The 2011 NFL regular season is over, and the 2012 NFL draft will be here soon. As everyone knows, the top of the draft order is now cemented and that means one thing.
It's mock draft season.
On the whole, mock drafts this early are going to be incredibly inaccurate. Few picks will be correct, and many more will be way off. There's a chance that some of these guys won't even be in the 2012 draft.
Still, mock drafts are useful in analyzing player value, team needs and possible player fits.
And they're just fun.
With Bill Polian out in Indianapolis, many are speculating the Colts are now even more likely to select Andrew Luck. I don't believe this to be the case, because I think it was inevitable either way.
At 6'4", 235 pounds, Luck is an impressive athlete with prototype size. The Stanford star has a strong arm, great accuracy and unbelievable intelligence. Even in college, Luck was already choosing between three plays at the line of scrimmage, much like Peyton Manning has for years.
Last year, Luck was the guaranteed No. 1 pick if he entered the draft. He chose not to, and a year later, he is an even better prospect. It is not an exaggeration to call Luck the best prospect to enter the draft in more than a decade.
If the Colts don't select Luck, they will trade the pick away. There really is no other option here.
Despite devoting plenty of draft picks and money to the offensive line, the Rams desperately need to add more linemen. After playing extremely well as a rookie, left tackle Rodger Saffold has struggled and may kick inside to guard.
St. Louis has tons of needs, so they select the best value left in Matt Kalil. The 6'7", 295-pound Kalil is a superb athlete with great length. Kalil is technically refined and the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long in 2008.
However, Kalil could stand to gain some weight and isn't an elite run-blocker. There aren't many safer picks, though, and the Rams finally find their franchise left tackle.
St. Louis could also select a cornerback in Morris Claiborne or address their wide receiver need by taking Justin Blackmon.
Though they have tons of needs, the Vikings' worst unit just might be their secondary. Minnesota's best cornerback, Antoine Winfield, will turn 35 years old before next season starts, and Cedric Griffin is coming back from two knee injuries.
Morris Claiborne isn't quite the prospect former teammate Patrick Peterson was a year ago, but he may be the better cornerback. While Peterson relied on his physical skills, Claiborne has mastered his craft.
This isn't to say Claiborne isn't a great athlete, though. The LSU star weighs in at 6'1", 190 pounds, and can run with almost any wideout. Claiborne also possesses superb ball skills and jumping ability.
If Matt Kalil is available, the Vikings could turn to him instead of Claiborne. Minnesota also needs wide receivers, so Justin Blackmon could be an option.
Though he showed promise as a rookie, Colt McCoy was horrible in 2012 and has the Browns searching for a replacement. Yes, Cleveland lacks offensive talent in general, but the team's struggles start at quarterback.
Robert Griffin isn't Andrew Luck; however, he is a legitimate top-five pick. Griffin is only 6'2", 220 pounds, so he has to compensate with his athletic ability. Fortunately, RG3 is a superb athlete and can outrun defensive backs, let alone defensive linemen.
Griffin isn't just a runner, though. The Heisman winner possesses a strong arm and excellent accuracy. At Baylor, Griffin was famous for making sound decisions and throwing the ball on target. Griffin's pocket presence is still developing.
The Browns desperately need to upgrade their offense on the whole, so Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon are both possibilities.
Tampa Bay does have LeGarrette Blount, but he has struggled with injuries and doesn't appear to be a long-term fix at running back. The Buccaneers offense was not explosive in 2011 like it was a year ago, and the team needs to add playmakers.
The best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, Trent Richardson is a powerful back with speed. Richardson is nearly impossible to tackle one-on-one, and he possesses good agility as well.
Unlike the typical power back, Richardson can also catch. The Alabama star has been featured out of the backfield and is a complete player. In reality, Richardson offers everything from the running back position and is nearly flawless.
Tampa Bay also has a need at cornerback and Dre Kirkpatrick is a fit.
The Redskins have many wide receivers, but they lack a true No. 1 target. Washington's offense has struggled immensely, and Justin Blackmon is the best candidate to help it turn around.
Because he lacks elite height and speed, Blackmon does not have a high ceiling. However, the Oklahoma State star possesses great hands, route-running ability and is incredibly unlikely to be a bust.
After dominating in the Fiesta Bowl, Blackmon's stock may be on the rise. Blackmon has questions regarding his upside, but his production cannot be denied and many love him as a prospect.
In an ideal world, the Redskins are able to acquire Robert Griffin III. They would have to trade up to do so, and the team will probably try to.
Rashean Mathis has been Jacksonville's best cornerback for years, and now the 31-year-old is declining, recovering from a torn ACL and possibly leaving in free agency. Even with Mathis, the Jaguars have a poor secondary.
At 6'3", 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick possesses outstanding length and athletic ability. Kirkpatrick is excellent in zone coverage but occasionally struggles in man coverage, which has led some to speculation about a future at safety.
Most, however, feel that Kirkpatrick can stay at cornerback, and he has incredible upside. In all likelihood, Kirkpatrick will not be ready to start at the beginning of 2012. The Jaguars have to start somewhere, though.
Justin Blackmon is also a strong possibility if he is still available here.
Carolina has a poor run defense and one of the NFL's worst defensive tackle units. The Panthers have one great defensive end in Charles Johnson, but the other three spots could use some work.
Men of Dontari Poe's size aren't supposed to move like he does. The 6'5", 350-pounder is an incredible athlete with enormous potential. Poe could legitimately become the next Haloti Ngata, and he can play in any defensive scheme.
On the field, Poe is not worthy of this pick. He hasn't dominated as much as he should, and his upside causes him to be selected in the top 10. There aren't many great values remaining, and Poe fits a huge need.
Dre Kirkpatrick would fit a huge need for Carolina as well.
Though Matt Moore didn't play terribly in 2011, the Dolphins seem likely to search for a quarterback during the offseason. On the whole, the Miami offense isn't awful, and the team must start their turnaround at quarterback.
On the field, Ryan Tannehill is not worthy of such a high pick. However, Tannehill is a fantastic athlete with excellent arm strength and huge potential. For a team with such a huge need at quarterback, Tannehill is a viable option in the first round.
At this point, Tannehill's biggest flaw is his poor decision making, but this is not unexpected from a former wide receiver. Tannehill is incredibly raw and needs to sit on the bench for a year, but he will test well at the combine and could develop into a great player.
Miami could use help along the offensive line, so Riley Reiff and David DeCastro are both options.
It seems likely that Stevie Johnson will leave in free agency, and the Bills don't have many other receiving threats. If Buffalo does retain Johnson, they could still use help behind him, and Alshon Jeffery is a potentially dynamic wideout.
At one point, Alshon Jeffery was widely considered a top-five pick, but his stock has fluctuated—throughout the season Jeffery has often looked slow and overweight, and his production took a hit in 2011.
However, Jeffery still has significant upside and will likely be selected early. At 6'3", 235 pounds, Jeffery has fantastic size and the best hands in the draft. The South Carolina star is incredibly smooth and is fantastic at going up for the ball.
Buffalo's offensive line is still weak, so either Riley Reiff or David DeCastro could be selected here.
Despite having a massive defensive line, the Seahawks' run defense hasn't been great, and they could use some help at linebacker. Linebacker isn't the team's biggest need, but Luke Kuechly is the best player still on the board.
Luke Kuechly isn't a fantastic athlete, but he has superb instincts and racks up tackles. Though he is just 6'3", 235 pounds, Kuechly does a nice job of disengaging from blocks and making plays in the backfield.
Kuechly will never be an elite linebacker, but he will be a well-above-average player. The winner of the Bronko Nagursky Trophy, Kuechly has been incredibly productive and has an extremely high floor.
Vontaze Burfict is an option if the Seahawks want more upside, and the team could easily select one of many pass-rushers.
In 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs were rumored to be interested in drafting former Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga with the No. 5 pick. The Chiefs did not draft Bulaga, but offensive tackle remains a need, and now a different Hawkeyes lineman is available.
A former tight end, Riley Reiff is an excellent athlete and projects as a solid player in the NFL. At 6'6", 305 pounds, Reiff isn't particularly big, but he has the frame to add weight.
There are some concerns about whether Reiff can play left tackle; however, he could play on the right side in Kansas City. The Chiefs have a solid left tackle in Branden Albert, and they are looking for a right tackle, not a blind-side protector.
Kansas City could opt for Vontaze Burfict or, if he's available, Dontari Poe. Don't rule out Ryan Tannehill either.
It's no secret that the Cardinals' offensive line is brutal and needs to be addressed before the 2012 season begins. Arizona needs help at virtually every offensive line position, and they just need to do something at this point.
A junior guard, David DeCastro is the best interior-line prospect to come along in years, and could even be a top-10 selection. At 6'5", 310 pounds, DeCastro has perfect size and is a phenomenal athlete.
DeCastro is capable of power-blocking or pulling and picking up linebackers in space. Few offensive linemen are more versatile, and DeCastro is elite in literally every aspect of the game.
A pass-rusher would also make sense for Arizona, and there are many available.
The Cowboys obviously have an elite pass-rusher in DeMarcus Ware, but the team has holes along every defensive unit. Though the Cowboys' defensive line is decent, it is unspectacular and could use an impact player.
At 6'6", 285 pounds, Quinton Coples is already big enough to play in Dallas' 3-4 scheme and could gain more weight. Coples isn't a great pass-rusher in a 4-3 scheme, but in a 3-4, he is a threat to make plays in the backfield.
Despite being a fantastic athlete, Coples isn't a great pass-rusher. He doesn't have a great first step and is actually better suited for the 3-4 defense. Because he is excellent against the run, Coples should be fine playing 5-tech.
The Cowboys also need help in the secondary and could opt for Janoris Jenkins or Alfonzo Dennard. If Dallas wanted a different defensive end, they could take Devon Still.
Currently, the Eagles have a great wide receiver combination in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. However, there have been problems with Jackson and he is a free agent this spring. Michael Floyd offers Philadelphia a big, physical wideout to complement the speedy Maclin.
Because of his off-the-field and injury issues, Michael Floyd is a risky prospect. However, his size, athleticism, body control and catching ability give him a big upside.
Floyd has been incredibly productive when on the field, and he is talented enough to be selected in this range. In fact, Floyd has more potential than Justin Blackmon.
Historically, Philadelphia has refused to select linebackers early, but the position is a huge need and Vontaze Burfict has superstar potential.
Because of their elite cornerback unit, the Jets' pass defense has been excellent. However, Rex Ryan's pass rush is less-than-stellar and could use some help.
Melvin Ingram is an incredibly versatile player who fits in perfectly with Ryan's creativity. In fact, Ingram is similar to a former Ryan linebacker by the name of Adalius Thomas.
A 6'2", 275-pounder, Ingram isn't especially speedy and could struggle in coverage, but he can rush the passer and defend the run. Though Ingram will never be an elite rusher, he would dramatically improve New York's linebacker unit.
Obviously, the Jets have issues on offense and could add a playmaker such as Lamar Miller or Alshon Jeffery.
This pick almost seems like too much of a stereotype, but it makes sense on many levels. The Bengals obviously have a history of drafting "troubled" players, and Janoris Jenkins certainly fits that bill.
After losing Jonathan Joseph in free agency to the Houston Texans, Cincinnati has a glaring hole at cornerback. Leon Hall is an excellent player, but he recently tore his Achilles tendon and is just one of two cornerbacks.
Jenkins was a great player at Florida prior to being kicked off the team for multiple off-the-field problems. Now at North Alabama, Jenkins has continued to excel and is definitely a first-round value on the field.
San Diego's defense has underachieved in 2011, and the team's pass rush is primarily to blame. Shaun Phillips is a solid player, but he is nothing special and needs help. The Chargers didn't have their elite offense in 2011, and their defense showed how much work it needs.
Like most 3-4 outside linebackers, Nick Perry is an undersized defensive end. The 6'3", 250-pounder is quick and explosive but needs to develop more pass-rush moves.
At times, Perry is a complete non-factor against the run. The USC end needs to improve his technique and add muscle to shred blocks.
San Diego doesn't actually have a ton of needs, and pass-rusher is easily the team's most glaring weakness. However, there are quite a few pass-rushers to choose from.
Though the Bears have drafted multiple offensive linemen in the first round, their offensive line is still dreadful. Prior to his injury, Jay Cutler was being abused and he will be unable to produce at an elite level until he has time to throw. Last year's first-round pick, Gabe Carimi, is capable of playing left tackle but would be a better option on the right side.
Historically, Mike Adams has been an underachiever, but he was excellent in 2011 after returning from a suspension. The 6'8", 320-pounder is a fantastic athlete with superb size.
After Matt Kalil, Adams has the most upside of any offensive tackle in the draft. Adams could definitely continue to underachieve as a pro, so he is not without risk.
Chicago needs help at wide receiver too, and Kendall Wright would fit.
Tennessee's defense wasn't bad on the whole, but the team's pass rush was terrible and ranked 31st in sacks. The Titans have several well-rounded or decent defensive ends, and now they need to add a dynamic pass-rusher.
At 6'5", 265 pounds, Andre Branch fits the profile of a threat off the edge. Branch is an explosive player with huge potential. The Clemson defensive end isn't especially strong against the run, though.
Like many highly-drafted ends, Branch is a high-upside but risky player. He still needs to develop as a rusher, and he primarily relies on his athleticism rather than technique.
A wide receiver is possible here, and David DeCastro would be a great pick if he were still available.
It was obvious entering the season that Denver would have a weak defensive tackle unit. Brodrick Bunkley isn't terrible, but the Broncos still need another starter and more depth. Bunkley is also a free agent.
A fantastic athlete, Devon Still has great upside. The 6'5", 310-pounder can play in any defensive scheme and would fit in perfectly next to Bunkley. Bunkley is a somewhat limited player, while Still might be able to do anything on the field.
However, Still isn't as good as he should be. Prior to this year, Still had always underachieved, and even now, he is just showing flashes. There are times when Still is completely dominated, and he needs to become more consistent.
John Fox wants to run the ball in Denver, so a running back like Lamar Miller would make sense.
Despite having an elite pass rush, New York's defense is awful. One of the team's biggest needs is at middle linebacker, and Vontaze Burfict is a fantastic value here.
Burfict is a legitimate top-10 talent, but he racks up even more personal fouls than Ndamukong Suh does. At 6'3", 255 pounds, Burfict is a thumper with outstanding athletic ability.
The Arizona State star is famous for his ferocious hits and playmaking ability. Few players in all of football are more feared, and Burfict could make an immediate impact on the Giants' run defense.
Cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross are both free agents, so New York could address the defensive backfield. An offensive lineman is not out of the question either.
Andre Johnson is one of the game's elite wide receivers, but the Texans need a weapon opposite him. With Johnson often injured, Houston is regularly forced to rely on its secondary targets more than the team would like to.
Kendall Wright is a fast, quick wideout with huge playmaking ability. Though he weighs in at just 5'10", 190 pounds, Wright has great upside and could develop into a Jeremy Maclin-esque player.
Wright is a fantastic fit opposite of Johnson and could immediately play from the slot. It's not likely that Wright will ever be an elite player, but he can be a No. 1 wide receiver. There is no reason why Wright shouldn't develop into at least a solid player.
Houston could select a nose tackle such as Brandon Thompson, and a cornerback like Alfonzo Dennard is also possible.
Cedric Benson has disappointed and will be a free agent this offseason. The Bengals have a talent-laden offense and are really only missing a dynamic weapon at running back.
Because of his speed and receiving ability, Lamar Miller has drawn comparisons to LeSean McCoy. Miller has good size at 5'11", 212 pounds, and possesses significant upside. In theory, Miller should become a player who never has to come off the field.
Miller isn't a power back, but his shiftiness and speed makes up for it. The Miami star can outrun most defensive backs and has great burst through the hole. Miller truly can take over and dominate a game.
A cornerback would make sense for Cincinnati as well.
After already selecting a quarterback, the Browns now need to add offensive playmakers. Greg Little may become a good receiver in the future, but he is unlikely to become a legitimate No. 1 wideout.
The 6'3", 208-pound Rueben Randle offers Cleveland the deep threat they do not have. Though Randle isn't a burner by any means, he is able to create separation and uses his size well on deep routes.
Randle excels downfield and possesses great hands. However, he can also gain yards after the catch. The LSU wideout needs to work on his route-running ability, but he is a potential No. 1 wide receiver.
The Browns also need a right tackle, so Jonathan Martin is an option. A defensive end to play opposite Jabaal Sheard would also make sense.
For years, Detroit's offensive line has been a huge issue. Matthew Stafford is being brutalized, and the team's rushing attack has struggled as well. Jeff Backus desperately needs to be replaced, and Gosder Cherilus isn't a star either.
Martin Mayhew has previously chosen to ignore need, and instead select the best player available, but he may need to buck the trend here. At 6'5", 310 pounds, Jonathan Martin has the build of a left tackle.
Martin is a refined player with great technique, but he may not be athletic enough to play on the left side. Andrew Luck's left tackle is only a decent athlete, and he isn't overly powerful either. Though Martin doesn't have much upside, he is still a solid player.
Eric Wright seems likely to depart from Detroit, and the Lions will probably look to add at least one cornerback.
In the past, the Steelers have chosen not address immediate needs, but instead aging positions. Pittsburgh has drafted only one immediate starter in the past three years, and two of those picks have been along the defensive line.
James Farrior was once an excellent player, but at 36 years old, he is over the hill. Ronnell Lewis is projected by most as an outside linebacker, but he could fit in next to Lawrence Timmons on the inside. Timmons isn't much of a thumper, but Lewis can really lay the wood.
Pittsburgh likes inside linebackers with pass-rushing ability, and Lewis certainly fits that bill. Lewis plays defensive end for Oklahoma, but he is not a great threat off the edge, although he is fast and explosive, so he would be excellent roaming along the inside.
The Steelers could shore up the offensive line by drafting Kevin Zeitler or Brandon Washington to play guard or Zebrie Sanders to play tackle. Alfonzo Dennard is a possible fit at cornerback.
Of every team in the NFL, the Ravens may actually have the least needs. That's not to say Baltimore is the best team, but general manager Ozzie Newsome can afford to draft the best player available, as he has in the past.
In this case, Zach Brown is the best player on the board. At just 6'2", 230 pounds, Brown is an unusual fit in Baltimore's 3-4 scheme, but he could excel at inside linebacker nonetheless. With Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody in front of him, Brown would face less blockers than most linebackers do.
Brown is an exceptional athlete with incredible speed. Most of Baltimore's inside linebackers are thumpers, and Brown would be a terrific fit, roaming in coverage and giving chase.
With Ben Grubbs possibly leaving in free agency, the Ravens could look to add a guard in Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler or Miami's Brandon Washington. Offensive tackle, wide receiver or pass-rusher are among Baltimore's "weaknesses."
San Francisco has one of the NFL's best run defenses, and the team's front seven has been phenomenal. Outside of Carlos Rogers, however, the 49ers' defensive backs have struggled.
Prior to the 2011 season, Alfonzo Dennard was widely considered a top-15 pick. After missing some games with injury, however, Dennard's stock took a tumble and is just now recovering.
The 5'10", 205-pounder has a bit of an unusual build, but he can play any type of coverage. Dennard is at his best in press and is excellent against the run.
Michael Crabtree has been a disappointment, and Braylon Edwards was actually cut, so the 49ers could look to add a wide receiver as well.
It has become more and more obvious that Green Bay needs a pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews. Matthews is a legitimate star, but no one has stepped up at the other outside linebacker spot.
Bruce Irvin is primarily talked about as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and for good reason. The West Virginia defensive end weighs in at just 6'3", 245 pounds, and is an explosive pass-rusher.
Though Irvin struggles against the run, he could become a legitimate threat off the edge. With his excellent athletic ability, Irvin should be able to drop back into coverage as well. Dom Capers' scheme requires versatility, and Irvin fits the bill.
Defensive end is another need for Green Bay, so Brandon Thompson would make sense. A cornerback would fit as well. It's also important to remember that general manager Ted Thompson tends to draft the best player available.
For a few years, New England's pass rush has been awful, and Bill Belichick needs to draft someone early. The Patriots defense is weak on the whole, but the team doesn't have a single legitimate threat off the edge.
Belichick has experimented with both the 3-4 and 4-3 defense and, fortunately, Vinny Curry can play in either scheme. Curry lacks elite physical ability; however, he is smart and has the intangibles that Belichick likes.
At 6'3", 260 pounds, Curry isn't quite as tall as Belichick prefers his pass-rushers to be. On the other hand, this profile hasn't worked well for the Patriots, and maybe the head coach will become a bit more flexible.
The Patriots' defensive backs are also incredibly weak, and the team could use help along the defensive line as well.
Devin McCourty has seriously regressed, and none of New England's young defensive backs are really panning out. The Patriots draft a defensive back early every year, and they obviously must continue to do so.
Stephon Gilmore is only an average athlete, but he can play in zone coverage, which is key in New England. The 6'1", 195-pounder is not a playmaker like many of Belichick's cornerbacks, and instead simply covers well.
These playmaking cornerbacks are hit or miss, and they don't seem to be making too many plays. Maybe Belichick will accept this and select a cornerback who will rarely get beaten in coverage.
At safety, Mark Barron would make sense for the Patriots. However, Barron is somewhat limited and isn't a great value here.