One of the most common questions I get this time of year is for clarification on my mock drafts. Readers want to know if I project who I believe their team should select or who I believe their team will select.
For mock draft projections, the latter is always the case. I have too much respect for the talent evaluators operating each of the NFL's 32 franchises to attempt advising them which players fit their team needs the best.
The Big Board, on the other hand, is strictly my ranking of the players available, regardless of position. If I was building a team from scratch with only the current draft class to choose from, this is the order in which I'd select them.
These rankings are based primarily on the games played during each prospect's career. However, these rankings will remain fluid until draft day as I review tape and take into consideration workouts, interviews and player health.
1. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Shutdown corner with the ability to impact the game as a returner, he's the safest player in the draft.
2. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Hard to believe he's more impressive against run than pass considering he led nation with 15.5 sacks.
3. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: The most talented player in the draft, but I have concerns about his maturity and work ethic once he gets a multi-million dollar contract.
4. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: Answered only questions about his game by proving he's a legitimate 6'2 (and 5/8) and 237 pounds, as well as proving fluidity in coverage at Senior Bowl.
5. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: A more explosive pass rusher than Bowers; is viewed by some as a better fit as a 3-4 rush linebacker.
6. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Has to prove speed to move into my top five, but has a combination of hands and body control that have helped Larry Fitzgerald and Sidney Rice dominate when protected with solid QB play.
7. Marcel Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama: Strong, stout and quick, Dareus can play inside and out in either scheme.
8. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Rare to see two corners with a top 10 grade, but Amukamara deserves it. Size, physicality to compete right away.
9. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Rare size, strength and physicality for position will make him an early standout. There is some Anquan Boldin-like toughness here.
10. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Stats say he struggled this season, but a closer look shows he did all of the little things well. I'd have no problem using a top-15 pick on him, especially for a team running a 4-3 alignment.
11. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Tough to assign a grade this high on any running back, but Ingram's rare combination of vision, balance, burst and low-center of gravity remind me of only one back -- Emmitt Smith.
12. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB Missouri: Was surprised to see him come out; as he would have ranked as an elite defensive prospect had he returned. Raw, but spectacular upside.
13. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Showed everyone at Senior Bowl what I've been saying for months -- he's arguably the most versatile defensive lineman in a class blessed with them.
14. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Size, arm strength, good accuracy and a quick release, he has all of the tools -- but wasn't consistent enough to land a top ten grade in my eyes.
15. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder's weak base and moderate strength are concerns, but his rare size (6-8, 314), athleticism and flexibility make him an ideal left tackle prospect.
16. Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida: Size, strength and the athleticism to block at the second level, Pouncey's ability to stand out against SEC competition make him an easy first round pick.
17. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Not as athletic as Solder, but another true left tackle who played with greater strength at the Senior Bowl than I'd previously given him credit for.
18. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: As I've said since January, Newton is going to wind up in the top 10. His orchestrated workout didn't answer any of the questions I have about him. Namely, whether he can adapt mentally from Gus Malzahn's relatively simple spread-option offense to an infinitely more complicated pro-style attack against infinitely more complicated defenses.
19. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Penetrating three-technique defensive tackle who quietly rates behind only Fairley and Dareus on many teams' boards.
20. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: In terms of pure talent, Smith is this year's best tackle -- but his experience lies on the right side, his future lies on the left and scouts have questioned his maturity. I'll wait to outside the Top 20 for a gamble on greatness.
21. Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: It is pretty hard to give a 26 year-old guard a first-round grade, but Watkins, with only four years of football, isn't beaten up and was very impressive at the Senior Bowl.
22. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Legitimate top-15 talent, but off-field concerns. The fact that he didn't compete at the Senior Bowl drop him down my board.
23. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: A road grader with enough size, reach for pass protection, Carimi would be best off moving to right tackle.
24. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fla.): Struggled against big receivers, including Notre Dame's Michael Floyd in the Sun Bowl, but boasts even quicker feet for coverage than Peterson or Amukamara.
25. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Undeniably an elite athlete and one who may wind up drafted much higher than my ranking indicates, but Ayers' moderate instincts and tendency to over-run the play make him a gamble, in my opinion.
26. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: I'm admittedly higher on Sherrod than most, but see him as an ideal swing tackle capable of stepping in immediately and is well worth first round pick.
27. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple: The best defensive lineman no one seems to be talking about -- yet.
28. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Lots to like about Kerrigan's hustle and production, though his thinner lower body and marginal hand play are concerns.
29. JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The ideal defensive end for the 3-4, but may not have a fit in the 4-3, limiting his grade.
30. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: A top 20 talent athletically, but will have to answer questions about his suspension and transfer from Penn State to get drafted there.
31. Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: Currently leads Kentucky's Randall Cobb in a tight race to be the third-ranked receiver in this class due to greater height, straight-line speed.
32. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: One of the few bright spots for the Longhorns this season, the 6-1, 205 pound Williams has the size, speed and cover skills to warrant a look in the late first round.
TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
RB Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky DE Cameron
Heyward, Ohio State (injury)
DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State (injury)
QB Jake Locker, Washington
C/OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State
QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy
QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas