Mel Kiper Jr. 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Analyzing Kiper's Latest Projections

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIApril 24, 2012

Mel Kiper Jr. 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Analyzing Kiper's Latest Projections

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    Mel Kiper Jr. is regarding as the Founding Father of "draftniks." Without Kiper, the months and weeks leading up to the NFL draft would definitely be less exciting.

    With the 2012 NFL draft only days away, mock drafts are being finalized as we speak. In Kiper's most recent mock draft, there are plenty of questionable picks being made.

    Today we will dissect his latest mock draft and analyze what he got right and what he got wrong.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

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    This is really a no-brainer.

    Andrew Luck has been the consensus top pick in the NFL draft since the end of the 2011 draft. Considering Luck has already been notified by the Indianapolis Colts that he is the top pick, this one is pretty much a done deal.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

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    This is another pretty safe bet considering that the Washington Redskins gave up everything but the Lincoln Memorial for the rights to the second pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Robert Griffin III might be the biggest game-changing player in this draft, and his unique playmaking ability at the quarterback position will be welcomed in Washington. He will instantly be the face of the franchise.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

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    The Minnesota Vikings will change the entire outcome of the draft with their pick. There are several scenarios that I believe could play out. 

    First, the likely pick, and the one Mel Kiper, Jr. projects, is taking Matt Kalil to become their franchise left tackle. This scenario represents the safest and smartest move. 

    However, there are three other options that would impact the rest of the teams. The first option would be if the Vikings drafted Justin Blackmon or another wide receiver. They definitely need a No. 1 receiver, and if they feel that Blackmon is their guy, they could pull the trigger.

    The second option would be to take Morris Claiborne to improve their secondary. He's highly regarded as the top cornerback prospect and would be a big boost to their overall defense.

    Finally, the Vikings could trade this pick to a team looking to trade up for Ryan Tannehill or Trent Richardson. Teams like the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams could be interested with this prospect. 

    While these three scenarios are definitely possible, Kiper picked the most logical outcome of the third pick, and there is no fault in that.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

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    The Cleveland Browns need to turn their franchise around, and drafting Trent Richardson, like Mel Kiper, Jr. suggests, would be a fantastic beginning.

    Richardson is the definition of a player who can change a game in an instant. He has quickness, physicality and doesn't have any glaring weaknesses at his position. 

    While the Browns could choose to go elsewhere with this pick, they would be foolish for doing so. There hasn't been a running back like Richardson available in the draft since Adrian Peterson

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    This is another widely popular pick considering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed their offense in a big way by signing Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks.

    Morris Claiborne is the safest cornerback prospect available, as he has no real weaknesses or character concerns. He's as NFL-ready as they come and should start and succeed from day one.

    With Ronde Barber closing in on 40 years old, and the future of Aqib Talib still up in the air, Tampa Bay needs a cornerback like Claiborne on its roster to keep up in the NFC South.

    Another solid pick by Kiper. 

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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    This is definitely a love-hate pick for me.

    I love this pick because Justin Blackmon instantly fills a big need for the St. Louis Rams at wide receiver. However, I absolutely hate this pick because Blackmon doesn't deserve to be drafted this high.

    You think of other top picks at wide receiver in recent years, and Blackmon doesn't have the skill set of any of them. He simply isn't on the same level of players like Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green and Julio Jones coming out of college.

    While the Rams could still trade this pick and move up or down in the draft, if they draft Blackmon like Kiper suggests, there will certainly be mixed feelings. 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

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    There is a great possibility that Melvin Ingram could turn out to be the best pass-rusher available this year. He has a versatility to his game that is rather unique, and Kiper sees Ingram filling a number of holes for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The only problem that I have with this pick is that while their defense does need to improve, the Jaguars' biggest need is still on the offensive side of the ball, specifically wide receiver. With Michael Floyd of Notre Dame still on the board, I can't see how Jacksonville passes on a player like him.

    This is especially true if Justin Blackmon comes off the board with the previous pick. Floyd is more NFL-ready than Blackmon, and he could end up having a better overall career.

    Ingram is a solid pick for the Jaguars, but not the best move for the team moving forward.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

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    No pick in the first round of the draft has more people talking than what the Miami Dolphins will do with this pick.

    Kiper is far from alone in his belief that Ryan Tannehill is the best solution. He's an athletic quarterback with a stellar arm and displays great poise in the pocket. 

    While I completely agree with Kiper, and believe this is the perfect pick for Miami, there are many others who believe Tannehill will be a complete bust. 

    There simply is no middle ground regarding Tannehill.

9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

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    Dontari Poe has definitely seen his stock drop in the past week as teams are becoming more and more wary of his lack of production on the field. As of right now, Poe looks like nothing more than a workout warrior.

    While Poe fills a big need as a run-stopper for the Carolina Panthers, the Panthers would be much better served to take a player like Fletcher Cox or Quinton Coples. Both players are safer picks and have just as much upside. 

    This pick seems like bigger reach with each passing day. 

10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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    With Michael Floyd still on the board, this pick from Kiper simply doesn't make much sense. While the Buffalo Bills do have a need at offensive tackle, Floyd is too dynamic to pass at this spot.

    With that said, I do believe Reiff is going to be an absolute stud in the league, and whoever does draft him will have a player who can make an impact on the offensive line from day one. He's easily the second-best offensive tackle available this year.

    Still, I just can't see the Bills passing on a weapon like Floyd if he is available.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

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    There may not be a more NFL-ready prospect on the defensive side of the ball than Luke Kuechly. With his instincts and athleticism, this kid screams Pro Bowl. 

    For the Kansas City Chiefs, this is an ideal situation. While offensive guard David DeCastro is definitely a possibility here, the Chiefs will certainly find it hard to improve their already impressive defense.

    For a team that is only a piece or two away from making a big splash in the AFC, Kuechly could be the final block that pushes this team into the playoffs. This is a fantastic pick from Kiper.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

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    The Seattle Seahawks could really go a number of directions with this pick come draft day. While Quinton Coples may become the best defensive player in the draft, there are still some concerns regarding his effort that Seattle might not like.

    Much like the Buffalo Bills, if Michael Floyd is still available with this pick, the Seahawks can't pass on him. They brought in Matt Flynn, and giving Flynn a receiver like Floyd would be a huge boost to their offense. When you team a threatening offense with one of the best young defenses in the league, you have a legitimate contender in the NFC West.

    Coples would be a great pick, but Floyd would be an astronomically better pick.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

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    I'm sorry, but this pick simply doesn't make any sense for the Arizona Cardinals.

    Does the team need a No. 2 receiver next to Larry Fitzgerald? In the worst of ways. Can they find that receiver later in the draft? Absolutely.

    The Cardinals have question marks on defense and across their offensive line to where passing on a player like David DeCastro or Fletcher Cox makes little sense here.

    This is the first real disagreement that I have with Kiper. 

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

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    This is another solid pick for Kiper, and if this happens to be the actual pick of the Dallas Cowboys, the rest of the NFL needs to watch out.

    Mark Barron is easily the best safety available this year, and he might actually be better than people realize. While he isn't an overly-athletic prospect, there isn't much lacking in Barron's overall game. He has the ability to hit with vicious power, can play against the run and keep up with receivers down the field.

    Barron will start from day one for the Cowboys and greatly improve their defense. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi State

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    If Fletcher Cox falls this far, the Philadelphia Eagles absolutely need to draft him. Unfortunately, there is little to no chance Cox will be available this late in the draft.

    Cox has as much potential as any player in the draft and could become an absolute force across the defensive line in the NFL. He's elite against the run with natural pass-rush ability and is a player that would never have to come off the field. 

    However, I simply can't see him being here to pick for Philadelphia. But since he is available in Kiper's mock draft, this pick gets an A+ for value and an F for likeliness. 

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

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    This is an extremely logical selection for the New York Jets. Courtney Upshaw fits the Jets' style of defense perfectly and is talented enough to start for them immediately. 

    While Upshaw could see himself slide on draft day, it's unlikely for him to fall much further than the16th pick. He has great sideline-to-sideline ability, can play against the run or pass and get after the quarterback.

    His work ethic and personality are also exactly what Rex Ryan loves in a defensive player. Great selection by Kiper for New York.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

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    If you're looking for a rookie that could end up making the All-Pro team his first year in the league, look no further than David DeCastro.

    He is one of the best prospects available, regardless of position, and should instantly prove himself to be one of the best at his position from day one. The Cincinnati Bengals need to get better protection for Andy Dalton, and if DeCastro is available for their first-round pick, he is an absolute steal.

18. San Diego Chargers: Chandler Jones, OLB, Syracuse

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    This is the first big surprise from Kiper and is also the biggest reach of his entire mock draft. Few, if any, believe that Chandler Jones is a first-round talent, especially this early in the first round.

    While Jones has some natural pass-rushing ability, he is still extremely raw and needs to develop his game. Because he is a long-term project, Jones is unlikely to make much of an impact during his rookie season.

    The San Diego Chargers do have a huge need at outside linebacker, but they could do much better for themselves with a player like Whitney Mercilus or Shea McClellin. Both of those players are ready to make an instant impact.

    A huge swing-and-miss from Kiper here.

19. Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

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    With one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, adding a talented player like Whitney Mercilus to their roster almost seems unfair for the Chicago Bears. In fact, the thought of Mercilus and Julius Peppers rushing off the edge would strike fear into every quarterback they faced.

    With that said, I don't believe this is the best pick for Chicago. Their biggest problems lie on the offensive side of the ball, and there are plenty of players available with this pick that could still make an impact.

    Two names that instantly stick out are Jonathan Martin and Kendall Wright. Offensive line and wide receiver have been the biggest holes in Chicago for years, and either of those players would shore up a position of need. 

    I just can't see the Bears addressing defense with their first pick in the draft.

20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

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    Of all the picks that Kiper has mocked so far, the Tennessee Titans drafting Dre Kirkpatrick is easily my favorite.

    Not only is Kirkpatrick ultra-talented, but he has the potential to be the best cornerback in this year's class. He's physical, aggressive, a ball-hawk and everything else you would want in a starting cornerback.

    On top of that, he fills a massive void left by Cortland Finnegan's departure. If the Titans want to be a threat in the AFC South, they will need to replace Finnegan's production.

    Kirkpatrick is not only talented enough to do that, but he could actually surpass the play of Finnegan. 

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

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    Another pick, another win for Kiper's mock draft.

    The loss of Johnathan Joseph last year was a huge loss for the Cincinnati Bengals and a big reason why they weren't able to make a deep run in the playoffs. They will need to improve their secondary, and Stephon Gilmore has the potential to do that for them.

    Gilmore is still a little raw in some aspects of his game, but his ability to make a play on the ball and turn and run with a receiver is top notch. He may not start every down for the Bengals in his first year, but Gilmore will definitely surprise some people during his rookie year.

    The Bengals are one of the best young teams in the league, and adding a player like Gilmore will only make them better.

22. Cleveland Browns: Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia

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    Sorry, Mel, but the Cleveland Browns can't take Cordy Glenn with their second pick of the first round.

    It just won't happen.

    The Browns do need to go offensive with their second pick, but offensive line isn't the answer. They need to add players that will help Colt McCoy develop. 

    Two other names that haven't been called yet that would be perfect for the Browns are Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill. Even Rueben Randle of LSU would be a more ideal pick for Cleveland.

    The Browns need to bring in playmakers in the first round, and addressing anything else would be a major disappointment.

23. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

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    While this pick certainly makes sense for the Detroit Lions considering they need to do everything in their power to protect Matthew Stafford, it seems like a cop-out.

    The Lions could address their offensive line later in the draft with more of a developmental prospect, and take an impact player with this pick. Considering they play in the same conference as Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, secondary makes the most sense with this pick.

    Prospects like Janoris Jenkins or Harrison Smith make perfect sense for Detroit.

    While Jenkins has character concerns, he could be the best cover-cornerback available this year. Smith is a pure playmaker at safety and would improve the overall ability of the Lions' defense to cause turnovers.

    Either of these players would be a better pick for Detroit.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't dream of a better prospect than Dont'a Hightower. 

    Hightower has everything the Steelers love in their linebackers. He can blitz, he can cover, he can tackle and he can play against the run. His game is extremely polished for a college player, and he should be inserted into Pittsburgh's starting lineup pretty quickly.

    This would be a huge boost to a Steelers team that has had a trying offseason. 

25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

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    While the idea of the Denver Broncos improving their defense in the first round is enjoyable, I think they will look to get Peyton Manning some weapons with this pick.

    The most likely scenario involves the Broncos drafting tight end Coby Fleener of Stanford to become Manning's top weapon. One look at the success that Manning had with Dallas Clark in Indianapolis, and it's easy to fall in love with this pick. 

    Fleener is going to be a star in the NFL, as he has the ability to catch anything thrown his way and make plays after the catch. He should become one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league early in his career.

    For the Broncos to get the most out of Manning in his first year with the team, they will need to add a weapon like Fleener. This will be their only chance to get him.

26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

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    Let me be the first to say that if the Houston Texans draft Kendall Wright like Kiper has predicted, they will need to be considered Super Bowl favorites at the start of the season.

    This team has been looking for a second option next to Andre Johnson for years and hasn't had any luck. Not only would Wright be that second option, but he is talented enough to be the top option for several teams in the NFL.

    The Texans' offensive would be overly explosive, and defenses would struggle to keep them to under 30 points a game.

    Wright could go much higher than this, but if it happens, it will be one of the best picks in the first round.

27. New England Patriots: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State

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    Shea McClellin is quickly rising up draft boards as one of the premier pass-rushing outside linebackers. He's gone from relatively unknown to likely first-round draft pick in a matter of weeks.

    There are two things that the New England Patriots will absolutely love about McClellin. The first is McClellin's non-stop motor. You wil never see a play where McClellin gives up, and the Patriots love that type of player.

    The second aspect of his game that New England will love is his intelligence. He's a smart kid who studies the game and wants to improve. That isn't something that can be taught. 

    Great pick by New England and Mel Kiper Jr

28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, OLB, USC

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    It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that Kiper has the Green Bay Packers drafting an outside linebacker in the first round.

    While Nick Perry has seen his stock fall a little lately, he is still a player with huge upside, and the Packers would be thankful to have him fall in their laps. He will be an instant upgrade at getting after the quarterback, and has even been billed as a younger and rawer Clay Matthews.

    He may not be able to play every down to start his career, but as a spot pass-rusher, Perry would be welcomed in Green Bay.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

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    One thing that every NFL draft brings is the Baltimore Ravens making a smart and safe pick early in the draft. This year Kiper has that pick being center Peter Konz out of Wisconsin.

    Konz is easily the best center prospect in the draft, and with Matt Birk's age becoming a factor in Baltimore, Konz would be a future starter for 10-plus years. The Ravens typically draft well, and their selection of Konz is a perfect example of them doing just that.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

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    There are two major reasons why I cannot agree with this pick by Kiper for the San Francisco 49ers. Their names are Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.

    The 49ers have already spent a great deal on improving their receiving corps, and now they need to add an offensive lineman or cornerback. There are still plenty of players at both positions that could step in and play as rookies. 

    Look for San Francisco to pass on Hill and look at a player like Janoris Jenkins or Kevin Zeitler. The Niners can boost their receiving corps later in the draft.

31. New England Patriots: Derek Wolfe, DL, Cincinnati

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    What the heck was Kiper thinking when he put Derek Wolfe here? Wes Bunting of National Football Post—who just so happens to be one of the best in the industry—has Wolfe ranked as his 18th-best defensive end prospect. He grades him as a priority free agent.

    This is the ultimate reach for both Kiper and the New England Patriots. There simply is no way Wolfe will get drafted this early. The Patriots will likely be able to draft Wolfe much, much later in the draft.

    Worst mock draft pick by far from Kiper. 

32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

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    The rich keep getting richer in Mel's mock. With the New York Giants selecting Coby Fleener, they improve their offense greatly.

    The Giants have a major hole at tight end thanks to injuries suffered in the Super Bowl by Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard. Not only would Fleener be able to fill in and produce for the Giants as a rookie, but he is already a better player than either Ballard or Beckum. 

    If Fleener is still around this late in the draft, which I doubt he will be, the Giants absolutely need to draft him. It could give them another weapon in their pursuit of back-to-back Super Bowls.