2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Full 1st-Round Mock Draft
On Feb. 22, the NFL scouting combine begins in Indianapolis as hundreds of college football's top players gather to be poked, prodded and Wonderlicked (sounds like more fun than it is) by NFL scouts and coaches in preparations for April's draft.
How some of those players perform will likely send some shockwaves across this list, altering the draft landscape (quite possibly more than it should), but here's one last pre-combine look at how the first round of the draft could shake out, including the trade that everyone expects to happen and a couple more that very well may not.
Indianapolis Colts, you are on the clock.
1:01: Indinapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Almost 55,000 career passing yards, 399 touchdown passes, 11 Pro Bowls, four NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl championship.
That's the shadow that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be stepping into if Peyton Manning does indeed part ways with the Colts and Luck starts in Indianapolis from day one.
No pressure or anything.
1.02: Washington Redskins (from STL), Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
There has been quite a bit of speculation that the Cleveland Browns, who possess two picks in the first round of the 2012 draft, will make a play for the second-overall pick, but in the end, team president Mike Holmgren will likely balk at the exorbitant price tag the pick will command, even if it means passing on a player of Griffin's talents.
However, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is desperate for a franchise quarterback and has never shied away from making big splashes, so even Redskins head coach Mike "Skeletor" Shanahan won't be able to talk Snyder out of mortgaging the team's future on the Heisman Trophy winner.
1.03: Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
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If the Rams pull the trigger on trading down and the Minnesota Vikings miss out on being the sellers in the Griffin sweepstakes, then I don't think Vikings fans need to worry about the clock running out on this pick, as it should take Minnesota about eight seconds to reach a decision on this one.
If quarterback Christian Ponder is going to develop, the second-year pro needs better protection on his blindside, and the 6'7", 295-pound All American, who didn't allow a sack as a junior at Southern Cal, would provide an immediate and significant upgrade at the position.
1.04: Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
A running back hasn't been chosen in the top-five picks of the NFL draft since 2008, and the last time the Cleveland Browns were in this position, they passed on choosing a running back, selecting offensive tackle Joe Thomas over Adrian Peterson with the third-overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Thomas has developed into arguably the best offensive lineman in the National Football League, but this time, with the Browns sorely lacking offensive playmakers, Cleveland will look to the draft's best ballcarrier in Trent Richardson of Alabama, who rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2011 for the Crimson Tide.
1.05: Chicago Bears (from TB), Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I discussed the possible.viability of the Chicago Bears making a play for Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon a week ago here at Bleacher Report, and with the Browns' selection of Trent Richardson leaving the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner on the board, the Bears may well consider it.
It would be a gutsy call that wouldn't come cheaply, but if Blackmon plays as advertised in the NFL, then the 6'1" 215-pounder, who caught over 3,200 yards in passes over the past two seasons, would provide Chicago with the number one wideout they so badly need.
1.06: St. Louis Rams (from WAS), Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The St. Louis Rams would likely seethe for a bit about losing out on Blackmon, but the Rams have a number of areas to address, including a defense that ranked 22nd in the National Football League and a secondary badly in need of an infusion of talent.
It's possible that the Rams might even attempt to trade down again from this spot, but if they hang onto the pick, the best selection for St. Louis is likely Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne, who is widely considered the top player at his position in the 2012 draft class.
1.07: Jacksonville Jaguars, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stranford
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I'm far from sold on Blaine Gabbert as the long-term answer at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it's hard to judge the youngster accurately after a 2011 season in which he spent much of the year scrambling for his life or flat on his back.
The Jaguars need to solidify an offensive line that surrendered 44 sacks last season, and 6'6", 305-pound offensive tackle Jonathan Martin of Stanford is a two-time All American who would do just that.
1.08: Miami Dolphins, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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With the Miami Dolphins transitioning to a 4-3 defensive front, the Dolphins badly need help on the defensive line (particularly at end), and it's a very real possibility that Miami could go in that direction here.
However, starting right tackle Marc Colombo was horrible for the second straight season last year.
With that gaping hole on the offensive line and the perfect fit for it available in offensive tackle Riley Reiff, the 6'6", 300-pound All-Big Ten performer from Iowa would be too good to pass up with the eighth pick.
1.09: Carolina Panthers, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
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While the Carolina Panthers made great strides offensively last year, the Panthers defense was equally, well, offensive, as Carolina ranked 28th in the National Football League in total defense and 25th against the run.
A large part of that can be attributed to deficiencies on the interior of the Panthers defense, and 6'6", 306-pound defensive tackle Michael Brockers is a disruptive force inside that was a second team All-SEC selection after tallying 54 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble for the Tigers in 2011.
1.10: Buffalo Bills, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
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The Buffalo Bills are another AFC East team that's making the switch a 4-3 defense this season, and with the pass-rush already an issue before that decision was even made, it's become doubly important that the Bills address the defensive end position early in April's draft.
North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples is a physical freak at 6'6" and 281 pounds, and if Coples can follow up his strong Senior Bowl with a solid showing at the combine, Coples can put questions about his work ethic brought about by a lackluster senior year in Chapel Hill to rest and solidify his status as a top-10 pick.
1.11: Kansas City Chiefs, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
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The Kansas City Chiefs have a number of needs that could be addressed here, including a pass rush that ranked 27th in the National Football League in 2011 in sacks, but this is a matter of the best player available simply being too good to pass on.
6'5", 312-pound Stanford guard David DeCastro is a consensus two-time All American, the best guard prospect to enter the NFL in several seasons, and is not only the top player available, but would fill an area of need for the Chiefs.
1.12: Seattle Seahawks, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Coming off a senior season in which he racked up 48 tackles and 10 sacks and after an outstanding showing at the Senior Bowl All-American defensive end, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina has been steadily climbing up draft boards, especially amid reports that the 6'2", 276-pound Gamecocks standout could run in the 4.6s at the combine.
The Seahawks could definitely use another pass rusher to pair with Chris Clemons on the defensive front, and Ingram would plug that hole very well.
1.13: Arizona Cardinals, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
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This pick may appear to be something of a reach at first glance, but Arizona Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown may have been the worst starter at his position in the NFL last season and is owed nearly $17 million and a candidate for release.
With $63 million invested in Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals rumored as one of the many potential landing spots for Peyton Manning, it's essential that the Cardinals protect the blind side of whoever lines up under center in the desert better in 2012, and Adams is a solid, versatile All-Big Ten lineman coming off a good showing at the Senior Bowl.
1.14: Dallas Cowboys, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
As the Dallas Cowboys' season-ending defeat at the hands of the New York Giants in the regular season finale plainly demonstrated, the Achilles' heel of the Dallas defense throughout the 2011 season was in the secondary.
Were it not for the marijuana arrests that led to his being dismissed from the University of Florida, cornerback Janoris Jenkins might well have been considered the top prospect at his position in 2012, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been known to roll the dice on talented players with checkered pasts.
1.15: Philadelphia Eagles, Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
What was supposed to a "Dream Team" season for the Philadelphia Eagles quickly turned into a nightmare in 2011, due in no small part to the fact that the Eagles mediocre linebacking corps was exposed by opposing offenses all year long.
As Bleacher Report NFL draft Lead Writer Matt Miller so aptly pointed out recently, North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown is the sort of athletic player that head coach Andy Reid has been known to drool over in the past, and if the 6'2" 230-pound Brown performs half as well at the combine as he did in Mobile, he could easily vault his stock into the middle of the first round.
1.16: New York Jets, Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
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This is one of those picks that makes so much sense that it's all but insured that it won't happen.
The New York Jets were a moribund 17th in the National Football League in sacks in 2011 and were forced to rely on nearly constant blitzes to generate even that pressure.
Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw of Alabama would certainly help the Jets in that regard, and the 6'2", 265-pound BCS National Championship Game MVP's experience playing in a 3-4 defense for the Crimson Tide would be an added plus.
1.17: Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK) Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
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In the recent Cincinnati Bengals full seven-round mock draft I wrote here at Bleacher Report, I had the Bengals taking the same player a bit later in the first round, but were the draft to unfold like this, the "run" on offensive linemen might cause Mike Brown to reshuffle his priorities.
Offensive guard is a large area of need for Cincinnati, and 6'6", 346-pound Cordy Glenn, who played tackle at the University of Georgia but projects as a guard at the next level, would go a "large" way towards filling that need.
1.18: New England Patriots (from SD), Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The New England Patriots certainly aren't known for trading up in the NFL draft, instead usually choosing to stockpile picks and move down, but after once again falling short in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants, Bill Belichick may try to pull a rabbit out of his hoodie.
The Patriots secondary was abysmal last year, so adding help at cornerback is an absolute necessity this offseason, and Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama is the top prospect at his position available at this point after being named a second-team All American in 2011.
1.19: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from CHI), Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
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The Buccaneers would likely be incensed to see the Patriots swoop in and grab Kirkpatrick one pick ahead of them, as much of their motivation for trading back could rest on the possibility of his being available at pick 18.
Tampa Bay could then make what some may view as a reach in selecting the 6'1", 193-pound Gilmore, who would fill a large void at cornerback with Ronde Barber near the end of the line and Aqib Talib perpetually half a step this side of getting into trouble.
1.20: Tennessee Titans, Whitney Mecilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Only one team in the National Football League amassed fewer sacks last season than the Tennessee Titans, who got to the quarterback only 28 times, with no player besides defensive tackle Karl Klug notching more than four sacks for the year.
With that said it would definitely make sense for the Titans to take a hard look at All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, as the 6'4", 265-pound junior led the nation with 16 sacks in 2011.
1.21: Cincinnati Bengals, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
Starting running back Cedric Benson has topped 1,000 rushing yards in his three of his four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but the seventh-year veteran is a plodder who had also failed to top four yards a carry in three of his four years with the team.
Miami running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for almost 1,300 yards for the Hurricanes last year, would add an added dimension of explosiveness to the Cincinnati offense, as well the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
1.22: Cleveland Browns (from ATL), Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
After bolstering their rushing attack by drafting Trent Richardson with the first of their two first-round draft picks, the Cleveland Browns will then look to upgrade their 24th-ranked passing offense from 2011 with their second pick in the round.
Wideout Michael Floyd caught 100 passes for the Fighting Irish last year and topped the 1,000-yard mark each of the past two seasons, and the 6'3", 220-pound Notre Dame standout would be a nice fit in the West Coast offense and big red-zone target for the Browns.
1.23: Detroit Lions, Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has some draft stock rebuilding to do after a so-so bowl game against South Carolina and a horrible week of practice at the Senior Bowl, where the 5'10", 205-pounder looked slow and was beaten repeatedly in coverage before withdrawing with a hip injury.
However, if Dennard can perform more like the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year with strong workouts at the combine and Nebraska's pro day, then he may work his way back into the first round, where the Lions could take a hard look given their need at the position.
1.24: Pittsburgh Steelers, Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The Pittsburgh Steelers have holes on the interior of both the offensive and defensive lines, but for the sake of this mock, it's the defense that will be addressed first in the Steel City.
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe of Memphis is a 6'5", 350-pound mountain of a man who is a classic 3-4 space-eater and would make for a fine potential successor to Casey Hampton, who is well on the wrong side of 30 and coming back from a torn ACL.
1.25: Denver Broncos, Devon Still, DT, Penn State
With Brian Dawkins 38 years old and facing retirement due to a neck injury, the Denver Broncos have a significant hole at the back end of their defense, especially given the struggles of youngsters Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter in 2011.
However, with Alabama strong safety Mark Barron undergoing sports hernia surgery that will keep him out of both the combine and Alabama's pro day, he's just too risky a play this early.
Unable to attend to the back end of their defense, the Broncos will instead give its front side a much needed boost by selecting 6'5", 310-pound defensive tackle Devon Still, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
1.26: Houston Texans, Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wide receiver Kendall Wright was on the receiving end of much of quarterback Robert Griffin's Heisman-winning passes a year ago for the Baylor Bears, reeling in 108 catches for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011.
The 5'10", 190-pound speedster is a Texas native and would provide an excellent complement to Andre Johnson in Houston, and the Texans likely wouldn't hesitate to pounce on this value if it affords itself.
1.27: San Diego Chargers (from NE), Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The San Diego Chargers struggled to generate a pass rush in 2011, with only linebacker Antwan Barnes logging more than four sacks as the Chargers finished 23rd in the National Football League in that category.
Southern Cal defensive end Nick Perry was a first team All Pac-12 performer as a junior in 2011, with 54 tackles and 8.5 sacks, and with the quickness to move outside in the 3-4, the 6'3", 250-pound Perry would be an excellent fit with the Bolts.
1.28: Green Bay Packers: Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
The Green Bay Packers had defensive issues galore last year, ranking dead last in the NFL in both total defense and passing defense.
However, much of the problem in the secondary can be attributed to opposing quarterbacks having all day to survey the field, as the Packers finished the season 27th in the National Football League in sacks.
Even at 6'3", 265 pounds, Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry possesses the speed to kick to outside linebacker in the 3-4, and the second team All American would be a welcome and sorely-needed acquisition opposite Clay Matthews for the Pack.
1.29: Baltimore Ravens, Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
This is the kind of pick that could be the talk of this draft, as the "flow" of the draft causes a player to fall (through no fault of his own) right into the laps of a Super Bowl contender.
Even I'll admit that it's somewhat unlikely that Dont'a Hightower would drop this far, but if he did, the Baltimore Ravens would pounce on him without hesitation.
The 6'4", 260-pound first team All American, who had 85 tackles and four sacks last year, would provide a fantastic successor to Ray Lewis at the heart of the Baltimore defense, and already has experience playing in the 3-4 from his time with the Crimson Tide.
I think I'm going to be sick.
1.30: San Francisco 49ers, Alson Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
In the San Francisco 49ers loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, 49ers wide receivers caught all of one pass, so it's safe to say that the wideout position may be an area where San Francisco would like to upgrade.
If South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery can allay concerns about his straight-line speed and conditioning at the combine, then the 49ers would probably give the 6'4", 229-pound Jeffery a long look in the hopes that he could give the San Francisco aerial attack a boost.
1.31: San Diego Chargers (from NE), Kelechi Osemele, OT/OG, Iowa State
At this point (or even a few picks earlier), a team might be able to reap a "mini-windfall", as quarterback-needy teams such as the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins would likely scramble to acquire this pick and the rights to select Texas A&M signal-caller Ryan Tannehill, whose stock is all over the place right now due to a foot injury.
However, were the Chargers to stand pat here, they'd probably look to strengthen the offensive front by adding offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele of Iowa State, a versatile 6'5", 333-pound road grader capable of playing guard or tackle.
1.32: New York Giants, Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly led the nation with a ridiculous 191 tackles in 2011, and the 6'3", 237-pound first team All American was named the Butkus Award winner as college football's best linebacker.
Kuechly isn't an overly athletic player, but he's an instinctive, hard-nosed linebacker that would likely both appeal to New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and fill an area in which the Super Bowl XLVI champions were somewhat vulnerable a year ago.