2012 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Projections with Commentary

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Projections with Commentary
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We are now double-digit days into the NFL free-agency period and just more than one month away from the 2012 NFL Draft.

Taking free-agency movements into consideration, here is my updated first-round projection with commentary:

1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

After having Peyton Manning, a four-time league MVP, under center for more than a decade, the Colts have the "luck" to be able to transition into the next era with a quarterback many have called the best prospect since John Elway. Like Manning, Luck is expected to have the opportunity to start Week 1 as a rookie.

2. Washington Redskins (trade with Rams (2-14)Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Of course, any franchise that gives up two additional first-round picks and a second-rounder in order to move up a few spots has its sights set on drafting a potential franchise quarterback. Griffin, this year's Heisman Trophy winner, has all the tools—intelligence, rare athleticism for the position, strong arm and accuracy—to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback.

3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Without question, Kalil is the top offensive tackle prospect in this year's draft class. Some have described Kalil as the best left-tackle prospect since Joe Thomas. Kalil has size (6'6", 295 pounds), pedigree (brother Ryan is the Panthers' Pro Bowl center) and athleticism. Kalil is one of 15 offensive line prospects to run a sub-5.0 40-yard dash since 2006. Considering only four teams allowed more sacks than the Vikings last year, this pick a no-brainer.

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4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Based on talent alone, Richardson should be a top-five pick. However, it is easy to argue that no running back should be taken this high, and the Browns can go in a few different directions. If they don't draft Richardson, the likely choice comes down to LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. As far as Richardson goes, he's a physical freak with a rare combination of size, strength and speed who is capable of handling the pounding that an every-down back takes in the NFL.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Prior to the start of free agency, cornerback was arguably the team's biggest need with Ronde Barber's potential retirement and Aqib Talib's legal issues. Since then, Barber, who will turn 37 in April, has announced he will return for another season and the Bucs have signed free-agent Eric Wright to a five-year deal. That said, the Bucs have to face Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan (at least) six times per year. Not only does he have good size, athleticism and ball skills, Claiborne does not have the character concerns of some of the other top cornerbacks in this year's draft class.

6. St. Louis Rams (5-11)Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Yes, the Colts won the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes, but the Rams are certainly winners as well. They added two additional first-round picks (2013 and 2014) and a second-round pick (2012) to move down a few spots (as noted above). Blackmon, the back-to-back Biletnikoff winner, gives Sam Bradford a potential No. 1 receiver. Over the past two seasons, the physical receiver has been highly productive with 232 receptions for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

If Blackmon is still available at No. 7, the Jags would likely opt for getting their "franchise" quarterback a legitimate weapon in the passing game. (Granted, Blaine Gabbert looked horrible—and scared at times—last season, but the Jags arguably have the league's worst receiving corps even after signing Laurent Robinson via free agency). With the depth of this wide receiver class, the Jags will have the opportunity to add a playmaker early in the second round or even later in the draft. Considering the Jags have ranked in the bottom 10 in sacks for the past three years, Coples gives them an extremely athletic and versatile player with enormous upside who should immediately help boost their pass rush. The biggest knock on Coples is his motor. He has admitted that he has not always gone as hard as he could.

8. Miami Dolphins (6-10)Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

After converting to receiver (from quarterback) when he arrived at A&M, Tannehill led the team in receiving in his first two seasons. He became the team's starting quarterback in the middle of his junior season, however, and has the size (6'4", 220 pounds), athleticism, smarts, intangibles and arm strength that teams desire in quarterbacks despite lacking the experience. Since the 'Fins whiffed on signing Peyton Manning (or Matt Flynn), Tannehill will be reunited with his former college coach Mike Sherman, who is now the Dolphins offensive coordinator.

[Take our poll on where Tannehill will be drafted.]

9. Carolina Panthers (6-10)Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

 

Not only were the Panthers bad versus the run (130.8 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns allowed last year), but they also ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in sacks (31). Cox has good size (6'4" and 298 pounds), strength (30 reps at 225) and athleticism (4.79 40) and will immediately help improve the Panthers defensive line.

10. Buffalo Bills (6-10)Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

With the Bills landing this year's biggest free-agent prize in defensive end Mario Williams, who agreed to a $100 million contract, the Bills significantly upgraded their pass-rush capabilities to go along with a talented duo of defensive tackles already in place with Marcell Dareus, last year's first-round pick, and Kyle Williams. With that said, the Bills can shift their focus to protecting their quarterback by adding an offensive tackle here. If they don't go with Reiff, who some teams project as a guard instead of a tackle, the Bills could go with Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin here.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Simply stated, he's a freak. At 346 pounds, Poe benched 225 pounds a combine-best 44 times and ran a sub-5.0 40 (4.87 unofficially, 4.98 officially). While some have compared Poe athletically to Haloti Ngata, he hasn't looked like Ngata on tape. Forgive the corny joke I'm about to make but...he has a ton of POE-tential.

12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

With linebacker David Hawthorne, who led the Seahawks in tackles the past three seasons, now a free agent, the Seahawks get an uber-productive linebacker with a nose for the football in Kuechly, last year's Butkus Award recipient. Some were concerned about his athleticism, but he tested extremely well at the combine: 4.58 40 (third among linebackers), 38-inch vertical (third) and 27 bench-press reps (tied for seventh).

 

13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Several mock drafts project Floyd as high as No. 7 to Jacksonville and some view Floyd as a better receiver prospect than Blackmon. After losing out on Peyton Manning, the Cardinals can improve their passing offense by adding one of college football's most prolific receivers to go along with All-World wideout Larry Fitzgerald. With good size (6'3", 225) and speed, Floyd finished his collegiate career with 271 receptions for 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns.

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

In addition to Floyd, several mock drafts project Ingram going as high as No. 7 and I did as well in my previous mock (3/12). That said, Ingram is an athletic, versatile player with a consistent motor and provides good value at this spot.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)Devon Still, DT, Penn State

The Eagles were fortunate to significantly upgrade at middle linebacker by trading for linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006. Since 2000, the Eagles have used half (five) of their first-round picks (10) on defensive linemen (see Eagles' draft history). The other five first-rounders during that span have been used on offensive line twice, wide receivers twice and cornerback once.

16. New York Jets (8-8)Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

In my previous mock draft, I had the Jets taking Upshaw's Alabama teammate Mark Barron, the top safety in this year's draft class. After signing LaRon Landry in free agency, however, the Jets will (likely) go in a different direction at this spot. If Notre Dame's Michael Floyd is still on the board, that's a possibility as well. Upshaw had 9.5 sacks last season and five sacks in his final two games (vs. Auburn and Michigan State) in 2010 and will help the Jets boost their pass rush. According to Tony Pauline, Alabama coach Nick Saban has called Upshaw the “meanest player he’s ever coached.”

Click here for the rest of the first round.

For our database of 2012 NFL mock drafts from around the web, click here.

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