They say defense wins championships. Well, it's no secret that building a top-notch defensive unit through the NFL draft is the best approach and, luckily for some teams, the 2012 NFL draft is loaded with elite defense.
The top players drawing the most attention are on offense, but the truth is that there are several defensive studs with the potential to make a large impact as rookies.
While there are likely to be more offensive players drafted in the first round, when it's all said and done, the defenders of this draft class could easily steal the show. Well, aside from the two big-name quarterbacks, that is.
That being said, here's my 2012 NFL mock draft with info on each pick and a more in-depth look at those defenders sure to dominate right away.
2012 NFL Mock Draft
1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The best prospect in the draft, Luck is poised and ready to step in and help restore Indianapolis to glory.
2. Washington Redskins (5-11): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Griffin is a dual-threat QB that thinks pass first, which makes him incredibly dangerous. While he'll have the pressure that comes with being a top draft pick and winning the Heisman Trophy, Griffin won't disappoint.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings have to ensure that Christian Ponder is safe at all times, and Kalil is more than qualified to do the job.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson has all the tools to step in and make a huge impact for the Browns, a team in dire need of improving the offense.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne is the best defender in the 2012 draft class, and even though he bombed the Wonderlic test, he knows how the thrive on the football field.
That's exactly what he'll do wherever he ends up, which is likely to be in Tampa Bay. The Bucs really need to upgrade their secondary, and Claiborne has the skills to contribute in big way immediately.
He's a shutdown corner who can also make an impact in the return game if need be, which makes Claiborne a very enticing pick.
6. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Rams are likely to consider a WR here, but the smart move would be to get Brockers.
Listed at 6'5", 322 pounds, Brockers has the size and strength to make big things happen at the next level. St. Louis has some aging defensive tackles, so adding youth in Brockers will make the defense much better.
Brockers can be the anchor of the defensive front for many years, and there's no question he would excel under the direction of Jeff Fisher.
While it's true the Rams need a WR, it's too risky to take one here when a guy like Brockers can be a big help to stop opposing offenses from embarrassing St. Louis time and time again.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blaine Gabbert desperately needs playmakers on his side. Even though it's a gamble to take a WR in the top 10, the Jaguars will hope it pays off since they really need to provide Gabbert with more weapons.
8. Miami Dolphins (6-10): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
With Brandon Marshall gone, the Dolphins have a giant void to fill, and Jeffery can be the guy to fix it. His exceptional hands and great vertical leap will help him find success in the NFL.
9. Carolina Panthers (6-10): Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples had a down year this past season, but that doesn't mean he isn't talented. This Carolina kid stays home to play with the Panthers, giving them a solid defender with enormous potential. Of course, there's a chance he becomes a bust, but that's a risk the Panthers are willing to take.
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Bills have to focus on boosting the defense if they're ever going to win the AFC East, and getting a guy like Upshaw is the right move.
He may not be the fastest linebacker out there, but Upshaw plays with great intensity and passion, which is definitely a recipe for success.
Evidence of this was his dominant performance in the BCS title game, and there's no question he'll bring that same stellar play to the NFL.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Chiefs have plenty of options here, and trading back could be one of them. However, getting the best value here in Reiff would the smart decision for Kansas City.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Nick Perry, DE, USC
With Pete Carroll as head coach, Perry's chances of going earlier than he probably should are very strong. Still, he is an explosive defender off the edge, and that is something the Seahawks are rather desperate for at this time.
13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Another team with several options that may end up trading down, the Cardinals would be wise to get Martin. Not only would he keep Kevin Kolb (or whoever ends up starting the most) safe, he would also open up a ton of running lanes for Beanie Wells.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Despite some off-the-field troubles earlier in the year, Kirkpatrick will still be a top draft pick. He's a phenomenal talent of which the Cowboys would be insane to pass on.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Eagles have to add depth to their defense if they want to win it all, and selecting Kuechly could be the best decision they make.
In college, Kuechly was all over the field making plays, and it won't be any different in the NFL. He's a tackling machine that's ready to dominate against the massive amount of talent the pros offer. At 6'3", 242 pounds, Kuechly has all the tools needed to excel at the next level, and the Eagles better hope he falls their way.
16. New York Jets (8-8): ): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd would be a tremendous red-zone threat for the Jets, helping to put more points on the board and possibly prevent Mark Sanchez from losing his job to Tim Tebow. Then again, it could be Tebow throwing the ball to Floyd in the red zone.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK 8-8): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Despite his many character concerns, Jenkins is still going to be a first round. The Bengals will keep their eye on his talent, hoping he stays out of trouble once under contract.
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Defensive tackle is an option here, but the Chargers would honestly be reaching on one, so I have them selecting the best available player, which is Adams, a beast of a lineman who'll add lots of protection for Philip Rivers.
19. Chicago Bears (8-8): David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Chicago's primary focus is keep Jay Cutler healthy and safe, so adding some much-need protection has to be done here at No. 19, and DeCastro is the best bet.
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ingram could certainly go higher, but different team needs see him drop to No. 20 overall. The Titans will love that, though, as Ingram is a special talent that thrives on terrorizing opposing QBs.
Tennessee really needs to be able to apply more pressure and disrupt more plays in the backfield in 2012, and having Ingram on the team will significantly help.
The 6'1", 264-pound defensive end has the quickness off the edge to be very good in the NFL.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Cincinnati has a bright future ahead of it with such young and superb talent. Adding Miller into that mix will only make the Bengals better, as his lightning quick speed will help him thrive at the next level.
22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL 10-6): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Cleveland plays it smart once again and selects a player that will do wonders for the offense. Wright is a true deep-ball threat that will really open up the field for the Browns in 2012 and beyond.
23. Detroit Lions (10-6): Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Lions went with a cornerback here, but giving Matthew Stafford the best possible protection ought to be priority No. 1 for Detroit. Glenn's versatility on the line will be a great fit for the Lions.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
With an aging secondary, the Steelers would find it in their best interest to draft Dennard, the best overall corner available here at No. 24.
25. Denver Broncos (8-8): Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
After Brockers, it's a toss-up amongst the defensive tackle class. Since that position is the Broncos' biggest need, they better take a long hard look at each and every single one on the borderline of being a first-round draft choice. With Poe's size (6'4", 346 pounds), speed and strength, he makes the most sense for Denver.
26. Houston Texans (10-6): Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill blew everyone away at the combine, and his big hype will result in him landing in the first round. The Texans' biggest need isn't at WR, but if they want to take the next step towards a Super Bowl, getting someone like Hill to help free up space and provide insurance for Andre Johnson is a must.
27. New England Patriots (via NOLA 13-3): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Patriots might trade this pick or go defense, but since Konz slipped down and is still on the board, Bill Belichick won't pass up on the chance to further strengthen his offensive line.
28. Green Bay Packers (15-1): ): Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Brown would be a stellar fit playing opposite of Clay Matthews. Green Bay does need a running back, but defense needs to be the focus come draft day.
29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower has what it takes to be the next Ray Lewis, which is why the Ravens need to lock him up, despite the fact linebacker isn't their greatest need. Baltimore would be reaching on an offensive lineman at No. 29.
30. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Adding more depth to the secondary is a wise call for the 49ers. Barron can step in and help prevent team from beating San Francisco deep.
31. New England Patriots (13-3): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
This pick is likely to be traded, but it would better serve the Patriots to hold onto it and upgrade the defense with Gilmore.
32. New York Giants (9-7): Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Brandon Jacobs is out the door, meaning Ahmad Bradshaw needs someone to help carry the load. Polk would be a fantastic fit in the Big Apple.
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