2012 NFL Mock Draft: Rams, Redskins Trade Shakes Up First Round
Groundbreaking trades are rare in the NFL where players and draft picks are protected with Secret Service-like measures. This is what makes the trade from the Washington Redskins to the St. Louis Rams all the more exciting.
The Redskins have agreed to send three first-round picks (2012, 2013, 2014) and their 2012 second-round pick to the Rams in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft—and the rights to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (or Andrew Luck, technically).
How does this trade change the order of the first round? Considerably.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
As of now, it still looks like the Indianapolis Colts will draft Andrew Luck. We know for sure they will draft a quarterback after they released Peyton Manning earlier this week.
Indianapolis is in true rebuilding mode. They not only cut Manning, they also let go of five other veterans Friday in a cap-clearing move.
Luck will face a tall order in his first season, but the Colts are rolling out the red carpet to make him their franchise savior.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis)
Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
*Redskins send 2012, 2013, 2014 first-round and 2012 second-round pick to Rams in exchange for No. 2 overall pick
This trade had been predicted in this space for quite some time now. The Redskins were said to be all-in for RG3, and they certainly anted up to get him.
One quick note—the Colts have not said they will draft Andrew Luck; it's only assumed. The Redskins will gladly take whichever quarterback the Colts do not.
Giving up four very high draft picks in exchange for one player is unprecedented in terms of NFL trades.
The Redskins are not one player away from winning a Super Bowl, which is why they made this trade before free agency began. The Redskins have sent a clear message to free agents that they will have RG3 (or Luck) next fall. The message that Washington is serious about winning should be loud and clear.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
Lost in the hype of Luck and Griffin is the fact that a very good left tackle will be headed to Minnesota to protect the blindside of Christian Ponder.
The Vikings lose out on being able to trade their No. 3 overall pick in exchange for a treasure chest of picks, but their consolation is drafting an elite left-tackle prospect who will instantly make them a better overall offense.
The Vikings have needs at wide receiver and cornerback, which could make Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne an option here.
4. Cleveland Browns
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
The Cleveland Browns will surely want to trade down if they are presented with this scenario, but finding a trading partner may be tough.
If the Browns hold pat and use this selection, LSU's Morris Claiborne is a dangerous prospect with elite cover skills. In grading his cover skills, Claiborne grades out higher than 2011 No. 6 overall pick Patrick Peterson did at cornerback.
Teaming Claiborne with Joe Haden, along with T.J. Ward, will give the Browns an excellent young secondary.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano turned around the Rutgers program by running the ball and running a disciplined program. With an all-time elite prospect like Trent Richardson on the board at running back, Schiano will be too tempted to say no.
Richardson grades out as similar to LaDainian Tomlinson on my all-time grades—higher than Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden coming out of college. Running backs may not be worth a top-10 pick anymore, but future Hall of Fame talent is.
Tampa could be tempted with Justin Blackmon here, but it's more likely they will look for a wide receiver in the second round.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
Look at any Jeff Fisher coached team during his time in Houston/Tennessee and you will see a hard-nosed team dominated by a sound running game and a mean defensive front.
The Rams have the running back in Steven Jackson, and they have the defensive ends. Now is the time to draft the penetrating three-technique Albert Haynesworth of the St. Louis defense.
Brockers is raw. There's no denying it, but he's also loaded with potential. He's an ace against the run and has the first-step quickness to shoot the gap and make plays—something LSU never asked him to do.
With a plethora of picks following the Redskins trade, St. Louis can afford to draft a player they believe in here and fill needs later.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon is my No. 3 ranked wide receiver, but when draft day comes he's likely to be the first one taken—unless NFL teams start taking my advice (doubtful).
Blackmon reportedly impressed with his Pro Day workout on Friday, solidifying his stock in the eyes of many. For a wide receiver starved roster like the Jaguars, Blackmon would be a savior.
The Jaguars need to find targets for Blaine Gabbert to work with, and a hard-charging receiver with good short-area quickness and strength is just what the offense needs.
8. Miami Dolphins
Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC
*Projecting a Miami signing of Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn
Nick Perry ranks as the best defensive end in the 2012 draft class. His combination of size (271 lbs), speed (4.50 in the 40) and strength (34 bench press reps) make him a prospect worth a top-10 pick.
Perry leaves USC as an unfinished product. He has one move, a speed rush off the edge and will need to develop slightly at the next level. What is promising is that Perry has the athletic ability to be a stud off the edge.
His quickness, flexibility to bend the corner and strength at the point of attack make Perry a much more attractive prospect than Quinton Coples here.
9. Carolina Panthers
Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
The Carolina Panthers kicked off the official visits schedule by bringing in defensive tackle Michael Brockers this week. This shows us that they are as serious about upgrading at defensive tackle as we all thought.
With Brockers off the board, the Panthers turn to the defensive star of the NFL Scouting Combine—Dontari Poe.
I've likened Poe to a piece of clay. At first glance, it's not that impressive, but put in the right hands, it's a masterpiece. When watching Poe's film from Memphis, I was rarely blown away, but as a former coach, I see a player with unlimited upside who can be molded into an All-Pro.
10. Buffalo Bills
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
The Buffalo Bills locked up Stevie Johnson to a long-term deal, but they still have a hole at wide receiver opposite him. Head coach Chan Gailey loves speed, and he loves playmakers. Floyd is both.
With Floyd, Johnson and Scott Chandler working the secondary, and Fred Jackson back pounding defenses, the Buffalo Bills have the offensive threats to keep from a second-half fall down the standings like they experienced in 2011.
Defense is an option here, especially defensive end. Don't rule out Quinton Coples as an option.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
The Kansas City Chiefs are a wild card in the first round. They could choose to go many directions with the No. 12 overall pick, which would send the rest of the round into disarray.
Based on rankings, team needs and the mindset of Scott Pioli, we have the Chiefs addressing the interior offensive line with Stanford's David DeCastro.
An elite guard prospect, DeCastro allows the team to move on from Ryan Lilja at left guard and move Rodney Hudson to center. The trio of DeCastro, Hudson and Jon Asamoah in the middle of the line would be great for the Kansas City run game.
Right tackle is a huge need with no players currently on the roster. Riley Reiff could be a possibility here.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
Many may want Ryan Tannehill here, but assuming Peyton Manning signs in Denver or Miami, the Seahawks will be a popular destination for Matt Flynn rumors.
The Seattle Seahawks took care of their first need by re-signing running back Marshawn Lynch to a new deal. This allows them to move on and add to the defense in the first round.
Coples is a top-five player for some, but I have him in the early 20s in terms of value. When motivated, he's a beast, but that motivation was few and far between in 2011.
Pete Carroll deserves a ton of credit for the defense the Seahawks have built though, and Coples is a great fit at defensive end should Red Bryant leave via free agency.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
The Arizona Cardinals need a left tackle badly, especially if they are trying to lure Peyton Manning to Phoenix. Protecting the quarterback, no matter who he is, should be the priority for the Cardinals' front office.
Riley Reiff's name hasn't been as hot lately, but he's clearly the second-best tackle in this year's class. He has the athletic ability to be a factor on the edge with quick feet and the strength to stonewall defenders off the corner.
Arizona's first pick should focus on the offensive line, with needs on defense coming in later rounds.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Dallas Cowboys' first need this offseason will be to address their needs in the secondary before moving on and finding help at center and guard. With their first pick, they'll grade the No. 2 ranked cornerback on my board.
Stephon Gilmore may not have the name recognition of Dre Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins, but he's undoubtedly a better prospect. Gilmore's ability in man and zone coverage make him more NFL ready than any cornerback in this class not named Morris Claiborne.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Dont'a Hightower, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
By applying the franchise tag to DeSean Jackson, the Philadelphia Eagles are now free to fill holes on defense. With their first pick, they'll draft a player who can solidify their front seven.
Dont'a Hightower comes to the NFL ready to roll after playing in the middle of the Alabama Crimson Tide defense. The Eagles desperately need a leader in the middle—someone who can pull the defense together. Hightower will be that guy.
I have Hightower ranked higher than Luke Kuechly, who isn't as aggressive closing holes or as strong shedding blocks.
Hightower's the right man for the job in Philadelphia.
16. New York Jets
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The New York Jets gave quarterback Mark Sanchez a contract extension. Now they must find him targets to work with.
Many have said that Tony Sparano will want running backs in New York, but it's clear that Mike Tannenbaum is building this team, not the new offensive coordinator. Tannenbaum is invested in Sanchez and will want to use the team's first pick to find a red-zone threat who can open up the offense.
Alshon Jeffery continues to rank as my No. 1 wide receiver. His deep-threat ability will allow the Jets to create more on offense and open up the red zone for Sanchez.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)
Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia
The Cincinnati Bengals have two first-round picks thanks to the Oakland Raiders love for Carson Palmer. With the first pick, they'll add to the offensive line—protecting their investment in 2011 rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
Cordy Glenn has the feet of a tackle, but the size and strength of a guard. Add that together and you have a very likely All-Pro at the position. Glenn will step in as a day one starter, replacing either Nate Livings or Bobbie Williams on the line.
18. San Diego Chargers
Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, South Carolina
Shaun Phillips is a Pro Bowler at one outside linebacker position, but opposite him, the team has struggled to find an every-down producer.
Larry English was a bust. Antwan Barnes is a good situational pass-rusher, but not much more. Melvin Ingram can be the three-down force the team needs.
Ingram's experience as a defensive tackle, end and linebacker will make him an intriguing piece in San Diego's 3-4 defense. He's not as explosive as Philips but will be better against the run and provide a nice balance to the front seven.
19. Chicago Bears
Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
Stephen Hill isn't a finished product, but his potential is undeniable. And it's simply too much for teams to pass on.
The Chicago Bears have a huge need at the wide receiver position, and if Hill lives up to even half of his potential, he will be the best receiver on their roster. He has the size, speed and raw ability to be an All-Pro.
The key for Hill is to become a better technician. He has to work at bringing the ball into his frame before running and work on his routes. If he does this, watch out.
20. Tennessee Titans
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois
Teams are talking about the NCAA sack leader after a strong pro day. If you haven't heard much about Whitney Mercilus by now, you will between here and the draft.
Mercilus has been compared to Aldon Smith in that he's a raw product who, if coached up, could explode onto the NFL scene. He has the strength and burst to be an impact player off the edge early on.
In a 4-3 defense, Mercilus would line up at right defensive end, making his job primarily to hit the quarterback early and often. His 16 sacks last season indicate this is something he's pretty good at.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (FL)
The Bengals are likely to move away from Cedric Benson at running back this offseason, which opens a nice position in the backfield for Lamar Miller.
The Miami product impressed in his two seasons at Coral Gables, showing the speed and strength reminiscent of Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee in their glory days. If Miller can produce at that level, the Bengals will be very happy.
Cornerback is another position the Bengals could address here. The team would ideally draft a running back or cornerback here and then the other in Round 2.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)
Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
The Cleveland Browns went cornerback with their first pick. Now, they fill a need many pointed out during last year's draft.
Kendall Wright took some heat for running a 4.61 "official" 40-yard dash at the combine, but talking to scouts on the field, many had Wright around 4.45 seconds.
What matters more than anything is how fast Wright plays, and there were few players in college football more explosive in 2011. Wright will bring an instant spark to the Cleveland offense.
Quarterback is a position to not rule out here. Ryan Tannehill is a fan favorite, but I have Tannehill ranked as my No. 5 quarterback and a late second-round prospect.
23. Detroit Lions
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
I've been a fan of moving Dre Kirkpatrick to free safety, but in the right scheme, he's a great fit at cornerback. At pick No. 23, the Detroit Lions are a very nice fit.
Kirkpatrick has the size and range to play off the ball, which works very well in a zone scheme. When asked to press receivers and then turn and run, Kirkpatrick can struggle. Where he excels is at jumping routes and in breaking on the ball.
The Lions have a need at the position, and if they don't pull the trigger on an offensive lineman here, the pick will be at cornerback.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Here's a pick that wouldn't have been predicted if not for the Pittsburgh Steelers' attendance at the Ohio State pro day—where they reportedly liked Mike Adams.
The Steelers would draft Adams to play right tackle with Marcus Gilbert on the left side. Adams is a much better fit on the right side, where his massive size and strength are a plus and his lack of elite footspeed can be masked.
If Pittsburgh is serious about getting better on the offensive line, this move will shore up their problems in a hurry.
25. Denver Broncos
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
The Denver Broncos are a major player for Peyton Manning, which could make what they do here at No. 25 very interesting.
If Manning does sign, expect the Broncos to look at improving an offensive line that was built for a mobile offense with Tim Tebow at quarterback. The statuesque Manning would be murdered behind a line that allowed 42 sacks and 68 quarterback hits in 2011.
With Tebow the starter—for now—Denver will use this pick to address a hole at defensive tackle. Fletcher Cox has been underrated some in the draft process, but those who have had the pleasure of seeing him play walk away impressed with the quickness of the 300-pounder.
26. Houston Texans
Mike Martin, Nose Tackle, Michigan
If the Houston Texans are unable to re-sign center Chris Myers and guard Mike Brisiel, this selection could focus on the offensive line (Peter Konz, Kelechi Osemele). If they are able to work something out in free agency, expect the pick to be spent finalizing the conversion to a 3-4 defense.
I've been asked why the Texans would draft Mike Martin instead of the bigger Alameda Ta'amu. While Ta'amu is much bigger—around 40 lbs—he doesn't play bigger. Martin is nearly impossible to move off the center, and in a 3-4 defense, that's the primary job of the nose tackle.
Martin is lighter, but much stronger and knows how to use leverage to make plays.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
Bill Belichick is predictably unpredictable when it comes to the NFL draft. With the team's first choice in the round, he could look to upgrade at wide receiver—a clear-cut need—or even find an edge rusher in an effort to move back to a 3-4 defense.
Both positions are likely, but looking at the depth chart in New England, center is their biggest need.
Dan Koppen is a free agent, as is Dan Connolly. The Patriots have not reached out to either player to date. After Koppen missed the 2011 season with injury, it's becoming more likely that he won't be back.
The youth movement is on for the Patriots line. If Konz is drafted, they'll feature youngsters at left tackle (Nate Solder), possibly at guard (Marcus Cannon), center and right tackle (Sebastian Vollmer).
28. Green Bay Packers
Vinny Curry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Marshall
The Green Bay Packers will look to reload on defense this year, adding players to fill out a front seven that took a major step back in 2011.
Vinny Curry is the perfect complement to Clay Matthews at outside linebacker. With his experience at defensive end, Curry is used to taking on blockers, attacking the run and going after the quarterback. Unlike Matthews, who played linebacker at USC, Curry is adept at taking on offensive tackles.
The Packers will have needs to address in free agency—notably at center—but if they are able to keep their in-house guys, they will be free to address the defense here.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Luke Kuechly, Inside Linebacker, Boston College
Here's an instance where placing a particular player in Round 1—over my own personal grade—makes sense for what will actually happen in April.
Luke Kuechly is overrated in my book, as I have him rated No. 61 overall. What he can do in the Baltimore defense would have my grade changed. If scouting for Baltimore alone, Kuechly would be a first-rounder.
Playing behind a defensive line that constantly draws double-teams, Kuechly will be free to roam and tackle. He's a very good athlete, but poor at shedding blockers.
With the offensive line busy accounting for Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, Kuechly will be free to make plays.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Kelechi Osemele, Guard, Iowa
With the poor play of Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal at right guard this year, the San Francisco 49ers should use their first selection to improve the offensive line.
That is, if they don't try to sign restricted free agent Mike Wallace (WR-Steelers) to a big offer sheet and send this pick to the Steelers as compensation.
Assuming for now that San Francisco keeps this pick, Kelechi Osemele fits the bill as a big, strong road-grader in the run game. This is the type of player the 49ers hit on with Mike Iupati. Teaming the two together would be dominant.
31. New England Patriots
Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
Let's be real—Bill Belichick will most likely trade this pick away for future choices in the draft. That's what the Patriots do.
If they keep the pick, look for Belichick to tap into the Alabama pipeline to find an outside linebacker who is ready to start from day one in his versatile schemes.
Courtney Upshaw has the football IQ to be a factor early on in New England's difficult systems. He's not a flashy playmaker, but Upshaw is among the more solid, safer picks in this class.
32. New York Giants
Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
The DUI arrest of Orson Charles won't hurt his stock for many teams, but one team that loves discipline and prides themselves on high-class players is the New York Giants. Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin will show no patience for troubled players.
Coby Fleener is the opposite of trouble, unless you mean for the opposing defense. Fleener's size, strength and quickness make him nearly impossible to stop over the middle. Much like Rob Gronkowski, Fleener is a dominant technician who doesn't have elite speed but doesn't make mistakes.
Fleener moves to the most likely to be drafted position after Charles' recent off-field mistake.