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2012 NFL Mock Draft: The Latest First-Round Projections, Post-Scouting Combine

Mike BatistaContributor IMarch 2, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: The Latest First-Round Projections, Post-Scouting Combine

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    Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is over, the 2012 NFL Mock Draft season can really begin.

    We know Andrew Luck is going to the Colts. I wonder if he picked a locker before leaving the combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    Robert Griffin III will go second. We just don't know the team. It will be whichever team puts together the best package to make a deal with the St. Louis Rams, who currently own the No. 2 pick.

    The other 30 first-round selections aren't so certain. That's why we have mock drafts.

    Follow me @Steel_Tweets.

No. 1: Indianapolis Colts

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    Andrew Luck, QB

    Stanford

    Isn't it inevitable that a guy named Luck will have a horseshoe on his helmet?

    Whatever happens with Peyton Manning, the Colts are rather, um, lucky to be making a seamless transition to their next franchise quarterback.

    Luck has size (6'4", 234 pounds) and unheralded mobility. His ability to read defenses is what makes him the best quarterback in this class, according to NFL Draft Scout.

No. 2: Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams)

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    Robert Griffin III, QB

    Baylor

    I'm joining the camp that believes it will be the Redskins who trade up to get Griffin at No. 2.

    The Dolphins and Browns also have been mentioned as candidates to trade up to No. 2. The Dolphins are more likely to go after free agent Matt Flynn, though.

    That leaves the Redskins and Browns, and I think wheeler and dealer Daniel Snyder wins the RGIII sweepstakes.

No. 3: Minnesota Vikings

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    Matt Kalil, OT

    USC

    According to Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press (via Pro Football Talk), the Vikings want to trade the No. 3 pick, but might have a hard time finding takers since the No. 3 pick won't be high enough to take Robert Griffin III.

    Sure, the Vikings are rebuilding and could use multiple picks to get help everywhere, but why not start with the best left tackle in the draft?

No. 4: Cleveland Browns

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    Justin Blackmon, WR

    Oklahoma State

    The Browns don't get Robert Griffin III, but they get the draft's top receiver as a consolation prize.

    A lot of draft pundits might have soured on Blackmon because he didn't run at the combine, but he still goes at No. 4 because the Browns need a receiver.

    Blackmon might not be flashy, but he could be a nice security blanket for whoever ends up calling signals in Cleveland's offense.

No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Trent Richardson, RB

    Alabama

    NFL offenses tend to be moving away from the ground game, but Richardson is too good to pass up at No. 5 for new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.

    There are no combine numbers to go on because knee surgery prevented Richardson from participating. However, 1,976 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns in 2011 are some pretty good measurables.

    Richardson also equaled Shaun Alexander's school record with six straight 100-yard rushing games last season.

No. 6: St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)

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    Riley Reiff, OT

    Iowa

    The Rams get this pick in the trade with the Redskins. The have their quarterback in Sam Bradford, and here they'll get the guy to protect his blind side.

    Reiff's arms measured short for a left tackle at the combine, according to Pro Football Talk, but he remains the second-best tackle prospect in the draft.

    The 6'5.75", 313-pounder started 29 games at left tackle at Iowa.

No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Morris Claiborne, CB

    LSU

    The Jaguars desperately need a receiver, but Justin Blackmon is gone by now. They also could use a cornerback with Rashean Mathis becoming a free agent.

    Jacksonville gets good value as Claiborne, a top-five pick in a lot of mock drafts, slips to No. 7.

    Claiborne had six interceptions in 2011 and led the nation with 173 interception return yards.

No. 8: Miami Dolphins

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    Jonathan Martin, OT

    Stanford

    The Dolphins need a right tackle. Also, with Jake Long tearing his biceps late last season and entering the final year of his contract, they eventually might need a left tackle.

    A lot of mock drafts had Reiff going to the Dolphins, but because of the shakeup from the Griffin trade, he's gone by now, and Martin cracks the top 10.

    Martin protected Andrew Luck's blind side and says he's better than USC's Matt Kalil, but he hasn't moved ahead of Kalil on the board. Not yet, anyway.

No. 9: Carolina Panthers

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    Quinton Coples, DE

    North Carolina

    The Panthers need help everywhere on defense, and they don't have to look beyond the state border to find the best defensive player left on the board.

    Carolina was 25th in the NFL with 31 sacks in 2011. Coples had 24 career sacks at North Carolina.

    Frank Cooney of the SportsXChange and NFL Draft Scout (via CBSSports.com) says Coples might be best suited for defensive end in a 4-3, which is what the Panthers run.

No. 10: Buffalo Bills

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    Melvin Ingram, OLB

    South Carolina

    The Bills are another team that needs a pass-rusher. They were 27th in the NFL with 29 sacks.

    Ingram had 8.5 sacks and two interceptions last season, and 21.5 career sacks.

    He participated in the combine as a defensive lineman, but according to nfl.com and NFL Draft Scout, a lot of teams see him as an outside linebacker at the next level.

No. 11: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Dontari Poe, NT

    Memphis

    I can't say I'm the first one to have Poe going to the Chiefs at No. 11. Scott Wright's Draft Countdown had Poe at 11 before Poe's monstrous showing at the combine.

    Chiefs nose tackle Kelly Gregg will be 36 next season. The alternative is Jerrell Powe, a sixth-round draft pick last season, so the Chiefs will go with the Poe without the "w."

    The 6'4", 346-pounder was the overall bench press leader at the combine, with 44 reps.

No. 12: Seattle Seahawks

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    Courtney Upshaw, OLB

    Alabama

    The rush on pass-rushers continues here. The Seahawks were a mediocre 19th in the NFL with 33 sacks in 2011.

    The Seahawks' top need is quarterback, and they'll be in the running for either the No. 2 pick or maybe even Peyton Manning. But No. 12 is too early to take Ryan Tannehill, the consensus No. 3 quarterback in the draft.

    Upshaw was fourth in the SEC with 8.5 sacks in 2011.

No. 13: Arizona Cardinals

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    Michael Floyd, WR

    Notre Dame

    Larry Fitzgerald has asked for help at wide receiver, according to Pro Football Talk, and if I'm the Cardinals, I give Fitzgerald what he wants.

    Floyd could be the possession receiver Arizona needs to complement Fitzgerald.

    He is tied for second in Notre Dame history with 13 100-yard receiving games, and is the Fighting Irish's all-time leader with 28 touchdown catches.

No. 14: Dallas Cowboys

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    David DeCastro, OG

    Stanford

    DeCastro is the first one chosen in a strong offensive guard class.

    The Cowboys also could use a cornerback. Terence Newman is a candidate to be cut and Dre Kirkpatrick is still on the board, but Dallas gets better value with DeCastro.

    Tony Romo was sacked 36 times in 2011. He'll be 32 next season and is getting a little old for that kind of abuse.

No. 15: Philadephia Eagles

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    Luke Kuechly, ILB

    Boston College

    Kuechly and the Eagles seem to go hand-in-hand in most of the mock drafts.

    According to NFL Draft Scout, Kuechly wasn't expected to dazzle anyone at the combine, but he did.

    Kuechly led all linebackers in the 60-yard shuttle and was among the top five linebackers in the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He was no slouch in the bench press, either, with 27 reps.

No. 16: New York Jets

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    Cordy Glenn, OG

    Georgia

    Mark Sanchez was sacked 39 times in 2011, and the Jets averaged just 105.8 rushing yards per game, 22nd in the league.

    The Jets need help on the offensive line. Before the combine, Glenn at No. 16 would have been a bit of a reach. Not now.

    The 6'5", 345-pounder was sixth among offensive linemen with a 5.15-second 40-yard dash and tied for eighth among O-linemen with 31 bench press reps.

No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Dre Kirkpatrick, CB

    Alabama

    There might be some minor character concerns with Kirkpatrick, but there's at least one other cornerback prospect who makes him seem like a choir boy.

    Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is expected back in time for training camp after tearing his Achilles in November, according to ESPN.com. But the Bengals need a successor to the aging Nate Clements on the other side.

    Kirkpatrick had 11 career interceptions at Alabama, but at 6'2", 186, he might want to mix a few steaks into his diet.

No. 18: San Diego Chargers

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    Nick Perry, DE

    USC

    The Chargers hope Perry can be what Larry English was supposed to be when they drafted him at No. 16 in 2009.

    English has just 37 tackles and seven sacks in three seasons. Perry led the Pac-12 in 2011 with 9.5 sacks.

    Perry was third among defensive linemen at the combine with a 4.64-second 40. He likely translates to outside linebacker in the NFL, according to nfl.com.

No. 19: Chicago Bears

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    Stephen Hill, WR

    Georgia Tech

    Hill was one of the stars of the combine with his 4.36-second 40-yard dash, tying him for first among wide receivers. His 11'1" broad jump led all receivers, and will catapult him from a mid-round selection to No. 19.

    The Bears need a receiver because their leading pass-catcher in 2011 was running back Matt Forte with 52. Johnny Knox and Roy Williams tied for the team lead among receivers with 37.

    The 6'4" Hill is a big target. He caught 28 passes in 2011 and led the nation with 29.3 yards per reception.

No. 20: Tennessee Titans

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    Whitney Mercilus, DE

    Illinois

    The Titans were second to last in the NFL with 28 sacks in 2011. Mercilus, in his first year as a starter, led the nation with 16 sacks and forced nine fumbles, second in NCAA history for a single season.

    Mercilus had just two career sacks heading into his breakout season, so he has to prove he's not a one-year wonder, according to NFL Draft Scout.

    Mercilus ran an impressive 4.68 in the 40 at the combine.

No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Michael Brockers, DT

    LSU

    The Bengals need a running back if Cedric Benson goes in free agency, but there's not a lot of first-round value at the position after Trent Richardson.

    The slide stops here for Brockers. The 6'5", 322 pounder skyrocketed on a lot of mock drafts before the combine. But a disappointing combine, along with concerns about him starting only one year, will hurt his stock.

    Brockers' upside, however, could make him the best player available at No. 21.

No. 22: Cleveland Browns

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    Ryan Tannehill, QB

    Texas A&M

    Tannehill is the biggest wild card in the draft. He's in the top 10 of some mock drafts and out of the first round in others.

    Tannehill broke his foot in January and could not work out at the combine. His pro day is scheduled for March 29.

    The 6'4", 222 pounder is a rare athlete. He was mostly a receiver his first two years in College Station, then took over as starting quarterback in 2010.

No. 23: Detroit Lions

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    Janoris Jenkins, CB

    North Alabama

    Jenkins slides a little because of character concerns. He was kicked out of Florida and had to play his senior season at North Alabama.

    The Lions won't soon forget being torched for a non-overtime playoff record 466 yards by Drew Brees in their 45-28 wild-card playoff loss to the Saints.

    Therefore, Detroit is willing to take a chance on the top cornerback left on the board and hope that Jenkins gets his act together off the field. After all, he's got mouths to feed.

No. 24: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Dont'a Hightower, ILB

    Alabama

    James Farrior is 37 and Larry Foote will be 32 next season. The Steelers aren't likely to keep both inside linebackers.

    Hightower was the Crimson Tide's leading tackler in 2011 with 85, including 11 for loss. He also had four sacks.

    Hightower is a mainstay in the weight room and film room, according to NFL Draft Scout (via CBSSports.com). He has leadership potential, which the Steelers will be looking for if Farrior, their defensive captain, is the odd man out.

No. 25: Denver Broncos

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    Dwayne Allen, TE

    Clemson

    Focusing the offense around tight ends is all the rage in the NFL, and the Broncos try to make life easier for Tim Tebow by giving him the top tight end in the draft as a target.

    The 6'3", 255-pound Allen caught 48 passes with eight touchdowns last season. He tied for second among tight ends at the combine with 27 reps on the bench press.

    Now all Tebow has to do is learn how to throw intermediate-route passes.

No. 26: Houston Texans

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    Peter Konz, C

    Wisconsin

    According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Pro Football Talk), the Packers and center Scott Wells are in a contract negotiation stalemate, so the Packers are eyeing Texans center Chris Myers, who is likely to test the free-agent waters.

    If this happens, it would set in motion a game of musical chairs in which the Texans draft Konz, who grew up and went to college in Packers territory.

    At 6'5", 314 pounds, Konz has unusual size for a center and is regarded as the top center in the draft despite his anemic 18 reps in the combine bench press.

No. 27: New England Patriots

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    Devon Still, DT

    Penn State

    Still broke out in 2011 after an injury-plagued college career, which causes him to fall to late in the first round despite saying he's the top defensive tackle in the draft.

    The Patriots have more pressing needs at cornerback and wide receiver, but they pick again at No. 31, so they can afford to go "best player available" here.

    NFL.com characterizes Still as someone who could start right away in the NFL.

No. 28: Green Bay Packers

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    Fletcher Cox, DT

    Mississippi State

    The Packers sacked opposing quarterbacks 29 times in 2011, tied for 27th in the NFL.

    The best pass-rushers are gone by No. 28, but Cox had five sacks in 2011 and is still developing as a pass-rusher, according to NFL Draft Scout via CBSSports.com.

    Cox had a solid combine. The 298-pounder was seventh among defensive linemen with a 4.79 40-yard dash.

No. 29: Baltimore Ravens

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    Kendall Wright, WR

    Baylor

    Problem child Vontaze Burfict had a bad combine and blew a chance to be Ray Lewis' successor at inside linebacker. Lewis, who knows a thing or two about straightening out his act, could have taken him under his wing.

    The Ravens have a more immediate need at wide receiver, where Lee Evans caught just four passes in nine games in 2011. Also, Anquan Boldin will turn 32 next season.

    Wright's subpar 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine is a factor in his drop all the way to No. 29, where the Ravens snap him up.

No. 30: San Francisco 49ers

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    Rueben Randle, WR

    LSU

    The 49ers were 29th in the NFL with 183 passing yards per game in 2011, ahead of only two non-playoff teams (Rams and Jaguars) and the Tim Tebow-led Broncos.

    Michael Crabtree led the 49ers with 72 receptions in 2011, but averaged just 12.1 yards per catch.

    Randle is another receiver with a disappointing 40 time at the combine (4.55), but that won't overshadow these 2011 numbers: 53 catches, 917 yards, eight touchdowns.

No. 31: New England Patriots

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    Alfonzo Dennard, CB

    Nebraska

    Dennard first caught the eye of scouts in 2010 when they went to see his teammate, Prince Amukamara.

    Opponents threw for 293 yards per game on the Patriots in 2011, second worst in the league. Elite quarterbacks like Eli Manning can exploit that weakness.

    Dennard's 37-inch vertical leap was fourth among cornerbacks at the combine. According to nfl.com, there are no glaring weaknesses in his game.

No. 32: New York Giants

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    Jerel Worthy, DT

    Michigan State

    The Giants don't exactly need help on the defensive line, but a lot of mock drafts have Worthy going higher, and the Super Bowl champions can afford to take the best player available.

    Worthy had only 3.5 sacks in 2011, but he can be disruptive in the offensive backfield, according to Chad Reuter of NFL Draft Scout via CBSSports.com.

    At 308 pounds, Worthy could develop into a nose tackle, but would be more ideal as a tackle in a 4-3 scheme, which is what the Giants run.

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