Tonight is the first round of the much anticipated 2012 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Cal fans, we will likely not see a Golden Bear drafted in the first round for the first time since the 2008 NFL Draft. (That year, the Philadelphia Eagles got a steal when they took Desean Jackson in the second round.) But while we will not have the pride of seeing a Golden Bear walk onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall and pose for photos with Commissioner Roger Goodell, we will see many former adversaries make that walk. No fewer than four Pac-12 players are expected to be first round draft choices tonight with as many as six a realistic possibility. And in a happening that will make you think "gee, no wonder they were so good," as many as four Stanford Cardinal footballers are expected to be drafted in the first round tonight, including the first overall selection in quarterback Andrew Luck.
Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year, has seen his draft stock rise considerably since the end of last season. One of the reasons for that is speed: Kendricks ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds) for a linebacker at the NFL scouting combine since 2000. Even with his stock rising, however, Kendricks is likely a second round pick at best. So we will probably have to wait until Friday to see who will be Kendricks' future employer.
After the jump, get the skinny on the Pac-12 players we can expect to see taken in the first round tonight.
Ted Miller has a rundown of the NFL draft prospects from the Pac-12. Teddy Ballgame gives us some insider information! ESPN Insider, that is. Miller reveals what Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock first round has for Pac-12 players:
1. Andrew Luck (Stanford), QB, Indianapolis Colts
Kiper: This we've known since the Colts wrapped up the NFL's worst record. I think where we're all really intrigued is what the Colts decide to do at No. 34. Do they go with an offensive piece (WR, TE) to help Luck, or do they try to shore up a defense that has huge needs in a couple spots? I think right now I'd be more inclined to help my young QB, but we'll have to see how the value falls.
5. Matt Kalil (USC), OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kiper: If the board fell this way, I can also see the Bucs working the phones to get out of this spot. Kalil really would be a nice addition for this team, but they could shop the pick to a team in more desperate need of a top tackle.
11. David DeCastro (Stanford) OG, Kansas City Chiefs
Kiper: I have guard down as a top need for the Chiefs, and DeCastro will fix that problem immediately. This is as elite as you'll get from this position. He's the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson, and is the kind of player who improves your running game overnight. Not a tough call.
26. Coby Fleener (Stanford), TE, Houston Texans
Kiper: The Texans now have a void at tight end, and Fleener is the best one in the class. Houston's offense really needs an effective tight end, but not just in an underneath role. Fleener is a great one because he has the size and quickness to work underneath against linebackers, but also the straight-line speed of a receiver to stretch the field in the seam and on the edges. I like the fit.
Maybe the Indianapolis Colts can find a way to draft Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck, so when the Colts play the Broncos, they can reenact this.
But the Pac-12 might see more than just Luck, Kalil, Decastro, and Fleener go in the first round. More than a few mock drafts have Stanford T Jonathan Martin also going in the first round. Here is what the NFL.com scouting report says on Martin. Get ready to throw up, Cal fans!
Martin is one of two tackle prospects in this year's class who could be called elite, and given the value of the position will be a likely first-round pick because of it. He embodied all that Stanford football was throughout his time there, as he is an aggressive, smart, technically sound prospect who will enter the league at a stage in his development where he should be able to contribute immediately
We may also see USC DE Nick Perry go off the board in the first round. Various mock drafts have Perry as a mid-to-late first round selection. Perry was one of 26 players invited by the NFL to take part in draft-related festivities in New York this week.
Perry has been regarded as an elite pro prospect after recording 91/2 sacks for USC in 2011, his first injury-free season with the Trojans. His stock rose after an impressive performance in February at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis and in drills at USC's pro day workout in March.
He has spent most of his time training in Arizona but also was summoned by several NFL teams to tour their facilities and meet with executives. Perry declined to identify those teams.
So there you have it. You could say it's not so much that the Pac-12 will have a significant presence in the first round as it is that Stanford and USC will. (Sigh.) But think of it this way: Stanford is losing a lot of talent to the NFL! Is it rebuild or reload time for the Cardinal?
For those of you who like the theater and suspense of the NFL Draft, you should take note of the fact that this is the first draft since the implementation of the rookie wage scale, which was part of the collective bargaining agreement that ended last year's NFL lockout. The wage scale put the brakes on the perceived out-of-control guaranteed money contracts that first round selections had been getting. With the rookie wage scale in place, perhaps there will be more wheeling and dealing with teams seeking to trade up or trade down. Teams weren't shy about doing this in the "old" days: will it be even more free wheeling with the rookie wage scale in place? We shall see.
Oh, and one more thing to check out for fun: this guy does a mock of the entire draft, all seven rounds. Find the Cal players!