NFL Mock Draft 2012
You know the rules, so let's not beat around the bush.
32 picks, not quite 32 teams, and 32 players who will get to call themselves first-rounders for the rest of their lives.
The draft order is based on predicted finishes, with power rankings breaking the ties in team record for the most part.
It's insanely early to start mocking the NFL draft, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
32. New England (from New Orleans): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Patriots need help in their secondary.
Cornerback and safety have both been addressed recently, but Barron is a much better prospect than any cornerback left at this point, and the future's slightly bleaker over the top than it is out wide at the moment.
31. New England Patriots: Billy Winn, DE, Boise State
The Pats ignored taking an early look at the 5-tech spot last season, and they've actually run some 40 front looks this year, so there's a need for a versatile guy up front.
Winn has the anchor to hold as a 5-tech and the athleticism to play on the left side in a 4-3.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Hines Ward is on his last legs, Heath Miller will be a free agent in 2013, and the Steelers can't run the ball any more anyway.
They'll need more weapons for Ben Roethlisberger in the future, especially one with some serious size. Everyone else is stocking up on tight ends; why not Pittsburgh?
29. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Dominic Raiola is getting old. He'll be 33 soon, and the Lions can't afford to let anything slip on their offensive line.
Konz is by far the best offensive lineman still available at this point, and Detroit definitely needs some young blood up front.
Of course, they never draft for needs, but Konz is good enough to be the best overall player left on the Lions' board if picks 1-28 fall this way.
28. Green Bay Packers: Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
The Packers didn't win the hypothetical fake Super Bowl. Sorry. They did, however, win a wonderful draft pick here that helps them in a major way.
With opposing offenses having no pass rushers to worry about other than Clay Matthews, they've been able to focus all their attention on slowing Green Bay's only sack weapon.
With Lewis on the opposite side, that won't be an issue anymore.
27. San Francisco 49ers: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Niners have much bigger needs, but it'd be hard to pass on Ingram this far down the draft. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks have been an excellent pass-rushing tandem, but Brooks won't be around forever, especially since he's a free agent next season.
I'm not exactly sure where Ingram would fit in San Fran's scheme, but here's betting Vic Fangio and Jim Harbaugh would figure it out.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
The Bengals have some excellent young offensive players in Andy Dalton and AJ Green. And they have a few needs on defense. But it'd be very difficult to pass up the opportunity to add yet another dangerous scoring weapon like Wilson.
If Cedric Benson returns, Wilson would make a great complement. If Benson leaves, that's fine, too. Wilson's more suited to carry the load than most think.
25. Denver Broncos: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
The Broncos could use a receiver who can catch, a healthy running back under 30 years old, a defensive tackle and a cornerback or two.
And although we all know that means they'll draft two safeties, here's hoping they realize what a gift it is to be able to draft Dennard this late. He'll be a starter for a long time.
24. Baltimore Ravens: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Burfict has plenty of issues, and he seems to have gotten worse as the season's grown, but he's still a first-rounder, and supposed character concerns didn't stop this team from drafting Jimmy Smith last season.
They're looking for a Ray Lewis replacement, and Burfict is certainly physical enough to take a crack at that unenviable task.
23. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Every time Andre Johnson goes down, the Texans are left with Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones as their top two receivers. That can't happen any more if Houston wants to continue competing for division titles on a yearly basis.
Wright played all season in Robert Griffin's shadow, but he's a savvy receiver who would fit perfectly as the No. 2 in this offense.
22. Cleveland (from Atlanta): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Browns have plenty of offensive issues, and no one receiver is going to fix that, but Floyd is certainly a start. No matter who lines up under center in 2012, this team is going to need a target opposite Greg Little.
With Floyd in the fold, they'd quickly have two of the biggest, strongest receivers in the division.
21. New York Giants: Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
Glenn can play all over the offensive line (okay, he's not a center), which is good news for New York, especially since they enjoy tinkering with their front-five rotation so often.
Glenn could help out at either guard spot or right tackle, and he really came on toward the end of the season. This is definitely a need pick.
20. Cincinnati (from Oakland): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Bengals are going to need a cornerback. Janoris Jenkins has already managed to get into all kinds of trouble. What else do you need to know?
Jenkins should be playing with a chip on his shoulder after falling from grace last season, and that's the type of player Cincinnati covets. Perfect fit.
19. Tennessee Titans: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Remember when Tennessee had a feared defensive line that started with the trouble they caused up the middle?
Remember when they had a running back who actually produced all season without disappearing following a major contract dispute?
Thompson can solve only one of those problems, but he's still a nice steal down at 19th overall.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Devon Still, DL, Penn State
The Cowboys opted for Tyron Smith over JJ Watt last April, and although it's tough to argue with their choice, they still need help on the defensive line.
Still is a collegiate defensive tackle, but he has the look of a guy who will be an even better professional 5-tech. The Cowboys are hurting for an upgrade at defensive end.
17. New York Jets: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
There was a time, not too long ago, when the Jets didn't throw the ball 50 times a game. Seriously. Of course, that was when they had an actual ground game.
The offensive line deserves some of the blame, but with LaDainian Tomlinson likely gone after this season, this team is going to need a complement to Shonn Greene.
Miller should fill that role perfectly, while restoring some balance to this offense.
16. Seattle Seahawks: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
The Seahawks would love to have an elite quarterback fall to them here, but with Matt Barkley headed back to USC, there are only two elite passers in this class, and unlike some, I don't think they'll reach for Ryan Tannehill or Nick Foles.
Instead, they'll take the ultra-fast Brown, who can back up and cover just as well as he can rush the passer.
15. Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
I'm not convinced Jeffery will fall this far, but if he does, Chicago shouldn't hesitate to add him. He's a fearless receiver with a big body and strong, sure hands, which is exactly what the Bears need.
Jay Cutler hasn't had a legitimate receiver since he arrived in the Windy City, and with Jeffery, he'll finally have a pass catcher willing to work over the middle.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Andy Reid doesn't take linebackers this early, I know. But at this point, isn't it time for Reid to try something a little unorthodox?
Besides, Kuechly is an impeccable prospect with a resume a mile long and instincts to match. The Eagles could really use a playmaker of his caliber in their linebacking corps.
13. San Diego Chargers: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Chargers are hurting for help up front, and there just happens to be an interior lineman prospect who fits the bill all the way up at the 13th pick.
Kris Dielman is likely headed for retirement, and DeCastro is the most impressive offensive guard prospect to come out in years. Not a tough call here.
12. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals luck out here... Instead of having to cry as they pass on a quarterback prospect, they get to protect the one they recently overpaid for by adding Reiff.
At 12th overall, some would consider Reiff a major steal, though I think this is right in his range. Either way, he's a massive upgrade over the current blindside situation in Arizona.
11. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Sorry, Miami fans, but with Matt Barkley heading back to school, there just aren't any quarterbacks even worth wildly reaching for at this spot. Instead, the plan might be to protect Matt Moore with a bookend for the right side.
Marc Colombo has been awful opposite Jake Long, making Martin a cinch pick here, considering his immense talent and potential to eventually replace Long on the blind side.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
Like Arizona, the Bills may regret recently paying so much money to a veteran quarterback, but there aren't any passers worth the pick here anyway.
It had to hurt the Bills to watch Aaron Maybin blossom into a solid pass rusher in New York, but they'll get a chance to remedy the situation by drafting Upshaw, who should improve their pressure packages almost immediately.
Their last Alabama defender worked out pretty well.
9. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Panthers would love to add another weapon for Cam Newton, but since he's basically another weapon for himself, they can afford to fix their other problems.
Problems like actually stopping an opposing passing attack. Kirkpatrick is huge for his position, and he should have no trouble immediately becoming the team's best cover corner.
8. Kansas City Chiefs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
With a new head coach in town in 2012, even if that guy is Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs are likely to be in the market for a new passer.
Jones is nowhere near ready to be a top 10, or even top 40, pick, but quarterbacks are reached for every season, and he possesses the natural tools to find success under center eventually in the NFL.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Gene Smith is almost impossible to read, and watching the Jaguars draft is almost always a surprising affair. Which is why I'm going with such a no-brainer here.
What's could be more shocking than the Jags actually drafting someone they're expected to draft? Coples is an excellent prospect, and he could help this team climb from 26th in the league in sacks.
6. Washington Redskins: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The 'Skins are desperate for a quarterback, but Landry Jones isn't a good fit for this offense, and it's more likely that they'll trade up for Robert Griffin or down for Ryan Tannehill. If they stay put, they'll have to gamble on finding a passer later.
No matter who ends up taking snaps in DC, this team needs more weapons on the outside. Blackmon's clearly the top receiver in this class. Although, I don't know if he's "make Rex Grossman look like a real starter" good.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Okay, so this pick is as much about Richardson's draft range as the Bucs' needs, but it's still not an impossible scenario.
LeGarrette Blount simply cannot find a way to stay on the field on third downs, and Richardson's pass-catching ability out of the backfield is one of his most underrated assets.
Besides, he'd be a major upgrade at running back, who could also help ease the pressure on Josh Freeman.
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
The Browns have to find a way to generate some offense. Their defense is pretty solid, but it won't ever matter if they can't score.
Griffin almost single-handedly rejuvenated the Baylor offense in college, and he'd be an instant upgrade over Colt McCoy.
He's simply too talented to pass here, though at the moment it's hard to believe he'll fall out of the top three.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Vikings have plenty of other needs, and the idea of Claiborne coming off the board sooner than former teammate Patrick Peterson did last April is hard to swallow, but there just aren't any other viable options this high.
Besides, with Cedric Griffin, Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield hanging around at cornerback, it's not like this position isn't an area of need.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Second overall pick actually works pretty well for St. Louis.
They could trade the top spot, or stay put and take Andrew Luck, if they end up with it, but at second overall, they're still likely to hear offers from teams looking to land Robert Griffin, and they get to address their biggest need: left tackle.
Kalil is an elite blind-side protector who can keep Sam Bradford upright.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
No matter who ends up with the No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck is going to hear his name called first.
There hasn't been this much certainty at the top of the draft in years, and even Peyton Manning won't be able to keep Indy from selecting one of the best quarterback prospects in the history of the NFL.
Of course, after watching this season, Luck's going to have to be amazing to turn things around for the Colts.