2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post Senior Bowl Edition
Step one of the NFL draft process is in the bag with a full week of practices and the Senior Bowl game now in the bag. Up next, the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.
Before we get there, it's time for an updated look at each NFL team's needs and the players who can fill those spots. That means an updated mock draft.
The Indianapolis Colts are on the clock.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts really have no other way to go. Andrew Luck is not only the best prospect in the 2012 NFL draft class, he is the best prospect seen in the last 25 years of draft scouting.
Luck will find himself on a roster and franchise in flux, but they are starting a rebuilding process of which he will be the central figure. If the Colts' front office can find Luck a few blockers and receivers, you have to like what he can do as the leader and future of this franchise.
2. Washington Redskins (Trade with St. Louis Rams)
Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
Washington sends 2012 first- and second-round picks and 2013 first-round pick to St. Louis for No. 2 overall choice
Normally predicting a trade this early would be both foolish and unrealistic, but this trade has serious merits.
By looking at the NFL Draft Trade Chart we can see the Rams' pick at No. 2 is worth 2600 points. The Redskins have the No. 6 overall pick (1600 points) and can throw in a 2013 first-rounder to make up the difference. Win-win.
Griffin would be an immediate star in Washington, and the savior of a franchise and coaching career. Mike Shanahan has never coached a player with the overall athleticism and ability of Griffin—which is saying a lot considering he coached John Elway and Jay Cutler.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
The Minnesota Vikings experimented with Charlie Johnson at left tackle this season and it failed miserably. Johnson is best served at guard or right tackle, not protecting the future of the club.
Christian Ponder needs a true left tackle in his second year at quarterback, and the team will find him one early in the NFL draft.
Matt Kalil is one of the safer picks in the 2012 class. He's big, athletic and has the experience and pedigree to be a top tackle in the NFL for a long time.
Minnesota fans may want a wide receiver here, but the feeling is that either Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery would be a reach and not fill as immediate of a need.
4. Cleveland Browns
Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
With Robert Griffin III off the board, the Cleveland Browns can focus on the task at hand—building around Colt McCoy in the West Coast Offense.
Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur and I might be the only people left who believe in Colt McCoy as the starter at quarterback, but their opinions are the only ones that matter.
Holmgren and Shurmur know how important a full offseason will be to McCoy's development, and just how important giving him legitimate NFL receivers will be, too.
Justin Blackmon is a small reach at pick No. 4, but the Browns are desperate for a true No. 1 wide receiver. With Blackmon, Greg Little and Evan Moore back in 2012, Cleveland has a crew resembling a starting unit in the NFL.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
The situation at cornerback in Tampa Bay is a mess right now. Ronde Barber is one step away from retirement, and Aqib Talib is one wrong step away from jail.
Luckily for Tampa and new coach Greg Schiano, they can find an answer to their problems in the first round.
Morris Claiborne is the best pure cover man in this class and would have been even in last year's loaded group.
He's as close to a Champ Bailey-style corner we have seen since Joe Haden entered the draft. Like Haden, Claiborne will be a very early pick and an instant playmaker.
6. St. Louis Rams (Trade with Washington Redskins)
Washington sends 2012 first- and second-round picks and 2013 first-round pick to St. Louis for No. 2 overall choice
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
Jeff Fisher knows he needs to build up the offense in St. Louis, but the Rams cannot afford to reach for a player who doesn't bring value to the roster and the pick. Even with a trade down, there is not a wide receiver who fits the bill of the Brian Schottenheimer offense available.
Instead, the Rams will look to fill in the massive holes on defense. Michael Brockers left LSU after his redshirt sophomore year, but he's hands down the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in this class.
Fisher had major success with another pass-rushing tackle, Albert Haynesworth, and knows the value of a penetrating three-technique defensive lineman.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The Jacksonville Jaguars hung rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert out to dry in 2011, asking him to step into a situation with no wide receivers after a lockout-shortened offseason. The pressure is on for Gabbert and rookie coach Mike Mularkey to produce.
The first step in fixing Gabbert's issues will be giving him a true threat at wide receiver. Alshon Jeffery may be falling on some draft boards, but not this one. He's the biggest deep threat in the 2012 class and is the type of player Gabbert will be able to simply throw the ball up to and let make plays.
8. Carolina Panthers*
Pick pending coin flip with Miami Dolphins
David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
The Carolina Panthers would love to add a wide receiver here, or even a defensive end, but there are no players at those positions who are a good value. It would be a reach to go for a Nick Perry or Michael Floyd in Carolina.
What's not a reach, though, is adding a guard who ranks higher on my Big Board than any player at the position in the last decade. DeCastro is as close to "can't-miss" as you'll find at guard.
With DeCastro in town, the team can move away from Travelle Wharton at guard and focus on building up a better run-blocking duo for Cam Newton and friends.
9. Miami Dolphins*
Pick pending coin flip with Carolina Panthers
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
The Miami Dolphins' offseason plan under new head coach Joe Philbin will go something like this:
1. Sign Matt Flynn from Green Bay Packers at quarterback.
2. Draft a versatile wide receiver who can run after the catch.
3. Build up the offensive line.
Philbin brings a good mix of Green Bay's spread offense philosophy and the New England Patriots' study in player development from his days under guys like Kirk Ferentz. Philbin knows how to coach the offensive line, which makes adding a right tackle here less of a need.
Adding Michael Floyd allows Miami to go three-wide at any time, flanking him with Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, to give the Dolphins a scary threat at wideout.
10. Buffalo Bills
Nick Perry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, USC
The Buffalo Bills would be tempted in this spot to draft an offensive tackle, but everything we heard at the Senior Bowl was that the team loves the duo of Chris Hairston and Erik Pears and won't draft an offensive tackle early.
That makes this choice easy—the Bills desperately need to find talent at outside linebacker.
The team has tried Aaron Maybin and Shawne Merriman here with no success from either. It's back to the drawing board in an attempt to generate a pass rush to thwart the Tom Bradys of the AFC East.
Nick Perry has the most athleticism and burst of any outside linebacker prospect in this year's class. He's not a safe pick, but he has the best upside and potential of the group.
11. Seattle Seahawks*
Pick pending coin flip with Kansas City Chiefs
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Seattle fans were quick to point out last week that the Seahawks have a running back already in Marshawn Lynch. To be technical, they don't. Lynch is an unrestricted free agent, and until he signs, it won't matter how much he or the team wants him back in Seattle.
Let's assume Lynch re-signs, because it would be foolish of him to leave. The NFL is still moving to a two-back approach. Add in the famed "best player available" approach and you have Trent Richardson sitting atop your board for need and value.
Richardson is an elite back and special enough to be drafted in the top five. We'll see if NFL general managers agree.
12. Kansas City Chiefs*
Pick pending coin flip with Seattle Seahawks
Dont'a Hightower, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
This is becoming one of those picks that makes too much sense not to happen. The Kansas City Chiefs will be re-loading on defense, trying to shore up positions where a little change could put them over the top in the AFC West. Adding Dont'a Hightower will do the trick.
Add Hightower to Kansas City and the Chiefs instantly have the most athletic linebacker crew in the NFL. With Hightower and Derrick Johnson, an All-Pro in my book, patrolling the middle of the field, opposing offenses will find limited options.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
The Arizona Cardinals should be excited to find an elite left tackle prospect still on the board when they come up at pick No. 13. In fact, our own Jon Dove thinks Martin is the best left tackle prospect in the class.
Martin is talented, but he's also raw and needs work in his technique to become an All-Pro-caliber prospect. The Cardinals will be happy to have someone with the talent to even be considered as such.
Martin will automatically replace Levi Brown to keep Kevin Kolb (or John Skelton) standing tall in the pocket.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
Jerry Jones has never been afraid to pull the trigger on a player he loves—and historically the Dallas Cowboys do very well in the draft.
Watching the South team practice at the Senior Bowl this week, our group stood a few yards down from Jerry and head coach Jason Garrett. Following their line of sight, they were eyeballing the cornerbacks. It was easy to overhear their praise of Jenkins' press coverage ability and quickness.
Janoris comes with some off-field issues, which he was mature and contrite about in our exclusive interview (coming soon). Jenkins may be taken off some draft boards, but the Cowboys were definitely interested.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
The season is over, and it's time to officially move away from talk of how disappointing the 2011 season was in Philadelphia. That doesn't mean we can't look at why the season was a failure, or what changes needed made going forward.
Philadelphia put too much hope in middle and late-round draft picks at linebacker, leaving them unprepared and undertalented at key positions. The chance to draft an elite outside linebacker would be too good to pass.
Brown had a phenomenal week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, showing the speed to cover backs and tight ends and the fluid hips and vision to track the ball. He would be an immediate upgrade at weakside linebacker.
16. New York Jets
Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington
The New York Jets have struck out at the running back position. It's time to hit a home run.
LaDainian Tomlinson was solid early, but he has faded and will enter free agency this summer and is not expected back. That leaves Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight to carry the load in Tony Sparano's run-first offense. Not exactly a sigh of relief.
The Jets are in a position to draft the best player on their board, as they have needs essentially everywhere. The player we feel is the best fit and value is Washington's Chris Polk.
Polk is a true three-tool back who can run, catch and block. The Jets will find ways to get him the ball as early and as often as possible.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (Trade with Oakland Raiders)
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia
There was talk all week about the massive size of Cordy Glenn, who impressed in individual drills and even in team work at both tackle and guard. He's a truly versatile player who could see his stock soar in the pre-draft process.
For the Bengals, this is a no-brainer. Bobbie Williams has been one of the more underrated guards in football, but the 35-year-old guard is both a free agent and injured. Glenn would be an instant starter at right guard, anchoring an offensive line that is massive across the board.
18. San Diego Chargers
Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Why the drop for Riley Reiff? After watching Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn at the Senior Bowl it was necessary to compare them to the juniors ranked ahead of them. When watching Riley Reiff again with a fresh perspective, he disappointed.
Reiff is stiffer at the hips and knees than remembered, something you can fix but often results in a player being moved to right tackle. Which is where Reiff would play in San Diego.
The Chargers struck it rich when they signed street free agent Jared Gaither late in the year. If re-signed, Gaither would stay at left tackle and let the rookie Reiff anchor the right side.
19. Chicago Bears
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
Let's assume that Mike Tice will keep J'Marcus Webb at left tackle and that 2011 rookie Gabe Carimi will be the starter on the right side. The move wouldn't be the best, in this writer's humble opinion, but Tice knows his line.
If there are no changes at tackle, fixing the center position takes precedence with no wide receivers of value on the board.
Peter Konz is among the better, more NFL-ready centers we've seen in some time. He'll be an immediate starter and anchor on the offensive line in Chicago as the team moves away from Roberto Garza.
20. Tennessee Titans
Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina
The Tennessee Titans would love to see Cordy Glenn or Peter Konz here, as they badly need interior line help—a team scout even told us as much this week at the Senior Bowl—but luck is not on their side in the first round.
The Titans can take solace in the fact that finding a quality right defensive end with the No. 20 pick is almost unheard of, but they pull it off here.
Ingram was among the most impressive of all players at the Senior Bowl. He has the quickness and strength to make plays off the edge for the Titans.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (Fla.)
With two first-round picks, the Cincinnati Bengals have a great chance to grab a player to take the reins from free agent running back Cedric Benson, or at worst to complement him in the backfield.
Finding the right player for Jay Gruden's West Coast Offense will be easy in this loaded running back class, but none of the players stand out like Lamar Miller.
Blessed with freakish agility and burst, Miller is a dynamic runner and receiver. He will give the young Cincinnati offense a weapon they lacked in 2011.
22. Cleveland Browns (Trade with Atlanta Falcons)
Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End, Alabama
Before anyone complains, please keep reading.
Upshaw is most commonly projected at outside linebacker, but in Mobile this week he looked dominant at defensive end.
The Browns have a good left end in Jabaal Sheard. Adding Upshaw at right end, where he can move around and get the best angle to the quarterback, solidifies their defensive line.
Upshaw is a freak, and one of the most physically imposing players in attendance. His thick, stocky frame may not be ideal for the defensive end position, but he's nearly unblockable.
23. Detroit Lions
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Jeff Backus has been a great player at left tackle, but his days are numbered. Backus may hang on for another season, but Detroit should have a plan in place to find his replacement. If Detroit finds Mike Adams waiting for it in the late first round, the pick should be in quickly.
Adams enjoyed a solid week at the 2012 Senior Bowl, showing rare size and strength with good enough footwork to handle duties on the left side of the line.
His reach and power are unmatched at the position and would make him a logical choice to try to shut down the elite pass-rushers of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kelechi Osemele, Offensive Guard/Tackle, Iowa State
From a purely physical standpoint, no player at the 2012 Senior Bowl was more impressive than Kelechi Osemele of Iowa State.
The big man lined up at both guard and tackle, showing the strength and agility to be a factor anywhere along the offensive line. He projects best to left guard, which is where the Pittsburgh Steelers have a major need.
The trio of Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu are among the worst guards in the NFL. The Steelers could use as many as two new offensive guards through free agency and the draft.
25. Denver Broncos
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
It's no surprise that the Denver Broncos need a cornerback to step in and replace the aging Champ Bailey. While no one can fill the future Hall of Famer's shoes, someone has to try.
The Broncos would find use for Gilmore as both a starting cornerback and as a return man. Gilmore brings added value as a three-tool player who can cover, return and step up against the run.
The Denver Broncos are in the midst of reloading their roster and hoping to not take a step back in terms of wins. If they hope to remain competitive in the AFC West, improving their secondary is a logical first move.
26. Houston Texans
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
The Houston Texans are poised to be one of the best teams in the NFL next season. What do you give a team that's loaded at almost every position?
Kendall Wright brings a level of excitement that the bland Houston offense hasn't seen before.
He's a deadly weapon in the slot and as a return man, and should take pressure off the run game while drawing in linebackers and safeties who would normally help on Andre Johnson deep.
27. New England Patriots (Trade with New Orleans Saints)
Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma
One look at the New England Patriots' secondary this year and you can see, immediately, that help is needed at cornerback.
Ras-I Dowling was drafted with the first pick in Round 2 last year, but injuries kept him from playing this season. Team Dowling with Jamell Fleming in 2012, and the Patriots may finally have a solid cornerback duo again.
This pick would also allow the team to move Devin McCourty to safety and keep Sterling Moore as a slot cornerback.
28. Green Bay Packers
Whitney Mercilus, Outside Linebacker, Illinois
The Green Bay Packers need to get more explosive on defense. Watching them down the stretch this season it was easy to see that opposing offenses were keying on Clay Matthews and forcing Green Bay to try and create pressure that wasn't there.
Look at what the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans did in the 2011 NFL draft. They all spent early picks on outside linebackers to shore up an already strong pass rush. The results for each defense were huge.
Put the NCAA's 2011 sack leader opposite Matthews, and offensive coordinators will be stumped on how to shut down the Packer pass rush.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker, Arizona State
Ray Lewis may not be retiring yet, but he will be sooner or later. The Baltimore Ravens can start planning for that potential now.
Vontaze Burfict has the most talent of any linebacker in this year's class, but he's a gamble in the first round due to on-field control issues. Put him in a strong locker room, like Jimmy Smith last year, and Burfict will produce.
With the Ravens' defense a hybrid set between a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, it's important to have versatile linebackers who can line up at multiple spots on the field. That's what Burfict can do.
He's athletic enough to slide outside in a 30 scheme, but strong enough to play inside and thump against the run.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
The San Francisco 49ers need serious help at wide receiver if they hope to make a repeat appearance in the playoffs after the 2012 season.
Michael Crabtree showed promise, but drops were too frequently a problem for him. The team let Braylon Edwards go, creating a need opposite Crabtree in the lineup.
Even with Josh Morgan back (if he re-signs), the team needs a threat at the "X" position who can pick up yards and move the chains.
Sanu isn't a great straight-line runner, but he does bring agility and athleticism to the position. And that's something the 49ers don't have right now.
31. New York Giants
Orson Charles, Tight End, Georgia
As the New York Giants prepare to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, much of their focus will be on finding ways to stop tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
You can bet coach Tom Coughlin will be asking general manager Jerry Reese to find him an athletic tight end in that same mold.
Orson Charles carries a mid first-round grade on my board, but few teams have a major need at tight end worth addressing the pick early.
With the emergence of guys like Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, speedy tight ends like Charles will become must-have weapons on NFL rosters.
32. New England Patriots
Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
The New England Patriots will be glad to select a player some consider a top-five prospect. You won't see a ranking that high here on Coples, who fails to show up on film despite unreal athletic ability and promise.
Coples' big body makes him an intriguing player at defensive end or defensive tackle, and he would play both in New England's ever-changing defensive fronts.
Of course, who are we kidding—Bill Belichick will trade this pick.