2012 NFL Mock Draft: Wild Card Round Edition (Round 1)
The regular season is now over and the playoff matchups are finally set. This year's edition of the NFL postseason certainly looks promising, leaving many fans extremely excited for the next month or so.
But for the fans of the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs, there isn't much to look forward to as of right now. The only fun left is the pure anticipation leading up to April's Draft.
So in an effort to keep you entertained, postseason fans or not, here is my latest mock of the 2012 NFL Draft's first round.
*Draft order based on current records and projected playoff finishes. (Picks 1-20 are official with the exception of Kansas City at No. 11 and Seattle at No. 12. A future coin flip will eventually settle those two selections.)
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
With their Week 17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts have officially clinched the No. 1 pick in 2012 NFL Draft. And even though they'll be on the clock for four months, we all know the pick must be Stanford's Andrew Luck.
Luck going No.1 overall is a clear no-brainer. The ability and intelligence are there, and it looks as if he's the next big thing coming into the NFL.
Indianapolis, however, will be in perhaps the stickiest situation in the game's history. If they take Luck, which they will, what happens to the quarterback they have now?
Maybe you've heard of him—Peyton Manning?
Will the Colts draft Luck and start him immediately?
Will they take Luck only to place him under the wing of Manning for a handful of the season?
Or will Indy just cut ties with their long-time quarterback to make way for what looks like the second version of Manning?
There are many questions surrounding that potential scenario, but there are none when it comes to drafting Andrew Luck with the first pick in 2012.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Since the Rams do not get into the No. 1 spot in the draft, Matt Kalil should be the pick here.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, Sam Bradford is still a franchise quarterback and could certainly use some protection. Kalil is 6'7", 275 lbs, and is far and above the best prospect in the draft not named Andrew Luck.
He can instantly come in and improve the worst offensive line in all of football.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Minnesota Vikings will have two major needs coming into the 2012 draft, one being on the offensive line and the other being in their secondary. Since Matt Kalil was just snatched up by St. Louis, expect Minnesota to take LSU's Morris Claiborne.
Minnesota's defense has allowed 251.2 passing yards per game, leaving them as the seventh-worst pass defense in the NFL. So drafting Claiborne could be a nice boost for this thin secondary.
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Claiborne has been one of college football's best cornerbacks over the last two seasons. In fact, he may be the best defensive player coming out in 2012.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Cleveland will be tempted by the prospect of taking Robert Griffin. The Browns, however, should stick by their current investment at the quarterback position.
Colt McCoy hasn't been the greatest, but he hasn't had much help either. So instead of throwing him away for Griffin, the Browns could go with a surefire selection in Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon is the top wide receiving prospect in the draft. He would finally give McCoy a legitimate target to hit in the end zone. He has the size, the speed and the hands to become an elite receiver in the NFL. He would also be the immediate No. 1 receiver amongst an otherwise thin group of wideouts.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Buccaneers need help in just about every spot besides the quarterback position. So expect Tampa to take the best available player not named Robert Griffin at the fifth slot in the draft.
That man would obviously be Alabama's Trent Richardson. Richardson is the undisputed champion when it comes to this year's crop of running backs and would most definitely give the offense some help. LaGarrette Blount isn't the best or brightest bulb in the bunch, so replacing him wouldn't be a problem. If anything, Blount can assume the No. 2 RB role.
Richardson has nice vision, great speed and has the hands to take some passes out of the backfield. Quite frankly, the guy is probably the most complete back coming into the NFL since Adrian Peterson.
6. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
If available at this spot for Washington, Baylor's Robert Griffin III would be the easiest selection in the draft.
We all know about Washington's horrific quarterback history, so Griffin would be nothing short of a savior for the struggling franchise. He has ridiculous accuracy on his deep throws, can make plays with his feet and was college football's best player in 2011.
Griffin has passed for 36 touchdowns, 3,998 yards and has thrown just six picks. He has also displayed his explosive run game, rushing for 644 yards and nine touchdowns.
After seeing Carolina taking a risk that paid off huge dividends with Cam Newton, perhaps the Redskins will have no problems taking a calculated chance of their own on a quarterback with multiple tools.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
If Robert Griffin and Justin Blackmon do not land in a position to be drafted by Jacksonville, the Jags would go with North Carolina's Quinton Coples. The 6'6", 275 pound defensive lineman has racked up 7.5 sacks with 10 tackles for loss in his 2011 campaign.
Coples would be a nice fit in Jacksonville considering their need for some type of pass rush, as they ranked just 25th in total sacks.
8. Carolina Panthers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Morris Claiborne should be gone by this point. So Carolina could look to provide Cam Newton with a nice weapon for next season. The best wide receiver at this point in the draft would be South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery, 6'4" and 229 lbs, has an incredible combination of size and speed, making him a very desirable player in the upcoming draft. In three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery has hauled in 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 600-yard receiving mark each year.
Adding Jeffery would be a great complement opposite of Steve Smith and would give Newton a legitimate target for years to come.
9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
With Robert Griffin just taken and Andrew Luck being far gone, the next best quarterback prospect would be Oklahoma's Landry Jones. If the Dolphins want to reach in an attempt to fix their quarterback problems, they may take a flyer on Jones.
But I just don't see that happening. Jones is a good prospect but is not worth the eighth overall selection for Miami given the recent success of Matt Moore. Moore isn't the long-term solution at quarterback, but he has bought himself at least another season after this year's impressive play.
If this is indeed the case, Riley Reiff would be a great pick for Miami.
Reiff has emerged as one of college football's best players as a result of his impressive 2011 season. He's 6'6", 300 pounds, and has been praised for his great fundamentals. Reiff has great footwork, bends very well and has already played in a pro-style offense.
He would be a much-needed addition for an offensive line that has allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills finished dead last in the NFL in sacks. They have had some trouble getting to the quarterback, and could use one of the draft's best pass rushers.
Courtney Upshaw, the linebacker from Alabama, would give them an immediate boost.
Upshaw has tremendous versatility in terms of positioning on defense. He has good speed, good strength and is very quick off the ball.
Upshaw recorded 8.5 sacks this year. He could help Buffalo get to those quarterbacks.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
With Todd Haley now out as Kansas City's head coach, the Chiefs will be looking to regroup in some big spots. Luckily for them, Landry Jones could be available when their turn comes around in 2012.
Matt Cassel is not reliable and Tyler Palko obviously isn't the guy, so the quarterback spot will need to be addressed.
Jones, who is in his in junior season as a Sooner, is easily the fourth-best quarterback in this considerably deep class. Landry threw for over 4,000 yards with 28 touchdowns this past season. He has shown he is worthy of a first-round pick.
Jones' strengths include his accuracy, arm power and footwork, but he does need to work on his elongated throwing motion.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Seattle put a nice secondary on the field in 2011. But Marcus Trufant's troubling back problem could steer them towards the best available player on the board, Dre Kirkpatrick.
At 6'2", Kirkpatrick is a considerably tall cornerback. He has great speed and a knack for making big plays.
There are concerns surrounding his footwork but does have the tools to be an incredible grab for the Seahawks in this spot.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Philly's linebacking corps has been nothing short of terrible. This problem has been plaguing their defense and needs to be addressed. So if Luke Kuechly of Boston College is still there for the Eagles, expect them to jump on him.
He is a sound tackler, displays good mobility and is a very intelligent player. Kuechly also has good size and always seems to be in the middle of every play.
14. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Hey, Jets fans! Do you trust Plaxico Burress?
Nah, me neither. The guy is older and isn't even close to what he used to be. Burress, a free agent in 2012, just turned out to be another one of those veteran busts for the Jets.
After watching this team in 2011, there is no doubt the Jets must improve their offense in order to compete. This man would do just that.
The 6'3" receiver has done nothing but dazzle during his collegiate year. In his four seasons at South Bend, Floyd has never failed to put up at least 700 yards receiving and catching at least seven touchdowns. He raked in a bulky 95 passes in 2011, eight of them in the end zone.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Stanford's Jonathan Martin would fill a huge need for Arizona here.
The Cards offensive line hasn't been exactly great in 2011, ranking 31st in pass protection. So if the team believes Kevin Kolb is their guy, they must help him.
Martin may be the second-best offensive lineman in the class and would be one of the best picks in the entire draft at this spot.
16. San Diego Chargers: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Stanford's David DeCastro would fill a considerable need for the struggling San Diego Chargers.
San Diego's offensive line hasn't been exactly great in 2011 and has suffered numerous injuries. DeCastro may very well be the best player available here, making for a very sensible selection.
The team may look to upgrade their pass rush, which has been worse than their line. But since the defensive line spot is much deeper in this draft than the offensive line spot, it's DeCastro for San Diego in the first round and perhaps a pass rusher in the second.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
With the first of two first-round picks in 2012, the Bengals will look to address either the cornerback position or the linebacker position.
Being that Dallas, another team with a need at the CB spot, is right behind them, the Bengals may go after Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard before Jerry Jones gets his hands on him.
Dennard has excellent speed, good athleticism and displays great instincts. He does, however, need to improve his reaction on coverage. As well as improving his footwork, he also needs to make better breaks on the ball.
He does need some work but has the tools to be a great corner in the NFL.
18. Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
In order to provide Jay Cutler with some much needed protection, the Bears could go with Cordy Glenn.
Glenn is just huge, standing at 6'5" and 348 pounds. He is relatively nimble for a man his size, and is very good in opening up holes for the run game.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
With Alfonzo Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick gone, the Cowboys will narrow it down to Janoris Jenkins and Devon Still. Jenkins could help Dallas' much abused secondary as Still would fill a needed spot on the defensive line.
If it does come down to these two, Dallas would look to Penn State's Still. He has nice size and can plow over opposing lineman en route to opposing quarterbacks. There is still room for improvement but could be a very nice investment for a team who could use help in that spot.
20. Tennessee Titans: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Titans may look for some O-line help with their first pick. Melvin Ingram, however, may be much too tempting to pass up for Tennessee, given their poor defensive line play.
Ingram is incredibly athletic, has a good first step and is one of the draft's best pass rushers. He chalked up 8.5 sacks in 2011 and could help the Titans increase their chances of getting to opposing quarterbacks, a category they finished 31st in.
21. Denver Broncos: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Denver's defense, not Tim Tebow, is the biggest reason for their surprising success this season. They have made big play after big play and allowed their offense to pull out points later in games.
The Broncos could, however, look to upgrade a bit on their line. Marcus Thomas isn't really great, making Brandon Thompson of Clemson an appealing option for Denver in this spot.
He has good size at 6'2", 310 lbs and is very quick off the ball. Thompson's ability to disrupt opposing offensives should make him a first-round pick.
22. New York Giants: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
The inside linebacker position is a huge need for the New York Giants, and North Carolina's Zach Brown would provide some stability for Coughlin's defense next season.
Brown can come in and immediately help the Giants. Brown is a sound athlete that has the speed and ability to get to opposing ball carriers.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
The Bengals may look to give Andy Dalton some more help with their second first-rounder. If that's the case, Lamar Miller of the U would be a nice addition.
Miller's stellar combination of size and speed make him the draft's second best running back prospect. He rushed for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, proving his potential worth at the next level.
Miller would presumably replace Cincy's current back, Cedric Benson. Benson will become a free agent at season's end and would not be worth the cash he will be looking for. Luckily for the Bengals, Miller would be a much cheaper and perhaps better alternative to Ced-Ben.
24. Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Detroit boasts huge needs in its offensive line and in its secondary. Since Janoris Jenkins is a better prospect than any remaining lineman, look for Detroit to go with the North Alabama transfer.
Jenkins is a very gifted athlete. He has the potential to be a great corner in the NFL. His off-field issues, however, may have some teams worried.
25. Houston Texans: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
I'm mocking Wisconsin's Peter Konz to the Houston Texans even though their line has been quite good. They rank ninth in pass protection this season, allowing just 26 sacks through 14 games.
The problem, however, is the expiring contract of the team's current center, Chris Myers. If Myers, who has been one of the best centers in the league, doesn't re-sign, Konz could be the pick here.
If Myers does re-sign, Houston can find another spot on the line for Konz.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
After taking Justin Blackmon with the fourth pick, the Cleveland Browns could look to complete their front four at this point in the draft. The pass rush has been pretty decent but could certainly use some more help.
Whitney Mercilus of Illinois can provide Cleveland with that help. No defensive end in college football was better in 2011 than Mercilus. He racked a gaudy 14.5 sacks in 2011. He has slated his name into the thick of the first round.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
James Farrior and James Harrison are getting older. So in order to keep their defense atop the NFL, the Steelers may look for their predecessors in the upcoming seasons. Vontaze Burfict would be a candidate if available.
He does need work in man-to-man coverage, but he carries the agility to break off blockers and get to the ball.
28. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
There is no question that New England's secondary needs some help. They have given up 293.9 passing yards per game and 8.0 per attempt.
The Patriots also have a need at safety, making Mark Barron an incredible match for New England. He has nice size, decent speed and great tackling ability. Barron is a solid pass defender and can help the Pats' weak pass defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Sorry to say it, but Ray Lewis won't be around forever. So it's time for Baltimore to start auditions for the next big linebacker.
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower could very well be that guy for the Ravens. Hightower has great size, speed and is very effective against the run.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama
Since the Niners seem to have a legitimate quarterback in Alex Smith, they'll need to give him more protection. San Francisco has given up the seventh most sacks this seasons and could use Alabama's Barrett Jones.
Drafting Jones would solidify the line, helping both Smith and Frank Gore. If San Francisco is looking to buy some more time for their quarterback and free up more space for their run game, this is their guy.
31. New England Patriots: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
After taking Mark Barron a few picks back, the Patriots may look to upgrade their defensive line. If so, Clemson's Andre Branch would be a good selection.
At 6'5", 260 lbs, Branch has great size and is very versatile. He can either play as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or an end in a 4-3. He also has a knack for getting into opposing backfields, as he recorded 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2011.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
The Green Bay Packers' pass defense certainly could use some help. They may look to Florida State's Brandon Jenkins for it.
Jenkins has great size, is a good athlete and can play on the defensive line or move to outside linebacker in the pros. He would either play on the line or give the team some help across from Clay Matthews.