2012 NFL Mock Draft: Polarizing Players Teams Will Hesitate to Bring in
Several players on Alabama and LSU were widely projected to land in the first round of the NFL draft before the BCS National Championship Game.
After some stellar performances in the title game, you can bet these players will be hard to pass up early in the first round now.
In the same breath, several draft prospects could have challenged Alabama and LSU's burgeoning stars, but will likely slip based on character concerns, such as North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins and Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Here is my latest 2012 NFL mock draft, post-BCS National Championship edition.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Not a bad idea. Luck has the arm strength, accuracy, pocket poise and leadership to be a star in the NFL for years to come. Plus, he can run a little bit, too.
2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery helped himself in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska, but Justin Blackmon is still the No. 1 receiver in the draft.
Blackmon's strength and explosiveness after the catch were on full display against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl when he caught eight balls for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings are likely going to stick with quarterback Christian Ponder, and by drafting Matt Kalil they will be setting Ponder up to succeed.
Kalil is one of the best offensive tackle prospects in years and he would make life a whole lot easier for Ponder and the Vikings offense.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
History suggests drafting a running back this early in the draft is generally a bad idea, but there are certain running backs, like Trent Richardson, who are too good to pass up.
Richardson has the speed, strength, vision, patience and big-play ability to be a star in the NFL, perhaps even a superstar.
Goodbye, Peyton Hillis.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The LSU defense didn't fare as well against Alabama in the rematch in the title game, but Morris Claiborne had little to do with that.
Claiborne is a complete cornerback, and many believe he's a better cover corner than former LSU star and current Arizona Cardinal Patrick Peterson.
Aqib Talib is a mess and Ronde Barber is aging.
6. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Robert Griffin III was spectacular for Baylor this season, exhibiting tremendous arm strength, accuracy, pocket poise and running ability.
The Redskins have hopefully figured out by now that Rex Grossman and John Beck won't carry them.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Jaguars desperately need a wide receiver, and Alshon Jeffery's performance against top cornerback prospect Alfonzo Dennard in the Capital One Bowl likely elevated him as a Top 10 pick.
Jeffery is strong, able to get off press coverage, and he can also separate from defenders down the field despite not having elite speed.
8. Carolina Panthers: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Zach Brown's ability to stuff the run, lock down in coverage and rush the passer make him a complete linebacker, and the Panthers just so happen to need help in all of those areas.
Brown won't jump out at you, but at the end of the day his ability to be a multi-skilled player makes him an impact player.
9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Riley Reiff has steadily risen past Stanford's Jonathan Martin in my eyes, given his strength, athleticism and technique.
The Dolphins won't find a top-tier quarterback here, but they will find someone to help whoever's under center with Reiff.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Bills' biggest need is a pass-rusher and Courtney Upshaw looks to be the best in the 2012 draft class.
Upshaw's athleticism and strength make him a nightmare off the edge and as a tackler, and he showed that by earning defensive MVP honors in the BCS National Championship Game (six tackles, one sack).
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Chiefs need to replace offensive tackle Barry Richardson, and Jonathan Martin, given his tenacity, strength and athleticism, could be an impact player right away in KC.
Just ask Andrew Luck what he thinks of Martin.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Some people believe Nick Perry is a better outside linebacker prospect than Courtney Upshaw. Perry's natural power, speed and length could make him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks in the NFL. He racked up 9.5 sacks this season for USC.
The Seahawks need help at defensive end and outside linebacker and Perry could be used at either position. Plus, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll used to coach at USC, remember?
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
The Cardinals need to replace offensive tackle Levi Brown, and Cordy Glenn has the strength, frame and athleticism to play tackle in the NFL.
I think Glenn is being undervalued by most draft experts right now.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
I originally had the Cowboys drafting South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore given his ability to be a return man, but if Dre Kirkpatrick lands here it's going to be hard for the Cowboys to pass him up.
Kirkpatrick showed in the BCS National Championship Game why he's the No. 2 cornerback in the 2012 draft class. His strength, physicality and ability to stuff the run make him an impressive prospect.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd may come with some character concerns, but he was outstanding this season despite poor quarterback play at Notre Dame.
Floyd has the size, strength and leaping ability to perform well in press coverage and out-jump defenders deep down the field.
The Eagles, who are on the edge with receiver DeSean Jackson, will likely be looking for their next star receiver in the draft.
16. New York Jets: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Mark Barron is a reach here, but this is certainly a problem area for the Jets after Jim Leonhard got hurt his season. Leonhard could come back healthy, but it's time to start looking for a younger player.
Barron has the athleticism, instincts and ball-hawk abilities to be a playmaker in the NFL.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
I'm pretty surprised Lamar Miller isn't considered a top-tier running back prospect by some draft experts. He's fast, explosive, shows excellent vision and he's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Bengals need to find a successor for Cedric Benson. Enter a poor man's version of LeSean McCoy.
18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Melvin Ingram has the speed, strength and versatility to be a threat off the edge as a defensive end or outside linebacker. He racked up 10 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in the tough SEC this season and had a big game in the Capital One Bowl.
Tell me the last time the Chargers didn't hate their outside linebackers.
19. Chicago Bears: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb is the wrong man for the job, and Mike Adams looks like he could be a solid blindside protector in the NFL given his length, athleticism and technique.
Maybe quarterback Jay Cutler will stop getting injured if the Bears protect him better.
20. Tennessee Titans: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Titans head coach Mike Munchak repeatedly expressed displeasure in the offensive line this season and David DeCastro is a top-tier guard prospect.
DeCastro doesn't win matchups based on his athleticism, but his excellent technique and awareness make him an elite run-blocker and pass-blocker.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
I love the way Stephon Gilmore plays. He's tough, strong and possesses the instincts to allow him to close in fast on defenders. On top of that, he has the ability to be a return man.
Gilmore would line up opposite corner Leon Hall after Johnathan Joseph's departure.
22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Kendall Wright, as Robert Griffin III's favorite target, has skyrocketed up draft boards this season. He possesses elite speed and athleticism and should have no problem stretching defenses in the NFL.
The Browns desperately need a star receiver for quarterback Colt McCoy, and Wright has the ability to be one at the next level.
23. Detroit Lions: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
After getting rocked by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, the Lions need to add another cornerback.
Dennard has the strength, leaping ability and newfound dedication to be a solid cornerback in the NFL.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton is 34 years old now and likely to have knee surgery.
Dontari Poe is by far the best nose tackle prospect in the draft and he's a legit first-rounder based on his size and strength. He'd be a great fit in the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 scheme.
25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State
The Broncos have a clear need plugging the hole against the run, and Devon Still, with his strength and burst, would also be a handful as a pass-rusher and opening up lanes for his fellow young defenders to fly through.
This is a big problem area, and Still is one of the few top-tier defensive tackles in this year's draft.
26. New York Giants: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Luke Kuechly could very well be drafted before this, but if he isn't I find it hard to believe the Giants wouldn't pounce.
The Giants need helping against the run in the interior, and Kuechly, despite being undersized, has the instincts and tackling ability to be a difference-maker in the NFL.
27. Houston Texans: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Texans haven't found a suitable No. 2 receiver opposite Andre Johnson for years and Mohamed Sanu is a legit first-rounder.
Sanu has good height and strength and I just love how this kid plays the game. Let's just say effort will never be a problem for Sanu. He's the kind of receiver who isn't afraid to take the big hit up the middle.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
There are legitimate character concerns associated with Janoris Jenkins, but the fact of the matter is he's considered an elite prospect based on his abilities alone.
49ers rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be loved by all his players and I have a feeling Jenkins could shape up under his leadership.
The 49ers need depth in the secondary and Jenkins could be a star.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Vontaze Burfict, like Janoris Jenkins, has elite tools, with outstanding strength, closing ability, tackling skills and instincts.
The one thing standing in Burfict's way is he has legitimate character concerns. He's had several personal fouls this season, and in critical moments.
If his aggressiveness can be brought under control, he could become Ray Lewis' successor in Baltimore.
30. New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Dont'a Hightower, as strong as he is, has the speed and instincts to be an outside linebacker in the NFL, which is where the Patriots would use him if they indeed switch to a 3-4 scheme.
31. New England Patriots: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
It's time to start grooming the next protector of Tom Brady with Dan Koppen 32 years old and coming off a fractured ankle.
Peter Konz has soared up draft boards due to his play and has the athleticism and tenacity to be a solid center in the NFL.
32. Green Bay Packers: Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
One thing the Packers clearly need is help at defensive end, and Jared Crick has a skill set reminiscent of Houston Texans end J.J. Watt.
Crick has top-notch strength and work ethic and is a very smart player who will make you pay for mistakes in pass protection.
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