2012 NFL Mock Draft: Comparing Each Prospect to an NFL Player

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Comparing Each Prospect to an NFL Player

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    It's that time of the year again! It's time for the influx of 2012 NFL Mock Drafts!

    WOOOOO!

    Honestly, it's so early that I'll likely look back on this in April and wonder if the cold I'm fighting caused hallucination. If the combination of Nyquil, Dayquil and Saucy Q BBQ here in Mobile (where I am covering the Senior Bowl for CheeseheadTV.com) had caused a meltdown in my brain.

    Still, you have to start somewhere, sometime and that place and time will be now.

    I know that for many people, even top shelf talent may be unrecognizable at this early date so for this single round Mock Draft, I've done my best to give you someone in the NFL to compare them too.

    Don't expect it to be perfect; there is no direct 'If A, then B' scenario in the NFL, much less the Draft. What I hope this does though, is give you a basis to know what you can expect from a player at a particular spot.

    Let's get started.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB

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    It's virtually impossible to say something new about Luck. You've heard about the arm, the intangibles, the "highest-graded prospect since John Elway"—it's hard to add much to that.

    Luck is really a fantastic prospect, and if you watch him play, there is very little to nitpick. The easiest comparison is, naturally, Peyton Manning. Intelligent? Check. Tremendous leader on the field? Check.

    Neck in better shape? Chiggety-check!

    Sure, the Colts can botch this pick, but they shouldn't. They should do what they did when Manning was there on the board: pull the trigger.

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR

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    For a while, I've had USC OT Matt Kalil here, but it was recently pointed out to me that in order to fit Kalil in, you'd have to shift both Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith around, and I'm not sure I buy that happening.

    So that, coupled with the distinct likelihood that Brandon Lloyd could leave (following Josh McDaniels out of town...and maybe to the Northeast?) makes Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon an obvious choice.

    Even if Lloyd stays, the Rams still need more receivers, as the guys beyond Lloyd are still shaky at best.

    I find Blackmon reminds me of several NFL players, but most often, Giants WR Hakeem Nicks comes to mind. His ability to catch the ball at the highest point, how he attacks a pass, his speed, there is a lot of Nicks in Blackmon.

    It's possible that the Rams trade down. We're not playing with that possibility here, but I wanted to acknowledge the chance it happens.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT

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    So if Matt Kalil doesn't go to the Rams, he won't drop far. Not with Minnesota so desperate for offensive line help.

    The Vikings could start Kalil at the left tackle spot pretty much from day one. Really, anywhere on the line would improve it.

    I liken Kalil to Miami's Jake Long with his athleticism, arm length and overall power, making life a lot easier for the Vikings offense.

4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB

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    The Heisman Trophy winner is benefiting from a league which is really changing how it looks at the quarterback position. You cannot deny his athletic ability, but he can also throw the ball well. So he can beat teams with his feet or his arm.

    It's too easy to make comparisons to Mike Vick, but I actually more liken him to Cam Newton. He's a good-sized prospect with a decent arm who can run as well as pass. Put aside how much people thought Newton couldn't throw before this season started, and it fits very well.

    Maybe the team is sure Colt McCoy is the answer, but I don't buy it. They'd be tempted by Blackmon if here, but ultimately, they need an exciting franchise player, and RGIII is it.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB

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    Sure, they have LeGarrette Blount, but honestly, there is so much Blount doesn't do that Richardson does, not the least of which is pass block and catch the ball. Also, Blount's rookie contract is just about up, so it might behoove the Bucs to think about the future, and Richardson can do it all.

    Richardson brings to mind several different backs. He is a more focused (and much better version of) Ricky Williams and really similar to Adrian Peterson. He is the complete back and could go early in a league where the running back position has been devalued.

6. Washington Redskins: Morris Claiborne, CB

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    The Honey Badger might not care, but even Tyrann Mathieu will tell you that Claiborne is an exceptional defensive back. Claiborne may have lacked the big nickname and such, but he has the size, top-end speed and ball-tracking ability of an NFL prospect. You could argue he's even better than Mathieu, just lacking a good press agent.

    He reminds me of a more raw Charles Woodson. Woodson does many things well and has been a well-rounded player for a long time. Claiborne has a ways to go, but is a very versatile corner and could be better than Woodson in short order.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples DE

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    I though Coples looked fantastic in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, and he spent a ton of time in the backfield during drills on Tuesday. He's as good as advertised so far.

    The Jags couldn't go wrong with almost any pick, although it's too early for a second WR or RB to go, and they appear to be committed to Blaine Gabbert enough to not reach on a quarterback here.

    They desperately need help along the defensive line and in generating pass-rush, so Coples (the top defensive end in the draft) is a natural fit and could have a huge impact from the get-go.

    I'd compare him to a guy like Justin Tuck. He can play DE or DT depending on what you want from him, and when he's on, he's really on. His ceiling, though, could be Julius Peppers. He's that dynamic.

8. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB

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    I have the Panthers here, but if they lose the coin flip at the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins could be here instead.

    I thought long and hard about a defensive tackle here given the failure of the line to bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks, but they just spent two high picks on DTs last draft, so I think they will pass this time.

    They'll stay defense, though, and Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick to me seems a good fit. I have heard arguments that it's too early for him to go, but I say if you like a player, get that player.

    Besides, Kirkpatrick is a very good player with great size and cover skills. Wes Bunting of the National Football Post says he reminds him of Chargers DB Quentin Jammer, and I think that is an apt comparison.

9. Miami Dolphins: Reilly Reiff, OT

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    Again, this could be the Panthers rather than the Dolphins depending on that coin flip.

    Man, the Miami Dolphins offensive line is a wreck. They may need a quarterback, they may need defensive help, but their best pick available here is Reiff.

    Reiff is a very good tackle and will help the line solidify along with previous first-round pick Mike Pouncey.

    Reiff reminds me of a guy like Bryan Bulaga of the Packers. Not a great tackle, but a very solid player who will contribute early on in his career.

10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw OLB

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    Maybe being in Alabama is causing me to shove Bama players into my mock, but the Bills are desperate for some pass rush help, and after missing out on Von Miller, will grab the best pass rushing OLB in the draft in Upshaw.

    Upshaw may not wow you in the Combine or at All-Star games, but when you put on the film, the man can play. I've seen some comparisons to LaMarr Woodley.

    Upshaw made plays his first year in Alabama. He'll do the same in Buffalo.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Devon Still, DT

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    Hey, another coin flip! WOOOOOO!

    The Seahawks could be here instead.

    Still underachieved a bit at Penn State, though he had a very nice senior campaign. He's got good speed and is quick off the snap. He can get in the backfield and really cause problems, something the Chiefs could use.

    He reminds me a bit of Dallas Cowboys DE Marcus Spears.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Brockers, DT

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    So again, this could be the Chiefs instead depending on the will of the quarter.

    Assuming this stays as is, the Seahawks spent some draft picks on the offensive line last year, but injury makes it hard to know if it will work out. I think they may look to add some more line depth later.

    They need a quarterback, but it's too early to reach for the third guy here. So they move to the defensive side of the ball and grab a raw defensive tackle who has the potential to be among the best at his position in short order.

    The Seahawks like versatility, and Brockers can be either a three or five technique depending on the defensive front a team runs. This reminds me of a guy like Kevin Williams, a big, versatile lineman with the potential to have a tremendous impact.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT

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    Whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is the quarterback in the desert next year, the simple and clear fact is that the Cardinals need to stop hoping the offensive line will play above its ability and instead start building a dependable line.

    Martin spent the last few years quietly keeping Andrew Luck's blindside clear and making sure his quarterback had the time he needed to make plays. He has some work to do, but is a solid tackle who is athletic, tough and has a big frame. He still is a bit raw, but he's a huge improvement over Levi Brown.

    Martin reminds me of a slightly smaller version of Jeff Otah of the Carolina Panthers.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Alfonzo Dennard, CB

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    The Cowboys could go many different ways at this spot, and now, you can officially say Jerry Jones might go offensive line since he did it for the first time in forever last draft.

    However, the secondary is one of the more concerning problems with the defense, and I didn't really feel like they have quite addressed it enough.

    Dennard plays very physical and can get a hold of the ball. He's struggled a bit here in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, but could pull it out with a good Wednesday and game. When the play is in front of him, he's great, but has problems turning and making a play beyond him.

    He reminds me a little of Houston CB Kareem Jackson, a guy who likes to play hard and physical.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB

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    It's a pretty simple plan for the Eagles: They need help in the middle of the defense.

    Are there other needs? Sure. The middle defense is the biggest one in my opinion, and after last offseason's spending spree, they have to look somewhere other than free agency for help.

    The Boston College prospect isn't the biggest linebacker, but he has tremendous instincts and athleticism and can make plays from day one for the Eagles, who really need that help on defense.

    I've seen some comparisons to Barrett Ruud around, but I think he's closer to James Laurinaitis, who was underrated coming out of college as well, but had a great impact immediately for the Rams.

16. New York Jets: David DeCastro, OG

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    I see a lot of "Jets take WR in the first round" in people's mocks around this time of year, but the true needs of the Gang Green are threefold: safety, pass-rushing linebacker and offensive line.

    I'm going with the first true guard in my mock, Stanford's David DeCastro.

    The right guard combo of Wayne Hunter and Vlad Ducasse was horrendous. Hunter is a turnstile, and Ducasse seems destined to be a misfire by the Jets staff.

    DeCastro was an Outland Trophy finalist, was the fellow the Cardinals ran behind nine out of 10 plays and is a tremendous pass-blocker as well. The Jets desperately need some help on the line, and DeCastro would be an immediate upgrade.

    He reminds me of retired guard and former Jet Alan Faneca at his height, when he was a good pass-blocker as well as a class-A road grader.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB

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    The Bengals could use a running back (but there are none quite worth this spot), an offensive lineman (a little early for the next one) and secondary help.

    With Nate Clements continuing to age in the way 400-year-old players do and Pacman Jones being, at best, a nickel-type guy, Jenkins is almost a must.

    Among his strengths are a great instinctive ability to read a play and react, good closing speed and, in my opinion, a better-than-acknowledged ability in run support.

    His downside are things like the two drug arrests in three months, which resulted in his dismissal from the Gators. He played well at Northern Alabama, but let's be honest, that's a bad way to end a career.

    Still, we know the Bengals will take chances on guys with questionable character, and Jenkins' skills (and their need) are such that I think they'd take him in a heartbeat.

    He reminds me of a guy like Cortland Finnegan, someone with good skills both in coverage and run support who occasionally makes really dumb decisions off and on the field.

18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram, OLB

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    At some point, the Chargers defense just fell apart, and they haven't been able to recapture the magic recently.

    They need to get good and they need to get young. If Ingram is here at 18, they should be ecstatic. He can fit into both the OLB slot or the DT/DE if they needed him to. Ingram has a knack for being at the right place to make a big play at the right time, which the Chargers haven't had in a long time.

    Ingram reminds me of Lamaar Woodley a bit, though if he were shifted to defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul would be apt as well.

19. Chicago Bears: Kendall Wright, WR

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    A new Martz-less age has dawned in Chicago, and while there are other needs like offensive line, those may change a bit when new schemes are installed.

    One fact that will not change is the lack of a playmaking wide receiver. I liked Johnny Knox, but we're not even sure if he'll return from his back injury. Roy Williams isn't very good. Earl Bennett and Devin Hester have been serviceable, but this offense needs a playmaker.

    Wright is that guy. He's got great focus and fantastic hands and can be a vertical threat the Bears don't really have.

    If you had DeSean Jackson minus the head issues, you'd have Kendall Wright.

20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE

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    The Titans actually aren't that bad off overall, but could use a pass-rusher.

    Whitney Mercilus had a tremendous junior year, and that could very well vault him up into the mid-first round.

    He isn't the fastest player on the board, or the biggest, but he has a knack for making plays, the risk being that he could revert back to the way he looked his sophomore year, which, while not horrific, was much less productive.

    I think his upside is a guy like DeMarcus Ware, and his floor is Robert Ayers.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB

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    With two picks in the first round, Cincy gets a luxury pick, and while Cedric Benson has been OK, they could use an upgrade. Miller might be a guy who fits between the late first and early second, but the Bengals can afford a little reach.

    Miller is a big back, but has breakaway speed as well. He reminds me a little of Maurice Jones-Drew, though Drew and the other comparison I hear (Ray Rice) both catch the ball better.

22. Cleveland Browns: Michael Floyd, WR

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    Floyd might be higher on this list if he had a few less off-the-field issues. He's got the talent, he adjusts well to the ball, is good after the catch and can gain separation through physicality.

    He does tend to body catch, and again, has those off-the-field issues (alcohol related), so I think he's a bit riskier than I'd like to go any higher.

    Off the field, he's Kenny Britt. On the field, he has more than a little of Anquan Boldin in him. That's his upside.

23. Detroit Lions: Lavonte David, OLB

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    I don't much like the remaining cornerbacks at this spot (a big need), and I'm not sold on an offensive line pick here (for once), as the line played better as the year went forward and I don't love any of the the remaining tackles here.

    I do like David, though, and they do need some good linebackers to go with their front four. Deandre Levy had a solid third season, but Justin Durant has never been more than OK, while David has the potential to be much more than that.

    On top of it, David's character is impeccable; he was called a "coach's dream" by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Jim Schwartz has crafted a bit of a "tough guy" persona, but with the actions of players like Ndamukong Suh raising issues within and without the organizations.

    Here you get a tremendous linebacker with great character, perhaps a sign that the Lions are taking concerns about their defense's attitude and actions seriously.

    His play style reminds me most of Demorrio Williams of the Chiefs.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, OG

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    It's hard to get a good read on the Steelers this offseason. They lost in the playoffs more because of a befuddling refusal to adjust their defense to the Broncos offense. Maybe Denver still would have won, but not knowing, I'm more of a mind to think that the refusal to abandon the stacked line did more damage than anything else the Broncos did.

    So the defense, to me, isn't a big issue.  There are issues, but not as severe as the one I am applying this pick to.

    Pittsburgh always struggles with offensive line problems. Two guards in one single-round mock draft? Sure, especially when they fit need, and in the Steelers' case, also won't cost them at a bigger position of need.

    Cordy Glenn is a bit of a luxury pick, but a luxury the Steelers need to indulge. He reminds me a bit of Max Jean-Giles, who most recently had a cup of coffee with the Carolina Panthers.

    Solid as a player, not splashy, but dependable. Just what you need at guard.

25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT

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    Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were potent most of the second half of the season in 2011. Let's get them some more help.

    While defensive back is a need, as are a few other spots, I think of another defensive lineman, this time a tackle who can attack the run and pressure the quarterback. While Jerel Worthy doesn't get many sacks, he causes them and can be a real pain for offensive linemen and quarterbacks alike.

    He is a bit of a risk, as he can be inconsistent, but he can flourish in the Broncos run defense.

    He reminds me a bit of Marcell Dareus, but in a more proper spot than I thought Dareus was selected at. I always believed No. 3 was a tad high for him.

26. Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, DT

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    Poe is an intriguing prospect and has the size, strength and speed to fill the run gap, a need for the Texans.

    He reminds me a bit of Pat Williams at his best.

27. New England Patriots: Fletcher Cox, DT

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    I'd hate to see the potential Super Bowl champs get freaking stronger, but here's the first of two picks. I would imagine that they turn one of them into more picks though. That's just what the Patriots do.

    New England needs to rebuild their defense and Cox is an interesting prospect who can both bring pressure from the outside but also clog up the middle.

    So many teams run a hybrid defense (with elements of both 3-4 and 4-3) that a player who is flexible and athletic enough to do multiple things.

    Cox is that guy. Quick off the snap,able to get at the gaps but also possessing the size and power to hold up in run defense. He's not done growing either, and could add another 10 pounds or so to his frame which will only help him improve in run defense.

    He can start as a defensive end or a defensive tackle—he could really swap between them depending on scheme.

    Cox reminds me a little of former Bronco, Raven and Jets defensive end Trevor Pryce early on in his career. A little raw, very athletic and could do multiple things—Pryce needed some time to mature and develop. Cox may need the same.

28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE

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    The Packers are always building depth, and USC's Nick Perry could do that. He could be an upgrade over Ryan Pickett or even shift up to LB across from Clay Matthews.

    Either way, he could force some pressure, something the Packers needed at times this year.

    Perry reminds me a lot of 49ers rookie Aldon Smith at his upside.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Vontaze Burfict, ILB

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    Burfict is a "too perfect" fit for the Ravens and would be a great replacement for some aging talent for them.

    He's very talented and plays with a real mean streak, which could hurt him and the team in terms of flags, but Uncle Ray will settle him down next year.

    I hear comparisons to Lewis, by the way, but that's really much higher praise than I have for him right now. Consider more former Bronco Al Wilson, who shares Burfict's demeanor and tenacity.

    Hat-tip to Cecil Lammey over at 102.3 The Ticket in Denver for the great nickname, Phrase. Use it, folks.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR

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    Jeffery is a teensy bit high, but the Niners need a wide receiver in the very worst way. Crabtree is not the big presence they need, Josh Morgan has never fulfilled his promise and Braylon Edwards was a disaster of injuries.

    Jeffery does a great job catching the ball away from his body (a bugaboo of mine this trip to Mobile) and is a very physical receiver who could give them another option than Frank Gore in the red zone.

    He's everything Crabtree would and should have been, but never is.

31. New England Patriots: Andre Branch, DE

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    This could easily be the 32nd pick, not 31st, so don't get your shorts in a wad.

    I flipped a coin; Pats lost.

    But they also win because either they 1) trade out YET AGAIN for a bounty of picks or 2) get a fierce defensive end who could convert to a linebacker or stick at defensive end. Branch can do either and do it very well.

    It's not like the 32nd-ranked defense can't use the help.

    The DE version of Mario Williams seems to strike a cord with me and my fever, so that's what I'm going with. Versatile, but also very strong and consistent.

32. New York Giants: Zebrie Sanders, OT

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    Sanders is best known as the guy who literally took a play off about a year ago, but he has made up for it slowly but surely over time. The Giants could use some depth on the offensive line, and at 32 (or 31), can be a bit risky.

    His upside is last year's Cowboys first rounder, Tyron Smith. His downside?

    Albert Haynesworth. How could I resist?