2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Predictions
With the draft now less than two weeks away, teams are beginning to finalize their draft boards and draft their plan of attack on draft day.
Even after months of dissecting these players to the finest details, there is still much debate as to when a lot of players, particularly at the quarterback position, should go. Just a few months ago, Ryan Tannehill was viewed as a second-round prospect; now, it would hardly be surprising to see him taken with the third picks.
Here is a projection of how the entire first round will play out.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Despite rumblings that Robert Griffin III is in play for the first-overall pick, make no mistake, Andrew Luck is still the superior prospect and will be a Colt when all is said and done.
Griffin may throw a prettier deep ball, but Luck has more hidden qualities that are not as prevalent to the average viewer.
What sets Luck apart is his cognitive ability, which, in today's NFL, is becoming a more important part of the game than ever before. Luck is as close to a franchise-changing quarterback as you can get.
The Colts should just focus all of their attention on their later picks because this is a done deal. Luck is the best prospect in the draft and perhaps the best quarterback prospect ever.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
Bruce Allen may have given up a lot for the right to pick RGIII, but in a division with Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Michael Vick, the Redskins had to make a move to put themselves in contention for the division title.
As a thrower, Griffin is perhaps the most gifted player in the draft. His mechanics and willingness to stand in the pocket to deliver a throw allows him to remove the stigma that comes along with being a mobile quarterback.
His football acumen, while not on the level of Luck's, is still very impressive.
Any way you spin it, this kid oozes of stardom, and the Redskins will not be disappointed in their trade.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
As the draft approaches, the more likely it seems that the Vikings will find a trade partner for the third pick for the right to draft Ryan Tannehill (or possibly even Trent Richardson).
If Minnesota does decide to stay put, Kalil just makes too much sense based on their needs.
Kalil is athletic and quick on his feet and should be able to start right away at left tackle. He does have some flaws in his game, but his huge upside in terms of natural athletic ability suggests that his best football is ahead of him.
Morris Claiborne is also a viable option here, but when developing a young quarterback, building the offensive line becomes a higher priority.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Ryan Tannehill is certainly an option here, but Richardson is perhaps the best player in the draft and will be too difficult to pass up despite the fact that he plays a position that has been devalued.
When you look at the Browns roster, they don't have anything that makes them uniquely difficult to defend. Richardson is the kind of player that will give them another dimension to their team that they have not enjoyed in a long time.
If the Browns plan on winning any games next year, they need to improve their running game to make up for their quarterback's limitations. Richardson will be just the man for the job.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
His Wonderlic score was certainly not encouraging, but to be frank, the Wonderlic has absolutely nothing to do with playing cornerback. No team should have any qualms about taking him within the top-five picks.
Claiborne may not have the amount of game-changing plays as his former teammate, Patrick Peterson, but as a pure cover corner, Claiborne is as sound as they come.
He has the ideal size and fluidity to complement his outstanding technique to step in right away and start. The Bucs gave up a ton of big plays last year, and with Ronde Barber aging and Aqib Talib facing legal issues, they need to add a top-level corner.
Throw in the fact that he is, by far and ahead, the best player remaining on the board, and there is just no way Claiborne makes it out of the first five picks.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
For some odd reason, Blackmon's stock appears to be slightly on the decline as the draft approaches. In fact, there have been rumblings that Blackmon may not even be the first receiver taken.
Nonetheless, I continue to believe that Blackmon is exactly what the Rams need at the receiver position. Blackmon is a big target that knows how to separate and will make throws easier for Sam Bradford.
He is not going to stretch the field like A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but he will be a massive upgrade over anyone else currently on the Rams' depth chart.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jaguars added some players in free agency (at a steep price) to bolster their receiving corps, but none of them have the kind of potential to become a true No. 1 threat.
Floyd is a Brandon Marshall-type receiver in that he is more known for his ability to separate and make tough catches than to burn defensive backs with speed.
He does carry some baggage with him after several incidents with alcohol, including a DUI, but he seems to have turned his life around, as he spent his last season at Notre Dame in the seclusion of freshman dorms.
A pass-rusher such as Melvin Ingram or Quinton Coples is also an option here, but I would think building the offense has to be the top priority.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
As the draft approaches, it is becoming more likely that the Dolphins may have to trade up if they want to have a shot at drafting Tannehill. Teams like the Browns, Chiefs, and Seahawks may be interested in trading with the Vikings to make Ryan the third pick in the draft.
Having the top three quarterbacks go in the top three picks is an indicator of just how desperate teams are to find their own franchise player.
Tannehill has a ton of ability, has only one year of starting experience under his belt and makes a lot of mistakes often found in inexperienced quarterbacks. He tends to throw into tight coverage and does not have the kind of anticipation that more experienced quarterbacks have developed over time.
Tannehill could become a very good starter with a few years of development, but I am not sure if the Jeff Ireland regime has that much time to wait before everyone gets fired. This may be the right pick for the Dolphins, but not the best pick for this coaching staff and front office.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Panthers, for some odd reason, have chosen to spend the little amount of cap space they had on their deepest position on the roster, running back, leaving their biggest hole on defense to be filled in the draft.
If the Panthers are going to turn the corner, they have to get better in the middle of their defense.
Cox is explosive, uses his hands well and can penetrate and get into the backfield in a hurry. Unlike some other defensive tackle prospects, such as Michael Brockers, Cox can provide an interior pass-rush that the Panthers have missed.
10. Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
If they feel that their answer at left tackle is already on the roster, the Bills can move on to putting the last pieces on a much-improved defensive unit on paper.
With the signing of Mark Anderson, the Bills don’t have a lot of needs on defense. However, their linebacking corps is making a scheme adjustment to a 4-3, and stopping the run was a huge issue for them last year.
Kuechly is not going to make a ton of tackles for a loss, but he is as technically sound as they come and has deceiving athleticism. He is always in the right spot and never misses on a tackle.
With all of these new additions on defense, the Bills may find themselves with one of the best units in football.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chiefs involved for some kind of move up the draft boards to add Ryan Tannehill, but based on Scott Pioli's draft history, the Chiefs are still unlikely to make such a brash move.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs made a great move by signing Eric Winston to solidify the right tackle position. Adding one more star to what was once a slow, aging line would make the Chiefs offensive line a strength rather than a weakness.
DeCastro is about as clean as you can find as a guard prospect. Guards are usually not taken this early in the draft, but he has all of the signs of being one of the best at his position for a very long time. He has the power, intellect and technique to start immediately for just about any team in the NFL.
12. Settle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Few players are more polarizing as a prospect than Quinton Coples. He greatly underperformed his senior year, citing position changes and turmoil within the coaching staff as the primary reasons.
However, Coples had a good junior season at defensive tackle and returned to his junior year form at the Senior Bowl, making scouts start to think that 2011 was an anomaly.
Coples carries a lot of risk, but his upside is too enticing to ignore at this point in the draft.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks were able to lock up Red Bryant, but he is not much of a speed rusher. Early on, Coples can come in for pass-rush situations while opening things up for Chris Clemons on the other side.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals wound up hanging on to Levi Brown, who, for as bad as he was during the majority of his career, started to play at a decent level down the stretch of 2011.
Still, the Cards have a big hole on the right side of their line. Reiff has shorter than ideal-sized arms, but he is a well-coached technician that should be able to start on the right side of the line right away.
Given some time, Reiff may be able to start on the left side. In fact, if Brown does not continue to improve, he could push him for the starting job on the left side.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Dallas has made a lot of improvements to their secondary, bringing in Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool. Carr is going to be the top corner, while Pool is more a depth player at the safety position.
Barron can come in and start immediately at strong safety, solidifying the secondary. Barron is not a great man-to-man coverage guy, but he is a hammer in the run game and can cover a lot of ground as a Cover 1 centerfielder.
The Cowboys gave up a lot of big plays last season, and upgrading the last line of defense will go a long way in terms of limiting those plays from happening.
Philiadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Eagles were one of the softest teams in the NFL when it came to defending the run. Their defensive tackles were more concerned about getting penetration than holding their gaps, and their inexperienced linebackers were not able to compensate.
After acquiring DeMeco Ryans in a trade, the Eagles are just one piece away from having an adequate run defense.
Brockers can defend the run as well as any defensive tackle in the draft, but he has not produced as a pass-rusher on tape. There is a lot of belief that he has the ability to develop into a more complete tackle.
16. New York Jets: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
The Jets, who have a massive need for a pass-rusher, like Ingram enough to make him their top prize in the draft and are reportedly willing to trade up for him.
Mike Tannenbaum has proven to be everything but timid as a GM, and this new report that the Jets will be aggressive in the draft comes as no surprise.
Ingram played defensive end in a 4-3 at South Carolina, but he has enough speed and athleticism to make a seamless transition to linebacker.
If Ingram can be the pass-rusher the Jets think he is, his ability will give the Jets the ability to rush just four men, backed up by a secondary that features Darrelle Revis.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick may be the slightly more talented player, but Gilmore is a better fit for what the Bengals want to do on defense.
Unlike Kirkpatrick, Gilmore excels in man coverage. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer loves to keep his corners on islands, which he was able to do with a healthy Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph on the roster. When Hall went down with an injury in 2011, the Bengals defense took a significant dip and started giving up a lot more big pays. .
With another lock-down corner on the roster, the Bengals defense can revert to its early 2011 form in which it was regarded as one of the top units in the NFL.
18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Even after adding Jarrett Johnson, the Chargers need to find a more dynamic pass-rusher opposite Shaun Phillips.
Upshaw may actually be a better fit in a 4-3, but he is still a better prospect than any of the other outside linebacker prospects still on the board.
Because of Jarrett Johnson's presence, he can contribute immediately as a situational rusher. As Johnson and Phillips begin to decline, Upshaw can ease his way into the starting lineup.
19. Chicago Bears: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Somehow, a player of Kirkpatrick's caliber falls to the Bears this late in the draft. Not only is Kirkpatrick an incredibly talented corner, but his skill set is a perfect match for how the Bears play defense.
Kirkpatrick is at his best in press and zone coverage, which makes him an ideal candidate to play in a Cover 2-dominant defense. As good as he is in those areas, he still has the ability to play in just about any scheme.
As the Bears continue to use a more versatile style of defense and move away from their strict Cover 2 roots, Kirkpatrick's versatility and upside give the Bears an excellent value at this point in the draft.
20. Tennessee Titans: Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
Despite the fact that they were able to land Steve Hutchinson, the Titans still have immediate and long-term issues along the interior on the offensive line.
Glenn played tackle at Georgia, but he tends to struggle against some of the faster pass-rushers in college football. Once moved to the inside of the line, he can be a real masher in the run game.
Hutchinson is only a year or so away from a major decline in his game, and the Titans must be prepared. Glenn provides too much value at this point in the draft to pass up.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR ,Baylor
After a poor showing at the combine, Wright was able to redeem himself at his pro day, running a 4.43, which is a massive implement over his 4.61 time in February.
With Andre Caldwell leaving via free agency and Jerome Simpson dealing with drug charges, the Bengals find themselves in a bit of a hole at the receiver position.
Wright has the speed and explosion to always be a threat to a defense. Next to A.J. Green, opposing defenses will have a tough time trying to contain such a dynamic receiving corps.
22. Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Now that they have their new star running back, upgrading the offensive line becomes the highest priority (besides finding an eventual replacement for Colt McCoy).
Martin was once projected as a top-10 pick, but here, he slides to the bottom of the first round.
Martin is an athletic player who can bend and matches up well against speed rushers. However, he is not going to knock people around in the run game.
But with Richardson in the backfield, the Browns can leave it to him to make a running game work. Developing a passing game is the priority.
23. Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
The Lions find themselves in a difficult spot. There are not many players still on the board that would fill a need worth of this spot, which is why rolling the dice on a risky prospect like Jenkins is the best option.
Based on talent alone, Jenkins would be a top-10 pick. But character concerns and off-field issues, including marijuana charges, led to his dismissal from the Florida Gators.
If the Lions can keep Jenkins out of trouble, Jenkins could turn out to be the steal of the draft.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers have a pedigree of taking the best player available, regardless of need. In this case, the best player available also matches up well with their need at inside linebacker.
James Farrior is no longer on the team, and Lawrence Timmons was forced to play out of position due to injuries to their outside linebackers last season
Hightower may not have the consistent tape that Kuechly has, but he is an impressive athlete that will be able to line up just about anywhere in the front seven, making him a perfect fit for Dick LeBeau's fire-zone blitz scheme.
Adding a talent like Hightower while moving Timmons back to his more natural position will make a huge impact on a Steeler defense that desperately needs to get younger.
25. Denver Broncos: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Losing Tim Tebow will certainly upset plenty of Tebowmanics. but losing Brodrick Bunkley will prove to be the more costly loss. Bunkley was one of the best two-down run-stoppers in football last season, and replacing him will be quite a daunting task.
After an eye-popping performance at the combine, Poe skyrocketed up draft boards and could still possibly be a top-10 pick.
However, I tend to think the GMs are too smart to invest so much in a player that has shown so little on tape. But at this point in the draft, the Broncos can gamble on a player like Poe and hope he can harness his great athleticism and turn it into on-field production.
26. Houston Texans: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Texans have not had a fun spring.
After enjoying a full season of having the most dominant offensive line in football, cutting Eric Winston will almost certainly derail any possibility of that happening in 2012 unless the Texans find a quality replacement.
Adams struggles against some of the top-level pass-rushers, but as a right tackle in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, he has a chance to excel.
27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, DE, USC
Belichick has a way to filling holes on his team before they open, but he has neglected the pass-rush for too long.
As of now, the Patriots are set to go into next season without their best two pass-rushers from last year. For a team that struggled against the pass as much as they did, losing almost the entirety of their average pass-rush will only make things worse.
Perry is a talented player with lot of upside, but his is very inconsistent on tape. However, when he does flash his ability, he looks like he could possibly wind up being the best pass-rusher in the draft.
Only his high bust potential will have him fall to the Patriots this late in the first round, but with their dire need for a pass-rusher with the free agency pool just about dry, they are almost forced to roll the dice on Perry.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illonis
You would be hard-pressed to find a unit that regressed more in one season than the Packers defense. They had some injuries, but several players simply did not perform to their usual standards.
Finding a presence opposite Clay Matthews would help the Packers from giving up so many big plays that led to the abrupt end of their season.
Mercilus was a bit of a one-year wonder, as he went from a virtual non-factor to leading the nation in sacks in just one year. He tends to flush himself out of plays, but he flashes a considerable amount of natural talent.
If the Packers are able to harness his raw ability, they may have found their answer at outside linebacker opposite Matthews.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Like the Texans, the Ravens roster is significantly worse since the opening of free agency.
After failing to re-sign Ben Grubbs and missing out on Evan Mathis in free agency, the Ravens have a serious issue on their hands in terms of shoring up the interior of their offensive line.
Konz is the best center in the draft and is worth a first-round selection, which is somewhat of a rarity.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
After watching the Patriots dominate with their pair of great tight ends, the 49ers have to be wondering how difficult they would be to defend if they had someone to draw some coverage away from Vernon Davis.
Fleener was by far the most explosive weapon on Stanford's offense and has a rare blend of speed and explosion that will give them a pair of tight ends that will be impossible for any defense to match up against.
There is also the obvious connection between Fleener and his former head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and you can bet Harbaugh would love to add Fleener to his professional team.
31. New England Patriots: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
McClellin's stock has been on the rise over the past few weeks, and perhaps enough to warrant a first-round pick.
McClellin played in a three-point stance at Boise, which will allow him to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4. He is not necessarily a sack artist, but he is quick off the ball and holds up well in coverage.
Combine his skills with great intangibles, and he looks like just the kind of player that Bill Belichick would want on his team.
New York Giants: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Now that Brandon Jacobs is in San Francisco, the Giants find themselves with an open spot at the running back position.
Ahmad Bradshaw has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for a complete season, making finding a complimentary back a high priority.
Wilson has all of the physical tools to be a special back at the next level, but he has some trouble finding his holes and picking up blocks. He is also known to put the ball on the ground.
Initially, David can contribute immediately on third downs and as a returner. As he adjusts to the pro game, his role in the offense will increase.