The 2012 NFL draft is exactly a month away. In the weeks ahead, smoke screens and rumors about which teams will draft which players will drift upward from iffy 140-character comments to the mouths of professional talkers -- er -- analysts and right to water coolers in suburban office parks around the country. One more reason football fans follow the NFL draft with such vigor.
This mock draft is less an attempt at prediction than an act of curation, gathering up all the news and rumors and applying that with precedent to form something more akin to power rankings. Prediction is just a bonus.
Teams spent the bulk of their free agent cash over the last two weeks. That forced some changes to the latest 2012 NFL mock draft. Pro day events have been happening around the country in recent weeks, though you may not have noticed with free agency, Bounty Gate and Tim Tebow commanding most of the NFL's second-by-second news cycle. Those pro day workouts change conventional wisdom about the draft, and a few players who stood out, or did the opposite, at their pro day events are on this list, including Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, for example.
Dig in, scoop it up, leave your complaints and/or endorsements in the comments and wherever else you might see fit.
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
In the weeks ahead, I expect there to be a healthy debate about whether or not the Colts will flip the order and take Griffin first. Luck, the best quarterback to come out in a long time, has been guaranteed to be drafted first for so long, that our short attention spans forget just how good he is because we are not bombarded with daily reminders.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis), Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Of course, Griffin is an incredible talent himself. Some argue that he has a higher ceiling than Luck. Forget the notion that Washington paid too much for the opportunity to draft Griffin. The cost of plodding along with spare parts at quarterback has a much higher long-term cost to it.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
4. Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Ryan Tannehill has become the popular pick here. People assume that Cleveland will address its quarterback need after failing to in the offseason and then sniveling about Washington getting preferential treatment. I am less convinced. Richardson gives them some offensive talent to stand by Colt McCoy for one more season, after which they will probably have first dibs on Matt Barkley.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Ronde Barber is postponing Social Security checks to play another year. Aqib Talib somehow found a very large hole in the judicial system, allowing him to return this season, maybe. Having Claiborne ready to fill the void for either one of those players make Tampa's secondary that much better.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington), Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Yes, he is no A.J. Green nor Larry Fitzgerald. He is still the best receiver in this draft class, and the Rams cannot afford to quibble about comparable players. Blackmon gives the Rams a legitimate receiving threat that can work outside in what will probably be a fairly conservative offense.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
For all the talk about the quarterbacks this year, it is worth remembering that pass rushers are at a premium. Jacksonville should experience some immediate dividends by drafting Coples, the top pass rusher in the draft, and putting him on the other side of the recently re-signed Jeremy Mincey.
8. Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Greg Cosell recently gave the Aggies' quarterback his seal of approval, calling him a "better prospect than [Christian] Ponder." With the veteran David Garrard and Matt Moore on staff already, Miami is in a good position to let Tannehill soak up the pro game without feeding him to the sharks right off the bat.
9. Carolina Panthers, Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Cox fills a big hole in the Panthers' awful run defense. More importantly, he gives them some ability to get pressure from the inside. This could be a very good team in 2012.
10. Buffalo Bills, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Given the lack of interest in Demetrius Bell, Buffalo may still re-sign him, eliminating one glaring first-round need. In picking Floyd, the Bills add another receiving threat to their offense, which should help Ryan Fitzpatrick considerably.
11. Kansas City Chiefs, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe's athleticism is notable, especially for a 350-pounder, but there are questions about whether or not that will translate to him being a consistent threat in the NFL. Either way, the Chiefs can hope for the upside or, at the very least, get a very good nose tackle.
12. Seattle Seahawks, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
It seems odd to see another offensive lineman in the draft for Seattle, but they did a pretty solid job of fixing other areas in free agency. They need someone to replace Robert Gallery. DeCastro is a rare specimen at guard, a guy who might be one of the league's best by October.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals re-signed Levi Brown, which means they still need help at offensive tackle. Drafting Reiff gives the Cardinals some flexibility at the tackle spot, with the ability to switch he and Brown from the right or the left side. It should upgrade the protection for Kevin Kolb.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Dallas' defensive front has served adequately enough, but it needs youth and talent. Rob Ryan will more than happy to have Brockers manning a five-technique spot on his defensive line.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Devon Still, DT, Penn State
We are no longer allowed to put Luke Kuechly here, putting a kink into the process of rolling this thing out every week like a trusty old mantra. Still, this pick gives Philly some depth and flexibility on the defensive front this season and going forward.
16. New York Jets, Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama
Unfortunately for the Jets, Tim Tebow cannot rush the passer. They really need someone who can. Upshaw has all the makings of a fine football player, though he defies easy classification as an outside linebacker or defensive end. Either way, the Jets defense will be glad to have him.
17. Cincinnati Bengals, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bengals added Jason Allen in free agency to give their secondary some quality depth. Even Pacman Jones came back to round out the unit. Kirkpatrick gives the defense a blue chip cornerback that should mix well with the current group.
18. San Diego Chargers, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
San Diego needs impact players all over on defense. Middle linebacker may not look like the team's biggest need, but Kuechly is an elite talent that gives the Chargers a replacement and an upgrade over 35-year-old Takeo Spikes.
19. Chicago Bears, Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
A fast riser up draft boards, Glenn excels on the inside at guard, but has plenty to offer teams on the outside. Pass rusher is another option here.
20. Tennessee Titans, Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Titans lost Cortland Finnegan in free agency, leaving a void in their secondary. Adding Gilmore gives them another first-tier starter who should eventually fill in quite nicely. Offensive line is another option here, but Mike Munchak has done well turning later round picks into quality starters.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Receiver might be a better option here, given the recent devaluation in running backs. Martin and the recently acquired BenJarvis Green-Ellis would form a nice one-two punch on the ground for the Bengals.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta), Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
With a better quarterback, at least in this alternate universe, the Browns get a steal of a deal with the talented Sanu, who lit his draft stock on fire with a great pro day.
23. Detroit Lions, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Lions have options with this pick. While depth on the offensive line would be useful, in this imagined reality they take a chance on a first-round talent with a pile of personal issues. If they can keep Jenkins focused on the game, he should pay off well.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers cut James Farrior, racing to get under the cap. Hightower is more than a suitable replacement, capable of working on the inside or rushing the passer from the strong side.
25. Denver Broncos, Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wright's Combine and pro day had some wondering about his first-round talent, all because of his 40 time. Foolishness. Wright can get down the field and has the explosiveness to get away from defenders. Peyton Manning could make him a household name this season.
26. Houston Texans, Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE, Illinois
Houston barely noticed Mario Williams' absence after Week 5 last season. Still, they need to add another pass rusher if an already solid group is going to be truly elite.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
Barron should be healed and ready to roll from double hernia surgery ahead of the draft. So long as New England gets him in for a closer look, he should be a fine first-round pick. Barron solidifies a secondary that bluffed its way to an AFC Championship, thanks to the team's ability to outscore opponents.
28. Green Bay Packers, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Green Bay's defensive front desperately needs some strength. Worthy is a good fit for the Packers and should be able to occupy blockers, giving Clay Matthews, Jr. some room to work.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
The Ravens were left on the outside looking in as teams snatched up the top free agent guards, including former Baltimore stalwort Ben Grubbs, who slipped away to the Saints. Zeitler is an extremely talented guard who should be able to start right away after blocking in one of the best offenses in college football last year.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
The sheer number of Stanford products that could go in the first round of this draft is amazing and is a testament to Jim Harbaugh. He knows exactly what kind of player Fleener is, a speedy receiving option that will pair with Vernon Davis to give the 49ers what might be a better version of the two-tight end set in New England.
31. New England Patriots, Nick Perry, OLB/DE, USC
New England was already short a pass rusher before losing Mark Anderson to the Bills last week. Perry has the kind of raw talent that Bill Belichick can move around in his defense.
32. New York Giants, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The victim of a poor workout at his pro day, Martin provides some youth and upside to the Giants' offensive line.