Rotoworld college scouting correspondent Josh Norris and myself worked last week to formulate a mock draft we believed would be most like an NFL team's at this point in the draft process. Some clubs do write up their own mocks before the draft to give everyone in the room an idea of how selections might go.
With Josh doing a lot of fact finding in addition to his own evaluating on the all-star game tour over the past several weeks, we believe there are a number of prospects being overvalued and undervalued in pre-Combine, pre-free agency media mocks. We'll pinpoint those players in a future column, but you'll get a pretty good idea after reading this top-32 projection.
1. Colts -- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck
New GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano aim to be competitive quickly in Indianapolis, even after remaking the roster on both sides of the football. At the most valuable position in pro sports, Luck is considered more NFL-ready than Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Colts will release Peyton Manning before his roster bonus due date, and Luck will be a Week 1 starter in new coordinator Bruce Arians' aggressive, pass-oriented offense.
2. Rams -- USC left tackle Matt Kalil
The Rams knew early that former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith would bust. Rodger Saffold has not worked out on the blind side and will likely move to right tackle under new coach Jeff Fisher. While Kalil must add muscle to realize his run-blocking potential, he will be a huge plus in pass protection from day one. Early-career hits are becoming a major concern for young quarterback Sam Bradford. He's taken 70 sacks and been forced to fumble 17 times in his first 26 games.
3. Vikings -- Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff
Reiff has generated relatively scant pre-draft recognition as an underclassman ineligible for all-star games, but he's arguably the top all-around tackle available. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has Reiff ranked ahead even of Kalil. A more polished run blocker than Kalil and superior prospect to Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Ohio State's Mike Adams, Reiff's perceived stock will skyrocket around Combine time. Left tackle is the most glaring need on Minnesota's roster.
4. Browns -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III
Griffin is the most dynamic offensive talent in the 2012 draft, and Browns coach Pat Shurmur is well aware his fate would be sealed by another year of backup-caliber quarterback Colt McCoy under center. Griffin's ability to stand strong when the pocket collapses is his lone question mark. He has an outstanding combination of arm strength, accuracy, athleticism, and intelligence.
5. Buccaneers -- Alabama running back Trent Richardson
New Bucs coach Greg Schiano is an ardent believer in the run game, frequently using two-back committees (e.g. Ray Rice and Brian Leonard) to pound opponents into submission. In 11 years at Rutgers, Schiano's offenses finished with more rushing attempts than passes nine times. Running backs are rarely worth top-five draft picks, but Richardson is, and the Bucs need far more than LeGarrette Blount can give them in order to make good on Schiano's philosophy.
6. Redskins -- Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill
While public perception has Tannehill's stock freefalling after pre-draft foot surgery, the former Texas A&M wideout remains entrenched as this year's No. 3 quarterback. Tannehill is a big-armed athlete unafraid of an oncoming rush, and possesses tools ideally suited for the Shanahan offense. While the Redskins may hope to "ease in" Tannehill after only 19 college starts, he is more NFL-ready than the stats suggest after learning Mike Sherman's West Coast system.
7. Jaguars -- North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples
Though some observers deemed Coples' senior year disappointing from a production standpoint, the 6-foot-6, 281-pound athletic freak still paced the Tar Heels in sacks (7.5), tackles for loss (15), quarterback pressures, and forced fumbles (3). Coples is perhaps the most Julius Peppers-like prospect to be draft-eligible since Peppers himself was selected second overall in 2002. Following a dominant Senior Bowl performance, Coples has solidified himself as a top-eight 2012 draft pick.
8. Panthers -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
A shutdown cover man and on-ball playmaker (11 INTs in two seasons as a starter), Claiborne is this year's top secondary prospect. More scheme diverse than LSU predecessor Patrick Peterson, Claiborne possesses fluid hips to eliminate receivers in off coverage as well as man. Panthers brass may prefer Coples fall to them at No. 8, but elite pass rushers are routinely drafted ahead of defensive backs. Paired with Chris Gamble, Claiborne would give Carolina the NFC South's most talented corner duo. And a better chance to halt pass-first attacks of New Orleans and Atlanta.
9. Dolphins -- Alabama defensive end Courtney Upshaw
The Dolphins are transitioning from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense under new coordinator Kevin Coyle. They have ingredients to fill five of the adjusted front-seven positions, but are short one thumping inside 'backer and a bookend pass rusher for Cameron Wake. While No. 9 overall is too soon for Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Upshaw provides marquee value at the back end of the top ten. He'd be a powerful complement to Wake's speed, bull rushing off the strong side with a relentless motor.
10. Bills -- South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram
The Bills are implementing a base 4-3 up front, but plan to be "multiple" on defense in an effort to keep offenses off balance. With versatility as his calling card, Ingram is what the doctor ordered. Ingram was productive as a 4-3 defensive tackle, 4-3 end, and 3-4 outside 'backer in the SEC, wreaking havoc with power, explosiveness, and closing speed that jumps off the page. Buffalo finished 30th in the league in sacks in 2011, and Ingram has a knack for quarterback disruption.