With five Pac-12 players taken in the first round of the 2012, it was the most players taken from the conference since 2008 when it was still the Pac-10 and six came off the board. The high number is not only a testament to how strong the conference was in 2008, but also the current balance of the conference as they came from four different schools as opposed to 2008 where four of the six came from USC.
The players who were taken in the first day of the draft were an interesting lot though as every player other than Star Lotulelei for the most part, wasn't considered a likely first round draft choice going into the 2012 season. So while household names like Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Kenjon Barner and Johnathan Franklin are still on the board, some more lesser-known Pac-12 players already know where they will begin their NFL careers - but who are these guys? Why did they come off the board so quickly? And where do they fit in?
Dion Jordan 6'6 248 DE Oregon - Taken by Miami with the third pick
Who is he? A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011 and 2012, Jordan has been the Ducks' most dangerous defensive player the past two seasons and Jordan had 12.5 sacks during those seasons along with 23.5 tackles for loss.
Why was he taken here? Jordan was far and away the best pure athlete in this year's draft with out-of-this-world speed and superb combine numbers for a guy of his size. A former tight end, Jordan has a very interesting skill set that is perfectly suited for the current NFL style that especially values edge guys who can get after the passer and also drop into coverage. Overall, he probably has the highest ceiling of any player in this year's draft class.
Where does he fit? Miami wanted Jordan so bad that they traded up to get him at number three in hopes that he can team with Cameron Wake and form a devastating pass rushing duo. Jordan probably needs to add some weight to fit into his DE/OLB role at the next level, but the Dolphins assuredly hope to utilize him as much as possible next season in passing situations.
Star Lotulelei 6'2 311 DT Utah - Taken by Carolina with the fourteenth pick
Who is he? Lotulelei is the most familiar name of any of the Pac-12 players selected in the first round as he was a pre-season All-American last season and likely would have been a first round draft pick had he declared last season. Lotulelei was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2011 and 2012 and won the Morris Trophy in 2011.
Why was he taken here? Lotulelei is probably the best run defender in the draft at any position and even though the NFL has become more pass happy, a big, immovable defensive tackle like him is still a very valuable asset in the league. A concerning heart test in at the combine likely dropped Lotulelei about 10 picks, but positive further testing kept him from slipping towards the end of the first round or even the second.
Where does he fit? Lotuelelei fits very well with the Panthers' front as he will likely line up alongside former Beaver Dwan Edwards who is a good pass-rusher and will balance out Lotulelei's lack of ability in getting after the pass rusher. The Panthers will also be able to ease him in, as they also already have former Cardinal Sione Fua up front who is a similar player to Lotulelei.
Kyle Long 6'6 313 T Oregon - Taken by Chicago with the twentieth pick
Who is he? Many might not know Long because he only played one season in the Pac-12, but the son of Howie Long made a huge impression in that one year as he played both guard and tackle for the Ducks. Long didn't make the official All-Pac-12 team, but helped paved the way for the Ducks' unstoppable run game.
Why was he taken here? Long ran a 4.9 40-yard-dash at the combine and has excellent overall athleticism for a player of his size. Long also played in a system at Oregon that due to its speed and complexity up front really showcased his skills and could be good experience for a league that is beginning to operate at a higher speed.
Where does he fit? Long is versatile enough to be a tackle or a guard at the next level, but it looks like the Bears will need him at guard initially where he will have a good chance to become an immediate starter. However, don't be surprised if he moves out to left tackle to utilize his length and athleticism at some point.
Desmond Trufant 5'11 190 CB Washington - Taken by Atlanta with the twenty-second pick
Who is he? The younger brother of former Washington State/Seahawks star cornerback Marcus Trufant, Desmond made first-team All-Pac-12 last year and was regarded as either the best cornerback in the conference, or the second-best behind Oregon State's Jordan Poyer.
Why was he taken here? Trufant ran a 4.4 40-yard-dash at the combine and has good size for a corner as he is just a shade under six feet tall. He also had a great showing in 2012 as he faced off with a number of top receivers and performed well, including USC's Marqise Lee. The Falcons also really showed Trufant's value by trading up to get him knowing that he wouldn't be around much longer.
Where does he fit? Trufant fills a serious position of need for the Falcons as they released Dunta Robinson and only have Asante Samuel returning. He will be expected to start across the field from Samuel as a rookie.
Datone Jones 6'4 283 DE UCLA - Taken by Green Bay with the twenty-sixth pick
Who is he? Jones seemed like he had been at UCLA forever and had his best season as a Bruin in 2012 as he made second-team All-Pac-12 as a key part of the Bruins' much improved defense. Jones had 19 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks in 2012.
Why was he taken here? Jones might have had the best Senior Bowl and testing period of any player in the draft as he shot himself up the draft boards in the past few months. He also already has the ideal body for an NFL defensive end and can defend well against the run while also rushing the passer.
Where does he fit? The Packers have a big, but not very athletic front so they hope that the addition of Jones will instantly inject some more speed and versatility to their defense up front. He will be expected to start at base end and could be the key to the Packers installing a 3-4 defense.