NFL Draft 2012: Ranking the Top Available Mock Drafts
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Some of us have been studying 2012 NFL mock drafts longer than others.
When your team is still playing, you're spared the task of studying scouting reports. You don't have to scour YouTube looking for video of a guy who might be a good pick for your team in the third round. You have an actual game to think about.
With that said, I'd like to welcome fans of the New England Patriots and New York Giants. Now that the Super Bowl is over they can join the rest of us in projecting the 2012 NFL draft.
Most fans turn their attention to NFL mock drafts when their team is knocked out of the playoffs or whenever it becomes clear their team's not making the playoffs.
However, for some people mock drafts are a year-round activity. These draft gurus already have published mock drafts.
These mock drafts are likely to change, especially after the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 22.
But let's rank their work so far.
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No. 1: Dane Brugler
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Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, via CBSSports.com, posted his most recent mock draft on Feb. 7.
Every mock draft I've looked at has Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck going to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 1. So let's assume that for the purposes of this article.
At No. 2, the St. Louis Rams are quite likely to entertain trade offers from teams who want to ensure they can pick Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor. With Sam Bradford, the Rams are not in the market for a quarterback.
A lot of mock drafts have the Rams picking Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 2 if they don't trade the pick. While the Rams need a receiver, that's too high in the draft to pick Blackmon.
Brugler recognizes this and has the Rams taking Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil to protect Bradford.
At No. 3, Brugler has the Minnesota Vikings picking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
With the Cleveland Browns picking fourth overall, he has them taking Griffin. The consensus is Cleveland isn't so sure about Colt McCoy.
At No. 5, Brugler has Alabama running back Trent Richardson going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after LaGarrette Blount's disappointing season.
Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill is one of the most intriguing names in the mock draft. Brugler is one of two on this list who have him going to the Washington Redskins at No. 6, while three mock drafts on this list don't have him anywhere in the first round.
NFLDraftScout.com projects Tannehill as the third-best QB in the class, although there's a big dropoff after Griffin. Still, I tend to think a team like the Redskins that needs a quarterback would be willing to reach for Tannehill.
No. 2: Scott Wright
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Scott Wright is No. 2 on the list because his top five on Scott Wright's Draft Countdown is the same as Brugler's.
Instead of Tannehill at No. 6, however, Wright has the Redskins taking Blackmon while Brugler has him going one pick later to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 7.
Blackmon's value probably isn't worth a top-five pick and Brugler and Wright are the only two keeping him out of the top five.
Wright acknowledges that receiver is the Jaguars' most pressing need. But since he has Blackmon gone at No. 7, he's projecting North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples going to Jacksonville to aid their pass rush.
At No. 22, Wright sees Griffin's Baylor teammate, Kendall Wright, going to the Browns. I can see that.
Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler to the Steelers is questionable at No. 24. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Zeitler as second-round material. Even Wright has Georgia guard Cordy Glenn rated ahead of Zeitler, although in his mock draft he has Glenn going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31.
The 49ers are actually picking 30th. Wright's mock draft is as of Jan. 20, so it's not updated with playoff positioning.
Also interesting in Wright's mock draft is the Denver Broncos taking Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard at No. 25. The Broncos have a need on the defensive line and defensive tackles Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State are still on the board.
No. 3: Chad Reuter
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In his mock draft posted Feb. 7, Chad Reuter of NFL.com has Blackmon going to the Rams at No. 2.
As I've said, I don't think that will happen because the Rams will trade the pick or use it to address a position of higher value.
Reuter has Kalil going to the Vikings at No. 3 and Griffin going to the Browns at No. 4 (like Wright he's also predicting that Wright will go with Griffin at No. 22).
Claiborne goes to the Bucs at No. 5 in Reuter's mock draft. Ronde Barber is 36 so that makes sense.
Like Brugler, Reuter also has the guts to have Tannehill going to the Redskins at No. 6.
At No. 16, Reuter is the only draft expert on this list who projects the Jets to go with offense. Stanford guard David DeCastro is the choice there.
Not that the Jets don't have needs on defense, but they ran for less than four yards a carry and allowed 40 sacks in 2011, so they might try draft an offensive lineman.
Richardson, who is in everyone else's top six, falls to the Bengals at No. 17 according to Reuter. He could fall that far if Cincinnati looks somewhere other than running back and Cedric Benson's days in Cincinnati could be numbered.
Reuter breaks from the pack as the only one not predicting a wide receiver going to the Texans at No. 26. Instead, he has them taking Wisconsin center Peter Konz. I'm not sure about that.
Andre Johnson's health concerns last season and the need for another deep threat might steer the Texans toward a receiver.
The Steelers will take Glenn at No. 24 and the Giants will choose Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe at No. 32 in Reuter's mock draft. If Poe is still on the board, the Steelers will take him. Casey Hampton had ACL surgery and will be 35 next season, so they have a dire need at nose tackle.
No. 4: Mel Kiper
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It's only February. It's like the first quarter in the mock draft game. I have a feeling Mel Kiper will rise to the top of this list when it matters most in April.
For now, Kiper's mock draft is only No. 4. It came out Jan. 18, so it's likely he'll be coming out with another one soon.
One of the reasons I have Kiper ranked so low is because he has Blackmon going to the Rams at No. 2. I've gone over this previously. Who knows if the Rams will keep that pick?
I do like Kiper predicting the Griffin-Wright combo at No. 4 and No. 22 for the Browns.
Those who know me know that I also like Poe going to the Steelers at No. 24 in Kiper's mock draft.
Kiper rightfully has the Patriots addressing their pass rush with LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers at No. 27. However, he also says that he sees Brockers' stock growing and that he'll likely move up the board.
Most of the other mock drafts on this list already have Brockers going sooner, so Kiper might be a little behind there.
But, he's Mel Kiper, so he'll catch up and then some.
No. 5: Rob Rang
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Another Blackmon-at-No. 2 guy, Rang of The Sports Xchange, via CBSSports.com, came out with his mock draft Feb. 7.
Wright to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 13 is an eyebrow raiser. The Cardinals have much more of a need on the offensive line than they do at receiver.
The Browns are a team that needs a receiver. It doesn't necessarily have to be Wright, who is Griffin's teammate at Baylor, but they need one and Rang's mock draft is one of two on this list that doesn't have the Browns picking one. I'd look for the Browns to take Blackmon at No. 4 if they can't get Griffin.
Rang is the only one here who has the Patriots picking a wide receiver in the first round. Rueben Randle of LSU goes to New England at No. 31 in his mock draft.
Good call there. Tight ends were the focus of the Patriots' potent offense in 2011, but they could use a deep threat.
No. 6: NFL Draft Dog
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NFL Draft Dog, in its mock draft Jan. 22, switches things up with the Rams taking Kalil at No. 2 and the Vikings taking Blackmon at No. 3.
I still think that's a little too high for Blackmon.
Speaking of pass-catching players, NFL Draft Dog has Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen going to the Bears at No. 19. The rest of the mock drafts have the Bears taking a receiver, but I could see them taking a tight end.
Cornerback is an area of need for the Bengals. Nate Clements isn't getting any younger. But I'm not sure they need to use both of their picks in the first round on cornerbacks. This mock draft has Dennard going to the Bengals at No. 17 and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick being chosen at No. 21.
Despite his character issues, I don't know if Kirkpatrick will fall that far. Furthermore, the Bengals need to use one of those picks on a running back.
This is another mock draft that doesn't have the Browns addressing their need at wide receiver to go with Griffin at No. 4.
Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is going to the Steelers at No. 24 in this mock draft. The Steelers will need a little help at receiver with Jerricho Cotchery likely signing elsewhere and Hines Ward's future up in the air. But nose tackle and offensive line are more pressing needs for Pittsburgh. They can take a receiver later.
NFL Draft Dog has Tannehill going to the Broncos at No. 25. I don't think the Broncos will give up on Tim Tebow so soon, but it might not be a bad idea to have some insurance.
The Patriots are heavily addressing their secondary with their two first-rounders in this mock draft, with Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 27 and North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins at No. 32 (even though they're really picking at No. 31).
I can see that happening.