Looking ahead and behind at the NFL draft

Sports Illustrated released a list of the top 40 prospects for 2012's NFL Draft, which is a healthy year away from right now.

The Big 12 players on the list?

But how accurate can these lists be a year out from the actual draft? Well, hit or miss, I suppose. Let's take a look back to last year's mock draft for 2011 from Todd McShay back in April 2010, a year before the draft that just occurred over the weekend.

No. 14: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Miller made a late charge up the draft boards with his measurables, running a 4.49 40-yard dash at an unfathomable 255 pounds. The Broncos loved it and took him second overall, behind only Heisman winner Cam Newton. A year under Tim DeRuyter allowed Miller to show he was more than just a pass rusher. He can pursue ball carriers and cover, too.

No. 18: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma

Beal's production was easy to fall in love with, but he couldn't outrun his less-than-ideal size/speed combination. Beal did a ton on the field, but NFL teams didn't like his measurables and lack of a projected position at the next level. He was drafted in the seventh round.

No. 22: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State

NFL teams seemed to all agree to devalue running backs this year, but Thomas, the No. 2 running back on McShay's list back then, went fifth among running backs and was a second-round pick.

Nowhere to be found on the list, though?

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, who went 10th overall. The same with Aldon Smith, who was seventh overall. Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins and defensive tackle Phil Taylor were also first-round picks who weren't projected as such a year ago.

Neither Gabbert or Smith had outstanding regular seasons. Taylor didn't either. But once NFL teams start to get a long look at players, they can become smitten. Or, on the other hand, not see a player as one that can help them at all for any number of reasons.

A lot can happen between now and then.