2012 NFL Mock Draft: Who Improved Their Stock at the Combine?
Future NFL players put their physical skills to the test this past week at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. And as it goes in every one of these events, prospects watched their draft stock either increase, decrease or just remain the same.
Some players did perform well and saw their respective stocks soar. But with the good comes the bad. The unfortunate truth of this event is that there are players who disappoint, leading to a possible decline in their value.
So in light of this year's performances, here is my latest mock of the 2012 NFL Draft's first round.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
With their Week 17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts officially clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Even though they'll be on the clock for four months, we all know the pick must be Stanford's Andrew Luck.
Luck going No. 1 overall is a clear no-brainer. The ability and intelligence are there, and it looks as if he's the next big thing coming into the NFL.
Indianapolis, however, will be in perhaps the stickiest situation in the game's history. If they take Luck, which they will, what happens to the quarterback they have now?
Maybe you've heard of him—Peyton Manning?
Will the Colts draft Luck and start him immediately?
Will they take Luck only to place him under the wing of Manning for a chunk of the season?
Or will Indy just cut ties with their long-time quarterback to make way for what looks like the second version of Manning?
There are many questions surrounding that potential scenario, but there are none when it comes to drafting Andrew Luck with the first pick in 2012.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Predicting a trade this early may be a tad ridiculous, but it seems very likely to occur. With teams such as Washington, Seattle, Kansas City and perhaps Cleveland vying for the services of Robert Griffin III, St. Louis currently sits in a commanding spot.
Jeff Fisher and his Rams can either sit in this spot and take USC's Matt Kalil or ship this pick away for multiple selections. Being that the Rams need help in nearly every position on the field, it would make sense to trade the pick in order to stock up on talent.
So who will be the team St. Louis trades with? Given their desperate need for a franchise quarterback, the Washington Redskins could very well emerge as the favorites. Add the useful or not-so-useful fact that Fisher and Mike Shanahan are pretty good friends, and we may have a winner here.
The trade would certainly entail the Redskins surrendering their sixth overall pick as well as a few more selections in either this draft or a future one. This would mean St. Louis would still have nice position at the No. 6 spot, along with the additional picks they could use to fill up their weak roster.
And we all know about Washington's horrific quarterback history, so Griffin would be nothing short of a savior for the struggling franchise. He has ridiculous accuracy on his deep throws, can make plays with his feet and was college football's best player in 2011.
Last season, Griffin passed for 37 touchdowns and 4,293 yards and has thrown just six picks. He also displayed his explosive run game, rushing for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns.
After seeing Carolina take a risk that paid off huge dividends with Cam Newton, perhaps the Redskins will have no problem taking a calculated chance of their own on a quarterback with multiple tools.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
If Washington or any other team were to trade up to select Griffin with the second pick, it would leave the Minnesota Vikings with the easiest pick in the entire draft. (Yes, even more so than Indianapolis and Luck.)
The younger brother of Carolina's Ryan Kalil, Matt, is another one of those sure-fire offensive lineman prospects. Kalil is 6'7", 275 lbs and is probably the best player in this draft not named Andrew Luck.
Taking Kalil would help protect youngster Christian Ponder and provide some running space for Adrian Peterson. There is no doubt he can immediately help an offensive line that gave up the fifth-most sacks in 2011.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
I've had the draft's top wideout, Justin Blackmon, mocked here quite a few times. But as it goes in just about every draft, teams often flock towards the best available talent over a need.
In this case, Cleveland certainly gets the best available player while addressing a need. There's no doubt the team is starving more for a wide receiver than a running back. Trent Richardson of Alabama, however, gives the Browns a much better ratio of talent-to-need than Blackmon does.
Richardson is the undisputed champion when it comes to this year's crop of running backs and would most definitely give Colt McCoy and his offense some much-needed help. The 2011 Heisman candidate has nice vision, great speed and the hands to take some passes out of the backfield.
Cleveland's ultimate focus going into the 2012 season should be surrounding McCoy with some type of talent.
Given Peyton Hillis' foggy situation, as well as the team's lack of a playmaker on offense, Richardson would be a positive step forward.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
With Ronde Barber growing older and Aqib Talib most likely on his way out, the Bucs will be in the market for a new cornerback.
If so, they would definitely grab Morris Claiborne with this pick. The LSU corner is easily the best prospect on the board at this point.
At 6'0" and 185 lbs, Claiborne has been one of college football's best cornerbacks over the last two seasons. In fact, he may be the best defensive player coming out in 2012. He has good hands, exceptional speed and the ability to be an elite cover corner in the NFL.
Tampa taking Claiborne would be yet another no-brainer in this draft.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
As a product of the forecasted trade with Washington, the St. Louis Rams would wind up with the sixth overall pick in the draft. And if Cleveland does in fact take Trent Richardson with the fourth selection, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon will be off the board as soon as the Rams hit the clock.
Blackmon is the top wide receiving prospect in the draft. He has the size, footwork and hands to become an elite receiver in the NFL. Many compare Blackmon's skill set to that of Terrell Owens', minus the off-field baggage.
The Rams' current No. 1 target, Brandon Lloyd, is a free agent in 2012. He has already vowed to follow his former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. So it seems extremely unlikely the team will be able to reel him back in unless they tag him.
Luckily for the Rams, Justin Blackmon could be available and would finally give Sam Bradford some help.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Mike Mularkey surrounded Matt Ryan with a nice bunch of wideouts during his time as offensive coordinator in Atlanta. And now that he's taken the head coaching job in Jacksonville, Mularkey could look to do the same here.
So if Michael Floyd is available, expect the Jags to take a long look at the Notre Dame product.
The 6'3" receiver has done nothing but dazzle during his collegiate years. In his four seasons at South Bend, Floyd never failed to record at least 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He raked in a bulky 95 passes this season, eight of them in the end zone.
The small kicker here is that Michael Floyd has had a questionable history off the field. And if you're a Jags fan, you know general manager Gene Smith was never quite fond of taking players that don't fit the squeaky clean bill.
But given the team's new ownership and Floyd's fairly impressive combine performance, the front office could very well pull the trigger on Floyd. If Smith is willing to ease up on his draft philosophy, Floyd could be the best fit for Blaine Gabbert out of any receiver in this class.
In addition, B/R's own Matt Miller has recently reported that at least three teams have Floyd as the draft's top wideout.
8. Miami Dolphins: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Newly hired head coach Joe Philbin has announced his defense will work under a 4-3 scheme.
This means the Dolphins need a talented pass-rusher to add to a pretty thin defensive line.
So Quinton Coples of North Carolina would be an incredible value pick for Miami here. The 6'6", 275 lbs defensive lineman racked up 7.5 sacks with 10 tackles for loss in his 2011 campaign. He certainly looks to be the very best pass-rusher this draft has to offer.
Philbin can slot Coples on the opposite side of the team's current top pass-rusher, Cameron Wake, to create one of the league's most dangerous defensive end duos.
9. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
With the ninth overall selection in the draft, the Panthers will have quite a few options. Marty Hurney and the rest of the Panthers brass could opt for an offensive tackle to bolster the line, a wideout for Cam Newton or a corner to help their struggling secondary.
But given their obvious need for a run-stuffer, Michael Brockers is likely to emerge as the favorite for this pick.
Over the past three seasons, Carolina's run defense has ranked amongst the very worst in the NFL. They finished 22nd in 2009, 23rd in 2010 and 25th in 2011. Their pass defense hasn't been exactly great either, allowing a league-high 8.4 yards per completion. These are the type of numbers that indicate a team's lack of an efficient playmaker on the defensive line.
Although Brockers is still quite raw at the position, many draft experts regard him as the draft's best defensive tackle. He displays great quickness, has very powerful legs and is an overall freakish athlete. All you'll hear about Brockers going into the draft is his tremendous upside, as he stands at a ridiculous 6'6", 306 lbs.
The former LSU Tiger may fill the team's biggest need and has scheduled a visit with Carolina on March 8th.
10. Buffalo Bills: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
In last year's draft, Buffalo took defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to improve their struggling line.
Dareus, however, needs some better talent next to him in order to make a greater impact. The Bills ranked 27th in sacks and were the fifth-worst rush defense in the league.
The pick could come down to Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram. But since Ingram is more fit to play the line, he would be the likelier option.
Ingram is incredibly athletic, has a good first step and is one of the draft's best pass-rushers. He chalked up 8.5 sacks in 2011 and could help the Bills increase their chances of getting to opposing quarterbacks.
He may seem like a reach as of now, but I expect Ingram to increase his stock after his upcoming combine performance.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Don't listen to the guys that say Robert Griffin came out of the combine as the biggest winner. Unless he really would have tanked it, Griffin was still going to be taken with the second overall pick regardless.
The real winner of the combine was Memphis' Dontari Poe. Poe completely ripped up the combine, proving that's he's quite the physical freak.
The defensive tackle put up 44 reps, the most of the event, and ran the 40 in a ridiculous 4.98 seconds. The 6'4", 346 pounder catapulted up everyone's—and I mean everyone's—board after that display.
Given Kansas City's need for a nose tackle, Poe should be a very tempting option for them with the 11th overall pick. The Chiefs also have a need for an offensive tackle, so Iowa's Riley Reiff and Stanford's Jonathan Martin could be in play.
But Poe and his upside may be too much to pass up for the defensive wiz Romeo Crennel.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
This happens every draft. A team in need of a quarterback ignores the ol' big board and reaches for a potential play-caller.
The most recent instance of taking such a gamble came when Minnesota selected Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in last year's draft. But although he was considered by many as a second-round talent at best, Ponder did turn in an impressive rookie campaign with the Vikings.
Given Seattle's desperate need at the position, Ryan Tannehill could very well be this year's version of Ponder. Just like Ponder, Tannehill is not regarded as a first-round talent and could be taken well ahead of his time.
The Texas A&M product looks to be a pretty decent prospect as of now. He threw for 3,744 yards along with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2011. Tannehill has a quick release, exhibits solid accuracy and is a very good athlete.
Some of his concerns lie in his ability to throw the deep ball as well as his inexperience at the quarterback position. I believe his rawness and foot injury should keep him out of this round. But given the desperation for a starting quarterback in this league, I would not be surprised to see his name called on the first day.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
If the Arizona Cardinals believes Kevin Kolb is their guy, they need to give him some help. Whether it be another target to sit opposite Larry Fitzgerald or a big lineman, the Cards have to build around Kolb.
Since the top two wide receivers are already off the board, the next logical choice would be Iowa's Riley Reiff.
Reiff has certainly emerged as one of college football's best players as a result of his impressive 2011 season. He's 6'6"and 300 pounds. He has been praised for his great fundamentals. Reiff has great footwork, bends very well, and has already played in a pro-style offense.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Cowboys sit in a great spot at No. 14. With their three major needs being in their secondary, their pass-rush and their offensive line, they'll have a handful of legitimate talent to pick from.
They may have prospects such as David DeCastro, Courtney Upshaw, Devon Still and Dre Kirkpatrick still available to them when their turn comes around.
But if they want to prevent another upending from the New York Giants, the secondary should be addressed with their first rounder. They can't have Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham (if he stays) running the field, as their corners constantly get left behind in the dust.
As of now, Janoris Jenkins looks to be the front runner for Dallas' pick here.
Jenkins has incredible quickness, great body control and aggression on coverage. He is a very gifted athlete and has the potential to be an elite corner in the NFL.
There is also no doubt the North Alabama transfer is a typical Jerry Jones draft pick. He has tremendous ability but a handful of off-field questions. Jones has consistently shown that his appetite for talent vastly overshadows his concern for attitude.
The Cowboys brass will have to believe that Jenkins' dismissal from Florida last season was just a wake-up call for a very promising prospect.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Philly's linebacking corps have been nothing short of terrible. This problem has been plaguing their defense and needs to be addressed. So if Luke Kuechly of Boston College is still there for the Eagles, expect them to jump on him.
He is a sound tackler, displays good mobility and is a very intelligent player. Kuechly also has good size and always seems to be in the middle of every play.
Some may argue the Eagles should go with the best remaining wideout in order to fill a potential hole left by DeSean Jackson. But with or without Jackson, scoring is not a problem for this team. When you have Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin headlining your offense, you're going to score.
The Eagles should look to patch up a problem that's been pestering them for a number of years now by taking Kuechly.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Jets must upgrade their pass-rush as well as their run defense in order to regain their spot amongst the league's best defenses.
Rex Ryan's crew ranked 13th against the run and 17th in sacks, lower than their top-10 positioning from the previous two seasons. They need a legitimate threat to rush the quarterback so that Ryan doesn't have to use the blitz so much.
Courtney Upshaw, the linebacker from Alabama, would give them an immediate boost. Upshaw has tremendous versatility in terms of positioning on defense. He has good speed and strength and is very quick off the ball.
Upshaw is also acquainted with 3-4 defense, something Rex Ryan will definitely like.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Cincinnati O-line proved to be very effective this season, allowing the seventh-fewest sacks in the entire NFL. But with Bobbie Williams and Nate Livings entering the free-agent pool this offseason, the Bengals may look to reinforce their line with their first pick.
I do believe the team will come to terms with the 36-year-old Williams. Livings, however, may not be so fortunate. Allowing Livings to walk would leave a hole at left guard in Cincinnati.
If so, selecting Stanford's David DeCastro would be one of the easiest picks in the draft. Not only is he the best guard in the draft, but he's by far the best remaining talent available.
DeCastro plays with a consistent mean streak and never takes a play off. He is also very athletic, exhibits nice footwork and is quite intelligent at his position. DeCastro would be a great addition to the Cincinnati O-line.
18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
This pick should come down to three options. The Chargers could go for a strong safety, an offensive lineman or a pass-rusher. I would have them going with Alabama's Mark Barron here. But given his recent hernia surgery and the rest of his injury history, teams may balk.
So if the Chargers cannot draft an offensive lineman who will be worth their while, they should be looking to upgrade their weak pass-rush. San Diego ranked 23rd in sacks in 2011. Their inability to consistently get to opposing quarterbacks played a huge factor in their disappointing defense.
Perry exhibits elite speed and great athleticism. He uses his hands very well and is extremely versatile.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Chicago Bears need to give Jay Cutler a true No. 1 target this offseason. So with Blackmon and Floyd off the board, Kendall Wright would seem like the logical choice. He is 5'10", has killer speed and possesses the ability to make game-changing plays.
Too bad Chicago already has that type of player. In fact, they have two of that player—Devin Hester and Johnny Knox.
It just wouldn't make sense to give Cutler another short receiver. The Bears are much better off searching free agency or investing a second- or third-rounder in a taller guy. This draft is deep in wideout talent, so they can wait.
The logical choice is actually Stanford's Jonathan Martin. Martin is flat-out huge, standing at 6'6", 305 lbs. He has good footwork and great mobility and is a very smart player. He'll give Cutler more throwing time and clear up some space for Chicago's run game.
20. Tennessee Titans: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
The Tennessee Titans were on the cusp of a playoff berth this past season. If the Titans can fill out a few needs, they'll once again be a solid contender for a postseason spot.
One of the needs they have to address is their offensive line. They didn't exactly help the struggles of star running back Chris Johnson last season.
Cordy Glenn, a 6'5", 348 lbs monster, would be a great match if Tennessee wants to emphasize its run game. He's relatively nimble for a man his size and is very good at opening up holes for the run game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dre Kirkpatrick drops to Cincinnati by virtue of Janoris Jenkins' Senior Bowl performance rather than his recent drug incident.
I don't believe Kirkpatrick's marijuana situation will have teams throwing him off their draft board. It was just the fact that he was in a car with an illegal drug just a month before the combine. He did, however, have the charge dropped early this week.
Either way, he seems to be slipping behind Jenkins en route to becoming the third-best corner in the draft. This will give the Bengals a crack at the Alabama corner with the 21st overall selection.
At 6'3", Kirkpatrick is a considerably tall cornerback. He has great speed, elite size and a knack for making big plays. He is also extremely effective against the run thanks to his anticipation and that speed.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
After grabbing Trent Richardson with their first pick this round, the Browns should be looking to nab a wideout. Colt McCoy needs a legitimate target in order to move along his development as a franchise quarterback.
So Kendall Wright of Baylor could be an option here for the Browns. He has great hands, killer speed and the ability to break off big plays.
Although I have him as the fourth-best receiver in this draft, many others think of him as perhaps the third or even second alternative to Justin Blackmon.
23. Detroit Lions: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
After watching the Saints and Packers completely dismantle the Lions' secondary in their last two games, the Lions definitely need to upgrade their secondary in the draft.
If the Lions want to surpass Green Bay in the NFC North, they must stop their aerial assault. That is perhaps where Alabama's Mark Barron could come in.
Due to his recent hernia surgery, Barron may find himself slipping down some team's boards. The surgery rendered him absent at the combine, which could force some general managers to stay away.
But regardless of his injury history, Barron is easily one of the draft's best players. Barron, a member of the great 2011-12 Alabama defense, brings a number of tools to the table. He's solid against the pass, very good at stopping the run and a sure tackler. Barron also has some nice size at 6'2", 218 lbs.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Team President Art Rooney II has stated he wants the "old" Steelers offense. By "old," Rooney means a run-heavy, grind-it-out type of offense. Nothing says grind it out more than a 6'7", 323 lb monster.
The logical choice is Mike Adams of Ohio State. He has a great frame and often exhibits very nice footwork. Many believe Adams could be the third-best offensive tackle, ahead of Stanford's Jonathan Martin.
The Ohio State product would be a much-needed addition to an underperforming offensive line.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Broncos could look to upgrade a bit on their line. Marcus Thomas isn't really great, making Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State an appealing option for Denver in this spot. He is very athletic and uses his great upper body strength to get by offensive linemen.
Cox was also named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week four times in 2011, an honor that shouldn't be taken lightly.
26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Another big winner from the combine was Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill. The 6'5" Hill ran a speedy 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, sparking the attention for all teams in need for a wideout.
The Houston Texans should be one of those teams. One position where the team needs some more depth is wide receiver. Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter are decent, but neither are a legitimate No. 2. The Texans need a real No. 2 to detract some attention from Johnson.
With that being said, Hill may be a nice pickup here.
Although Hill only caught 28 passes during his 2011 campaign, everything about this kid screams upside. He's got the size, the speed and the big play ability. He does, however, need to improve his route running order to bring his game to the next level.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Devon Still, DT, Penn State
With the first of their two picks in the round, the Patriots should be looking for some type of pass rush. Luckily, Penn State's Devon Still could slip to them here.
The big defensive tackle fills a need and would easily be one of the best players remaining. At 6'5", 307 lbs, Still is a very physical player. He has a strong upper body and uses his bull-rush well enough to get to opposing backfields.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Packers' defense was extremely unstable this season. They relinquished the most yards per game and only got to the quarterback 29 times, the fifth-lowest total in the NFL. They must add a pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews to solidify that shaky defense.
If so, Whitney Mercilus is the clear-cut choice here. Mercilus would be the best available player at this point and could help increase the team's sack total.
No defensive end in college football was better in 2011 than Mercilus. He racked up a gaudy 14.5 sacks in 2011, slating his name right into the thick of the first round.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Although Ray Lewis is one of the greatest players ever to step on the gridiron, he's not going to last forever.
With that in mind, Baltimore should look for his successor this offseason. It'll give Lewis time to mentor whomever that may be and ease him into the defense once he's gone.
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower could very well be that guy for the Ravens. Hightower has great size and speed and is very effective against the run.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
After his surprising yet pleasant 2011 campaign, Alex Smith finally seems to be the player that San Francisco drafted first overall back in 2005. He threw for over 3000 yards, gave up only five interceptions and led the Niners to a 13-3 regular season.
If they want to keep Smith going, the front office must provide him with more weapons. Besides Vernon Davis and perhaps Michael Crabtree, the team's targets are just not solid enough. So the Niners front office could think about pulling the trigger on Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery, 6'4" and 229 lbs, has an incredibly promising skill set, making him a very desirable player in the upcoming draft. In three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery has hauled in 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 600-yard receiving mark each year.
Just as B/R's Matt Miller does, I believe Jeffery could very well be the draft's top wide receiver. The size and skill set are all there. But with his lack of participation as well as his not-so-successful interviews at the combine, I wouldn't be surprised to see him fall.
Add that to the negative reputation he has gained through his questionable work ethic, and he may drop right into the second round.
31. New England Patriots: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
There's no question that New England's secondary needs some help. They gave up 293.9 passing yards per game and eight yards per attempt during the 2011 campaign.
With the pass defense as their major problem going into the 2012 offseason, New England should look to improve that with South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore has nice size and good ball skills and is an intelligent player. He's just another one of those very good corner prospects this deep draft has to offer.
32. New York Giants: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
If you've been following most or all of my drafts, then you know I've had the Giants buying into North Carolina's Zach Brown in every single mock. So for the sake of shaking things up, here's a new option for the Super Bowl Champions.
Orson Charles of Georgia is the top tight end in the 2012 draft class. The 6'3" Bulldog caught 45 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. Those numbers weren't exactly sparkling, but Charles certainly has the talent to play at the pro level. He has nice size and soft hands and is a great red-zone target.
With the team's current tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, recovering from devastating ACL injuries, the Giants should be looking to invest at the position. Tom Coughlin has already confirmed this possibility at the combine (via ESPN).