2012 NFL Mock Draft: Full First-Round Projections
We are getting to that point where the final mock drafts from experts spanning the globe are going to be published. We are also getting to the point where most of these are going to be refuted by the real draft set to take place in just over 15 days.
Still it is fun to throw these out there and see if they stick. Somewhat like the idea that we must have our voice heard in order to embellish our projections, even if just a few turn out to be correct.
Here is my hat into the ring.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
I thought about going Tannehill here just to throw some people off, especially after Irsay's comments about the former Aggie quarterback. Then I realized it was probably more important to keep my job here at Bleacher Report.
Luck is going to be the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. I could care less about him visiting the Washington Redskins or any other "smoke and mirrors" thrown out there. Now it is time for the Colts to build an actual supporting cast around the franchise quarterback.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
As I have stated before, the Redskins didn't trade up to the No. 2 slot with anyone else in mind outside of Luck and Griffin III. So it goes without saying that one of those two will be the pick here.
I wonder if Las Vegas is giving odds in regards to the top two picks in the draft. If so, I want to buy in. There is absolutely no way that Washington goes in any other direction. The larger worry here is who they are going to add later in the draft to help RGIII succeed as a rookie in 2012.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Southern California
There has been talk of the Vikings trading down from this slot. Where there is smoke, there surely is fire. However, I don't envision a scenario in which Minnesota would get blown away with an offer big enough to pass up on the opportunity to get a franchise offensive tackle.
We already know that Charlie Johnson isn't cutting it as the Vikings' starting left tackle, that goes without saying. They need to get someone in that can consistently protect Christian Ponder's blindside. Without that type of addition he is going to continue to struggle in 2012. The obvious fix to that issue is drafting Kalil.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Unless the Browns shock the football world and reach for Ryan Tannehill here or trade down from the No. 4 slot, Richardson has to be the pick. There was a flirtation with the idea that they would go receiver here, but I just don't see the value in that.
Instead, the Browns add one of the best running back prospects of the last decade to an offensive backfield without much punch to it. Let's face it, though: Cleveland has a long and heralded history of messing up situations like this. I wouldn't put it past them to do it again.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, Louisiana State
With the status of top corner Aqib Talib up in the air for the 2012 season, the Buccaneers must address this position if they expect to compete in the pass-happy NFC South.
Not only was Tampa Bay's defense poor last season, it is going to be going up against Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees a total of six times combined next year. It is time for them to get that true No. 1 corner. Claiborne is their man here.
6. St. Louis Rams: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
This is where my mock changes a bit from last week. I had already switched Floyd to the No. 1 receiver position on my big board, but was hesitant to mock him here. Now reports have surfaced that some NFL teams don't even have a first-round grade on Justin Blackmon.
If that is the case there is no reason to believe that the Rams would reach for him here. Instead, they go with a receiver that continues to shoot up the draft boards. This is also a position of overwhelming need for the Rams. Either way, they should go wide receiver here, and they have two solid options.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
If I didn't have the Jaguars going receiver with Floyd available in my last mock, I am not going to have them go receiver here with Blackmon available.
Instead, my pick remains unchanged from last week. Coples is a true 4-3 defensive end and will complement Jeremy Mincey a great deal along the Jaguars' defensive line.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Now there is talk that the Cleveland Browns may be flirting with the idea of drafting Tannehill No. 4 overall. While that would seem like a tremendous reach, you just never know when it comes to the quarterback position in the draft.
Just take a look at Tarvaris Jackson going in the second round a few seasons back and Christian Ponder just outside of the top 10 last season. Teams tend to reach a great deal at this position on draft day. With that said, I remain strong on the opinion that Tannehill will "fall" to the Dolphins here and they will pick him up, no matter how much of a reach it might seem to be.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Mississippi State
The Panthers need a major upgrade in rush defense. They are going to be returning a few injured players from last season, but that really isn't going to be enough. Dontari Poe still remains an option here, but his stock seems to be dropping of late.
Carolina gets a prospect in Cox that has the ability to dominate in the trenches while providing a much needed pass rush threat from the interior of the defensive line. He is the best all-around defensive player in the draft outside of Morris Claiborne. Value at a need position here.
10. Buffalo Bills: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
If either Blackmon or Floyd falls here you can expect the Bills to pounce on one of them. They were looking for a wide receiver in free agency and need to find a complementary guy to Steve Johnson. More than that, both of these receivers project to be top targets in the NFL.
This is a selection that would make the Bills' offense nearly unstoppable. Well, if Ryan Fitzpatrick can become a more consistent quarterback in 2012.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
This is where other mock drafts may differ from me. Some believe that No. 11 is too high to draft a guard prospect. While that might be true to an extent, DeCastro isn't your run-of-the-mill guard. He has a chance to be absolutely dominating at the next level.
In addition, the Chiefs need to find an upgrade from Ryan Lilja on the left side of the line. By adding a player of DeCastro's ability to a unit that already consists of Eric Winston and Brandon Albert, the Chiefs will have one of the better young offensive lines in the game.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina
This is another pick that hasn't changed from the previous version of my mock draft. The Seahawks are said to be looking long and hard at a pass-rusher. With Quinton Coples, who would also be fit, off the board, Seattle goes with probably the best pure pass rush threat in the draft.
They can slot him in as a defensive end in base defense, or actually move the South Carolina product to linebacker in nickel defense. He would provide Seattle with a great all-around threat in their front seven.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
I cannot envision a scenario where the Cardinals would pass up on Reiff if he did indeed fall here. This is an area of tremendous need for Arizona and he provides a great amount of value.
The former Iowa standout would immediately come in and be the Cardinals' best offensive lineman. While that might not be saying much for their current unit, it does indicate just how good Reiff will be right out of the gate.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
Well one of the Alabama defenders is going to go to the Cowboys here. When Jerry Jones falls in love with a prospect (or two) he usually makes a play to acquire them. My previous mock had Dallas going with Courtney Upshaw.
However, I see Barron being a much better fit at a position of greater need. He will start out as a strong safety, but could possible translate to free safety after honing his coverage skills.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
I could care less if the Eagles traded for Demeco Ryans—he just isn't going to be the long-term solution. There was a great amount of debate about this selection in the previous mock, so let me address this quickly.
The Eagles are in need of multiple upgrades at the linebacker position. Whether Kuechly plays inside or outside in their 4-3 defense really isn't the point. You can bet that the Eagles will find a way to get the solid linebacker on the field. In doing so, they will have upgraded that unit vastly.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Alabama
Rex Ryan has apparently fallen in love with Upshaw at this slot. While the Jets probably could use help at other positions, most notably wide receiver, you can expect them to go in this direction should the Alabama product fall here.
To say that the Jets need to upgrade their front seven would be an understatement. As currently assembled, it is a combination that lacks talent and youth. Upshaw would change that immediately.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, Guard, Georgia
The signing of Terence Newman does change things up quite a bit. I do understand that he is a stopgap measure at best, but it does enable the Bengals to look corner later in the draft. Consequently, there will be nice value at that position in the second round.
Glenn provides the Bengals with value at a need position here. The Bengals could slot him in at guard immediately and be set at that position for the next decade. He is going to be a dominating interior lineman right out of the gate.
18. San Diego Chargers: Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis
This is a dramatic shift from my previous mock, but the Chargers just cannot pass up on the opportunity to acquire this massive nose tackle for their 3-4 defense.
Poe translates to be a Haloti Ngata type of presence along the interior of the defensive line. He has dropped quite a bit in recent weeks, but that doesn't change the fact that the Memphis product has the tools and physical ability to be great at the next level.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
The addition of Brandon Marshall this offseason has really changed the opinion of where the Bears are going to go with this pick. Instead of having to "reach" for a wide receiver they are able to fill other positions of need while still getting value.
Martin was tasked with protecting Andrew Luck's blindside over the course of the last few seasons at Stanford and succeeded in doing so. He will have issues against speedier rushers early and will have to hone his technique at the point of contact. Once that happens, Martin translates to being a solid left tackle at the next level.
20. Tennessee Titans: Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
This would just be the smart pick for the Titans. At some point they are going to have to upgrade the interior of that offensive line. Konz is the consensus top center in a draft that is extremely deep at that position.
Tennessee could slot him in as a Pro Bowl center for the next decade. You can probably only make such a blanket statement about a handful of prospect in the draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
Now that the Bengals have addressed their need for a powerful guard, they go get that running back that is needed in order for their offense to take the next step towards elite status.
Martin is my No. 2 ranked running back in the draft. He has the ability to help Andy Dalton and Co. in not just the run game but also receiving out of the backfield as well.
22. Cleveland Browns: Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The Browns have to go offense with the first two picks of the draft. Right? It really doesn't matter how good the rest of your teams is; if you don't have any talent at the skill positions you are not going to succeed.
With all due respect to Montario Hardesty and Greg Little, who figure to be good pros, they are not going to be primary stars on a good offense. Alshon Jeffery, overrated as he may be, brings the Browns that threat they need on the outside.
23. Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Lions are definitely going to be targeting a corner with this selection, especially if Peter Konz and the top tackles are off the board. The primary question is which cornerback it is going to be.
My last mock had the Lions going with Dre Kirkpatrick here. The more I thought about that selection, the less sense it made. They need to get someone that can come right in and play solid football on the outside in coverage. Kirkpatrick is going to struggle early in that aspect of his game, Gilmore should be much more solid as a rookie. This leads me to believe they will go with the South Carolina product. Either way, one of those two players should be the pick here.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Michael Brockers, Defensive Line, Louisiana State
Unchanged from the last mock. The Steelers will definitely look for help along the offensive line, but simply wouldn't be able to pass up on the talented defensive tackle if he fell to them here.
Brockers, who might struggle early, has the raw talent and build to be a dominating force on defense. I am unsure whether or not he translates to nose tackle in a 3-4, but it really doesn't matter. The Steelers could use some young blood all throughout their defensive line and Brockers would add that.
25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, Defensive Line, Penn State
This is a selection that might not be popular with fans in Denver, but it must be made. The Broncos have young talent in the front seven, just not along the defensive line.
Just imagine what the addition of a player like Still would do for the likes of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. He would maintain the gap in the middle, taking up double-teams and enabling those two speed-rushers free reign on the quarterback in the backfield. This would make the Broncos' defense just that much better.
26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
We already know that the Texans are looking to find a complementary receiver to Andre Johnson. They didn't have room under the salary cap to acquire one in free agency, instead having to focus on the draft. The good news is that there are going to be multiple options here.
Hill might not make an immediate impact because of his learning curve coming from Georgia Tech, but he has as much upside as any receiver in the draft. We are talking about a receiver that has the build, size and strength to dominate on the outside.
27. New England Patriots: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
The Patriots are going to look defense with each of their first four selections in the 2012 NFL draft. At least they should.
Acquiring a player like Kirkpatrick would make their secondary much more fearsome. He is going to be a physical presence on the outside with some early limitations in regards to coverage. Once the Alabama product gets his technique down he should turn into a really good corner at the next level. If that doesn't happen, the Patriots could find themselves a solid safety late in the first round.
28. Green Bay Packers: Andre Branch, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Clemson
Branch and Chandler Jones are two intriguing possibilities here. The Packers are definitely going to look to upgrade their pass rush opposite Clay Matthews during the draft. The lack of a consistent pass rush caused the Packers' secondary to struggle a great deal in 2011 and may have cost them a chance at the Super Bowl.
The Clemson product will be able to add that dynamic to the Packers' defense in 2011, while improving a great deal over the course of the season. He already has the ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 and can play with his hands down at the line in obvious pass-rushing situations.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
As I mentioned in my previous mock draft, the Ravens are going to have to eventually find a replacement for Ray Lewis at inside linebacker. Despite the fact that the future Hall of Famer is still a solid player, he doesn't have a lot left in the tank.
Hightower will be able to learn from Lewis for the next couple seasons in order to hone his skills in coverage and reading offenses. The Ravens couldn't possibly ask for a better situation moving forward.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
It is becoming readily apparent that the 49ers are in the best situation heading into next week's draft. They are not going to have to fill a tremendous amount of need, instead focusing on going after the best player available.
Acquiring Coby Fleener, the consensus No. 1 tight end in the draft, would make the 49ers' offense dynamic in the grand scheme of things. Pair him up with Vernon Davis at tight end and Alex Smith has two go-to players between the hashes. This could end up having the looks of the two-headed monster we see in New England.
31. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Southern California
While I am going to remain steadfast in the opinion that Perry is going to struggle as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, I do realize that the Patriots play a hybrid type of defense. In short, they are no longer strictly a 3-4 defense.
This enables the Patriots to go out there and get a talented player at a position of need.
32. New York Giants: Bobby Wagner, Linebacker, Utah State
I am not wavering from this pick. Simply put, Wagner is the best player available here and fits a position of need. I could care less that the Giants just traded for Keith Rivers; they need to upgrade the linebacker unit more in the draft.
Wagner has the ability to play both inside and outside at the next level. He isn't scheme specific, but seems to translate better in a 4-3 defense.
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