2012 NFL Mock Draft: Five Weeks Before Draft Weekend

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Five Weeks Before Draft Weekend
Morris Claiborne will definitely go somewhere in the first six picks.
1- Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck - Stanford
  Peyton Manning's illustrious tenure as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts has come to an end. Luckily for the Colts (no pun intended), the best quarterback prospect in recent memory is turning pro early the same year they get the first overall selection. Luck goes to Indianapolis and looks to be the next great Indianapolis quarterback.
2- Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III - Baylor
  Almost any other year, Griffin would likely be the first pick in the draft. With Andrew Luck going first to the Colts, the Redskins are more than happy to make Griffin the second selection. I truly think both Luck and Griffin are special, whereas last season, I wasn't convinced about Cam Newton and was less than enamored with the crop of quarterbacks. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is certainly cause for excitement in the Nation's capitol.

3-   Minnesota Vikings

OT Matt Kalil - Southern Cal
  The Vikings surprised a lot of people when they selected QB Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the draft last year. Even though his contract wasn't as costly as it would have been in previous years, Minnesota has went all-in with Ponder as their guy. If he has any chance at being a franchise quarterback, you need to protect his blindside. Kalil is thought to be the best offensive tackle prospect since Joe Thomas came out of Wisconsin. He's the third pick in the draft, done deal.
4- Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson - Alabama
 
Joe Thomas is a great player, thanks to Wisconsin; but it's usually not a good sign when the face of your franchise is a Left Tackle. Just saying. The Browns could go multiple ways with this pick; either Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson would add a lot to their offense. Cleveland could go defense with this pick and draft Morris Claiborne, whom would then team up with Joe Haden and form one of the top cornerback tandems in the AFC. Greg Little could definitely develop into a solid player, but Cleveland will surely still consider Justin Blackmon. Trent Richardson would help a stagnant offense come somewhat viable; with Colt McCoy at quarterback, Richardson would allow the Browns to operate under the "ground and pound" philosophy.

 5- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 CB Morris Claiborne - Louisiana State
  Ronde Barber will give it another go in 2012, but his days in the league are numbered. I'm sure they want to see Richardson here at the fifth pick, but I think Cleveland will take him a pick before. The Bucs can add another running back to go along with LeGarrette Blount, possibly a David Wilson or Doug Martin, in the second or third round. Even though Tampa added CB Eric Wright as an unrestricted free agent, you can never have enough cornerbacks when you play in the same division as Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan. If Talib can stay out of trouble, then he'd give the Bucs a talented young trio of cornerbacks along with Claiborne and Wright.
6- St. Louis Rams
WR Justin Blackmon - Oklahoma State
  After hitting it big in the RG3 trade with Washington, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Rams moved down once again. If they stay put, I think they'd be more than happy with Blackmon, Claiborne, or Richardson - probably in that order. A trade possibility I've thought about is Cincinnati, with picks at 17 and 21, trying to move up to number six in order to take Richardson. The Rams could address the wide receiver position and take an offensive tackle at 17 and 21, and the Bengals could grab the draft's top running back at number six in Richardson. However, in this projection Richardson is off the board, so the Rams opt to get Sam Bradford a new toy in Blackmon instead of beefing up the offensive line with Iowa OT Riley Reiff.
7- Jacksonville Jaguars
DE Melvin Ingram - South Carolina
  Desperate for talented wide receivers, Jacksonville would love to see Blackmon fall to them with the seventh pick. With the top receiver off the board, the Jags look to other positions of need by selecting the best pass rusher in the draft in Melvin Ingram. Quinton Coples would be a little riskier than Ingram because there are questions about his motor as a senior at North Carolina. Blaine Gabbert extremely uneasy as a rookie, but I think he's talented enough to become a good player in this league. Riley Reiff is a possibility here, if the Jags are ready to give up on Eben Britton — who has missed 17 games in the past two seasons.
8- Miami Dolphins
QB Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M
  Does anyone want to be associated with the Dolphins right now? After being turned down by Jim Harbaugh last year, Miami has already been spurned by Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning, and Matt Flynn this year. Fortunately for the Dolphins, Tannehill doesn't have the option of turning his back to Miami if they call his name on draft day. A former wide receiver, Tannehill is a great athlete and his head coach with the Aggies was Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Matt Moore played well at times last year, but I don't think Miami is comfortable with what they have at quarterback. Tannehill makes a lot of sense.
9- Carolina Panthers DE Quinton Coples - North Carolina
  I couldn't have been more wrong about Cam Newton, as he was truly brilliant as a rookie. Carolina's biggest need is in the middle of their defensive line, at tackle. Dontari Poe would make a lot of sense here, but Quinton Coples has an incredibly high ceiling if he's committed. The last time Carolina looked to Chapel Hill for help at defensive end, it worked out pretty well for them with Julius Peppers. Coples has too much talent for the Panthers to overlook. There's a solid amount of defensive talent in the second and third rounds, but they won't find a 6'6", 284 lbs. talent like Quinton Coples later in the draft.
10- Buffalo Bills WR Michael Floyd - Notre Dame
  The Bills have been quite active this offseason. They gave $100 million and the secret recipe to the Krabby Patty to Mario Williams in hopes of fixing their anemic pass rush. Following the blockbuster addition of Williams, Buffalo signed Mark Andersen to rush the passer from the other end of the line. With Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams plugging the middle, Buffalo no longer has a glaring need on the defensive line. Instead, the Bills would be wise to invest this pick on an offensive player; whether it be a lineman or a wide receiver. Michael Floyd could join Stevie Johnson in Buffalo and give Ryan Fitzpatrick a couple dangerous weapons on the outside.
11- Kansas City Chiefs
OG David Decastro - Stanford
  Dontari Poe would make a lot of sense if the Chiefs think he can anchor their 3-4 at nose tackle, but I think they have one of the more underrated defenses in football. In my opinion, they'd be wise to use this pick on their top rated offensive lineman. Despite already adding one of the best right tackles in football in Eric Winston, selecting Decastro or Riley Reiff would directly benefit the production of Jamaal Charles coming off a season-ending ACL injury. The Chiefs appear set on improving their offense this offseason; on top of signing Winston, Kansas city also picked up Peyton Hillis. If they choose to go defense, taking the draft's best linebacker Luke Kuechley would a very safe option.
12- Seattle Seahawks LB Luke Kuechley - Boston College
  After addressing the quarterback position by signing Matt Flynn and the defensive tackle position with Jason Jones, the Seahawks have the benefit of going several different directions with their first pick. The secondary is one of the best parts about the Seahawks, Earl Thomas is one of the best safeties in football, and Kam Chancellor may have been even better than him last season. They could certainly use a pass rusher, but Kuechley is a safer option than reaching for one of the second-tier pass rushers.
13- Arizona Cardinals
OT Riley Reiff - Iowa
  The Kevin Kolb experiment got off to a rocky start for the Cardinals, but their offense still has some building blocks in All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald and dynamic RB returning from injury in Ryan Williams, The team brought back Levi Brown to play left tackle, but they would be wise to take the best tackle on the board with the 13th pick. Reiff is a good value with the 13th pick, as teams in the top ten will surely consider selecting him. Georgia's Cordy Glenn could be considered here as well; at 346 pounds, Glenn played tackle at Georgia but likely translates better to guard in the NFL.
14-Dallas Cowboys
OG Cordy Glenn - Georgia
  In my opinion, the Cowboys made a great addition by signing CB Brandon Carr away from Kansas City. He'll fit right into Dallas's starting lineup, but the Cowboys still have holes in their secondary. The Cowboys could still go with a cornerback here, and I think South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore is the next best prospect after Morris Claiborne. Alabama safety Mark Barron is a great option in the middle of the first round, but the Cowboys could be in a position to grab the best player available. If they choose to address the defense in an area other than defensive back, possibilities include Courtney Upshaw, Dontari Poe, Michaael Brockers, and Fletcher Cox. However, Jerry Jones was wise to take Tyron Smith in the top ten last year, and I think he'd be well-served if he continued adding to his offensive line again. Cordy Glenn is versatile enough to play guard or tackle, Dallas takes him with this pick.
15- Philadelphia Eagles
DT Dontari Poe - Memphis
  Linebacker has been a weak spot in Philly for quite some time, but the Eagles addressed that need by trading with Houston for DeMeco Ryans. Ryans will immediately become the starting middle linebacker in Philadelphia. If they're able to select Poe, Cox or another one of the draft's best defensive tackles, the Eagles will have a much improved run defense in 2012. Dontari Poe is a rare athlete for his size, and Philadelphia would be wise to grab him and stick him next to Cullen Jenkins in the middle of the defensive line.
16- New York Jets DE/OLB Nick Perry - Southern Cal
  Rex Ryan has had a good defensive unit since he took control of the Jets; he's done it in large part without an elite pass rusher. I'd rather have Courtney Upshaw after seeing how dominant he could be while at Alabama, but I think someone will fall in love with Perry after he blew up the Combine and had an equally impressive showing at the USC Pro Day. The Jets would be wise to grab a pass rusher with their first pick, but they could also address the offensive line with Cordy Glenn or David DeCastro if they're available.
17- Cincinnati Bengals CB Stephon Gilmore - South Carolina
  Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins have gotten more attention throughout the offseason than Stephon Gilmore, but I truly think Gilmore is the second best cornerback in this year's draft. He's got great size (6'0", 190 lbs.) and isn't afraid to throw his body around and make tackles. The last time Cincinnati looked to South Carolina for a defensive back, they struck gold by selecting Jonathan Joseph. The Bengals will look to address defensive back, offensive guard, running back, and wide receiver with their two first-round picks. Gilmore is a good bet at 17 because the next three picks are held by San Diego, Chicago, and Tennessee, and all three teams could consider Gilmore if the Bengals pass on him.
18- San Diego Chargers
DT Michael Brockers - Louisiana State
  The Chargers signed Robert Meachem to replace WR Vincent Jackson in their offense, but defensive linemen Luis Castillo and Antonio Garay are still unsigned and on the free agent market. I think they'll take the best defensive linemen on their board, regardless if it's a nose tackle or a defensive end. In this situation, I think they'd go back and forth between Michael Brockers and Fletcher Cox, but ultimately, I think they go with the upside of Brockers. At 6'6", 322 lbs., Brockers would make it a lot easier on outside linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Shaun Phillips.
19- Chicago Bears
DE Whitney Mercilus - Illinois
  Many expected the Bears to make a serious play in the pursuit of Mario Williams, but Buffalo prevented anyone else from getting into the picture by pulling out a blank check. The Bears need help on the line on both sides of the ball; Mercilus would be a great book-end to Julius Peppers. He was a one-year wonder at Illinois, but so was Aldon Smith at Missouri and that turned out pretty well for the 49ers. Chicago would feel better about Nick Perry, but Mercilus would be expected to make an instant impact as a rookie. Defensive tackle is another option, and there will be several players at the position that warrant a mid-first round selection available when they're on the clock.
20- Tennessee Titans
DT Fletcher Cox - Mississippi State
  The Titans lost DT Jason Jones to the Rams as an unrestricted free agent. Fortunately for them, defensive tackle is one of the deepest positions in round one. I think they'd run to the podium with their pick if they were fortunate enough to see Fletcher Cox on the board with the 20th pick. Cox is very similar to Jones in that he has tremendous pass rushing ability as an interior defensive lineman. If Cox is off the board, the Titans could look at C Peter Konz if they choose not to address the position in free agency.
21- Cincinnati Benglas WR Kendall Wright - Baylor
  The best thing for Andy Dalton as a rookie was having a stud WR like A.J. Green. The best thing for Dalton's development would be to continue surrounding him with weapons, and Kendall Wright would be a great addition to this offense. Strapped with two first round picks, I think the Bengals are a candidate to trade up for Trent Richardson if they fall in love with him. However, after adding BenJarvus Green-Ellis, running back is not as glaring of a need as it was prior to signing him. Andy Dalton, also known as The Red Rifle, would be lucky to have a tall WR in A.J. Green and a speed WR in Kendall Wright.
22- Cleveland Browns
OLB Lavonte David - Nebraska
  After grabbing a play-making WR with the fourh pick, Cleveland looks to address one of their numerous remaining needs: quarterback, running back, or the best defensive player available. Brandon Weeden could be an option here, but I still don't think he ends up in the first round. I think the Browns would be wise to grab Richardson at four, and then focus on wide receiver with the 22nd pick. However, I just think they'll ultimately grab Blackmon at four and go defense at 22 instead of reaching for a running back. Lavonte David is an interesting player who was highly productive at Nebaska, and would be the starter at weakside linebacker from day one alongside MLB D'Qwell Jackson.
23- Detroit Lions
CB Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama
  Detroit could go several different options with this pick. After losing Eric Wright as a free agent, I  think the Lions' biggest need is cornerback. Dre Kirkpatrick is a tall, lanky player who will give the Lions a legit counterpart to the bigger receivers in the division such as Chicago WR Brandon Marshall and Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson. Janoris Jenkins is an option here, but ultimately, the Lions feel more comfortable with the size and physical tools of Kirkpatrick instead of rolling the dice with Janoris Jenkins. Alabama S Mark Barron is still on the board in this projection, but ultimately Detroit thinks cornerback is the more pressing need.
24- Pittsburgh Steelers LB Dont'a Hightower - Alabama
  The release of James Farrior leaves a pressing need alongside stud ILB Lawrence Timmons. Pittsburgh seems like an ideal fit for Hightower, whom played ILB in Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme at Alabama. The only way I think the Steelers pass on Hightower is if Cordy Glenn is still on the board. Otherwise, I think Hightower will be the pick over other linemen like Ohio State's Mike Adams and Stanford's Johnathan Martin.
25- Denver Broncos DT Jerel Worthy - Michigan State
  Denver lost its best interior defensive linemen, Brodrick Bunkley, to the New Orleans Saints as an unrestricted free agent. Even if the Broncos had been able to re-sign Bunkley, defensive tackle was still a major need. Worthy gives the Broncos an experienced, complete DT to instantly plug into the middle of their defensive line. They go with Worthy over Devon Still or Kendall Reyes because he has shown more upside as a pass rusher.
 26- Houston Texans
OT Mike Adams - Ohio State
  Houston lost one of the best right tackles in the league when they released Eric Winston. Fortunately, Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin both figure to come off the board in the late first round. The Texans could consider Dont'a Hightower to replace the departed DeMeco Ryans if he gets past Pittsburgh at #24, but that's not the case in this projection. Houston got huge impact from J.J. Watt as a rookie out of the Big Ten last year, so they look for a similar result this year on the other side of the ball. Adams will be asked to start at right tackle as a rookie, and he could ultimately develop into a left tackle at some point in his career.
27- New England Patriots DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw - Alabama
  Here's the biggest faller of my first round projection. Upshaw has been somewhat unimpressive in offseason workouts, but his play on the field is enough solidify himself as a first-round pick. I still think the chances are good  that Upshaw is taken in the first 20 picks, but if he gets past the New York Jets at 16 and 4-3 teams don't think he can play defensive end, it could mean a bit of a free-fall for Mr. Courtney Upshaw. New England plays more of a hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme, so they are flexible in getting their best players on the field. The problem is, right now they don't have very many good players on defense. Upshaw would see significant time as a rookie with the Patriots.
28- Green Bay Packers DE/OLB Andre Branch - Clemson
  Even after signing Jeff Saturday, I think the Packers will still try to add OLB Manny Lawson in free agency. Even if they are able to sign Lawson, they won't hesitate to use their first pick on another outside linebacker if that's the best option in the eyes of Ted Thompson. Simply put, if Clay Matthews were to go down to injury, the Packers would be completely screwed. Branch is a better overall athlete than Whitney Mercilus, and I think he's better suited for a 3-4; however, Thompson may be tempted to trade-up if Courtney Upshaw gets into the 20s. I think the Packers will look at defensive linemen too, but I think they'd rather have Jerel Worthy than Penn State's Devon Still. Although they signed Jeff Saturday, I still wouldn't rule out Peter Konz here.
 29- Baltimore Ravens
C Peter Konz - Wisconsin
  The Ravens were wise to bring Matt Birk back for another year, and adding Konz would be another smart decision. Konz would step right into the starting center position whenever Birk is ready to call it quits. A couple sleeper picks would be Notre Dame S Harrison Smith and North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins. Baltimore wasn't scared away by the character concerns that came along with Jimmy Smith last year, and Jenkins will be a great player if he can keep his head on straight. Ultimately, the Ravens choose to take Konz who can play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line.
30- San Francisco 49ers TE Coby Fleener - Stanford
  Other than the minor Smith-jealous-over-his-coach-pursuing-Manning fiasco, the theme of San Fran's offseason has been adding playmakers to its offense. Randy Moss and Mario Manningham have both signed with the 49ers, and they'll team up with Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to become a great quartet of targets. If the 49ers add Fleener, they'll be able to play the match-up game with defeses; Fleener and Davis on the field at the same time would be a match-up nightmare.
31- New England Patriots
S Mark Barron - Alabama
  New England was interested in Reggie Nelson and LaRon Landry this offseason before both players signed elsewhere. Mark Barron could come off the board as high as 14 to Dallas, and the Patriots would feel lucky to see a player of his caliber on the board at 28. Barron would instantly be plugged into New England's starting lineup next to Patrick Chung. Bill Belichick feels fortunate to add two of his buddy Nick Saban's players at Alabama in Upshaw and Barron. It's hard for me to believe both players will fall to the end of round one, but that's the case in this projection. Since the Patriots have so many holes on defense, they are the main beneficiaries of a couple draft-day falls.
32- New York Giants OLB Zach Brown - North Carolina
  I'm sure the Giants would love to take Coby Fleener with their first pick, but Jim Harbaugh takes him off the board before New York has a chance to get him. Lavonte David is another option for the linebacker-needy Giants, but he's already gone as well. There isn't another tight end worth taking in the first round, but Zach Brown is an unbelievable athlete that the Giants would certainly consider if the draft played out this way. The Super Bowl Champs don't have many glaring needs, so they have the ability to take the best player available at #32.
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