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Pre-Bowl season NFL mock draft

Peter Schrager breaks down the best fits for the NFL draft
Peter Schrager breaks down the best fits for the NFL draft
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Peter Schrager

Peter Schrager is the Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com and the national sports correspondent for FOX News Channel's "FOX Report Weekend." He's the co-author of Victor Cruz's New York Times' best-selling memoir "Out of the Blue" and lives in New York. Feel free to e-mail him at peterschrager@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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With the college football regular season now completed and bowl season here, we thought it’d be a good time to post another updated 2012 Mock Draft. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the end of the season, and even more will change between the end of the season and April's draft. Injuries, failed drug tests, tremendous combine performances — we see them impact the NFL Draft every year.

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Moreover, with the new CBA in place and first-round quarterbacks not costing salary cap-busting amounts, it’s fair to assume we’ll see even more aggressive trading in the top of the first round. Whereas having a top-5 pick was a toxic salary cap nightmare in previous years, look for multiple quarterback-starved teams to trade up to the front of the Draft if USC junior Matt Barkley opts to come out.

Using the NFL’s overall standings following Week 14, here's my latest top 32 and the places I could see them ending up.

If you’re looking to watch these guys in action, we’ve listed their bowl games, too. In this case, you can watch the BCS National Championship Game and the Fiesta Bowl and get nearly half of this year’s first round prospects in one sitting.

Note: This Mock assumes that all eligible players will be leaving for the draft, and thus available for selection come April. It also does not account for potential trades.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Luck finished second in the Heisman voting on Saturday night, but he’ll be the first pick in April’s Draft. No questions asked, there. The real issue isn’t whether the Colts would take Luck or not, it’s what they will do with Peyton Manning when they do.

Because of the new CBA rules, it’s not a crippling preposition to have both Manning's and Luck’s salaries on the books. The question is whether the two quarterbacks would be OK with such a situation.

It’s easy for writers and talking heads on TV to point to Aaron Rodgers’ time behind Brett Favre and say, “Look! It worked there!”, but that’s assuming Luck and Manning would be OK  with that. That’s assuming a lot. I’m not convinced Manning will be in Indianapolis next season. I’m certain Andrew Luck will be.

Bowl Game: Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: It would take a few days to wipe the smile off Sam Bradford’s face if the Rams land Blackmon.

Yes, St. Louis spent a few later-round picks on receivers Greg Salas and Austin Pettis last year, but neither guy is an elite talent like Blackmon.

For Bradford to fully develop, he needs a go-to, game-breaker on the outside. That guy’s Blackmon. He's Dez Bryant/Terrell Owens good. St. Louis hasn't had a receiving talent like this since Torry Holt in the "Greatest Show on Turf" era.

Bowl game: Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC: Kalil, the younger brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, has flat-out dominated the competition in the Pac-12 this season. He’s a 6-6, 300-pound pass protector who has surprisingly quick feet.

There was a rumor last week that he’d come out and announced he was returning to school, but he quickly addressed it and said that wasn’t official.

He’s the top tackle in this draft and that’s not even debatable. He’ll block Christian Ponder’s blindside for years to come. Great fit.

Bowl Game: No bowl game.

4. Washington Redskins: Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Rex Grossman has shown flashes in the past few weeks, but the Redskins need to draft a young quarterback for the future. Mike Shanahan would grab Barkley in a heartbeat if he leaves school and is still on the board come April.

The Trojans’ junior quarterback had a fantastic season under precarious circumstances at USC, leading his team to a wonderful season and several big wins despite a postseason ban.

Barkley’s got NFL size and has been as good as advertised this season. Similar to Matt Stafford, we’ve been hearing about Barkley since he’s been in the seventh grade. He’d be the most popular figure in Washington, D.C. — political world included — if the Redskins landed him.

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Bowl Game: No bowl game.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: Ugh. That’s the only word that can be used to describe the putrid play of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers this season. They need help all over, but corner could be a good place to start.

Tyrann Mathieu may have been the Heisman finalist in New York City on Saturday night, but Morris Claiborne is the top defensive back on LSU. He’s also the top corner in the nation. How great is Claiborne?

I think he had a better season this year than his former teammate Patrick Peterson had in Baton Rouge a season ago. That’s saying a lot. The Tampa Bay defense, once considered one of the best young units in the league, is an absolute mess. Their defensive backfield got eaten alive by the lowly Jaguars on Sunday.

Claiborne would be a much-needed addition.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

6. Miami Dolphins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Top 10 for RGIII? You bet. The Dolphins have won four of their last six games with Matt Moore under center, but Griffin III presents a hope for the future.

A gifted athlete and a former track star, Griffin III is said to throw the best long ball in all of college football. A class act and a leader, he resurrected the Baylor football program from the rubble and made it relevant. He can do the same in Miami. Critics will dissect Art Briles’ quarterback-friendly system to no end, but they can’t deny Griffin III’s skills.

He’s made himself into the third quarterback in the 2012 Draft.

Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29, 9 p.m. EST

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: This is a lot higher than most other draftniks have Floyd going, but if Blaine Gabbert is ever going to flourish in Jacksonville, he needs a go-to receiver with some height. Mike Thomas is a fine undersized slot guy, but there’s no No. 1 on that roster.

Floyd holds all the Notre Dame major receiving records and is a big presence with both speed and hands. Some off-the-field issues in his past will be addressed. He’s got top-five talent.

New ownership, a new coach — Floyd would be a big, splashy pick that will have draftniks scratching their heads. It also would be a wise one.

Bowl Game: Champs Sports Bowl, Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. EST

8. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: There will be more than a few Cleveland fans clamoring for a quarterback here, but I don’t see the Browns taking Landry Jones or Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall selection.

Instead, look for them to give Colt McCoy an offensive weapon that can actually make a play when needed. Richardson is the rare college running back worthy of a Top-10 selection.

He put up better numbers and did more with less around him at Alabama than Mark Ingram did during his Heisman year in ’09 and is the rare power-speed combo that can carry the rock 30 times a game in an NFL offense.

If Richardson goes in the Top 10, he’ll be just the fourth running back to do so in the past six drafts. He’s that good.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: A decade ago, the Panthers took a local UNC star at defensive end, and watched him dominate the NFL for eight seasons in Charlotte.

Though Coples isn't quite the "can't miss" talent that Julius Peppers was coming out of college, he has big potential to be a force at the next level.

Carolina's D was burned by early season injuries to Thomas Davis and Jon Beason. In Coples, they'll get an elite pass rusher at DE to pair with Charles Johnson in their 4-3 scheme.

Bowl Game: Independence Bowl, Dec. 26, 5 p.m. EST

10. Philadelphia Eagles: Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Will Andy Reid be back next year? Will DeSean Jackson? Do the Eagles hire a new defensive coordinator and install a new scheme? There are several questions to be addressed in Philly before the Draft, but one thing for certain is the rush defense needs to improve.

Philadelphia’s interior defensive line’s been a sore spot all season.

They could go a variety of directions to address the holes on D, but I think they take Still — a 6-4, 310-pound local product out of Wilmington, Delaware.

Bowl Game: TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2, Noon EST

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Todd Haley’s gone, but I don’t think Haley was fully to blame for Kansas City’s disastrous free-fall this season.

The Chiefs’ o-Line has been exposed all season long and continues to struggle against the rush. Tyler Palko was running for his life last weekend. Kansas City’s offensive line has been one of the worst units in the league this season.

Reiff is a 6-6, 300 pound tower who’s shown NFL pass-blocking skills since his first season at Iowa. The Scott Pioli-Kurt Ferentz connection is strong, dating back to their days together in Cleveland. This is a good fit in every way. Chiefs fans just need to hope he slips this far.

Bowl Game: Insight Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 p.m. EST

12. Buffalo Bills: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina: Remember when the Bills were 5-2 and atop the AFC East? Feels like 10 years ago, right? The Bills-to-the-playoffs storyline is a distant memory now, and that’s primarily because of the defense.

A 6-2, 240 pound tackling machine, Brown’s a guy who’s seemingly in on every play. Watching a UNC game is like watching a Zach Brown highlight reel. The Bills could use some of that resourcefulness roaming the middle.

Bowl Game: Independence Bowl, Dec. 26, 5 p.m. EST

13. Seattle Seahawks: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Tarvaris Jackson has played decent enough this season to make Seattle respectable and the Seahawks have beaten the Giants, Ravens and Eagles this year. But Jackson is not the long-term answer.

Jones has a 6-4 frame and a rifle arm. He’s also been in an NFL offense for three years at Oklahoma.

He’s been banged up this season, but should excel in workouts with his physical ability.

Bowl Game: Insight Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 p.m. EST

14. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The San Diego offensive line has been banged up and beaten down this season. With injuries and underwhelming play aiding to Philip Rivers’ forgettable 2011, look for management to give him a young, sturdy offensive tackle that he can trust.

Martin watched Andrew Luck’s back the past few seasons at Stanford and has NFL skills. He can play right away.

Bowl Game: Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST

15. Arizona Cardinals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The surging Arizona Cardinals! Considered all season to be a top-10 possibility, the Cardinals are having quite the last few weeks, winning big games against St. Louis, Dallas and San Francisco.

Ray Horton’s base 3-4 defense features a host of young talent, all stepping up and playing well. Look for Arizona to add Kirkpatrick, another first-round cornerback to pair with the rapidly improving Patrick Peterson, if he’s still on the board this late in the draft.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

16. Tennessee Titans: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: There was a lot to like about Jake Locker’s relief performance against the Saints in Week 14. Paired with Chris Johnson — who’s suddenly found his stride after a season’s worth of mediocre efforts — there’s reason for optimism in Tennessee about the offense.

Adding DeCastro, a guy scouts think could be worthy of a top-10 selection in 2012, to Mike Munchak’s already solid offensive line only adds to a good, young offense.

Bowl Game: Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: The losses of both Carlos Dunlap and Leon Hall to injuries has crippled the Bengals, a team that got off to a hot 6-2 start and is now in danger of missing the playoffs.

Look for Cincinnati to use this selection on a premier cornerback talent like Janoris Jenkins. The North Alabama star was a starter at Florida before being dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.

Disciplinary reasons haven’t exactly scared the Bengals off before.

Bowl Game: No Bowl game.

18. Dallas Cowboys: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Tony Romo’s the NFL’s Mr. November. That’s all good and all, but Cowboys fans would much rather him become the NFL’s Mr. December or Mr. January. Hey, Mr. February would be nice, too.

The Cowboys have holes on both offense and defense, and could end up taking the best player available at this point.

That guy could be Glenn, a superb blocking guard who could likely move to center, if necessary. The Cowboys like what they got in Tyron Smith last year. They’d be wise to get another stud on the interior of that porous offensive line.

Bowl Game: Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. EST

19. Cincinnati Bengals: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: That 4-3 defense picks up another playmaker in Upshaw. He's one of several prospects on the Alabama defense that could end up going in the top 20.

A 6-4, 265 pound playmaker, Upshaw’s been a constant force for Nick Saban’s D, playing an invaluable role when Rolando McClain left for the pros and Dont’a Hightower went down with an ACL injury last season.

Adding Upshaw and Jenkins — two guys who could play right away — would give Cincinnati one of the best young defensive units in the league.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

20. Chicago Bears: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: Konz’s name isn’t one you’ve seen on any mock drafts this season, but I have him in the top 20.

The Bears drafted one Badgers offensive lineman in Gabe Carimi last year and would be wise to take another in Konz. He's a mauler who can play either guard or center at the next level.

The fact Jay Cutler won six straight games behind this line is even more amazing now that we’ve seen the Caleb Hanie version of Chicago’s offense.

Bowl Game: Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, 5 p.m. EST

21. New York Giants: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama: The Giants have passed on drafting a linebacker in the first round for many years, going with defensive line and defensive back talent, instead.

If Hightower’s on the board, I can see them rolling the dice on a guy that was arguably the best linebacker in college football this season. He’ll put on a show against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game. He always does.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

22. New York Jets: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama: Another Alabama defensive player in the first round? Yep. A hard-hitting safety with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Barron is a bright talent that will help solidify the Jets’ defensive backfield. He’s a fourth-year senior who’s played since he got to Tuscaloosa. He can play right away for Rex Ryan’s defense, too.

Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST

23. Detroit Lions: Alfonso Dennard, CB, Nebraska: Two years after taking Mr. Suh in the first round, the Lions go back to Lincoln to draft a sorely needed elite cornerback talent.

That Lions defensive backfield is all sorts of injured, but it wasn’t very good to start with, even when healthy. Dennard came back from an early season injury and finished the season playing like a first-round talent. I think he’s got top-20 potential.

Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. EST

24. Denver Broncos: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: As recently as last week, my man Terry Bradshaw and others suggested the Broncos would draft a quarterback in the first round next year.

Come on, guys! Tebow! Tebow! Tebow! Get on board. It’s not too late. If I’m a shameless Tebow supporter — and I have been since the very start — it’s because he seemingly does what all the ex-quarterbacks and scouts ultimately would want from a quarterback: He wins games. Cliché? Hackneyed? It’s true. And if he does it in an unorthodox fashion, so be it.

Denver doesn’t need a quarterback. Thompson’s a sturdy defensive tackle who can stop the run. He’s a better fit than another gunslinger.

Bowl Game: Orange Bowl, Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m. EST

25. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: Colt McCoy would have no more excuses if he failed to do anything with both Richardson and Jeffery alongside him. Jeffery is a 6-4, 230 pound beast with good hands and great route running ability. There are no NFL first, second or third receivers on that Browns roster at the moment. Jeffery has No. 1 potential. At the very least, he’ll be the top guy in Cleveland.

Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. EST

26. San Francisco 49ers: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Robert Griffin III gets all the media love and rightfully so, but his No. 1 wideout, Wright, is quite the NFL prospect in his own right.

Though only 5’10 and 195 pounds, Wright is a bona fide playmaker. Add him to the mix in the San Francisco offense, and they only get better.

Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29, 9 p.m. EST

27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Cam Heyward, the Steelers’ first-round pick out of Ohio State last year, came up with a huge blocked field goal against the Bengals and was a stud in Week 14 versus Cleveland.

With the offensive line being patched up with Scotch tape this season, look for Pittsburgh to invest in another OSU product in Adams.

His draft stock soared this year despite a rare down year for the Buckeyes.

Bowl Game: Gator Bowl, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. EST

28. Houston Texans: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: The Texans used their first four picks on defensive players last year and went out and hired Wade Phillips, signed Johnathan Joseph and Daniel Manning, and got tough. It’s paid off.

The offense isn’t the high-scoring machine that it was in previous years, and with this defense, it doesn’t have to be.

Whether it’s Matt Schaub or T.J. Yates under center, Houston could use another playmaker at receiver.

Sanu’s arguably the best receiver the Big East has seen since Larry Fitzgerald. That includes Mike Williams, Jon Baldwin and Mardy Gilyard. The Rutgers’ single season record holder in receptions, look for Sanu to go in the first round.

Bowl Game: Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30 3:20 p.m. EST

29. New England Patriots: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: I’ve been really high on Worthy since last season and think he’d make a good fit in New England.

He didn’t have the almighty dominant season some scouts expected this year, but he was the anchor of one of the best defensive lines in all of college football. Capable of moving inside or outside, he’s the type of pass rushing big body that could go 3-4 or 4-3. He fits in New England’s fluid scheme.

Bowl Game: Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. EST

30. New England Patriots (via New Orleans): Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: The Pats took a cornerback out of Virginia with the 33rd overall pick last year. They could go to Charlottesville again this year by snagging Minnifield.

The son of former Browns defensive back Frank Minnifield, Chase has been a bright spot for Mike London’s Cavaliers the past two years.

The Patriots have drafted several defensive backs in the early rounds over the past two years, but still can’t seem to solidify the unit. Minnifield can play immediately and has the smarts Belichick and Co. demand.

Bowl Game: Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31, 7 p.m. EST

31. Baltimore Ravens: Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State: The Ravens offensive line has survived with some moving parts this season, but big Bryant Mckinnie isn’t the long-term answer at left tackle.

Though Michael Oher and Jah Reid could make up a nice duo, look for Baltimore to solidify the position with a first-round pick. I like Adcock, a late draft board riser, who had a fantastic season protecting Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State.

A 6-5, 320 pound pass protector, he’s a bit of a work in progress, but has elite NFL talent.

Bowl Game: Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST

32. Green Bay Packers: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: What Christmas gift do you give the kid who has everything? That’s how I feel assigning a first-round pick to the Packers this season. They’re incredible, all around, in every facet.

Now that I’m done slobbering, let me explain the selection of James, a guy that’s likely not the second running back on most team’s draft boards. A speedster who can break it on the outside, catch passes out of the backfield, and spell Starks/Grant/Saine in an every down back role, he’s just another weapon that Green Bay could use.

Adding a speedster like James to this offense is almost unfair, but it certainly is worth considering.

Bowl Game: Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, 5 p.m. EST

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Texans, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Mike Adams, Tarvaris Jackson, Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, Matt Moore, DeSean Jackson, Mike Thomas, Michael Oher, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Mike Williams, Chris Johnson, Patrick Peterson

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