2012 NFL Mock Draft: Full First-Round Predictions, Post Pro Bowl Edition
With the 2012 NFL Draft quickly approaching, teams are shuffling players around on their big boards, trying to make sure they do not waste their money on a dud. Last week's Pro Bowl demonstrated the importance of making the right pick in the first round.
What was especially interesting was the number of 2011 first rounders who earned the trip to Hawaii: Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Von Miller and Patrick Peterson. The odds were against the 2011 rookies due to the lockout, yet each of these players had phenomenal seasons.
This slideshow will predict where future Pro Bowlers will land in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
There is uncertainty over Peyton Manning's status for the 2012 season. Regardless of whether he plays or not, the Indianapolis Colts need a replacement for the 35-year-old Manning.
With that being said, the Colts will surely make Luck the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Reggie Wayne is most likely finishing his career in another city. Pierre Garcon is also a free agent but the Colts will re-sign him.
Indianapolis should look to pick up Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu or Reuben Randle with their pick in the second round. The Colts will need to find playmakers to line up with Dallas Clark and Garcon if they plan on returning to playoff form in 2012.
St. Louis Rams: Trade to Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Washington Redskins are desperate for a quarterback. Mike Shanahan was nuts to go into the 2011 season with John Beck and Rex Grossman atop the depth chart.
Daniel Snyder will not risk letting their quarterback of the future get away.
Like the Colts, the Redskins need to surround Robert Griffin III with talent. They will need to re-sign tight end Fred Davis and find a receiver to complement Santana Moss.
Washington also will try to target a running back in the middle rounds. Isaiah Pead out of Cincinnati and LaMichael James from the University of Oregon could add explosiveness to an otherwise average backfield.
Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
With both Morris Claiborne and Matt Kalil on the board, the Minnesota Vikings have to make a tough choice.
Both their pass-protection and secondary were liabilities in 2011. The opportunity to select such talented players as Claiborne and Kalil is rare.
Because the NFC North is loaded at the quarterback position (Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and to a lesser extent Jay Cutler), it is essential that the Vikings lock down a stud cornerback sooner than later.
The Vikings will select Claiborne to immediately improve their secondary which had a league worst eight interceptions in 2011.
They will be able to draft offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders out of Florida State in the second round to shore up their offensive line.
Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Cleveland Browns wanted Robert Griffin III but are still ecstatic to draft Justin Blackmon.
Colt McCoy had a disappointing sophomore season with the Browns. Part of this was due to a lack of playmakers at both the running back and receiver positions.
The combination of second-year receiver Greg Little matched with Blackmon has the potential to greatly boost McCoy's play next season.
If running back Peyton Hillis decides to leave Cleveland, the Browns could go after Trent Richardson with the fourth pick. However, Hillis and the Browns are reportedly interested in renewing his contract, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a huge disappointment in 2011, mainly because their defense was dreadful. They gave up the most points in the NFL while acquiring the least amount of sacks.
2011 second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers was a bust. First-round pick Adrian Clayborn had a promising rookie campaign earning a team-high 7.5 sacks.
The Buccaneers will hope that the combination of Clayborn and Coples will bring fans back to the memories of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice, or at least something close to that.
Washington Redskins: Trade to Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The St. Louis Rams pass on the chance to get Justin Blackmon with second pick in the draft. Instead they make the trade with the Washington Redskins and end up getting offensive tackle Matt Kalil.
This is a great deal for the Rams who are in desperate need of finding someone to protect Sam Bradford before he turns into David Carr. Kalil will be ready to play from Week 1.
The Rams are in danger of losing Brandon Lloyd and Danny Amendola to free agency.
The Rams will look to add a big-bodied receiver in the second or third round. Names that pop out are Juron Criner (University of Arizona), Nick Toon (University of Wisconsin) and Rueben Randle (LSU).
Washington will surely be giving up a few draft picks in their trade with the Rams. St. Louis will use these picks to help rebuild their franchise.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Jacksonville Jaguars would have ideally picked Justin Blackmon to help Blaine Gabbert's progression. But with the seventh pick, that opportunity is long gone.
The Jaguars will draft Michael Brockers to help get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Jeremy Mincey was Jacksonville's leader in sacks with eight. Otherwise, there was nobody who could get to the quarterback.
This is not a best-case-scenario pick for the Jaguars. They have the opportunity to trade down and look for a wide receiver or corner. Instead they will make the first reach of the day and pick Brockers.
Carolina Panthers: Trade to Denver: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Willis McGahee is getting old and Knowshon Moreno cannot stay healthy. If Denver plans on winning games with Tim Tebow at quarterback, they need an elite running back.
Trent Richardson will start for the Broncos, but will split time with McGahee and Moreno (if they do not decide to trade him).
Coming from Alabama, Richardson has experience running the ball out of the spread option. He is also a reliable receiver coming out of the backfield.
The Broncos' priority this offseason will be to surround Tebow with as much talent as possible. Trading up to draft Richardson is the best way to do that.
Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Miami Dolphins gave up 52 sacks and 95 hits on their quarterbacks. They will pick up Riley Reiff to fix their leaky offensive line.
Reiff and Jake Long will be the bookends of the Dolphins offensive line for a long time. Whoever lines up at quarterback next season will be thankful for this pick.
Miami is also in need of defensive linemen. Paul Soliai, Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling are all going to be free agents this offseason. The Dolphins will hope that Fletcher Cox, Jerel Worthy, Dontari Poe or Brandon Thompson will be available in the second round.
Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills' pass-rush is non existent. In the 2011 draft they picked up Marcell Dareus to mend the issue. He was able to impress as a rookie but he cannot do it alone.
Dareus' push up the middle combined with Upshaw's pass-rushing ability will make everybody on the defensive front a little bit better.
The Bills are also going to need a wide receiver assuming that Steve Johnson does not return. They will look to pick up a receiver and another outside linebacker in the second and third rounds.
If Ryan Fitzpatrick can return to pre-mega-deal form, Buffalo might be able to rebound from a let-down 2011 season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Kansas City Chiefs will hope to stay healthy in 2012. Injuries to Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki derailed what started out as a promising season.
The Chiefs will select Jonathan Martin to protect Cassell and help open running lanes for Jamaal Charles.
If Kansas City can avoid injuries, they will be legitimate contenders to win the AFC West.
With Dwayne Bowe likely headed to a new team in 2012, the Chiefs could trade down and get Michael Floyd or even Alshon Jeffery. There are a number of teams that would be desperate to add Martin to their offensive line.
Seattle Seahawks: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Chris Clemons accounted for a third of the team's 33 sacks. For this reason, the Seattle Seahawks will select Devon Still to help get pressure on the quarterback.
Seattle has the makings of an elite secondary with Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. The addition of Still up front can take Seattle's defense to the next level if he is able to get the same push in the pros that he was able to get while at Penn State.
Another option for the Seahawks to consider is quarterback Ryan Tannehill. With Marshawn Lynch at running back and Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin at receiver, Seattle is a quarterback away from fielding a good squad. Desperation might cause them to reach for Tannehill with the 12th pick.
Arizona Cardinals: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Other than the St. Louis Rams, nobody gave up more sacks than the Arizona Cardinals. If they plan on having Kevin Kolb being their franchise quarterback it is essential that they pick up Mike Adams to bolster their offensive line.
Adams raised his stock after a good showing at the Senior Bowl. However, selecting him 13th overall is still a stretch.
The Cardinals are also in need of an inside linebacker. It would make sense for them to pick up Luke Kuechly to fill that need. What's stopping them from doing that is the NFC West's group of talented young pass-rushers: Aldon Smith, Chris Long and (as of one pick ago) Devon Still.
Dallas Cowboys: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
By the season's end, Tony Romo half expected the ball to be snapped over his head when he was lined up in the shotgun. The Dallas Cowboys will select Peter Konz to make sure this never happens again.
With the 14th pick, Konz is a bit of a reach. But his ability to line up at both guard or center compounded with the Cowboys' need for an interior offensive lineman will justify the selection.
With Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Laurent Robinson and DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have a plethora of offensive weapons. Drafting Konz will help give Tony Romo enough time get the ball to his playmakers.
Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The Philadelphia Eagles were huge underachievers in 2011. But they still have enough talent on both offense and defense to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2012.
Adding Luke Kuechly will immediately improve their defense which was weak against the run.
The Eagles drafted Casey Matthews in the fourth round hoping that he could start immediately at inside linebacker. That plan did not work. This time around Philadelphia will pick the best inside linebacker in the draft. Kuechly promises to be everything Matthews is not.
New York Jets: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
For the last two seasons, college football analysts have been calling Vontaze Burfict the next Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. However, Burfict has dropped off of teams' draft boards because he has the tendency to lose his cool and commit stupid penalties.
Rex Ryan is himself a hot head and is over-confident in his ability to harness players' talents. Come draft day, the only thing Ryan will see in Burfict is his potential. He will be teamed up with Bart Scott his rookie season before eventually replacing him as the starter.
Ryan was on the coaching staff in Baltimore when they went to the Super Bowl. He knows how important a fiery middle linebacker can be to a defense. If he is able to limit Burfict's anger, he could have a special player for a long time. If not, then Ryan will probably be looking for a new job in 2013.
Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Cincinnati Bengals have two picks in the first round after trading Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders.
They will look to find an upgrade on the offensive line, cornerback and running back positions.
With their first pick, they will take David DeCastro. He is the best guard in the draft and will be able to open running lanes and protect Andy Dalton for years to come.
San Diego Chargers: Trade to Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
After watching Blaine Gabbert struggle in his rookie season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will do everything in their power to make sure he improves in 2012.
They were unable to get Justin Blackmon with the seventh pick, so they are pulling an Atlanta Falcons and cashing in their chips for Michael Floyd.
The Jaguars will make the trade with the San Diego Chargers because the Chicago Bears are desperate for a big wide receiver and are all but guaranteed to pick up Floyd with the next pick.
San Diego will forfeit their first round pick for more picks later in the draft. They will target a wide receiver and another running back to help Philip Rivers on offense. Norv Turner and the Chargers will be especially interested in LaMichael James out of Oregon who looks to be the second coming of Darren Sproles.
Chicago Bears: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Chicago Bears need a wide receiver. They could go for Kendall Wright, but would rather find a bigger receiver in the later rounds (of which there are many).
Instead they will pick up Dre Kirkpatrick. The three cornerbacks behind Charles Tillman are free agents this offseason. They likely will not lose all three, but could still use Kirkpatrick.
The Bears will be using the same logic the Vikings used when they picked Claiborne: They need a cornerback who can help them stop Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford two times per year.
Tennessee Titans: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
The Tennessee Titans were better than expected last year. However, they benefited from playing in a division with both Jacksonville and Indianapolis. The AFC South should be more competitive next season, especially with the addition of Andrew Luck.
Tennessee will pick Cordy Glenn to improve their interior offensive line. This will help open holes for Chris Johnson, making it more likely for the speedy back to return to elite form.
Jake Locker will soon be taking over as quarterback for the Titans, making it especially important to shore up their offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The only knock on Janoris Jenkins is that he got kicked out of Florida. Other than that, he looks to be a future all-star. He proved this at the Senior Bowl. Jenkins' performance showed that a year playing at North Alabama against lesser talent did not decrease his abilities.
The Cincinnati Bengals could look to draft a running back with this selection, but decide that they have a greater need at cornerback.
Nate Clements' talent is declining and Leon Hall is coming off of a bad injury to his Achilles tendon. Depending on Hall's health heading into the season, Jenkins will most likely be lined up against slot receivers as a rookie before replacing Clements as a starter in 2013.
Cleveland Browns: Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina
Other than impressive rookie Jabaal Sheard, nobody on the Cleveland Browns had more than five sacks. Adding Melvin Ingram will improve their pass-rush.
The Browns are going to walk away from the first round having picked a promising pass-rusher and an elite receiver in Blackmon. If they can resign Peyton Hillis or pick up a running back with the fifth pick of the second round, the Browns could start turning head in 2012.
Cleveland might also have the opportunity to pick up Ryan Tannehill in the second round to compete with McCoy for the starting job.
Detroit Lions: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
The Detroit Lions' poor play at safety cost them their season against the Saints. Mark Barron will pair up with Louis Delmas at safety and help the Lions return to the playoffs again in 2012.
Detroit has an explosive offense and a star-studded defensive line. They are a few key players away from fielding an elite team.
The Lions could have used Janoris Jenkins or Mike Adams, but both players were gone. Barron is the best player available that fills a need. He will be an upgrade over Amari Spievey who is a liability in the secondary.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Pittsburgh Steelers need a replacement for 34-year-old Casey Hampton, so they will draft Jerel Worthy to be the future anchor of their defense.
The Steelers also need to add youth to their linebackers, making Dont'a Hightower a possibility with this pick.
Ben Roethlisberger has the talent to make all the throws to win games (if he can stay healthy). It is essential that the Steelers get younger and faster on defense if they want to continue to be a force in the NFL.
Denver Broncos: Traded to Panthers: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Carolina Panthers pick up Kendall Wright after trading their pick to the Denver Broncos. The Panthers need another wide receiver other than the aging (yet effective) Steve Smith for Cam Newton to throw to.
Wright saw his stock rise this year thanks to the phenomenal play of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. He is used to having to improvise his routes when Griffin extends the play with his legs. Wright will find himself in similar situations with Newton at quarterback.
With the trade, the Panthers will have additional picks later in the draft. They will look to add depth on the defensive and offensive lines.
Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will love this pick. The 6'5" and 350-pound Dontari Poe is big and strong.
He will be the center of the defensive line and use his girth to occupy blockers for an already talented group of linebackers.
The Texans arguably could have made it to the AFC Championship game this season if Matt Schaub had not gotten injured. With an even better front seven and the return of Schaub, the Texans are sure to be in the conversation for preseason favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The New England Patriots need to improve their secondary and pass-rush this offseason. Fortunately for them they will have two opportunities in the first round to do this.
With their first pick, the Patriots will address the pass-rush by adding Whitney Mercilus.
The Patriots had the 14th most sacks in 2011 with 40. Mark Anderson and Andre Carter accounted for half these sacks. Carter is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off of an injury that cost him half of the 2011 season.
The amount of playing time Mercilus receives in 2012 will depend on Carter's health next season. If anything, Mercilus should look to play a situational pass-rushing role akin to Aldon Smith for the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
The Green Bay Packers' defense under-achieved after being a big part of their Super Bowl run the year before. They will draft linebacker Zach Brown to help the issue.
At 6'1" and 236 pounds Brown is on the small side for an outside linebacker. However he is fast enough to beat offensive tackles around the edge.
One of his strengths is his coverage ability. Having him to drop back into coverage will allow Clay Matthews to rush the passer, which is the strength of his game.
The only fear for the Packers is that Brown's lack of size will result in him getting lost among the bigger bodied offensive linemen when he is asked to blitz.
Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens are looking for an inside linebacker to replace Ray Lewis. They will pick Dont'a Hightower so that he can benefit from learning under Lewis until he retires.
Depending on if the Ravens re-sign Jameel McClain, Hightower could potentially see starting time as a rookie.
Hightower, along with outside linebackers Sergio Kindle and Paul Kruger, has the potential to be a part of the next generation of great Ravens linebackers.
San Francisco 49ers: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
The San Francisco 49ers suddenly have an incredibly talented roster, especially on defense. Their biggest area of need is at wide receiver, but they most likely will address that in free agency with DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson.
San Francisco proved in the playoffs that they have one of the best (if not the best) front sevens in football. They will improve even more up front after they select Vinny Curry.
Ahmad Brooks is a free agent and Parys Haralson is not an effective pass-rusher. Curry will be converted to an outside linebacker in the 49ers 3-4 defense to help Aldon Smith terrorize quarterbacks.
Curry is projected to be picked in the second round, but after an impressive Senior Bowl his stock is on the rise. Remember, Jim Harbaugh was accused of picking Aldon Smith too soon. Whose laughing now?
New England Patriots: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
The New England Patriots need help in the secondary. Alfonzo Dennard will be drafted to make sure that they do not have to start Julian Edelman at corner next season.
Dennard was disappointing in the Senior Bowl. He will need an impressive showing at the NFL Combine if he wants to regain his first-round status. Assuming this happens, the Patriots will be thrilled to add another young talented cornerback to their roster.
New York Giants: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Starting tight end Jake Ballard has been consistent, but he is not a threat to make a big play after catching the ball. Also, their backup tight end Bear Pascoe is pedestrian at best and will be a free agent, leaving a hole at the position.
Adding Dwayne Allen will give the Giants an even more explosive offense in 2012.
New York also needs another offensive tackle and middle linebacker, but with the 32nd pick in the draft, Allen is the most talented player to fill a position of need.