2012 Mock Draft: Complete First Round Predictions and Analysis
With the college season over and the NFL season just a couple of weeks away from being over too, the draft is starting to come together. Of course the Senior Bowl, the combine and the new All Star game will change things, but until then the draft is about as clear as it's going to get.
So who's gonna go where given what we know right now? Here's a complete first round with predictions and analysis.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
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I'll be brief, because everyone knows what this pick is going to be. Andrew Luck will be the first player off the board, whether the Colts trade the pick or not.
Luck completed over 70 percent of his passes for the last two seasons. He's led Stanford to their best two seasons ever. He's a great decision maker, he's tough, he has NFL bloodlines, he can run—the list just goes on and on.
Luck is the best quarterback prospect in years and he'll be the first pick. Period.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
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Jeff Fisher is the new coach in St. Louis, but that won't change much for the Rams in the first round. They have to get better protection for Sam Bradford. Period.
Luckily, there just happens to be a stud tackle prospect available. Matt Kalil is the Andrew Luck of tackles: he has great size, technique, bloodlines and tape.
He was almost never beaten by pass rushers and the guy that played right tackle because of him (Tyron Smith) is already doing very well in the NFL. His brother, Ryan Kalil, has already been to multiple pro bowls.
The only thing wrong with him is his size. He could add a little more weight, but that's it.
The Rams could also look at taking Justin Blackmon with this pick, but with the deep class of receivers available, I think they'll go with the left tackle first.
3. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
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Yep, I'm projecting trades now. They're practically impossible to predict, but they always happen, so I'm going to go ahead and project it now.
The Vikings could definitely consider taking Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon, but with the thin class of quarterbacks, I think that teams will be willing to give them enough to trade down.
Robert Griffin III was the best player in college football this season. He has incredible speed with his feet, is smart, has great character and has one of the most accurate deep passes you'll ever see.
The Redskins have to get better quarterback play. When Rex Grossman was playing well the Redskins were winning, but since he doesn't play well often they lost a lot. Mike Shanahan's seat is warming up too, and he knows it. Getting a franchise quarterback is critical for him.
Also, moving up just a couple of spots won't be that costly.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
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I know that Mike Holmgren doesn't like taking wide receivers early but whatever strategy he's using obviously isn't working, so maybe he'll change his ways this year. Justin Blackmon fills a big need anyway.
Blackmon boosted his stock by having a dominant Fiesta Bowl in spite of a leg infection. Of course, his stock was already really high, so he can't really boost it that much; he's been the best receiver in the country all year.
The Browns' best receiver right now is Greg Little. Not to take away from Little as a player, but he's not a No. 1 option kind of guy. They need to give Colt McCoy more weapons. Blackmon will make his job a little easier.
The Browns could also consider Trent Richardson here, but I think this is way too high for a running back.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
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Morris Claiborne had a quiet game against Alabama, but for now, he's the best corner prospect in the class.
For the season, Claiborne has six interceptions and six deflected passes along with 51 total tackles. He's also a pretty good kick returner, he just didn't get that much of an opportunity this season because of the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu.
The Buccaneers had one of the worst pass defenses in the league this season. Aqib Talib had a crappy season and is a head case.. Ronde Barber was pretty poor as well. A corner upgrade would really help the Bucs get back into playoff contention.
Morris Claiborne is also the best player on the board, so there's that too.
6. Minnesota Vikings: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
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The Vikings have a lot of other needs as well. They could use a left tackle, a wide receiver, a corner and more linebacker depth; and the best player at any of those positions that's still available is Dre Kirkpatrick.
The Vikings were hoping for Morris Claiborne, but they'll get a pretty decent consolation prize in Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick had an excellent game against LSU and he shut down Rueben Randle in both matchups.
Kirkpatrick only has three interceptions for the season, but that's mostly because he wasn't tested. He's also very tall for a corner at 6'3", making him a great matchup for big receivers and tight ends that cause defensive coordinators so many headaches.
He was recently arrested for possession of marijuana, but I don't think that will hurt his draft stock that much. If he stays out of trouble until April, scouts will have forgotten about it.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
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Quinton Coples isn't what the Jaguars want with their first pick, but their biggest needs—wide receiver, cornerback and quarterback—can't be upgraded here without big reaches. That said, they could go for Michael Floyd or Alshon Jeffery instead, but I have them going with Coples.
Coples was a force for the Tarheels this season. He racked up 7.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries this season. And he did all that while being constantly double teamed.
The Jaguars' pass rush was abysmal this season, and if they want to get competitive in what's becoming more and more a passer's league they'll need a better pass rush. Since Coples is the best all-around defensive end in the draft class, they take him here.
8. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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The Dolphins were in the lead in the Suck for Luck contest for a while, but then Matt Moore came in and started winning. He's earned the starting job, at least for next season, so they have to upgrade another position.
With Jake Long entrenched at the left tackle position, the Dolphins are taking Riley Reiff to play right tackle, which is what he projects best as anyway.
Reiff will be a big upgrade for the right tackle position, which is by far the weakest spot on the Dolphins offensive line. Having Reiff, Jake Long and Mike Pouncey all on the line will give Matt Moore and Reggie Bush all the protection they'll need.
Reiff is a big and surprisingly quick run blocker who's beaten pretty much every pass rusher he's matched up against. He's not as strong as would be preferable for a run-blocker, but he ought to have no trouble adding a little strength with an NFL workout.
9. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
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The biggest need for the Panthers is probably cornerback, but there isn't really one worth taking here. So instead, they go with Michael Brockers.
The Panthers double-dipped at the defensive tackle position last season, but neither Sione Fua nor Terrell McClain has been good enough to not be replaceable.
Part of what made LSU so great defensively was standout defensive tackle Michael Brockers. He had 54 total tackles with ten tackles for loss, a couple of sacks, two deflected passes and an interception. He's also really big at 6'6" and 306 lbs.
Just a red-shirt sophomore, Brockers has a ton of upside and would've been a top selection next season had he stayed in school, so this isn't really much of a reach.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
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The Bills had their typical terrible defense this season and they could use a lot of help, especially with their pass rush.
Courtney Upshaw is probably the best rush linebacker prospect in the draft and he had a great season with Alabama. For the season, Upshaw had 52 total tackles, 37 of them solo and 18 of them for a loss. He also had 9.5 sacks.
Upshaw is just as good defending the run as he is against the pass, and at 265 lbs he's big enough to play either the 3-4 or the 4-3 if the Bills switch defensive schemes.
The Bills could also go with Whitney Mercilus here.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
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The Chiefs have a pretty poor quarterback situation, but aren't in a position to upgrade it right now, so instead they try to improve their protection with a new left tackle.
Jonathan Martin has had a great season protecting Andrew Luck's blind side. He was rarely beaten by pass rushers. He's also a great run blocker, as Stanford's rush attack shows.
At 6'6" and just over 300 lbs., Martin is the right size to play, has great tape, and is one of the best players available that fills a need, so it's an easy pick.
The Chiefs may also consider Trent Richardson as the best player available, depending on what happens with Jamaal Charles's injury.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
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Pete Carroll has built a pretty good defense in Seattle and they improve it further by picking up Whitney Mercilus.
Mercilus had more sacks than any player in the country this season (16) and a monstrous 22.5 tackles for loss. He looks an awful lot like Jason Pierre-Paul, which makes draft scouts salivate. And at 6'4" tall and 265 lbs he's the right size for the job too.
The only knock on Mercilus is that he's a flash in the pan (think Da'Quan Bowers). His 2010 season was quiet. He only had as many tackles that season as he did sacks this season, so that may scare teams away.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
The Cardinals really need a new left tackle to protect Kevin Kolb and John Skelton next season, but with both Martin and Reiff off the board there isn't one worth taking, so they grab the best defensive player available in Luke Kuechly.
Kuechly had a record breaking season, racking up 191 tackles and winning pretty much every award he was eligible for (the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Lott IMPACT Trophy).
Arizona's defense has a lot of holes, especially against the run. They allowed 124 rushing yards per game. Adding a great middle linebacker like Kuechly will help that.
They could also look to Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
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Well, the Cowboys fell apart again as Eli Manning picked them apart. They simply could not cover Victor Cruz, even when he was double-covered. If that's not a team that needs an upgrade at corner then I don't know what is.
Dennard has been a great cover corner this season and seems to be a better player than teammate Prince Amukamara, who was considered for the seventh overall pick last year.
Dennard has no interceptions this season but that doesn't mean he isn't a great player. Quarterbacks tend to stay away from him.
He also missed his first three games, and the games against Chattanooga and Fresno State would've been great opportunities for a couple of interceptions.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
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The word is that DeSean Jackson will be out of Philadelphia next season, which means the Eagles will be looking for a replacement in the draft. They'd really like to solve their linebacker woes, but with Kuechly off the board I think they go with a receiver instead.
Michael Floyd is the second best wide receiver in the draft class. The only reason that some people have Alshon Jeffery above him at this point is character concern, but the Eagles won't mind.
Floyd is a big, physical receiver who had 1,147 receiving yards and nine touchdowns this season despite constant double coverage.
16. New York Jets: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
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The Jets are probably starting to think about replacing Mark Sanchez, but right now they can't. So instead they'll get an upgrade in their passing game.
Alshon Jeffery is the best available wide receiver, so they take him.
Jeffery had a disappointing season overall, but he came through big in South Carolina's bowl win over Nebraska. He only had four receptions, but those four receptions were for 148 yards and a touchdown. He showed a lot of the physical presence that seemed to be missing for the rest of the season.
He can obviously still power his was through tackles and pick up additional yards, so he's worthy of a first round pick.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
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This is the pick that the Bengals got from Oakland from the Carson Palmer trade.
Trent Richardson falls this far because the teams picking before Cincinnati are all pretty set at running back and it's becoming more and more clear that running backs aren't as valuable as they used to be.
However, the Bengals are picking low enough for Richardson to make sense.
The stat isn't official, but 48 percent of his 1,583 yards were picked up after contact with at least one defender. He also had 20 touchdowns and a six yards-per-carry average.
If you're going to take a running back in the first round, it may as well be one that's this good.
18. San Diego Chargers: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
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David DeCastro is one of the best guard prospects to come around in the last decade, so taking him in the Top 20 is no reach; he may be the best player available.
Furthermore, the Chargers could use a new guard.
DeCastro has been keeping interior pressure off of Andrew Luck all season and he's beaten every defender he's been put up against, even monstrous nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu of Washington.
Stanford has also one of the best rush attacks in the nation, and that's mostly because of DeCastro, so he's a great pickup.
19. Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
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The Bears lost both their quarterback and running back to injury this season. If they hadn't, they almost certainly would have made the playoffs and maybe would have even had a run deep into the postseason.
They cannot ignore their offensive line any more, so they take the best lineman available in Cordy Glenn.
I was down on Glenn at the beginning of the season since Boise State's defense manhandled him. However, since that game, he's been stellar and has rarely been beaten by pass rushers.
He's also a very big guy, listed as 6'5" and 349 pounds. Since he's been playing as the left tackle for the Dawgs, he's got great feet for a guard as well.
Maybe he'll help the Bears keep their offensive weapons on the field.
20. Tennessee Titans: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
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The Titans will be looking to upgrade their offensive line, but they don't tend to take offensive linemen in the first round. They haven't done so in nearly 20 years and I don't expect that trend to change. They also need help getting to the quarterback as Karl Klug led the team in sacks with seven.
Ingram had a great year in South Carolina, picking up ten sacks and 15 tackles for loss, along with two interceptions, two more deflected passes and six quarterback hurries. He's a great all-around player and will help the Titans improve their already great defense.
Having Ingram on the same line as Derrick Morgan, Karl Klug and Jurrell Casey ought to give the Titans the kind of tough defensive line that they used to have.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
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The Bengals have a great defense, but they could really use an upgrade at corner, so they take Janoris Jenkins.
To say that Jenkins has character concerns is an understatement, but he's undeniably a great corner who can also play as a kick returner, and he makes sense this far into the first round.
As a punt returner, he has three return touchdowns and 390 total return yards on 18 punts. As a corner, he picked up two interceptions, broke up six passes and had four tackles for loss.
There's no question he's a great player; the question is whether he can keep his head on straight in the NFL. If he can, he'll help the Bengals improve their already good defense.
22. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
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The Lions luck out here in that they don't have to reach for a great offensive lineman, which they desperately need.
For the record, if Konz weren't available, this season has made it clear how badly the Lions need a decent offensive line if they're going to take the next step and become a deep playoff threat. They'll reach for whoever is the best offensive lineman available.
Konz has been a stud for the Badgers this season, helping clear the way for Montee Ball's 38 regular-season touchdowns. He's also kept the interior pressure off of Russel Wilson for the most part.
Of course, Wisconsin constantly produces top-level offensive linemen, so having a few more this season is no shocker.
23. Cleveland Browns: Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall
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This is the pick that the Browns got from Atlanta via the Julio Jones trade.
This may seem like a bit of a reach, but I have Vinny Curry as the third best rush linebacker prospect on my big board (behind Courtney Upshaw and Whitney Mercilus).
The Browns run a 4-3 defense, but the Broncos showed this season with Von Miller that a 3-4 linebacker can flourish in a 4-3 defense, so they won't mind grabbing Curry for that position.
Curry was an outstanding pass rusher in college, accumulating 11 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in his 2011 season. He's no flash in the pan either, as he racked up 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2010 as well.
That kind of quarterback pressure will really help the Browns slow down opposing quarterbacks, which is something they had a lot of trouble with in 2011.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
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It wouldn't be an NFL draft if the Steelers didn't draft a linebacker early on. They also happen to have a few pretty old guys playing the position right now, so Burfict is a perfect fit at No. 24.
Their need at offensive line is pretty critical at this point, but there isn't a player worth taking this high, so instead they go with a defensive player.
Burfict had a disappointing season this year, but he's still a big, athletic linebacker that played very well in the season's beginning. For the year, he had 69 tackles, an interception and seven tackles for loss.
Because of their needs on the offensive line, they could reach for a guard or tackle prospect instead.
25. Denver Broncos: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
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Willis McGahee had a great season, but he's already 30 years old and getting older. They need a new running back to help them out. Miller had a great season in Miami, rushing for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns and catching one more.
He's a great breakaway runner with quickness and enough power to run through defenders. He'd be a great fit for Denver.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR/KR, Baylor
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The Texans don't have a lot of holes. Had they had Matt Schaub in the postseason, they likely would've edged out the Ravens and gone all the way to the AFC Championship against the Patriots. They'll be a force to be reckoned with next year.
Jacoby Jones is a pretty poor kick returner and the Texans need depth at wide receiver behind an increasingly old Andre Johnson, so Kendall Wright is a perfect fit.
27. New England Patriots: Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
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This is the pick that New England got from the Saints in the trade for Mark Ingram.
Until Michael Brockers surprised everyone by declaring after his sophomore season, Devon Still was the top defensive prospect in the class and he happens to fill a huge need for the Patriots.
Still was a force for Penn State this season, gathering up 55 total tackles, 17 of them for a loss and 4.5 sacks. At 6'5" and 310 lbs., he's also got the height to play defensive end in a 3-4 system, which the Patriots will probably return to after this season.
He's also a fit for a 4-3 defensive tackle too, so he'll also fit into the Patriots Nickel defensive scheme.
28. Green Bay Packers: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
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The Packers offense was anemic against the Giants, but a lot of that was probably due to the distraction caused by the death of their offensive coordinator's son. The offense will stay great next season, but their defense needs work.
One area where the Packers got blown up all season was in their defensive secondary. Charles Woodson is still a great player, but he's only getting older and having another good player across from him would be great, which is where Chase Minnifield comes in.
Minnifeld has NFL bloodlines (his father was a four-time Pro Bowler) and some great tape. He came away with three interceptions this season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also defended eight passes and had 50 total tackles (seven for a loss).
29. New York Giants: Dont'a Hightower, MLB, Alabama
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After the effort they put forth against the Falcons and Packers, I'm hesitant to pick against the Giants. However, I was incredibly impressed by the 49ers on both offense and defense, so I'm picking them to advance to the Super Bowl and New York having to settle for second place.
The Giants could really use an upgrade at middle linebacker, and adding a super talented player like Dont'a Hightower will improve and already fantastic defense. He's also the best player that makes sense at this spot.
Hightower had a great year with Alabama. He accrued 85 tackles for the Crimson Tide this season. He also had four sacks, three deflected passes and an interception.
Like pretty much every other player on his team he's a great all around prospect, great against both the run and pass and will fit New York like a glove.
30. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
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The Patriots always seem to trade away their picks, and that's what I'm projecting they do here.
I projected earlier that the Seahawks would land Matt Flynn, but that's mostly a shot in the dark. Free agency hasn't been great to the Seahawks at the quarterback position, so they could go with a quarterback from the draft.
If Christian Ponder can be taken just outside the top 10, then Tannehill at the end of the first round isn't as big a reach as it may seem.
I don't know if it'll be Seattle or not, but someone will trade up into the first for either Tannehill or Nick Foles. Right now, I have Tannehill rated higher on my big board, so I have him as the prospect that gets nabbed.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
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The Ravens would really like to find a replacement for Ray Lewis, since he'll probably retire at the end of the season, but unfortunately for them, there isn't one worth taking this high any more. Instead, they'll grab another rush linebacker.
Right now, Terrell Suggs is having the season of his career, but they need someone across from him who can also get to the quarterback. Nick Perry will fix that.
Perry was excellent as a pass rusher for the Trojans this season, even beating Jonathan Martin a few times when they were matched up. He got to the quarterback 8.5 times and had 13 tackles for loss on top of his 54 total tackles. He'll make the Ravens defensive machine even more formidable.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Yep, I have the 49ers winning the Super Bowl. If Alex Smith keeps playing at the level he played at against the Saints, then they should be able to get there. However, they don't have a great group of receivers; they signed Braylon Edwards in the offseason for a reason.
Mohamed Sanu is the best wide receiver, and one of the best players left on the board. After his great season at Rutgers, he's definitely worth a first round grade.
Sanu caught 115 passes this season for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2009 and 2010, he also played running back on occasion, rushing for 655 yards and nine touchdowns in those two seasons, so he has a lot of power for a receiver.
He's the perfect size (6'2" and 215 lbs.) to be Alex Smith's go-to guy for years.