As the 2012 NFL Draft approaches, here’s the latest version of my two round mock draft.
1) Indianpolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
- One of the most frustrating aspects of the Draft is how long some of the picks take. Fortunately, it appears as though the Colts won’t have to take the full 5 minutes allotted to them to make their choice. Luck, who has been called by many the best QB prospect since John Elway, will take over the reigns of the Colts franchise. His first task? Replacing Peyton Manning… should be simple enough.
2) Washington Redskins (Trade with St. Louis Rams) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
- The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is now in line to become the Redskins’ first legitimate franchise quarterback since (gulp) Jason Campbell was picked in the first round back in 2004. In short, Griffin is explosive and might have a higher ceiling than Luck. The Michael Vick comparisons are decent, but I’m not that big a fan of them. Coming into the NFL, RG3 is a much more polished passer than Vick and should be able to help out a Redskin passing attack that ranked second to last in the NFL in interceptions thrown with 24.
3) Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC
- While the quarterbacks and skill players often get most of the hype come draft day, it is the offensive lineman that most often prove to be the safest selections. In Kalil, the Vikings get a future Pro-Bowler who they can plug-and-play immediately and protect last year’s first round pick Christian Ponder. I think Kalil is the safest pick in the entire draft. On a side note, assuming no surprise trades happen, we might see the first three picks of the draft come and go in record time. YES!
4) Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
- This pick will go a long way in deciding how the rest of the draft shakes out. The Browns have a need just about everywhere. Their offense is deft of playmakers, and the verdict is still out on Colt McCoy and whether or not he can be a franchise quarterback. The Browns lost head case Peyton Hillis to the Chiefs this offseason and enter the season with Montario Hardesty as the starter. The pick will come down to Richardson and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. I can’t see the Browns going with Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill here, and I think the gap between Richardson and the #2 RB is greater than the gap between Blackmon and the #2 WR which is why Richardson is the pick.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
- As I mentioned above, the Browns essentially control the entire first round with pick #4. I think the Bucs and new head coach Greg Schiano would take Richardson if he’s available, but I just don’t see that happening. Enter Morris Claiborne who made headlines for his less than stellar score on the now infamous “Wonderlic Test.” And while Claiborne may not have scored as high as some in the NFL would’ve liked, I think it’s a non-issue. Claiborne showed last year that he was a lock down corner much like his predecessor Patrick Peterson. With Ronde Barber at the end of the line, this pick makes perfect sense for the Bucs and should give them a Pro Bowl caliber corner for the next several years.
6) St. Louis Rams (Trade with Washington Redskins) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
- As bad as the Browns are on offense, the Rams make them look like the Patriots in comparison. Aside from bruiser Steven Jackson, St. Louis has zero playmakers on offense surrounding Sam Bradford. To make matters worse, the Rams don’t exactly have a stout offensive line with which to protect their former #1 overall pick. After racking up a second round pick in this years draft and a first round pick in each of the next two years drafts, the Rams are in line to stockpile good, young talent for the first time in years.
Blackmon is the #1 receiver in this year’s class and with good reason. The two-time defending Bilennitkoff winner has totaled over 100 catches and over 1500 yards in the past two seasons. He will immediately become a weapon for Bradford and a spark for what has been a dreadful offense the past couple of years.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
- The Jags are similar to the Rams in that they have a ton of holes. Last year’s first round pick Blaine Gabbert struggled in his rookie year and aside from Maurice Jones-Drew, there aren’t many playmaking threats on offense. But, the NFL is a copycat league, the chic trend is an aggressive defensive line which is why I think Ingram is the pick. The Jaguars ranked tied for 25th last year in sacks as a team with 31. The Giants proved just how important an aggressive d-line is in this past years Super Bowl.
8) Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
- Boy oh boy, where to start. The Dolphins, once considered front-runners for Peyton Manning by some, whiffed on both him and Matt Flynn. The Dolphins then responded by trading their best playmaker Brandon Marshall to Chicago for two third round picks.
Enter Ryan Tannehill who two short years ago was playing wide receiver for the Aggies. After one year under center in College Station, draft scouts have become fascinated with Tannehill’s skill set and athleticism shooting him up draft boards. I for one am skeptical and would not take him with a first round pick. But, the elite teams in this league all have one thing in common, an elite quarterback.
9) Carolina Panthers – Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
- Coples has been sliding down some drafts and I’m not sure why. While he did show a tendency to take some plays off while at UNC, he also showed the ability to get to the quarterback and be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers were tied for 25th in the league in sacks last year with 31 and desperately need to improve on that number being in the same division as Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. And besides, the last time Carolina took a UNC defensive end first round, it turned out alright.
10) Buffalo Bills – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
- Perhaps no team has upgraded as much as Buffalo has this offseason. They went out and signed sack artist Mario Williams to the tune of $105 million. In addition they also signed former Bears defensive end Mark Anderson. Combine those two with last year’s first round pick Marcel Dareus, and the Bills suddenly have a potent defensive front.
Because the Bills spent a good amount of dough on the defense & the fact they signed Ryan Fizpatrick to an extension last offseason, I think they’ll look to give him a weapon to use. Floyd has some red flags from his time at Notre Dame, but he also has upside through the roof. He and Steve Johnson will create a dynamic receiving duo for the Bills.
11) Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
- The Chiefs have one of the league’s most dynamic pass rushers in Tamba Hali and another pro bowler in Derrick Johnson. Kuechly is a tackling machine. He led the NCAA in tackles in back-to-back years and is the top ranked linebacker in the draft. Peyton Manning just joined the AFC West, and as a result each team in the division will have to be even better come 2012.
12) Seattle Seahawks – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
- The Seahawks problems last year stemmed from poor quarterback play by Tarvarris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. As a result the Seahawks went out and made a move for the Packers’ Matt Flynn.
DeCastro is the class of the offensive guards this year. He has been rated the highest prospect at his position in years, prompting comparisons to Steve Hutchison. The Seahawks signed Flynn in addition to resigning Marshawn Lynch. I think the Seahawks grab the big Stanford o-lineman in hopes of protecting their investments.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OL, Iowa
- The Cardinals could go a couple of different ways in the upcoming draft but I’m giving them Reiff, the latest Iowa offensive lineman to come through the woodworks. The 49ers took the division by storm this past year in large part due to their defense and specifically their pass rush. Another option would be Michael Floyd who could take some pressure off Larry Fitzgerald, but there are good options at wide receiver that figure to still be available come round two.
14) Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
- The Cowboys were one win away from the playoffs this past season but ultimately fell short losing to the eventual champions on the final week of the regular season. The Cowboys secondary was abysmal and the weakness of an otherwise solid defensive unit. Dallas already upgraded their secondary by snagging the top free agent cornerback, Brandon Carr. Barron, the top rated safety in the class, fills a need and would be an immediate starter who can play both the pass and run effectively.
15) Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
- The Eagles traded for Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans this offseason in a move that will immediately pay dividends. Cox’s name has been rising up many draft boards, and could go as early as 9 to Carolina. In this case I think the Eagles get the most NFL-ready defensive tackle in this class and an immediate starter.
16) New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
- I think the Jets are going to be tempted to move up on draft day and their target is going to be Floyd or Barron. But for now, we have the Jets standing pat. Rex Ryan loves his pass rushers, and in a division with Tom Brady and the pass-happy Bills, the Jets will need as much pass rush as they can get. Upshaw can play with his hand in the ground or on his feet and will give the Jets another weapon on defense.
17) Cincinnati Bengals – Stehpon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
- The Bengals surprised many when they made the playoffs behind the rookie arm of Andy Dalton and the rookie hands of A.J. Green. There are rumors that the Bengals, with two first round picks, could potentially make a move for Trent Richardson. While that scenario could very well pan out, I think the Bengals stay put and grab two solid players that can contribute right away.
Cornerback is a need for the Bengals. Pro Bowler Leon Hall will likely not be ready to play this upcoming season because of a torn ACL, and Nate Clements isn’t getting any younger. This is a good draft for cornerbacks. Gilmore, Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick and former Florida Gator Janoris Jenkins could all be the first CB off the board. We’re giving Gilmore the nod as the first CB off the board because he comes with no red flags.
18) San Diego Chargers – Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
- The Chargers ranked tied for 23rd in the league in sacks, and for that reason I believe they look to upgrade their pass rush in the draft. Jones name has been thrown around as a guy that could go in the first round, and I believe he will. More than ever, teams value pass rushers, and that’s just what Jones is. Larry English has been a disappointment, and the Chargers are void of any real pass rushing threat.
19) Chicago Bears – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
- By now, you know the story with the Bears. Good quarterback, great running back & defense and decent receivers. The weakness, as has been the case for several years, has been the offensive line. Last year, the Bears jumped on Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round. Carimi missed several games last year due to injury, but I still think he’ll make a good pro. The same however, cannot be said for J’Marcus Webb. He has been the weak link in the unit since the Bears drafted him in 2010. With Martin, they get, in my opinion, the second best tackle prospect in the draft behind Kalil. He is a plug-and-play guy that will help Jay Cutler and the passing game out tremendously.
20) Tennessee Titans – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
- The Titans lost cornerback Cortland Finnegan to free agency which means they have to replace a top 10 cornerback in the league. Enter Dre Kirkpatrick, who up until a month ago, was considered a top 10 pick in the same league as Morris Claiborne. However after racking up a marijuana possession charge, Kirkpatrick’s stock has taken a bit of a hit. Still though, there’s no denying his talent. Kirkpatrick is big for a cornerback (6’2”) but can still blanket half of the field. I like Dre Kirk to step in for Finnegan and provide the Titans with a solid corner for the foreseeable future.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
- Having already upgraded their defense with Stephon Gilmore at 17, the Bengals turn to the best available offensive line prospect in Georgia’s Glenn to shore up the offensive line and protect second year quarterback Andy Dalton. Glenn really impressed scouts at the combine with his measurables, and has the ability to be a guard or tackle at the next level. In almost any other year, Glenn would probably be the first guard taken, but because of DeCastro, Glenn falls into the Bengals’ lap.
22) Cleveland Browns – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
- The Browns could opt for Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with this pick but in the end I think they hold fast on a quarterback and wait to see what Colt McCoy can do with some actual weapons. Hill is the prototypical combine wonder. Nobody knew his name before the combine, but everybody knew it afterward. Hill dazzled scouts at the combine by running a 4.36 forty while recording a 39.5” vertical jump.
The questions with Hill are obvious. Coming from a triple option attack at Georgia Tech, Hill never got the ball much, as evidence by his 28 catches for all of 2011. I think Hill gets the nod over Kendall Wright here simply because Hill is the big, fast, possession receiver that Colt McCoy needs. Wright is similar to Josh Cribbs in that he is more of a vertical threat and can help out in the return game. Hill’s ceiling is too tempting for the Browns to pass up.
23) Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
- If I’m the Lions and Jenkins is sitting there at 23, I wouldn’t be able to turn my pick in fast enough. The Lions, yes the Lions, are one or two pieces away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The offense is already there led by Megatron and Stafford. If one of the tackles or Glenn falls to 23, I think the Lions might go that way, but if that doesn’t happen I see them taking the talented Jenkins to shore up a weak secondary.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
- With the Steelers recently cutting ties with James Farrior, they will be looking to find a replacement for the veteran and find a steal in Hightower. Out of all the Alabama prospects in the draft this year, I like Hightower the most. He is a run-stuffing linebacker who seems like he was made to play for the Steelers. By plugging in Hightower to replace Farrior, the Steelers defense won’t miss a beat.
25) Denver Broncos – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
- The Broncos are going to go defense with their first rounder and would be elated if Brockers fell to them at 25. Brockers is a load that clogs up the middle of the lane. Last year’s first round pick Von Miller looks to be a stud in the making, and pairing Brockers with him would give the Broncos defense some much needed help in the trenches. If a team like the Eagles decides to nab Brockers then I think Dontari Poe becomes the choice.
26) Houston Texans – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
- Before Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury, the Texans looked like a dark horse to win the Super Bowl. Before Schaub’s injury, the Texans had to play half the season without one of the best receivers in football, Andre Johnson. While Johnson was away, the Texans’ passing game struggled, as Schaub and T.J. Yates simply had nobody to throw to outside of Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Because of this void, the Texans will look to bolster their receiving corps in the form of Wright. While Johnson is the prototypical possession receiver, Wright is the explosive receiver that can stretch the field and open up things for Arian Foster and the running game.
27) Kansas City Chiefs – (Projected trade w/ New England Patriots) Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State)
- The Patriots have two first round picks this year and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Patriots over the years, it’s that there’s about a .01% chance they will actually use both those picks. Belichick will undoubtedly unload one for future picks, and I think the Chiefs are going to target a quarterback this draft, just not Tannehill. I like Weeden more than I do Tannehill. He’s got great size, a good arm and has a greater knowledge of the position than Tannehill who has just one year as a starter under his belt.
28) Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
- I get the feeling that the Packers are going to go one of two ways with this pick. If all the higher rated defensive ends are gone, I could see them going with a running back. That being said, I think they go with Mercilus, who took the college game by storm last year leading the nation in sacks with 16 in addition to causing nine forced fumbles and racking up 22.5 tackles for loss. The concern with Mercilus is that he only has one year of starting experience and he may fall under the category of “one year wonder.” By selecting him, it will give the Packers the ability to put him opposite of Clay Mathews and form a dynamic pass rushing combo.
29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Trade w/ Baltimore Ravens – Doug Martin, RB, Boise State)
- Martin is picking up steam as the draft nears with scouts loving his all-around game. He runs with great pad level and catches the ball out of the backfield making him even more valuable. The Bucs were big spenders in the offseason, and with the season-long suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton, I think the Bucs view this as an opportunity to win now.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
- As I mentioned before, the NFL is a copycat league. The latest trend to copy is that of the two tight end sets that the Patriots terrorized the league with last year. The 49ers upgraded at the receiver position by signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and I see them adding Fleener to give Alex Smith another weapon on offense. When you add Fleener to the mix with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Moss, Manningham and Frank Gore, all of a sudden what was a weakness for the 49ers, now looks like a strength.
31) New England Patriots – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
- Poe wowed scouts at the combine last month and was shooting up draft boards shortly after. Now that the high has come down from the combine, scouts have gone back and looked at tape and have seen that Poe, although athletic for his size, didn’t make a huge impact in games that scouts wanted to see. Poe might have the most upside of any defensive player in the draft. But as many have found out, potential is what will get you fired. I think the Patriots nab Poe in hopes that veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork can show him the ropes.
32) New York Giants – Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
- For the Giants, Konz would fill a huge need. Gone is Kareem McKenzie, and the Giants must protect Eli Manning in a division with DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo and Jason Babin.
33) St. Louis Rams – Jerel Worth, DT, Michigan State
34) Indianapolis Colts – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
35) Minnesota Vikings – Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
37) Baltimore Ravens (Trade w/ Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
37) Cleveland Browns – Shea McClellan, DE/OLB, Boise State
38) Jacksonville Jaguars – Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
39) St. Louis Rams – Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
40) Carolina Panthers – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
41) Buffalo Bills – Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
42) Miami Dolphins – Muhamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
43) Seattle Seahawks – Devon Still, DT, Penn State
44) New England Patriots (Trade with Kansas City) – Nick Perry, DE, USC
45) Dallas Cowboys – Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
46) Philadelphia Eagles – Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska
47) New York Jets – Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State
48) New England Patriots – Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
49) San Diego Chargers – Kendall Reyes, DE/DT, UCONN
50) Chicago Bears – Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
51) Philadelphia Eagles – Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
52) Tennessee Titans – Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
53) Cincinnati Bengals – David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
54) Detroit Lions – Aminu Silatolu, OT, Midwestern State
55) Atlanta Falcons – Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
56) Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
57) Denver Broncos – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
58) Houston Texans – Ronnie Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
59) Green Bay Packers – LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
60) Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
61) San Francisco 49ers – Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
62) New England Patriots – Mitchell Swartz, OT, California
63) New York Giants – Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati