2012 NFL Mock Draft: Janoris Jenkins and Players Who Will Sneak into First Round
While most prognosticators tend to think that they have a pretty firm grasp on what teams will do in the NFL draft, there are always a few franchises that make surprising selections.
It's impossible to know exactly how much teams value certain players, and all it takes is one team to be interested in somebody for them to go in the first round.
There are sure to be a few surprises in terms of first-round prospects being taken earlier than anticipated, but the real surprises tend to come late in the round as teams reach slightly for second-round prospects that they either have rated higher than other teams or fill needs.
Along with a full, first-round mock draft, here are my predictions for some under-the-radar players who will sneak into the bottom-third of the first round.
Despite pretending to waffle between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, there has never been any doubt that the Colts would go with Luck as their new franchise player.
2. Washington Redskins (5-11): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (via STL)
The Redskins had every intention of taking RG3 to anchor their offense when they traded up from No. 6, and they'll certainly get their wish.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Minnesota continues to tease trading out of this spot, but left tackle is a big need for the Vikings, so they ought to play it safe and select Kalil.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
There has been some talk regarding the Browns taking quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but they need a sure thing, and Richardson looks to be just that at a position of need.
Which player is most likely to be a first-round selection?
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Buccaneers still have a lot of needs despite their free-agent spending spree, but Claiborne works since Ronde Barber is at the tail end of his career.
6. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (via WAS)
St. Louis made a brilliant move in trading down to No. 6 as it picked up a couple future firsts and will still get an elite wide receiver prospect in Blackmon.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
The Jaguars need help pretty much everywhere, but they simply need to hit on this pick, so Coples should be the selection as the top defensive lineman in the class.
8. Miami Dolphins (6-10): Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
This wouldn't be the smartest or the safest pick, but after whiffing on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Alex Smith in the offseason, the Dolphins will reach for Tannehill.
9. Carolina Panthers (6-10): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Brockers' draft stock has fluctuated greatly over the past several weeks, but his explosive skill set works extremely well for the Panthers' 4-3 defense.
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Bills did well to re-sign wide receiver Stevie Johnson, but unless they get him some protection in the form of Floyd, he'll never become elite.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Kansas City is a team that is stacked in terms of depth, but with the offensive line struggling last season, Reiff would be a logical addition.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Seahawks obviously need some help when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, and Ingram is the best 4-3 defensive end remaining on the board.
Arizona has a ton of holes on its defense, but drafting Kuechly to patrol the middle could conceivably cure many of the Cardinals' defensive ills.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Most of the Cowboys' needs reside on defense, and although he has had some off-field issues, Kirkpatrick has the skill to be a top-flight cornerback.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Eagles would probably rather take a linebacker with this pick, but with Kuechly off the board, they'll nab a safety who they hope to be the next Brian Dawkins in Barron.
16. New York Jets (8-8): Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Gang Green is a bit of a mess on both sides of the ball, but a solid 3-4 pass-rusher such as Upshaw could really help to solidify the defense.
Which wide receiver would be the best fit for the Giants at No. 32?
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK 8-8): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Bengals can do whatever they please as a playoff team with two first-rounders, and they would be well-served to take Wright and pair him with A.J. Green.
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
San Diego will be jumping for joy if DeCastro lasts this long, as he is the best guard in the draft and will be a fine replacement for Kris Dielman.
19. Chicago Bears (8-8): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Although No. 19 may seem a tad early to take a center, the Bears' offensive line has long been a sieve, and Konz would undoubtedly be a steadying presence.
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Titans have a lot of depth on the defensive line, but no standout performers, so Mercilus figures to be the pick as he has the tools to be a double-digit sack guy.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore's draft stock has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and although the Bengals signed Terence Newman, they would benefit from another cornerback.
22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL 10-6): Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
It wasn't long ago that most mocks had Martin going somewhere near the top 10, but the Browns will be the beneficiaries of a precipitous fall.
Just two years ago, cornerback Janoris Jenkins was considered an elite prospect and was projected to be an early-first-round selection. Some off-the-field issues got him dismissed from Florida, however, and resulted in him having to resume his collegiate career at tiny North Alabama. Jenkins excelled, however, and got his name back into the first-round mix.
Despite that, most mocks now have Jenkins sliding into the second round. That likely has more to do with character concerns than it does skill level, though. As a member of the Gators' BCS National Championship team, he locked down some of the best wide receivers in the nation, so there is little question that he has enough talent to come off the board in the first 32 picks.
All it takes is one team with a need, and that team figures to be the Detroit Lions. The Lions' secondary was exposed in a big way by the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints down the stretch last season, and it's no secret that they need a cornerback desperately.
With all of the other suitable choices at that position off the board, expect Detroit to roll the dice by taking the troubled, but skilled Jenkins.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Many would probably be surprised if Poe fell this far after his dominant combine performance, but a lack of need at nose tackle will work to the Steelers' advantage.
25. Denver Broncos (8-8): Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
The Broncos' top priority has to be protecting Peyton Manning, and whether he plays guard or tackle, Glenn is exactly the type of mauler Denver is looking for.
26. Houston Texans (10-6): Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill wasn't really on the radar until he impressed with his size and speed at the combine, and that will be enough for the Texans to take a chance on him.
27. New England Patriots (via NO 13-3): Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
There are always a few late risers during the lead up to the draft, and there is no question that Boise State hybrid pass-rusher Shea McClellin is just that. He turned in a solid season in 2011 with seven sacks, but there wasn't much talk of him being a first-rounder until the combine. McClellin put on 12 pounds between the Senior Bowl and the combine, and now stands at 6'3" and 260 lbs.
Those dimensions ensure that he is capable of either playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3. He has a good combination of size, strength and agility, so he works in almost any defensive system, and that makes him very valuable. One team in need of a pass-rusher that has been linked to McClellin recently is the New England Patriots.
Since the Pats have two first-rounders, they can afford to gamble a bit on McClellin with one of them. The Pats will be without Andre Carter for a while, as he is nursing an injury and Mark Anderson signed with the Buffalo Bills, so New England is in desperate need of a pass-rusher.
There is no guarantee McClellin's skill set will translate to the next level, but the Pats tend to get the most out of their pass-rushers, so he'll be heading into the right situation.
28. Green Bay Packers (15-1): Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
The Packers absolutely must come out of the draft having upgraded their defense in some way, and taking Cox as a space-eating 3-4 end will accomplish just that.
29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
It may be a bit surprising to see Hightower falling this far, but he'll ultimately be happy to land in a situation where he can learn from Ray Lewis with the Ravens.
30. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
There is only one offensive tackle worthy of a first-round pick on the board and the 49ers happen to need one, so they'll happily select Adams at No. 30.
31. New England Patriots (13-3): Devon Still, DL, Penn State
New England constantly has a ton of turnover on its defensive line, so it only makes sense for the Pats to nab a versatile utility lineman like Still.
32. New York Giants (9-7): Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
One of the best parts about being the Super Bowl champion is that you can afford to do whatever the heck you want in the draft. All of the pieces are already in place, so the New York Giants really have their pick of the litter. I have seen a lot of mocks that have the G-Men taking a tight end, and while that is certainly a possibility, Big Blue also needs a wideout with Mario Manningham signing in San Francisco.
The Giants have two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but Cruz is more effective out of the slot. With that said, quarterback Eli Manning would really benefit from another outside threat.
The Giants will have a few intriguing options to consider at this point, but the most steady and trustworthy pick would be LSU receiver Rueben Randle.
Randle may not be the most explosive receiver in the draft, but the Giants will get enough of that out of Nicks and Cruz. They could use a sure-handed guy to complement them, and Randle is exactly that.
One of the reasons why Manning was so successful last season was that he had so many weapons to throw to, so it only makes sense for New York to replenish the cupboard a bit via the draft.
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