2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Pick-by-Pick Projections

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor IFebruary 21, 2012

The annual NFL runway show is nearly upon us.

Defensive linemen in track gear. Hundreds of stopwatches.  Number two pencils for the Wonderlic. All leading towards three glorious days at the end of April.

Going into the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, here is how we see the first round shaking out.

1. Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Now matter how many weird tweets Jim Irsay sends out, Andrew Luck is going to be a wearing a horseshoe. The Colts might have a better shot at moving back to Baltimore than they do of passing on Luck.

2. Cleveland Browns (*Trade with St. Louis)

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor 

In exchange for the 4th and 22nd picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, along with a third round pick in 2013, the Browns add an electric weapon to a developing arsenal in Cleveland. Griffin will become an instantaneous favorite on and off the field.

3. Minnesota Vikings

Matt Kalil, OL, USC 

Once owners of a stalwart offensive line, the Vikings have let a strength become a weakness. Matt Kalil is a true left tackle that can keep Christian Ponder upright and make some holes for Adrian Peterson and company.

4. St. Louis Rams (*Trade with Cleveland)

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa 

Picking up some extra picks from Cleveland will allow the Rams to fill multiple needs in the 2012 NFL Draft. The offensive line needs upgrading and the technically sound Reiff will certainly provide that. Reiff will win teams over in the combine interviews, if he hasn't so already. If Justin Blackmon or another receiver is high on the Rams' list, he might be the pick here as well.

5. Tampa Bay Bucs

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU 

Claiborne was an integral part of LSU's stifling defense last year, the Bucs have to hope that he can do the same for them. He can play both man and zone, as well as returning kicks. Claiborne is one of the cleaner cornerback prospects that we've seen in a while.

6. Washington Redskins

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

If the Redskins can't trade up for Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill is the consolation prize. He won't be ready to start right off the bat, but his upside is nearly as high as his counterpart from Baylor. Running back Trent Richardson might get a look here as well.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The Jaguars haven't had a go-to receiver since Jimmy Smith was on the team. Landing Blackmon would instantly give Jacksonville some credibility on offense.

8. Carolina Panthers

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

The Panthers need to upgrade their defense at all levels. If Carolina is scared by Coples' poor first half of 2011, Michael Brockers (DL, LSU) or Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama) could also be targets here. Look for Coples to be one of the most impressive athletes at the combine later this week.

9. Miami Dolphins

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

If the Dolphins can't land a quarterback they feel comfortable with, drafting another weapon is their best bet in upgrading their offense. Wright is a well-rounded receiver that should make his teammates better by drawing attention on his deep routes.

10. Buffalo Bills

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

Aaron Maybin is still a dirty word in Buffalo. Nick Perry could help erase Bills fans memory of Maybin with his explosive edge-rushing ability. Bringing some scheme versatility to the table is also important, especially for a defense in transition.

11. Kansas City Chiefs

Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

Justin Houston and Tamba Hali were a force to be reckoned with in the latter half of the 2011 NFL season. Adding in Courtney Upshaw, a versatile prospect that Romeo Crennel could use in a variety of spots, makes facing the Chiefs defense a suddenly scary task.

12. Seattle Seahawks

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU

The Seahawks need to be injecting some youth and talent into their defensive line. Brockers has a lot of potential, but doesn't have the production of some older NFL Draft prospects. That said, someone will take an early chance on his size, versatility, and upside.

13. Arizona Cardinals

Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State 

If the Cardinals don’t target the tackle position, someone should lose their job. Mike Adams is a huge prospect that can help keep Kevin Kolb healthy and open up some holes in the run game.

14. Dallas Cowboys

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Cowboys defensive backfield has become a liability over the last few years. Kirkpatrick's size, length and coverage ability will help Demarcus Ware and the other pass rushers get an extra fraction of a second to get to the quarterback.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

The Eagles need to add some sure tacklers in their linebacking corps and Kuechly is easily the most accomplished tackler in this draft class. He won't make a ton of highlight plays, but can help the Eagles defense in a hundred little ways. Kuechly will also be a vocal leader on and off the field.

16. New York Jets

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

10 years ago, Richardson might have been the first pick in the draft. In today's NFL, the consensus top running back might not go in the top ten. As much as the Jets want to employ the "ground and pound," Richardson would be a dynamic addition to Shonn Greene and company.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland)

Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Benglas might shy away from a prospect with character concerns, but Jenkins has the on-field skills to make the pick a worthwhile risk. Adding Jenkins' coverage skills to an already good defense would give Cincinnati a legitimate shot at the AFC North crown.

18. San Diego Chargers

Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

Hightower is one of the most versatile prospects in the entire draft in my opinion. He can play 3-4 OLB and ILB, as well as rushing with his hand down. The Chargers can certainly use a playmaker at all of those positions.

19. Chicago Bears

David DeCastro, OL, Stanford

Despite having a decent enough running game with Matt Forte, Jay Cutler needs some more protection up front. If a receiver or offensive tackle that the Bears love isn't available here, look for DeCastro to be the pick.

20. Tennessee Titans

Devon Still, DL, Penn State

Still is a versatile prospect that can play both the pass and the run.

If Cortland Finnegan ends up playing elsewhere in 2012, the cornerback position will need some attention as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

Trent Richardson might get the press, but Doug Martin is the "other" complete back in this draft class. Adding Martin to the triumvirate of Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham would give the Bengals offense a foundation for the next five years.

22. St. Louis Rams (*Trade With Cleveland)

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina 

The Rams desperately need weapons. Procuring Alshon Jeffery this late in the draft would be a dream come true, especially considering this is really a bonus pick procured from Cleveland. Jeffery has taken a lot of flak for his inconsistent play in 2011, but the fact remains that he is every bit as talented as the other top receivers in this class. 

23. Detroit Lions

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin 

Picking a center is rarely sexy, but Konz is the type of prospect that can get an offensive coordinator excited. Smart blocking and good line calls will endear him to Matt Stafford as well.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia

Glenn can excel in the NFL at both the guard and tackle position—Pittsburgh would love to have him play both simultaneously if that were physically possible. Adding youth to the defense should also be a priority.

25. Denver Broncos

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Champ Bailey is not getting any younger. Gilmore is an impressive athlete with the instincts to make plays on the ball. If he can run in the 4.4's at the combine, he'll all but assure himself of being a top-40 pick. Adding another weapon for Tim Tebow could be an option here as well.

26. Houston Texans

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Giving Andre Johnson an effective partner at receiver has to be among the top priorities for the Texans. There are some concerns around Floyd's off-field issues, but there is no denying his talent between the lines.

27. New England Patriots

New England Patriots (via New Orleans)

Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State

Ever since Richard Seymour was traded to the Raiders, the Patriots have lacked an impact player at the 3-4 DE position. Cox has the size, explosion and strength to be able to be that player. The prospect of adding Brandon Lloyd calms some of the calls for drafting a receiver here, but that could change if a top prospect starts to fall.

28. Green Bay Packers

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina 

Ingram is a hard guy to project into the NFL. He does his best work from a 4-3 DT position, but will most likely play on the outside at the next level. Ingram could set up shop across from Clay Matthews and have a good career in Green Bay.

29. Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Martin, OL, Stanford

Bryant McKinnie and Jah Reid are not bad tackles. I think Martin could be an upgrade over both of them. Adding a linebacker or safety here could also be an option.

30. San Francisco 49ers

Alfonzo Dennard, CB/S, Nebraska

Dennard is a great fit for the San Francisco mindset on defense. He is extremely physical, competitive and plays with just the right amount of swagger. Giving Alex Smith another option at receiver will also be in play here.

31. Miami Dolphins (*Trade With New England)

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

In exchange for second-round picks in 2012 and 2013, as well as a fifth-round selection in 2012, the Patriots perform their annual late-first round shuffle. The Dolphins get their quarterback of the present in Weeden after missing out on Robert Griffin III.

32. New York Giants

Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

Brown is an athlete. He might run 4.3 at the NFL combine, which is absurd for a linebacker. If he can put it all together in the film room and on the practice field, Brown could be an absolute steal this late in the draft.


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