2012 NFL Mock Draft: Where Will the Top Offensive, Defensive Prospects Land?
2012's draft class is one of the most top-heavy we've seen in recent years. There are two elite quarterbacks at the top who are far ahead of the rest and a few pass-rushers on the other side of the ball that could develop into very productive players themselves.
Here, we'll look at where those players might go, which will slip to a team who will get a steal at the middle of the first round and which will be drafted far too high because a team will reach for a position of need.
Read on to find full analysis of where the top prospects on offense and defense will land.
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1. QB, Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is clearly the top prospect on the board at this point, and barring some type of unexpected injury or other health issue, I don't see him falling from here.
Luck is slated to go to Indianapolis with the first pick, making this the easiest pick of the draft to project. He is the best quarterback prospect the league has seen a decade, and his bust potential seems so low that the Colts cannot pass him up.
2. RB, Trent Richardson, Alabama
Most don't have Richardson this high up on their board, but I think that's just position discrimination. Rarely do you see a running back drafted in the top five picks in today's NFL, and that's exactly where I project Richardson to go.
The Rams and Vikings are set at running back, so there's no chance they draft Richardson with their other needs. However, sitting at the fourth pick is the Cleveland Browns. If Washington trades up to the second overall pick, they'll very likely take Robert Griffin III, leaving the Browns with only one choice to lift their offense: Trent Richardson.
If the 'Skins do not trade up and Cleveland takes Griffin, I see the Alabama running back heading to the Buccaneers at the sixth pick. They could then boast the most physical backfield in the NFL with Richardson and LeGarrette Blount.
3. OT, Matt Kalil, USC
Kalil is the type of prospect that you constantly look for a weakness in, but just can't seem to find it. He's one of the most complete tackles entering the league in years, and he could likely step in from day one and start at left tackle.
Of all the teams drafting in the top five, the Vikings need a left tackle the most. Christian Ponder was beat up last season on a regular basis, and if the team wants him to progress, they're going to have to protect his blind side.
If Justin Blackmon lasts to the Vikings here, they could potentially draft the Oklahoma State receiver. If they do make that move, Kalil would likely slip to the Buccaneers or Redskins.
4. QB, Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Griffin rounds out what I believe is a top four that is far above the rest of the draft's prospects, on either side of the ball. His magical season at Baylor helped to elevate his stock to the point where he was at least in the argument for the first overall pick at one point.
Griffin will be drafted in the top four picks of the draft—that's a guarantee I'll make you. He's too good to slip further, and Cam Newton has erased all worries that a young, athletic quarterback can be something special in the NFL.
Washington could be tempted to trade up to the second pick to take Griffin before the Browns can get their hands on him. I see that as one of the more likely trades of the upcoming draft. If the Redskins do not make that move, he will slip no further than Cleveland with the fourth pick.
5. WR, Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Here's where I think there's a drop-off. I have Blackmon and Stanford's David DeCastro right on the edge of the top five, but the nod goes to Blackmon because of his incredible college production that I simply cannot argue with.
Blackmon could go as high as No. 2 to the Rams or No. 3 to the Vikings, but after that, he would certainly see a slip. That's what makes a draft position so hard to predict for him. If he does slip past both teams who are looking to draft him, he would likely go to Jacksonville at No. 7.
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1. CB, Morris Claiborne, LSU
Claiborne is another player who is so well-rounded that he is a sure lock to be drafted within the top six picks. The former receiver combines great playmaking skills with consistent ability to cover in man or zone.
The LSU cornerback will likely head to either Tampa Bay at No. five or Washington at No. six. Both are in divisions where they consistently face some of the top quarterbacks in the league and need any help they can get to dig themselves out of their division's cellar.
2. DT, Michael Brockers, LSU
The second LSU player on my board is the defensive tackle, Michael Brockers. Ever since he declared for the draft in January, he's been rising up boards at mach speed. The sophomore has extremely high upside that has drawn the attention of multiple teams drafting in the top 10.
Brockers will fall no further than the Panthers, who will pick at either No. 8 or No. 9. They are in desperate need of three down defensive tackle, and Brockers fits the mold.
The other team I could see drafting Brockers is Washington with the sixth pick. However, they have bigger needs on the offensive side of the ball, which is why I see him likely heading to Carolina come April.
3. DE, Quinton Coples, UNC
One of the most controversial prospects at the top of the draft, Coples has been cited for his great talent, but questions of his commitment to football and his consistency on the field have general managers concerned.
Despite the character problems, I see Coples heading to Jacksonville with the seventh pick. The team is in dire need of developing a pass rush and should overlook Coples' lack of production when they see the pass rusher he can develop into. If the Jaguars pass on the UNC product, he could fall to the Dolphins, who hold the eighth/ninth pick, or the Seahawks, who hold the 12th pick.
4. DE, Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Ingram is a high-motor player who has the physical nature and pass-rushing skills to draw attention from teams drafting in the top 10. Pass rush is in high demand, so Ingram could go as high as No. 8 or No. 9 to the Dolphins.
The Dolphins are making the transition to the 4-3, and Ingram would be a great prospect to make that transition easier. Another team making that scheme change is Buffalo, who needs a great defensive end to complete their young but talented front four.
5. OLB, Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Upshaw is a pure pass-rushing outside linebacker who is a great fit for a 3-4 defense, but he could fit in a 4-3 defense if they can mask his inability in coverage.
Upshaw should go around pick 10 or the early teens. The Bills sit and the 10th pick and need some pass rushing help, but they run a 4-3 and don't have the surrounding talent to hide Upshaw as a 4-3 outside linebacker.
If Buffalo passes, I could see him falling all the way to the Jets with the 16th pick. That would be a great fit for Upshaw as he could play his natural position as a 3-4 outside linebacker for a team that could get the most out of his talent.