2012 NFL Mock Draft: Complete First and Second Round Projections
Time is winding down for NFL franchises and their scouts as the 2012 NFL draft quickly approaches, and as such it is time for another mock draft.
Big boards from San Diego to Buffalo are being reorganized on a daily basis as players are scrutinized at levels on par with a secret service evaluation.
The combine will be yet another hurdle for the young men hoping to fulfill their dreams of starring in the best game the world has to offer.
Please enjoy yourselves as you take a peek at my latest mock in which I project the first and second rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Warning: There are a few surprises lurking.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
This is happening, people.
The Colts aren't going to go in any other direction with the first-overall pick, and they certainly won't be selecting Robert Griffin III instead of Luck, as some have suggested.
I'm guessing that Luck feels even more pressure to prove he is worth the selection now that the former consensus No. 1 player in the draft is now being brought down a couple of notches due to too many reporters digging far to deep to try and drum up a story.
Luck is by far the more pro-ready prospect. He has the physical, mental and emotional tools to step in and start from day one.
2. St. Louis Rams
Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
The St. Louis Rams are pressed for cap space, currently sitting right around the projected 2012 hard cap, even before free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft.
Sam Bradford's contract is a massive portion of that pie ($12 million in 2012), and the team could improve the overall talent level with the extra cash by either trading or releasing Bradford and drafting Griffin in his stead.
Assuming Griffin's contract would be similar to the one Cam Newton signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2011 (four years $22 million), the Rams would be acquiring another potential franchise quarterback at a fraction of the cost.
The Rams have too many holes to fill and not enough cash to make any moves. They got shafted by the CBA, as Bradford signed the last massive contract before the new deal.
Making this bold move will give them much more room to maneuver going forward.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, Left Tackle, USC
There is no doubt that the Minnesota Vikings should take Kalil here with the third-overall pick. Unless he suffers an injury, I don't see how he's going to be anything other than an outstanding player in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder will be grateful to have this big man on their side. Kalil is a smooth, polished pass-blocker who can handle speed and power, and he will be a tremendous upgrade over Charlie Johnson.
In the running game, Kalil is a beast. He is quick off the snap, getting under the pads of his opponent and then having the strength to drive them or turn them as the play calls for.
The Vikings can't miss with this pick.
4. Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
One of the things the Browns were missing the most in 2011 was a running game. Peyton Hillis was terrible when he played and the Browns had no depth behind him.
The team is reportedly waffling back and forth over whether to keep Hillis or cut him loose in favor of Richardson. I'm betting they decide to bring in a fresh face.
Richardson is the best running back I've seen coming out of college since Adrian Peterson.
He will bring the thunder and the lightning to the Browns' running game, helping Colt McCoy and the rest of the offense in significant ways.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
The Buccaneers can fill a position of need while also taking the best remaining player off the board with the fifth-overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft.
Ronde Barber has been in the league for 15 years. He will be a free agent in 2012, and I won't be surprised to see him opt to either retire or spend the twilight of his career with a winning organization. The Bucs are in full-blown rebuilding mode, and new head coach Greg Schiano further cements that reality firmly into place.
Claiborne would come in and immediately become one of the starting cornerbacks at Tampa Bay. His ability to cover and make plays with the ball in the air is rare, and he has all the speed he needs to keep up with the fastest players in the NFL.
He would also provide an electric boost to the Buccaneers special teams as a returner, much in the same way Patrick Peterson did for Arizona in 2011.
Claiborne could end up in the 2013 Pro Bowl if he stays healthy for the Buccaneers in 2012.
6. Washington Redskins
Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Blackmon is the best player left on the board.
Mike Shanahan won't be able to resist bringing in the young man to pair with Leonard Hankerson. The two of these young receivers could become one of the best duos in the NFL in a couple of years, provided the 'Skins ever find a decent option at quarterback.
Blackmon reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald. He has exceptional body control and focus to go along with his God-given natural abilities, which are phenomenal.
He will give the Redskins the kind of offensive weaponry they need to compete in the brutal NFC East.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
If you are unsure of how good Martin is, just ask Andrew Luck. Martin was phenomenal in both the running game and in the passing game in his time at Stanford.
Blaine Gabbert desperately needs the help.
Eben Britton will be back after missing most of the season and Eugene Monroe isn't a bad player, but Martin is easily better than Britton and could be good enough to move Monroe over to the right tackle spot, making the entire line better.
Taking Martin here is the right move for the long-term development of the Jaguars. Winning begins in the trenches, after all.
8. Carolina Panthers (Pending Coin-Flip with Miami Dolphins)
David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
DeCastro is the meat and potatoes of this year's draft class. He is one of the least glamorous of all the prospects. I mean, he's a guard for crying out loud.
The thing is: DeCastro is also a once-in-a-decade player.
He can do it all on the offensive line. He can maul defenders in the running game and he can move his feet as well as any tackle in the draft in the passing game.
He will be a much-needed anchor on the Panthers offensive line, paving roads for and protecting Cam Newton for years to come.
9. Miami Dolphins (Pending Coin-Flip with Carolina Panthers)
Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
One of the biggest needs of the Dolphins is at offensive tackle, where Mark Columbo has been atrocious in both the running and passing games.
Thankfully, Reiff is sitting here just waiting to be snapped up, and the Dolphins won't hesitate to take him with the ninth-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Reiff is an excellent pass-blocking left tackle who can shift to the right. He reminds me of San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowler, Joe Staley.
Reiff needs to hit the weights a bit, though, as he struggles with powerful pass-rushers at times and needs more push in the running game.
Still, he's just what the doctor ordered for the Dolphins, and he'll be Jake Long's book-end for years to come.
10. Buffalo Bills
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
The Buffalo Bills are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense in 2012. Marcell Dareus was terrific in his rookie season, but he could use another beast to play next to in the middle of the Bills defense.
Brockers is a penetrating tackle who spends most of his time behind the line of scrimmage. He is extremely quick and strong, and he should have no trouble handling the speed and strength of NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
Spencer Johnson and Kyle Williams (not the one who killed SF's Super Bowl chances) aren't the answer for the Bills long-term, and adding Brockers would give them one of the best young duos in the league.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Dont'a Hightower, Middle Linebacker, Alabama
The Chiefs need to fill many holes on their roster, and they could consider many different options with their pick here.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the team in 2011 was their inability to stop opponents from running the ball down their throats. Hightower's insertion into their starting lineup next to Derrick Johnson would make this problem go away.
At 6'4" and weighing in at a stout 260 pounds, Hightower is exactly the kind of thumper you need lining up next to a speedy playmaker like Johnson. He also happens to be one of the most gifted linebackers coming into the NFL in 2012 in terms of his awareness and instincts.
The biggest concern teams might have about Hightower at this point is going to be how well he can handle pass-coverage in the NFL, but a strong showing at the combine should put these fears to rest.
In my mind, a bigger need might be to find a replacement for Kelly Gregg at nose tackle, but there just isn't anyone in this year's draft who is worth reaching for from this position.
12. Seattle Seahawks (Pending Coin-Flip with Kansas City Chiefs)
Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC
The Seahawks need another pass rusher. After Chris Clemons, they don't have anyone on their defensive front who can consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Perry is a rising star, shooting up draft boards as the experts dive into the tape.
His quickness off the line is elite. Perry is also adept at using his hands to his advantage against slower, weaker offensive tackles. He has excellent footwork and loose hips, allowing him to get around the edge on a consistent basis.
The Seahawks had a stellar defense in 2011, and adding Perry will only make this young unit more formidable in the future.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
When I watch tape on Jeffery, I am reminded of a young Terrell Owens (hopefully without the attitude).
The Cardinals will be ecstatic that Jeffery is still on the board here, and I don't think they'll hesitate for an instant to take his name up to the officials.
Jeffery isn't the fastest guy on the field and there have been false rumors about a 4.88 second 40-yard dash, but he's fast enough to let his long arms, long legs, soft hands and remarkable athletic abilities shine through when the ball is in the air.
He will take a ton of pressure and attention away from Larry Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals would instantly have one of the best duos in the NFL at the wide receiver position (provided Kevin Kolb isn't a complete and utter failure).
14. Dallas Cowboys
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
The Cowboys were so bad in coverage in 2011 that they negated DeMarcus Ware's exceptional pass-rushing abilities. Teams should be scared to throw when Ware is coming around the corner, but nobody was afraid to challenge the Cowboys, and they were successful when doing so.
Jenkins is considered a high risk due to his multiple arrests on marijuana charges, but it surely wouldn't be the first time Jones has gone against conventional wisdom.
Jenkins is undoubtedly talented enough to be taken 14th-overall. When you watch him play, one of the first things you notice is how easily he swivels his hips from one side to the other in coverage, allowing him to change directions and flow with his receiver.
At 5'9", Jenkins is a bit on the small side, but his athleticism and quickness gives him an amazing ability to cover receivers who are much taller and bigger (he held A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery to under 100 yards when he faced them).
As long as Jenkins keeps his nose clean (or in his case, his lungs), he should bring a much-needed playmaker to the Cowboys secondary and help to make their defense one that is feared once again.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Vontaze Burfict, Middle Linebacker, Arizona State
Burfict will have an opportunity to convince the Eagles he's not a danger when they will inevitably meet for an interview at the combine.
I'm expecting him to blow out the combine, posting numbers that will force the Eagles to take a risk against Burfict's past anger issues in the hopes of acquiring the next Patrick Willis.
They could surely use the help. The Eagles defense is loaded with top-shelve talent except for right up the middle. Casey Matthews is an instinctive player, but his size and athletic limitations were evident.
Burfict would be a perfect addition to the talent-laden defense, and Michael Vick is the perfect man to speak his life, helping him become a fruitful player for a long time in the NFL.
16. New York Jets
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
I've learned over the years to appreciate the running backs that come out of the "U." Miller is another gem of a back, and the Jets would be smart to pick him up here.
The Jets need to get back to running the ball effectively, as we all saw what happens when they don't in last year's debacle of a season.
Tony Sparano would love to get his hands on another capable running back to spell Shonn Greene, who isn't an every down kind of back.
Miller has the kind of speed that the Jets love. He isn't necessarily the quickest guy on the field, but once he sees a hole he has the ability to hit the top gear in a hurry and the moves to make a few guys miss in the process.
He's a home-run hitter and a steal here with the 16th-overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland Raiders)
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
You can bet the Bengals are upset at having missed out on the two top running backs in the 2012 NFL Draft, but thankfully there are some hidden gems to be found in the later rounds.
As consolation, they pick another position of need in the form of Gilmore.
Gilmore excels in a zone scheme, which fits together perfectly with what defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes to do. He is an opportunistic corner, taking advantage of bad throws and turning them into interceptions.
The best part of Gilmore's game is his rock-solid form tackling, which allows him to keep receivers from running wild and makes him a strong run defender from the edge.
The Bengals won't be disappointed with this pick.
18. San Diego Chargers
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois
The San Diego Chargers were completely and utterly incapable of producing a consistent pass-rush in 2011, when Shaun Phillips was out with an injury.
Mercilus, at 6'4" and 265 pounds, reminds me a bit of Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul. He isn't as powerful as Smith, but Mercilus can straight up rush the passer. He led the nation in 2011 in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (nine).
Speed, quickness, power and agility are all qualities that Mercilus brings to the table, and his addition to the Chargers front seven would significantly improve the team's ability to both pursue the quarterback, as well as to attack the opposing running game from sideline to sideline.
If Phillips manages to stay healthy, he and Mercilus could end up becoming one of the deadliest duos in the NFL.
19. Chicago Bears
Malcolm Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler has been making do in the passing game without a legitimate No. 1 receiver ever since he left Denver. The team tried to remedy the situation in 2011 by bringing in chronic disappointment Roy Williams, but the experiment ended in a complete disaster.
The Bears could opt for a guy like Mike Adams, offensive tackle out of Ohio State, with their first-round pick here, but I don't believe they would be able to resist taking Floyd here with the 19th-overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Floyd, at 6'3" and 218 pounds, has the potential to be a big-time receiver at the next level, and his combination of size, speed, quickness, soft hands and body control will serve him well as he makes the move.
His ability to fight for the ball will likely cause teams to end up double-covering him, leaving Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox free to exploit single coverage with their explosive speed. It's a great combination for Cutler's rocket arm.
20. Tennessee Titans
Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Alabama
The Titans need to get more production out of their defensive line. Karl Klug led the team in sacks with seven from his defensive tackle position.
Drafting a dominant edge rusher like Upshaw will give the Titans the extra dimension they need to become a dominating defense to complement their young, explosive offense.
Upshaw reminds me a bit of Dwight Freeney. He isn't quite as quick as Freeney, but his power more than makes up for any lack of quickness, and he is one of the best pass-rushers in the 2012 NFL Draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia
The Bengals make a bit of a reach in taking Glenn here with the 21st-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, but they need the help up front.
Glenn is an intriguing prospect who could turn into the Bengals' version of Larry Allen. It would be fitting since the offense already reminds me of the young Troy Aikman-led Cowboys squad back in the early '90s.
For a big man (6'6" and 346 pounds), Glenn is surprisingly agile. He possesses quick feet that give him excellent lateral movement, allowing him to dominate as a pulling guard on running plays and protect the passer from stunts and blitzes in the passing game.
He will be a fantastic addition to Bengals offensive line.
22. Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta Falcons)
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
The Browns could land two of their biggest needs in the first round. Wright would instantly bring a big-play threat to an offense that was as anemic in 2011 as any we've seen in years.
The Browns need to get more athletic and talented on the outside, or Colt McCoy will be forced to continually check the ball down to his running backs and tight ends.
The Browns want to be able to run a balanced offense, but their inability to pass the ball has caused teams to completely focus on the running game, sometimes bringing up to nine men into the box.
The addition of Wright, a speedy receiver with hands a soft as a baby's behind, would give the team an ability to spread opposing defenses out, forcing them to play honest and abandon the eight-in-the box mentality, thus making the Browns a better team.
23. Detroit Lions
Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama
The Lions need an upgrade to their entire secondary in order to compete with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, but the greatest weakness of this unit is at strong safety.
Thankfully for them, Barron is still on the board.
Barron's strengths lie in his ability to play in zone coverage. He isn't particularly gifted in man-to-man coverage, but he has excellent instincts and can sniff out plays, allowing his athleticism and speed to get him to the ball on a regular basis.
He isn't just a ball-hawk, though. Barron is also a fearless tackler who loves to lay big hits on both running backs and wide receivers, and he will be a valuable addition to the Lions.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
The Steelers' 2011 season was lost due to the fact that Ben Roethlisberger once again failed to receive proper protection. Additionally, Max Starks, the team's starting left tackle, ripped his ACL to shreds in the wild-card loss to the Denver Broncos.
Adams is the answer for the Steelers. His huge frame (6'6" and 320 pounds) isn't even filled out all the way yet, and he will continue to develop physically for another few years. That's a scary thought.
He is also an athletic tackle who is good in pass protection, showing excellent knee-bend and flexibility to stop speed rushers, while also possessing the ability to anchor himself to negate powerful rushers.
Additionally, Adams is a competent run-blocker, showing aggression and nastiness at times, which is a trait that is highly valued and desired among offensive linemen.
It's about time that the Steelers finally addressed this position of need.
25. Denver Broncos
Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
The Denver Broncos have a ton of needs, and one of them happens to be on the interior of their defensive line. They were vulnerable against the rush at times in 2011, and the biggest reason is that they lack a man who can be an unmovable object.
Still is the best all-around 4-3 defensive tackle prospect, though he isn't a disruptive pass-rusher on the same level as Michael Brockers. He is a mountain of a man, at 6'5" and 311 pounds, who can take on multiple blockers.
The best part of Still's game is that it is largely untapped. He still requires a ton of coaching to bring him up to what he'll ultimately be capable of becoming, and that is a scary thought.
Still's presence in the Broncos starting lineup would allow the men on the edge, Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil, to operate more against the offensive tackles, one-on-one, leading to even more pressure in 2012 than they got in 2011.
26. Houston Texans
Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, South Carolina
Ingram is an absolute steal way down at the bottom of the first round. He is also one of the best pass-rushing prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft, and his addition to the Houston Texans gives Wade Phillips yet another tool with which to devastate opposing offenses.
This is a pick they need to make regardless of whether or not they were able to retain Mario Williams.
Ingram doesn't just have one or two moves, either. In addition to possessing the kind of closing speed you're looking for, he is also a mature pass-rusher who can go around NFL tackles either on the inside or outside, utilizing spin moves, swim moves and any other kind of move you can think of to get to the quarterback.
He will be a good one, and the Texans are lucky he fell to them.
27. New England Patriots (From New Orleans Saints)
Quinton Coples, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
I don't think it's a stretch to say Bill Belichick might find a couple of good ways to use a guy like Coples.
Like Melvin Ingram before him, Coples is a steal here at the bottom of the first round. He is a beast of a pass rusher that uses his strength and quickness to bull-rush offensive tackles into their quarterback, much in the same way Justin Smith did in the NFC playoffs for the San Francisco 49ers.
At 6'6" and 285 pounds, Coples can be utilized in many different ways for the Patriots, as I mentioned at the top: He can rush the passer in four-man fronts as a defensive end, he can slide inside and play defensive tackle in some pass-rushing situations and he can play the outside linebacker when the Patriots switch up to a 3-4.
His presence on the line would alleviate some of the pressure Vince Wilfork has been getting, making the entire defensive line more effective in the process.
28. Green Bay Packers
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle/Defensive End, Mississippi State
The Packers really took a hit last year when they failed to re-sign Cullen Jenkins, creating a void on the defensive line that they never managed to fix properly.
Cox played defensive tackle in college, but I like him to switch to a 3-4 defensive end for the Packers. He plays with leverage and power, and he can burst through the line, penetrating into the backfield due to his quick burst off the snap.
In run support, Cox is capable of taking on double teams due to his long, strong arms. As long as his technique remains sound, Cox will be a force on the Green Bay defensive front.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
Matt Birk has been a stellar performer for the Ravens the past three years. Birk is a free agent in 2012, but at age 35 there is a good chance he could decide to hang it up and retire. As of now, Birk is reportedly weighing retirement over returning to the Ravens.
Even if he does return for a 15th season, the Ravens need to find his replacement this year.
Things always seem to work out for Ozzie Newsome, and this year is no different.
Konz is the best center in the draft. He is a huge man, at 6'5" and weighing in at 315 pounds, and he knows how to use all of that mass to the best advantage.
He is a strong anchor both in the running game and in the passing game. He won't get bowled over too many times, and the best part is that he's not just a muscle-bound physical freak.
Konz is extremely smart, like many of the top centers, and he started 30 games in his college career at Wisconsin, earning invaluable experience that will serve him well in the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Kirkpatrick has seen his stock take a dive since being charged with marijuana possession.
Those charges were later dropped, but his stock hasn't risen since, and he'd be a steal for the 49ers here at 30.
Kirkpatrick was one of the leaders on a studly Alabama defense that thrived on choking the life out of opposing defenses. His attitude and expectations will fit in nicely with the group they have out there on the west coast.
If there were any problems in the past, I can guarantee guys like Justin Smith, Donte Whitner and Patrick Willis won't be having any of it.
Kirkpatrick is a man-to-man specialist. He could step in right away for the 49ers as a nickel corner playing with Chris Culliver and Carlos Rogers. That would be an impressive trio that could compete with any wide receiving group in the NFL.
31. New England Patriots
Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
As a 49ers fan, I toyed with the idea of having them draft Sanu. I love this kid.
Instead, the Patriots finally have the extra weapon Tom Brady has been missing: a sideline threat.
Sanu is big enough and strong enough to gobble up most one-on-one matchups against anyone trying to jam him at the line.
WIth Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski demanding three to four defenders on any given play, Sanu would get his chances to prove me right. Combined with the quickness of Wes Welker and Deion Branch running around in the middle, Brady would have a great shot of destroying Drew Brees' new passing record.
32. New York Giants
Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
This is an example of rich teams getting richer. The Giants are getting an absolute steal as Brown is still on the board after 31 teams passed him up.
Brown is worthy of a top-20 pick in my book, and he'll be determined to prove it.
Brown may be a bit raw, but his athleticism and speed are un-coachable. He is the kind of player who can be coached up to become a perennial Pro-Bowler.
The Giants would be building upon their already dominant defense and investing in the future by taking Brown with the last pick of the first round.
33. St. Louis Rams
Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington
To add to their new look, the Rams draft a power running back in Polk who can become Stephen Jackson 2.0.
Polk reminds me of Frank Gore, too. He isn't the fastest guy in the world, and if he runs a slow 40-time at the combine, his stock will drop significantly. The thing you love about him is his ability to break through would-be tacklers.
He is a down-hill runner who won't mess around too much. He's going to pick out the hole and hit it with all he's got.
In 2011, Polk showed the ability to catch the ball as well, hauling in 31 catches for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He is the perfect complementary back for Robert Griffin and the Rams offense.
34. Indianapolis Colts
Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
This pick just makes too much sense. Fleener and Andew Luck, back together in a glorious reunion...
Fleener was one of Luck's main targets at Stanford. The two of them combined on 83 catches for 1,367 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Colts can't go wrong giving Luck his security blanket, and with Dallas Clark getting a bit long in the tooth it's not a bad investment, regardless.
35. Minnesota Vikings
Rueben Randle, Wide Receiver, LSU
The one thing the Vikings lack on offense is a No. 1 wide receiver. Percy Harvin is a phenomenal player, but he doesn't demand the same kind of attention as guys like Calvin Johnson and Vincent Jackson.
Randle isn't going to run a 4.3 40-yard dash time at the combine, but he possesses all the other qualities you look for in a No. 1 receiver. He can get off of press coverage, get behind cornerbacks and then he can make incredibly difficult catches if need be due to his fantastic hands.
Randle will provide another good target in the red-zone, and Christian Ponder would love to see the Vikings make this move.
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Luke Kuechly, Middle Linebacker, Boston College
Mason Foster did his best to man the middle linebacker position for the Buccaneers in 2011, but he was playing out of position and will do better as the weak-side linebacker.
He can make the move after the Bucs select Kuechly.
Kuechly's draft value is all over the place if you read the various mock drafts on the Internet. Some have him going as high as No. 15 to the Philadelphia Eagles, while others don't even have him in the second round.
It's a shame, too. Kuechly was one of the most productive middle linebackers in NCAA history:
Kuechly broke the BC and ACC career tackle records with 532 tackles, eclipsing the previous record of 524 held by Stephen Boyd and only 13 tackles short of the NCAA FBS record held by Tim McGarigle. Via Wikipedia
He would be another great piece to add to the young Bucs defense.
37. Cleveland Browns
Kelechi Osemele, Offensive Guard, Iowa State
Osemele has all the physical tools of an elite guard, but the knock on him is that he might not be as motivated to succeed as you need to be in to compete at a high level in the NFL.
The Browns would be wise to see past the minor immaturity and focus instead on the possibilities of having a devastating rushing attack with Osemele as one of the chief road-pavers for Trent Richardson.
38. Jacksonville Jaguars
Orson Charles, Tight End, Georgia
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a string of bad luck with their tight ends. I'm sure they would love to have another crack at getting their hands on one of the new breed.
A gifted athlete who can create a lot of mismatches in the pass game. Should be able to improve as a route runner as well. Not quite as polished as Aaron Hernandez as an H-back coming out, but could end up playing a similar type role. (via: nationalfootballpost.com)
Blaine Gabbert needs an athlete like that roaming the middle of the field as a security blanket. Charles is the right man for the job.
39. Washington Redskins
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska
After securing one of the best wide receivers in the draft in the first round, the Redskins now find themselves in possession of arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the draft.
Dennard's stock took a tumble during the week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl, ultimately leading to his withdrawal from competition do to an injured hip flexor.
He can redeem himself with a strong performance at the combine, and the Redskins will be happy to draft him here at the top half of the second round.
40. Carolina Panthers
Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
The Panthers need to strengthen their defense from the inside out.
They drafted Fua and McClain in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but neither player showed me anything in their rookie campaign that leads me to believe they are capable of becoming a force in the middle.
Worthy is a worthy choice to fill the void.
He is a smart, quick, powerfully built athlete who will add a much-needed interior presence on their defensive front.
41. Buffalo Bills
Bobby Wagner, Outside Linebacker, Utah State
Wagner would be a much-needed upgrade over Bryan Scott for the Bills.
Wagner showed scouts what kind of player he was at the Senior Bowl, collecting seven tackles and one interception.
His speed and tackling will be key on the weak side as he chases down speedy backs by shooting the gaps Marcell Dareus and Michael Brockers are sure to create.
42. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Tannehill recently had foot surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his foot. He is reportedly healing fast and is looking forward to having his pro day in late March.
There's no doubt that the Dolphins are still searching for the answer at the quarterback position.
Tannehill's forte is in the short-to-medium range, which is perfect for Joe Philbin's West-Coast offense, and he will challenge Matt Moore for the starting quarterback spot.
43. Seattle Seahawks
Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker, Nebraska
Leroy Hill is a valuable veteran on the Seahawks who will be looking for a payday come March 13. The Seahawks could lose him in free agency, and Malcolm Smith is the player behind Hill.
Smith is an undersized (6'0" 226 pounds) player who will be in his second year in 2012, hardly the man to pick up the slack.
David is the perfect prospect to fill the void. Although David is small compared to most linebackers, he could play on the weak side of the Seahawks 4-3 defense just fine, using his instincts and quickness to wrap up runners before they hit the holes.
David is an absolute beast of a pass defender, and he is the perfect kind of player to match up on tight ends one-on-one.
44. Kansas City Chiefs
Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis
The Chiefs stayed away from Aubrayo Franklin and instead went with Kelly Gregg in free agency last year to shore up their defensive line. I disagreed with the move then, and I still do now.
Gregg will turn 36 years old this year. He is a free agent, and his performance last year doesn't do much to make me hopeful he'll get better this year with one more NFL season under his belt.
Poe is the perfect man to anchor the middle of Romeo Crennel's defense. He is one of the strongest young men coming out this year, and his addition gives the Chiefs one of the best front-sevens in the NFL.
45. Dallas Cowboys
Markelle Martin, Free Safety, Oklahoma State
Jerry Jones collects another much-needed piece to fill the emptiness that used to be the Cowboys secondary.
Martin has a reputation for playing well in big games, a quality that Jones loves. He is a rangy safety who can cover a ton of ground in a hurry.
Martin also has good hands and can be a devastating tackler, as you can see from the picture I selected for this slide.
Selecting him will give Rob Ryan a valuable asset to use in his elaborate defense.
46. Philadelphia Eagles
Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
Middle linebacker isn't the only area where the Eagles need help on defense.
Thompson gives them a much-needed upgrade on the defensive line. His ability to penetrate into the backfield combined with the outside rushing of Jason Babin and Trent Cole will create big-time problems for opposing offensive lines.
Where Thompson really shines is in the running game. He has earned the nickname, "Yams," due to his thick thighs, which help him anchor the line, allowing linebackers to get through the line of scrimmage and stop runs behind the line.
47. New York Jets
Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
Wayne Hunter allowed 11 sacks and was called for 11 penalties for the Jets from his right tackle position, and the Jets desperately need an upgrade.
Sanders fits the bill. He is a steal here for the Jets, and he could end up becoming the best tackle to come out of this year's draft in the long run.
According to cbssports.com:
Sanders has an ideal frame and physique for offensive tackle with good weight distribution and long arms. Sanders has good knee bend, can slide his feet, anchor, and athletically respond to double moves. Hands are strong, and when hips are sunk and hand placement is correct, excellent power is generated. Obviously, with his experience, performance, and top intangibles, Sanders is about the greatest swing OT prospect ever. Clearly too good not to be a starter, the question is which side.
Sounds like an upgrade to me.
48. New England Patriots
Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma
The Patriots find some solid secondary help here in the second round. It's a good thing, too. Everybody saw what kind of troubles they had trying to scratch together a competent secondary last year.
Fleming should excel as a zone defender because of his closing speed to wrap receivers after the catch. He is a playmaker when the ball is in the air, and he is a willing and able tackler in the running game.
Flemming is going to fit in perfectly with Bill Belichick's defense.
49. San Diego Chargers
Jared Crick, Defensive End, Nebraska
The San Diego Chargers are fortunate to see Crick's name still on the board here. He gives them depth and increases the overall talent level of their defensive line, which was lacking in both departments in 2011.
Crick was lost for the season in October due to a torn pectoral muscle, the same injury that sidelined Houston Texans superstar Mario Williams for the year.
Crick should be fully healed and ready to go by the time OTAs and mini-camps start, and he's an absolute steal here for the Chargers.
50. Chicago Bears
Brandon Washington, Offensive Guard, Miami
The entire offensive line of the Bears is in need of an overhaul. They will get Gabe Carimi back from injury in 2012, and I expect him to play up to par, giving them a much-needed improvement at left tackle.
Washington can come right in and compete for one of the starting guard spots. His ability to bend his hips and move laterally makes him a candidate to possibly move over to right tackle.
He is a bit raw, which is why he's still on the board at this point, but Washington can be taught to become a dominant offensive guard and a serviceable tackle in case of emergency, making him a valuable asset for the Bears.
51. Philadelphia Eagles
Marvin Jones, Wide Receiver, California
Wouldn't it be ironic if the Eagles franchised DeSean Jackson, traded him, and then replaced him with another receiver from Cal?
Whether they keep Jackson or not, Jones is a good pickup here for the Eagles.
At 6'2" and weighing just under 200 pounds, Jones would give the Eagles some size on the outside.
He really jumped out at scouts at the Senior Bowl, where he used his quick burst and agility to separate from defensive backs on a regular basis, something Andy Reid loves to have in his wide receivers.
52. Tennessee Titans
Ben Jones, Center, Georgia
The Tennessee Titans were miserable at running the football in 2011. This was in part due to the terrible efforts put forth by overpaid and spoiled Chris Johnson. It was also due to a massive deficiency in the middle of their offensive line.
Neither center Eugene Amano or guard Leroy Harris deserve to start next year, and both were starters in 2011.
Jones could come in and challenge for the starting center spot right away. He and Jake Locker would grow up into the league together like Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday.
Jones didn't allow a single sack in his senior season at Georgia, and he will give the Titans stability for years as the anchor of their offensive line.
53. Cincinnati Bengals
Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
Cedric Benson is no longer a threat for the Bengals rushing attack. In fact, the Bengals plain sucked at running the football in 2011, posting a 3.9 yard per carry average throughout the year as a team.
That's not enough help for a rookie quarterback.
After missing out on the top backs in the draft, the Bengals find themselves fortunate to land a potential steal in Martin.
The biggest knock on Martin is that he might not have top-end speed. He's got everything else, though. Martin is a north/south kind of runner who can make people miss, and he will be perfect to pound the rock in Jay Gruden's offense.
54. Detroit Lions
Chandler Jones, Defensive End, Syracuse
Cliff Avril will be a free agent in 2012, and after his 11-sack performance in 2011 he is going to be looking for a fat contract from the highest bidder. He has reportedly said he'll hold out if the Lions attempt to franchise him.
This leaves the Lions with the task of filling his open spot. They need another speed rusher to play opposite of Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Jones is a perfect candidate for the job. Although he isn't one of the best pass-rushers in the game, Jones' ability to rip inside could make for some interesting decisions from opposing guards and centers as the Lions set up stunts with him and Ndamukong Suh.
55. Atlanta Falcons
Brandon Boykin, Cornerback, Georgia
The Falcons have bigger needs than cornerback, but there aren't any offensive tackles lying around here in the bottom half of the second round.
Even if Brent Grimes is re-signed by the club, which isn't a given at this point, Boykin is the right choice for the Falcons.
56. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kevin Zeitler, Offensive Guard, Wisconsin
Chris Kemoeatu was benched twice in 2011 due to poor performances. He struggled in both pass protection as well as in the running game. I'll be surprised if the Steelers choose to pick up his $3.5 million contract for 2012, leaving them with a vacancy at the position.
Even if Kemoeatu stays on, it would be wise for the Steelers to further bolster their suspect offensive line by taking Zeitler in the second round.
Zeitler was one of the primary run blockers for Heisman finalist Montee Ball, so we know he is a crushing run-blocker. Where he struggles a bit is in pass protection, but he can get better with better mechanics and steady coaching.
57. Denver Broncos
Dwayne Allen, Tight End, Clemson
Daniel Fells was the leading receiver for the Broncos at the tight end position. He caught 19 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. That's not enough production.
Every young quarterback needs a security blanket at the tight end position. Tim Tebow needs someone he can trust like Aaron Hernandez was for him at Florida.
Cbssports.com said this about Allen:
Appears to be a very hard working prospect, takes football extremely seriously and wants to be great. Very durable. Played a major role in a sophisticated college offense that used NFL-style scheme.
Allen is the perfect candidate to give Tebow and the Broncos big-play abilities from the tight end position. He'll fit right in with Tebow's focused passion as well, giving the Broncos a formidable offense to defend.
58. Houston Texans
Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
After Andre Johnson, the Texans really don't have a receiver on their roster who inspires fear in their opponents. T.J. Yates often stared down Johnson is their loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round, leading to three interceptions.
Hill is a raw prospect, much like Dennarius Thomas is for the Denver Broncos.
He can make some amazing catches, using incredible athleticism and body control to snag balls that look to be uncatchable.
Hill might take a little while to develop, but he will give the Texans another big-play receiver to pair with Johnson.
59. New Orleans Saints
Ronnell Lewis, Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma
The Saints truly need two outside linebackers. There isn't a single outside linebacker currently on their roster that would start on most teams.
Jonathan Vilma is a stud, to be sure, but he needs some help on the edges or the Saints will continue to get abused in the running game.
Lewis could step in and start as the weak-side linebacker next to Vilma, giving the Saints and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo one more playmaker with which to torture opposing quarterbacks.
He is a natural athlete who needs to be trained up in the correct way. Spagnuolo and company are the right folks to give him what he needs to become a successful player in the NFL.
60. Green Bay Packers
David Wilson, Running Back, Virginia Tech
Anyone who watched the Packers play in 2011 could tell you that they have no running game to speak of. Granted, they pass more than they run, but they need more talent at the position in order to make the most out of the times they do choose to run.
Wilson is a tough back who can almost always get positive yards. This is a skill that should be beneficial to the Packers in the red-zone, making him a valuable asset going forward.
It's also rare for someone as fast as Wilson, who has no trouble at all getting around the corner on outside runs.
61. Baltimore Ravens
Mitchell Schwartz, Offensive Tackle, California
Bryant McKinnie isn't a bad player. In fact, he's quite good. The reality is that he won't be around much longer, and the Ravens better find his replacement before it's too late.
Michael Oher has proven he's better suited to stay on the right side, so moving him over isn't the best option.
Schwartz stood out at the Senior Bowl both for his ideal size (6'5" and 317 pounds) and for his ability to repeatedly stand up against the best pass-rushers in practice.
Schwartz is a good option for the Ravens here at the bottom of the second round. He won't need to start right away, but he gives them depth at one of the most important positions on the field.
62. San Francisco 49ers
Vinny Curry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Marshall
Ahmad Brooks is a free agent, and I suspect the 49ers will lose him to a big contract with another team. This leaves them needing another pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position.
Curry has risen up draft boards recently, and it might have something to do with reports like this one from cbssports.com:
Team leader, younger players look up to him. Positive attitude in the locker room, works well with the media. Hustle on the field reflects work ethic off the field. No major off-field incidents.
Sounds like the perfect guy to bring into the new culture being established in San Francisco. It doesn't hurt that he's also a fantastic football player who could become a dominant pass-rusher at the next level.
63. New England Patriots
Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
Bill Belichick further bolsters his haphazard secondary unit by selecting Minnifield, who is an absolute steal at the bottom of the second round.
A ball-hawk, Minnifield has 13 career interceptions. Between him and Kyle Arrington, the Patriots would have a dangerous combination to contend with in the passing game.
And people thought Belichick forgot how to draft...
64. New York Giants
Andre Branch, Defensive End, Clemson
Osi Umenyiora could be trouble again in 2012.
Even if he returns to the roster for the Giants, the time is now to replenish the talent pool on the edge of their defensive line. Branch is an ideal candidate to play behind Justin Tuck for a season or two.
Branch had a good year for Clemson in 2011, tallying 9.5 sacks. He improved every year at college. He shows tremendous upside, and he has the potential to add 15-20 pounds of muscle in the next few years, making him a perfect guy to play opposite of Jason Pierre-Paul for years to come in New York.