2012 NFL Mock Draft: Late-Round Gems That Will Outperform Current Draft Stock
It's always nice to have a top-10 pick, but plenty of teams have shown throughout the years that there are gems to be found later on in the NFL draft.
Some players are overrated based purely on their athletic ability after the NFL combine. Other players are undervalued, teams failing to adequately consider their intangibles.
Here's my latest 2012 NFL mock draft, complete with late-round gems that will play beyond expectations (in italics).
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
According to ESPN, the Browns are considering trading up to No. 2 overall to select Robert Griffin III and block other teams from nabbing him. They've already said there will be an open QB competition next season with Colt McCoy struggling in 2011.
Griffin is an elite prospect, with the arm strength, accuracy, pocket poise and running ability to become a dual-threat QB in the NFL.
I see the Browns trading their first-round pick (No. 4 overall), and a second- and third-round pick for the opportunity to land Griffin.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Matt Kalil projects as a franchise tackle with the strength to more than hold up against the bull rush and quickness laterally to thwart speed rushers. He's a complete lineman and has the pedigree, too.
4. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
This trade actually would work out very well for the Rams. I already had them selecting Justin Blackmon, and they get a couple more picks for the future with this move.
Blackmon has the strength and ability after the catch to become a star in the NFL. He doesn't have top speed, but he uses his body to shield defenders well and has great leaping ability. This will make him a great possession receiver in the NFL and a threat on jump balls downfield.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Aqib Talib disappointed with the Buccaneers this season and is facing legal problems as well. Veteran Ronde Barber is aging.
Morris Claiborne is considered a better cover corner than former teammate Patrick Peterson. He's fast, strong and a force against the pass and the run.
The NFL combine will only highlight Claiborne's abilities.
6. Washington Redskins: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Browns landing Robert Griffin III would be a blow to a Redskins team that currently sports Rex Grossman and John Beck under center.
Nonetheless, they're going to have to make do, and I see them drafting Alshon Jeffery as a consolation.
The Redskins don't have a lot of youth in the receiving corps and Santana Moss appears to be declining. Jeffery could be their next star receiver; he has the strength and speed to be a handful in press coverage and down the sidelines in the NFL. The combine will do his draft stock well.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jaguars desperately need a receiver for the future and Michael Floyd has done everything possible to show people he has the potential to star in the NFL.
Floyd's size, strength and hands should make him a solid possession receiver in the NFL, which is something young QB Blaine Gabbert needs. Floyd also has the leaping ability to be dangerous on deep routes.
8. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
With Dre Kirkpatrick's height, physicality and big-play ability, NFL scouts continue to eye him up. He has the ability to be a dependable playmaker in the pros, and the Panthers need help in their secondary after giving up 246 passing yards per game and 28 passing touchdowns in 2011.
There is that thing about getting arrested for marijuana possession, but after the combine and individual interviews I don't think his arrest will significantly hurt his status.
9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Dolphins won't be able to find an elite QB prospect here, so I expect them to bolster the offensive line instead.
Reiff is not only a solid pass-blocker, he's an outstanding run-blocker and his tenacity can frustrate opposing defensive linemen.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Bills use a 3-4 defense, but it's pointless without impact outside linebackers. Their pass rush suffered tremendously as a result this season, and the strong, athletic Courtney Upshaw would be a great addition.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Jonathan Martin is an elite run-blocker, and he has the demeanor and athleticism to make an impact in the NFL. The Chiefs need someone other than Barry Richardson on the edge.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The Seahawks need an edge-rusher—whether it be at defensive end or outside linebacker—and Perry has the versatility to be both.
He collected 9.5 sacks for USC this season and has the length, strength and athleticism to be a solid player in the NFL.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Will Mike Adams become a franchise tackle?
According to Tony Pauline's Twitter, the Shrine Game did wonders to elevate Mike Adams' draft stock. The Cardinals need to replace Levi Brown at tackle in a big way and give quarterback Kevin Kolb some time to throw the ball.
Adams may be a bit raw as far as his technique, but his impressive height, size, frame and footwork could see him become a franchise tackle.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Stephon Gilmore is tough, strong, aggressive and has startling instincts. He also can be used as a return man, which would allow the Cowboys to use Dez Bryant strictly as a receiver.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Eagles are in desperate need for some linebackers and Luke Kuechly could be a solid run-stuffer in the NFL.
Kuechly doesn't have ideal size for the position, but his instincts, tackling ability and drive should make up for that. We've seen undersized linebackers still excel in the NFL.
16. New York Jets: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Unfortunately for Jets fans, the Jets seem fine with Mark Sanchez at quarterback and Shonn Greene at running back.
In that case, I expect them to address safety with Mark Barron. Barron has the athleticism, instincts and playmaking ability to round out the Jets' secondary, and they don't know how Jim Leonhard will hold up after his injury.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson is obviously an elite prospect. I just don't see a lot of teams that have a legit need for a running back besides the Browns, and it appears the Browns may go a different direction with Griffin.
In that case, the Bengals may get the steal of the draft with Richardson, who has a dazzling combination of power, speed, quickness, vision and patience.
18. San Diego Chargers: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
The Chargers have been seeking a difference-maker at outside linebacker for years, and Zach Brown has the ability to rush the passer, stop the run and trail elite tight ends in pass coverage. His pass coverage in particular is outstanding.
19. Chicago Bears: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Bears won't find an elite tackle at this spot, but they do need a receiver to help out QB Jay Cutler. Kendall Wright is an explosive, lightning-quick athlete who should shoot up draft boards after the combine.
20. Tennessee Titans: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
David DeCastro has top-notch footwork, technique and a frame built for the pros. He also has the demeanor and tenacity to help open up holes for struggling running back Chris Johnson.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Will Janoris Jenkins have off-the-field problems while in the NFL?
Janoris Jenkins has elite quickness, good speed and a fluidity and change of direction that projects him as a star cover corner in the NFL. He's a smaller DB at 5'10" and 183 pounds, but his coverage skills allow him to make up for separation in press coverage.
If he can stay out of trouble, he could be a steal for the Bengals. His multiple arrests for marijuana possession, however, are concerning.
22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
If everything goes according to plan, the Browns could land Griffin at QB and an elite running back prospect in Lamar Miller.
Miller has the quickness, size and vision to be a star in the NFL, not to mention the receiving ability out of the backfield. He would help Griffin out in a variety of ways.
I'm still unclear why Miller isn't valued more. He rushed for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and showing a deadly burst.
23. Detroit Lions: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Alfonzo Dennard's doesn't have great height for the NFL, but he makes up for it with tremendous strength and leaping ability. There is also very little wasted movement when he changes direction, which makes him suitable as a cover corner and a press corner.
The Lions need help in the secondary after they were exposed by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, G, Stanford
The Steelers need help all over the offensive line (with the exception of center) and Cordy Glenn could surprise in the NFL, especially at guard.
Glenn has great size at 6'5" and 348 pounds, and he has the burst and lateral movement to deal with speed rushers. He would help out Ben Roethlisberger, who was constantly threatened against top pass rushes like the 49ers.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
When Michael Brockers declared, he changed everything.
Brockers has overpowering strength, which should allow the Broncos to free up defenders while he gets double-teamed. Brockers also has the speed and quickness to spin off blocks and collapse the pocket. His work as a sophomore at LSU was eye-opening, and with a little work on his technique he could become a disruptive force in the middle.
26. Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The Texans were dominant enough this season. Dontari Poe has the size and frame to command double-teams, allowing players like Mario Williams, J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed to go in for the kill.
27. New England Patriots (via NO): Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
I expect the Patriots to shift to a 3-4 defense next season, and top pass-rusher Andre Carter enters free agency this offseason.
Expect them to select Melvin Ingram if he's still on the board. His athleticism and quickness would help them out right away in the pass-rushing department.
Ingram had 8.5 sacks this season and added 1.5 sacks against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Packers need help rushing the passer at defensive end, and Whitney Mercilus has risen dramatically this season.
Mercilus is a pass-rusher who is constantly giving offenses different looks with an impressive explosion off the snap. He has some trouble against the run, but he has the potential to be a disruption in the pocket right away.
29. New York Giants: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Vontaze Burfict has legit maturity concerns—he's racked up numerous personal fouls this season, sometimes at critical moments of the game.
But I'm beginning to wonder if the Giants will even care. They've had such a gaping hole in the middle since Antonio Pierce retired, and their rush defense gave up 4.5 yards per carry this season.
Burfict has the instincts, strength and quickness to be a force at the next level if he can stay out of trouble and would instantly help versus the run.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Dont'a Hightower's combination of speed and strength could make him an outside linebacker or inside linebacker. I expect the Ravens to use him alongside Ray Lewis until Lewis retires.
Then Hightower can step into Lewis' shoes and make Ravens fans proud.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Braylon Edwards didn't work out for the 49ers and Josh Morgan is entering free agency. Quarterback Alex Smith needs another weapon in the receiving corps and Sanu has the strength, quickness and fearlessness to be a great asset slanting across the middle of the field.
Sanu had 115 catches for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns this season for Rutgers despite not having a top quarterback throwing him the ball.
32. New England Patriots: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
With 32-year-old Dan Koppen coming off a fractured ankle, it's critical for the Patriots to find Tom Brady's next protector at center.
Konz has impressive strength and eye-opening awareness, and you figure he'll adapt to numerous defensive packages thrown his way. The kind of center Brady can depend on.
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