2012 NFL Mock Draft: First Round Projections, NFL Combine Edition
Let's try something different, shall we?
The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine has chewed up and spit out half of its participants, leaving the rest of us to interpret and debate results and developments over the weekend. Offensive players are officially done with their combine after today's workouts. Defensive players begin the field portions of their workouts tomorrow.
1. Let's pretend the NFL Scouting Combine is a lot more important than it truly is. Does this mean we disregard body of work? Of course not. However, does it mean we create a little artificial mobility in a player's draft stock in order to emphasize players that had fantastic combine showings? Absolutely.
2. Let's also limit our first round mock to only players that have participated in the combine, thus far. Yes, that means a first round that consists purely of offensive players.
Pick No. 1: Indianapolis Colts Select QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Andrew Luck did not throw at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. However, neither did his closest competition, Robert Griffin of Baylor.
The question is, even pretending that the NFL Scouting Combine is a bigger portion of a player's grade than is truly the case, did Andrew Luck have a good enough performance to stave off his closest competitor, or did Robert Griffin's flashy numbers do the trick?
I believe that, in its own way, Andrew Luck's performance was one of the best I have seen by a quarterback at the combine.
The body of work is clear. Andrew Luck displayed more fundamentally sound and valuable football skills that should translate to the pro game.
Even though Robert Griffin ran what could be argued to be the best 40 time of any true quarterback in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine, I do not think that alone was enough to upend Luck's position at the top of the draft.
This is not a cop-out, but simply a recognition that Luck's own performance belongs pretty high in the annals of NFL Scouting Combine history at the position. His combine performance was ridiculous enough that even in an exercise set up for ridiculousness, I could not in good conscience knock him off the first overall pick.
Pick No. 2: St. Louis Rams Select QB Robert Griffin, Baylor
Andrew Luck's performance at the NFL Scouting Combine might have been a little on the ridiculous side, considering the type of prospect he is, but Robert Griffin truly blew the doors off Lucas Oil Stadium.
Do not let my keeping Luck as the first overall pick detract from Griffin's performance. He did what he aimed to do.
His "official" 4.41 second result in the 40-yard dash is the second fastest "official" result for a quarterback in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine. The fastest quarterback to time in Indianapolis, Reggie McNeal, was quickly moved to wide receiver by the Cincinnati Bengals.
In my book, that makes Robert Griffin officially the fastest quarterback to ever participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
He did not stop at the 40-yard dash, though. He also produced a 39-inch vertical leap, which ranks second only to Josh Portis among quarterback combine participants since 2000.
Portis was a rookie in 2011, serving as the Seattle Seahawks' third stringer at the position the entire year. Whether he fizzles, or goes on to actually start a game, only time will tell. A better comparison for Griffin would be Daunte Culpepper's 39-inch vertical in the 1999 NFL Scouting Combine.
Those that actually saw Griffin's broad jump should have been able to see that the measure (10'0") did not accurately describe his explosiveness. The measure itself is highly impressive, among the top fifth or sixth percentile of quarterbacks that have participated in the new millennium.
But if you watched, Mike Mayock correctly observed that his technique was a little off in that he translated a little too much of his explosiveness vertically rather than horizontally. He exploded impressively, but if he had not jumped so high he probably would have jumped farther.
A team taking Robert Griffin will know that there really has never been a quarterback with the size, speed and explosiveness profile of the latest product of Art Briles' offense.
Even though Michael Vick ran a 4.35 second 40-yard dash privately for the Atlanta Falcons (which is not an apples-to-apples measure with the "official" numbers out of the NFL Scouting Combine), Vick did so at 6'0" and 210 lbs. Robert Griffin showed up at the combine nearly 6'2.5" and a rocked-up 223 lbs.
I have the St. Louis Rams taking Griffin at this pick. Do I expect him to end up with the Rams? No. However, if we're living a world where performance at the NFL Scouting Combine counts tremendously toward your final grade, then I think there is no chance Griffin slides beyond this pick.
Pick No. 3: Minnesota Vikings Select OT Matt Kalil, USC
The first step in impressing scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine comes with the weigh-in. Kalil measured in tall enough to be listed 6'7" in the program guides, but only 306 lbs, which I think he would even admit is probably too light. His arms were an excellent 34.5 inches in length.
The next step for him was the bench press. Typically, players with longer arms have a tough time doing a high number of repetitions on the bench press. The mechanics for a long-armed player bench pressing the weight usually involve too much inefficiency. For example, standout tackle Mike Adams was only able to do 19 repetitions.
However, Kalil is a rare player in that he was able to do 30 reps on the bench even with arms that come out nearly 35 inches.
Going back to the weight, I believe it was a gamble on his part, and I believe it paid off. When he ran the 40-yard dash, he broke the five-second barrier with a time of 4.99 seconds. For a 6'7"and 306 lbs man, that is outstanding. I have that time as in the sixth or seventh percentile of offensive tackles that ran at the NFL Scouting Combine in the new millennium.
Ultimately, I can't help but wonder if the Minnesota Vikings will go with a defensive player at this pick, considering how bad the defense was in 2011. However, in this exercise we are limiting our picks to offensive combine standouts.
We know they want to trade out of the pick very badly, but Robert Griffin may have helped his stock enough at the combine to guarantee that the St. Louis Rams are successful in trading their pick for Griffin.
Pick No. 4: Cleveland Browns Select WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
This is where things start to get weird.
The fact of the matter is, Justin Blackmon did not run at the combine. He did not jump. He claimed a hamstring injury, which obviously did not stop him participating in field drills.
To me, the second-best wide receiver in this draft is and has always been Michael Floyd of Notre Dame. I predicted a long time ago that he would have an excellent combine outing, and he repaid my confidence with an unofficial 4.41 second 40-yard dash that translated into an "official" 4.47 second measurement.
He measured in at nearly 6'3" and 220 lbs. He jumped 36.5 inches vertically and 10'2" in the broad jump. To my eyes, he looked very controlled and agile in his receiver drills. He caught the ball well. He is a player that I have held in high esteem as a first-round pick for over two years, and if the NFL Scouting Combine figures prominently in the scouts' grades, this guy will have leaped over Justin Blackmon.
The Cleveland Browns are a team in heavy need at the position. If you referred to their receivers unit as the worst in the NFL during the 2011 and 2010 seasons, you might not be far off. The team is rumored to be interested in veteran quarterback Matt Flynn. If they are able to sign him, then they will probably be looking to give him weapons.
Pick No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Select WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
I did not like Justin Blackmon's decision to participate in the field drills, but not the 40-yard dash or jump measures at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
The decision comes off as one where he fears his own measurements. If there is truly a hamstring injury (which is the skill position player's equivalent of a schoolboy tummy ache), then why is he able to pirouette so gracefully and explosively while catching the ball during field drills?
As I wrote with respect to the quarterbacks, I certainly have no issue with strategic non-participation in combine drills. I just believe that if you participate in the field drills, showing off all that speed and explosive ability, you should go ahead and get your other measures out of the way. If you are not going to do one, you should probably not do the other, so that scouts may actually believe your medical excuse.
Blackmon's non-participation in the 40-yard dash and other measurements at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine may have cost him his billing as the top wide receiver in the draft, but not by much. If you really pay attention to what the players are able to do on the field of play and you know what to value in an NFL wide receiver, then you will value Justin Blackmon very highly in this draft.
Despite the drawbacks of his inconsistent decision, the fact of the matter is that he performed very well running routes and catching the ball. His combination of body control and ball skills are what draw you to him.
As Sports Science recently put it, the control he possesses on his body and footwork gives him the effective catch radius of a two-car garage, on a short slant pattern.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rumored to be interested in Mario Manningham as a free agent. We will see if they follow through on that interest. If they do not, then Justin Blackmon makes sense at this pick.
Pick No. 6: Washington Redskins Select QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Despite total non-participation in the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, nothing short of a Peyton Manning signing will deter me from my belief that Ryan Tannehill is destined to suit up for the Washington Redskins under Mike Shanahan's banner.
As Mike Mayock recently put it during his combine broadcast, Tannehill notches the same check boxes in terms of physical skill set as Jake Locker did a year ago. The difference is, I believe Tannehill is far and away more accurate. Plus, as a bonus for Shanahan, Tannehill is versed in a West Coast system that is very similar to the one run in Washington.
The Redskins have allowed themselves to be publicly noted as a team that has interviewed and is interested in Robert Griffin. However, when Mike Shanahan took Jay Cutler in the 2006 NFL Draft, Cutler had famously not even spoken with the Broncos during the entire draft process.
Mike Shanahan plays his cards as close to the vest as any in the NFL business, and I believe that when all is said and done, Tannehill is his guy.
Pick No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars Select WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
When I mentioned before that if one were to label the Cleveland Browns as having the worst receivers unit in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, they would not be far off, this implied that they would not be exactly right, either. That is because the team with the absolute worst set of receivers in the NFL at this very moment is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sorry, Jaguars fans. I am not trying to be mean.
This may seem like an awful reach, and it is. However, think of the exercise: an offense-only first-round mock draft featuring players that showed up extremely well in Indianapolis. The fact of the matter is, aside from Robert Griffin, I am not sure any player could be argued to have put on a more dominating performance, on a position-relative basis.
Hill timed 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 6'4' and 215 lbs. He was his team's top receiving option, yet he averaged nearly 30 yards per reception in 2011. He did not run the route tree in Georgia Tech simply because he was not asked to run it.
His measurements were not the only aspect of his positive performance in Indianapolis. He also had a 39.5 inch vertical and outstanding 11'1" broad jump, and was very impressive catching the ball and running routes in field drills. He made at least one highlight reel catch on his specialty, the go route.
This is a highly explosive, blazing-fast player that stands 6'4" and averaged nearly 30 yards per catch. The NFL is too in love with explosive plays to let him slide very far in this draft.
Pick No. 8: Miami Dolphins Select QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Brandon Weeden did not participate in the 40-yard dash or any other athletic measures. Normally, you would knock a player for that.
However, Weeden projects to be a pocket quarterback at the next level. Those measures are not deemed very important to his draft stock.
He participated in throwing drills because the strength of his game is throwing the football, as he recently noted on Twitter. How novel, a quarterback whose strength is throwing the football.
I do not believe I would be alone in my assessment that, not unlike the Senior Bowl practices, Weeden was once again the most impressive thrower in this setting. He needs to continue to throw and interview at every opportunity, because that is how a team is going to fall in love with him.
The Miami Dolphins need a quarterback and could find themselves in the awkward position of having swung and missed on Peyton Manning, and also losing Matt Flynn by virtue of their pursuit of Peyton.
Of course, Andrew Luck remains property of the Indianapolis Colts. It's tough to see the Dolphins having the stones (or ammunition) to trade up for Robert Griffin, and Mike Shanahan may pull one over them by selecting Ryan Tannehill before the Dolphins can re-unite him with his college coach, Mike Sherman.
In recent interviews, Jeff Ireland stressed that the Dolphins do not care whether their next quarterback is young or old. That is good, because they may find themselves having to reach in order to make sure they get the only other legitimate professional thrower of the football available this offseason, aside from the men named above.
Pick No. 9: Carolina Panthers Select G/T Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Nobody would see this pick coming, but it makes a certain kind of sense.
The team has some question marks on the offensive line, considering right tackle Jeff Otah's history of injuries. You do not want to give up on the former first-round pick, because he is far too talented. At the same time, how do you count on him?
Cordy Glenn played left tackle at Georgia in 2011, and I think it is about time that people start to realize that there is a good chance he could end up playing tackle at the next level, rather than being kicked inside to guard as has been the popular opinion. His combine performance was ridiculous.
Despite near-36-inch arm length, he pushed up an amazing 31 repetitions of 225 lbs on the bench. Despite 345 lbs of weight, he ran a 5.15 second 40-yard dash. His unofficial 10-yard split was on par with the best 10-yard split recorded on an offensive lineman period, from a year ago.
He showed up at the Senior Bowl and did extremely well going up against great pass rushers from left tackle.
If the Panthers want to play him at left tackle while Jordan Gross kicks over to right tackle in place of Otah, they have that option. If the Panthers need him to displace Travelle Wharton at left guard, they have that option. If they need Glenn to take over for Otah at right tackle directly, they have that option.
Pick #10: Buffalo Bills Select TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
The Buffalo Bills are in need of some more pass catching weaponry for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Brad Smith does not really factor much as an actual wide receiver, and Stevie Johnson is scheduled to be a free agent. Scott Chandler turned out to be a nice surprise at the tight end position, but the Bills may look at how the Patriots utilized their tight ends in 2011, and get some ideas of their own.
Coby Fleener did not perform at this year's scouting combine. However, Dwayne Allen did not do enough to displace him. If Fleener had been able to perform, there is a high likelihood that he would have turned in an exceptional combine performance.
Fleener measured a full 6'6" and 247 lbs. The one drill he performed was the bench press, where he tied Dwayne Allen for second ranked performance at 27 reps. That was more than offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who had about the same arm length as Fleener.
Pick No. 11: Kansas City Chiefs Select OG David DeCastro, Stanford
David DeCastro is, in my estimation, the best offensive lineman in this draft class. I firmly believe that.
I think that Matt Kalil shows some spectacular potential and elite characteristics, but the bottom line is that he showed weakness on his inside shoulder and got beat too often to stack up with DeCastro.
David is also a better performer at his position than Riley Reiff was at his position. His combine performance is what I would call sneaky good, not unlike John Moffitt's performance a year ago. DeCastro showed what he needed to show, which is an exception combination of brutal strength, and the ability to move well on his feet.
Do not look for a great 40-yard dash time, because you will not find it. His body was not built for transition. But his third-ranking short shuttle among all offensive linemen, as well as his first-ranking cone drill, show that he is a player that moves very well on his feet.
Put that together with his second ranking number of bench reps, and he affirmed exactly what he is at this year's combine.
Pick No. 12: Seattle Seahawks Select RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Despite the success of Marshawn Lynch, and despite Richardson's not performing at this year's scouting combine, the Seahawks may let Lynch walk in free agency and replace him with Richardson.
Even with their needs at the quarterback position, the team may find it hard to pass up on the best tailback to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson.
The team is unusually patient about filling the quarterback position, choosing to aggressively go after lower-cost options and find one that works rather than chase higher-caliber players. Something tells me they could keep with that strategy this offseason.
Pick No. 13: Arizona Cardinals Select TE Orson Charles, Georgia
Wide receiver is a heavy need for the Arizona Cardinals, but it might be such a need that they address the position significantly in free agency.
While Orson Charles is not my second rated tight end, nor did he participate in drills at the combine, he did prove a lot by measuring in at 6'2.5" and 251 lbs. He followed that up by doing a position-high 31 reps on the bench.
The league could start to go a little tight end-crazy in the wake of the success of offenses like New England's and New Orleans. It would not surprise me if teams started to reach on Orson Charles a little bit.
Pick No. 14: Dallas Cowboys Select OC Peter Konz, Wisconsin
Konz is a legitimately premium center prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft. He did not do more than the bench press at the combine, and truthfully, his 18 reps stacked up pretty poorly for his position.
Nonetheless, no center is really in position to challenge Konz as the highest rated player at this position, and the Cowboys may have a need here.
Phil Costa very publicly won the battle for the position from Andre Gurode prior to the 2011 season. However, that does not mean he played well. Gurode went on to play poorly for the Baltimore Ravens, but Costa was not much better.
Pick No. 15: Philadelphia Eagles Select WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
Wright should not, in all actuality, end up the 15th offensive player taken off the board in this year's NFL Draft. However, this is a snap reaction piece to NFL Combine performances, and the simple fact of the matter is that Wright's performance was disappointing relative to expectations.
The "official" combine times had him at an abysmal 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash. I have railed in the past on the validity of the "official" times, and I will not get into it again here. Suffice it to say that I do not think many scouts had him in that neighborhood.
Nonetheless, this was a guy that was supposed to run so fast as to leave little doubt about his vertical speed, and he did not do that. Watching him run receiver drills, you can see that he's a very fluid runner and has more ability to run under the ball than his 40-time would indicate.
His form on the 40-yard dash also seemed very questionable, as he popped up right off the blocks, giving him bad starts not unlike what we saw out of Joe Haden a few years ago when he ran in the same range despite having field speed that much more closely approaches the 4.4 range.
Pick No. 16: New York Jets Select OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
The Jets have multiple needs on both offense and defense. In this offense-only first round mock, I have the likes of Matt Kalil, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn and Peter Konz already off the board. That leaves them the ability to select a guy like Riley Reiff, who actually performed poorly at the combine.
The Jets never adequately replaced Damien Woody at right tackle, and it really hurt the team in 2011 as Wayne Hunter was exposed for the marginal player he is and has always been. The team could find themselves reaching for a need at this pick.
Pick No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals Select RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech
The Bengals lack an explosive element in their ground game with Cedric Benson taking the bulk of carries. Though Benson, a free agent, will probably be retained, he is getting up there in age and wear and tear. As much as I liked sixth-round pick Bernard Scott coming out of the draft a few years back, he really has not played very well since donning a Cincinnati uniform.
David Wilson arguably had an even better combine than Lamar Miller, despite running an "official" 4.49 second 40-yard dash to Miller's 4.40 second time.
Wilson also turned in exceptional 41-inch vertical, 11'0" broad jump and 4.12-second short shuttle results. He caught the ball well and showed that he could be a factor back to pair with Benson and eventually replace him.
Pick No. 18: San Diego Chargers Select OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
Martin did not participate in this year's scouting combine, and so that hurts him in this exercise. Come April, you could actually see him available at this pick.
Marcus McNeil walked into the league with a significant lower back condition, and he has not been healthy of late. The team barely got away with a waiver player in Jared Gaither playing the left tackle position. Gaither played well, and he will look to parlay that success into a big contract as a free agent.
The Chargers could look to keep Martin in-state as a replacement for the underachieving Jeromey Clary at right tackle, until such time as it is appropriate to replace Marcus McNeil at left tackle.
Pick No. 19: Chicago Bears Select TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Allen had a good start to his weekend when he checked in at over 6'3" in height and a solid 255 lbs in weight. He did an impressive 27 reps on the bench.
It went down hill from there as he turned in a 4.89 second time in the 40-yard dash, and only jumped 32 inches vertically and 9'2" horizontally. He showed some of the agility that made him a standout prospect at Clemson with shuttle and cone scores that showed in the top five or six at the position, but all in all it was a bad weekend.
The Bears have a need at this position, which should be utilized more now that Mike Martz is gone.
Pick No. 20: Tennessee Titans Select WR Marvin McNutt, Iowa
In a world gone crazy over combine numbers, this actually is not as ludicrous a pick as you would think.
McNutt caught for over 2,000 yards with 20 touchdowns the last two years at a big program in Iowa. He ran unofficially in the low 4.4 range before "official" numbers bumped him up to a 4.54.
However, his jump and agility figures were closer in quality to the unofficial 40 time than to the "official" one. This is a guy that showed excellent hands and ball skills at Iowa and was highly productive. It turns out that, athletically, that may not have been a fluke.
Picks No. 21 Through No. 24
Pick No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals Select WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Jeffrey did not perform in drills but had a big win by showing up at a trim 216 lbs, putting false reports of his weight ballooning uncontrollably (temporarily) to bed. Bengals may lose Jerome Simpson in free agency, and the team loves picking players that are thought to be much more talented than their positioning, but for some overhanging issue.
Pick No. 22: Cleveland Browns Select RB Lamar Miller, Miami (FL)
Miller had the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine at an "official" 4.40 seconds. Just watch his big runs against Boston College if you want to see the explosive element he can add to an offense.
Pick No. 23: Detroit Lions Select OT Brandon Washington, Miami (FL)
Mike Adams was highly, highly disappointing in his combine showing, bumping him further down the board than people think. The Lions still need offensive line help, though.
Pick No. 24: Pittsburgh Steelers Select OT Mike Adams, Ohio State
Despite a poor combine showing, the Steelers could try and polish up Adams as an replacement for Max Starks, who was never all that fast or athletically impressive, either.
Picks No. 25 Through No. 28
Pick No. 25: Denver Broncos Select RB LaMichael James, Oregon
It turns out this super-productive and shifty college player, who competed to be named the best player in the land, actually has impressive tangibles. He ran a 4.45, measuring out 5'8" and 194 lbs, and put together some good accompanying explosiveness and agility measures.
He looks like a natural fit for the kind of option attack the Broncos figure to continue running with Tim Tebow.
Pick No. 26: Houston Texans Select TE Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette
Green took full advantage of his opportunity with both Coby Fleener and Orson Charles bowing out of the running and jumping portions of the combine. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash and had very good jump and agility measurements.
Pick No. 27: New England Patriots Select WR Devon Wylie, Fresno State
They call him "Wiggles." I call him "really good." He blew out the combine with a 4.39 "official" 40-yard dash measurement, and followed up with great jump measurements. A discerning eye would see that he may have been the most crisp runner in field drills as well.
I saw him practice live all week in preparation for the East-West Shrine Game, and no player spots and adjusts to the football in the air as well as him, except perhaps Justin Blackmon. He is an immediate threat as a punt returner, the kind of receiver that thrives in New England, and he's got the afterburners to take the top off a defense.
Pick No. 28: Green Bay Packers Select RB Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
Quietly, Cyrus Gray may have proven his staunch supporters right by showing up at the combine and running an unofficial 40-yard dash time in the low 4.4's, a time which translated to an "official" 4.47 seconds.
In an interview with Simon Clancy last year, standout linebacker Tom Wort of the Oklahoma Sooners defense said that Gray was the most difficult player he had ever faced. Cyrus has experience in a system which should translate well in Green Bay, and his role in the Aggies' passing game should help him compete to replace James Starks.
No. 29 Through No. 32
Pick No. 29: Baltimore Ravens Select WR Nick Toon, Wisconsin
Toon had a performance that stacked up pretty nicely with a 40-yard dash of 4.54 seconds and a vertical of 37.5 inches. This may have helped him allay some fears over his health. Ozzie Newsome may appreciate Toon's bloodlines.
Pick No. 30: San Francisco 49ers Select WR Tommy Streeter, Miami (FL)
Predictably, things are not working out so well for Ted Ginn in San Francisco. Streeter may be raw, but his combination of 6'5" height and legitimate 4.40 speed, as measured at the combine, could be a good combination with Michael Crabtree.
Pick No. 31: New England Patriots Select OC Phillip Blake, Baylor
Blake fits the Patriots' mold for smart, stout and well experienced players at the swing position. Replacing Dan Koppen on the offensive line could be an issue that comes to the forefront for the team in this draft, as Dan Connolly is not an ideal option.
Pick No. 32: New York Giants Select OT Andrew Datko, Florida State
Datko's very solid combine showing could see him rise back up the boards, especially in an exercise like this one where we weight combine performance a little extra. The Giants definitely have some needs along the offensive line.
Datko's shoulder issues left him with a lot to prove in Indianapolis. He shied away from the bench press, but he proved that his mobility and explosiveness are among the best at his position in this draft. He is a very coachable player.