2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Super Bowl Edition
My latest version mocking the 2012 NFL draft features many changes. I have committed to moving forward with a trade early in my mock. Working trades in a mock draft isn't something I typically do, but each draft doesn't possess a player like Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
At this point, I'm convinced that the St. Louis Rams will trade out of the number two slot and give somebody else the opportunity to land Griffin III. The Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks are all potential trade partners.
This mock also continues my trend of ranking Stanford's Jonathan Martin over USC's Ryan Kalil. Most other evaluators will disagree with this, but I got to go with what I see on tape.
No. 1 Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback- Stanford
The indication is that Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay already decided to take Stanford's Andrew Luck with the top pick. This isn't much of a surprise, as Luck is head and shoulders above the other prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft. Irsay would regret passing on a play capable of changing the future of the franchise.
Adding Luck to the mix raises the obvious question, what to do with Peyton Manning? It appears that Irsay will sit down and discuss the future with Manning. The outcome of this discussion is anyone's guess, but it won't impact the selection of Luck.
Indianapolis really struck gold, as they have the opportunity to transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Most teams spend years trying to find a replacement for an aging quarterback. Look no further than the Miami Dolphins, who still haven't been able to replace Dan Marino.
No. 2 Washington Redskins (Trade: From STL)
Robert Griffin III, Quarterback- Baylor
Trade: No. 2 Overall to the Washington Redskins for No. 6 Overall, No. 39 Overall and 2013 2nd Round Pick
I decided to move forward with my belief that the St. Louis Rams will trade out of the No. 2 spot. This pick will be highly coveted by a number of teams looking to move up and land Baylor's Robert Griffin III. The Washington Redskins are as desperate as any team, and would love to find their quarterback of the future.
Moving up to No. 2 won't be cheap, but Griffin III possesses the ability to develop into an elite-level quarterback. His combination of quickness, arm strength, accuracy and leadership skills makes him well worth the risk.
The addition of Griffin III could instantly push the Redskins into playoff contention.
No. 3 Minnesota Vikings
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle- Stanford
The Minnesota Vikings have several needs, but the biggest is at left tackle. Current starter Charlie Johnson is better suited for a backup role, not protecting the blindside of your quarterback. Stanford's Jonathan Martin possesses the quick feet and fluid movements needed to provide good pass protection.
Martin is currently battling USC's Ryan Kalil to be the first tackle off the board. I maybe the only one who rates Martin higher, but that's because I have concerns with Kalil's ability to protect the edge. Minnesota can plug Martin in at left tackle and feel comfortable that he will provide the quarterback with time to locate an open target.
He also loves to run block, and possesses a controlled nasty streak. Martin appears to be a great fit for the Vikings and their offensive identity.
No. 4 Cleveland Browns
Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver- Oklahoma State
The Cleveland Browns desperately need to find some explosive playmakers on the outside. Their current wide receiver corps doesn't feature a consistent threat who is capable of increasing the effectiveness of the offense. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon boasts the ability to make plays all over the field.
He combines good size and speed to help him rack up yards and touchdowns. Blackmon isn't afraid to go across the middle and make a catch in traffic. His biggest strength is his ability to pick up yards after the catch, which makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Cleveland might be one of the teams looking to move up and land Robert Griffin III. Colt McCoy hasn't been guaranteed the future starting role, and has done little to impress Mike Holmgren.
No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback- LSU
LSU's Morris Claiborne is a physically gifted athlete who also possesses a great feel for the game. He uses quick burst and instincts to shutdown the nations top receiving threats. Claiborne would instantly upgrade the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backfield.
The Buccaneers are facing a lot of uncertainty at the cornerback position. Ronde Barber is contemplating retirement, and Aqib Talib's off-the-field problems make him unreliable. Adding Claiborne both fills a need and brings value to the pick.
USC's Matt Kalil is still on the board and would be under consideration at this spot. His addition would allow Donald Penn to shift to right tackle, effectively improving two offensive spots.
No. 6 St. Louis Rams (Trade: From Wash)
Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle- USC
The St. Louis Rams offensive line was a surprise weakness in 2011. This unit features some very talented players, but injuries and inconsistent play resulted in a league-worst 55 allowed sacks. Adding USC's Matt Kalil will start a chain reaction that would improve several spots along the line.
At this point, the Rams need to be concerned about the long-term future of Jason Smith. His lingering concussion problem are the most troubling. The offensive tackle position is too important to be in a constant state of flux. Kalil possesses the skill set to step in and provide stability.
St. Louis might also look to target one of the draft's top wide receivers. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery is absolutely in play at this point.
No. 7 Jacksonville Jaguars
Quinton Coples, Defensive End- North Carolina
As a unit, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense only compiled 31 sacks this past season. Without a career year by Jeremy Mincey they would have ranked dead last in the NFL. North Carolina's Quinton Coples possesses the burst and power needed to provide a consistent pass rush.
Jacksonville spent the last several years trying to generate pressure with the likes of Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman and Derrick Harvey. The disappointing career of Harvey was very tough to overcome, as they invested a top ten pick on him.
The Jaguars defense isn't a lost cause, and a boost to the pass rush could propel this unit to the next level. Coples' well-rounded play will also provide help stopping the run. Overall, Coples' potential is to great to pass on at this point.
No. 8 Carolina Panthers
Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle- Iowa
The Carolina Panthers are facing a bit of dilemma along the offensive line. Jordan Gross is starting to show signs of age and Jeff Otah continues to struggle with injuries. These two facts may push the Panthers towards selecting a tackle early in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Iowa's Riley Reiff possesses the quickness and balanced needed to hold up at left tackle. His addition would eventually allow Gross to move to right tackle and prolong his career. Selecting Reiff doesn't only upgrade the offensive line, it also provides value.
Carolina could be in position to auction this pick to the highest bidder. Other teams have a great need at tackle, and might be looking to move up in order to land Reiff.
No. 9 Miami Dolphins
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback- Alabama
The Miami Dolphins defense allowed nearly 250 passing yards per game, good for No. 25 among NFL defenses. In this pass-happy NFL, teams need to have depth and talent in the secondary. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick possesses the ability to step in and immediately upgrade the Dolphins pass defense.
Miami has Vontae Davis at one cornerback spot, but his counterpart Sean Smith struggled with consistency. Adding Kirkpatrick would allow Smith to play more of a nickel role and improve the unit's depth.
Moving up to select a quarterback is not out of the question. Miami will be one of the teams considering making a move to add Robert Griffin III. This team really needs a long-term solution at the quarterback spot.
No. 10 Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker- Alabama
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is a versatile player who make an immediate impact. His ability to set the edge and rush the passer makes him the top 3-4 linebacker in the 2012 NFL Draft class. Upshaw fits one of the Buffalo Bills biggest needs. The Bills don't have a player on their current roster capable of excelling at outside linebacker.
Chris Kelsay and Spencer Johnson are nothing more than rotational players, and either will instantly lose their job to Upshaw. Chan Gailey has been able to get a lot or production on the offensive side of the ball, which will make it easier to focus on upgrading the defense.
The Bills might be tempted to draft Iowa's Riley Reiff if he is still available at this point.
No. 11 Seattle Seahawks
Michael Brockers, Defensive Line- LSU
The Seattle Seahawks unique defensive scheme requires versatile players. LSU's Michael Brockers boasts the physical abilities to fit many different positions at the next level. He has the size and anchor ability to play the 5-technquie and the quickness to play some 3-technique.
Pete Carroll will rotate Brockers with Red Bryant, Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane. This type of depth along the defensive line is very important and beneficial. Brockers is a bit of a project player and it would help to start him as part of a rotation.
To me, Brockers is more of a late-first to second-round prospect. However, mock drafts are more about what I believe the team will pick rather than who they should select.
No. 12 Kansas City Chiefs
Trent Richardson, Running Back- Alabama
The NFL Draft is about balancing need and value, but the best drafts usually tilt towards selecting the best player available. Alabama's Trent Richardson is a top five talent and would be a steal at this point in the draft. His ability to both run between the tackles and attack the edge make him a special player. The Kansas City Chiefs could pair Richardson and Jamaal Charles to make the top running back duo in the NFL.
Charles will enter the 2012 season attempting to comeback from a torn ACL. Most feel that it takes up to two years for someone to completely heal from this type of injury. Adding Richardson will provide some depth and insurance in case Charles doesn't return to form.
This might be a good landing spot for Stanford's David DeCastro, as the Chiefs could use an upgrade at the guard spots.
No. 13 Arizona Cardinals
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle- Ohio State
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line allowed 54 sacks this season, earning them the second worst total in the league. Most of the problems are due to the struggles of Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges, who struggle to protect the edge. Ohio State's Mike Adams is a top-level offensive line prospect who will both protect the passer and open running lanes.
Adding Adams to the mix would allow Brown to shift to right tackle, improving the play at both tackle spots. The Cardinals invested a lot of money and assets to acquire Kevin Kolb, but he was ineffective thanks in-part to the offensive line struggles. Because of the upgrade Adams will bring, he will help keep Kolb healthy and upright.
No. 14 Dallas Cowboys
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback- North Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys secondary deserves a lot of the blame for their failed push towards the playoffs. This unit continually have up big plays and gigantic passing performances. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins possesses the ability to help get things going in the right direction.
His short area burst and instincts help him close on the ball. Jenkins also possesses good ball skills which allows him to pull down interceptions. The Dallas Cowboys not only need solid play but a difference maker in the secondary.
An interior offensive lineman like Stanford's David DeCastro will also be in play for the Cowboys.
No. 15 Philadelphia Eagles
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker- Boston College
The Philadelphia Eagles defense had a down year, thanks to the many miscues and poor tackling. This unit needs to add a leader and someone who will sure everyone is in the correct position. Typically, this leadership comes from the middle linebacker spot. However, nobody on the current roster showed the ability to step up.
Boston College's Luke Kuechly boasts the exact skills needed to improve this defense. He is an instinctual player, who does a great job reading his keys. Kuechly is rarely out of position and knows how to make on-the-field adjustments. Philadelphia can plug him in the middle of the defense and know they have someone who will always be around the football.
If the Eagles want a bigger and more physical linebacker they could turn to Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict. However, his attitude concerns have dropped his stock a bit.
No. 16 New York Jets
Melvin Ingram, Linebacker- South Carolina
Rex Ryan is known for his ability to draw up exotic blitzes and create pressure on the quarterback. However, this year the New York Jets defense disappointed in the sack department. They only registered 35 total sacks, ranking them No. 17 in the NFL. This defense needs to add a consistent edge rusher like South Carolina's Melvin Ingram.
Ingram is a extremely athletic defender who can play multiple positions. While at South Carolina, he lined up at defensive end, linebacker and defensive tackle. Rex Ryan will be able to find a ton of ways to him in position to rush the quarterback.
New York might also look to upgrade the right tackle positions. Georgia's Cordy Glenn is the type of player that would fit the Jets attack.
No. 17 Cincinnati Bengals (from Oak)
David DeCastro, Guard- Stanford
Thanks to the trade of Carson Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals have a great opportunity to add two very talented players. It also gives them some flexibility to target the best player available rather than need. However, Stanford's David DeCastro represents value and the filling of a need.
The interior of the Bengals offensive line could use an infusion of youth and talent. DeCastro's ability to open running lanes and protect the passer will help this offense take the next step. Andy Dalton's development depends on Cincinnati's ability to surround him with talent.
Don't rule out a big trade for the Bengals. They could potentially package their two first-round picks and target Alabama's Trent Richardson.
No. 18 San Diego Chargers
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver- South Carolina
The San Diego Chargers face the real possibility of losing Vincent Jackson to free agency. This loss would be a real strain on the Chargers offensive production. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery possesses the ability to help overcome the loss of Jackson.
Jeffery combines size and leaping ability to attack all levels of the defense. He is an excellent red zone target, who potentially out battles defensive backs. The Chargers prefer bigger bodied receivers which gives Jeffery the edge over the other prospects.
San Diego will need to really consider making a move to add an offensive lineman early in the 2012 NFL Draft. They face the possibility to losing Marcus McNeil, Nick Hardwick and Kris Dielman.
No. 19 Chicago Bears
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver- Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears and Mike Martz decided to part ways which means there will be a change in offensive philosophy. It is possible that the Bears finally address the wide receiver position early in the draft. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd would be a great change of pace, as he brings size to a unit of smaller targets.
Prior to being traded to Chicago, Jay Cutler enjoyed throwing the ball to Brandon Marshall. Floyd possesses similar size and playmaking ability. Adding this type of explosiveness to the offense will also open things up for the running game.
Chicago might also target some secondary help like Alabama's Mark Barron or South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore.
No. 20 Tennessee Titans
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback- Nebraska
Tennessee Titans pending free agent Cortland Finnegan sold his home and is looking to move on. His departure will leave a big hole at cornerback, which would make addressing the position during the draft a priority. Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard brings the same type of aggressiveness but a lot less media fire-storms.
Dennard's physical style of play will be something head coach Mike Munchak appreciates. His ability to play bump-and-run coverage will give the Titans defensive coordinator plenty of options. Dennard also brings a good work ethic and leadership to the table.
Baylor's Kendall Wright could be another candidate at this spot. His playmaking ability would really help provide some explosiveness to the stale offense.
No. 21 Cincinnati Bengals
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback- South Carolina
South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore is one of the most underrated prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft class. He possesses excellent quickness, balance and fluidity which allows him to fit various schemes. However, his biggest strength his is willingness to play a physical style of football.
Gilmore doesn't shy away from contact and loves to come up in run support. His also boasts great ball skills, which makes him a threat to pull down an interception. The Cincinnati Bengals need to add some depth and youth to their defensive secondary. They are still looking to replace Johnathan Joseph, who went to Houston via free agency.
Many feel that Cincinnati will look to add a running back with this pick. However, they could just better value in the second-round with someone like Boise State's Doug Martin.
No. 22 Cleveland Browns (from AtL)
Zach Brown, Linebacker- North Carolina
With their first pick in this mock draft the Cleveland Browns addressed their biggest offensive need, wide receiver. Now it's time to focus on the defensive side of the ball, and address the needs along the defensive front seven. North Carolina's Zach Brown would bring speed and quickness to a linebacking corps that sorely needs athleticism.
In Cleveland, Brown would line up at either one of outside linebacker positions replacing Chris Gocong or Scott Fujita. He's the type of linebacker who makes plays sideline to sideline and can cover a lot of ground. Brown also has the short area burst needed to provide some pressure off the edge.
If the Browns decide to target Robert Griffin III with their first pick they would have to address the wide receiver with this pick. Baylor's Kendall Wright would be a great weapon for his former college teammate, Griffin III. Their familiarity would help each of their transition to the next level.
No. 23 Detroit Lions
Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker- Arizona State
The Detroit Lions promised to continue selecting the best player available and not target prospects based on need. At this point, Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict represents the most physically gifted and high impact player available. Last year's starter Stephen Tulloch only signed a one-year contract, which could leave it open spot for Burfict.
Burfict is a bigger linebacker who possesses good speed and playmaking ability. His size and ability to play at the point of attack would be a great fit for the wide-nine alignment the Lions preferred to run. Tulloch played very well this season but doesn't possess the same upside as Burfict.
If any one of the top cornerback prospects fall to this spot the Lions would have to consider going in that direction.
No. 24 Pittsburgh Steelers
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line- Georgia
This upcoming off-season will be a big one in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers need to address several areas of concern. The biggest need might be along the offensive line where they can use help at left tackle, guard and right tackle. Georgia's Cordy Glenn boasts the versatility to lineup at all three need positions. While in college Glenn shifted from guard, to right tackle and finish his career holding up the left side of the line.
Glenn's versatility will allow the Steelers the field the best possible unit, while also providing some depth in case of injuries. The Pittsburgh Steelers know better than anybody how important it is to have depth along the offensive line.
Pittsburgh may also consider adding some youth to the secondary or along the defensive line. They could target a nose tackle like Memphis' Dontari Poe or a safety like Alabama's Mark Barron.
No. 25 Denver Broncos
Devon Still, Defensive Tackle- Penn State
John Elway has committed to going into next year's training camp with Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback. This commitment will impact the Denver Broncos entire off-season plan, as building round Tim Tebow is different than building around any other type of quarterback.
The best way to help Tebow is by building up the defense and running game. At this point in the draft, Penn State Devin Still fills both a need and represents great value. His ability to get up field and disrupt the timing of the offense will be a great asset. Combining Still's interior pressure with the outside rush of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will make the Denver Broncos defense a formidable force.
Denver might be willing to make a move up the draft and try to land an elite running back like Alabama's Trent Richardson. Defenses will have a tough time stopping a running game that features Richardson, Tebow and Willis McGahee.
No. 26 Houston Texans
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver- Baylor
Baylor's Kendall Wright is one of the fastest rising prospects in the 2012 NFL draft class. His ability to stretch the field and gain yards after the catch make him an intriguing player. Any team looking to add some explosiveness to the offense will likely target Wright.
The Houston Texans need to add another weapon on the outside to complement/fill in for Andre Johnson. When in the lineup, Johnson faces constant double teams limiting his ability to create space. Adding a deep threat like Wright will help draw coverage away from Johnson. The Texans star receiver has been forced out of the lineup in each of the past two seasons, which really halted the effectiveness of the offense. Wright would be a good go to guy for Matt Schaub when Andre Johnson is out of the lineup.
No. 27 New England Patriots (from NO)
Mark Barron, Safety- Alabama
Despite some improvements, the New England Patriots defense needs an infusion of talent. Alabama's Mark Barron is the type of versatile defender Bill Belichick covets. His ability to come up and support the run and also hold up in deep coverage allows him to fit any scheme.
New England's secondary allowed nearly 300 passing yards per game this season. At times, Tom Brady and the offense felt the pressure that comes with needing to score 30 points per game. Adding a playmaking safety like Barron will put this defensive unit on the right track.
I am of the belief that Bill Belichick needs to package his two first-round picks and move up the draft. The Patriots have an opportunity to make a big splash and land an elite player. Someone like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw would be a great addition to this defense.
No. 28 Green Bay
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/ Linebacker- Illinois
The Green Bay Packers wide receivers took a lot of the blame for this past weekend's loss to the New York Giants. And while their drops played a key role, the lack of a pass rush was the main reason for the disappointing loss. Illinois' Whitney Mercilus possesses the quickness off the edge to immediately bolster Green Bay's pass rush.
Adding Mercilus opposite Clay Matthews is the fastest way for this defense to improve. Creating more pressure will help the leaky secondary as well as provide more opportunities for turnovers. If Green Bay fails to add another pass rusher Matthews needs prepare himself for another season of double teams.
No. 29 New York Giants
Dwayne Allen, Tight End- Clemson
The New York Giants got a surprise contribution from Jake Ballard this season. He was always seen as more of an in-line tight end rather than a pass catching threat. And while he has made plays in the passing game, he still doesn't possess the quickness to stretch the field. Clemson's Dwayne Allen boasts the quickness and hands needed to be a dangerous playmaker.
Allen has worked to improve his run blocking skills, which will allow him to see time on first and second down. New York can easily line up in double tight sets which will help keep the defense off guard.
The Giants may also want to address the offensive line with this pick. Wisconsin's Peter Konz would be a great addition to the offensive line, and instantly upgrade the center position.
No. 30 Baltimore Ravens
Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle- Florida State
The Baltimore Ravens left tackle position is anything but settled. There off-season addition of Bryant McKinnie was only a stopgap solution, and showed their lack of trust in Michael Oher. Florida State's Zebrie Sanders possesses the balance and quick shuffle needed to protect the quarterback's blindside.
With McKinnie under contract for next season, Baltimore can draft Sanders and bring him along slowly. This move will also provides depth and insurance in case of injury. However, adding Sanders is more about solidifying the future of the offensive line.
Baltimore may also look at some of the young linebackers in this draft. Ray Lewis on the downside of his career, and drafting replacement now would be a smart move.
No. 31 San Francisco 49ers
Peter Konz, Center- Wisconsin
The San Francisco 49ers focus on running the football is not due to the limitations a quarterback. While at Stanford Jim Harbaugh employeed run heavy attack despite the presence of Andrew Luck. The way San Francisco continues to dominate at the line of scrimmage is by building up the trenches. Wisconsin's Peter Konz would be an upgrade over current starter Jonathan Goodwin.
Goodwin is an average NFL center, which doesn't make his position a major need. However, the opportunity to add a player like Konz only comes around every so often. He is a physical player who excels at opening running lanes. His leadership and high football IQ allow him to make adjustments and calls at the line of scrimmage.
The 49ers may also look at bringing in some help at cornerback. Carlos Rogers is a free agent, and thanks to his Pro Bowl season will demand a lucrative contract. Tarell Brown doesn't have the capability of stepping in as the No. 1 cornerback.
No. 32 New England Patriots
Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle- Michigan State
The New England Patriots need to find somebody to step in and help take some pressure off of Vince Wilfork. Michigan State' Jerel Worthy possesses both the size and quickness to be impact defensive lineman in the NFL. His versatility will allow him to lineup and either nose tackle, three-technique or five-technique.
Adding Worthy gives Bill Belichick the option of going with either a 34 or 43 alignment. He's a three down player, capable of both stuffing the run at creating some pressure on the quarterback.
As I mentioned earlier, the New England Patriots should package their two first-round picks in order to move up and land an elite player Iike Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. The addition of Upshaw would allow the Patriots to move back to a 34 alignment, something Belichick prefers.