2012 NFL Mock Draft: Filling Every Teams Biggest Draft Day Need
The NFL draft is an annual opportunity for NFL teams to improve their squads by filling their biggest needs, but as often as not, that isn't the case, as choosing the best player available or snagging a sliding star often times takes precedence.
However, for this particular mock draft, we're going to attempt to focus on the most pressing need of each first-round team, and while many picks may be just what you'd expect, others will likely come as something of a surprise.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Colts owner Jim Irsay recently said that while anything's possible, "things have always pointed towards Luck," so the first-overall pick seems to be just about a done deal.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Washington may be meeting with Andrew Luck, but Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is already visiting Griffin in the hopes of better preparing the Heisman Trophy winner for the jump to the NFL.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC: The Vikings could trade down here if a great offer comes along, but assuming that doesn't happen, Minnesota will look to bolster an offensive line that gave up the fifth-most sacks in the league last year by adding a player who didn't allow any in 2011.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: The Browns are in desperate need of offensive playmakers, and although the Browns may take Trent Richardson here, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks the Browns will look to add an elite receiver.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: Ronde Barber was once a great pro, but is now 36 years old. and with Aqib Talib in hot water with the law, the Buccaneers' huge need in the secondary could be easily addressed by selecting the draft's best cornerback prospect.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: The Rams would have loved to get Blackmon, but with him off the board, the team will look to upgrade an an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL in 2011.
Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff was an All-Big Ten performer in 2011, and the 6'5", 313-pound Hawkeyes standout is stout in both run and pass blocking and excelled at Iowa's recent pro day, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports.
Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was the obvious star attraction. He improved in the bench press (26 reps at 225 pounds Monday) after registering 23 in Indianapolis and also improved three inches in the vertical jump (29.5on Monday). Reiff also focused on wowing coaches with his quick feet and technique during blocking drills.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Floyd's big pro day has led some to question if the 6'3" Notre Dame standout might actually be better than Blackmon, and the Jaguars badly need offensive weaponry.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: The Dolphins are beyond desperate for a starting quarterback after failing to acquire Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn in free agency, and the team has reportedly set their sights on acquiring the Aggies star.
9. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The Panthers defense was dreadful against the run in 2011, ranking 25th in the league, and the 322-pound Brockers would go a long way towards plugging the hole in the middle of the Carolina line,
10. Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Now that tackle Demetress Bell is off to Philadelphia, the Bills suddenly have a huge hole on the offensive line, and with Reiff off the board, the Bills would be forced to reach for Martin given the "slant" of this particular mock.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: With 2011 starter Kelly Gregg, a 35-year-old free agent, the Chiefs need to address the nose tackle spot, and at 6'4" and 346 pounds, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is the just the sort of run-stuffer that 3-4 teams covet.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Chris Clemons has become a solid pass-rusher for the Seahawks, but the team needs to add a player to complement Clemons if they're going to bolster a pass-rush that ranked 19th in the NFL in sacks last season.
A statistical drop-off his senior year has led some to question the work ethic of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, but the 6'6", 281-pound All-ACC performer has all the physical tools. ESPN's Mel Kiper also has Coples headed to Seattle in his latest mock draft, and he had this to say about the Tar Heels standout:
It would be tough for Seattle to pass on perhaps the safest 4-3 DE option available. Coples has prototypical size, can play every down as a pass-rusher and has a solid arsenal of moves to get to opposing quarterbacks, but with the size and discipline to be a force against the run.
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: The Cardinals badly need to upgrade all along the offensive line, and the two-time consensus All-American, who is considered by many to be the best guard prospect in years, would be an excellent fit.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Alabama: The Cowboys are apparently very interested in Alabama safety Mark Barron, but the team's more pressing need is at cornerback, and Gilmore is shooting up draft boards.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, New York Jets: Upshaw's iffy pro day and combine and a somewhat puzzling fit aside, the Eagles have something of a need on the strong side of the defense and could use Upshaw much like the Texans did Brian Cushing in 2010.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Even with the acquisition of BenJarvus Green-Ellis there's no way that the Bengals front office would allow a back that gained 2,000 total yards last season to fall any farther than this.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois: The San Diego Chargers struggled mightily getting after the quarterback last year, as outside of linebacker Antwan Barnes, no player for the San Diego Chargers had more than four sacks.
Meanwhile, All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus of Illinois had 16 sacks in 2011, half the total the Chargers totaled as a team. While there are questions as to whether Mercilus is a "one-year wonder," Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle recently reported that Mercilus' draft stock is on the rise.
Looking for a player flying up draft boards? Look no further than Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus will be taken inside the first 20 picks and now I’m hearing rumors about a couple of teams who are interested in trading up for Mercilus. Mercilus is very raw but has all the tools a team wants. He can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 (OLB), but teams are banking on projecting his talent more than on his production on the college level.
19. Chicago Bears: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: Head coach Lovie Smith has rotated in a menagerie of safeties for the Bears over the past several seasons, and the All-American might finally bring some stability to the position.
20. Tennessee Titans: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: The free agent acquisition of Kamerion Wimbley should help a pass-rush that finished 31st in the NFL in sacks in 2011, but Tennessee needs to continue the overhaul and would be very fortunate to see Ingram fall this far.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Cincinnati has a huge hole in the middle of the offensive line, and the 345-pound Bulldog is a mauling run-blocker who would provide an immediate and significant upgrade.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons): Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Two-hundred-and-twenty-three-pound running back Doug Martin may not be exceptional in any one facet of his game, but he's very good in all of them, and Martin would likely be an excellent fit in Cleveland's West Coast offense.
23. Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Lions had a hole in the secondary even before losing Eric Wright to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. The 6'2", 186-pound second-team All-American would go a long way towards strengthening Detroit's defensive backfield.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: After a decade manning the middle of the Pittsburgh defense, the release of linebacker James Farrior leaves a hole in the middle of the Pittsburgh linebacker corps that the hard-nosed Hightower could easily step into.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: The arrival of Peyton Manning in the Mile High City has shifted much of the focus in Denver to offense, but the team has needs on the defensive side of the ball as well, including the interior of the defensive line.
Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was an All-SEC performer in 2011, and the 6'4", 298-pounder is immensely quick for his size, according to the Sporting News' Russ Lande.
Cox is a “quick-twitch” athlete who has an outstanding closing burst to the ball to finish plays. His initial quickness enables him to shoot gaps and get backfield penetration. He shows the ability to cut behind pulling guards and chase down ball carriers in the backfield.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Baylor wideout Kendall Wright was incredibly productive as a senior in Waco, and the blazing speedster would finally provide receiver Andre Johnson with the playmate he's been seeking.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints): Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: The Patriots have a number of issues on defense, including the attrition that has hit the defensive line. Nick Perry of USC led the Pac-12 in sacks last year, and his ability to play 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker would certainly appeal to Bill Belichick.
28. Green Bay Packers: Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson: The Packers defense ranked dead last in the National Football League a season ago, due in part to their anemic pass-rush. The speedy and powerful 6'4", 259-pound Branch would be an immediate upgrade for the Pack after tallying 9.5 sacks as a senior.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Amini Silatolu, OT/OG, Midwestern State: The Ravens lost starting guard Ben Grubbs to free agency, and the 311-pound small-school standout has the potential to become a force up front after a little time to acclimate to the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: At first glance, the oft-troubled Jenkins and no-nonsense head coach Jim Harbaugh may seen an odd fit, but the Niners have a hole at cornerback in this "needs" draft, and Jenkins has talent to burn.
31. New England Patriots: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: The Patriots have any number of defensive needs, including in the secondary, but the 6'4" speedster would afford quarterback Tom Brady the sort of deep threat he hasn't had since Randy Moss gave a damn.
32. New York Giants: Mike Adams: OT, Ohio State: Starter Kareem McKenzie looked every bit of 33 years old in 2011, so the Super Bowl champions would be wise to begin grooming his successor in the 323-pound Adams.
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