2012 NFL Mock Draft: Divisional Round Edition (Round 1)
With eight teams remaining in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, the Super Bowl picture is beginning to take shape.
The Super Bowl, however, isn't the only thing becoming somewhat clearer after this week's events. Even though it's in its very early stages, the 2012 NFL draft is also coming together.
So to hold you off a bit, here's the divisional round mock of the 2012 draft.
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 the 2012 NFL draft. 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 chunk 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 away the best prospect in the draft not named Andrew Luck.
Although I believe this pick ultimately gets traded, Kalil could instantly come in for the Rams and improve perhaps 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 lbs, 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.
The Vikes could also opt for Oklahoma State's stud wideout Justin Blackmon in this spot. He would provide their young quarterback, Christian Ponder, with a very capable target.
I would still side with Claiborne going No. 3 due to the deep group of wide receivers available through free agency. As legitimate receivers such as Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson and Dwayne Bowe hit the market, the cornerback spot looks pretty shallow to say the least.
Grabbing Claiborne to improve their defense would be a more logical selection.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Cleveland will be tempted by the prospect of taking Robert Griffin III. 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 sure-fire selection in Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon is the top wide receiving prospect in the draft. He has the size, the footwork and the hands to become an elite receiver in the NFL. And from the looks of his Tostitos Fiesta Bowl performance, Blackmon is certainly worth a go this early in the draft.
There would be no doubt Blackmon would become the immediate No. 1 wideout in an otherwise thin group of receivers.
If worse comes to worst and McCoy isn't the guy, the Browns would still have an elite talent in Blackmon and could always hope for Matt Barkley or even Landry Jones in next year's draft.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Buccaneers need help in just about every spot besides the quarterback position. Expect Tampa to take the best available player not named Robert Griffin III 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. LeGarrette 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 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 III, 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 III 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-lb 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 sacks.
8. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
With Griffin III just taken and Andrew Luck being far gone, the next best quarterback prospect would be Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M. If the Dolphins want to reach in an attempt to fix their quarterback problems, they may take a flyer on him.
I just don't see that happening, though. Tannehill 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 lbs 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.
9. 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 Steve Smith and would give Newton a legitimate target for years to come.
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 in a possible reunion with Marcell Dareus.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Kansas City didn't have the worst offensive line in football, but passing up on Stanford's Jonathan Martin would be quite a mistake.
Martin is flat-out huge, standing at 6'6", 305 lbs. He has good footwork, has great mobility and is a very smart player. Martin has the ability to open holes for running back Jamaal Charles and keep their quarterback, whoever that be may, off the ground.
Instead of reaching for a quarterback in the first round, they can certainly help out their future play-caller with a great lineman in Martin.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The quarterback position is certainly Seattle's biggest need. With that being said, the best available quarterback at this spot would be Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill.
Like I stated in the Dolphins slide, Tannehill is a good prospect. But is he really worth this kind of reach? Even though quarterbacks usually go much higher than they're supposed to in drafts, it's a bit too early to tell where Seattle stands on Tannehill.
So for now, I'll go with the more logical selection in Penn State's Devon Still. Along with Dre Kirkpatrick, Still would easily be one of the two best players on the board here.
At 6'5", 307 lbs, Still is a very physical player. He has a strong upper body and uses his bull-rush well enough to get to opposing backfields. Seattle ranked just 19th in sacks this past season and could use Still in the middle of their line.
Again, it's too soon to determine the complete value of Tannehill, but he could wind up as the pick as the draft nears.
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Cards' offensive line hasn't exactly been great in 2011, ranking 31st in pass protection. So if the team believes Kevin Kolb is their guy, they must help him.
Stanford's David DeCastro would be a great fix for the O-line. DeCastro plays with a consistent mean streak and never takes a play off. He is also very athletic, exhibits nice footwork and is quite intelligent at his position.
DeCastro is undoubtedly the best guard in the upcoming draft.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dre Kirkpatrick landing to Dallas here could be a stretch, but it certainly shouldn't come as a surprise. Kirkpatrick is a very talented corner that exhibits great potential for the next level. But with the exception of Carolina, who would opt for Alshon Jeffery over Kirkpatrick, there aren't any teams with a glaring hole at the corner spot.
Luckily for the Cowboys, Kirkpatrick is available to help fix their heavily abused secondary.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, knows of Dallas' struggling secondary. It's been quite a problem for the past handful of seasons, sinking the Cowboys defense as well as their playoff hopes.
Their secondary isn't entirely responsible for their failure to reach the postseason, but it sure did hurt them. Had the Cowboys had a more talented group of corners, Eli Manning and the Giants may be the ones cleaning out their lockers instead.
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 he does have the tools to be an incredible grab for the Cowboys.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Philly's linebacking corps have 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.
16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Hey, Jets fans! Do you trust Plaxico Burress?
Yeah, I didn't think so. The guy is older now 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.
Add that to the enormous amount of flak Mark Sanchez will get this offseason along with the Santonio Holmes fallout, and you get a need at the wideout spot. Luckily, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd could be available for Rex Ryan's squad.
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 years. In his four seasons at South Bend, Floyd has never failed to put up less than 700 yards receiving and catch at least seven touchdowns.
He raked in a bulky 95 passes in 2011, eight of them in the end zone.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: 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. If that's the path they take, Alfonzo Dennard will be the pick.
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. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
If the Chargers cannot draft an offensive lineman that'll be worth their while, they should be looking to upgrade their weak pass rush. San Diego ranked 23rd in sacks. Their inability to consistently get to opposing quarterbacks played a huge factor in their disappointing defense in 2011.
Whitney Mercilus of Illinois would be one of the best available at this point and could help increase the team's sack total. 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.
San Diego did draft a defensive lineman last year in Corey Liuget. Liuget, however, hasn't quite panned out as he totaled just one sack in the 2011 season. Perhaps San Diego could draft Liuget's former teammate in Mercilus to fix that.
19. 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 lbs. He is relatively nimble for a man his size and is very good in opening up holes for the run game.
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 in which they finished 31st.
21. 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.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
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.
If USC's Nick Perry has a successful combine, he may very well be the pick. Perry exhibits elite speed, great athleticism, uses his hands very well and is extremely versatile.
23. Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
My past few mocks saw Detroit selecting Wisconsin's big center Peter Konz. The offensive line isn't exactly the best, but they're also not the worst.
And after watching the Saints and Packers completely dismantle the Lions secondary over the last two weeks, North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins is looking like a much better option.
Jenkins is a very gifted athlete. He has nice body control, elite recognition skills and is very aggressive when the ball hits the air. Jenkins has the potential to be a great corner in the NFL but must keep his character issues in check to do so.
If Detroit wants to get past those top-tier NFC teams, they must improve their pass defense.
24. 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.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Broncos could look to upgrade a bit on their line. Marcus Thomas isn't really great, making Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State an appealing option for Denver in this spot. He is very athletic and uses his great upper body strength to get by offensive linemen.
Cox was also named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week four times in 2011, an honor that shouldn't be taken lightly.
26. 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 Tom 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.
27. 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 ranked 13th in pass protection this season, allowing just 33 sacks through 16 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.
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 yards 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: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
San Francisco's defense has been nothing short of incredible this season. They finished fourth in total yards allowed and gave up just 14.3 points per game. The Niners, however, may look for an upgrade in their secondary.
Virginia's Chase Minnifield would be the next best available corner in the draft. He has nice speed, hits hard and has a knack for getting to the ball.
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: Jerel Worthy, DE/DT, Michigan State
The Packers defense has been extremely unstable this season. They relinquished the most yards per game this season and only got to the quarterback 29 times, the fifth lowest total in the NFL.
Jerel Worthy stands at 6'3" and 310 lbs and has tremendous upside. He has a quick first step and can change direction very well. Worthy finished the 2011 season with 3.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.