2012 NFL Mock Draft: Melvin Ingram and the Most Versatile First-Round Defenders
In the evolving world of the NFL, for defenses to keep up with fast-paced offenses versatile players are needed. Whether it's the ability to play multiple positions and/or be dynamic at one position, a player who can shutdown an offense numerous ways provides a distinct advantage.
After all, defenses do win championships and in order to keep that true, the dark side must keep evolving right along with the offenses. This list will examine the most intriguing defenders in the first round, followed by a full first-round mock draft.
Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)
LSU's Morris Claiborne is a true cornerback, but it's his playmaking skills that allow him to be so versatile.
In recording 11 interceptions combined between 2010 and 2011, Morris returned them for a total of 274 yards. That's an average of 24.9 yards per interception return, or from an offensive-minded perspective, 2.5 first-downs.
And with football being such a field-position-type game, changing the possession almost one-fourth of its length per interception is remarkable. Claiborne is basically a combination of a corner's mind with a receiver's athleticism, which also translates well on special teams.
There, he returned 22 kickoffs back for 552 yards and scored one TD. Another average of roughly 25 yards, in Cleveland he'll do wonders allowing Josh Cribbs to focus on his better specialty of punt returning.
Then on defense, putting Morris opposite of Joe Haden immediately creates one of the NFL's best cornerback tandems. Not to mention he's quick and manipulative enough to be an effective run-blitzer off the edge.
Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DT/DE (North Carolina)
Whether it's stuffing the run in the middle, containing the edge or getting pressure on the QB from all over, North Carolina's Quinton Coples is a high prospect because of his dynamic abilities.
In 2010 he recorded 10 sacks, 59 tackles and forced one fumble while almost replicating that performance in 2011 with 7.5 sacks, 55 tackles and another force fumble. Being that he was North Carolina's best defender, blocking schemes zeroed in on isolating Coples to force the linebackers to make plays.
Still, in being an offense's focus, Coples performed well and the Tar Heels allowed just 106 rushing yards per game (rank No. 14). He'll be a great fit in Seattle's 4-3 scheme opposite of Chris Clemons or next to him as a defensive tackle.
The Seahawks could also use a 3-4 scheme with Coples to utilize his size and speed off the edges. And if you take away Clemons from Seattle, they finish with just 22 sacks instead of 33. Now add Coples to the equation and that number significantly increases.
Also, being that Seattle was solid against the rush and pass by allowing a total of just 332 yards per game (rank No. 9), can you imagine how much the Seahawks improve at controlling the trenches with Coples complementing Clemons?
The Great Northwest just became an immediate division contender to San Francisco.
Cleveland Browns: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Arizona State)
Yes, another defensive player for Cleveland and this time it's Arizona State linebacker Vontze Burfict. Only if the Rams and Vikings pass on Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon should they draft offense, otherwise improving the defense is their best bet.
Last season the Browns may have finished No. 2 against the pass, however, they also only defended 469 passes (ranked No. 31) compared to Green Bay who defended the most at 637. So, despite that high ranking, it's quite deceiving since most opponents just ran the ball against their No. 30 ranked rush defense (allowed 147.4 per game).
That's where Burfict comes in.
Despite playing mainly inside linebacker, Burfict has the athleticism to play OLB and blitz off the edge. Anyway you slice it, as long as he's complementing D'Qwell Jackson in the front seven, Cleveland will vastly improve against the run.
In 2011 Burfict recorded five sacks and 69 tackles while seeing a drop from 2010 which had 89 tackles. He was however, the only defender any offense really needed to stop on the Sun Devils, so drawing attention is appealing.
With the Browns, he will help stuff the run between the tackles, blitz relentlessly and is athletic enough to cover tight ends man-to-man. Include his intimidating attitude, something that's missing in Cleveland and Burfict fits the Browns mold.
Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB (South Carolina)
Easily one of the most versatile and dynamic defensive playmakers, South Carolina's Melvin Ingram is arguably one of the most athletic prospects in the 2012 NFL draft.
This past season he scored three TDs, one of which came on a 68-yard rush from a fake punt. He also recorded two interceptions, 10 sacks and 48 tackles. Ingram led the Gamecocks defense that allowed only 18.4 points per game (rank No. 11), finished with an 11-2 record and a No. 8 final ranking.
Melvin can play either defensive end or outside linebacker, blitz from either position as well as drop into coverage. Ingram's football IQ is arguably his best attribute, as he can play both man and zone coverage while rushing inside and out.
In Green Bay, Ingram is perfect as he's a solid pass-rusher opposite of Clay Matthews and provides another reliable defender in underneath coverage. Plus in an opportunistic defense like the Packers, Ingram's knack for finding the football will flourish.
To make him even more impressive though, Melvin also served on South Carolina's hands team to recover any opposing onside kick. How many defensive lineman can say that?
2012 First-Round NFL Mock Draft
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford)
17. Cincinnati (From OAK): Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)
2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma State)
18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, LB (Alabama)
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT (USC)
19. Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery, WR (South Carolina)
4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)
20. Tennessee Titans: Mohamed Sanu, WR (Rutgers)
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama)
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, OG (Georgia)
6. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB (Baylor)
22. Cleveland (From ATL): Vontaze Burfict, LB (ASU)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame)
23. Detroit Lions: Zach Brown, LB (UNC)
8. Miami Dolphins: Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zebrie Sanders, OT (Florida State)
9. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama)
25. Denver Broncos: Chase Minnifield, CB (UVA)
10. Buffalo Bills: Alfonzo Dennard, CB (Nebraska)
26. New York Giants: Devon Still, DT (Penn State)
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G (Stanford)
27. Houston Texans: Jerel Worthy, DT (Michigan State)
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE (UNC)
28. San Francisco 49ers: Mark Barron, S (Alabama)
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT (Stanford)
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, LB (Alabama)
14. Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB (North Alabama)
30. New England Patriots (From NO): Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina)
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB (Boston College)
31. New England Patriots: Sam Montgomery, DE (LSU)
16. New York Jets: Brandon Thompson, DE (Clemson)
32. Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE (South Carolina)
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