you preparing a mock draft, there are some historical lessons that you may want to consider. With this in mind, last year (one year ago yesterday) I created a list of players I felt would be first round draft choices. Three months prior to the 2011 NFL draft, I was correct on 24 of the 32. That may not seem like much, but it was better than Mel Kiper's January mock, one less than Todd Mcshay's January mock, and only three less than Mike Mayock's first mock which didn't come out until March 11th, 2011. Among others, we all missed on Christian Ponders rise to glory, and Da'Quan Bowers' fall from grace.
Last year, I wrote "there are 16 players who can not possibly fall out of the first round. They can test positive for marijuana at the combine like Percy Harvin, or could do an "Andre Smith", and completely walk-out of the combine and it wouldn't matter." Bowers, Brandon Harris, and Akeem Ayers all proved me wrong.
Again, I only feel certain about 16 players: Luck, RG3, Kalil, Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Trent Richardson, Morris Clayborne, Dre Kirkpatrick, Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Quenton Coples, Devon Still, and Michael Brockers.
THEN, there are the players who will almost certainly be selected in the first, but 40 yard dash time, arm length, weight/height, injuries, and character may cause them to drop.
Alshon Jeffery, Luke Kuechly, and Don'ta Highertower may drop due to a lack of speed. Kendall Wright, Melvin Ingram, and Alphonzo Dennard may drop due to height concerns.
Recent injuries have kept Miami DT Marcus Forston and FSU LT Andrew Datko from the list, and removed Oregon's LaMichael James from the top 50.
Jared Crick needed a JJ Watt-like performance at some point this year to compensate for the fact that he is not an elite athlete. After missing half the year with a torn peck, he didn't have that opportunity, but his body (6'6/285) and high motor will gain the interest of many 3-4 teams.
Finally, there are the players with enough talent to be selected in the first round, but depending on their performace at the Senior Bowl, the combine, their pro-days, team needs and competition at their position will determine if they are drafted in the first or "slip" into the second round.
Although I cautioned last year "Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett certainly have first round talent, but also have character concerns at the one position it is hard to overlook, (Quarterback) where increasingly teams are looking for the first one in, last one to leave work ethic", I still predicted Cam Newton, and Ryan Mallett would join Jake Locker, and Gabbert as first round QBs. Like many, I missed on Ponder, and was surprised to see Mallett's rocket arm last until the 3rd round.
At first glance, the 2012 QBs seem much easier, but is it likely that two QBs go in the first 4 picks, and then not again until the second round? Both the 2008 and 2010 drafts saw only two first round QBs. However 3 QBs is the average number taken since 2001, and Ryan Tannenhill appears to be in a position to be a first round pick, and like Tebow proved "it only takes one" (team to fall in love with a QB).
Last year, I wrote Jon "Baldwin is in, but Torrey Smith just can't run fast enough to escape the Dareus Heywood-Bey comparisons." Only five WRs were drafted in the first round in 2011 and 2010 combined. Now, I predict five will go in 2012: Blackmon, Floyd, Alshon, Sanu, and Dwight Jones, who I believe will leapfrog one or two of those ranked ahead of him. Oh, and let me be the first to remove Kendall Wright from the first round. Five times since 2001 six or more WRs have went in the first round.
Last year, I was wrong when I stated only Mikel Leshoure will join Ingram in the first round "due to durability concerns with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Williams". Ironically, all of the four has season ending injuries, with Williams, and Leshoure not even playing a down. Despite my predictions that David Wilson will be one of the combine stars, I don't see either him or Lamar Miller being able to do enough to join Richardson in the first round (in a day and age in which more and more teams are starting late round and undrafted RBs)
During the 2010 college football season, and early post-season, most felt the 2011 draft was a weak Oline class. However, I wrote "I think the 2011 OT class has become underrated. The last time no OTs were selected in the top 10 was 2005." I correctly predicted the 5 OTs and Pouncey (who many said was not as good as his brother) that ended up as first round picks. I correctly stated that a OT would break into the top 10, but I was incorrect in who that was.
Four, is the average number of OTs drafted in the first round since 2001. This year, I have Mike Adams joining the big three OTs.
Only once in the last 10 years (2008) has no interior lineman been selected in the first round, however there were never more than two (except for postion changes later in career). This year David DeCastro is guaranteed to be a first round pick, and I have Peter Konz joining him, but he will have to hold off Cory Glenn, Michael Brewster, and likely LT to guard switch prospect Kelechi Osemele.
Prior to last year, there had been at least one TE selected in the first round every year since 2001. For that reason I guessed Kyle Rudolph would be selected in the first round despite a season ending injury. I was wrong.
Entering this season, it looked like it might be two years in a row without a first round TE...however, a pair of juniors have emerged, and it is very possible either Clemson's Dwayne Allen or Geogia's Orson Charles end up going in the first. I currently have Allen, Charles, and Coby Fleener all being selected as 2nd round picks.
Four is the average number of CBs selected over the last 10 years, and is the exact number I anticipate this year, with Dre Kirkpatirck being too talented to slip out of the first round (despite being arrested for marijuana). He will be joined by Morris Clayborn, Chase Minnifield, and Stephen Gilmore.
What, did I forget about Alphonzo Dennard, and Janoris Jenkins?? No. Last year, I stated that Brandon Harris was one of my 16 guaranteed to be drafted in the first round, ignoring his poor performance against the much larger Michael Floyd in the bowl game. This year Dennard was exposed in a similar fashion by the much larger Alshon Jeffery.
Safety has long been an undervalued position over the last 10 years, coupling that with this years poor class (TJ McDonald, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and Robert Lester all returning to school) I don't expect any safety to be a first round pick. Markelle Martin and Mark Barron will both be selected in the second round.
With more and more teams converting to a 3-4, passrushing OLBs are needed. Unfortunately, the pass rushers of 2012 (Nick Perry, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus, Vinny Curry, Bruce Irvin, and Melvin Ingram ) don't seem nearly as explosive as 2011 class. Someone is going to be disappointed, but I have all but Curry in the first.
The 2012 DL class is not as strong as last year, however there still is plenty of talent: I predict Coples, Brockers, Branch, and Still will be joined by Brandon Thompson, Jerel Worthy, and Alameda Ta'amu; beating out Josh Chapman, Jared Crick, Fletcher Cox, and Dontari Poe.
Only once in the last 10 years has more than one ILB been a first round pick, and recently Rey Maualuga, James Laurinaitis, and Brandon Spikes(among others) have all found themselves in the second round.
Last year, I warned against Martez Wilson, and Greg Jones. This year, you may want to rethink putting Luke Kuechly, and Don'ta Highertower in the first round. I still have Vontaze Burficit as a first round pick, although I am a little concerned.
Pure 4-3 OLBs are also undervalued, and while incumbent Zac Brown reportedly is somewhat immature, Travis Lewis, Ronnell Lewis, and Lavonte David have nearly the same athletism, Brown had better have the combine many are expecting from him. For now, I will keep Brown and others out of the first round.
Those are your 32 first round picks, now all you have to do is put them in order.