2012 NFL Mock Draft: Complete First Round with Trades and Highlights
The top seniors in college football came together last weekend at the Senior Bowl to showcase their skills in front of a national audience, as well as for NFL coaches and scouts.
Guys like Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State and Quinton Coples out of North Carolina saw their stock soar, while Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin and Zebrie Sanders out of Florida State saw theirs tumble.
As it is in most years, though, the best talent usually lies with the underclassmen.
One of the biggest factors that will determine how things go down on April 26, 2012 is the lack of depth at the quarterback position, coupled with the desperate need some teams have going into next season.
I expect the first round to be chock-full of trades as teams do their best to maneuver the tricky landscape of the 2012 NFL Draft.
I've included video highlights for you to enjoy as well.
As always, I encourage you to contribute your thoughts in the comments section below.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
It certainly looks like Jim Irsay has made up his mind to cut one of the best players in NFL history, Peyton Manning. There has been some fuss about whether or not he's actually already made the decision, but it seems like a done deal to me.
The one thing that isn't up for debate is who the Indianapolis Colts will select with the first-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and that is Andrew Luck, quarterback out of Stanford.
Luck has excelled in a pro-style offense for three straight years, and his strong arm and pinpoint accuracy are traits that aren't easily taught. One of the most-overlooked aspects of Luck's game is his athleticism, which he uses much in the same way Aaron Rodgers does for the Green Bay Packers to pick up first downs when nobody else is open.
Luck is one of the most "NFL-ready" quarterbacks to have come out of college since...well, since Manning. He already possesses the skills of a seasoned veteran, having been for Stanford what Manning has been for the Colts.
He is a lock for the first-overall pick, and I believe he'll perform admirably in his rookie season with the Colts.
2. Cleveland Browns (Trade with St. Louis Rams)
Robert Griffin III
Cleveland sends 2012 first-round pick and 2013 first-round pick to St. Louis for No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Matt Miller, B/R's resident draft guru, had the Washington Redskins trading up to this spot in his latest mock, but I'm of the opinion that the St. Louis Rams will want to ensure the opportunity to land Justin Blackmon. This is the reason I believe a trade with the Browns (fourth overall) is better for the Rams than a trade with the Redskins (sixth overall).
Griffin has shot up draft boards like a rocket since he won the Heisman Trophy, and rightfully so.
At 6'2" and weighing in at 220 pounds, Griffin is like a bigger version of Michael Vick. His ability to pass from within the pocket is far superior than that of Vick coming out of college, so you can imagine why NFL general managers are salivating over the star from Baylor.
Most people are fully convinced that Colt McCoy will never amount to anything in the NFL (a position I do not share), and Griffin would be an instant upgrade over him while creating much-needed buzz for the Browns organization. His arrival in Cleveland would be akin to that of LeBron James when he came to the Cavaliers.
Filling the stadium will have a tremendous bearing on this move, and I expect Mike Holmgren and the Browns to do everything in their power to make it happen, though you know they're not the only team that's going to make a strong push.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, Left Tackle, USC
After the Colts picking Andrew Luck, this pick seems to be the biggest lock of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Matt Kalil, by most accounts, is the top offensive tackle in this year's draft class. He was an excellent blind-side protector to Matt Barkley, though he struggled at times against power rushers. His run-blocking needs to improve, but I suspect that a year or two with an NFL strength and conditioning coach will do wonders for his lack of power.
The Minnesota Vikings desperately need the help. Charlie Johnson was so bad in 2011 that I won't be surprised to see the Vikings cut him before the 2012 season starts. The offensive line as a whole was no better, and they surrendered the fifth-most sacks in the NFL in 2011 (49).
Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson will continue to get banged up unless the Vikings fix the problem, and Kalil seems to be the right prescription for their woes.
4. St. Louis Rams (Trade with Cleveland Browns)
Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Cleveland sends 2012 first-round pick and 2013 first-round pick to St. Louis for No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
The Rams will still get their man after trading away the second-overall pick to the Cleveland Browns.
Blackmon is just the medicine Sam Bradford needs to rebound from his atrocious sophomore campaign. He reminds me a bit of a faster, more athletic version of Anquan Boldin, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens.
Blackmon has all the speed, quickness, agility, toughness and power you want from a legit No. 1 NFL receiver, and his hands aren't too shabby either. He was constantly double-teamed in 2011 at OK State, yet he still managed to produce a stellar season for the Cowboys. He had 121 receptions for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns.
I can't wait to see what Blackmon does at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine, and I'm guessing he'll come out and make the same kind of waves Julio Jones did at last year's combine.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
The Buccaneers can fill a position of need while also taking the best remaining player off the board with the fifth-overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft.
Ronde Barber has been in the league for 15 years. He will be a free agent in 2012, and I won't be surprised to see him opt to either retire or spend the twilight of his career with a winning organization. The Bucs are in full-blown rebuilding mode, and a new head coach further cements that reality firmly into place.
Claiborne would come in and immediately become one of the starting cornerbacks at Tampa Bay. His ability to cover and make plays with the ball in the air is rare, and he has all the speed he needs to keep up with the fastest players in the NFL.
He would also provide an electric boost to the Buccaneers special teams as a returner, much in the same way Patrick Peterson did for Arizona in 2011.
Claiborne could end up in the 2013 Pro Bowl if he stays healthy for the Buccaneers in 2012.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (Trade with Washington Redskins)
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Cincinnati sends 2012 first-round pick (17th overall) and first-round pick (21st overall) to Washington for No. 6 overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft.
Mike Shanahan will be furious about not landing Griffin, and many of the players on the board between the sixth pick and the 17th pick don't match up with what the Redskins need.
The Bengals have plenty of other holes to fill as well, but the opportunity to lock up one of the best running backs to have come into the NFL in a decade will be too much to resist. Richardson will immediately breathe life into a dead running game for the Bengals, and his presence will aid in the development of Andy Dalton much in the same way Emmitt Smith did for Troy Aikman.
Richardson is a unique athlete. His blend of size, speed, agility and football smarts will be a tough combination for NFL defenses.
The Bengals have to compete against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns twice a year in the AFC north, and Richardson will give them the balance on offense they need to beat these three staunch defensive powerhouses.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jonathan Martin, Left Tackle, Stanford
The Jaguars will be sorely tempted to select Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver out of South Carolina, with the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but in the end, it will be more important to solidify the middle of their offense.
Blaine Gabbert was terrible in his rookie season, but so was his offensive line. Eugene Monroe is a decent player for the Jaguars, but Guy Whimper was one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL in 2011, surrendering 13 sacks on the year.
Martin would immediately come in and start as a right tackle for the Jaguars, and he could even challenge Monroe for the left tackle position.
He is a punishing run-blocker, and his 6'6" frame will carry more weight as he gets older and stronger (he currently weighs 304 pounds). Martin was also a capable pass-blocker for the Cardinal, and there are some who believe he might be a better prospect than Kalil.
Picking Martin up will allow the Jaguars to get a good look at what Gabbert is truly capable of doing when he actually has time to throw.
8. Miami Dolphins (Coin Flip with Carolina Panthers Will Determine Order)
Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins desperately need an outside linebacker that can rush off the edge. They drafted Koa Misi a couple of years ago hoping he'd be the guy that could pull it off, but he's been a disappointment. Also, Jason Taylor retired after the 2011 season, making this move even more valid.
Upshaw is the highest-rated 3-4 outside linebacker in the 2012 NFL Draft, and I expect the Dolphins to jump all over him with the eighth-overall selection.
Upshaw had a fantastic senior season at Alabama, registering 52 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles.
He came into the Senior Bowl heavier than anyone expected, tipping the scales at 273 pounds, which is a ton of weight for a man who is only 6'1".
Still, Upshaw didn't look slow at all in that game, consistently getting a heavy pass rush on the opposing quarterbacks. At his size, he could also do for the Dolphins what Aldon Smith did for the San Francisco 49ers, which is to rush the quarterback as a defensive end in their nickel packages.
He will bring stability and talent to a position of need for the Dolphins.
9. Carolina Panthers (Coin Flip with Miami Dolphins Will Determine Order)
Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
The Carolina Panthers were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2011 at sacking opposing quarterbacks (31 sacks, t-25th in NFL). Antwan Applewhite was one of their starting defensive ends at season's end, and he has only accrued 5.5 sacks in his entire four-year career.
Enter Quinton Coples. Coples is the best pure 4-3 pass-rusher coming out in the 2012 NFL Draft, and his presence on the Panthers defensive line will add a much-needed dimension: speed.
Coples was one of the most impressive prospects at this year's Senior Bowl, albeit against lesser competition. The competition might be an issue in evaluating him, except for the fact that he played like that the for the entire year.
At 6'6" and weighing 285 pounds, Coples is like a slightly larger, more powerful version of Jason Pierre-Paul, the second-year phenom for the New York Giants.
The Panthers could also consider taking defensive tackle Michael Brockers out of LSU, but Coples' talents should outweigh Brockers' in the end.
10. Buffalo Bills
Riley Reiff, Left Tackle, Iowa
The Buffalo Bills offensive line needs an upgrade. Ryan Fitzpatrick played the second half of the 2011 season constantly looking over his shoulder for the blind-side pressure rather than focusing his attentions downfield.
Riley Reiff would make Fitzpatrick's life a little bit easier.
Reiff was rock solid for Iowa in 2011. I saw some things on tape from the game against the Sooners in the Insight Bowl that made me grade him lower than Jonathan Martin. He is prone to getting beat to the inside against quick, powerful rushers, which could give him trouble in the NFL.
Still, Reiff has all the physical traits and skills you are looking for in a first-round offensive tackle. He is a technician more than a bruiser, which means he'll get better and better as he continues to get stronger into his late-20s.
His addition will go far to helping the Bills compete in the AFC east.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (Coin Flip with Seattle Seahawks Will Determine Order)
Dont'a Hightower, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
The Chiefs need to fill many holes on their roster, and they could consider many different options with their pick here.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the team in 2011 was their inability to stop opponents from running the ball down their throats. Hightower's insertion into their starting lineup next to Derrick Johnson would make this problem go away.
At 6'4" and weighing in at a stout 260 pounds, Hightower is exactly the kind of thumper you need lining up next to a speedy playmaker like Johnson. He also happens to be one of the most gifted linebackers coming into the NFL in 2012 in terms of his awareness and instincts.
The biggest concern teams might have about Hightower at this point is going to be how well he can handle pass-coverage in the NFL, but a strong showing at the combine should put these fears to rest.
In my mind, a bigger need might be to find a replacement for Kelly Gregg at nose tackle, but there just isn't anyone in this year's draft that is worth reaching for from this position.
12. Seattle Seahawks (Coin Flip with Kansas City Chiefs Will Determine Order)
David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
Fans in Seattle will probably hate this move, but it falls right into line with what Pete Carroll wants to do with the Seahawks, which is to punish his opponent with a beastly offensive line.
The Seahawks stretched quite a bit last year to pick up James Carpenter out of Alabama to come in and fortify the right side of their line, yet the Seahawks were still the fourth-worst team in the NFL at protecting their quarterback (50 sacks). This was despite the fact that they ran more than they passed.
DeCastro would be able to improve upon the beastly aspect of what Carrol wants to do, as well as help out tremendously with the porous pass-protection the team dealt with in 2011.
The 6'5", 310-pound prospect is as athletic a man as you could dream of to play offensive guard. He can move his feet like an elite tackle prospect while possessing the abilities of Nate Newton as a run-blocker.
In a division where the Seahawks play the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams twice a year, it's important to have a strong offensive line, as all three teams are stocked with talent on their defensive lines.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The Cardinals can't believe their good luck, as they find Jeffery still on the board when they select the 13th-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Larry Fitzgerald was double-covered all year long, and some teams weren't too ashamed to bracket up to three men on him in coverage. The reason? He didn't have any help.
Jeffery would come in and become a threat on the outside from day one, instantly making the Cardinals into the most dangerous offense in the NFC West. Don't look to the stat sheet to tell you how good he is, though. Jeffery was missing a key element at college: a competent quarterback.
At 6'4" and weighing 229 pounds, Jeffery's combination of size, speed and soft hands will make him the second wide receiver taken in the 2012 NFL Draft.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
The Cowboys were so bad in coverage in 2011 that they negated DeMarcus Ware's exceptional pass-rushing abilities. Teams should be scared to throw when Ware is coming around the corner, but nobody was afraid to challenge the Cowboys, and were successful when doing so.
Jenkins is considered a high risk due to his multiple arrests on marijuana charges, but Jerry Jones has already met with Jenkins, which shows how serious he is about considering him with this pick. It surely wouldn't be the first time Jones has gone against conventional wisdom (Dez Bryant, cough, cough).
Jenkins is undoubtedly talented enough to be taken 14th overall. When you watch him play, one of the first things you notice is how easily he swivels his hips from one side to the other in coverage, allowing him to change directions and flow with his receiver.
At 5'9", Jenkins is a bit on the small side, but his athleticism and quickness gives him an amazing ability to cover receivers who are much taller and bigger (he held A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery to under 100 yards when he faced them).
As long as Jenkins keeps his nose clean (or in his case, his lungs), he should bring a much-needed playmaker to the Cowboys secondary and help to make their defense one that is feared once again.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
The Philadelphia Eagles suffered from what I like to call the "soft, squishy middle" syndrome that accompanies teams with sub-par defensive tackles and inside linebackers.
They could look to improve upon the linebacker position with this pick by taking either Kuechly or Burfict, but I like them to forego that upgrade for another round and select the big man in the middle they have been missing.
Brockers is an extremely disruptive force as a five-technique tackle and is the best pass-rushing defensive tackle coming out of the 2012 NFL Draft, which fits into the Eagles' defensive philosophy.
He is also a very large man, at 6'6" and over 300 pounds. He will continue to get bigger and stronger as he ages (he left for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore year), making him an attractive option for the Eagles for years to come.
16. New York Jets
Nick Perry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, USC
The Jets could try to shore up their offensive line by picking up one of the second-tier tackles, such as Mick Adams from Ohio State, but I expect them to go in a different direction in the first round.
Did you realize that Aaron Maybin ended up as the Jets' leading sack man in 2011, with six sacks?
Perry could come in and give the Jets a boost, and he could end up being the best 3-4 outside linebacker to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The strength of Perry's game lies in his ability to get off the ball quicker than his opponent. He knows how to use his hands to get around the corner on much bigger men, and he is capable of shedding blocks in the running game.
If Maybin continues to improve from his 2011 campaign, the two men could become an imposing pass-rushing duo for years to come for the Jets.
17. Washington Redskins (Trade with Cincinnati Bengals)
Luke Kuechly, Middle Linebacker, Boston College
Cincinnati sends 2012 first-round pick (17th overall) and first-round pick (21st overall) to Washington for the No. 6 overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft.
London Fletcher has been a workhorse for the Washington Redskins for the last five years, and he has been plying his craft in the NFL for 14 seasons. He is also a free agent in 2012, so there is no guarantee he'll be back.
Even if he does return, the Redskins still need to plan for the future, and Kuechly is the safest pick at middle linebacker in the 2012 NFL Draft.
During his time at Boston College, Kuechly amassed an incredible total of 532 career tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and seven interceptions. Did I mention that he's leaving school early to come out as a junior?
His amazing production, football smarts, leadership and consistent ability to be around the football to make plays makes Kuechly a solid pick for the Redskins at 17 overall.
18. San Diego Chargers
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois
The San Diego Chargers were completely and utterly incapable of producing a consistent pass-rush in 2011, when Shaun Phillips was out with an injury. As I've already said before, a 3-4 defense's success is based upon the ability of the outside linebackers to get pressure on the quarterback.
Mercilus, at 6'4" and 265 pounds, reminds me a bit of Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul. He isn't as powerful as Smith, but Mercilus can straight up rush the passer. He led the nation in 2011 in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (nine).
Speed, quickness, power and agility are all qualities that Mercilus brings to the table, and his addition to the Chargers front seven would significantly improve the team's ability to both pursue the quarterback, as well as to attack the opposing running game from sideline to sideline.
If Phillips manages to stay healthy, he and Mercilus could end up becoming one of the deadliest duos in the NFL.
19. Chicago Bears
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler has been making do in the passing game without a legitimate No. 1 receiver ever since he left Denver. The team tried to remedy the situation in 2011 by bringing in chronic disappointment Roy Williams, but the experiment ended in a complete disaster.
The Bears could opt for a guy like Mike Adams, offensive tackle out of Ohio State, with their first-round pick here, but I don't believe they would be able to resist taking Floyd here with the 19th-overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Floyd, at 6'3" and 218 pounds, has the potential to be a big-time receiver at the next level, and his combination of size, speed, quickness, soft hands and body control will serve him well as he makes the move.
His ability to fight for the ball will likely cause teams to end up double-covering him, leaving Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox free to exploit single coverage with their explosive speed. It's a great combination for Cutler's rocket arm.
20. Tennessee Titans
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
The Tennessee Titans were terrible in the middle of their offensive line in 2011. Chris Johnson had his worst season as a pro, and though some of the blame certainly belongs squarely on his shoulders, it was just as much the fault of his linemen who failed to open up holes.
Eugene Amano, the team's starting center in 2011, was definitely part of the problem, and drafting Konz would immediately alleviate this as an area of concern.
Konz anchored Wisconsin's line, helping Montee Ball have an outstanding year and propelling him into the Heisman conversation. He is a road grader, and his abilities on the line would translate into a much more effective running game in 2012.
Also, as a side note, having a rookie center come in to go along with a young quarterback (Jake Locker) could be the start of a beautiful relationship that has the potential to last the better part of a decade.
21. Washington Redskins (Trade with Cincinnati Bengals)
Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
After losing out on the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, Mike Shanahan finally gets his quarterback.
It might be a bit of a stretch to take Tannehill at this point, but the end of the first round and into the second round is when you start to see teams maneuvering to get quarterbacks, and the Redskins won't fail to do this year what they haven't done in the past few years, which is to get a quarterback for Shanahan to mold.
Tannehill is easily the third-best quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft. He possesses a strong arm and is capable of making every throw on the field, and he is extremely accurate with his short-to-intermediate throws. He knows how to anticipate when his receivers will come open, and he leads them well so they can continue to run at full speed.
Tannehill, like most rookies, needs help with his mechanics, as he is prone to inaccuracy at times when he doesn't set his feet properly, but this is an area that Shanahan will improve.
A former receiver, Tannehill is also extremely mobile (a quality Shanahan loves) and is accurate on the run, particularly to his right side.
22. Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta)
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Is there a better way to bring along a rookie quarterback than to also bring in his favorite receiver from college? I think not.
Unbelievably, the Browns could land two of their biggest needs in the first round. Wright would instantly bring a big-play threat to an offense that was as anaemic in 2011 as any we've seen in years.
The Browns need to get more athletic and talented on the outside, or Robert Griffin III (or any other quarterback, for that matter) will be forced to continually check the ball down to his running backs and tight ends.
The Browns want to be able to run a balanced offense, but their inability to pass the ball has caused teams to completely focus on the running game, sometimes bringing up to nine men into the box.
The addition of Wright, a speedy receiver with hands a soft as a baby's behind, would give the team an ability to spread opposing defenses out, forcing them to play honest and abandon the eight-in-the box mentality, thus making the Browns a better team.
23. Detroit Lions
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Despite being arrested for marijuana possession in January, Kirkpatrick won't fall too far in the 2012 NFL Draft. He's too good.
The Detroit Lions desperately need help throughout the entire secondary to compete against teams like the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, both of whom completely decimated them through the air.
Kirkpatrick is a special player. His blend of size (6'2", 192 pounds) and athleticism is good enough to go against the elite wide receivers in the NFL. He is a tough tackler, as this video shows, and he will be a welcome addition to the Lions, who struggled with tackling all year long.
Don't be dismayed that Kirkpatrick didn't tally a single interception in 2011. Nobody wanted to throw his way. His play should go a long way to help the Lions get over the hump that is the Packers.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Please forgive me about the highlight video. It was the only one I could find.
In my mind, the Steelers' 2011 season was lost due to the fact that Ben Roethlisberger once again failed to receive proper protection. Additionally, Max Starks, the team's starting left tackle, ripped his ACL to shreds in the wild-card loss to the Denver Broncos.
Adams is the answer for the Steelers. His huge frame (6'6" and 320 pounds) isn't even filled out all the way yet, and he will continue to develop physically for another few years. That is a scary thought.
He is also an athletic tackle who is good in pass protection, showing excellent knee-bend and flexibility to stop speed rushers, while also possessing the ability to anchor himself to negate powerful rushers.
Additionally, Adams is a competent run-blocker, showing aggression and nastiness at times, which is a trait that is highly valued and desired among offensive linemen.
It's about time that the Steelers finally addressed this position of need.
25. Denver Broncos
Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
The Denver Broncos have a ton of needs, and one of them happens to be on the interior of their defensive line. They were vulnerable against the rush at times in 2011, and the biggest reason is that they lack a man that can be an unmovable object.
Still is the best all-around 4-3 defensive tackle prospect, though he isn't a disruptive pass-rusher on the same level as Michael Brockers. He is a mountain of a man, at 6'5" and 311 pounds, who can take on multiple blockers.
The best part of Still's game is that it is largely untapped. He still requires a ton of coaching to bring him up to what he'll ultimately be capable of becoming, and that is a scary thought.
His presence in the Broncos starting lineup would allow the men on the edge, Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil, to operate more against the offensive tackles, one-on-one, leading to even more pressure in 2012 than they got in 2011.
26. Houston Texans
Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
As good as the Houston Texans were on defense in 2011, there is still plenty of room left for improvement. Wade Phillips installed his 3-4 defense last year, and the team ran it without the benefit of having a true nose tackle on their roster.
Poe can be the man they were missing, and his addition to the Texans defense would put their front seven up there in San Francisco 49ers territory.
At 6'5" and weighing in at a massive 350 pounds, you might think that Poe would be a soft, squishy player like Terrence Cody was when he came out of the University of Alabama a couple of years ago. This isn't the case, however, and as you can see from the video I've attached, Poe hasn't even begun to reach his full potential for strength and explosion.
The Texans should run to the podium to draft Poe with the 26th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
27. New England Patriots (From New Orleans)
Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama
The New England Patriots' troubles against opposing aerial attacks in 2011 has been well documented, and it will certainly be no surprise to see them pick Barron with the 27th overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
If Barron runs a fast 40 time at the NFL combine, he might not even be around when the Patriots pick here, but for now, he fits in perfectly with what they are trying to do in Boston.
Barron would bring much to the table to help the Patriots with their troubles. He is a devastating tackler in both the running game and in the passing game, but he also plays with exceptional coverage skills for a man of his size (6'2" and 218 pounds) and is a classic "ball hawk."
The one thing Barron does struggle with is man coverage, where his stiff hips can get him into trouble. He's no slouch, though, and good coaching and film study will do much to overcome this weakness.
28. Green Bay Packers
Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, South Carolina
The Green Bay Packers failed to duplicate their 2010 season in many ways, but one of the biggest ways 2011 was different was that they couldn't generate a consistent pass-rush. Outside of Clay Matthews, they had nobody else that could win their one-on-one matchups, leading to a miserable result.
Ingram is a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker, though he's never played a snap at that position in his young life. At 6'1" and 276 pounds, he plays and looks much quicker and more athletic than his measurables would indicate.
He has the rare ability to make strong moves to the quarterback both on inside and outside techniques. His strength and leverage are potent weapons that he uses well, and he has learned how to use his hands well to get around would-be blockers.
Ingram would be a welcome addition to the Packers defense, and I would expect him to make some noise early to challenge for a starting role.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker, Arizona State
The Baltimore Ravens could certainly go a different route here, but I don't think they would be willing to let Ray Lewis' replacement go to another team.
Burfict has been falling like a rock in many mock drafts throughout the nation due to his anger-management issues. Somehow, I don't think that any troubling incidents would fly in the Ravens locker room.
There isn't another team more perfectly suited to take this young man into their culture and teach him the proper way of doing business, and I believe Burfict would flourish under such leadership.
Burfict has all the physical tools you look for in a stud middle linebacker. His instincts are superb, and his ability to react instantly to what he perceives on the field is truly astonishing. He is a punishing tackler who loves to attack the hole rather than wait for the action to come to him.
He will fit in nicely with the players the Ravens currently have on defense, and he could be starting by this time next year.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska
The 49ers passed up on Dennard's 2010 teammate when they selected Aldon Smith over Prince Amukamara in the 2011 NFL Draft. They are still in need of some assistance in the secondary, though. Carlos Rogers will be an unrestricted free agent, but even if they retain him, Dennard would be a strong addition to an already stacked defense.
At 5'10" and weighing 205 pounds, Dennard qualifies as a big cornerback. He uses his size well in press coverage, excelling at jamming his man at the line of scrimmage. He is also comfortable in zone coverages, using his closing speed and tackling prowess.
Dennard is known for catching tough passes at their highest point, something that is crucial when you play against Larry Fitzgerald twice a year, and his ball skills are superb.
Dennard's stock has been plummeting since the Senior Bowl, however, as he struggled with his speed and hip fluidity in practice before leaving early with an injury.
I don't think anyone will remember in April if he comes out and has a good combine.
31. New York Giants (Order Pending Super Bowl XLVI)
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
I'm not sure if anyone thought Miller would still be available way down at the bottom of round one, but here he is. The New York Giants, despite going to the Super Bowl this year, desperately need some help at the running back position.
Brandon Jacobs is a joke. He will never be the runner everyone wants him to be, and the Giants struggled mightily when Ahmad Bradshaw went down with a foot injury in the middle of the season.
Miller is a speedy back with the ability to run in between the tackles as well as bounce it outside, which is what most burners are prone to do when they are unsure. He can stop on a dime and redirect better than anyone else in this year's draft class.
In addition to being a well-rounded runner, Miller is also an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield, which will make him perfect for Eli Manning and the Giants offense.
32. New England Patriots (Order Pending Super Bowl XLVI)
Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
After securing the safety position a bit earlier in the draft, the Patriots now move to find help for their paper-thin cornerback group by drafting Minnifield with the final pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Remember, the Patriots have been using wide receivers to help out in the secondary this year (this alone proves that Bill Belichick is still as brilliant as ever).
Minnifield is an excellent corner in both man and zone schemes, using his tall frame (6'0" and 185 pounds) and excellent eyes to his best advantage. He loves to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he has enough speed to stick with the fastest men on the field.
In addition to his adept coverage skills, Minnifield is a willing and able tackler in run support, making him a solid all-around player that would fit well with the Patriots.