2012 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Entire First Round of Picks

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Entire First Round of Picks
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Robert Griffin III ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and Andrew Luck looked every bit athletic as Cam Newton. Janoris Jenkins played the part of shutdown corner and Michael Floyd was a standout during receiver drills. 

All, as expected, were stars at the NFL Scouting Combine and solidified their status as first-round locks in the upcoming draft.  

Other top prospects, however, floundered in their respective performances. 

Vontaze Burfict slothed his way to the worst forty-yard dash (5.09) and broad jump of the linebacker group. Mohamed Sanu appeared slower in workouts than he does on tape and Vinny Curry lacked explosiveness necessary in a premiere pass-rusher.

All failed to prove their first-round worth and now must watch their stock drop like stones. 

As some fall, though, others must rise to fill the void. 

Dontari Poe, Stephen Hill and Luke Kuechly were among this year's workout warriors who vaulted themselves into secure spots in this mock draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

An easy choice here. The Colts welcome their new franchise quarterback, while simultaneously waving goodbye to the old one. Critics of Luck are about as vocal as the main character in The Artist; they're silent. The transition may be onerous if the team fails to surround him with more talent. 

2. Cleveland Browns (after trade to St. Louis Rams): QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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When you don't suck enough for Luck, you start fishin' for Griffin. The Browns have the most to offer in a trade scenario and have their eyes set on Griffin, who may have a higher ceiling than the top pick. The move bumps Colt McCoy to backup duty (a more befitting location) and gives the team a sturdy foundation to build upon.

3. Minnesota Vikings: OT Matt Kalil, USC

They made a bold move in drafting Christian Ponder last year, and now need to do all they can to protect him from attacking defenders. Kalil is the ideal bastion. He's smart, strong and athletic enough to hold the fort for the next decade or so.

4. St. Louis Rams (from Browns): WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.

This is purely based on need, and the Rams desperately need a receiver. Blackmon has been the best wideout in college over the past couple seasons and instantly becomes Sam Bradford's top target. The team may give Michael Floyd some serious consideration, but will ultimately select Blackmon.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Receiver help is essential, but that can be addressed in the later rounds. Their glaring weakness is in the secondary and Claiborne is regarded as the top corner in this draft. He ran a 4.50 40-yard dash and displayed fluidity throughout the drills. He'll be a starter in Week 1.

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6. Washington Redskins: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

This is where things get tricky and the surprises commence. The Redskins are frantically trying to move up in the draft for Griffin, but should be preparing a Plan B. Floyd provides them with a legit No. 1 receiver and red-zone threat, should they ever visit the beautiful destination. Quarterback issues will likely be resolved via free agency (cough Matt Flynn cough) and the best way to greet a signal-caller is with a gift basket and talented receiver.  

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Blaine Gabbert shrinks under pressure like a frightened turtle. However, there are no clear solutions in the draft at this spot. Look for them to add a veteran quarterback, like Jason Campbell, to challenge the young Gabbert. In the draft, they'll choose between two athletic defensive ends—Melvin Ingram and Nick Perry. Ingram gets the nod, slightly.

8. Miami Dolphins: DE/OLB Nick Perry, USC

As strange as it may sound, the Dolphins are only a couple steps away from playoff contention. Perry is one of those steps. He's big, fast and versatile enough to play multiple positions for the defense. His high-motor and solid technique allow him to pressure the quarterback with frequency.  

9. Carolina Panthers: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis

Poe, all 346-pounds of him, has made the journey from inconspicuousness to the center of the spotlight after an impressive combine performance. Quickly, too, considering he clocked a 4.87 40-yard dash. The Panthers need a big tackle to man the middle, while gobbling up blockers. Poe has an appetite for just that and can get after the quarterback in a hurry. It will be hard for the Panthers to pass on someone comparable to Haloti Ngata. 

10. Buffalo Bills: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa  

Stevie Johnson has been re-signed, so the need for receiver depth, though still alive and well, can be taken care of in the mid-rounds. Reiff is a polished tackle able to step in and contribute immediately. He's not the strongest, but he's quick and his mechanics are sound. Demetrius Bell has a history of knee issues and his return is not guaranteed.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: OG David DeCastro, Stanford

The Chiefs have no glaring weakness, just a few minor defects. Some key additions and the return of injured starters (Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry) could render a playoff run in 2012. DeCastro is one of the better guard prospects in recent years. He comes from a pro-style offense and can do it all as a blocker and in pass-protection. 

12. Seattle Seahawks: DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

This selection will come as a shock for many, but not those familiar with the Seahawks' inability to pressure quarterbacks. Mercilus is quick off the snap and uses a number of pass-rush moves to consistently get by his man. He lead the NCAA in sacks, collecting 16, and is equally impressive stopping the run. He reminds me of Aldon Smith, which means he's well worth this selection. 

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13. Arizona Cardinals: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina 

The Cardinals have bigger concerns elsewhere, specifically the offensive line, but will be too tempted when Coples falls to them. He can play defensive end for a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme to along with a special blend of speed and power. Coples' production never matched his natural talent, but with proper coaching will be a force in the NFL.

14. Dallas Cowboys: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

All lights are green lights to owner Jerry Jones, who has never been one to avoid red flags. On field needs come first and boosting the team's secondary is at the top of the list. Jenkins, in my opinion, is the most talented corner in the draft. He's fast, fluid with his movements and ready to make an impact from the get go. Jenkins may have been a headache to past coaches, but he is a migraine to receivers.

15. Philadelphia Eagle: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

The Eagles are patiently waiting for Kuechly to land in their welcoming arms. At the combine, Kuechly measured in at 242-pounds and clocked a 4.58 40-yard dash. He was also a standout throughout the drills. More importantly, he produced on the field while playing at Boston College. He will be a defensive leader for years to come.

16. New York Jets: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

Plaxico Burress' return appears grim after recently expressing a desire to play for the Eagles. Jeffery could be an ideal replacement, even a possible upgrade. He didn't run at the combine, so many will pay close attention to his pro day. Don't expect blazing speed, though, as size (6'4", 216-pounds) is his biggest asset. 

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders): RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

They've got Andy Dalton at quarterback and A.J. Green at receiver. Now they just need that star running back to complete the three-headed monster. Richardson is hands-down the top running back in this draft and quite possibly the best to come out since Adrian Peterson. He's big, runs with power and has the hands of a receiver. 

18. San Diego Chargers: OT Cordy Glenn, Georgia

How many times can the Chargers fail to meet expectations? It's become what seems like an annual tradition. The easy answer is simply lowering expectations, yet the best one is fixing personnel issues. Perched atop the team's wish list is a bolstered offensive line. Glenn is versatile enough to play (and excel at) both tackle and guard. 

 

19. Chicago Bears: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

A wideout here is the more popular pick, but this draft pool is deep with receiver talent; They can find value later on. At 6'2", Kirkpatrick is a size that scouts covet and receivers begrudge. He's very advanced with his footwork and athletically gifted. Also, being a three-year starter for a stingy Alabama defense looks pretty good on a resume. 

20. Tennessee Titans: OLB Zach Brown, North Carolina

Teams are enamored with speed and Brown has plenty to spare. He clocked a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and looks just as fast in pads. However, he has a tendency to disappear and his effort has been questioned. Overall, though, his athleticism and potential will be too much to resist.  

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21. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Their first pick was spent on the offense, this one is aimed to improve their defense. Starting corner Leon Hall tore his Achilles tendon and is slated to miss most of the season. Gilmore is excellent in both man and zone coverage, has top-end speed and is committed to stopping the run. 

22. Cleveland Browns: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

Don't let his timing a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine fool you; Wright is a fast dude. Just watch game tape of him repeatedly blowing by defenders. The selection would reunite him with his college quarterback, RG3. Last season, the duo connected on 108 throws for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

 

23. Detroit Lions: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Lions are famous for ignoring immediate needs in pursuit of the best available player. Quietly, though, those draft picks have now formed one of the more talented rosters. Their recent playoff appearance was no fluke; this team is for real. Martin is a steal here. Better yet, he's a reliable shield for an injury-prone quarterback.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

Just re-watch the playoff game against the Broncos; the Steelers need help at corner. Big time. Dennard is an experienced starter and NFL-ready. Last season, he had four interceptions, six passes defended and 31 tackles en route to the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award. Dont'a Hightower is another option that has been linked to the team. 

25. Denver Broncos: DT Michael Brockers, LSU

Don't be too surprised if they target a running back, possibly Lamar Miller or David Wilson. There are always rumors of dissatisfaction with Tebow. The Broncos may even shore up their inconsistent offensive line. My guess, though, is the undervalued Brockers who, in my opinion, is a top-10 talent. He has a big frame (6'5", 322-pounds) and equally massive potential. 

26. Houston Texans: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Health, or lack of, halted what was shaping up to be a possible Super Bowl run last season. The Texans are well-balanced, with few holes in their roster. There is nothing sexy about this pick, but it is necessary. Konz is the premiere center in the draft and versatile enough to start at guard, if needed. 

 

27. New England Patriots: DE Andre Branch, Clemson

If the team fails to acquire receiver help in free agency, they may target Stephen Hill with this selection. A pass-rusher, however, is a more pressing need. Branch ran a 4.70 40-yard dash at the recent combine, had a 32.5" vertical leap and displayed explosiveness throughout the drills. He possesses the ability to beat blocks and disrupt opposing quarterbacks. 

28. Green Bay Packers: RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

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The Packers, if possible, get even more dangerous with this selection. The only thing missing from their offense is an explosive running back; Wilson is just that. He is blazing fast and has the versatility to line up at receiver, as well. 

29. Baltimore Ravens: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

Though more bitter than sweet, finding Ray Lewis' successor is a task the franchise must confront sooner than later. Hightower surprised many by running an official 4.68 40-yard dash—an impressive number for a 265-pound linebacker. On top of that, he is the surest tackler in the draft. 

30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

This guy used the combine as a launchpad up NFL draft boards and into the center of the 49ers radar. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, registered a 39.5" vertical leap and was sharp running routes. Hill adds two things missing in the team's receiving corps: speed and a big-bodied red zone target (6'4", 215-pounds). An ideal two-birds-with-one-stone scenario.

31. New England Patriots: SS Mark Barron, Alabama

The pass defense, ranked 31st in the league, was horrendous last season. Barron, a captain at Alabama, has the size and athleticism to contribute right away. He has great range and is solid in run support. Look for him to start alongside Patrick Chung.  

32. New York Giants: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

As if Eli Manning didn't have enough weapons around him. The Giants need an upgrade at the position and Fleener is the most complete tight end of the draft. His ability to stretch the field down the middle will open things up for Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The rich get richer with this selection. 

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