Big 12 NFL prospects rising in latest mock

You've got to love NFL draft season. After players finish their performances at the combine and their respective pro days, their stocks can still fluctuate as opinions sway and NFL teams jockey for position.

The Big 12? Its best prospects are trending upward in colleague Todd McShay's latest mock draftInsider.

Not long ago, the Big 12 looked like it might not land a single player in the top 15. McShay has four Big 12 players in his top 18. You'll need Insider to see the rest of his mock draft through the second round, too.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is as high as I've seen him on any mock draft, checking in at No. 3 on McShay's mock, where he would head to Oakland and become an Oakland Raider (shudder). He thinks the Raiders could send Carson Palmer packing and build up Smith's weakness with his strong work ethic, even though he only grades out as a late first-rounder.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson has bubbled up into McShay's top 10 for the first time, checking in at No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals. That pick is contingent upon Smith being off the board, but with Johnson, his biggest plus is his upside as a talented prospect who has little experience at his current position.

West Virginia WR Tavon Austin's impressive combine performance and follow-up show at the WVU pro day shot him all the way up to No. 13, where he'd go to the Tampa Bay Bucs. McShay likes that Austin can do what far too few in the NFL can these days: create space and make plays after getting the ball in his hands.

Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro may not have to go far to find his new pro home. He's been a popular pick in this spot lately, and McShay agrees: He makes sense at No. 18 to the in-state Dallas Cowboys. Vaccaro's only concern is his straight-line speed, but McShay loves his toughness in run support and his cover skills. I couldn't agree more. He's a complete player at the position and has a great football IQ.

The NFL draft is a humorous exercise in public opinion and haranguing, but we'll see who's for real and who's bluffing when the draft takes place on April 25.