2012 NFL Mock Draft: Alshon Jeffery and Sliding Players Who Will Be Steals

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 02: Alshon Jeffery #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks makes a catch during the Capitol One Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Florida Citrus Bowl on January 2, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

There's a sticky situation in Indy with Peyton Manning's health still in question. Regardless of what happens, though, the Colts can't pass up a generational talent like Luck.

2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Matt Kalil, OT, USC

The Rams have a ton of holes to fill, but quarterback Sam Bradford needs to be protected first and foremost. Kalil has the potential to do just that for a decade or more.

3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Minnesota really struggled to defend the pass this season, and much of that has to do with a secondary that is aging and short on talent. Claiborne could step in and make an immediate difference.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

The Browns seem like they're willing to let running back Peyton Hillis walk, so a replacement is needed. Richardson offers everything Hillis does and a whole lot more.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Ronde Barber is on his last legs, and you never know when Aqib Talib is going to screw up next, so the Bucs need a cornerback. Kirkpatrick is right behind Morris Claiborne in terms of value.

6. Washington Redskins (5-11): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Griffin may not exactly be Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan's prototypical quarterback, but the Heisman Trophy winner is a supreme talent with the potential to be great.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked lost as a rookie, but much of that had to do with a lame supporting cast. Blackmon gives him what could be an elite target from day one.

8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)*: Devon Still, DT, Penn State

The Panthers have been without a viable option at defensive tackle since the now-retired Kris Jenkins departed for the New York Jets. Still finally gives them a playmaker in the middle.

9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)*: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama

The Dolphins have needs on both sides of the ball, but they could use a complementary pass-rusher across from Cameron Wake. Upshaw was the best pass-rusher on the best defense in college football.

10. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

The Bills allowed the fewest sacks in the league this season, but most of that was due to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick getting rid of the ball. Reiff will give Fitz much more time in the pocket.

11. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)*: Nick Perry, DE, USC

It may seem like a reach, but Perry has been flying up draft boards as the Senior Bowl and NFL combine approach. He would be a great fit on a Seattle team that struggles sacking the quarterback.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)*: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

The Chiefs drafted offensive tackle Branden Albert in the first round a few years back, and he hasn't worked out. Martin has much less bust potential, though, and should be a fine pick.

13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Arizona had a lot of trouble getting to the quarterback this past season, especially with Joey Porter in sharp decline. That makes Ingram a smart pick at this juncture.

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

The Cowboys are getting a little long in the tooth at inside linebacker with Keith Brooking and Bradie James. A tackling machine like Kuechly would add some much-needed youth and intensity.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson seems to have overstayed his welcome in Philadelphia, meaning the Eagles need a replacement. Floyd would make a nice complement to Jeremy Maclin.

16. New York Jets (8-8): Quinton Coples, DE/DT, UNC

Just a couple months ago North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples was considered by most to be a sure-fire top-five pick. Due to the rising stock of pass-rushers like Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry and Melvin Ingram and an unspectacular season from Coples himself, though, it seems as though he is more likely to go in the middle of the first round.

Coples may not have had the most productive season, but he has immense size at 6'6" and 285 lbs. and he also has supreme athelticism. That rare blend could make him a very valuable player at the next level since he is likely capable of playing defensive end or defensive tackle in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense.

The perfect landing spot for Coples and his versatility would be with the New York Jets. The Jets struggled at times this season defensively, particularly when it came to rushing the passer. Coples would help in that department immediately and would have the personnel around him to make him a successful player at the NFL level.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK 8-8): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

The Bengals are a team that relies on playing good defense and running the ball. In order to run the ball effectively, though, the offensive line must improve. DeCastro would be an immediate upgrade.

18. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

With Quentin Jammer aging and Antoine Cason looking more and more like a bust, the Chargers could go with a cornerback again this season. If they do, Dennard looks like a very safe pick.

19. Chicago Bears (8-8): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

The Bears offensive line was bad to begin with, and losing center Olin Kreutz certainly didn't help matters. Konz is the best center in the draft and should help fill the void.

20. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

Tennessee was able to do a lot with a patchwork linebacker corps this season, but it could use a player to replace departed middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Burfict fits the bill.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

It has become quite apparent that running back Cedric Benson is on his last legs, so the Bengals need new blood in the backfield. Miller is the most explosive back in the entire draft.

22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL 10-6): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery entered the 2011 season in a battle with Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon to determine the top draft-eligible receiver. While Blackmon had another dynamite season that distanced him from the field, Jeffery had a subpar year as he didn't come anywhere close to matching his 2010 totals.

Jeffery is a physically imposing receiver at 6'4" and 229 lbs., and he used that size to his advantage in 2010 as he hauled in 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. While he was able to reach pay dirt eight times in 2011, his other numbers dipped considerably as he caught just 49 balls for 762 yards.

That drop off may look bad, but much of that had to do with uncertainty at the quarterback position as Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team. Jeffery still has the same size, strength, speed and hands he displayed in 2010, so there is reason to believe he is destined for a great NFL career. If the Cleveland Browns take him at pick No. 22, he will form an exciting young duo with Greg Little in what would be a suddenly potent Browns receiving corps.

23. Detroit Lions (10-6): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

The Lions' biggest issue may be their secondary, but their offensive line isn't far behind. Jeff Backus is getting old and Gosder Cherilus is nothing special, so Adams could start immediately.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was beaten and battered relentlessly this season, so the Steelers need to address their offensive line issues. Glenn will provide a solid, steady presence.

25. Denver Broncos (8-8): Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

The Broncos have one of the best pass-rush pairings in football in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, but they need some more help from the defensive line. Worthy is an excellent start.

26. Houston Texans (10-6): Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Houston orchestrated one of the finest year-to-year defensive turnarounds in recent memory this season. The final piece of the puzzle is a playmaking safety, and Barron is just that.

27. New England Patriots (via NO 13-3): Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

Quarterback Tom Brady has an embarrassment of offensive weapons, but he could use an outside threat at wide receiver. Sanu could eventually replace Deion Branch in that role.

28. Green Bay Packers (15-1): Chris Polk, RB, Washington

Despite their defensive shortcomings, the Packers have no glaring needs. Since they can afford to take a luxury player, I see Green Bay adding Polk to a running back stable that already includes Ryan Grant and James Starks.

29. New York Giants (9-7): Zach Brown, OLB, UNC

The Giants defense was ravaged with injuries this season, especially at linebacker. Brown would give the G-Men excellent depth and would likely receive significant playing time immediately.

 30. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

The Ravens have a great defense year in and year out because they are able to continually bring in new blood. Hightower could start alongside Ray Lewis next season and be his eventual replacement.

31. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

It appears as though the 49ers have pretty much everything in place on both sides of the ball, but they could use a deep threat for quarterback Alex Smith. Wright might be the best one in the draft.

32. New England Patriots (13-3): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Had cornerback Janoris Jenkins not been kicked off the Florida Gators prior to the 2011 season, he might be getting talked about as a potential top-15 pick. Two drug-related arrests caused him to lose his spot with the Gators, however, and he ended up at North Alabama. While Jenkins saw his level of competition drop significantly at the Division II level, he continued to impress this season.

Jenkins was a shut-down corner for the Lions and also a big contributor on special teams. There is no question Jenkins has the talent to succeed in the NFL, but he must first mature. Jenkins got through this past season incident free, so it is quite possible that he has conquered his demons and is ready to take his football future seriously.

If ever there was a team in the position to gamble on a high-upside player like Jenkins, it's the New England Patriots. The Pats have a history of bringing in problem-child players and integrating them into the team-first system. On top of that, the Patriots are in dire need of help in the secondary. Jenkins makes sense in many ways and I think he will thrive in New England.


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