The NFL figures to be as unpredictable as ever in 2012. As impossible as it is to figure out what will happen in professional football, it certainly doesn't hurt to try.
At Mocking the Draft, our staff is going to put our predictions out in the open, mostly so the readers can look back and see how foolish this all looks by the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around.
After the jump, a Super Bowl pick, top five draft order and predictions for top the top rookie performers. Let's make it happen.
The Green Bay Packers are the best team in NFC for the foreseeable future. Aaron Rodgers and company got tripped up in the playoffs, but let's not forget that they went 15-1 in the regular season. They should be able to cruise into the NFL title game. The Philadelphia Eagles are a more surprising choice for this contest, but their defense has been flying all over the field this preseason and Andy Reid is one of the better coaches in the NFL. Michael Vick's health is the main concern. If he can play at least 13 games and be healthy when the playoffs roll around, Philly can make a run.
I'm going with a repeat of last year's AFC Championship Game because the conference is so weak and these two teams stand out above the rest. Tom Brady has even more weapons than he did a year ago, and the defense should improve. The Ravens, meanwhile, boast the same great defense and an improved offense. Joe Flacco should carry the momentum from last year's AFC title game into this season, while Torrey Smith will develop into a game breaker.
Super Bowl Matchup: Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens
I'm not going to bet against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Plenty of teams in a strong NFC could trip them up, but Rodgers is on top of the quarterback world right now, and the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The Ravens were a Lee Evans drop and Billy Cundiff missed kick away from the Super Bowl a year ago. If Flacco continues to improve, the Ravens will get over the hump this season.
Super Bowl Winner: Green Bay Packers
Sure, it's the trendy pick, but like I said, I'm not betting against Aaron Rodgers.
Top Five Draft Order
- Cleveland Browns - The Browns don't have much talent, and Brandon Weeden, the team's 29-year old rookie quarterback, is going to struggle more than most realize. I think this organization will be cleaning house by the end of the year.
- Miami Dolphins - Where is the reason for optimism in Miami? Jeff Ireland has put together a shaky roster, with Ryan Tannehill being the lone bright spot. Unfortunately, the rest of the Dolphins aren't going to help him much.
- St. Louis Rams - The Rams have shown signs of life this preseason, but I'm not sold on them just yet. Jeff Fisher's rebuild will take some time.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Early signs out of training camp seemed positive, but as things rolled along, it became apparent that the Bucs' offense was going to require a transition period. It's tough to see this team being worse than last year, but they have a tough schedule ahead of them.
- Buffalo Bills - Every year a team ends up drafting in the top five that nobody saw coming. I'm not drinking the Bills kool-aid this year. Remember how bad this team was down the stretch last season? People are putting lofty expectations on this offense, in my opinion.
First Overall Pick: Cleveland Browns select Matt Barkley
I'll warn you now. I'm going to change this pick a lot throughout the season. For now, I'll go with the No. 1 quarterback on the board in Matt Barkley. If the Browns are drafting first overall, chances are an entirely new regime will be in place, and new regimes often mean new quarterbacks. I'll explore more possibilities in my coming mock drafts.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made Justin Blackmon a big part of their game plan, and it's paying dividends. His ability to make plays after the catch will make him an instant impact player in the NFL. With expected improvement from Blaine Gabbert, Blackmon could turn in numbers worthy of rookie of the year consideration. Plus, aren't you tired of seeing Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin on these predictions?
Luke Kuechly is going to be a super star in the NFL. He has all of the ability and instincts to make a seamless transition to the pro game. Plus, linebackers dominate rookie of the year voting.
Vick Ballard is the most talented running back on the Indianapolis Colts. The depth chart may not reflect that yet, but by season's end, I think Ballard will be getting the bulk of the carries. He is a well-rounded runner who can eat up yards between the tackles. I was a big fan of his coming out and am sticking with my guns.