2012 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Projections with Updated Order

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Projections with Updated Order

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    The draft order for the first 20 picks in the 2012 NFL draft is set. That means it's time to update our latest mock draft. Let's take a look at the first round.

    Will Andrew Luck be the first overall pick now that the Indianapolis Colts own the first pick? Where will Baylor's Robert Griffin III find himself drafted?

    The order is based on the most updated NFL standings. Players listed are those who have declared for the 2012 NFL draft or are predicted to declare before the January 15 deadline for entry.

No. 1: Indianapolis Colts

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    Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford

    The Colts are officially on the clock.

    Andrew Luck is hands down the best quarterback in college football, and on top of that he's the best quarterback prospect I have ever scouted. Don't let the naysayers get you down on Luck; this is a rare talent at quarterback, and NFL scouts know he's the real deal.

    Indianapolis has to plan for a future without Peyton Manning. I don't buy into the talk that Manning and Luck can't coexist—they can and will as long as Manning wants to be a Colt.

    Forget the talk that the Colts would select Robert Griffin III over Luck, or that they plan to trade this pick. The Colts need Luck and shouldn't make any other pick when they are on the clock.

No. 2: St. Louis Rams

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    Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

    The St. Louis Rams could go a few directions with the No. 2 overall pick, but their best bet would be to get help for quarterback Sam Bradford. Pronto.

    Some would argue that offensive tackle is a bigger need, but I'm not ready to give up on Rodger Saffold or Jason Smith. Give them one more year to gel and learn a new offense before putting the two talented young tackles out on the street.

    A healthy St. Louis in 2012 would be greatly enhanced by a threat at receiver like Justin Blackmon. Look at the impact A.J. Green has had on the Cincinnati Bengals as a model for what Blackmon could do to help Bradford and the Rams.

    It's worth noting that no pick in the draft will be more likely to be traded than this pick. Any team wanting to secure Robert Griffin III will eye the No. 2 overall slot as the point to move up and get him.

No. 3: Minnesota Vikings

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    Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC

    The Minnesota Vikings have the young quarterback to lead this team (Christian Ponder), and the work-horse running back (Adrian Peterson) to carry the load. What they don't have is a franchise left tackle.

    Yes, it's shocking, but Charlie Johnson isn't getting it done on the left side.

    Matt Kalil is not on the same level as Jake Long or Joe Thomas as far as prospects go, but he's a massive upgrade over Charlie Johnson. Kalil would be an opening-day starter on Ponder's left side and allows Minnesota to focus their later picks on improving the talent in the secondary and at wide receiver.

No. 4: Cleveland Browns

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    Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama

    No, the Browns won't select a quarterback in the first round. At least not this year.

    Peyton Hillis is suffering from the curse of a video game in his contract year, Montario Hardesty can't stay off the trainer's table and Chris Ogbonnaya is a good backup but nothing more than a spot starter.

    Running back is a need in Cleveland, and an early one. 

    With two first-round picks (thanks, Atlanta), the Browns can make a move to get the best back in the class (and in many classes prior)—Trent Richardson of Alabama. The Heisman-caliber back has torn through SEC defenses for two seasons and is ready to assault the NFL.

No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU

    Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber is nearing the end of a great career and may not return. Losing Barber will hurt a defense that's very young and looking for leadership. Even with Barber back for 2012, the team needs to draft a cornerback. 

    Starting opposite Barber is Aqib Talib, who is one more off-field issue away from being shipped out of town.

    Claiborne has quietly emerged as the country's best cover man. He has elite coverage ability and will be an instant star in Tampa Bay on an improving defense.

No. 6: Washington Redskins

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    Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor

    The Washington Redskins have proven over the past few weeks just how badly they need a new quarterback. Rex Grossman and John Beck just can’t get it done.

    Mike Shanahan has built a good offensive line and defense in Washington—now he needs his quarterback.

    In the past, Shanahan has targeted athletic quarterbacks who can get outside the pocket and make plays. He likes players who aren’t afraid to take chances but have the accuracy to pick apart a defense underneath. John Elway and Jay Cutler are his type of players.

    Griffin may not be an Elway-level quarterback, but he’s as good a prospect as Cutler was when Shanahan nabbed him to be his starter in Denver.

    Full disclosure: Washington will most likely have to move up to get Griffin. It's highly unlikely he's still on the board at No. 6 overall.

No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama

    Dre Kirkpatrick has had a great season for one of the best defenses in college football. He'll make an easy transition to the NFL, especially in a scheme that lets him play off the ball in a zone scheme.

    Losing Rashean Mathis will hurt a defense that's really made strides this season.

    Even if they are able to re-sign Mathis, drafting a cornerback early makes sense. The Jaguars are a young team, but with a good defense. Adding a shutdown cornerback will only help to make their 2012 season much better than the 2011 version.

No. 8: Carolina Panthers

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    Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina

    The Carolina Panthers are seeing great production from quarterback Cam Newton and veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. Now it's time to give them some help.

    The Panthers are set at tight end, have an underrated offensive line and two very good running backs. If they can add a wide receiver with deep-play ability to stretch the field, more underneath routes will be open for Smith and the tight ends. And that means more running room for Newton.

    Jeffery has the big physique to separate from defenders on timing routes and when running deep. One NFL scout told me Jeffery has "Randy Moss talent."

No. 9: Miami Dolphins

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    Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

    No team is hurt more by the decision of Matt Barkley than the Miami Dolphins. With Barkley out of the draft, the Dolphins sit at No. 9 and find no quarterback of value on the board. Without Barkley in the draft, Miami may go the route of a free-agent quarterback.

    Riley Reiff would be a great addition if they can't draft a quarterback here. He would step in at right tackle, where Vernon Carey leaves via free agency, and become an instant starter and an upgrade.

    Reiff compares very well to Nate Solder from the 2011 draft class.

No. 10: Buffalo Bills

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    Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

    Getting a pass-rusher is something Buffalo has struggled to do for years. Shawne Merriman was a bust at outside linebacker and now the team is playing with out-of-position inside 'backers on the edge. The 2012 draft is weak on pass-rushers, but Courtney Upshaw has the exciting blend of athleticism and playmaking skill to warrant a Top 10 pick.

    Upshaw will step in and be an immediate starter, with the task of attacking Tom Brady twice each season. He has Terrell Suggs-like talent and athleticism. Bills' fans should love this selection.

No. 11: Kansas City Chiefs

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    David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford

    Why draft an offensive guard with the No. 12 pick overall? Because this offensive guard has All-Pro skills as a rookie.

    Kansas City is in a great position to simply draft the highest player on their board, a philosophy Scott Pioli employed many times during his run with the New England Patriots. No one thought the Patriots were wise to draft Logan Mankins, but we now know the pick was brilliant.

    DeCastro allows the Chiefs to move Rodney Hudson to center, where he will replace Casey Wiegmann. This solidifies four of five positions on the line, with only right tackle left to be fixed.

No. 12: Seattle Seahawks

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    Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC

    Seattle fans may not like this pick, but with Matt Barkley choosing to not enter the draft and Landry Jones looking like he'll stay at Oklahoma, the Seahawks are in a spot where there is no quarterback worth selecting.

    Red Bryant is the most important player to the Seahawks' front seven and he's also a free agent. Finding a way to re-sign him will be key.

    By drafting Perry the team adds a speed rusher at defensive end to team up with the power and penetration of Bryant.

No. 13: Arizona Cardinals

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    Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford

    The Arizona Cardinals have been down this road before. With the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 draft, the Cardinals were hoping to draft a tackle to protect then-franchise quarterback Matt Leinart. They used the selection on Levi Brown.

    Brown, like Leinart, has been a bust. Even though he’s still starting at left tackle, Brown is the worst left tackle in the league this season. And that’s not just conjecture. Pro Football Focus ranks Brown as the worst tackle in the NFL this season.

    The Cardinals will hope things are better this time around by selecting a player our own Jon Dove thinks is the best left tackle prospect in the class.

No. 14: Dallas Cowboys

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    Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina

    The Dallas Cowboys toyed with the idea of drafting a cornerback last year, but instead struck gold with right tackle Tyron Smith and running back DeMarco Murray. This time around, they'll look to the defensive side of the ball.

    Gilmore is a dynamic player who will be an instant upgrade not only at cornerback, but also in the return game. Gilmore's presence will allow Dez Bryant to focus on playing wide receiver and not returning punts.

No. 15: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

    The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to field the best team money could buy this season. Instead, they are on the verge of an insurmountable climb back into contention.

    It won’t be too much longer until fans in Philly are looking forward to 2012—if they aren't already.

    With DeSean Jackson's contract expiring and Steve Smith failing to make an impact, the Eagles will be desperate to add a consistent threat for Michael Vick. Michael Floyd has the body type and run-after-catch skills to be very dangerous in Andy Reid's offense.

    This is an area where Philadelphia could also look at linebackers, but no player fits the bill in a 4-3 defense this early.

No. 16: New York Jets

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    Whitney Mercilus, Outside Linebacker, Illinois

    The New York Jets have so many needs that it would almost be easier to tell you what they don’t need. They won’t draft a quarterback, left tackle, middle linebacker or cornerback—that much is certain. Any other position is wide open.

    The biggest need in New York is for a pass-rusher. The team has struggled with free agent Calvin Pace and never got a return from Vernon Gholston or Bryan Thomas here. It’s time to try again.

    Whitney Mercilus is a player expected to shoot up draft boards as soon as he declares his intentions for the 2012 season. He's big, athletic and has experience lining up in multiple locations. A college end, he projects very well to outside linebacker in the NFL.

No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders)

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    Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (FL)

    With their first of two selections in the first round, the Cincinnati Bengals will look to find a change-of-pace back to pair with (or replace) Cedric Benson next season. Miami's Lamar Miller is the best of the backs left on the board—he ranks as my No. 9 overall player right now.

    Miller is a capable runner, receiver and return man. He's bringing the three "Rs" to Cincinnati, where a speed back is needed to complement Benson's bruising style of play.

No. 18: San Diego Chargers

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    Cordy Glenn, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

    At left tackle, Jared Gaither has played very well since being picked up off the street and may earn himself the starting job next season if he's re-signed. Longtime starter Marcus McNeill has serious injury issues that will likely force his retirement.

    Glenn is a massive lineman with great footwork and the girth to be a major factor in the run game. He would be an instant starter at left or right tackle, depending on Gaither's return.

No. 19: Chicago Bears

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    Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State

    The Chicago Bears used their first pick in the 2011 NFL draft to select offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. While Carimi has missed much of his rookie season to injury, he's projected as a long-term starter at right tackle.

    Fixing the problem at left tackle is the focus of this pick. Adams is a fast-rising prospect who will catch the eye of NFL scouts with exceptional agility and strength at the position.

    Chicago needs to get better at many positions, but none is more important than finding an NFL-quality left tackle.

No. 20: Tennessee Titans

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    Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina

    The Tennessee Titan defense has been solid all season, but they rank sixth-worst at sacking the quarterback. The defensive tackles are solid, but bringing in speed and power at defensive end is needed.

    Derrick Morgan, the team's last first-rounder at defensive end, has been a bust and may discourage the front office from pulling the trigger on another defensive end.

    Outside of drafting a cornerback to replace Cortland Finnegan—should he leave in free agency—no other selection makes sense for the Titans.

No. 21: Denver Broncos

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    Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State

    You might think the Denver Broncos would want to look for offensive linemen, cornerbacks, maybe a quarterback or even help at running back. Nope.

    Under John Fox, the Broncos are committed to building a strong defense to complement a ball-control offense. The next step for Denver is to draft a stud defensive tackle to draw double-teams and split the gaps in the offensive line.

    Devon Still is the best defensive tackle in this class and brings great value for Denver with pick No. 21.

No. 22: New York Giants

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    Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker, Arizona State

    The New York Giants have a fierce defense, but they could use more speed and more coverage ability from their linebackers. The team needs a big upgrade in the middle.

    Vontaze Burfict is a name college football fans know well. It may be for his violent hits, or for his 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but there's no doubt Burfict is a difference-maker.

    Vontaze has the athleticism and speed to make plays on the edge and help in pass coverage. It's not out of the question that he could be a pass-rusher on third-down. If anything, Burfict will bring home-grown toughness to the Giants.

No. 23: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska

    Leon Hall is still one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but he needs help on the other side of the field. Nate Clements and Pacman Jones are stop-gap players. What Cincinnati needs is a true cover man. This is an area Cincinnati could address with one of its two first-round picks.

    Alfonzo Dennard is the best senior cornerback in this class. He doesn't have great size, but Dennard makes up for it with strong play off the line and a great leaping ability. He's tough against the run and in press coverage—a must for any defender in the AFC North.

No. 24: Houston Texans

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    Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor

    The Houston Texans, if healthy, should be considered Super Bowl contenders in 2012. To make those dreams a reality, Houston needs to find and develop options at wide receiver other than Andre Johnson.

    Jacoby Jones has been a fine No. 2 receiver, but the team needs a burner in the slot who can stretch a defense and create mismatches. Kendall Wright is a human mismatch. 

    Wright brings speed to the Houston offense—something sorely missing—and gives the team a big-play threat who can attack defenses from multiple positions.

No. 25: Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons)

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    Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina

    D'Qwell Jackson has had a great first season in the 4-3 defense Cleveland is running. He's the anchor to a strong defense and should be back. If Jackson leaves for greener (and richer) pastures, replacing him becomes a first-round need.

    Zach Brown plays outside linebacker at UNC, but he projects very well to the middle linebacker position in a 4-3 defense like the one in Cleveland. He's fast, instinctive and has the ability to track sideline-to-sideline.

    Should Cleveland find a way to keep Jackson, Brown would still be a nice fit at weakside linebacker.

No. 26: Detroit Lions

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    Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin

    The Detroit Lions would love to find a left tackle on the board, but no player of value is on the board. This means Detroit will move on to need No. 2.

    Some may say a cornerback or even a running back would be the better pick, but Dominic Raiola's career is nearing the end. Detroit has a history of drafting the best player available regardless of need, and no one ranks higher on my board than Konz.

    Cornerback or even linebacker could be a need here, but both positions are strong in later rounds. Finding an elite center to replace Raiola and protect Stafford can't be passed by.

No. 27: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis

    Casey Hampton has been one of the best nose tackles in the NFL over the past decade, but his time is wearing out. The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent two of their last three first-round picks drafting future starters at defensive end. They will round out their new defensive line with the selection of Dontari Poe this year.

    Poe is a massive body with the strength to command a double-team from the center-guard combination. He's also quick enough to shoot the gap and makes plays in the backfield.

    Poe has the talent and body-style to have a career similar to Sione Pouha of the New York Jets.

No. 28: San Francisco 49ers

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    Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma

    Carlos Rogers has been a top-five free-agent signing this season. The 49ers will want to offer him a three- to-four-year deal this summer and hope he's interested in returning. Even with Rogers back for another season, drafting for depth and more talent opposite Rogers is an early need.

    Jamell Fleming is a new name on our mock drafts, but few players have impressed as much as Fleming has late this season. He has the size, speed and instincts to be a true No. 1 cornerback with just a little development.

    Fleming is one of the players I'm looking forward to seeing most at the Senior Bowl.

No. 29: Baltimore Ravens

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    Fletcher Cox, Defensive End/Tackle, Mississippi State

    The Baltimore Ravens could look at multiple positions here, but the team has a solid draft history: They find talent that fits their system. With the age of players like Cory Redding and Haloti Ngata, finding a solid No. 3 defensive end isn't a bad idea. 

    Cox is a value here. He has rare athleticism for the 3-4 defensive end position and can also slide inside and take reps at tackle. With the Ravens' defense being built on pressuring the offense, adding Cox is a wonderful fit.

No. 30: New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints)

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    Jared Crick, Defensive End, Nebraska

    The New England Patriots are getting by with cast-offs in the starting lineup at defensive end and defensive tackle, but the lack of talent outside of Vince Wilfork has been evident.

    Mark Anderson and Andre Carter have had good seasons, but are they long-term answers? If the team hopes to transition back to their 3-4 scheme—or if they want to improve the play next to Wilfork at the three-technique position—they'll need to focus on the draft.

    Jared Crick has top-15 talent, but he has missed the second half of the 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle. He should be fine by the time the Scouting Combine rolls around in late February, but there is a likely chance his draft stock takes a hit from it.

No. 31: New England Patriots

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    Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, Syracuse

    When the New England Patriots have two first-round selections, Bill Belichick has never traded the first of those picks. The second, he's not afraid to move. 

    Chances are this pick will not belong to New England by the time the pick comes up on the clock, but should Belichick buck history and decide to hold on to the selection, the team could do worse than adding a pass-rushing threat like Chandler Jones.

    A recent entry into the draft, Jones has freakish size and strength off the edge. Teams looking for a 2012-version of Aldon Smith will fall in love with Jones' ability.

No. 32: Green Bay Packers

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    Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington

    I hope Green Bay fans can be as excited about this pick as I am.

    Ryan Grant may re-sign with the team, but there's the off chance he leaves or isn't wanted back. Alex Green hasn't shown anything in his rookie season, and James Starks is a complementary back only. Chris Polk has legitimate feature-back skills.

    Polk is big, strong, fast and one hell of a receiver out of the backfield. He's the perfect dual-threat for the very flexible Green Bay offense. 

    If this were a pick in the NBA, David Stern would outlaw it on the grounds that it's unfair to the other teams.