The 2012 NFL Draft is coming up fast, with the event just two weeks away. Yet even though the draft is coming closer, nothing is certain about which players will go to which teams.
In Mock Draft 6.0, I present my most up-to-date projections of the draft’s first two rounds, based on the latest buzz and my latest ideas of which players would fit with each team.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 1
The Indianapolis Colts have yet to confirm that they are set on drafting Andrew Luck, leaving the window open so that they could choose Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III over him. That said, this is a pick that I really do not see changing.
Last week, Griffin declined a request to have a private workout with the Colts. It can be speculated that he did this due to the expectation that the Colts will draft Luck and that working out for them would be a waste of time.
Andrew Luck is a consensus No. 1 overall draft prospect. He certainly has huge shoes to fill as Peyton Manning’s replacement in Indianapolis, but few quarterbacks have ever been as prepared to take on such a challenge as a rookie as Luck will be.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 3
Trade: The St. Louis Rams traded the No. 2 overall selection to the Washington Redskins for the No. 6 overall selection, No. 37 overall selection and the Redskins’ first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
While Griffin declined the Colts’ request for a private workout, he has met multiple times with the Washington Redskins. The Redskins specifically traded up to the No. 2 overall pick to draft Griffin and will make him the pick, assuming the Colts hold serve by drafting Luck.
The Redskins paid a steep price in the trade, but they can finally get a franchise quarterback, something they have not had for more than two decades. Robert Griffin III is a tremendously talented athlete with the abilities to become a star NFL quarterback.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 2
The Vikings have a desperate need for a left tackle, and Matt Kalil is the last remaining elite prospect on the board, so Kalil to the Vikings should be an obvious decision.
However, the Vikings’ thinking is not that simple, according to Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. He told Pro Football Weekly that the Vikings are open to trading down from the No. 3 overall selection.
If the Vikings get a good enough offer from a team looking to move up, chances are good that they can trade down to get additional picks. However, I just do not see it. The Vikings have a chance to fill their biggest need by drafting an elite prospect and should not pass that up.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 7
The Cleveland Browns are expected to be deciding between drafting Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the No. 4 overall pick. My inclination is that the team is leaning toward Richardson.
The Browns have said previously that they are willing to trade down to the No. 8 overall pick, and a trade between them and the Miami Dolphins could come to fruition, with the Dolphins not wanting another team to move ahead of them to select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, I think that in the end, the Browns will end up holding on to their pick and making a much-needed upgrade at running back.
Peyton Hillis, who was the Browns’ starting running back each of the past two seasons, signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Browns’ second running back, Montario Hardesty, has only played 10 games in two seasons due to injuries. The Browns need to find a feature running back, and Richardson is a tremendous all-around runner who could be a star on the Browns offense.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 6
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is the best defensive prospect in the draft and the consensus selection by most draft prognosticators at the No. 5 overall selection. However, while Claiborne would be a terrific selection to be a potential star of the Buccaneers’ secondary, I believe the Buccaneers will end up targeting Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The Buccaneers made a big free-agent signing at cornerback by inking Eric Wright to a five-year, $37.5 million deal, but their failed signing of middle linebacker Curtis Lofton leaves them still with a pressing need to upgrade at linebacker. Kuechly is the best 4-3 linebacker prospect in the draft class and is a player who could be immediately productive for a defense in need of help.
Knowing that they could move down a few spots and still likely have an opportunity to draft Kuechly or Claiborne, either of whom would be a terrific choice for the Buccaneers, they will likely explore trading down a few spots. However, I do not project a trade materializing in this mock draft.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 9
As are the rumors for many teams, the St. Louis Rams could be in the market for trading down. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said that there is a strong possibility of the team moving down again, although he does not anticipate anything happening until draft day.
That said, I think the Rams will ultimately stay put at No. 6 overall if Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is available. The Rams desperately need to find a go-to wideout for Sam Bradford, and Blackmon is the star of the wide receiver class in this draft. The Rams should not pass up their opportunity to draft him.
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne could also be the pick here. However, while he is the best player available, the Rams recently signed cornerback Cortland Finnegan and are in greater need of a wide receiver.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 8
Talk of the Jaguars being set on a wide receiver early has some people in a rush to project Michael Floyd at this pick, but the Jaguars should have a better understanding of value. While the Jaguars are looking to draft a wide receiver early, they should focus on their other pressing need at defensive end if Justin Blackmon is off of the board at No. 7 overall.
Melvin Ingram may not fit the prototype for a 4-3 defensive end at 6’2’’ and 264 pounds, but he is an explosive pass-rusher who is the best defensive end in the draft class. He can be the big-impact player that the Jaguars need on their defensive front.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 55
In Mock Draft 5.0, I projected that the Miami Dolphins would trade down before selecting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, talk has since picked up that rather than moving down, the Dolphins could be pursuing a trade up to assure the opportunity to draft Tannehill.
In the end, I think the Dolphins will end up realizing that they do not need to trade up to select the overrated quarterback prospect. That said, the Dolphins seem to believe that Tannehill can be the franchise quarterback they lack and will certainly not take their chances on trading down if they think that is the case.
The Dolphins could be making a big mistake, as Tannehill is a raw quarterback prospect who is more likely to be a bust than a star if he is thrown into the fire as a franchise signal-caller. That said, it sounds as though the Dolphins are very interested in him and will make him their pick if he is available at the No. 8 overall selection.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 4
If Morris Claiborne falls to the No. 9 overall pick, the Carolina Panthers should have no hesitation in making their selection right away. The Panthers are in serious need of a defensive playmaker, and Claiborne is the best defensive player in the draft class.
The Panthers have one very good cornerback in Chris Gamble but are weak at the position after him. Claiborne is a true No. 1 cornerback prospect who can become a star in the Carolina secondary.
At the NFL combine, head coach Ron Rivera said, “We need help pretty much all over,” as quoted by Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, when asked about where the team most needed defensive help. Getting the best defensive player in the class at the No. 9 overall pick would be a huge coup for the Panthers.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 11
The Buffalo Bills lost left tackle Demetress Bell to the Philadelphia Eagles, and they have no one in line to replace him. The Bills desperately need to find a franchise left tackle in this draft, and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin could be that guy.
Iowa’s Riley Reiff could also fill that need, but Martin has the slight advantage over Reiff in my ratings, and he gets the slight nod here.
The Bills could look to trade down, as they could move down within the top 20 and still have a shot at drafting Martin, Reiff, or Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams. However, I think their best bet is to stay put and draft the best left tackle available, which is Martin at No. 10 overall.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 18
The Kansas City Chiefs have made some terrific moves this offseason, filling numerous voids including the needs for a right tackle and a second running back, but one lingering position of need that must be upgraded for the success of the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense is nose tackle.
General manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel, both in their time with the Patriots and with the Chiefs, have always placed an emphasis personnel-wise on defensive linemen. Memphis’ Dontari Poe, the only true nose tackle worthy of a selection in the early rounds of this draft, could end up being the anchor they need in the middle of their three-man defensive front.
Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is terrific value outside of the top 10, so the Chiefs could also draft him as the best player available and an upgrade at pass-rusher. That said, outside linebacker is not a pressing need and nose tackle is, so they should fill their need and select Poe.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 5
The Seattle Seahawks are in serious need of linebacker help and would benefit most from a 4-3 middle linebacker in Boston College’s Luke Kuechly. However, with Kuechly off the board much too early, the Seahawks should turn their sights to the best player available, Alabama hybrid linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
Upshaw’s best fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has the versatility to fit in a 4-3 and could potentially fill multiple needs on the Seahawks’ roster. Upshaw could play outside linebacker, but he also has the ability to line up as a defensive end and pass-rusher on passing-down situations.
Upshaw’s talent makes him a terrific value at No. 12 overall, and he is the best player they can add to their defensive front seven. Ideally, the Seahawks could look to trade down and draft Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, which has been rumored by Tony Pauline. However, while they could reach for him at this pick, Upshaw would be the better choice if they stay put.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 12
Given that they lack a second-round draft choice, the Arizona Cardinals could be looking to trade down from this selection to pick up an extra pick. That said, with Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff still on the board, they should draft a very good talent to fill their biggest need.
The Cardinals desperately need to upgrade at left tackle, and Reiff can be the upgrade that they need. He is big and athletic and can be the blindside protector they need while enabling them to move Levi Brown over to his more natural position of right tackle.
USC hybrid pass-rusher Nick Perry and Stanford guard David DeCastro are also possibilities here, but the Cardinals should not pass up the opportunity to upgrade at offensive tackle by selecting Reiff.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 15
Rumors are strong that the Cowboys are targeting Alabama strong safety Mark Barron or Wisconsin center Peter Konz in the first round, but I am standing by my assertion that if Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is available, I believe he will be the pick at No. 14 overall.
The Cowboys could really use a versatile player who can be a disruptive force on their defensive front, and Cox can be that guy. Cox can be a big upgrade at the 5-technique, and when the Cowboys use four-man fronts, he can line up inside next to Jay Ratliff.
The Cowboys brought Cox in for a visit last week. Cox is a terrific athlete for a defensive lineman and is the best 5-technique defensive end prospect for a 3-4 defense in this draft.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 42
With the tremendous trade that the Eagles made in giving up a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for one of the NFL’s top middle linebackers in DeMeco Ryans, they became much less likely to reach on Alabama middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower with this selection. That said, this scenario leaves them likely to make an even bigger reach in LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Brockers was a situational player at LSU whose vaunted explosiveness was put into question by a poor combine performance. Although he showed the ability to be a tremendous difference-maker on the defensive line, he should be selected no earlier than the second round.
That said, there are many scouts who are huge fans of Brockers, making it a strong possibility that he will be the next defensive tackle taken off the board after Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox. Meanwhile, the Eagles are likely to target a defensive tackle in the first round, and they are meeting with Brockers.
Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd also visited the Eagles recently, and he could be an option here as well. Hightower is also still in the mix, but I think the Eagles will be leaning for a defensive tackle. Trading down could be an option as well, but with many teams looking to move down rather than up, they may not have a trade partner.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 19
There is buzz that the New York Jets would take Alabama strong safety Mark Barron at No. 16, but with the team’s recent signing of safety LaRon Landry, I believe that the Jets will focus on upgrading at wide receiver with their first-round pick.
While most people think Michael Floyd would be the obvious choice for a wide receiver here, Jeffery ranks higher than Floyd in my ratings, and I stick to my pick that the Jets will take Jeffery at No. 16 overall. ESPN’s Rich Cimini has reported that the Jets are showing interest in Jeffery.
The Jets need a big and fast downfield receiver, and Jeffery can be that guy. He has higher upside and less character concerns than Floyd and would add a much-needed weapon to the passing game.
USC hybrid pass-rusher Nick Perry is also an option here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 10
Trade: The Cincinnati Bengals received this draft pick from the Oakland Raiders during the 2011 season as part of a package in exchange for quarterback Carson Palmer.
As long as David DeCastro is available at No. 17 overall, this is a projected pick that is not going to change.
DeCastro is a tremendous guard prospect who would not be available if he played a more premier position, and he is the best player available on the board. Although the Bengals recently signed free agent guards Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell, they also lost both of their starting guards from last season and should not pass up on a potential All-Pro guard in DeCastro.
The Bengals could also opt to upgrade in the secondary by drafting one of two Alabama defensive backs, in either safety Mark Barron or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but DeCastro is too good a choice to pass up here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 17
Some believe the San Diego Chargers should use this selection to address the need for a pass-rusher, and they would have a good option available in USC’s Nick Perry. That said, the team's first-round pick really should address the offensive line.
While the Chargers did re-sign left tackle Jared Gaither, and they have Tyronne Green who can fill in for the retired Kris Dielman at left guard, the Chargers could still really use upgrades at guard and right tackle. That makes Glenn a perfect pick, as he has the versatility to play both guard positions and right tackle and is the best offensive lineman available.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 13
Quinton Coples is a tremendous value at No. 19 overall and is the best player available on the draft board. The Chicago Bears could really use another pass-rusher to line up across from Julius Peppers, and bringing in another long and athletic defensive end from North Carolina would be a perfect fit.
The Bears pursued Mario Williams in free agency and came up short, but Coples would be good consolation as a pick in the latter half of the first round. The Bears could also look to upgrade in the secondary with this pick, so one of two Alabama defensive backs in cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick or safety Mark Barron would also make sense with this draft choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 14
The Tennessee Titans will either be looking for defensive line help or a cornerback with this draft pick. While the Titans may be most interested in upgrading on the defensive line, there is better value at cornerback, which is the team’s most pressing need following the loss of Cortland Finnegan via free agency.
Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick is the best player available on the draft board, and he is a big, physical cornerback who could be a very good replacement for Finnegan. If the Titans decide to go for a pass-rusher, USC defensive end Nick Perry would make sense here, but Kirkpatrick is the best choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 24
The Cincinnati Bengals recently released starting strong safety Chris Crocker, leaving them with a desperate need to find a strong safety. Fortunately for the Bengals, the best safety in the draft class is still available in this scenario.
With Alabama’s Mark Barron being strongly linked as a potential pick at No. 14 and No. 16, the Bengals should snap him up if he is available at No. 21. Barron could form a strong duo alongside Reggie Nelson at the safety position.
The Bengals could also target South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, but with their recent signing of Terence Newman, they need a safety much more, and Barron makes sense.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 20
Trade: The Cleveland Browns acquired this draft pick from the Atlanta Falcons as part of a package in exchange for the sixth overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft.
The Cleveland Browns released last year’s starting right tackle, Tony Pashos, and have a serious need to upgrade along the offensive line. Mike Adams would be a good fit at right tackle and could start the re-building process of the offensive line.
The Browns have two stars up front in left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack, but with the releases this offseason of Pashos and left guard Eric Steinbach, the rest of their line is very weak. Adams is a good value late in the first round, as he would be a likely pick for each of the next two teams on the board.
The opportunity to draft North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins and team him back up with his former Florida teammate Joe Haden in the secondary is promising as well. Jenkins and Haden were a tremendous cornerback duo at Florida, and he could be a big upgrade in the Browns' secondary.
That said, I believe that the Browns will set their sights on upgrading on the offensive line with the No. 22 overall pick if Adams is available.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 25
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew recently stated that the team would draft the best player available, rather than reaching for a player at a specific need.
Technically, drafting South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore would be going against that philosophy, as the Lions would not be drafting the best player available and would be drafting a player at one of their biggest needs. That said, buzz around Gilmore has really had his stock rising lately, and he would be a good value for the Lions at pick No. 23.
The Lions will likely be targeting an offensive lineman with this selection, but with Adams off of the board, the Lions are likely to set their sights on a cornerback. Wisconsin center Peter Konz is an option here, but the Lions need to add a playmaker to their secondary, and Gilmore can be that player.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 22
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a solid starting duo of inside linebackers in Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote, but the release of long-time starter James Farrior makes inside linebacker a potential position that the Steelers will address early in the draft.
As the Steelers have shown in recent years by drafting defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward in the first round, they are not afraid to draft a player at a position that is not necessarily in need if they think they can find another impact player for their defense. That is exactly why Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, who is a very talented inside linebacker and is a good value late in the first round, makes sense as the Steelers’ pick.
With the value off the board at offensive line and cornerback, the Steelers may look to trade out of the first round, but Hightower makes sense if they stay put. He is a big, athletic and hard-hitting linebacker who is a terrific fit for the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme as an inside linebacker.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 16
The Denver Broncos have a lingering need to address at defensive tackle, and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy is the best player available on the draft board, so this is an easy match to make between the two parties.
Worthy’s draft stock was hurt by his inconsistency and questionable motor during his college career, but he has the potential to be a game-changer as a defensive tackle. He is strong and explosive and would be a great fit for the Broncos’ defensive front.
The Broncos could consider Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd here to add another weapon to the passing game for Peyton Manning, as Floyd is a very good value as well late in the first round. That said, Worthy should be an easy choice for the Broncos.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 29
With the loss of star pass-rusher Mario Williams to free agency, I believe that the Texans could focus in on drafting a hybrid pass-rusher in USC’s Nick Perry or Illinois’s Whitney Mercilus. That said, the Texans would be hard-pressed to pass up on Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd at No. 26 overall.
Floyd is being rumored to go as high as the No. 7 overall pick, so he will be considered a steal if he is still available late in the first round. I would not be surprised at all to see him slide this far, especially considering his history of legal trouble, but the hype he is receiving would make him falling outside the top 25 a surprise to most.
The Texans could use another wide receiver to start across from Andre Johnson, and Floyd would be a tremendous fit. While the Texans could use another pass-rusher, they do have a very good duo, who filled in just fine last season while Williams was injured, in Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin.
Therefore, while the Texans may go after a pass-rusher, they are unlikely to do so over the opportunity to draft Floyd.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 21
Trade: The New England Patriots acquired this draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft, along with the 56th overall selection in that draft, from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for the 27th overall selection in that draft.
The New England Patriots are big proponents of drafting for value, but they should really draft one of the available hybrid pass-rushers with one of their two first-round draft picks. Fortunately for them, USC’s Nick Perry fills that need and is the best player available, so he should be the Patriots’ pick at No. 27 overall.
Perry is raw, but he has big upside as a very athletic and talented pas-rusher. After losing Mark Anderson via free agency, the Patriots need an impact player who can bring pressure off the edge, and Perry can be that guy.
Another pass-rusher, Illinois’s Whitney Mercilus, is the second-best player available and would be a terrific option for the Patriots. This pick likely comes down to a matter of the team's preference for Perry or Mercilus, and Perry should get the slight nod.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 46
The Green Bay Packers should be looking for a pass-rushing outside linebacker to start opposite of Clay Matthews III, and Illinois pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus seems to be the obvious choice here for the Packers as the best player available. However, the Packers could end up pulling off a shocking draft choice by passing on Mercilus and selecting Boise State’s Shea McClellin to fill the same void.
McClellin is a talented pass-rushing outside linebacker who is a perfect fit to transition to playing the position in a 3-4 defense, and he would fit well with the Packers. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Packers have “significant interest” in him.
The Packers could address a need at defensive end by selecting Clemson’s Brandon Thompson, or at center with Wisconsin’s Peter Konz, but this pick should be a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and my hunch is that they are currently leaning toward McClellin.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 29
The Ravens re-signed center Matt Birk to a three-year contract, but at 35 years old, he is unlikely to play all three seasons. The time is now to find an heir apparent at center, and Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is a very good value and a perfect fit late in the first round.
Konz could start right away by being plugged in to fill the void at left guard left by the free-agent departure of Ben Grubbs, while being groomed into the team’s center of the future.
The Ravens could also pursue a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and the value of Illinois’s Whitney Mercilus is certainly tempting at this pick. However, I would be surprised to see the Ravens pass up Konz here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 33
The 49ers’ only major need is at right guard, but there is simply no first-round value among any offensive linemen left on the draft board. This could prompt the 49ers to trade down for more draft picks, but they would also be smart to upgrade at cornerback by drafting Janoris Jenkins.
Jenkins’s value is hurt by his past legal troubles, which could cause him to fall late into the first round, but the 49ers can afford to take a chance on him. He is a very talented cornerback who could form a terrific trio at the position with Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown if he can keep his focus on football and stay out of off-field trouble.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 40
Projected Trade: The New England Patriots trade the No. 31 overall selection to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for the No. 38 and No. 101 overall selections.
The New England Patriots are known to trade down when they have multiple first-round draft picks, and with only six picks concentrated within the first four rounds, expect the Patriots to continue with their usual strategy.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in need of a wide receiver and could be enticed to move back into the first round so that they do not miss out on the wide receiver they would be targeting in the second round. What the Jaguars really need is a big, fast deep threat at the receiver position, making Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill a player worth moving up for.
In the process, the Patriots can move down only seven spots and pick up a fourth-round pick, while the Jaguars are able to make a move to get a player who would most likely be off the board by the time they are actually on the clock. This is a trade that makes sense for both sides, as the Patriots pick up an extra choice and the Jaguars address their biggest need.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 23
Projected Trade: The New York Giants trade the No. 32 overall selection to the San Diego Chargers in exchange for the No. 49 and No. 78 overall selections.
The last time the Chargers and Giants made waves with an NFL draft trade was in the 2004 NFL Draft, when the Chargers traded their No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning to the Giants, receiving No. 4 overall pick Philip Rivers and much more in return. If the draft plays out with this scenario, the last pick of the first round would be a great opportunity for the Giants to be the team moving down with the Chargers this time around.
The value on the board is not great at any of the Giants’ positions of need: linebacker, tight end, offensive line and running back. Meanwhile, the Chargers need to find a premier pass-rusher, and could be enticed by the value of Illinois’s Whitney Mercilus as he falls to the end of the first round.
The Giants can pick up a valuable extra selection by moving down, while the Chargers get a terrific value with Mercilus, so this trade would make great sense for both sides. Mercilus may have been a one-year wonder at Illinois, but he is a very talented pass-rusher who is a good fit to transition to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 34
The Rams have many needs across the board, so with their two second-round picks the Rams should be drafting basically on a best-player-available basis. One position that the Rams must address is outside linebacker, and North Carolina’s Zach Brown is a talent worth drafting with the first pick of the second round.
Brown is a tremendous athlete who needs to become a more consistent tackler, but he has the upside to be an impact player as a strong-side or weak-side linebacker. His athleticism gives him the ability to cover the new breed of athletic tight ends, a very important capability for outside linebackers in today’s NFL.
Other options at this pick include Miami running back Lamar Miller and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, who are among the best players available and would address other positions of need.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 63
The Indianapolis Colts are a team of many needs, so their best move would be to find a suitor to trade down with and pick up extra selections. That said, the Colts may not be willing to risk moving down and missing out on the opportunity to draft Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
For a rookie quarterback, familiarity certainly helps. Fleener was Andrew Luck’s go-to receiving target at Stanford, and he would fill the team’s need of a receiving tight end. He is a reach early in the second round, but that is the range where most draft prognosticators expect him to be selected.
The Colts could also upgrade at cornerback with Virginia’s Chase Minnifield or add a wide receiver in Baylor’s Kendall Wright, but if the Colts pick here, do not expect them to pass up Fleener.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 38
The Minnesota Vikings are looking to add a cornerback early in this draft. Virginia’s Chase Minnifield is a very solid all-around defensive back who would be a good choice early in the second round.
Minnifield does not receive much hype, but he has very good size, is solid in coverage and plays with physicality. With the Vikings’ recent release of Cedric Griffin, drafting Minnifield makes sense here, and the value is right.
The Vikings also need wide receivers, but while Baylor’s Kendall Wright plays that position and is the best player available, he does not fit the Vikings’ need, as he is a similar player to Percy Harvin, the best wideout that the Vikings already have. Wisconsin’s Nick Toon could be an option here, but Minnifield is the better choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 30
After missing out on Trent Richardson in the first round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely to target a running back in the second round. Miami’s Lamar Miller is a talented running back with a very impressive combination of size and speed, and he is the best player available.
Miller would be a terrific complement to LeGarrette Blount in the Buccaneers’ backfield. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson would also make sense, but Miller should get the nod here if he is available.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 47
While the Browns drafting Weeden at No. 22 overall is a very significant possibility, the Browns should wait and then draft him if he is available in the second round, which he is in this scenario.
By drafting Weeden in the second round, the Browns can bring in a talented quarterback to compete with Colt McCoy for the starting quarterback job while developing him for the future. That said, they do not make a pressing commitment to Weeden, allowing the Browns to make a run at Matt Barkley or another quarterback in next year’s draft if neither McCoy nor Weeden looks to be the long-term franchise quarterback.
Another definite option here for the Browns is Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright, who was projected to be the Browns’ pick at No. 22 overall in earlier versions of my mock draft. However, I believe that the Browns will not pass up Weeden if he is available at this slot.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 27
Clemson defensive lineman Brandon Thompson has been mocked to the Patriots in earlier versions of my mock draft, but his draft position keeps getting lower. Previously projected to the Patriots at No. 27 and then at No. 31 overall, the Patriots now get the opportunity to select him in the second round.
The Patriots should look for an upgrade on the defensive front in a player with the versatility to play 5-technique defensive end in three-man fronts and line up next to Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle in four-man fronts. Thompson is a great fit for this role, and he is a very good value as a second-round pick.
The Patriots could also draft Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright based on his value, or add a cornerback in Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley, but they should not pass up on Thompson.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 35
Projected Trade: The St. Louis Rams trade the No. 39 overall selection to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the No. 51 and No. 88 overall selections.
While the St. Louis Rams did not trade down in the first round, there is a strong possibility they could instead move down in the second round in the interest of picking up more draft selections to fill more needs. Therefore, the Rams could very well look for a trading partner at No. 39 and could find one in the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles hold two second-round picks and have a need at outside linebacker. Knowing that Nebraska’s Lavonte David is a great value in the second round and unlikely to still be available at their first second-round pick at No. 46, they can trade away their later second-round pick along with their third-round pick and get a very good talent at a position of need.
If the Rams stay put here, they would likely choose between adding a complementary running back in Virginia Tech’s David Wilson or a defensive tackle in Penn State’s Devon Still.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 36
The Panthers have a need to upgrade at defensive tackle, and Devon Still is a very good value at No. 40 overall. Still can be the disruptive force that they need on their interior defensive line, and they should have no reason to pass up Still here.
The Panthers could definitely benefit by adding an impact player at the wide receiver position, so Baylor’s Kendall Wright is very tempting and would make sense as the best player available. That said, Still should be the choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 26
With Kendall Wright somehow making it out of the top 40 picks of the draft, the Buffalo Bills should capitalize on a steal value in the middle of the second round. While the Bills may be looking for a bigger wideout than Wright, his value is hard to pass up at this point.
While Wright lacks size, he is a terrific athlete who can be a very dangerous receiver in space and can add a much-needed impact player across from Steve Johnson to the Bills’ passing game.
If the Bills decide they need a bigger receiver, then Wisconsin’s Nick Toon and LSU’s Rueben Randle are also possible selections here. That said, I do not see the Bills passing up Wright if he is available at this spot.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 47
After passing up the chance to add an impact player to their defense in order to draft their quarterback of the future in the first round, the Dolphins should be looking for a hybrid pass-rusher in the second round. Marshall’s Vinny Curry and Clemson’s Andre Branch are both good options with this pick.
Both players are talented, athletic pass-rushers with the versatility to play 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker, which will be important in the hybrid defense that the Dolphins will be running next season. Curry ranks slightly ahead of Branch in my personal ratings, so I give him the nod here.
The Dolphins also need a big, downfield wide receiver to replace Brandon Marshall, so Wisconsin’s Nick Toon and LSU’s Rueben Randle are both options here as well.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 31
The Seattle Seahawks could use a quick, shifty running back to complement power back Marshawn Lynch. Virginia Tech’s David Wilson would be a very good fit, and he is the best player available, so this pick makes sense all around for the Seahawks.
Wilson is known for his speed and agility, but he is a tough back who can bounce off defenders as well. He is a good value in the middle of the second round.
The Seahawks could also opt for a true pass-rusher who plays defensive end by selecting Clemson’s Andre Branch.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 45
The Chiefs filled a major need at right tackle by signing Eric Winston to a four-year contract, but they could use an upgrade over Ryan Lilja at left guard. Therefore, addressing the offensive line by selecting Iowa State’s mammoth offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele would make sense here.
Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner would also make sense here, but Osemele is the best choice for both value and need.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 64
The Dallas Cowboys are projected to pass up on Alabama strong safety Mark Barron in this mock draft, but after addressing the defensive line in the first round, they should address their need at strong safety in the second round by selecting Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith.
I give Smith a third-round grade, but he does stand out as the second-best safety in the draft class. He addresses a position of need for the Cowboys and is a good fit. According to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com, Smith visited with the Cowboys last week.
Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler and Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley could also be possibilities at this selection.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 41
The Philadelphia Eagles could benefit from adding another vertical threat to their passing game, and Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon fits the bill.
Toon is one of the best players available on the board. His productivity at Wisconsin was inconsistent, but he is a strong receiver with a well-rounded skill set and is well worth a pick in the middle of the second round.
The Eagles do not have many big needs, so they have the flexibility to draft for value, and Toon is a good value here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 49
The Jets need to draft a pass-rusher, and Clemson’s Andre Branch is a very good value in the middle of the second round, so this should be an easy selection for the Jets to make. Branch is an athletic hybrid pass-rusher with an explosive burst and would be a good fit for the Jets' defense.
Boise State running back Doug Martin could also draw consideration, but Branch is the clear-cut best choice here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 67
Projected Trade: The New England Patriots trade the No. 48 overall selection to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the No. 61 and No. 92 overall selections.
Without any clear choice on the board for the Patriots, they will likely pursue another trade down to continue stockpiling draft choices. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers have only one pressing need at right guard, and they will want to ensure that they have the opportunity to draft the best guard left on the board in Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler.
The 49ers can afford to give up their third-round pick and can get the guard that they need by moving up for Zeitler, who would most likely be off the board by the time they picked at No. 61. Zeitler is a physical mauling guard who should be yet another productive offensive lineman to come out of Wisconsin.
The Patriots continue with their vintage strategy once again while the 49ers fill their biggest need, so this trade makes sense for both teams involved.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 91
Rumors are starting to pick up that due to the mass of teams that need offensive line help, Mississippi offensive tackle Bobby Massie could move up into the first round, as rumored by Draftinsider.net. While being a first-round pick would really be drastic for Massie, one of the teams rumored to be interested in him is the New York Giants.
After trading down, the Giants could make Massie their first pick of the draft. The Giants need to upgrade at offensive tackle, and Massie has the potential to be a very solid right tackle in the National Football League. Left tackle is a stretch for Massie’s abilities, but he would be an upgrade on the line nonetheless.
The Giants also need a playmaker at the linebacker position, so Utah State’s Bobby Wagner is a possibility here. Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen and Washington running back Chris Polk are also options.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 44
The Chicago Bears are very thin and weak at cornerback, so they should be looking to address the position early in this draft. With three of the five best available players being cornerbacks, this pick would be a very good place to do so.
Georgia’s Brandon Boykin and Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley are the higher-rated cornerbacks, but the bigger, more physical Dennard is a better fit for the Bears. Upgrading at tight end with Clemson’s Dwayne Allen also makes sense here, but addressing the need at cornerback would be the best choice.
Original Trade: The Philadelphia Eagles acquired this draft selection along with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2011 in exchange for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 52
After trading down, the St. Louis Rams will be back in the market for a running back. The Rams are apparently very interested in Trent Richardson in the first round, so they will not go too long in this draft before adding a back who can complement Steven Jackson.
Oregon running back LaMichael James is the best player available, but Boise State’s Doug Martin may be the better fit for the Rams. They will be looking for a well-rounded back with both speed and the ability to go between the tackles, and Martin can be exactly that.
Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes is also an option here, but I expect the Rams will draft a running back in the second round.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 85
After passing up on pass-rushers in the first round, the Titans should be looking for a player who can generate pressure on the quarterback in the second round. There is no great value available, but Syracuse’s Chandler Jones is expected to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft and is the best pass-rusher available, so he makes sense here.
Jones is a raw prospect, but he is a long, athletic defensive end who could be an impact player on an NFL defensive front. Other possibilities with this pick would be Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes and Georgia center Ben Jones.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 32
The Cincinnati Bengals signed running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to a three-year deal but would benefit greatly from adding a fast, shifty running back to complement him. Oregon’s LaMichael James is the perfect fit.
James is often knocked for his lack of size, but he has tremendous burst and sprinter speed, which has made him a very dangerous impact player at Oregon and should translate to the next level. James is a great value late in the second round and is the perfect fit for what the Bengals still need at the position.
Utah State outside linebacker Bobby Wagner and Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin would both also be great choices here for the Bengals.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 56
Even with the re-signing of middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a five-year deal, the Detroit Lions could still really use another playmaker at the linebacker position. Bobby Wagner is a well-rounded outside linebacker who could be a very good addition for the Lions.
Florida State outside linebacker Nigel Bradham and Georgia center Ben Jones are also options here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 51
The Falcons could use an upgrade at center, so with their first pick of the 2012 NFL draft, the Falcons should make a run on Georgia prospects by staying in-state and selecting the best center available, and one of the best players available, in Ben Jones.
Another option is for the Falcons to draft either Clemson’s Dwayne Allen or Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green as an heir apparent at the tight end position, with Tony Gonzalez’s upcoming season potentially being his last. That said, Jones would be an upgrade over Joe Hawley at center and makes the best sense at this choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 69
Brandon Washington is a good fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Washington is a big, athletic guard who also has the versatility to kick outside to tackle, and he addresses the need at offensive line that continues to be a desperate need for the franchise.
If the Steelers are focused on value over need, either Georgia’s Brandon Boykin or Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley would be a great pick that also fills a need at cornerback. However, Washington is easily the best offensive lineman available at this point. With teams going through the draft’s crop of offensive linemen quickly, the Steelers cannot afford to wait any longer on drafting a lineman.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 54
By trading away former quarterback Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos lost one of their best runners. Additionally, running back is a weak area on the team, so they would be smart to draft the best available running back here in Washington’s Chris Polk.
Polk is a powerful between-the-tackles runner who also carries good athleticism. He would be a good addition as a late second-round pick to the Broncos' backfield.
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle would also be a good choice here to add a weapon to the passing game.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 124
Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu is a significant reach as a second-round draft pick, but he could very well end up there as a result of a very thin class of nose tackle prospects.
The Texans need to upgrade at nose tackle, and there are no clear choices for the Texans here, so their best bet may be to take a chance on the second-best nose tackle prospect in the draft class, that being Ta’amu.
This could be a position where the Texans will look to trade down. Florida State right tackle Zebrie Sanders and West Virginia pass-rusher Bruce Irvin could also be possibilities here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 53
This should be an easy decision for the Packers to make. They need to find a 5-technique defensive end early in this draft, a position for which Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes is a natural transition. Reyes is a very good value late in the second round and would be an upgrade for Green Bay.
Reyes has very good athleticism for a 299-pound defensive lineman, making him a disruptive penetrating presence at the line of scrimmage.
South Carolina strong safety Antonio Allen could also draw consideration here, but Reyes should be an easy choice.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 60
The Baltimore Ravens are looking to add a wide receiver early in this draft, and LSU’s Rueben Randle is a big vertical threat who is a good value late in the second round. He makes sense as the Ravens’ second-round pick.
The Ravens could use additional cornerbacks, which could make the value of Georgia’s Brandon Boykin or Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley too good to pass up here. However, with the Ravens looking at wide receivers, it would be a surprise if they passed up Randle here.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 39
Although the Patriots have spent many early-round draft picks on defensive backs in recent years, they still have big needs in the secondary. Fortunately for them, they have the chance to draft either Georgia’s Brandon Boykin or Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley here, two very talented cornerbacks who are two of the three best players available on the board.
The Patriots could go in either direction with this choice, but Boykin would be a good fit. He is a dynamic athlete at the cornerback position who could be a very solid nickel back while also providing value on special teams, which is very important to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Boykin is a skilled returner, and he could also present value on kickoff coverage.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 58
With their second of two consecutive draft selections, the Patriots should continue to stay focused on improving their defense. The Patriots have been trying to add depth at linebacker and could look to add another player at the position in Florida State’s Nigel Bradham.
Bradham is a talented and athletic linebacker who presents the versatility to play as a weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense and as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. For the Patriots, who use a hybrid defense with elements of both schemes, that versatility makes him an attractive option late in the second round.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 37
Dwayne Allen’s stock has slipped since a poor combine performance, but he remains the best tight end prospect in the draft class and should not fall into the third round. Allen is a terrific value with the last pick of the second round and fills a need at tight end for the Giants.
Allen does not have great downfield speed, but he is a well-rounded tight end who blocks well and is a reliable receiver.
If the Giants are looking for more of a downfield receiving threat at the position, then Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green could get the nod over Allen.
Note: There are only 31 picks in the second round. The Saints lost their second-round draft pick as a result of punishments handed down for the bounty scandal.
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