2012 NFL Mock Draft: Bold Predictions for the First Two Rounds
The 2012 NFL Draft is quickly approaching. As it does, we have to start seriously looking at the board and where certain players are most likely going to head.
Now you can read through the never-ending cycle of one-round mock drafts all you want. They seem to mesh together as one after a while.
It makes more sense to take a look at the broader picture.
Consequently, I am here to save the day. This mock draft is a full two rounds with an emphasis on five bold predictions for the annual event set to take place next month in New York City.
There Will Be Three Running Backs Selected in the First Round
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Normally the running back position isn't valued a great deal in the NFL Draft. This is why only four running backs have been selected in the top 10 since three were taken there in 2005.
Some of this has to do with the understanding that really good backs can be found later in the draft. After all, Arian Foster wasn't drafted and Frank Gore was a third-round pick.
With that said, there usually isn't this type of talent at running back in the draft. You are looking at five different players at this position who could be every-down players. In short, that is rarely the case.
Teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers all have needs at running back.
Additionally, Trent Richardson is one of the best running back prospects of the last decade. Certain teams that don't necessarily have a need here might be hard-pressed to pass up on the talented back should he fall out of the top five.
Brandon Weeden Will Not Hear His Name Called Until the Third Round
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I am not a fan of the age argument against Brandon Weeden. That just doesn't hold a lot of ground to me. Instead, if could actually be seen as a bonus in terms of selecting the mature quarterback. He has much more experience than any of the other signal-callers in the draft and could start immediately.
With that being said, NFL front offices are sure to take that into account when making the decision to draft the Oklahoma State product.
You also have to realize that the NFL is a need-based league. By this, I mean that if there isn't a need at a certain position, players are going to fall dramatically on draft day.
Depending on what happens with the Peyton Manning situation and how the chips fall, we might be looking at just a couple teams that are willing to invest a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback.
If you take Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III out of the equation, it is possible to decipher what teams need to address this position.
The Cleveland Browns are not sold on Colt McCoy as the long-term answer to their quarterback issues. This means that they are probably going to look at a quarterback in the first few rounds to challenge him in training camp.
The Miami Dolphins might get shut out of the whole quarterback frenzy that is going on. Their future at the position is directly linked to Manning and Alex Smith. If the former decides to sign with San Francisco, then Miami will probably be the landing spot for Smith.
If that is the case, they are probably not going to look at a quarterback early. If not, you can expect Miami to go with a longer-term answer in the form of Ryan Tannehill.
All these factors lead me to believe that Weeden will fall to the Cleveland Browns in the third round.
Michael Floyd Will Be a Top-10 Pick
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An added dimension to the move towards passing in the NFL is the fact that teams are going to be placing more importance on the wide receiver position.
We saw this play out a great deal when wide receivers fell like flies and received huge contracts during the early stages of the free-agency frenzy.
Don't expect that to change in April when the NFL Draft takes over free agency as the primary focus for teams.
Coupled with the new-found concentration on this position is the fact that there is a tremendous amount of talent available to teams. You are looking at six or seven prospects that could end up being No. 1 type of guys.
Michael Floyd is my top receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft. He doesn't struggle getting off the line against press coverage, already runs tight routes and uses that frame to the best of his ability.
In short, Floyd is the most complete receiver in the draft. He also doesn't have the "bust" factor that some of the other top prospects. Justin Blackmon struggles getting off the line, while Alshon Jeffery doesn't possess top-of-the-line speed.
They both have major flaws in their game. The same thing cannot be said for Floyd.
The Miami Dolphins Will Have to Reach for Ryan Tannehill
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The Miami Dolphins might be shut out of the quarterback frenzy. Their entire offseason seems to be predicated on what happens with Peyton Manning and Alex Smith. If the situation works against Miami, they will be forced to reach for a quarterback in the draft.
While I am not big on Ryan Tannehill, he is the third-best quarterback in the draft. This means that the Dolphins will take a long look at him in April.
For those of you who think I am crazy for believing that the Texas A&M product is going to go in the top 10, just look at recent history.
Christian Ponder wasn't considered a first-round pick prior to the start of the 2011 NFL Draft, but the Minnesota Vikings selected him at No. 12 when the annual event took place.
Few scouts had Josh Freeman as a first-round guy prior to the 2009 draft, yet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up for the Kansas State product and selected him in the middle of the initial round.
This has been repeated over and over again throughout the modern history of the draft. I don't expect that to change next month.
New England Patriots Will Go Defense with First Four Picks
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I am not too sure if this would be considered a bold prediction. The New England Patriots are desperate to add some young talent to the defensive side of the ball.
After all, it was this unit that ended up being their downfall in the Super Bowl last season. Some have concluded that most of the Patriots issues on defense are concentrated in the secondary. While that may be true, you just cannot place the blame on one aspect of the game.
All three levels of the Patriots defense struggled in 2011 and they need to get upgrades clear across the board.
The good news is that New England has four picks in the first two rounds, which means they should be able to address these weaknesses.
You have to think that they are going to go defense with all these picks. The addition of Brandon Lloyd in free agency also solves the deep threat need on the offensive side of the ball.
Expect the Patriots to go corner first and then build around that selection with the other three picks in the initial two rounds.
A draft consisting of the following doesn't seem half bad.
1. Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
1. Nick Perry, Defensive End, Southern California
2. Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
2. Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, Syracuse
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1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Southern California
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, Louisiana State
6. St. Louis Rams: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
10. Buffalo Bills: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Linebacker, South Carolina
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
12. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
16. New York Jets: Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (Fla.)
18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker, Alabama
19. Chicago Bears: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
20. Tennessee Titans: Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
22. Cleveland Browns: Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, Louisiana State
25. Denver Broncos: Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
27. New England Patriots: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
28. Green Bay Packers: Vinny Curry, Linebacker, Marshall
29. Baltimore Ravens: Bobby Wagner, Linebacker, Utah State
30. San Francisco 49ers: Cordy Glenn, Guard, Georgia
31. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, Defensive End, Southern California
32. New York Giants: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
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33. St. Louis Rams: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
34. Indianapolis Colts: Jared Crick, Defensive End, Nebraska
35. Minnesota Vikings: Rueben Randle, Wide Receiver, Louisiana State
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lavonte David, Linebacker, Nebraska
37. Cleveland Browns: Zach Brown, Linebacker, North Carolina
38. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
39. St. Louis Rams: Josh Robinson, Cornerback, Central Florida
40. Carolina Panthers: Andre Branch, Defensive End, Clemson
41. Buffalo Bills: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver, Illinois
42. Miami Dolphins: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Mississippi State
43. Seattle Seahawks: Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
44. Kansas City Chiefs: Alameda Ta'amu, Defensive Tackle, Washington
45. Dallas Cowboys: Markelle Martin, Safety, Oklahoma State
46. Philadelphia Eagles: Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame
47. New York Jets: David Wilson, Running Back, Virginia Tech
48. New England Patriots: Brandon Thompson, Defensive Line, Clemson
49. San Diego Chargers: Kevin Zeitler, Guard, Wisconsin
50. Chicago Bears: Sean Spence, Linebacker, Miami (F)
51. Philadelphia Eagles: Dwayne Allen, Tight End, Clemson
52. Tennessee Titans: Kelechi Osemele, Offensive Line, Iowa State
53. Cincinnati Bengals: Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska
54. Detroit Lions: Jayron Hosley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
55. Atlanta Falcons: Orson Charles, Tight End, Georgia
56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
57. Denver Broncos: Brandon Boykin, Cornerback, Georgia
58. Houston Texans: Kendall Reyes, Defensive Tackle, Connecticut
59. New Orleans Saints: Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback, Montana
60. Green Bay Packers: LaMichael James, Running Back, Oregon
61. Baltimore Ravens: Antonio Allen, Safety, South Carolina
62. San Francisco 49ers: Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, Appalachian State
63. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Syracuse
64. New York Giants: Nick Toon, Wide Receiver, Wisconsin