The Stanford Cardinal had quite the season in 2011 and will see many of their players be rewarded for their hard work in college once the 2012 NFL Draft comes around. While just about everyone believes Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin are locks for the first round, it is tight end Coby Fleener moving up draft boards everywhere. Todd McShay of ESPN recently released his latest mock draft and had all four going in the first round:
Luck - Colts - No. 1
The status of Colts legend Peyton Manning is still up in the air after multiple neck surgeries, and Manning will be 36 years old next season. Meanwhile, Luck is a once-in-a-generation prospect with the physical tools and mental makeup to start from day one. Given the financial considerations involved, the smart decision is to draft Luck and part ways with Manning.
DeCastro - Cardinals - No. 13
This might seem a bit high for a guard, but DeCastro was the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the nation in 2011 and has a chance to develop into one of the elite NFL players at his position. Offensive tackle is also a need area, but DeCastro is a much better overall player than the top available tackle. Cornerback could also be a consideration, but both Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) carry off-field baggage.
Martin - Chargers - No. 19
San Diego needs an upgrade over current right tackle Jeromey Clary, and Martin has starting potential. He's still growing into his body and was not as dominant as I'd hoped when I went back to the 2011 tape, but he still has good run-blocking skills and remains a potential first-rounder.
Fleener - Texans - No. 26
The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.
The next few weeks of workouts will be huge for three of these guys. Luck has all but established himself as the top pick, but DeCastro, Martin and Fleener could end up anywhere in the first two rounds.