NFL Mock Draft 2012: Matt Kalil Makes Dream Target For Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line

The latest buzz on the draft stock of the country's top prospects as (already) look forward to the 2012 NFL Draft.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Chiefs Could Grab Trent Richardson To Team With Jamaal Charles

If the Kansas City Chiefs were the No. 1 rushing team a year ago with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones as the one-two punch, what are the possibilities with the top running back in the class of 2012 partnering with an All-Pro like Charles? The Chiefs might just find out if the latest mock draft from Walter Football is to be believed.

The Chiefs are in need of some further help along both the offensive and defensive line and an inside linebacker would be nice as well. A secondary could always use help given today’s pass happy NFL and depending on what the team does with Matt Cassel, a quarterback could be the answer. But Walter Football has the Chiefs going with the best value on the draft board — and that means Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Jamaal Charles will be back next year, but the Chiefs have never been convinced that he can carry the load. That’s even a more unreasonable expectation in 2012 given that he’s coming off a torn ACL. Trent Richardson is the top player available. He would give Kansas City the top one-two punch at running back in the NFL.

While it’s a luxury pick, it would make the running attack of the Kansas City Chiefs a pair that defenses could not properly prepare for and could open up things in the passing game in a major way.

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Matt Barkley's Return To USC Makes Quarterback Class For NFL Draft Very Thin After Andrew Luck

Last year, several teams took a quarterback at the top of the first round starting with Cam Newton and lasting through names like Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert. That’s not likely to happen again after Andrew Luck at the No. 1 spot in the 2012 NFL Draft — not with the reported intentions of Matt Barkley heading back to USC. It’s likely to stop only with one more name announced: Robert Griffin III.

The Baylor product is likely to be the only top quarterback selected within the first several picks after Luck likely heads to the Indianapolis Colts. For the Kansas City Chiefs, who will likely have an upper-mid selection around No. 12 (which they would have right now if the season ended), the team won’t have the right value — at least at this point — at the quarterback position to pull the trigger.

It’s possible a player like Ryan Tannehill rockets up draft boards in the pre-draft workout season, since it happens every year. However, the buzz hasn’t been there for anyone to believe it will trump some other positions of need for teams. If anything, this likely cements a direction toward the offensive line rather than reach for a quarterback who doesn’t deserve it. Without Barkley, there’s no likelihood that a decent quarterback will fall.

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Matt Barkley Reportedly Heading Back To USC For Another Season

If Pete Thamel of the New York Times is correct, the NFL Draft is going to be a bit thinner at the quarterback position — and that’s bad news for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs who are likely among the teams at least eyeing a new starting through the April draft. The report is that Barkley is telling teammates he will be back for another year at Southern Cal, which means that USC will be a favorite heading into next season to win it all, and that Robert Griffin III just might have made a lot more money.

Barkley has been widely regarded as the second best quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft for some time if he were to declare his intentions to go pro. Griffin has recently been tailing him with his recent Heisman win after his stellar year for Baylor, but now it’s clear that Griffin will enter the No. 2 spot comfortably assuming he declares as well. Perhaps Landry Jones is now the third best quarterback available.

Barkley will make his intentions public later today.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley Battle In Mel Kiper's Latest Big Board

Andrew Luck laughs from his throne at the other quarterbacks vying for any position of influence. That’s how it seems, at least, in every quarterback ranking (or even player ranking list) for that matter when it comes to the 2012 NFL Draft. Mel Kiper of ESPN just released his latest Big Board of his top 25 players eligible for the draft and he has Luck at the top with the rising Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor now neck in neck with USC’s Matt Barkley, long believed to be the second best quarterback in the draft.

Kiper writes about Barkley, who is his No. 6 player, “Faces a tough decision. Closed the year remarkably well. Accurate and showing growth year-to-year. Throwing a better ball and throws it really well on the move. Good, not great, arm. Pro-style skills are valued, even as offenses change.”

As for Griffin, he is now No. 7 overall and could take Barkley in the next release of Kiper’s list. He writes, “Not buying any talk he'd be higher on some boards than Luck, but his elite athleticism and altered delivery has resulted in better accuracy on downfield throws. Great kid, underrated passer. No ill effects from 2009 knee injury. Remarkable numbers. ”

In the past, Griffin was believed to have significantly lower stock before his Heisman win, which meant a team like the Chiefs could have still had him within reach. Now the only candidate likely to drop to the middle of the first round is Landry Jones of Oklahoma, who hasn’t impressed many people with the year he’s had. It’s likely the Chiefs stick with offensive or defensive line when it’s their turn in April.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Could Land With Cleveland Browns

Robert Griffin III is definitely the hottest ticket in Big 12 football when it comes to the upcoming frenzy of the 2012 NFL Draft to be held next April. That said, he’s now entered Top 5 territory in mock drafts with the release of Wes Bunting’s latest over at the National Football Post. While it’s only a top ten, Griffin didn’t need the last six spots to find his new virtual home: Cleveland Browns.

The Browns are definitely in need of a quarterback given that Colt McCoy has yet to really master the trade at the NFL level and the team will need the potential Griffin offers in a division as tough as the AFC North.

Bunting writes, “With the love that Browns team president Mike Holmgren has shown for backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, one can only figure he would also love an athlete the caliber of Griffin III. The Browns need to improve their play at the quarterback position and Griffin III is the kind of multi-dimensional athlete that has the ability to make everyone around him better.”

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Compared To Steve Young Or 'Athletic Drew Brees'

As scouts opinions begin to pour in about the pro potential of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, it’s clear that all comparisons make the Baylor quarterback look really good. For some, he’s been likened to Michael Vick. For others it’s Randall Cunningham. The latest comes from a survey conducted by the National Football Post’s Dan Pompei who writes that Griffin also compares with Steve Young or an athletic Drew Brees.

Pompei writes, “He probably will be one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. He isn’t quite the freak that Michael Vick is, but he’s not far behind. One AFC personnel director compares him to Steve Young. An NFC scouting director said he is a really athletic Drew Brees. What Griffin can do is create second chances when a play breaks down. He is an outstanding runner with instinct, quickness and speed.”

It’s clear that Griffin is going to be a dynamic threat at the next level and one that teams will scramble for come draft time. While Andrew Luck still seems a cinch at the top of the draft, whoever gets the No. 2 pick may find several suitors clamoring for the chance to draft Griffin.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Chiefs Connected To Iowa Tackle Riley Reiff

The Kansas City Chiefs have two needs that most analysts discussing the upcoming NFL Draft keep pointing to -- a high ceiling quarterback prospect and an offensive tackle. If one isn't available, in other words, then the team will pick the other. That's the case in the latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft from Pick 256 when they have the Chiefs selecting Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff with the first round choice in April's draft.

The Chiefs really need a QB but there isn’t one worth taking at this point. If Landry Jones comes out, he could be a consideration here. The Chiefs also have some holes in their front 7 which need to be addressed but they have to find a solution at OT. 10th overall might be too high for a RT to replace the below-average Barry Richardson, but for a team that loves to run the ball a high-quality OL would go a long way.

The Iowa connection certainly makes sense seeing as the Chiefs already have Tony Moeaki and Ricky Stanzi on the roster from that offensive unit. Scott Pioli trusts Kirk Ferentz quite well and Iowa offensive linemen have done well in the NFL -- from Bryan Bulaga with the Packers to other names like Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Marshal Yanda or Casey Wiegmann.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Matt Kalil Makes Dream Target For Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line

The Kansas City Chiefs have impact players at several positions on the field that certainly change the face of the game once they are healthy. Eric Berry dominates the secondary and changes a team’s offensive plans. Jamaal Charles makes any defense miss time and time again. Brandon Flowers can shut down a team’s best defender and Tamba Hali makes an offensive tackle look confused and inexperienced nearly every single game. But the Chiefs’ offensive line has lacked that sort of anchor for some time, and a player like USC’s Matt Kalil could change all of that.

Kalil’s brother, Ryan, is already the highest paid center in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and the Kalil brothers could become the best pair even above the Pouncey brothers in the league. Garry Paskwietz of ESPN praises Kalil and says his talents will go very high in the upcoming NFL Draft:

Kalil certainly fits the bill of those who went before him. He’s big and strong with long arms and a mean streak on the field. He comes from good genes, with a brother who was an All-American on the USC line and a father who played professionally as well.

Kalil was the anchor of a USC line in 2011 that was expected to be the team’s weak link. Instead, it turned out to be a dependable unit that kept pressure off the quarterback and made room up front for a 1,000-yard rusher. There were many USC observers who believe the production from the line was the most pleasant surprise of the 2011 season and a key reason for the resurgence of the Trojans program.

Along the way, Kalil also developed as a leader off the field. USC head coach Lane Kiffin singled him out as someone who really bought into what the new coaches were teaching. The new teachings didn’t take easily at first, but Kalil eventually came around and — once he did — he was critical in getting his teammates to believe in the coaches as well.

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NFL Draft 2012: Matt Kalil Declares Himself Eligible, Skips Senior Year At USC

Matt Barkley might be the second best player available on his own team, even if he is a the quarterback. That’s because his blindside tackle, Matt Kalil, is skipping his senior year at USC to enter the 2012 NFL Draft held in April. Immediately the announcement makes Kalil among the top players overall in the draft available and the first overall selection for any team interested in bolstering their offensive line. That should definitely be one of the primary concerns of the Kansas City Chiefs.

ESPN news services writes, "Kalil, a projected top-five pick, informed Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, other staff members and teammates of his decision to turn pro. Kalil has received numerous All-American honors this year. The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Kalil redshirted as a freshman, was backup to Charles Brown his second year and then started his final two years for the Trojans at left tackle.

“In 2011, Kalil didn’t allow a sack and led the USC offensive line to the lowest sack-allowed total in the country. ESPN.com’s Scouts, Inc. ranks Kalil as the No. 2 prospect in the nation at any position, behind only Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Other top tackles include Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Iowa’s Riley Reiff, although most scouts have Kalil firmly ahead of them.”

The Chiefs are most often connected with Reiff or Martin for their later choice than other teams who are also desperate for tackle help. If Kalil falls to them somehow, the Chiefs will undoubtedly take advantage.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Could Force Andrew Luck To Fall

The draft stock of Robert Griffin III is soaring so high that Andrew Luck might not be as secure as you might think at the top of the NFL Draft.

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NFL Draft 2012: Manti Te'o Returns To Notre Dame, Removes Dynamic Playmaker From Mock Drafts

The upcoming 2012 NFL Draft has lost one of its best defensive possibilities with the announcement that Manti Te’o, the dynamic sideline-to-sideline linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, will return to school and forgo being a certain first-round choice for the chance to play out his senior season.

Dave Miller writes, "Manti Te’o, the team’s junior linebacker and a possible first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, will return for his senior season, his father, Brian, confirmed to the Chicago Tribune via text message on Sunday night.

“The Laie, Hawaii, native came to the decision Sunday after meeting with his family in California on Saturday. Notre Dame’s defense has seen dramatic improvement since the arrival of Kelly and coordinator Bob Diaco, and Te’o has been central to the revival. He led the team in tackles, tackles-for-loss and sacks this fall as the Irish often leaned on their defense while the offense battled inconsistency.”

Thus far in 2011, Te’o has 111 tackles including 12 for a loss and 4.5 sacks.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Could Landry Jones Fall Out Of First Round?

At one point, the talk was all about the big three quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Andrew Luck was the surefire first pick, but Matt Barkley and Landry Jones were also a part of that conversation, listed among the top 10 picks in a mock draft by some of the most well-known Draft experts. Suddenly, Jones’ skills and stock are being called into question.

Russ Lande of the Sporting News says Jones isn’t even a certain first round pick anymore, and before you cringe and scowl, remember what’s happened in recent years to other sure things like Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy — guys who unexpectedly fell much farther than anyone could have predicted.

Lande writes, "Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones continues to be a source of debate among scouts. When the season began, many expected Jones to have a great junior campaign that would put him in line to be one of the top five players in the 2012 draft (if he came out early). Now, after a season in which he went through some ups and downs, a number of scouts believe he is not worth drafting in the first round.

“There is little doubt Jones has the ability to get rid of the ball quickly and has the touch to make accurate deep passes,” he continues, “but there are some concerns about his a ability to move in the pocket and his accuracy on short and intermediate passes.”

That’s either great news for a team that can pick up a dynamic young starting option later than expected or else bad news that he could become clones of the aforementioned quarterbacks like Clausen. Surely his stock will continue to rise and fall given the drama of the pre-draft workout season, but this isn’t good news for Jones at all.

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Robert Griffin III Finds Heisman Hopes Rising With NFL Mock Draft Stock

There’s no hotter name in the country than Robert Griffin III when analyzing NFL Draft prospects for 2012. The Baylor quarterback had an incredible season with only a bowl game left and he’s already among the frontrunners for tonight’s Heisman Trophy finalists — a move no one could have seen coming before the season began. And now everyone loves his draft stock as well, placing him among the top quarterbacks in the draft.

Charlie Campbell of Walter Football loves him
and says, “Griffin has been one of the biggest stars in college football this season. He carried Baylor to thrilling wins over Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU. Griffin has displayed a strong arm and good mobility. Plus, his accuracy has been phenomenal on passes to the short, intermediate, and deep part of the field. He is extremely intelligent off the field and that translates to good decision making on the field. Thus far in 2011, Griffin has completed 72 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has also rushed for 644 yards and nine touchdowns.”

In the end, Campbell has Griffin III listed as a Top 15 pick in next year’s draft.

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Landry Jones' Stock Is Falling

The latest Big Board from Mel Kiper over at ESPN is kind to most of the quarterbacks on the list. Andrew Luck is still first overall. Matt Barkley of USC continues a climb in the top ten and now sits at No. 6. Robert Griffin III of Baylor jumped 10 spots in the latest rankings. But Landry Jones of Oklahoma hasn't seen the same favor. In fact, the quarterback is starting to fall on several draft lists and Kiper's is no different.

Kiper has Jones falling to No. 14 from No. 6 this week and he writes, "I still like the way he's battled so far in 2011, but he has some interceptions and has made some odd decisions. Accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm but needs to improve footwork."

Jones had a decent year statistically and still holds a nice frame at 6-4, 229 pounds. The reality is that despite the losses suffered by Oklahoma this year, teams were also still high on Jake Locker after a horrendous senior season. Jones will still be chosen high enough to make his millions and find a starting spot.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Matt Barkley Continues Slow Steady Rise Up Draft Boards

Andrew Luck will go as the first overall selection and quarterback off of NFL Draft boards. After that, anything is possible. The rise of Robert Griffin III has many questioning whether or not Matt Barkley, the star quarterback out of USC, will be the second one taken anymore. Yet Mel Kiper of ESPN believes that Barkley’s draft stock is still rising and has Barkley five spots ahead of Griffin from Baylor.

Kiper writes that Barkley “faces a tough decision. Has closed remarkably well. Accurate and showing growth year-to-year. To me, he’s throwing a better ball and throws it really well on the move. Good, not great, arm. Pro-style skills are valued, even as offenses change.”

Barkley certainly has the pedigree and he’s won some big games this year. On the season, he has 308 completions in 446 passing attempts for a 69 percent completion rate. He’s also thrown 39 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions. Perhaps the best news is that he’s still only 21-years-old, so he’s likely to continue to improve by a fairly measurable amount.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Moves Up Mel Kiper's Big Board

Mel Kiper has once again updated his Big Board — a list of the top 25 players he likes for the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s not a list of the order he believes they will be taken, but instead is simply a list of his favorite 25 players for the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft in the order that they will impact the game. It’s good news, then, for Robert Griffin III that Kiper likes his stock so much that he moves him up 10 spots in his latest board.

Kiper writes, “Has elite athleticism and has altered and improved his delivery, resulting in better accuracy on downfield throws. Smart kid who will shine during interviews. No ill effects from 2009 knee injury. Remarkable numbers.”

The Baylor quarterback is currently up for the Heisman Trophy and his current stock is likely moving him past other quarterbacks who will be available in the draft. He’s not likely to overtake Andrew Luck, but it wouldn’t surprise to see Griffin landing a spot before Matt Barkley of USC when all is said and done.

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Todd McShay Completely Off On Justin Blackmon

Opinion, by definition, is subjective. To call one guy’s rankings wrong is really a fruitless exercise since it’s all meaningless one way or the other. With that said, it’s hard to ignore Todd McShay’s latest list of the 2012 NFL Draft’s best prospects when he has Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon so low. As in, Blackmon is No. 11 on his list. Eleven.

The reaction should be immediate for anyone reading the list since it’s clear that a number of teams atop the NFL Draft list will need a dynamic playmaker a la A.J. Green and that Justin Blackmon is the best of them all. He won the Biletnikoff Award just last year for being the best wideout in college football and he’s a strong bet to do so again this year.

McShay writes, “Blackmon’s production has been off the charts over the past two years, thanks to great hands, good ball skills and impressive body control.” McShay might like Blackmon as a wide receiver, but he clearly believes he’s behind other positions more important on the field. But tell that to the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars or St. Louis Rams who will all be selecting early in the draft with an eye on a playmaker for their new quarterbacks.

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NFL Draft 2012: Justin Blackmon Announces He's Going Pro

The 2012 NFL Draft just received its greatest offensive playmaker with the announcement on ESPN that Justin Blackmon is going to make himself available for the April draft.

"I'm pretty sure that it will be (my last game)," Blackmon said about the Fiesta Bowl. "I think it's just time. It's that time to go. I came back last year to win a Big 12 championship, set us up for a BCS bowl and I think we did that."

Dan Kadar at Mocking the Draft says that several teams will immediately set their sights on the wideout. "That sound you may have just heard was the fans of the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. Each looks like they'll have a top five pick in April and have needs at wide receiver. All season, Blackmon has been considered one of the three best wide receivers eligible for the draft, and may have surpassed Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery for the top spot."

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Justin Blackmon Vaults To No. 3 To St. Louis Rams

Wes Bunting of the National Football Post has just released his first NFL Mock Draft for 2012 and while it’s not the full first round, we now have an idea of where some of the bigger Big 12 prospects could be going. The good news is that their stock is quite high. We already discussed Robert Griffin III, but apparently one team’s need for a wide receiver is so big that they’re reaching higher than Griffin to grab the best around: Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State.

Bunting has the St. Louis Rams grabbing Blackmon at No. 3 overall in the draft and writes, “Is Blackmon the 3rd best prospect in the draft? Absolutely not. However, he’s the kind of prospect you know what you’re getting with and he fills a massive void at receiver for the Rams.”

Blackmon just won the Biletnikoff Award in 2010 as the best wide receiver in college football and he’s likely to do so again this year. He’s the total package at wideout and it’s clear those targets make high draft picks (i.e. A.J. Green at No. 4 for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011).

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NFL Mock Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Goes No. 5 To Washington Redskins In NFP's Latest

There’s no denying that Robert Griffin III is the hottest prospect in the country when referencing the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. His new Heisman Trophy candidate status is only the latest in a long line of upward ticks in the Baylor quarterback’s draft stock and now he’s being considered above other QBs who were previously mentioned just after Andrew Luck of Stanford. Step aside Matt Barkley, RG3 has arrived.

The National Football Post just put out their first mock content of the year with their NFP Top Ten and Griffin falls at No. 5 on their list to the Washington Redskins, who could certainly use a quarterback given that their choices are Rex Grossman or John Beck. Wes Bunting writes:

I gave the edge to RG3 here over USC’s Matt Barkley because of his ability to get outside the pocket, create with his legs and make throws on the move. He’s got as much upside as any prospect in the draft and could be the answer long term for Washington.

Griffin’s stock will likely rise or fall as much as anyone’s in the upcoming NFL offseason during events like the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days. It will certainly be interesting to see where the Big 12 hero falls.

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NFL Draft 2012: Chiefs Linked To Stanford Tackle Jonathan Martin In Mock Draft

The Kansas City Chiefs definitely have needs up front on their offensive line, especially at the tackle positions. The team has been investing in the middle of the line in recent years, with Jon Asamoah two drafts ago and Rodney Hudson in this past draft. If mock draft experts have their say, then it seems the Chiefs might go for the line again early in the 2012 NFL Draft by selecting Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.

Chad Reuter of CBS Sports writes, "Martin isn't as athletic as the tackles going ahead of him in this draft, but should be a solid starter for years to come at either left or right tackle." If Reuter's order is right, Martin will be the third OT to go off the board in the top 10 of the draft, showing how important it is to protect a team's biggest investment at quarterback. Matt Kalil of USC and Riley Reiff of Iowa are the first two off the board.

Tackle is a deep position in the upcoming draft, so that's good news for a team that needs help in that specific area. Branden Albert has held his own at left tackle for the Chiefs yet has yet to overwhelm anyone in doing so. Barry Richardson on the right side has needed replacing for some time. The Chiefs are consistently beat around the edge and a strong starting tackle to stabilize the line could do wonders for the running and passing game and keep the chains moving.

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NFL Draft 2012: Matt Barkley Likely To Declare, Leave USC

The NFL is a quarterbacks league. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The recent scramble for the Denver Broncos spare parts tells you all you need to know about the state of the NFL and the desperation of teams to try to solidify the quarterback position. As the Broncos released Kyle Orton, the Chiefs, Cowboys and Bears all put in claims on the QB. The Texans should have, and you can actually make the case for several others (Seattle, Washington, Arizona, St. Louis). Simply put, each team should be two-deep at the position at least and several teams are struggling to even find one worthy starter.

That means that young, dynamic quarterbacks have a prime chance to be among the top picks in the NFL Draft if they so choose. Andrew Luck is the assumed first overall selection in the draft if he declares. Matt Barkley can be another top pick as well. That's one reason why Barkley will likely declare, according to Pedro Mauro of ESPN. He writes:

The pieces are all in place for his departure. He's said over and over he wanted to end his college career with a "big bang." It doesn't get much bigger than a 50-0 win over UCLA seven days after a gigantic upset at Oregon.

The reason so many Trojans fans are clamoring to have Barkley back next year -- USC's late-season success -- is the same reason he's so likely to leave. He's boosted his stock so much it would be a bad economic decision to return for a fourth season.

The truth is that while Barkley may say he's 50-50 on deciding and hasn't thought about it yet and all that, he surely has. How can he not have at least broached the topic in his own mind and with his parents at some point over the past three years, or even before?

On the season, Barkley has completed nearly 70 percent of this throws and set USC and Pac-12 records with 39 touchdowns. He also has seven interceptions.

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NFL Draft 2012: Mel Kiper Loves Matt Barkley, Landry Jones On Latest Big Board

The latest Big Board is out from Mel Kiper, Jr. over at ESPN and that means it's time to talk about the 2012 NFL Draft. The Big Board is a rundown of the NFL Draft analyst's favorite players, listing Kiper's top 25 prospects. This year, quarterbacks come early and often on the list. That's good news for another player from the Big 12 in Landry Jones.

Andrew Luck is the obvious first choice and takes first place on the latest Big Board, but a bit farther down the list at No. 6 and No. 7 are Landry Jones of Oklahoma and Matt Barkley of USC. Given the attention paid to Barkley lately for some big USC wins, it's a good sign for Jones that Kiper still likes him more. He writes, "He misses Ryan Broyles. I like the way he's battled so far in 2011, but he has some interceptions and has made some odd decisions. Accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm but needs to improve footwork, particularly in traffic."

Oklahoma has had a less than stellar year, suffering unexpected losses to Texas Tech and Baylor, which means the spotlight isn't as bright on Jones. Yet when it comes time for the NFL Scouting Combine and other preseason workouts, he will be just fine and rise back where he belongs. Kiper will have kept an eye on him the entire time.

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NFL Draft 2012: Justin Blackmon Fourth Best NFL Prospect On Mel Kiper's Big Board

Mel Kiper Jr., NFL Draft analyst for ESPN, has released the latest edition of the Big Board — his look at his favorite 25 prospects for the upcoming 2012 Draft held next April. As for any signs of life from the Big 12, the best moments for the conference come early with the likely top picks of Justin Blackmon and Landry Jones.

Kiper has Blackmon listed as the fourth best prospect for the NFL Draft. He writes, “He should surpass last year’s 111 catches, which is remarkable. A better prospect than recent OSU star Dez Bryant. Versatile and explosive and really works to get open. Great ball skills; breaks tackles. Exceptional work ethic.”

Blackmon is in the midst of another incredible season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He’s been listed as a finalist for this year’s Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top wide receiver — an award he already took last year. It’s likely he will win it again with the year he’s having. So far he has 103 catches for 1,241 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Given the attention for elite players like A.J. Green in the draft, there’s no way Blackmon lasts past the top five. Perhaps a team like the Minnesota Vikings, who have a poor record and should be picking early, could use a top target for Christian Ponder.

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NFL Draft 2012: Brandon Weeden's Stock Sliding Due To 'Penchant For Poor Decisions'

Whether or not it’s true, it at least seems as if there are more top quarterback prospects than any other recent year in the NFL Draft. Even after the Andrew Luck hype at the top of the pecking order, names like Landry Jones, Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III lead an army of others hoping to have their names called as well. One of those, Brandon Weeden, is unfortunately sliding at the wrong time according to NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.

“The Oklahoma State star continues to baffle scouts with his maddeningly inconsistent play in the pocket,” writes Brooks. "While his gaudy numbers (42 of 58 passes for 476 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions) are impressive at first glance, it is his suspect decision making that worries evaluators.

“He inexplicably forces throws into traffic and costly turnovers typically result from tips or deflections,” he continues. “If he continues to take unnecessary chances with the ball, it will be hard for scouts to ignore his penchant for poor decisions despite his exceptional arm.”

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NFL Draft 2012: Kansas City Chiefs Scott Pioli Reportedly Checking Out USC Players Like Matt Kalil

At this point, it looks like the Kansas City Chiefs might be picking higher in the NFL Draft than they would have pictured (or liked). If so, they need to be well-prepared and it seems Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli is doing his due diligence in looking at the prospects coming out of USC. Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports says that Pioli was looking at Southern California players, especially on offense, and says it’s likely related to left tackle Matt Kalil.

Other players of note could definitely include quarterback Matt Barkley who should also go in the top half of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Chiefs have Matt Cassel under center and drafted Ricky Stanzi, but given the season’s results, it’s not hard to imagine KC’s interest in another quarterback to add to the mix. In either case, it’s all about doing your homework so this is nothing new for Pioli. It’s all a part of the job of the front office to be ready in any case while hoping the team turns things around against Oakland on Sunday.

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'Suck For Luck?' Peter King Says Andrew Luck Should Cost Three First Round NFL Draft Choices

Several fan bases around the NFL are chanting ‘Suck For Luck.’ It’s unprecedented really for so many to want their team to tank for a season, especially only in week six, all for the sake of a college quarterback. While Andrew Luck, the starting quarterback for Stanford, is certainly a prize that most scouts drool over in every possible way, it’s still common knowledge that there’s no sure thing in any draft and only one team is going to enjoy the spoils of Luck even if he works out.

That said, Peter King says that any team that ends up sucking enough to score Andrew Luck in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft is likely going to have to sacrifice three first round selections. At the very least, the draft bounty has to equal what was paid for Eli Manning several years ago (two firsts, a third and fifth) but that price will likely be well in the rearview mirror if any team really wants to land the Stanford superstar.

In his conversation with Ernie Accorsi, the discussion turns to the draft picks being cheap compensation for any team that needs Luck. Then again, if a team is that bad already, then a quarterback won’t make the difference from one level to the next. For every Peyton Manning story of turning around a franchise by himself, there are many more that show how hard it was for David Car or Tim Couch to succeed without significant talent in other areas.

Either way, it makes the NFL Draft in April one of the most exciting in years — at least for the top of the draft. And it makes for an odd NFL season, one in which several teams are supposed to lose instead of win to satisfy their fans. Odd, indeed.

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