2012 NFL Mock Draft: Which Elite Prospects Won't Be Selected in 1st Round?
For every NFL mock draft—and every real NFL draft, for that matter—there comes a batch of lucky players deemed first-round prospects.
But needless to say, each first round leads to six other rounds full of talented and sometimes ultimately more successful players. The same is true in 2012.
There are only 32 spots in Round 1, and not every great prospect can be taken in those 32 picks.
In this article, I’ve compiled a complete first-round mock draft with analysis of each pick, followed by a list of five players who will fall into Round 2.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The card is essentially signed, sealed and delivered with the first overall pick. It just needs to be announced.
Indianapolis officially turns the page on a memorable era of Colts football and starts a fresh slate with its new franchise quarterback. Andrew Luck has all the tools to help build another Horseshoe dynasty, and the organization will need to give him some weapons on both sides of the ball later in the draft to help the cause.
Besides, luck and horseshoes just go together.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Washington paid a hefty price to move up to this spot, and they had one player in mind when they did so: RG3.
Much like Luck, Griffin will be that pivotal piece the franchise builds around. He’ll offer a dynamic presence at the quarterback position that Redskins fans haven’t had in what seems like forever. They have a good young tight end in Fred Davis, added Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan at wideout and possess some decent developing talent in running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
With scattered potential throughout the roster, Griffin will immediately make the offense more dangerous and add some excitement to the organization.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
I don’t really believe the chatter about Minnesota moving out of pick No. 3. Whether they want Kalil, Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon, they have their opportunity to get their guy, and I expect them to do so without playing any cute trade games.
For now, Kalil looks to be exactly what they need as a franchise left tackle, one that Christian Ponder will be delighted to see in purple. He’ll help fortify the offensive line immediately. Minnesota can then turn its attention to other needs on days two and three.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns take the running back plunge and go with Trent Richardson, tabbing one of the best pure runners to come out since Adrian Peterson.
If Cleveland is serious about sticking with Colt McCoy in 2012, they’ll need a tough running game, and that starts with the former Alabama bellcow that dominated the SEC.
Boasting an elite combination of speed, strength, power and agility, Richardson is deserving of a top-five selection as a clear playmaker. The question is whether or not the Browns choose a playmaker at running back or at wide receiver (such as Justin Blackmon) with the fourth overall pick.
As of today, my guess is Richardson. Either way, McCoy scores one in the win column.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
A seemingly perfect match for need and value, Tampa Bay will get a defensive cornerstone in LSU’s Morris Claiborne.
An elite defensive prospect and a high-character player, Claiborne can do it all at the corner position and is even a weapon in the return game.
Despite his low Wonderlic score and his recently acknowledge learning disability, this young man possesses a natural feel for the game and the raw skill set that every NFL team covets. New head coach Greg Schiano gets a crucial piece to build his defense around as the Bucs try to rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
After hauling in a boat load of extra picks, St. Louis still comes out with its top choice. Justin Blackmon will be a huge asset to Sam Bradford, and his selection will be a potential first step toward revamping the entire Rams offense.
Despite some recent debate over the top wide receiver in this year’s draft, NFL Network’s Charley Casserly insists that Blackmon is superior to the rest. Casserly cites the wideout’s smooth route running, separation, hands and work ethic as evidence.
Certainly, those are all qualities that the St. Louis offense desperately needs.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
This may be the first wrench thrown into the draft process. Jacksonville is in need of pass-rush help, but they also need an offensive playmaker to support Blaine Gabbert just as badly.
Maurice Jones-Drew can’t do it alone anymore, and Michael Floyd is the type of receiver who can go up and get balls. Jacksonville will risk a pass-rusher here such as Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram for a chance to give their anemic offense a boost.
For a passer like Gabbert, who is still in the embryonic stages of developing into an NFL quarterback, Floyd’s strengths are a good fit. The Notre Dame product will help compensate for some of Gabbert’s poorly thrown balls and poor decisions by using his strength, strong hands and downfield playmaking ability.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Miami finally lands a quarterback by drafting Ryan Tannehill. It doesn't quite have the ring to it that Peyton Manning's name would, but it'll have to do.
Tannehill is a solid prospect with a great skill set and a fairly high ceiling. He’s not necessarily going to start from the get-go (though he might), but the organization sees enough in him to warrant a top-10 pick.
With fingers crossed, the Dolphins bring in the Texas A&M product to hopefully establish some consistency at the position. But Miami will have to do a successful job of plugging up other areas of need to give Tannehill the kind of support all rookie signal-callers must have.
9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
With some good prospects on the board here at different positions of need, the Panthers go defensive line and nab the best pure defensive end on the board.
Coples is scheme versatile and has enough raw ability and size to justify this selection. However, he won’t come without risk.
There are some concerns about Coples’ work ethic and off-the-field issues. But his athleticism is undeniable. He turned in an impressive pro day and should give Carolina’s defense a much needed boost in both stopping the run and rushing the passer.
Defensive tackle is also an option here for the Panthers should they opt to pass on Coples.
10. Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
With Michael Floyd off the board, Buffalo takes its next highest-rated player at an area of need.
Kuechly is an old-school type of linebacker that Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt will love. His work ethic is second to none. He’s a high-character player. He’s instinctual. He’s aggressive.
At 6’3” and 242 pounds, Kuechly could play anywhere Buffalo wants him to. They may prefer him to Kirk Morrison on the strong side, or they may develop him behind middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and/or weak-side starter Nick Barnett.
Either way, the Boston College product is a prototypical three-down linebacker, and linebacker is a position of need for the Bills. At pick 10, Buffalo gets a leader who fits in with the team’s and the city’s blue-collar mentality.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
David DeCastro is arguably a top-10 pick, but due to team needs he slips to Kansas City.
He could even slip further if the Chiefs decide to go in a different direction, or if the board falls differently than projected here. But if not, they’ll get a mainstay interior lineman to open up holes for Jamaal Charles and help protect Matt Cassel.
With Branden Albert returning at left tackle and with the free-agent acquisition of right tackle Eric Winston, DeCastro will help Kansas City’s offensive line become one of the best in the AFC West.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Seattle could target a few different players here, but with Luke Kuechly off the board, they opt to bolster their pass rush with Melvin Ingram.
Ingram is a terrific young player with an admirable work ethic and a versatile skill set. Though he has slightly shorter arms than most teams would like for a pass-rusher, the truth is that Ingram produced in college and is a playmaker on defense.
It’s unclear right now what his best fit will be at the next level, but the Seahawks will figure that out later. For now, they take the best player available and hope to utilize Ingram’s strengths to improve the pass rush.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Arizona’s offensive line is a bit of a mess right now. Fortunately for them, Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff slips to them at No. 13.
Reiff is a bit more polished than Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, yet there’s been a lot of speculation about how he will fit as a blindside tackle at the next level. He has less than ideal arm length and may actually fit better as a guard.
Nevertheless, Arizona isn’t in a position to be choosy right now. It will give Reiff an opportunity to start right away and provide some structure to the broken Cardinal's nest that is the offensive line.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Dallas is reportedly very high on Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe but is apparently working hard not to draw attention to him.
Poe is a huge tackle at 6’4” and 346 pounds. He’s also only 21 years old.
With his sheer size and strength, he would be an important cog on the Cowboys’ defensive line and would help improve the pass rush, which struggled in 2011.
Dallas could go with someone like Mark Barron or Dre Kirkpatrick here, but owner Jerry Jones gets what he wants, and right now he wants the big boy out of Memphis.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Another defensive tackle who is only 21 years old, Fletcher Cox can be a fixture on Philadelphia’s defensive line and a key cog to build around for the future.
Eagles insider Ray Didinger of CSNPhilly.com has felt that the team would target the defensive tackle position all along. Didinger notes head coach Andy Reid’s draft history as one reason. The other is that Cox offers some pass-rushing ability out of the middle of the line.
Though not the most pressing need, the Eagles could decide to further solidify their defensive line and add a stud defensive tackle to an already talented group of guys.
After adding DeMeco Ryans to the linebacking corps, Philly’s defense plans to get even deeper next year.
16. New York Jets: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ and sorry I could not travel both.” It may be the first—and only—time you see a Robert Frost poem referenced in a sports article, but it rings true for the New York Jets nonetheless.
Faced with multiple players who could immediately improve the defense, New York makes a tough decision. It bypasses pass-rushers like Courtney Upshaw and Nick Perry and decides to bolster the secondary with the draft’s top-ranked safety, Mark Barron.
Barron will bring a physical presence to the back end of the defense as New York tries to prepare for matching up with New England’s big tight ends.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
On the one hand, there’s Stephon Gilmore—a rising prospect with superb measureables. On the other hand, there’s Dre Kirkpatrick—a proven corner with a somewhat checkered character card. In the end, Cincinnati pulls the trigger on the best zone cover corner in the draft.
Kirkpatrick will bring size, length and range to the secondary, and the Bengals won’t shy away from the few red flags that have come out regarding the Alabama product.
For a corner listed at 6’2” and 186 pounds, Kirkpatrick plays with great tenacity and also possesses enough instincts and confidence to easily be a top-20 pick.
18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
A previously projected top-10 pick, Upshaw, like Ingram, could fall a bit due to uncertainty about his best fit at the next level. Regardless, he is an elite player who will be utilized in the Chargers’ defense.
The Alabama standout could provide an edge-rushing upgrade for San Diego, whose linebacking corps suffered some injuries last year. Upshaw can put his hand in the dirt and also stand up in the 3-4, so he could be an asset for a Chargers team clawing get back to the top of the division.
While Upshaw doesn’t possess the best straight-line speed in the draft, he plays faster than his pre-draft numbers would indicate. At the end of the day, he’s simply a talented football player who can contribute in various ways.
19. Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Whitney Mercilus projects as a quality pick here, if not a slight reach. He is an explosive pass-rusher with a lot of potential, but he'll need some coaching and time to develop at the next level.
With time and development, Mercilus could become a major force in the NFL. In fact, teams are so high on this young man’s potential that every single club had a representative at his pro day, according to Lance Zierlein on chron.com.
The concern about the Illinois star is that he could be a one-year wonder, but one team will take the chance on his raw skills and attempt to find the answer. That team could be Chicago.
20. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Tennessee Titans round off the top 20 with South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore.
The former Gamecock has risen in pre-draft rankings due to his pure athleticism and his well-roundedness as a corner. In fact, according to CBSsports.com, Gilmore may actually be a better fit for Tennessee than Dre Kirkpatrick.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock is so impressed with Gilmore that he believes the corner could be a top-10 or top-15 pick, claiming that he sees Gilmore as the No. 2 corner behind Morris Claiborne.
If Tennessee gets a chance to land a prospect of this caliber at 20th overall, it should take him.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
At the announcement of this pick, the Cleveland Browns brass pauses in disbelief and goes to Twitter, furiously tagging the old #smh.
Cincinnati throws a slight curveball and adds another playmaker to an increasingly potent offense with the selection of Kendall Wright, the dynamic playmaker out of Baylor.
Quarterback Andy Dalton will now have A.J. Green and Wright to open up the passing game, while the young tight end Jermaine Gresham continues to polish his skills.
This draft is a pivotal one for Cincinnati as it tries to solidify itself as a division contender.
22. Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Looking over the board, Cleveland could grab Cordy Glenn here, if available, or even quarterback Brandon Weeden. But ultimately, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin is a pretty solid offensive tackle prospect, and he’s a great value at pick No. 22.
Martin has potential to play left tackle in the NFL, but he’s ready to be an immediate starter on the right side. This makes him a great fit for Cleveland. He possesses great technique and is an intelligent, proven three-year starter at the college level.
With Richardson the pick at No. 4, Martin will be a solid addition to the Browns’ offensive line and should help make Colt McCoy’s job just a little bit easier.
23. Detroit Lions: Nick Perry, DE, USC
This may be where cornerback Janoris Jenkins goes, but I’m not sold. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions are not interested in taking a risk on the troubled corner despite having a need at the position.
Instead, I see USC defensive end Nick Perry getting the call as Detroit looks to continue cycling talent across the defensive line. Kyle Vanden Bosch will be 34 years old this season, and Cliff Avril’s situation is an unstable one.
Perry can help off the edge as the Lions try to develop him into a three-down player. He is explosive and quick, but needs to improve his physicality and show that he can produce consistently to earn a bigger role.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The common comparison here is that Dont’a Hightower resembles another Steeler linebacker in James Farrior. For this reason, among others, many people have him heading to Pittsburgh at pick No. 24.
A defensive leader at Alabama, Hightower is a big, powerful thumper. At 6’2” and 265 pounds, he could fit in nicely as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 or a middle linebacker in a 3-4.
This selection is a nice fit for both player and team. Hightower fits the mean-streak linebacker mold that Pittsburgh has so successfully developed over the years, as he is a sure tackler with natural instincts and a knack for shedding blocks.
With surprising ease, Pittsburgh finds their defensive quarterback of the future.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Last year, Denver passed on Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and opted instead to take outside linebacker Von Miller. Miller quickly showed what kind of dynamic pass-rusher he can be off the edge, but the Broncos still need a guy or two to push the pocket inside.
Brockers may not make the immediate impact in the stat category that Miller did in 2011, but he has a high ceiling and an impressive set of tools. Denver could take him to fortify the defensive line.
More of a run-stopper than a pass-rusher, Brockers is simply a giant on the football field. He’s 6’5”, 322 pounds with 35” arms. With such mass and overall length, he consistently requires double-teams to prevent him from plowing through the pocket.
Opposing offenses will need to account for Brockers on a routine basis, which should help free up guys like Miller rushing off the edge.
26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
And the rest of the league groans in disappointment.
Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill has fans of every club gushing with excitement this offseason. At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Hill is the next phenom athlete to come out of Georgia Tech’s crazy-big wide receiver farm. He ran a 4.36 40-time at the combine, and though he only recorded 28 catches in 2011, his yards-per-catch average was nearly 30.
Houston takes a chance on Hill in Round 1, hoping that the young wideout can build on his plethora of tools. He has the size and speed to be a star in the NFL, but he still needs to polish his route-running and improve on pass-catching.
His acquisition should help take some of the attention away from Andre Johnson. And with Arian Foster still ravaging defenses, the Texans’ offense should be a good one again in 2012.
27. New England Patriots: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
The New England Patriots’ defense was not very good in 2011, to put it plainly. They could use help at a couple different positions.
No one ever knows what kind of trade-games Head Coach Bill Belichick will play on draft day, but if the Pats stay put at pick 27, it’s probable that they could target a pass-rusher.
The Pats may prefer the high upside of someone like Whitney Mercilus here, but with him off the board they get a productive and versatile defensive end in Andre Branch.
The former Clemson Tiger is long-bodied at 6'4" and 259 pounds, making him scheme versatile. He can play outside linebacker or set up on the line for New England.
Still a little bit raw, Branch is an athletic big man that Belichick can definitely utilize.
28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
Shea McClellin has been gaining steam lately after some positive reports have come out about his game tape. NFL film junkie Greg Cosell recently discussed McClellin’s strengths and even compared him to current Packer linebacker Clay Matthews.
Cosell notes the Boise State Bronco’s “lateral agility” and “quickness” as positive qualities as well as his “ability to get low and bend the edge as a pass rusher.”
With another electric backer to bookend Matthews in Green Bay, perhaps the Packers’ defense can get back to its 2010 form.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Peter Konz to Baltimore is a safe pick, not a flashy one. Though Matt Birk re-signed with the Ravens, the 14-year veteran will be 36 years old in July. There’s no better future replacement for him than Konz.
Though he’s had some history with injuries, Konz still has everything teams look for in a starting center.
He’s a leader and a high-character player who will represent any organization in the most professional way. He also has a great frame that he uses with balance in pass protection.
Due to both his tangibles and intangibles, Konz is slated to be a mainstay at the center position and would be a great pupil studying behind the aging Matt Birk.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Because San Francisco lost Adam Snyder in free agency, they’ll look to cover their tracks by nabbing Georgia’s offensive lineman Cordy Glenn.
There’s a chance Glenn could be gone prior to this pick, but if not, he offers the kind of versatility across the offensive line that the 49ers coveted in Snyder last year. The former Bulldog is huge at 6’5”, 345 pounds, but he offers impressive agility and quickness for a man of his size.
He can play right tackle and both guard spots, making him a hot commodity in this year’s draft. In fact, SportingNews.com suggests he could even be a top-15 pick.
It’s not a flashy selection, but taking Cordy Glenn if available is the smart move for a team hoping to make another push at a Super Bowl appearance in 2012.
31. New England Patriots: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
With their second first-round pick, the Patriots once again address the defense with a top tackle prospect in Devon Still.
Still is one of a handful of top-tier defensive tackles this year, and if he’s available at pick 31 New England would get a big, productive lineman to help improve their overall defense.
With sound technical skills and the ability to bring pressure inside, Still would be a nice pairing with Andre Branch (pick 27), who would be able to rush off the edge more freely.
32. New York Giants: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Round 1 comes to a close as the Giants bypass the talented tight end Coby Fleener for Boise State running back Doug Martin.
New York released Brandon Jacobs in March, and Ahmad Bradshaw has had trouble staying healthy. Though the running back position has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism among NFL circles lately, taking one in the first round is a smart move for the defending champs.
Martin is a good fit for the Giants because he can pound the rock inside. He’s compact at 5’9” and 220 pounds, and according to Rob Rang of CBSsports.com he showed “excellent lateral agility and burst, as well as soft hands” at his pro day.
With other teams reportedly having a lot of interest in Martin, and with Fleener still on the board here as well, this may be a good spot for the Giants to trade back.
Top Prospects Who Won’t be Selected in 1st Round
With the first round of this mock draft wrapped up, here are five top prospects who missed the cut and will have to wait until Round 2 to hear their names.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Stanford’s Coby Fleener has garnered much attention after performing exceptionally well in pre-draft events. But with a first round packed with a lot of diverse talent, team need sometimes overrules hyped potential.
As a result, Fleener takes a slight dip in this mock draft. However, I can certainly see the possibility of a team trading back into Round 1 if he’s still hanging around near the end of day one.
With Fleener’s exceptional skills as a receiving tight end, he should be a much utilized weapon for teams looking to enhance their offensive potential. And if he does drop out of the first round, he won’t be waiting very long thereafter to hear his name.
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy is a 21-year-old bull of a defensive lineman. He has a ton of power for his 6’2”, 308-pound frame, and he dominated the Big 10 with explosive burst and a deceptively quick first step, according to NFL.com.
After an unimpressive combine, Worthy could fall into the second round or even the third. He reportedly “showed poor balance and no true explosiveness throughout his workout.”
Though he fared better at his pro day, Worthy still has some things to work on, which makes him a bit of a risk as a first-round pick. With a good frame and age on his side, he’ll likely need a little time to develop before breaking ground in the NFL.
Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
Another quality player who could crack the first round is offensive guard Kevin Zeitler.
The former Wisconsin senior was a mainstay at right guard for the Badgers. Per CBSsports.com, Frank Cooney of The Sports Xchange calls Zeitler a “perfectionist [who] expects more out of himself than anybody else could in class, the weight room and on the field.”
That’s the kind of attitude, confidence and mindset that NFL coaches love.
Zeitler could slip much in the same way that Stanford’s David DeCastro will; that is, interior linemen aren’t typically of high demand in Round 1. Rather, teams like to stock up on pass-rushers, corners, receivers and quarterbacks when they have the chance to.
If he does slip into the second round, one team will find itself a steal in Zeitler, who can help fortify a team's interior offensive line.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
In an unfortunate situation, North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins is arguably a top-15 talent. However, he has so many red flags that many cornerback-needy teams are expected to pass on him early in the draft (no pun intended).
Per Rotoworld.com, NFL Network's Charley Casserly noted on Path to the Draft that Jenkins has three documented arrests. The 23-year-old also has failed multiple drug tests and has four children from three different women.
I mention above that Jenkins' situation is unfortunate because this is a gifted young athlete who has made some bad personal decisions off the field.
Though he may be the best man-cover corner in the entire draft class, Jenkins will likely scare off too many teams to be a first-round pick.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
On the eye test, Mike Adam's passes with flying colors. He's a 6'7" offensive tackle with 34" arms and adequate footwork. He performed well enough in college that some teams will consider him in the first round, but ultimately he may be a better value in the second.
Per CBSsports.com, The Sports Xchange notes that Adams lacks a strong work ethic and has some character concerns. In addition, he doesn't perform with the kind of technique and consistency NFL clubs would expect out of a first-round offensive tackle.
Adams has good raw potential, but he'll likely need time to develop before cracking a starting lineup. If he can play a little more aggressively and put in the work it will take to improve, he should be a good value in Round 2.