2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Super Bowl Edition
With the 2011 NFL season in the bag, it is time to dive head-first into the 2012 NFL draft season. What better way to get that started than with a new two-round mock draft?
It's widely acknowledged that Andrew Luck will be the first overall choice in the draft, but the real intrigue comes with pick No. 2 and the St. Louis Rams. Will they trade the pick for a bounty and sell the rights to select Robert Griffin III, or have the Rams targeted a player worthy of a high selection to build their roster around Sam Bradford at quarterback?
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts have an easy decision to make with the first overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft—Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
There is no wrong choice in this year's class. There's no Ryan Leaf to the proverbial Peyton Manning. Either quarterback would be worthy of leading the Colts franchise into the Manning-less future. It just so happens that Luck is the better prospect.
Luck has been lost in the conversation due to the consideration that he's already the de facto No. 1 overall pick. He's been given that title due to his worth as the best prospect seen since John Elway left Stanford in 1983.
Luck will bring his intelligence, ability to make plays outside the pocket and otherworldly accuracy to Indianapolis, where he will be the face of a rebuilding franchise.
2. Washington Redskins (PREDICTED Trade with St. Louis Rams)
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
The Minnesota Vikings attempted to protect their franchise quarterback, first-rounder Christian Ponder, with Charlie Johnson at left tackle. Read that again, slowly, and let it sink in. Charlie freaking Johnson.
Ponder deserves better. Adrian Peterson deserves better. The fans of the Vikings deserve better. Matt Kalil is better.
Kalil comes from a USC offense that has prepared him for the NFL on day one. He has the size, strength and agility to immediately improve an offensive line that did nothing but lie down while attempting to protect their quarterback last season. Kalil is a fighter, and Ponder will be grateful.
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. St. Louis Rams (PREDICTED Trade with Washington Redskins)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The No. 1 wide receiver on my draft board, Alshon Jeffery will give Blaine Gabbert a reliable threat at wide receiver and open up the offense for stars Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis. With Jeffery streaking up the sideline drawing two defenders deep, the rest of the offense will open up dramatically.
Some may be ready to give up on Gabbert at quarterback, but before doing so, it's important to see what he can do with a quality wide receiver. In 2011, he didn't have that.
Jeffery may not be liked by others in the media, but his ability to score touchdowns—whether on deep balls or in the red zone—makes him the wide receiver with the most potential in this class.
8. Carolina Panthers
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
The Carolina Panthers used the 2011 NFL draft to fuel their return to respectability when they selected Cam Newton first overall. Unfortunately, the rest of their draft class didn't perform well.
The team spent two third-round selections on defensive tackles Sione Fua and Terrell McClain. Fua played OK as a zero- and one-technique hole plugger, but McClain never developed into the pass-rusher the team hoped he could be as a three-technique undertackle.
Michael Brockers will be ready to step in and penetrate the offensive line, and he's versatile enough to line up at multiple locations on the line. Having a solid pass-rusher at tackle will also open new rushing lanes for end Charles Johnson, who saw his production dip slightly in 2011.
9. Miami Dolphins
Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC
The Miami Dolphins, whether they run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense in 2012, must add pass-rushers. The team loses Jason Taylor to retirement and has yet to see the production from Koa Misi opposite star Cameron Wake.
Nick Perry would be an instant upgrade at defensive end or outside linebacker, depending on the scheme being run. If Miami wants to run a hybrid defense, like those popular in Baltimore and Arizona, they'll need a player who can get upfield and pressure the edge from multiple spots on the field. Perry can fill this role from day one.
10. Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End, Alabama
Bills head coach Chan Gailey said the team will switch to a 4-3 defense, at least part of the time, in 2012. This is a move that has been a long time coming, but the Bills aren't staffed at defensive end/outside linebacker well enough to jump into a new scheme without making big additions.
Buffalo will move Marcell Dareus inside to tackle, where he projects best, lining him up next to Kyle Williams. Add Courtney Upshaw and a potentially healthy Shawne Merriman on the edges, and the Bills suddenly have a front four that could do major damage to opposing backfields.
Upshaw is a bit small at defensive end, but he has very long arms and the bulk to work off blockers. He will fill the role of speed rusher well coming off the right edge.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
The Seattle Seahawks have few identifiable needs, which makes their 2012 draft class all the more important. A miss here could set the franchise back several years, but a hit could catapult them into the playoffs.
Finding a quarterback in the first round would be ideal, but there are no players worthy of the pick. Seattle could be in the running for Matt Flynn or possibly even Peyton Manning, freeing them up to focus on defense in the first round after two straight years of using their first pick on offensive linemen.
Zach Brown's speed and agility make him an ideal selection at outside linebacker for Seattle, who will likely lose Leroy Hill at linebacker this spring. Brown would step in and be the player the Seahawks hoped Aaron Curry would be when they made him the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
The Kansas City Chiefs are in a good position to draft the best player on their board with the No. 12 pick overall. They're lucky to find the best offensive guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson left Michigan waiting for them.
The Chiefs offensive line is solid, but not spectacular and could use an upgrade at guard. Drafting DeCastro allows the team to keep Jon Asamoah at right guard, slide Rodney Hudson in at center and implant the rookie at left guard. With Branden Albert at left tackle, the team needs an athletic left guard who can power the run game and also help on the edge. DeCastro is built to move and has the strength to hold up in pass protection.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
The Arizona Cardinals so desperately need a new left tackle that almost any mock draft you read will feature them selecting one of the top pass protectors in this year's class. Jonathan Martin just so happens to be the top tackle available here.
Martin comes from a pro-style offense at Stanford where he was asked to be more of a traditional tackle—getting out of his stance to attack as a run-blocker and also working back in space against the pass rush. He's a more complete tackle than most coming out of college these days, where the spread passing game is so prevalent.
Martin's well-rounded game will make him an instant starter protecting the blind side of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton or even Peyton Manning in Arizona next fall.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
Jerry Jones, as owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has never been afraid to take a flier on a talented player with off-field issues. Look at the Cowboys of the 1990s, and you'll see a lineup full of "problem players"—either in their past, present or future.
Janoris Jenkins was asked to leave the football program at Florida after three drug-related arrests. Jenkins landed on his feet at North Alabama, where he seemed to disappear from the radar for a full season. After a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, Jenkins is back in the limelight.
Based on play alone, Jenkins is a legitimate top-15 player in this class. All it will take is one team looking past his issues and listening to his explanations of how he's matured and grown on and off the field.
Dallas needs help at cornerback, as neither Mike Jenkins nor Terence Newman has the talent Jenkins possesses.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
The Philadelphia Eagles enter an offseason with complete uncertainty surrounding the future of free-agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Should Jackson, who was visibly disgruntled this season, decide to leave the Eagles, the team will be hard-pressed to find a player to replace him.
Michael Floyd has had his own issues, but none on the field or related to his personality. Floyd was arrested for a DUI—his third alcohol-related incident since 2009—and served a suspension for it. After being reinstated, he turned a corner, both on and off the field.
Floyd would be a starter in Philadelphia should Jackson leave, but even if DeSean re-signs, he would be worthy of the selection to pair with Jeremy Maclin and Jackson in the slot.
16. New York Jets
Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, South Carolina
With needs at right tackle, wide receiver, running back, defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and safety, the New York Jets could go in any number of directions in the first round. The clear and present need is at outside linebacker. Melvin Ingram is the best of the available players and the only one who could step in and make a major impact in the AFC East from day one.
Ingram closed out a fantastic senior season with a solid showing at the Senior Bowl. He proved there that he has the strength to play in-line at defensive end and the speed to stand up at outside linebacker. The Jets would ideally use him to crash the edge as a weakside linebacker, coming off the hip pocket of 2011 first-rounder Muhammad Wilkerson at defensive end.
New York has many needs, though, and should be considered as a potential team to trade down and pick up extra selections in the middle rounds of the draft.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (Trade with Oakland Raiders)
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia
With two selections in the first round, the Cincinnati Bengals can afford to target several needs on the roster and attack them with full force. First up, the offensive line.
The guard play for the Bengals was solid in 2011, but the team will make plans to replace Bobbie Williams, who turns 36 during the first month of the 2012 season. Should Williams return, the Bengals will line up Cordy Glenn at left guard, where Nate Livings was the weak link of the ground in 2011.
Glenn has ability as a guard or tackle, showing the quick feet behind his 335 lbs to line up at right tackle or guard once in the League. In Cincinnati, where the existing linemen are equally huge, Glenn would be the perfect addition at guard.
18. San Diego Chargers
Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Riley Reiff was at one point a top-10 pick, but continued evaluation has him falling slightly down the board. Reiff may not be athletic enough to handle duties at left tackle in the NFL, but teams penciling him in on the right side will find a player ready to be a star.
The San Diego Chargers have potentially found a starter at left tackle if they can re-sign Jared Gaither to a long-term deal after picking him up as a street free agent late in the season. Gaither was exceptional as a replacement for Marcus McNeill, who is rumored to be near retirement due to neck issues.
With McNeill out and Jeromey Clary being a waste at right tackle, Reiff makes sense as a rookie starter on the right side. Should Gaither leave for bigger dollars, Reiff could also work at left tackle on a short-term basis until the team can find a replacement and move him to the right side.
19. Chicago Bears
Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
The Chicago Bears will see many changes under Phil Emery as general manager, but one thing that may not change is the attitude of Lance Briggs at outside linebacker, not to mention the age of Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.
Briggs hasn't been happy with his contract and even asked the team to trade him in early September. Briggs cannot be counted on to play without making his contract or happiness with the team an issue. Urlacher's Hall of Fame career is nearing completion, as the constant wear and tear are taking a toll on his soon to be 34-year-old body.
Dont'a Hightower lined up all over the field for the Alabama defense, working at both inside and outside linebacker depending on the situation. He could be viewed as a replacement for either Briggs or Urlacher—and in a perfect world, he would simply line up alongside them, replacing Nick Roach at strongside linebacker.
Imagine the corps of Hightower, Urlacher and Briggs in Chicago, and you'll see why the Bears will wait until Round 2 to address needs along the offensive line and at wide receiver.
20. Tennessee Titans
Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
Mock drafts in February are generally a look at what should happen and not what will happen during the 2012 NFL draft. This pick is one exception.
Quinton Coples doesn't rank as a top-20 player on my board, but he will certainly be a player over-drafted due to the hype surrounding him, the importance of pass-rushers in the NFL and the lack of pure defensive ends in this class. At No. 20 overall, Coples is a safer selection than he would be in the top eight, where many are projecting him.
The Titans will be searching to improve their offensive and defensive lines in the draft—a team scout told us as much at the Senior Bowl—and Coples is the player available with the most potential along either line.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington
When facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns in cold weather six times each season, a big running back who can wear down a defense is a must-have. The Cincinnati Bengals had that with Cedric Benson, but now is the time to move on from the consistently troubled runner.
Benson hasn't been able to provide the spark the Cincinnati offense needs in the run game, and it was noticeable in the playoffs that Jay Gruden isn't ready to ride Benson when it matters. Expect the running back position to be a point of emphasis with one of the Bengals' two first-round selections.
Chris Polk isn't loved by some, but on my board, he's a top-16 player and the No. 3 running back available. His patience and burst don't show up in Senior Bowl practices or All-Star games, but his ability when the lights come on is exceptional.
Those downgrading Polk because he didn't have a chiseled frame or sprinter speed are overlooking the most important trait in a running back—what he does in a game situation. Polk is a gamer who will bring an instant spark and consistency to the Bengal run game.
22. Cleveland Browns (Trade with Atlanta Falcons)
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Consider me a believer in Greg Little, the Browns' second-round pick from the 2011 draft who was second to A.J. Green in rookie receptions. Little can eventually become a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL (think Hakeem Nicks), but he needs help to continue getting open once NFL defenses take notice.
Kendall Wright is a multipurpose wide receiver who can line up in the Y or Z position, depending on the matchup, and even provide a spark as a return man. If the Cleveland Browns need anything on offense, it's a spark.
Combined with No. 4 overall pick Trent Richardson, Wright will give the Browns a legitimate group on offense to couple with a much-improved defense.
23. Detroit Lions
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
The Detroit Lions could go any number of directions with their first pick, but the general consensus is that improving the offensive line has to be the first priority.
Matthew Stafford played great in 2011, but he was still sacked 36 times during the 2011 regular season. Keeping the fourth-ever 5,000-yard passer upright will be a point of emphasis in 2012.
Mike Adams was the biggest man on the field at the Senior Bowl, but he was also surprisingly nimble in individual and team drills. He has the reach to play left tackle and the strength to line up on the right side. Adams is not only the best value, but he fills the biggest need in Detroit.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kelechi Osemele, Offensive Guard/Tackle, Iowa State
The Pittsburgh Steelers have started to rebuild their offensive line with young stars Mike Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert. They still lack talent at guard, though, and will make finding a road-grader a chief priority for the 2012 offseason.
Kelechi Osemele has the talent to play either guard or tackle, but did look out of place at right tackle during the Senior Bowl game. Osemele has the strength and agility to eventually be a Carl Nicks-style guard and should be a nice addition to an improving line in Pittsburgh.
25. Denver Broncos
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (FL)
To continue running an option-based offense with Tim Tebow at quarterback, the Denver Broncos must add a running back who can make plays in space and take the ball the distance when given room to run. Willis McGahee has been very good between the tackles, but he's not a threat to break away for a big run. Lamar Miller, however, is.
Miller's blend of speed, vision and agility are reminiscent of LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, a player who fits the mold of what Denver should look for in a back to complement Tebow and their innovative offense.
Miller's ability as a runner, receiver and return man will give the Broncos another player that defenses must account for on every play.
26. Houston Texans
Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis
The Houston Texans made an improbable run through the 2011 season with many of their best players missing large chunks of the season. Their goal for 2012 will be to stay healthy, but also to make subtle improvements to key positions.
Houston will look to improve at wide receiver and nose tackle early in the draft, and potentially through free agency. With no wide receivers of value here to play opposite Andre Johnson, the Texans can move on to need No. 2—nose tackle.
Shaun Cody was better than expected, but an upgrade is still needed. Dontari Poe has the strength and girth to sit in a hole and stop the flow of traffic. His ability inside will open up rushing lanes for Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans while also creating a traffic jam that lets the outside rush come around with less attention.
27. New England Patriots (Trade with New Orleans Saints)
Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma
No player impressed more at the Senior Bowl than Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming. Both on and off the field, he was the right mix of aggressive, confident and composed. He was sure to impress NFL scouts in attendance.
The New England Patriots made an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl despite a patchwork secondary filled with former wide receivers, castoffs and practice squad players. It would be wise to expect an addition or two via the 2012 NFL draft.
Fleming's ability to press at the line and then recover downfield will make him a hot commodity once the scouting combine commences. His name is starting to generate the recognition that his play deserves.
28. Green Bay Packers
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Green Bay Packers' 15-1 season ended early thanks to an onslaught of pass-rushers by the New York Giants, but also because of their inability to stop the passing game of Eli Manning and friends. If the Packers are to live up to expectations in 2012, they'll have to find a way to improve in coverage.
An overhaul isn't needed in the secondary, but subtle changes should be coming. If Charles Woodson moves to safety—a move looking more likely if Nick Collins can't return in 2012—the team will be desperate for a cornerback to line up opposite Tramon Williams and to step in for Jarrett Bush if he leaves via free agency under a tight cap in Green Bay.
Gilmore brings value as a starting cornerback, but also as a return man. He has the press-bail ability to be a starter in Dom Capers' defense and also help early on special teams.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker, Arizona State
Ray Lewis will return for the 2012 season, but how many more years can we count on the future Hall of Famer suiting up in Baltimore?
Not only is finding an eventual replacement for Lewis a priority, but finding an aggressive and versatile linebacker to assist Lewis should be on the docket for the Ravens. John Harbaugh can see the duo at inside linebacker on his brother Jim's roster in San Francisco and wishfully think about the future of pairing Lewis with an attacking linebacker.
Vontaze Burfict would rank as the best linebacker in this class if he had played up to his potential in 2011, but he didn't, and his stock has taken a massive hit because of it. Some of the blame can fall on departed coach Dennis Erickson, but the rest falls on the immature shoulders of Burfict. With Ray Lewis mentoring him and helping him control the rage that makes him a violent but unpredictable player, Burfict has the best chance of seeing his untapped potential play out.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
It was painfully clear this season that no matter the magic worked on Alex Smith by Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers still lack the talent at wide receiver to win the biggest games.
With Smith likely to return in 2012, and with Vernon Davis finding his place in the offense, the 49ers are realistically one player away from being a very dangerous Super Bowl contender next season. They were one play away this season, so any additions will only increase their odds.
Michael Crabtree is getting there as a No. 1 receiver, but opposite him the team has struck out. Whether Josh Morgan returns or not is questionable, but even if he does, the 49ers must target the wide receiver position early.
Mohamed Sanu is an outstanding athlete who may not see the pre-draft media rise due to a lack of straight-line speed. Turn on the film and you see a player who lined up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the Rutgers offense. He's a versatile threat who would be a matchup nightmare in Harbaugh's imaginative offense.
The one caveat would be if cornerback Carlos Rogers isn't re-signed in free agency. If Rogers leaves, San Francisco must draft a cornerback here.
31. New England Patriots
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois
Bill Belichick deserves major credit for winning with the defense they have fielded this season, but he should also know that rebuilding the defense starts tomorrow morning.
The Patriots were lucky to limp through the season with Mark Anderson, Brandon Deaderick and Andre Carter playing defensive end in a scaled-down scheme after the lockout shrank the preseason preparation of every team. With a full summer to work out together before the 2012 season, Belichick can go back to his beloved 3-4 hybrid schemes.
To make a move like this, the Patriots need pass-rushers. Whitney Mercilus led the NCAA in sacks during the 2011 season and has the athleticism and football IQ to become the next Willie McGinest in New England.
32. New York Giants
Orson Charles, Tight End, Georgia
Fans of the New York Giants did not like this pick last week, but from an outsider's perspective, the addition of a game-changing tight end opens up the offense in immeasurable ways.
Finding improvements on the offensive line or at linebacker would make sense, but which available players can make the same impact in Year One and going forward that Charles could? The answer is none, and Jerry Reese is smart enough to know that talented teams draft the best player available. They did it in 2011 with Prince Amukamara and in 2010 with Jason Pierre-Paul. Neither player filled a need, but were the best players on the board. Look at the impact JPP has now.
The Giants will take the best player on their board, regardless of position. Charles is a JPP-like addition that may not make great sense when selected, but will become a key franchise player down the road.
33. St. Louis Rams
Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
34. Indianapolis Colts
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
Note: Jeff Saturday may retire, or he may leave in free agency. One thing seems certain: Saturday will not be back in Indianapolis next season. Andrew Luck needs a smart young center to grow with.
35. Minnesota Vikings
Dwight Jones, Wide Receiver, North Carolina
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
37. Cleveland Browns
Chandler Jones, Defensive End, Syracuse
38. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Note: Kirkpatrick's off-field issues and lack of athleticism push him from Round 1 and into the waiting hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
39. St. Louis Rams (Predicted trade with Washington Redskins)
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska
40. Buffalo Bills
Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Oklahoma State
Note: The Bills can't be happy with Ryan Fitzpatrick's 2011 second half. Getting insurance and someone to push him will bring out the best in the now franchise quarterback.
41. Miami Dolphins
Devon Still, Defensive End/Tackle, Penn State
Note: The Dolphins are a favorite to sign either Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning, allowing them to continue to build up a defense that can support a new quarterback.
42. Carolina Panthers
Marvin Jones, Wide Receiver, Cal
43. Kansas City Chiefs
Mike Martin, Nose Tackle, Michigan
44. Seattle Seahawks
Brock Osweiler, Quarterback, Arizona State
45. Dallas Cowboys
Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama
46. Philadelphia Eagles
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
47. New York Jets
David Wilson, Running Back, Virginia Tech
48. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders)
Markelle Martin, Free Safety, Oklahoma State
49. San Diego Chargers
Andre Branch, Outside Linebacker, Clemson
50. Chicago Bears
Nate Potter, Offensive Tackle/Guard, Boise State
51. Philadelphia Eagles (from Arizona Cardinals)
Nick Foles, Quarterback, Arizona
Note: Vince Young is unlikely to be back in 2012, which opens up a door for the Eagles to draft another quarterback to groom and trade, or replace Michael Vick with.
52. Cincinnati Bengals
Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
53. Tennessee Titans
Kevin Zeitler, Guard, Wisconsin
54. Atlanta Falcons
Jayron Hosley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
Note: Rumors of Brent Grimes' impending departure from Atlanta, via Pro Football Weekly's Dan Parr, make the Falcons' first selection one of need.
55. Detroit Lions
Vinny Curry, Defensive End, Marshall
56. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alameda Ta'amu, Defensive Tackle, Washington
57. Denver Broncos
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
58. Houston Texans
DeVier Posey, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
59. New Orleans Saints
Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker, Nebraska
Note: With their first selection, the Saints add speed on defense, something that was sorely missing during the 2011 season.
60. Green Bay Packers
Keenan Robinson, Outside Linebacker, Texas
61. Baltimore Ravens
Brandon Washington, Guard, Miami (FL)
62. San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Boykin, Cornerback, Georgia
63. New England Patriots
Jared Crick, Defensive End/Tackle, Nebraska
64. New York Giants
Aaron Henry, Free Safety, Wisconsin
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