2012 NFL Mock Draft: The Latest First Round Buzz and Predictions
At this point in the NFL draft process, projections are constantly changing. The one thing we can guarantee won't change is that Stanford's Andrew Luck will remain cemented at No. 1.
Everyone loves mock drafts. They offer fun possibilities and intriguing scenarios. A mock may not make you happy; in fact, it may upset you. But it will always inspire conversation.
Mock drafts may not be all that meaningful. Rankings are infinitely more substantial. However, nothing is more fun to read, and nothing applies to more NFL fans.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
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This pick is done. There is no more discussion, there is no debate and there is no controversy. Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick, and he should be.
Luck is the best quarterback prospect in a long time. The 6'4", 235-pounder is a terrific athlete with impressive physical ability and mental prowess.
At Stanford, Luck was already running an NFL offense. Luck would choose between three plays at the line of scrimmage based on what he saw from the defense. Most NFL quarterbacks don't even do that.
It's almost impossible to imagine someone filling Peyton Manning's shoes. He was the NFL's best for so long. How could anyone replace him?
Luck may be able to do it.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams have plenty of needs, but none are bigger than offensive tackle. Jason Smith is officially a bust, and Rodger Saffold really struggled in his sophomore season. Wide receiver may be just as big of a need, but Matt Kalil offers a better value than Justin Blackmon does.
Kalil is the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long in 2008. The USC product is athletic and possesses the length to keep defenders at bay.
At 6'7", 295 pounds, Kalil could stand to gain weight, but he is a terrific athlete and has the frame to bulk up. Though there are some concerns about Kalil's motor, he is an outstanding talent worthy of the No. 2 pick.
Trading down makes a ton of sense for St. Louis here. The Rams could move back a few spots, say with Washington, and still add Blackmon.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
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As much as the Vikings need help at cornerback, wide receiver is in nearly as bad of shape. Percy Harvin is the team's lone starting-caliber wideout, and even he isn't exactly reliable.
Justin Blackmon may be a questionable pick here in some analysts' eyes, but he will probably be picked in this range. The 6'1", 215-pound Oklahoma State star isn't especially fast, but he is quick and powerful after the catch.
Blackmon's lack of deep-threat ability is his biggest issue. Because he isn't overly tall or fast, Blackmon isn't great at stretching the field and is better utilized underneath.
Morris Claiborne would make a ton of sense for Minnesota here, as he is a better player than Blackmon. This pick isn't because of need or best player available, but value. No team likes taking a cornerback in the top five.
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
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After a decent rookie season, Colt McCoy was dreadful in 2011. The Browns' lack of offensive talent didn't help matters, but McCoy failed to succeed at the simplest of things, like reading a defense or throwing a five-yard slant.
Robert Griffin may not be a perfect fit in Pat Shurmur's West Coast Offense, but he is talented enough to play in any scheme. At just 6'1", 210 pounds, Griffin isn't overly big and could have injury problems in the NFL.
However, Griffin is track-star fast and throws a terrific deep ball. Physically, Griffin is good enough to be a superstar, and he's incredibly smart as well.
If the Browns don't re-sign Peyton Hillis, the Browns will need a running back, so Trent Richardson would also be a fit. Sheldon Brown needs replacing at cornerback too, and Morris Claiborne is still available.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
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Ronde Barber may or may not be retiring, and he isn't all that good anyway. Add this to Aqib Talib's rather significant off-the-field issues, and the Buccaneers have a need at cornerback.
Fortunately, Morris Claiborne is worth of a top-five selection. The LSU star is a great athlete who exercises outstanding technique in coverage.
At 6'1", 185 pounds, Claiborne has good length but could stand to bulk up. Regardless, Claiborne is a terrific player who may actually be a better cornerback than former teammate Patrick Peterson was a year ago.
LeGarrette Blount isn't exactly reliable at running back, so Trent Richardson would make also sense here.
6. Washington Redskins: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
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Above all else, Washington needs a quarterback. Unfortunately, Robert Griffin III is not available, so the Redskins instead opt for the best player available.
Richardson is an incredible running back prospect and is the best to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007. Few running backs are worthy of such high picks, but Richardson absolutely is.
A 5'11", 225-pound bowling ball, Richardson is a power back with speed. The Alabama star is an excellent receiver and possesses some shiftiness to go along with his strength.
Trading back would make a ton of sense for the Redskins here, and they could target Ryan Tannehill a little further down.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
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Aaron Kampman has played in a total of 17 games over the past three years. His 7.5 sacks don't exactly inspire confidence, and no other Jacksonville defensive ends have with their stats either.
Quinton Coples is a perfect fit. The 6'5", 281-pounder is an athletic freak with the size to dominate against the run. Jacksonville loves run-defending defensive ends, and Coples is definitely a fit.
Though he is an unbelievable athlete, Coples doesn't have a great first step. This along with his hot-and-cold motor limited his production in 2011, and he is not a sure bet as a pass-rusher. However, his upside is alluring.
The Jaguars could easily opt for Whitney Mercilus instead of Coples, and Dre Kirkpatrick is a tempting option too. Don't rule out a dark horse like Kendall Wright either.
8. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
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With Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, the Panthers aren't in bad shape at defensive end. Defensive tackle, on the other hand, is not in such good shape. Carolina's defensive tackles make up one of the NFL's worst units.
Fletcher Cox isn't being talked about as a top-10 pick yet, but he's exactly the type of player who gets drafted earlier than expected. The 6'4", 295-pounder is incredibly explosive and penetrates the backfield with ease.
Though he is solid, Michael Brockers probably isn't a game-changer in a 4-3 scheme. Cox very well could be, and Carolina desperately needs one.
The aforementioned Brockers could easily be the pick here, and Dre Kirkpatrick would also make sense.
9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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In 2011, Vernon Carey was pushed inside to guard and Marc Colombo was a bust at right tackle. Ideally, Miami would add an offensive playmaker here, but there aren't any great options there, so they settle for the value pick.
A former tight end, Riley Reiff is an excellent athlete and projects as a solid player in the NFL. At 6'6", 305 pounds, Reiff isn't particularly big, but he has the frame to add weight.
There are some concerns about whether Reiff can play left tackle, but in Miami, he could play on the right side. The Dolphins have an elite left tackle in Jake Long, and they are looking for a right tackle, not a blind-side protector.
In an ideal world, Miami moves up to select Robert Griffin. At nine, however, their best options are Reiff and Ryan Tannehill, who is probably too much of a reach.
10. Buffalo Bills: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
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Buffalo's faltering offense received plenty of attention late in 2011, but the team's defense was their biggest issue. More specifically, the Bills' pass rush was atrocious.
Whitney Mercilus is a reach here. There's no denying that. But NFL teams seem to like him, and his insane college production will push up his value.
The 6'4", 265-pounder is a good athlete with an excellent first step, but he doesn't have much for pass-rush moves. He also needs to add strength and improve against the run.
If the Bills look elsewhere, they could opt for an offensive tackle, and a sleeper pick is Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
11. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
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Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer in Seattle, and Charlie Whitehurst makes Jackson look like the savior. Simply put, the Seahawks' franchise quarterback is not on the roster.
Seattle likes mobile passers, and Ryan Tannehill fits the bill perfectly. A former wide receiver, Tannehill weighs in at 6'4", 235 pounds and can both run and throw.
The Texas A&M star possesses a rocket arm as well. He needs to work on his accuracy and decision-making, but that's to be expected given his lack of experience.
The Seahawks could reach for a pass-rusher or select Luke Kuechly if he's available. Michael Brockers may be too good of a value to pass on too.
12. Kansas City Chiefs: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
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If the Chiefs decide to roll with Matt Cassel in 2012—and it sounds like they will— they will likely address the offensive line early in the draft.
Branden Albert is a solid left tackle, but Barry Richardson is awful, and Kansas City desperately needs to add someone on the right side.
Historically, Mike Adams has been an underachiever, but he was excellent in 2011 after returning from a suspension. The 6'8", 320-pounder is a fantastic athlete with superb size.
After Matt Kalil, Adams has the most upside of any offensive tackle in the draft. Adams could definitely continue to underachieve as a pro, so he is not without risk.
Though he plays guard, David DeCastro is probably a better value at this point while also fitting a need.
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
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It's no secret that the Cardinals' offensive line is brutal and needs to be addressed before the 2012 season begins. Arizona needs help at virtually every offensive-line position.
A junior guard, David DeCastro is the best interior-line prospect to come along in years and could even be a top-10 selection. At 6'5", 310 pounds, DeCastro has perfect size and is a phenomenal athlete.
DeCastro is capable of power-blocking or pulling and picking up linebackers in space. Few offensive linemen are more versatile, and DeCastro is elite in literally every aspect of the game.
A pass-rusher would also make sense for Arizona, and there are many still available at this point.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
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Dallas's defense needs some work. The team's defensive ends are shaky, the cornerbacks are inconsistent at best, and, outside of DeMarcus Ware, its linebackers are nothing special. So the Cowboys go with the best defensive player.
Dre Kirkpatrick has the talent of a top-10 pick, and he could easily be gone by now. The 6'3", 190-pounder is a terrific athlete and could develop into a star.
Kirkpatrick's biggest problem is that he's rarely played in anything but press coverage. We know he can play physically at the line, but we don't know how well he can run downfield with wideouts.
Other than Kirkpatrick, Dallas could easily select Michael Brockers to solidify the defensive position. Janoris Jenkins is also a possibility if the Cowboys are willing to roll the dice.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Though the Eagles have historically ignored the linebacker position, they desperately need to add someone. Philadelphia's defense was putrid and their only huge weakness is at linebacker.
Luke Kuechly isn't a fantastic athlete, but he has superb instincts and racks up tackles. Though he is just 6'3", 235 pounds, Kuechly does a nice job of disengaging from blocks and making plays in the backfield.
Kuechly may never be an elite linebacker, but he will be a well-above average player. The winner of the Bronko Nagursky Trophy, Kuechly has been incredibly productive and has an extremely-high ceiling.
It looks like DeSean Jackson may be leaving in free agency, so the Eagles could try to find his replacement here if they elect for a receiver over a linebacker.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
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The Jets are known for their defense, but they really don't have a good pass rush. Bart Scott is likely gone after this year and New York needs to add linebackers—inside or outside.
At 6'2", 265 pounds, Courtney Upshaw has the size to play inside or outside linebacker. Upshaw isn't a great threat off the edge, but he's great against the run and can play in coverage.
Upshaw already has experience playing linebacker, so he isn't as risky as most 3-4 outside linebacker prospects. Versatility is crucial in Rex Ryan's defense and Upshaw can move around much like Bart Scott did.
Plaxico Burress appears to be on his way out in New York, and the Jets desperately need a No. 2 wideout, so Michael Floyd would also be a perfect fit.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
This pick almost seems like too much of a stereotype, but it makes sense on many levels.
The Bengals obviously have a history of drafting "troubled" players and Janoris Jenkins certainly fits that bill.
After losing Jonathan Joseph in free agency to the Houston Texans, Cincinnati has a glaring hole at cornerback. While Leon Hall is an excellent player, he recently tore his Achilles tendon and is just one of two cornerbacks.
Jenkins was a great player at Florida prior to being kicked off the team for multiple off-the-field problems. Now at North Alabama, Jenkins has continued to excel and is definitely a first-round value on the field.
18. San Diego Chargers: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
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By all accounts, the Chargers are prepared to move on from Vincent Jackson. Without Jackson, San Diego lacks a game-breaker at wide receiver, and they need to add someone.
If it weren't for injury and off-the-field issues, Michael Floyd may be a top-10 pick. The 6'3", 225-pounder possesses fantastic catching ability and is a well-above average athlete.
On the field, Floyd doesn't offer many negatives. The problems are his multiple arrests and injuries. He's certainly a high-risk prospect, but like many risky players, he's also high-reward.
San Diego also needs help at outside linebacker, and Nick Perry isn't too much of a reach here. When it comes to A.J. Smith, though, expect the unexpected.
19. Chicago Bears: Nick Perry, DE, USC
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Julius Peppers is still a great player, but the Bears need help at the other end position. Israel Idonije hasn't played well and Chicago doesn't have much potential behind him either.
Most expect Nick Perry to be drafted into a 3-4 defense, but he is capable of playing right end in a 4-3. Having Peppers on the other end doesn't hurt things.
The 6'3", 250-pound Perry fits the bill. Perry is a good athlete with a terrific motor. The USC star needs to add some more pass-rush moves, but he can develop into a solid right end.
There are two other needs for Chicago here: wide receiver and offensive line. The Bears are pretty awful at both positions.
20. Tennessee Titans: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
In 2011, Chris Johnson struggled, but it wasn't all his fault. The Tennessee interior offensive line was simply awful, and the team needs to add at least one new starter. Three would be ideal.
Personally, I don't think Cordy Glenn is worth this high of a pick, but I can accept the fact that he will be drafted around here. The 6'6", 346-pounder is a massive, powerful lineman with some versatility.
Though he played left tackle as a senior, Glenn will play guard in the NFL. The Georgia lineman is somewhat athletically limited there, but his power will make him a first-round pick.
Tennessee is probably losing Cortland Finnegan in free agency, so the team could look to add a cornerback here too. The Titans' pass-rush is pretty awful as well.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
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Though Domata Peko is replaceable, he is decent, and Geno Atkins is obviously a star. So why would Cincinnati draft a defensive tackle in the first round?
Because Michael Brockers is a steal here.
The 6'6", 306-pounder is a great athlete with impressive power. Brockers's versatility is Mike Zimmer's dream, and the LSU standout can play just about any interior line position.
Brockers will probably never be a star in the NFL, but he looks like a sure-fire solid player. There isn't much risk here, and the reward is reasonably high.
The Bengals are also looking to upgrade at safety, and Mark Barron is still available. Kendall Wright could also be an intriguing option.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
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After already selecting a quarterback, the Browns now need to add offensive playmakers. Greg Little may become a good receiver in the future, but he is unlikely to become a legitimate No. 1 wideout.
Kendall Wright is a fast, quick wideout with huge playmaking ability. Though he weighs in at just 5'10", 190 pounds, Wright has great upside and could develop into a Jeremy Maclin-esque player.
Wright is a fantastic fit opposite of Little and could immediately start. It's not likely that Wright will ever be an elite player, but he can be a No. 1 wide receiver. There is no reason why Wright shouldn't develop into at least a solid player.
The Browns also need to add a running back, but they could also select a cornerback or defensive end.
23. Detroit Lions: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
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Detroit has three main needs to address: linebacker, cornerback and offensive line. However, Martin Mayhew has proven he will ignore need and select the best player available. It just so happens that the best player available fits a need.
Detroit's linebackers are absolutely awful in coverage and only a little better in run support. Zach Brown weighs in at just 6'1", 236 pounds, but he is incredibly fast.
Brown is not a perfect player by any means, and he struggles to shed blocks, but he flows to the ball unbelievably well. His coverage skills are extremely impressive too.
Jonathan Martin would be a decent value at offensive tackle, and Stephon Gilmore will be selected in this range too. The Lions have plenty of options.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
In recent years, the Steelers have devoted many high draft picks to the defensive line. However, both Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood play defensive end. Casey Hampton is aging, and Pittsburgh needs an heir apparent at nose tackle.
Dontari Poe is that guy.
A 6'5", 350-pound freak, Dontari Poe is a terrific value here. Poe is talented enough to be selected in the first 15 picks, and he should be long gone by now.
Men with Poe's size simply should not move like he does. The Memphis star has the physical ability of Shaun Rogers and could develop into an elite player.
The offensive line remains an issue for the Steelers, so Jonathan Martin or Kevin Zeitler would also provide upgrades.
25. Denver Broncos: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
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Champ Bailey isn't as young (or good) as he once was, and the Broncos need someone to start opposite him too. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are obvious bright spots, but Denver's defense needs work.
Stephon Gilmore isn't exceptional at anything, but he's good at everything. The 6'0" 195-pounder is a good athlete capable of playing in zone or man coverage.
Gilmore has the talent to develop into an excellent player, but he was inconsistent throughout his college career. In one game, Gilmore would look like a star. In another, a mid-round pick.
As a sleeper pick, Coby Fleener could make sense. Denver would like to add a safety net for Tim Tebow, and Fleener is a perfect fit.
26. Houston Texans: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
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Houston's defense was fantastic in 2011, but its secondary is not perfect. Jonathan Joseph is a stud cornerback. The rest of the unit isn't so peachy.
Though he is probably a pure strong safety, Mark Barron is actually a good value here. A hernia could make Barron fall, but he's still a good value nonetheless.
At 6'2", 218 pounds, Barron is somewhat athletically limited. However, he is strong and is physical against the run. Versatility is usually key at safety, but Barron may be an exception.
The Texans need to add another wide receiver to play opposite—or in place of—the often-injured Andre Johnson. Alshon Jeffery is a risky, but potentially rewarding option.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Devon Still, DT, Penn State
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A few years ago, the Patriots had an outstanding defensive line with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork all dominating. Now, New England has just one solid lineman in Wilfork and need to upgrade at the other positions.
Bill Belichick is still experimenting with different defensive schemes, and Devon Still can play in a 4-3 or 3-4. At 6'5", 310 pounds, Still has the size Belichick looks for in his defensive linemen.
Still is an excellent athlete who has underachieved in the past. However, Still broke out somewhat in 2011 and flashed his talent. The Penn State lineman is still raw, but he has the potential to dominate in the NFL.
New England also desperately needs to add a pass-rusher, and Vinny Curry fits Belichick's profile. Peter Konz is also a great fit seeing as Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly are both free agents.
28. Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
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Only Green Bay's defense limited its 2011 season. The Packers obviously have a terrific offense, but the team needs defensive line help and another pass-rusher to play across from Clay Matthews.
Though he weighs in at 6'2", 275 pounds, Melvin Ingram is athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Ingram played defensive end, linebacker and even defensive tackle at South Carolina. How's that for versatility?
Ingram will probably never be a star, but he will contribute in many ways. He is solid against the run, and his ability to move around is immeasurable.
The Packers could make a surprise pick here by selecting Vontaze Burfict. Green Bay doesn't have a huge need at inside linebacker, but Burfict could wreak havoc behind B.J. Raji.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
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Matt Birk is a free agent, and at 35 years old, he could easily be retiring. Even if Birk does stick around, he isn't anything special, and Ben Grubbs might be leaving in free agency. To put it simply, the Ravens need interior line help.
Peter Konz is a powerful, intelligent player who could play guard or center. The Wisconsin product may never become a Nick Mangold-esque player, but he should at least be solid for many years.
Over the years, Ozzie Newsome has shown a tendency to address the offensive line. Baltimore's line is a key aspect to its success, and they can't afford to let it fall apart in one offseason.
It's really hard to pass on Vontaze Burfict here. The Arizona State linebacker could be a perfect replacement for Ray Lewis, and he has some serious potential.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
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The Braylon Edwards experiment was a huge failure, and Michael Crabtree hasn't lived up to expectations. If the 49ers want to roll with Alex Smith at quarterback, they should probably surround him with talent.
Prior to the 2011 season, Alshon Jeffery was seen as a top-five pick. The 6'3", 235-pounder can catch almost anything, but he looked fat and slow far too often to not drop in the draft.
Jeffery's potential is still through the roof though. The South Carolina star is incredibly smooth and actually has the most upside of any wide receiver in the draft. Jeffery is risky, but his NFL team could walk away with a steal.
San Francisco is in danger of losing cornerback Carlos Rogers in free agency, so they could consider Alfonzo Dennard here.
31. New England Patriots: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Patriots have three weapons in Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But they lack a true wide receiver after Welker. The Super Bowl showed that New England needs another threat on the outside.
Though he isn't a star, Mohamed Sanu is solid. The Rutgers product is versatile—he has played almost everywhere on offense—and he is big.
At 6'2", 215 pounds, Sanu is a physical presence in the red zone. He isn't a burner or overly shifty, but he can run through tackles and catch the football.
New England also really needs help at cornerback and defensive end. Alfonzo Dennard isn't a schematic fit, but the Patriots could reach on Vinny Curry if they want a pass-rusher.
32. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
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Kareem McKenzie is a free agent, and he isn't any good as it is. William Beatty is probably just as bad. In other words, the Giants really need to add an offensive tackle.
At this point, Jonathan Martin is a pretty good value. Some feel he is a top-15 pick, and Andrew Luck's left tackle can play four positions along the offensive line.
At 6'5", 310 pounds, Martin lacks power. His best attribute is his athletic ability, but he isn't great there either. But at the end of the first, Martin is an excellent addition.
With Aaron Ross probably leaving in free agency, the Giants might also look at cornerback. The team's injury-riddled 2011 season showed how important depth is there.