Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Monday, April 2, 2012
2012 NFL Blog Network mock companion

By Mike Sando

Raise your hand if you had the San Francisco 49ers selecting Aldon Smith with the seventh overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft.

Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any hands, actually.

OK, let's try this again.

Raise your hand if you had the Seattle Seahawks selecting James Carpenter at No. 25.

Hmmm. Not seeing many hands out there. Not seeing any, actually.

Do not feel bad. Even if you knew which 32 players would become first-round picks in a given NFL draft, there would be more than 263 decillion possible combinations.

The number looks like this: 263,130,836,933,693,530,167,218,012,160,000,000.

With that in mind, our 2012 NFL Blog Network mock draft comes guaranteed not for accuracy but for its ability to promote conversation, a process that has already begun here on the NFC West blog.

"Kendall Wright pick makes no sense" CHI-TOWN-BULLS protested upon seeing the Baylor receiver projected for the49ers at No. 30.

More on that in a minute.

We penciled in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top with a reasonable degree of confidence. Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon fell third through sixth. Most choices seemed logical, but somewhere among the top five or 10 selections, an NFL team breaks from projected form, tapping into those 263 decillion combinations.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars obliterated mock drafts by selecting Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick. Last year, four quarterbacks went among the top 12 choices, with Christian Ponder a surprise choice for Minnesota at No. 12.

My thinking for the NFC West was rather straightforward:
I used ESPN's 2012 NFL Draft Machine to make selections and keep general track of which players remained available as the mock unfolded. Toggling between the overall list and specific position lists made it easier to balance value with need.

This conversation is to be continued.