Good Will Mocking: A 2012 NFL Mock Draft

Sean ReidContributor IMarch 30, 2012

Good Will Mocking: A 2012 NFL Mock Draft

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    Every year around this time, hundreds or perhaps thousands of mock drafts come out of the woodwork. Everyone looks for validation amongst their peers in the form of accuracy. Yet, few are truly accurate.

    I'm not here to tell you I brought my mock draft to some Asian mountains to perform some shamanistic ritual with hooded priests while ruminating over the possibilities of the Dolphins trading up or down in the interest of accuracy. Instead, I offer this mock in the interest of entertainment and open discussion.

    Also, for the first time, I have mocked trades. Some may seem more outlandish than others, but I tried to keep them somewhat grounded in reality.

    Let's go!

No. 1: Indianapolis Colts Select QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)

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    Needs: QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DT, CB, S

    Previous Record: 2-14

    There's a new era taking hold in Indianapolis, and it all begins with Andrew Luck. As much as everyone loves Peyton and acknowledges his greatness, the right move was getting rid of him and starting anew with a young franchise QB. The Colts squeezed 12 outstanding years out of Manning, and now hope to do the same with Luck.

    The signal-caller from Stanford is the greatest quarterback prospect since Peyton, and has been NFL-ready for two years. He's simply polished in all areas. He'll be considered a top three QB in the NFL within two years. Luck is just that good.

    Alternatives: This pick is a lock. There are no alternatives.

No. 2: Washington Redskins (from Rams) Select QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor)

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    Needs: QB, RB, DL, CB, S

    Previous Record: 5-11

    The Redskins have already made the boldest move of the off-season, mortgaging their future for Robert Griffin III. It's the type of move that will make or break Mike Shanahan's tenure in DC.

    Griffin has a higher ceiling than Luck, but also a much lower floor. Griffin only played impressively in the pocket last year. I think he could be a great player if Washington affords him a worthwhile supporting cast. With the signings of wideouts Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, they have made an effort.

    While RG3 did display 4.41 speed at the combine, I wouldn't expect him to be the runner that Cam Newton is simply because he has a much smaller frame and cannot withstand that level of punishment. Saying that, I think he realizes the paradigm shift of the sport requires a QB who can stand tall in the pocket and throw the ball 30 to 40 times per game. His mobility is a plus behind the Redskins often shaky offensive line.

    Alternatives: The Redskins traded up to obtain a QB. If the Colts did the unthinkable and drafted RG3, the Redskins would sprint to the podium to hand in their draft card for Andrew Luck, but he's the only other alternative.

No. 3: Miami Dolphins (from Vikings) Select QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M)

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    This is a mocked trade where the Dolphins swap firsts with the Vikings and send them their second round pick and future first and third round picks.

    Needs: QB, WR, right OT, OLB, S

    Previous Record: 6-10

    I went back and forth on what the Dolphins would do for so long, I nearly pulled my hair out. The team just signed David Garrard, who is better than a lot of people make him out to be and they also still have Matt Moore who played really well later in the season last year. Still, I think the Dolphins are desperate to get a young QB they can build around, and I think they may snatch up Ryan Tannehill a little earlier than people expect him to go. I think that the Dolphins have looked desperately for a new QB this off-season, and they cannot view Moore or Garrard as long-term solutions. As a matter of fact, they might have to trade up with the Browns or Vikings if they want Tannehill badly enough, and I think they will.

    Tannehill is a solid player with a tool-set that would make most quarterbacks envious. But he only played as a high-level QB for one year, and his team's record wasn't great. Granted, their defense was so bad it was essentially a series of drill cones for the other team's offenses, but poor win/loss records in college are usually a bad indicator of things to come.

    Alternatives: I could totally see the 'Phins passing on Tannehill and staying put at their pick if they're not enamored with him. If that's the case, I think they would draft a player like Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw to provide a better pass rush across from Cameron Wake.

No. 4: Cleveland Browns Select RB Trent Richardson (Alabama)

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    Needs: QB, RB, WR, DE, OLB

    Previous Record: 4-12

    Unfortunately for Browns fans, it doesn't seem as though Colt McCoy is a long-term answer at the most important position in football. Also unfortunate is the inability of the Browns to trade up to the no. 2 spot to get Robert Griffin III. Still, the Browns have many other holes they can fill on a talent-depleted roster.

    Ryan Tannehill has been gaining a lot of traction and moving up a lot of boards, but I get the feeling that the Browns aren't sold on him, and I think the Dolphins would be desperate enough to move ahead of the Browns to get him. I think Trent Richardson is a very nice consolation prize and should be the better player in the long run.

    The Browns are built to be an old-fashioned ground-and-pound team, but when their stud RB Peyton Hillis mailed in last season because of contract disputes, the entire team fell apart. Richardson is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson, with a combination of speed, power, balance and vision that is rarely seen. I realize that players at this position don't normally get drafted this high in this day and age of expendable tailbacks, but Richardson is special.

    Alternatives: Mike Holmgrem would love to pair Morris Claiborne with Joe Haden, but Richardson represents a much bigger need. Justin Blackmon has also been mocked here, but there's no sense in drafting a top-flight WR without a franchise QB to get him the ball. The Browns need a QB, but is Ryan Tannehill really a top 10 pick, much less a top five pick? That's the question the Browns need to ask themselves.

No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Select CB Morris Claiborne (LSU)

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    Needs: RB, DT, LB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 4-12

    After 10 straight losses to end the season, the Bucs finally decided it was time to spend some money in free agency and, boy, did they ever. Signing Vincent Jackson takes care of a need at WR, Carl Nicks is the best interior lineman in the game today, and Eric Wright represents additional depth at CB. With those positions seemingly set, the Bucs would love for Trent Richardson to be here so they could pair him with the bruising (and surprisingly nimble) LeGarrette Blount.

    However, in this mock, Richardson is gone, so the Bucs go best-player-available and select the shutdown corner out of LSU, Mo Claiborne.

    It may seem like the Bucs would create a logjam at CB with this pick, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Ronde Barber is indeed returning, but is 36. Aqib Talib is constantly in trouble with the law. Wright is a solid but unspectacular corner. Claiborne would instantly become the best cover corner the Bucs have, and in the pass-happy NFC South, you can never spend too many resources on your secondary.

    Alternatives: If Trent Richardson is here, I think the Bucs will take him.

No. 6: St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) Select WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State)

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    Needs: OL, WR, TE, DT, LB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 2-14

    The Rams have already won the draft. They got a hefty bounty of picks from the Redskins, including two future first round picks. Not only that, but moving down to no. 6 still allows them to get a player they really need. Mo Claiborne would fill a need and it's extremely hard to pass on Matt Kalil, but the Rams have virtually no impact WR's on their roster. The pick has to be Justin Blackmon.

    Sam Bradford had a rough second year, and unless the Rams can get him some weapons, Year three might not be much better. Blackmon is an excellent all-around receiver, and would give Bradford the first legit red-zone target he's had in the NFL. The Rams' trio of Bradford, Blackmon and Steven Jackson would be one of the most dangerous in the league.

    Alternative: The Rams could also pick Matt Kalil to fix their terrible offensive line, or could hope for Morris Claiborne.

No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars Select OT Matt Kalil (USC)

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    Needs: QB (sort of), WR, OL, DE, S

    Previous Record: 5-11

    The Blaine Gabbert era looks terrible already. However, I have to cut the guy some slack. The Jaguars are absolutely atrocious at wide receiver, and could not pass block to save their lives. Defensively, they're stout and if they can get any kind of production out of Gabbert or new signee Chad Henne I think the Jags could be a dark-horse candidate to sneak into the playoffs next year.

    Still, protecting their young QB has to be priority number one. I want to put Michael Floyd, the WR out of Notre Dame, here but I think Matt Kalil is too good to pass up. If the Vikings don't trade back, he's not here. Kalil is a Jake Long or Joe Thomas type that will immediately bring improvement to your pass protection. It's not the sexiest pick for the constantly disappointed Jaguar fans, but it's a great one.

    Alternatives: Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd are definite possibilities here if they're available. They could also reach for a DE like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram. The Jags do weird things like that from time to time.

No. 8: Minnesota Vikings (from Dolphins) Select OT Riley Reiff (Iowa)

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    In this mock, the Vikings have traded back with the Dolphins and moved to no. eight. In addition, they receive a future first round pick, and the Dolphins second round pick this year.

    Needs: OL, WR, LB, CB

    Previous Record: 3-13

    The Minnesota Vikings may have been the NFL's most disappointing team last season. Despite their 3-13 record, the Vikings have more talent on their roster than one might believe. Saddled with numerous injuries, ineffective QB play and an underachieving defense, I'd look for Minnesota to be much improved next season.

    Trading back is nice because it gives the Vikings the ability to fill more needs, but it also kills their ability to draft Matt Kalil, the defacto franchise left tackle in this draft. Riley Reiff is believed to also be a top 10 talent however, and protecting their young QB Christian Ponder has to be the top priority for this team.

    While the Vikings also need a WR and CB, those are two of the deeper positions in this draft, so they can get them in the second and/or third rounds.

    Alternatives: If the Vikings don't trade down, I totally expect them to take Matt Kalil. If they do, another possibility apart from Reiff could be WR Michael Floyd.

No. 9: Carolina Panthers Select DT Dontari Poe (Memphis)

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    Needs: #2 WR, DE, DT, CB, S

    Previous Record: 6-10

    Well, I was mostly wrong about Cam Newton. He looks like the future of the QB position. His arrogance and cockiness actually translate to leadership and swagger on this level. It's just a shame that Carolina's defense is god awful and even Newton's great play couldn't bring anything better than a 6-10 record. To remedy that, I fully expect the Panthers to go mostly defense in this draft.

    Dontari Poe, whom no one had heard of until the NFL combine, looks like an excellent fit here. The mammoth from Memphis has flown up draft boards since his impressive workout. In Carolina, I envision him as the new age Kris Jenkins - a massive pocket-collapsing presence who's quicker than you think. He'll make the linebackers behind him and the defensive ends to his side that much better. Building inside-out is always a great idea on defense.

    Alternatives: Guys like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram are also options here if the Panthers want to place another pass-rusher across from Charles Johnson. A corner could be an option if another one emerges as a top 10 pick or Mo Claiborne inexplicably falls here.

No. 10: Buffalo Bills Select WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)

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    Needs: OL, WR, TE, CB

    Previous Record: 6-10

    I think the Bills will go one of two ways with this pick; they'll either draft an offensive lineman or try to put another weapon on the outside to help out quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    Personally, I think the Bills should take Michael Floyd. Floyd is a guy who I've loved from the beginning of the off-season draft processes. The guy has a lot of Terrell Owens in his game. He's a big, fast, strong wideout with exceptional run-after-the-catch ability. Pairing him with Stevie Johnson and keeping David Nelson in the slot would provide Fitzpatrick with a nice core of wide receivers. Besides, the Bills run a ton of multi-WR sets, so it just makes sense to upgrade the position.

    Alternatives: The Bills would love a left tackle if a good enough player presents himself. David DeCastro is an option if the Bills want to slide LG Andy Levitre to LT.

No. 11: Arizona Cardinals (from Chiefs) Select OG David DeCastro (Stanford)

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    Mocked trade: The Cardinals send a third round pick to the Chiefs to move up a couple spots.

    Needs: QB (depending on your faith in Kolb), OL, OLB

    Previous Record: 8-8

    For some reason, it seems like the Cardinals have had offensive line problems for the past two decades. I think it's high time they invest in a better offensive line if they want to see what they can get out of Kevin Kolb, their multi-million dollar investment. They should try to trade up to take the only truly elite OL left, David DeCastro out of Stanford. DeCastro is the best guard prospect to come along in a while. He helped make average RB's look outstanding at Stanford, and helped keep Andrew Luck's jersey clean for two years.

    Many mocks have also had a rush LB going here, but I think the Cardinals feel set at the position with their combination of Joey Porter, Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield.

    Alternatives: Offensive line is definitely the number one need, but I could also see ILB Luke Kuechly or a rush LB like Melvin Ingram being options if Ken Whisenhunt wants to Steeler-ize his team.

No. 12: Seattle Seahawks Select DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina)

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    Needs: Interior OL, DE, LB, CB

    Previous Record: 7-9

    With the signing of Matt Flynn, the Seahawks suddenly seem to have things falling into place on both sides of the ball. They have a lot of youth and potential at every area of the roster, and improving their pass rush is perhaps the last piece they need to make a run at the 49ers in the improving NFC West.

    To that end, pairing the talented Quinton Coples with Chris Clemons could immediately improve the Seahawks young defense. Coples reminds many of Julius Peppers, but doesn't seem to have the motor or the consistency of his fellow UNC alum. Still, if he can take his game up a notch he could be a dominant player at the next level. Coples has every tool you look for in a defensive end. It's just a matter of him putting it to work at all times.

    Alternatives: David DeCastro is an option to replace Robert Gallery. I think Luke Kuechly would be a solid pick for the 'Hawks as well and a very real possibility, as they've had a revolving door at the position the past couple seasons.

No. 13: Kansas City Chiefs (from ARI) Select CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina)

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    Mocked trade: The Cardinals send a third round pick to the Chiefs to move up a couple spots.

    Needs: Interior OL, OLB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 7-9

    The Chiefs could use David DeCastro, but with the signing of right tackle Eric Winston, I don't think they love the idea of spending a high draft pick on an offensive lineman. Instead, I think they understand that replacing Brandon Carr just became much more important with Peyton Manning in their division. Yes, they signed Stanford Routt and have Javier Arenas on the roster, but they still need someone else.

    Stephon Gilmore has been shooting up draft boards recently, and many sources say that he's hovering around the top 10. While he left as a junior, he's played a significant role since he was a freshman, and fits the role of what is needed in the now pass-happy AFC West.

    Alternatives: The Chiefs could take Luke Kuechly to give them a steady force in the middle for the next decade. They could also reach on Mark Barron to pair him with Eric Berry. An offensive lineman like DeCastro, Cordy Glenn, Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams is a strong possibility as well.

No. 14: Cincinnati Bengals (from Cowboys) Select DE Melvin Ingram (S. Carolina)

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    Mocked trade: The Bengals trade their first (no. 17), fourth rounder and a future third round pick to the Cowboys to move up.

    Needs: RB, DE, DT, S

    Previous Record: 9-7

    The Bengals were a surprise team last year, shocking the world and making the playoffs on the play-making abilities of two rookies, wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. To take the next step, they need to shore up their already solid defense.

    Despite not having a dominant pass rusher, the Bengals were able to get pressure on the QB and forced 45 sacks, good for fifth in the league. A lot of that can be attributed to the fine coverage from CB's Leon Hall and Nate Clements (who had a very underrated year). Still, the Bengals have to be disappointed with the inability to stay on the field from Carlos Dunlap and Frostee Rucker (who they let walk away in free agency) and a lack of production from Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson. I'm not sure the Bengals love the idea of spending another draft pick on a DE, but Melvin Ingram is a steal at this point, and I love the idea of the Bengals moving up to get him.

    Ingram is a lot like Elvis Dumervill. He's a low-to-the-ground bull rusher who accelerates quickly to the QB. If he's half the player many experts expect him to be, he'll become the Bengals best pass rusher quickly.

    Alternatives: If they don't move up, I think Cinci would take a long, hard look at Mark Barron, although the biggest need for this young team is at defensive line, so I think they would still take a different DE or a DT.

No. 15: Philadelphia Eagles Select LB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)

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    Needs: OL, DT, OLB

    Previous Record: 8-8

    The Eagles were the most underachieving team last year, waiting until the second half of the season to start playing well enough for the playoffs, but still couldn't make it. The early season struggles were not due to a lack of talent however, as this is a team with enough depth to compete for a Super Bowl if things shake out the way they hope they do. Philly does not have a lot of needs to address, but they could use some depth in the middle of their defense.

    The Eagles got a great deal when they traded for DeMeco Ryans, but they had problems at all three LB spots last year, and need a complete overhaul. Luke Kuechly is a great, consistent player who makes tackle after tackle. He's precisely what the Eagles lacked last year. Ryans could move to the outside to accommodate Kuechly.

    Alternatives: The Eagles could use some help at right tackle, and could also use a DT. Michael Brockers or Fletcher Cox are very real possibilities.

No. 16: New York Jets Select DE/OLB Courney Upshaw (Alabama)

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    Needs: RB, WR, RT, DT, OLB, S

    Previous Record: 8-8

    The Jets don't really need to draft anyone. After all, they just traded for Tim Tebow.

    Just kidding.

    I think the Jets will stick to the tenants of a best player available strategy and draft Courtney Upshaw out of South Carolina, who also happens to fill a need. Surprisingly, the Jets got very little pressure on the quarterback last year, playing a major role in the team missing the playoffs for the first time in the Rex Ryan era. Upshaw is the type of player Rex Ryan loves. He's a vicious pass rusher with experience playing upright and in space.

    Alternatives: The right side of the Jets offensive line was terrible, so any of the remaining OL is a possibility. The Jets desperately need a WR or two, but they can be had in the second or third rounds.

No. 17: Dallas Cowboys (from OAK Through Bengals) Select S Mark Barron (Alabama)

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    Mocked trade: The Bengals trade their first (no. 17), fourth rounder and a future third round pick to the Cowboys to move up.

    Needs: DE, CB, S

    Previous Record: 8-8

    The Cowboys have tried to put band-aids on their secondary situation over the past few years, but it's time for a permanent solution. Mark Barron is an excellent, highly-skilled, experienced player who is an upgrade over both Gerald Sensabaugh, Abram Elam and even new signee Brodney Pool, all of whom are liabilities in coverage. Barron, meanwhile, had 12 interceptions over the course of his stellar collegiate career at Alabama. He's the kind of roving safety that could help prevent the big plays that Dallas is prone to giving up.

    With the release of Terrance Newman, there's also a leadership void that Barron could fill.

    Alternatives: They've signed Brandon Carr, but Mike Jenkins can be inconsistent at times, so drafting another CB is an option. A front seven player to upgrade their depth is also a priority.

No. 18: San Diego Chargers Select OT Jonathan Martin (Stanford)

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    Needs: WR, OL, DE, DT, OLB, ILB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 8-8

    I am so confused as to how the Chargers have gone from one of the league's most talented teams to one of the league's most depleted teams in a matter of two seasons. What was once a promising roster filled with talent from top to bottom has become a roster of question marks with a few bright spots. There are huge pockmarks all over the depth chart, but especially at offensive line, defensive end, wide receiver and outside linebacker. The team recently signed Jarrett Johnson from Baltimore, so they probably believe they've remedied their pass rush woes, but they remain thin at the other positions mentioned.

    Although the team brought back Jared Gaither to perhaps see what he can offer, the guy was released by two teams last season alone. I think they need to draft a guy like Jonathan Martin to help anchor their line and keep Philip Rivers upright.

    Just a few weeks ago, Martin was projected as a top 10 pick, but because of the way things have shaken out in the draft order and a less than stellar combine, he may fall a little bit. Charged with protecting Andrew Luck's blind-side the past couple years, Martin has proven to be a reliable, sturdy foundation.

    Advantages: The Chargers have a lot of needs with all the defections they've had this off-season. I think that reaching for Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill is also a distinct possibility here, although Philip Rivers has shown that he can make it work with virtually any WR. I think that makes Hill less of a priority. A pass rusher may also be needed. Trading up for Luke Kuechly is possible, too.

No. 19: Chicago Bears Select OT Mike Adams (Ohio State)

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    Needs: OL, TE, DT, CB, S

    Previous Record: 8-8

    The Bears just drafted Gabe Carimi last year, but the offensive line was so terrible, you could almost say it single-handedly torpedoed Chicago's playoff hopes last year. I think drafting another top-flight OL is a high priority, and Mike Adams has the makings of a great one.

    Adams was a top recruit going to Ohio State just a few years ago, and has been dominant since he stepped into the starting lineup. He would enable the Bears to finally stand up to the fierce pass rushes of the NFC North.

    With Michael Bush and Brandon Marshall added to what the Bears already have, the Chicago offense could be frightening next year if they shore up their offensive line woes.

    Alternatives: The most glaring weakness on the team is easily offensive line, but the team is also thin in the defensive backfield. I think Chicago would love Mark Barron if he were available, but a corner like Janoris Jenkins is also a possibility. Jenkins has talent and character issues, but would be kept in line by leaders like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

No. 20: Tennessee Titans Select DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois)

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    Needs: DE, CB, S

    Previous Record: 9-7

    The Titans had an up-and-down season, mostly thanks to an injury to key wide receiver Kenny Britt and a very slow start to Chris Johnson's season. That said, the Titans have a lot going for them. With the addition of Steve Hutchinson (albeit an older Steve Hutchinson), the Titans upgraded one of the better offensive lines in the league. They're set at the skill positions. Defensively though, they can use some upgrades.

    Originally, I had them drafting Dre Kirkpatrick here, but they've been linked to Eagles CB Asante Samuel in recent days. If that trade goes down, I don't think they'll go after a CB, and instead upgrade the pass rush.

    Enter Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus led the NCAA in sacks last year, displaying a dominant speed rush that has evoked images of Simeon Rice. I like that comparison. Mercilus is a one-trick pony, but the Titans have enough around him to just unleash him on the QB.

    Alternative: If the Titans don't acquire Samuel, I fully expect them to draft the best CB available to replace Cortland Finnegan. Otherwise, I would expect some sort of pass rusher.

No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals Select OT/G Cordy Glenn (Georgia)

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    Needs: RB, DT, S

    Previous Record: 9-7

    If the Bengals get Melvin Ingram with their first pick, I think they'll have the luxury of going BPA with their second first round pick. There are a few options available, but I think the Bengals would be happy to add to their improving offensive line with Cordy Glenn from Georgia.

    Glenn has played all over the line, and can provide the same versatility to Cincinnati's team. They could slide the disappointing Andre Smith inside, or play Glenn at guard. He would help protect Andy Dalton and provide solid run blocking for the Bengals new backfield combination of BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott.

    Alternatives: The Bengals could take Dre Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins if they wanted to add a young CB to groom behind Leon Hall and Nate Clements. DT's Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers are also options to replace the departed Jonathan Fanene.

No. 22: Cleveland Browns (From Falcons) Select CB Janoris Jenkins (N. Alabama)

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    Needs: QB, WR, DE, OLB

    Previous Record: 4-12

    With Trent Richardson in tow (at least in this mock), the Browns have other needs to fill. While they have signed defensive ends Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker, those are marginal improvements at best and could be upgraded. They need a QB, but I don't think Brandon Weeden at 28 years of age is worthy of a pick this high. WR is also a need, but I think the Browns would rather have a veteran if they aren't going to draft Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd.

    So where does that leave Cleveland? They could certainly trade down, but instead I think they might go with who they think is the best player available, Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is a top 10 talent with a ton of character concerns, but pairing him with his former Florida teammate Joe Haden potentially gives the Browns the best young CB duo in the league.

    Mike Holmgrem seems to want to build a defense-first squad, and Jenkins would be a means towards that end.

    Alternatives: Stephen Hill or Kendall Wright are options if the Browns want to pick a WR, but I don't think they will. They could really use a DE, so if a top one slips to them, they'd probably go in that direction.

No. 23: Detroit Lions Select CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama)

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    Needs: 2nd WR, OLB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 10-6

    Matt Stafford finally stayed healthy and ended up throwing for 5,000 yards and 40 TD's and led his team to the playoffs. Simply jaw dropping achievements. Still, the Lions defense, while improved, was not good enough to keep the Lions from having to throw the ball 40 times every game. Specifically, the pass defense was routinely torched. The Lions also lost perhaps their best CB, Eric Wright to free agency. An upgrade is needed.

    Dre Kirkpatrick may not be the prospect we all thought he'd be out of high school, but he's still a very solid CB with perfect size for the position. He's solid in all facets of the game, although he can look very lost in coverage at times and is slower than people expected. Still, he represents an upgrade over anything the Lions currently have.

    Alternatives: The Lions need help at OLB, so reaching for UNC's Zach Brown is an outside possibility. They could also draft the best OL available, although in this mock, I don't think there are any more first round-worthy OT's.

No. 24: Pittsbugh Steelers Select DT/DE Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)

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    Needs: RB, WR (if Mike Wallace isn't re-signed), DE, ILB, CB

    Previous Record: 12-4

    The Steelers have been in a tough spot this off-season. They're right up against the salary cap, and are having to make a ton of cuts just to get under it. One of the key losses is stalwart DE Aaron Smith. Replacing him isn't going to be easy, but Fletcher Cox is a good player with the SEC pedigree who may fall to Pittsburgh simply because of other team's needs.

    I wouldn't expect Cox to immediately seize the starting job, but he could enter the league as a rotation player, eventually working his way into being a full-time player.

    Alternatives: Rashard Mendenhall is out for the season, so there's an outside shot the Steelers will take a RB like Lamar Miller or David Wilson. If Mike Wallace signs somewhere else, they'll have a gaping hole at WR. They need a LB to replace James Farrior. They also need corner help. The Steelers could be in for a transitional season in 2012.

No. 25: Denver Broncos Select DT Michael Brockers (LSU)

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    Needs: WR, DT, CB, S

    Previous Record: 8-8

    Well, the Broncos won the off-season by signing Peyton Manning. No. 18 instantly gives them a top 10 offense. The only question is: Can the Broncos defense remain solid without the run-heavy offense featuring Tim Tebow keeping them off the field?

    One way or another, the Broncos still haven't addressed their needs at defensive tackle. Luckily for them, it's a fairly deep position this year, and Michael Brockers is a young guy with a ton of potential. He moved up draft boards fairly quickly in the off-season after a great sophomore campaign. While Brockers is young and somewhat inexperienced, his frame will allow him to become much larger and stronger, and he could become a force of nature down the road.

    Alternatives: A different DT like Devon Still, Fletcher Cox or Jerel Worthy are the strongest possibilities. If the franchise wants to give Peyton more weapons, they could draft Colby Fleener, Stephen Hill or Kendall Wright.

No. 26: Houston Texans Select WR Kendall Wright (Baylor)

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    Needs: second WR, OT, DT, S

    Previous Record: 10-6

    If not for injuries at different times to Mario Williams, Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, it's scary to think about how good the Texans could have been. Still, the injuries allowed guys like Ben Tate, Brooks Foster and Connor Barwin to shine. One area that was exposed was the Texans' WR depth outside of Johnson.

    Kendall Wright has slipped in mock drafts because of his horrible 40-yard dash times, but the guy was a burner at Baylor who routinely got open deep. In Houston, I think he translates to a nice slot receiver who compliments Andre Johnson very nicely.

    Alternatives: Stephen Hill, another WR, is an option. Replacing Eric Winston has to be a priority. The Texans could also use upgrades at nose tackle and safety as well.

No. 27: New England Patriots (from Saints) Select: DE/OLB Andre Branch (Clemson)

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    Needs: RB, DE, OLB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 13-3

    The Patriots have already had a very busy off-season. I think that Bill Belichick senses that the Tom Brady era window is slowly closing and feels the pressure of trying to win championships while he still has his Hall of Fame QB. Normally the Patriots would be trading around, but I think they want to take the best players they can to give themselves a chance to win immediately.

    Because of the change in philosophy, New England should take a guy like Andre Branch to upgrade what's been a poor pass rush over the past couple seasons. Branch looked really good at the combine, and showed an aptitude for playing OLB, which is key to the Patriots multiple looks on defense.

    Alternatives: I would love for the Patriots to take a RB like Lamar Miller or David Wilson here, but I think they believe they have something in Stevan Ridley. They could also continue their trend of drafting corners, but at a certain point, it just becomes redundant to do so.

No. 28: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Packers) Select RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

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    Mocked trade: The Bucs trade back into the first round, sending their second (36th overall) and third round picks to the Packers for the 28th overall pick.

    Needs: RB, DT, LB, S

    Previous Record: 4-12

    The Packers, stacked at most positions, have the luxury of moving out of the first round to pick up another pick to improve their depth at nearly any position. The Bucs, upon missing out on Trent Richardson, make the move to trade back into the first to pickup Lamar Miller.

    Miller is an unbelievable talent. It would be crazy to let him slip into the second round. While he may not have put up the numbers of an elite RB, he has the ability of one. He's got the size and unbelievable speed to be a success. Even better, he can be paired with LeGarrette Blount as a lethal thunder/lightning type combination. If the Bucs get Miller, they have the makings of an elite offense.

    They may not have many other picks after making a move of this magnitude, but coming out of the draft with Mo Claiborne and Miller is an outstanding haul.

    Alternatives: I specifically have the Bucs moving back in to get Miller, but David Wilson is another first round possibility at RB.

No. 29: Baltimore Ravens Select C Peter Konz (Wisconsin)

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    Needs: WR, OG

    Previous Record: 12-4

    The Ravens could use depth at a couple of positions to replace aging stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but losing Ben Grubbs is a huge loss. To address it immediately, the Ravens can take the last first round worthy OL left in Wisconsin's Peter Konz.

    The Ravens still have Matt Birk, but Konz can play guard until Birk's ready to retire, and then take over at the position at that point.

    Alternatives: Dont'a Hightower and Harrison Smith are possibilities simply to put Ray Lewis and Ed Reed's replacements in place. They could use a WR like Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle, but those are luxury picks for a team that now has a hole in their OL.

No. 30: San Francisco 49ers Select DE/OLB Nick Perry (USC)

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    Needs: DE, OLB, CB

    Previous Record: 13-3

    The only real upgrade the 49ers could have made this year would be by signing Peyton Manning. However, they lost out to the Broncos, and have since brought back the solid but unspectacular Alex Smith. Defensively, they could use a CB, but I'm not sure they want to reach on Alfonzo Dennard or Jayron Hosley. After signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, I don't think they'll draft Stephen Hill, either.

    Instead, I think they'll add another young pass rusher to pair with Aldon Smith in USC's own Nick Perry. Perry has all the athleticism in the world, which translates to a very high ceiling in the NFL. If the 49ers allow him to do what he does best, he and Smith could become the most fearsome pass-rushing duo in the NFL.

    Alternatives: The alternatives are guys I already outlined like Dennard, Hosley or Hill. I think there's an outside shot for Colby Fleener to get drafted here, but it's unlikely.

No. 31: New England Patriots Select S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame)

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    Needs: RB, DE, OLB, CB, S

    Previous Record: 13-3

    The Patriots were absolutely terrible at safety last year. Part of that was Pat Chung missing a few games, but the other part was the revolving door of journeymen playing opposite him. The Pats would like Mark Barron, but he'll be long gone by either of their picks. Still, Harrison Smith is a good all-around player who proved to be more athletic than many people thought.

    Smith is solid in coverage and in run support. Adding he and Andre Branch to their ailing defense could be exactly what New England needs to win a Super Bowl this year.

    Alternatives: David Wilson is still available in this mock, but again, the Patriots seem to like the RB's they drafted last year. A DT/DE combo like Devon Still is a possibility.

No. 32: New York Giants Select LB Dont'a Hightower (Alabama)

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    Needs: RB, OT, LB

    Previous Record: 9-7

    The New York Giants once again rode late season momentum to a Super Bowl victory. After a slow start due to some injuries, the Giants eventually got it together and proved to be a deeper team than people expected. They come into the off-season mostly looking to keep most of their team intact and, outside of losing Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, have done a good job of that.

    They could use an upgrade at middle linebacker though. Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones and Mathias Kiwanuka played admirably, and Michael Boley was solid, but Dont'a Hightower is a thumper who probably shouldn't be drafted this low.

    Alternatives: They could go after David Wilson, but taking a RB in the first is uncharacteristic of the Giants. New York also needs to replace Kareem McKenzie at RT, so maybe the Giants could reach for Zebrie Sanders from Florida State. Another possible pick is WR Stephen Hill to replace Manningham.

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