2012 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the 1st Round, Free Agency Edition
Let me take another stab at this. In my mock draft last week, I indicated that the Cleveland Browns would trade up for the No. 2 pick and Robert Griffin III. While the Browns tried to acquire the pick, they just couldn't give up the bounty that the Washington Redskins were able to offer the St. Louis Rams.
Three first-round and one second-round pick. That is a joke, right?
Either way, this one trade has changed the entire landscape of the draft. Not because Griffin III is going to go No. 2 overall, that was a forgone conclusion in the first place. It changes the landscape because the Rams now hold the cards as to how the remainder of the first round is going to play out outside of the top five.
This is going to be my first mock draft that takes into account possible free-agent signings, which can begin to happen tomorrow.
It should be fun.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
After releasing both Peyton Manning and Curtis Painter, the Indianapolis Colts are going to be in the market for a veteran quarterback behind Andrew Luck.
I would expect this to be decided in rather short order when free agency starts tomorrow. We already know who the Colts are going to draft in April, so it makes sense to move forward with that assumption.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Trading up for the right to select Robert Griffin III has a dramatic impact on what the Washington Redskins are going to do in free agency. They now don't have to worry about kicking the tires on veteran starting quarterbacks; instead, they are able to focus on other positions of concern.
I fully expect Washington to go out and get a receiver to help Griffin III in his rookie season. They need to have the veteran leadership, somewhat like what we saw with the Carolina Panthers last season.
Washington doesn't have a second-round pick, so they are not going to have an ability to get a second-tier receiver at this point.
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
Drafting Matt Kalil would enable the Minnesota Vikings to upgrade from Charlie Johnson, who butchered the tackle position last season.
He also gives the Vikings a true franchise tackle to help protect Christian Ponder and open up holes for Adrian Peterson.
Minnesota will be able to address the wide receiver position either in the second round of via free agency. They also have a need at corner after releasing Cedric Griffin.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Let me make this clear, I wouldn't select Blackmon this high. I don't view the Oklahoma State product as a clear can't-miss product. You really cannot select a wide receiver in the top five unless you feel that way.
With this said, the Cleveland Browns must give Colt McCoy the necessary tools to succeed moving forward. Of course, this is all predicated on the assumption that the Browns brass is sold on McCoy, which is an entirely different story.
They can go running back and quarterback later in the draft where there are still some solid options. Also, don't forget the Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn rumors.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State
You can expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to go with value at a need position here. As mush as Trent Richardson would be a great fit, I just don't see them doing that at this point.
Morris Claiborne enables the Buccaneers to go in another direction in the second round and in free agency. He is the consensus No. 1 corner in the entire draft, a position that Tampa Bay must address this offseason.
With a ton of cap room, they can easily look to add a receiver, defensive end and linebacker via free agency. The same cannot be said for the corner market.
6. St. Louis Rams: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The St. Louis Rams can afford to go with value at No. 6; they get that in Trent Richardson. This is a team that is going to have to remake their entire offense in front of Sam Bradford.
Why not get the consensus No. 1 overall running back in the draft?
Additionally, Steven Jackson is getting a little long in the tooth and doesn't have many productive seasons ahead of him.
Of course, the Rams would have liked either Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne to fall to them here, but that didn't happen.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
of the San Francisco 49ers. While that would be a great addition to their offense, it doesn't address the wide receiver position fully.
Michael Floyd would give Blaine Gabbert that tremendous threat that he needs on the outside. He would also become their primary red-zone target on corner fades.
Floyd is going to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, so this isn't too much of a reach.
8. Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Miami Dolphins might take a long look at Ryan Tannehill here depending on how the Peyton Manning situation plays out. It would be considered a reach, but this is a team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback.
With that said, I fully expect the Dolphins to pick up David DeCastro at this slot.
The All-American guard is as sure of a bet that you can get in the draft. In fact, he is the best guard prospect to enter the league in the last two decades.
Get the sure pick and move forward.
9. Carolina Panthers: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
My recent mock drafts have had Michael Brockers going to the Carolina Panthers here. A poor performance at the combine and issues in regards to readiness for the NFL has caused his draft stock to drop in my eyes.
Carolina still needs to get that run-stuffing defensive tackle in order to help this team contend in the NFC South. They were absolutely horrible against the run in 2011 and need some major help here.
Devon Still would provide them that and more.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills need as much help along the front seven of their defense as they can get. If this unit was even halfway decent last season, they would have contended for a playoff spot.
There are rumors floating around that Buffalo is going to be players in the free agent market, which could change the dynamics here a little bit.
Still, I fully expect them to go defense with this pick, and Upshaw is the best available player on that side of the ball.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
While former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai has been linked to the Kansas City Chiefs, they are definitely looking into a few different upgrades along the interior of their defensive line.
This is a team that has a tremendous amount of talent across the board. With a few solid additions here and there, Kansas City could be major contenders for the playoffs in 2012.
Dontari Poe is an absolute beast, one of the strongest prospects I have ever seen enter the NFL. He would anchor a solid Chiefs front seven for the foreseeable future.
12. Seattle Sehawks: Nick Perry, DE, Southern California
There is a bigger connection here than Pete Carroll and USC. The Seattle Seahawks need to find a consistent pass-rush from their front seven in order to take that next step towards contention.
They are not going to find that presence in free agency without doling out a huge amount of dough for Mario Williams, which I really don't see happening.
Instead, the Seahawks are going to fill this void in the draft. Nick Perry gives them an NFL-ready pass-rusher who can come in and contribute immediately. He is a player that will consistently get between seven and 10 sacks per season.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Whether or not the Arizona Cardinals sign Peyton Manning is pretty irrelevant here; they need to upgrade along the offensive line.
This is a team that gave up a league-high 54 sacks in 2011, leaving their quarterbacks to run for their lives more often than not.
I also expect Arizona to address this unit in free agency. After all, they need to find two or three new starter-caliber offensive linemen this offseason.
Riley Reiff comes in and immediately becomes their best pass-protecting offensive tackle. He has solid footwork, can keep speed rushers at bay on the outside and possesses solid technique. Not a high-ceiling player, but someone they can slot in for the next decade.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys are said to be interested in both Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr. Logistically speaking, it is hard to imagine them being able to acquire a top-tier corner considering they are less than $5 million under the cap.
Even if the Cowboys are able to land one of those caliber players, they are going to have to address this position in the draft. Terence Newman is on the verge of being released, and Mike Jenkins continues to struggle with injury concerns.
While Dre' Kirkpatrick may not give Dallas a tremendous amount of value here, he does fill a position of utmost importance.
15. Philadlephia Eagles: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles might show interest in Stephen Tulloch when free agency starts tomorrow, but they still need multiple upgrades at the linebacker position.
After all, their inability to make tackles after initial contact cost this team big-time in 2011.
When healthy, Dont'e Hightower is one of the surest tacklers that you will come across. He should be able to come in and contribute immediately.
16. New York Jets: Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
The New York Jets are exploring trade options as they relate to Wayne Hunter, which means that they are going to be interested in acquiring another right tackle.
Cordy Glenn had a great scouting combine and projects to be a dominating interior lineman. His performance in Indianapolis has led some, including myself, to believe that he can make the transition to the outside.
If so, the Jets are going to show a tremendous amount of interest in him.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina
I had the Cincinnati Bengals going running back here with every previous mock draft I have conducted. The dynamics have changed a great deal at this point.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Bengals are interested in Michael Bush, which would change this pick a great deal. If those reports are true, you can expect them to go to the defensive side of the ball.
Melvin Ingram is great value at a need position midway through the first round. He would provide that athleticism that the Bengals need in the front seven.
18. San Diego Chargers: Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
The San Diego Chargers are not going to be able to compete in the open market in order to retain the services of Vincent Jackson, especially considering the interest the Washington Redskins have in him.
If this is the case, San Diego is going to have to find a long-term replacement at wide receiver for Jackson. While both Vincent Brown and Malcolm Floyd have shown flashes, they are not going to be No.1 receivers.
This brings me to Stephen Hill. The Georgia Tech product proved to be quite the workout warrior at the combine and seems to have all the necessary skills to be a dangerous threat on the outside.
He would be a solid addition to the Chargers.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
I really just couldn't find value at the wide receiver position here for the Chicago Bears. Previous mocks of mine had Alshon Jeffery going in that slot, but I don't have a first-round grade on the former South Carolina receiver anymore.
Chicago is also interested in some of the top receivers in the free agent market, specifically being linked to Vincent Jackson.
If the Bears do not go wide receiver with this pick, you can expect them to take a long look at tackle. I had Jonathan Martin as a top-10 pick before a pedestrian combine performance. He would give the Bears tremendous value here.
20. Tennessee Titans: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
When the Tennessee Titans decided against franchising Cortland Finnegan, they did so understanding that the veteran corner was a good bet to bolt once free agency started.
Even if Finnegan does return to the Titans, they are going to have to find a long-term solution at the corner position. Janoris Jenkins has all the necessary tools to be a No. 1 cover guy in the NFL. It is his off-field issues that concern people a great deal.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (F)
Even if the Bengals do acquire the services of Michael Bush, they are going to have to find another running back to help shoulder the load.
Outside of Cedric Benson, who is as good as gone, they really don't have a single running back on their roster that can be relied on to take a nice amount of carries.
Lamar Miller would be the No. 1 running back in most drafts. He has the size and athleticism to be an outstanding back at the next level.
22. Cleveland Browns: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
This might not be the most popular pick, but the Cleveland Browns are definitely looking into drafting a quarterback. This was proven by their effort to trade up for the No. 2 pick and the new information coming out that they are looking at trading down from the No.4 slot.
Ryan Tannehill might seem like a little bit of a reach here. He only played quarterback a year or so at Texas A&M and is still extremely raw. However, Cleveland cannot take a chance that other quarterback-needy teams are not going to trade up to the back end of the first round to acquire him.
Obviously, this changes a great deal if the Browns are able to land Matt Flynn, which still remains a strong possibility.
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The board leading up to Detroit's pick here wouldn't be ideal for the Lions. They would rather have either Janoris Jenkins or Dre' Kirkpatrick available at this pick.
Detroit is said to be chasing a couple veteran corners, so this might not be as great of a need as we think it is right now.
Peter Konz is the consensus No. 1 center in the 2012 NFL draft. He would anchor the interior of the Lions offensive line for the next decade, becoming a Pro Bowl performer nearly immediately.
You cannot ask for more than this late in the first round.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Michael Brockers, DL, Louisiana State
Despite the fact that Casey Hampton appears to have avoided becoming victim to the Pittsburgh Steelers salary purge, he isn't the long-term answer at nose tackle.
While Michael Brockers doesn't translate to be a nose tackle at this point, he has a lot of growth left in that already massive frame. The LSU product reminds me a great deal of a more athletic Ndamukong Suh. Just imagine that.
Pittsburgh gets great value with this pick even if Brockers is forced to play outside in their 3-4 system.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
With the possible addition of Peyton Manning to the roster, the Denver Broncos need to start shifting their focus to the defensive side of the ball.
Fletcher Cox is the type of player that this team covets. He can play on the outside and inside, depending on the specific defensive formation. He is as strong as they come, dominates in the trenches and has the ability to push the pocket a great deal.
You couldn't ask for a better fit.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Kendall Wright would give the Houston Texans that weapon that they are seeking on the outside opposite Andre Johnson. He has the ability to stretch the field, has extremely soft hands and can gain separation at the line.
Houston could decide to go the veteran route here, but it seems more likely it attempts to get a young star instead.
27. New England Patriots: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The New England Patriots war room would be doing back-flips if this scenario played out. Quinton Coples has top-10 talent and can be dominating at the point of contact.
While there seems to be some issues in regards to his consistency, I believe the former North Carolina star can be a great value here in the late first round. He would give the Patriots that added dimension in the pass-rush.
Of course, this all changes if New England is able to land Mario Williams. A rumor continues to circulate that the former Houston Texans star could be a target for the Patriots when free agency starts on Tuesday.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Illinois
The Green Bay Packers were atrocious in pass defense last season, which was one of their few downfalls during a premature postseason exit.
A lack of a pass-rush has a direct correlation with poor pass defense; it's just that simple. Green Bay couldn't get to the quarterback consistently, and it affected the success of their entire defense.
This is a team that doesn't spend too much money on outside free agents, so they are going to look to upgrade at this position via the draft.
Whitney Mercilus led the entire nation in sacks last season. He will provide the Packers that pass-rush in 2012 and beyond.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
Most of my regular readers understand fully that I have a major man-crush on Bobby Wagner. In short, he is one of my favorite defensive players in the entire draft.
Ray Lewis only has a couple solid seasons left in those tires. Eventually, the Baltimore Ravens are going to have to bite the proverbial bullet and get that replacement.
Wagner couldn't learn behind a better professional than Lewis. This is a match made in heaven.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Reports indicate that the San Francisco 49ers and Carlos Rogers remain far apart in contract negotiations. The Pro Bowl corner is set to hit the free-agent market on Tuesday.
If Rogers doesn't return to San Francisco, they are going to have to add another corner via free agency or in the draft.
Stephon Gilmore would provide the 49ers with that talented young corner that they seem to be coveting. He has strong on ball skills, plays well in press coverage and makes plays on the outside.
The South Carolina product would also fill a major hole in the return game.
31. New England Patriots: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
Surprisingly, the New England Patriots haven't been linked to any defensive backs on the free agent market as of yet. Of course, that could easily change when the new league year begins tomorrow.
After all, they are in need of major upgrades in the secondary.
Jamell Fleming would provide both value and need here in the late first round. He has had extremely strong postseason performances, showing off his skills during the Senior Bowl and at the combine.
32. New York Giants: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Some scouts have Luke Kuechly as a top-15 pick, but I just don't see that. While he is good in space past the line of scrimmage, the Boston College product doesn't get into the offensive backfield too often and tends to struggle a bit in coverage.
With that said, he is one of the surest tacklers in the draft. This is something that the defending Super Bowl Champions could use a great deal moving forward.
Solid value at a need position here.