Only in a few instances did draft stock change dramatically during last week's Scouting Combine. Regarded as a first-round prospect amongst some media types, Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict bombed his first post-collegiate job interview and will be drafted on day three if he's lucky. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill opened eyes with a 4.36 forty time and 11-foot-1 broad jump at 6-foot-4, 215. Hill's game tape is currently in hot demand around the NFL and -- most importantly -- that game tape is quite good.
Rotoworld draft maven Josh Norris put a bow on the 2012 Combine in his Tuesday review column. On Thursday night, Norris and I teamed to project the 2012 draft.
Here's what we've got:
1. Colts -- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck
As we inch toward April 26, expect some media reports to emerge that the Colts are considering shopping the No. 1 pick. Indianapolis may as well gauge the value of the selection as it undergoes a full-on rebuild, changing schemes on both sides of the ball. The most likely endgame remains choosing a quarterback considered more pro-ready than any prospect to come out of college since Luck's predecessor in Indy. Look for Peyton Manning to be released next Wednesday night.
2. Browns (Projected Trade) -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III
We usually avoid trade projections in mock drafts, but a deal for Griffin is virtually inevitable. The bidding war began at the Combine, and will continue right up until the draft's first night. While the Redskins will be ardent pursuers, we suspect the Rams would prefer to trade with Cleveland. It's no secret that St. Louis is high on LSU CB Morris Claiborne, who might not get past Tampa Bay at No. 5. The Rams would also have a better shot to be competitive in new coach Jeff Fisher's first season armed with two 2012 first-round picks, as opposed to one in 2012 and another in 2013.
3. Vikings -- USC left tackle Matt Kalil
Minnesota is overhauling the left side of its offensive line. Concussion-prone, 34-year-old LG Steve Hutchinson will likely be released before the start of free agency, and incumbent left tackle Charlie Johnson is moving inside to guard. Kalil is a dancing bear at 6-foot-7, 306 with terrific feet for pass protection, better-than-advertised strength, and 34 1/2-inch arms. Kalil is the prototype, the best player available, and can immediately turn the Vikings' greatest weakness into a strength.
4. Rams (Projected Trade) -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
The Redskins' bid for the right to draft second ultimately won't offer enough immediacy for St. Louis. Perhaps taking slightly less from the Browns, the Rams drop down two spots to select the highest-rated defender on their board. Claiborne is 5-foot-11, 188, but covers like a 6'2" corner with lineman-like 33 1/4-inch arms. The converted wideout also boasts soft hands, intercepting 11 passes in his final two college seasons. The Rams have a bull’s-eye on offseason cornerback upgrades.
5. Buccaneers -- Alabama running back Trent Richardson
The best running back prospect to enter the pros since Adrian Peterson, Richardson received full medical clearance at the Combine following his February 3 knee scope. "It was about as minor and routine as you can get," said Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery. Richardson even has a leg up on Peterson coming out of college as a far superior blocking and pass-catching back. New Bucs coach Greg Schiano was one of college football's most run-heavy minds, and don't expect him to veer from that approach in the NFL. LeGarrette Blount can't get it done alone.
6. Redskins -- Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill
The Redskins are not expected to seriously pursue Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn in free agency. Mike Shanahan's most likely approach involves signing a stopgap passer like Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman, and opening the season with the veteran while the rookie waits. Missing out on RG3 wouldn't be a devastating setback because Tannehill might be a better fit for Shanahan's offense. Outstanding athletically in his own right, Tannehill is a strong-armed, more accurate version of Jake Locker.
7. Jaguars -- South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram
Ingram is the top-ranked defensive end on most teams' draft boards, and reinforced the NFL's high opinion of him with a quietly impressive Combine. Ingram's three-cone time (6.83) was the third best by a defensive lineman since 2006, while his 4.18 short shuttle was bettered by only two defensive ends in Indy. Jaguars G.M. Gene Smith emphasizes effort and character in his top draft picks, and Ingram edges out North Carolina's Quinton Coples in both areas. More explosive off the edge than Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, Ingram will have no trouble going in the top ten.
8. Dolphins -- North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples
At 6-foot-6, 284 with 33 1/4-inch arms, Coples is a long-bodied pass rusher with a much more productive track record than widely given credit. The 21-year-old racked up 40.5 career tackles for loss and 24 sacks, earning first-team All-ACC honors as both a junior defensive tackle and senior defensive end. Transitioning from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, the Dolphins' most glaring need is at left end opposite weak-side rusher Cameron Wake. It's also Coples' natural position at the NFL level.
9. Panthers -- Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
Cox's stellar Combine was somewhat unfairly overshadowed by Dontari Poe's among interior D-Linemen. A better player than Poe on the field, Cox ran a linebacker-like 4.79 forty time at 6-foot-4, 298, and bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times with 34 1/2-inch arms. The Panthers believe they have a promising young corps on the defensive interior, but Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain, and Sione Fua lack Cox's difference-making upside. He's already the best pass rusher of the group.
10. Bills -- Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus
No team in football is more desperate for pass rushers than the Bills, who lost out on Von Miller due to a last-minute reversal by Denver's front office the night before the 2011 draft. While one-year wonder concerns exist about Mercilus, he answered questions about his natural athleticism in Indianapolis by running the fourth fastest forty time (4.68) among defensive linemen and showing explosive potential with a 32-inch vertical and 9-foot-10 broad jump. Mercilus' motor never stops running, and he is big enough (6'4/261) to be an every-down NFL defensive end.