Offense may get the headlines, but defense wins the championships.
Roughly half of this first-round mock is made up of defensive players. Unfortunately, not all of them will be leading their teams to championships, or coming close.
Busts are in italics.
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
With Peyton Manning out of Indianapolis, the door is open for the Colts to take Luck and start him immediately. Barring something unforeseen, that is clearly going to happen.
2. Washington Redskins (via St. Louis Rams), Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins didn't make this trade for anyone other than RG3. He'll be the man in Washington for the near future.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings need to keep Christian Ponder upright. The Rams/Redskins deal opened the door for Kalil to go to Minnesota, and the Vikings need to take advantage of that.
4. Cleveland Browns, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Another team that is benefiting from the Rams/Redskins trade is the Browns. That will allow them to bring in Blackmon, giving Cleveland a real receiver that they have lacked for a long time.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
No team in the NFL allowed more points last year than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They need to bring in a young guy in the secondary to improve that. The best player to fill that need is the dynamic Claiborne, who is also an excellent return man.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (via trade with St. Louis Rams), Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama**
I don't see a reason why the Rams shouldn't trade this pick. There is really nobody at this point of the draft that would help the Rams, and the Bengals have two first-rounders later on.
The Walters Football Chart has the two first-round picks for the Bengals (17 and 21) more valuable than the No. 6 pick, and the Bengals can afford to play around here.
Richardson gives them the solid back that is needed to replace Cedric Benson, who is a free agent and too old to depend on that much.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The first real reach here and it's not going to pay off, at least not in 2012. Kirkpatrick does not have the skills to be a top corner in the league, and it's going to show in his rookie year. The Jaguars will reach; they need a corner, but this is more of a project pick than you would ideally want at No. 7.
8. San Diego Chargers (via trade with Miami Dolphins), David DeCastro, G, Stanford**
Another trade that has yet to happen, but makes a lot of sense. The Dolphins can actually afford to trade down here, and the Chargers need some help on the line.
DeCastro is a nasty up-front player who will keep men out of the backfield and open holes for Ryan Mathews.
9. Carolina Panthers, Devon Still, DT, Penn St.
This is a monster in the middle that will allow a returning Jon Beason to roam free. Still a project, but his upside is great enough to take the risk.
10. Buffalo Bills, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
I do like Coples, but Buffalo's defense won't allow him to excel. Opposing offenses will put all of their focus on Coples, keeping him from doing anything of note this year.
11. Kansas City Chiefs, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The task of improving the Chiefs starts up front, and Reiff is a solid tackle to put on the right side. The addition of a solid lineman will make this team awfully hard to beat in the AFC West, which is otherwise a flimsy division.
12. Seattle Seahawks, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
This guy is an absolute athletic marvel who made himself a rich man at the combine. This is a potentially dominant player that the Seahawks need up front.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Whatever the Cardinals do at quarterback, they'll need to protect him. Martin was Andrew Luck's protector at Stanford and will do the same for the man under center in Arizona.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Cowboys need a corner desperately and Jenkins is the best available. I see him as the opposite of Kirkpatrick. Jenkins will make an impact early, but his past makes me seriously doubt that he'll be much of a long-term fixture anywhere.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
No way does Kuechly make it beyond the Eagles. They need a linebacker and he is the best available, by a mile.
16. New York Jets, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Plaxico Burress won't be back with the Jets. They need the red-zone option for Mark Sanchez to depend on. Floyd is a big target and also a better overall receiver at this point. The Jets will do well to bring him in.
17. St. Louis Rams (via trade with Cincinnati Bengals), Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor**
It doesn't seem likely that Brandon Lloyd will be back, so they need to bring in another receiver. Wright didn't have a great combine, but is a dynamic receiver that will form a good connection with Sam Bradford.
18. Miami Dolphins (via trade with San Diego Chargers), Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M**
The Dolphins need a quarterback to build around for the future. Even if they manage to sign Peyton Manning, that's not a long-term option. Tannehill would do well to learn under him but even if Manning goes elsewhere, the Texas A&M signal-caller is the best option for the Dolphins.
19. Chicago Bears, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Bears will be dangerous up front against the run, but aren't a particularly strong run defense team. To keep blockers off of Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, they'll need a big guy up front. Brockers fits that role well and can also make a big impact on his own.
20. Tennessee Titans, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Titans were 31st of 32 teams at sacking the quarterback last year. They were close to the playoffs but will need to improve that number dramatically to get to the postseason. Upshaw is a dominant outside player and will fit well in Tennessee.
21. St. Louis Rams (via trade with Cincinnati Bengals), Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
I don't see Gilmore being ready to go this year. He would have been much better off staying in school for a year, but will be a first-round player.
The Rams' defense was atrocious last year and they need to gamble on a defensive back. Gilmore may work out okay down the road, but he'll struggle early on.
22. Cleveland Browns, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
The package of Blackmon and Miller will make the Browns a fun team to watch next year. He is a big impact player that can explode at any given moment. That is something the Browns have lacked for far too long.
23. Detroit Lions, Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Lions could use a corner, but none make sense here. They struggled against the run at times, and Barron is a great insurance policy for the secondary. Running against him would be ill-advised.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
The Steelers don't need a lot, but they do need to keep their offensive line stable. Glenn is a mountain of a man that will be a fixture up front for a long time. That opens holes in the running game and keeps blitzers away from Ben Roethlisberger.
25. Denver Broncos, David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
The Broncos are going to need to run to succeed, and Willis McGahee is not a long term option. Wilson is a nice player who was very consistent at Virginia Tech. He would be a nice addition to the offense.
26. Houston Texans, Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
This is a no-brainer. The Texans have the time to be patient with Jeffery, who has a remarkable upside. With a stable quarterback situation, he'll be a great addition in Houston.
27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints), Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
The Patriots need a good defensive back, but I am not buying Fleming as a long-term option. He will have to be worked in for a few years, which won't work that well in New England.
28. Green Bay Packers, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
If the Packers can't get to the quarterback, they won't win in the playoffs. Ingram is a quality player and fits well in their system. This is an obvious selection.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Konz is ready to go right now and has the style for the Ravens. There is no reason to not make this one happen.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Fleener is a massive target in the red zone, which the 49ers need. On top of that, he knows Jim Harbaugh well. For a team that runs power sets a lot, an extra tight end will be a good thing.
31. New England Patriots, Zach Brown, OLB North Carolina
Brown is a nice all-around player. He does everything well, and that is what you want in a linebacker. He can rush and drop back in coverage. That is an asset that will serve the Patriots well.
32. New York Giants, Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
With returning players, the Giants can afford a project in the secondary. Hosley isn't a big impact player immediately, but will become one in short order.
** - Speculated Trade. Has not yet happened.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!