Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft

The NFL Draft is now less than two weeks away, so I think its only appropriate to finally do a mock draft. There are people that have been doing these since the end of the season, but to me that is way too early. Constantly updating one and changing it can be a hassle. I think doing a mock draft within a week or two of the actual Draft is just the right time to do it.

Just like any other Draft, there are plenty of rumors surrounding it. The first two picks are pretty much locked in, so once the Vikings take the clock at #3, that's when things could get interesting. There may be some people that want to trade up to #3 to get Ryan Tannehill. I would advise against that. Tannehil won't be worth the trade in the long run. Robert Griffin at least has the potential to live up to the hype. I don't believe Tannehill will.

Okay, lets get this thing going.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This pick was pretty much determined once Andrew Luck finished his college career healthy and in one piece. It was just a matter of who would be picking here. In a surprise, the Indianapolis Colts finished with the worst record in 2011, so they earned the right to draft Andrew Luck.

Luck is one of the most highly hyped quarterback prospects of all time. He has great mechanics. His accuracy in and out of the pocket is tremendous. He looks like a QB you want leading your team for the next 10 years.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
The Redskins gave up three first round picks to get Griffin, so he better be worth the price. I personally think that unless Griffin wins this team a Super Bowl , it won't be worth it. Mortgaging your future on one player is a lot to risk. The Redskins could still use some help on defense. They got Griffin some weapons with the signing of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, which will help.

Griffin has a lot to offer the Redskins. His arm strength may be better than Luck's, and he can take off and make plays with his legs outside the pocket. Griffin will fit into Mike Shanahan's offense well and can help the Redskins get out of the NFC East cellar right away.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
This is where the Draft could get interesting. There are some teams that reportedly want to trade up to this spot to land Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, which would be a huge mistake on whatever teams part that does that. The Vikings would get a good haul back for the pick, but the Vikings have enough holes to fill on their own, and future picks won't help them now.

This pick is either Kalil or LSU CB Morris Claiborne. Kalil gets the nod because he is the better prospect long term. The Vikings are committed to Christian Ponder at QB and they need someone to protect him. Kalil can do that for the next decade and give Ponder more time to find his open WRs and not rush into bad throws.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
This is another pick that is up in the air. I think one thing is for certain: The Browns almost have to use this pick on an offensive player. The defense wasn't the problem for Cleveland last year, the offense was. And that was suppose to be fixed with new coach Pat Shurmur.

Again, various reports say various things. Depending on who you believe, different people in the Browns organization like Richardson, Tannehill, and WR Justin Blackmon. I give the nod to Richardson because he has the best value of all three. Another WR could be picked later in the Draft, and the Browns seem committed to Colt McCoy for one more year. Richardson is capable of being an every down back and his size and running style will translate well to the NFL level.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
If the Draft breaks this way, I would say this pick is a slam dunk. Tampa Bay's secondary was a mess last year and they need help their greatly. The Bucs signed Vincent Jackson, eliminating the need for a WR. If Trent Richardson falls here he may be the pick. But Claiborne is a good cover corner who can start from Day one and has the ball hawking skills to cover anyone in the NFL. It also helps that Tampa Bay hired LSU's former defensive back coach to the same position with the Bucs.

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Rams trade out of the #2 pick and still get one of the two prospects they wanted with it. Sam Bradford had very little to throw to last year. And the one weapon he did have, Brandon Lloyd, left via free agency. The Rams need some help on the offensive line to help protect Bradford, but Blackmon is the best value here.

Blackmon is a very polished WR who should be a #1 option for the Rams for years to come. Blackmon is a great route runner and can be a game changer if he can get open at the next level.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
I contemplated two people with this pick: Ingram and Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd. If I had written this two days ago I would have mocked Floyd here, but the Jaguars signed Lee Evans and I think if healthy, he can be a #2 WR for this team to go with Laurent Robinson, and the team also has Mike Thomas.

By drafting Ingram the Jaguars gain a formidable pass rush. Jerome Mincey emerged as a threat last year, and Ingram is arguably the best pass rusher in the Draft.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Poor Miami. They may be the team that had the worst off-season in the NFL. They lost out on Jeff Fisher, then lost out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. They've clearly fallen behind in the AFC East race and are looking at a down year.

The Dolphins could look at that in two ways. They could Draft a QB now, or they could figure that they will be terrible next year and hope that they have the chance to land Matt Barkley next year. I think the Dolphins, almost to save face, have to draft Tannehill here. They could let him sit early on then have him take over later in the year. A defensive end is also a possibility, as is Michael Floyd. But Tannehill is the pick. With Tannehill's former coach Mike Sherman the offensive coordinator now, it will make the transition process easier.

9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Panthers defense was brutal last year. Cam Newton can't win games by himself, his defense needs to be able to shut down opposing offenses. The Panthers would love for Morris Claiborne to fall to them, but that won't happen. Instead, the Panthers get some help up front.

Cox has been shooting up draft boards in the last month. He's a big body that can be a run stuffer for the Panthers and would look great next to Charles Johnson on the defensive line.

10. Buffalo Bills: Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Living in Buffalo, the Bills are obviously my primary team. And the more I think about it, the more I think the Bills might trade down. They have a handful of guys they like that can be taken later in the 1st round. And if a team really likes Michael Floyd or if Ryan Tannehill falls, the Bills may pull the trigger.

But if the Bills stay here, they will go ahead and take the top player on their board. Hearing the scuttle butt around here in Buffalo, I believe the pick will either be Gilmore or Georgia Offensive Lineman Cordy Glenn. Gilmore is the better prospect to me. He could start at corner from Day One. And with Terrence McGee's constant injuries, Drayton Florence playing terrible last year, and Leodis McKelvin likely gone, Gilmore is the pick. Gilmore is a ball hawk and has good strength for a corner.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Just like the Chiefs did with Eric Berry, they take the best player available here that also fills a need. Guards aren't usually taken this high, but DeCastro has already drawn comparisons to Steve Hutchinson in terms of his career path. DeCastro is a versatile guard who can step in and immediately replace 39 year old Casey Wiegmann. The Chiefs could also go nose tackle here, as they have yet to re-sign Kelly Gregg.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Seahawks need a pass rusher badly, so I considered Quinton Coples here. But Seattle may look to replace David Hawthorne early and Kuechly could so that perfectly. He was impressive at the Combine and has great football smarts. He could start from Day One and not be lost on the field.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals may sprint to the podium if Reiff is still available at 13. The Cardinals were terrible at protecting the QB last year and picking up Reiff would provide an immediate improvement in that area. Reiff may not be able to be a starting LT right away, but he should be able to handle himself on the right side for the time being.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Anyone who watched even one Cowboys game last year knows that they could not stop the pass for the life of them. They signed Brandon Carr to help out at corner, but they still need help at the safety position. Barron is clearly the best safety in a very weak safety class. Barron has very good cover skills for a safety and should be able to cover most tight ends in the league.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
If Coples falls this far I expect the Eagles to jump and grab him. There are questions about his effort, and Coples himself admitted he lacked effort at times. But his upside is too good to pass up. Coples can get to the QB and he has a good coach in Andy Reid to help him stay motivated.

16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
If Mark Sanchez is going to continue to play QB for the Jets, they need to get him another weapon at WR. Santonio Holmes is a walking time bomb and the team has yet to re-sign Plaxico Burress. Floyd can step in and play opposite Holmes from Day One. The Jets need help with their pass rush, but Floyd's talent and ability it too good to pass up. He might drop on Draft Day if he gets past Buffalo at 10.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick has some character concerns after a marijuana arrest this off-season, but that doesn't normally stop the Bengals from drafting people. And the Bengals are desperate to land a cornerback. With Gilmore gone, the team takes Kirkpatrick. Leon Hall won't be ready for 2012 because of a torn Achilles and Nate Clements skills are declining. Kirkpatrick can start right away and as long as he has his head on straight should be a solid asset to a young and improving Bengals defense.

18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
And we have a run on Alabama players. The Chargers signed Jarrett Johnson from the Ravens this off-season, but he doesn't get to the QB well. And neither does anyone else on the Chargers defense. This is basically a toss up between Upshaw and Whitney Mercilus, but most scouts agree Upshaw is the higher prospect with more upside.

19. Chicago Bears: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio St.
The Bears need someone to protect Jay Cutler. J'Marcus Webb gave up 14 sacks and committed 12 penalties in 2011. That is not a guy you want as your left tackle. It is basically a toss up between Adams and Jonathan Martin for this pick.

20. Tennessee Titans: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Titans used a three man rotation last year at the defensive tackle position, but that lost one of those rotation guys when Jason Jones left via free agency. The Titans take Poe here. He may be more of a nose tackle, but Poe could work well in a 4-3 rotation. He had an outstanding Combine and has incredible strength and quickness for his size.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Glenn could step in and immediately make an impact for the Bengals. He had an impressive Combine. Glenn played a little bit of everywhere in college, so he could also fill in at tackle if needed. He's quick and good at making holes for his team's running attack.

22. Cleveland Browns: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
The Browns need as many weapons on offense as they can get. This is probably a reach for Hill, but the need is there. If Floyd falls, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Browns trade up for him. But I don't like projecting trades. The Browns draft Hill and pray Colt McCoy can actually get the ball to him.

23. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
This pick happens pretty much by default for the Lions. They have two needs: offensive line and cornerback. The top 3 corners are off the board, and Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn are as well. Janoris Jenkins has major characters concerns involving marijuana, so the Lions take Martin. Martin could start at RT right away, or he could sit behind Jeff Backus and take over in the future.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
My guess is that this pick would come down to Hightower and Whitney Mercilus. The Steelers are an aging defense, and Hightower fits a greater current need at inside linebacker. He was the field general at Alabama and could grow into that role with the Steelers. Hightower is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.

25. Denver Broncos: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Broncos need some help with their interior line. They tried to sign Peyton Manning's buddy Jeff Saturday but couldn't. Konz could start at center or either of the guard positions for the Broncos immediately.

26. Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois
The Texans lost Mario Williams this off-season and look to try and replace him with Mercilus here. This is a big steal for Houston. Some consider Mercilus the best pass rusher in the Draft with the most long term potential.

27. New England Patriots: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Don't expect the Patriots to keep both of these picks. They love to trade on Draft day. But if Brockers falls here the Patriots will be sure to take him. Brockers would fit in the Patriots 4-3 defensive tackle rotation and do well getting to the quarterback and creating pressure.

28. Green Bay Packers: Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson
The Packers desperately need someone on the opposite side of Clay Matthews in their 3-4 defense. Branch showed he can get to the QB at Clemson and he could slide right in and play from Day One for the Packers.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Ravens need another wide receiver opposite Torrey Smith. Anquan Boldin is aging and his skills are clearly on the decline. Wright had a good pro day and would give the Ravens two deep threats at the wide out position.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
San Francisco isn't a team with a lot of needs. Their defense is top notch, but they could use some help on the offensive line. They lost guard Adam Snyder so they look for his replacement here. Zeitler is a bit of a reach here, but the 49ers don't have any other glaring holes anywhere.

31. New England Patriots: Devon Still, DT, Penn St.
The Patriots get another defensive tackle to add to their rotation. A combination of Brockers and Still could be dangerous for the Patriots for years to come.

32. New York Giants: Bobbie Massie, OT, Ole Miss
The defending Super Bowl Champs need some help on the right side of their line, and Massie can provide that. He is a natural right tackle and can be an immediate starter for the Giants.

So there you have it folks. I'm not a complete expert, but I made what I thought were the most logical picks. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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