The NFL Draft gives every team in the league the ability to rebuild the shape of their team overnight. No draft in any other sport offers the immediate gratification or new direction that is promised with a few successful players that end up becoming part of a great draft class.
The anchor of having a great draft class is cast with each organization's first-round pick. Below, I'll take my first and only shot at a mock draft for every team's first-round selection.
1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Every draft class has a crown jewel, and Andrew Luck serves as that within the 2012 group. The Indianapolis Colts new regime is centered around this player, and every step they take from this selection forward will be to ensure Luck's immediate and long-term success. Luck allows the Colts the possibility of two quarterbacks over the course of three decades. The other being Peyton Manning has franchises like the Cleveland Browns wondering how another organization could get so fortunate.
2. Washington Redskin - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor University
I think the Redskins believe they're getting the best player in the draft in Griffin. His mobility will fit in well with Mike Shannahan's roll-outs and add another dimension to what should be a nice running game. Some scouts say that Griffin has a higher ceiling than Luck. I think the Redskins are getting a right-handed Michael Vick and a player who has a chance to be special, but I would say that Luck has the better career of the two.
3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
There is some recent talk that points to Matt Kalil falling in the draft. Once considered one of the safer options in the field, I'm don't buy the slipping of a future Pro-Bowl offensive tackle. Minnesota has to deal with pass rushers like Julius Peppers and Clay Mathews Jr. for the foreseeable future, so the Kalil selection makes a lot of sense. While their interest in Robert Blackmon and Morris Claiborne is legitimate, at the end of the day the Vikings will settle on the top tackle in the draft.
4. Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns have been prone to drafting players who don't work out since their 1999 return to the NFL. No matter how snake-bitten of a franchise Cleveland has become, they have a chance draft one of those rare 'sure thing' players in Richardson. Every team in the league will have Richardson near the top of their overall board, and Cleveland can add this perfect complimentary piece to the West Coast offense with their fourth overall selection. Richardson will be wearing orange and brown to begin his career.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Two things to remember here: the Tampa Bay has to defend Drew Brees and Cam Newton's vertical attacks twice a season, and they added receivers heavily in the off-season. This is why it's easy to leave Robert Blackmon on the board when selecting the man who will replace Ronde Barber as the number one corner in Tampa. Since Barber is now 37 years old, that day is coming soon.
6. St. Louis Rams - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
St. Louis must get a number one receiver to pair with Sam Bradford. This probably should have happened a lot sooner. While Blackmon lacks the size of a lot of the top wide receiver playmakers around the league, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound has shown a propensity to play bigger than his height and weight.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Jaguars would love to be able to select a player who will excite their fan base in the opening round, but I'm not sure that such a player exists at this spot. This could be the spot we see a team trade into, but if the Jaguars hang onto the pick they'll fill a big need by adding a pass-rushing end to their defensive line. With Andrew Luck coming into the division, they'll want to have someone who can get to know him well on that unit over the next decade.
8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Miami finally lands their young quarterback of the future. Now the only challenge will be seeing if the kid can get it done on Sundays. Tannehill joins a Miami team with a new head coach and without a true number one wide receiver. He is the Blaine Gabbert of this draft class, flying up the draft board into the top ten after the college season ended. These things do not bode well for the former receiver turned signal-caller.
9. Carolina Panthers - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
I think the Panthers have strongly considered the possibility of taking a receiver like Michael Floyd in this spot, but will forgo the urge to do so to select a player who will serve as a cornerstone on the Carolina defense opposite Cam Newton for years to come. The organization believes in Newton's ability so much, that they'll wait at least one year to select a future number one option to Steve Smith.
10. Buffalo Bills - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Kuechly just seems like a Buffalo Bills draft selection. Before you decide that the Bills again failed to make the 'sexy' pick, remember that Kuechly is the all-time leading tackler in Boston College school history. One of the finest defensive players in this draft stays on the east coast for his pro career as he did in the collegiate ranks.
11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Hoping that he can deliver on some of the athletic promise he showed at the NFL combine, the Chiefs will select Poe after having the player they want (Kuechly) selected by Buffalo one pick beforehand. Kelly Gregg is aging quickly, and Glenn Dorsey has failed to be the player the Chiefs thought they were getting in the 2008 NFL Draft. The Chiefs will add a player with huge upside for that unit with their first-round pick.
12. Seattle Seahawks - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
People believe that despite immense athletic talent, Quinton Coples is one of the larger gambles at the top of this draft due to character questions. Pete Carroll will happily roll the dice in order to add a pass-rushing end to his already stout defense.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Kevin Kolb had a rough first season as the Cardinals starting quarterback. The best way to make life easier for him is to add a pass protecting tackle like Reiff. Iowa has a habit of turning out quality NFL linemen, and for the Cardinals to find out if Kolb is the right player for their future under center they'll need to build a bit more of a safe cockpit for him.
14. Dallas Cowboys - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly called Barron "the draft's hottest prospect" recently. The Cowboys made it a huge priority to upgrade their defensive secondary in the off-season, and the Alabama safety will go a long ways towards completing that. Barron to the Cowboys near the middle of the first-round just seems like one of those perfect fits. It's also a possibility that Jerry Jones gets crazy and blows up everyone's draft board with a surprise.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Eagles need help at corner and seem to have made their mind up to trade Asante Samuel. Kirkpatrick is a prize athlete ready to step in and cover the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Dez Bryant among others right now. The Eagles will build quality depth with this cover corner.
16. New York Jets - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Rex Ryan will be giddy when he finds out that it won't be necessary for the Jets to trade up to add the coveted pass rusher to their squad. Upshaw is another piece of a star-studded Crimson Tide defensive cast who will hear his name called on the draft's opening night. If things go the way I think they will, he'll be the third straight Alabama player selected in the middle of the first round.
17. Cincinnati Bengals - David Decastro, OG, Stanford
When a guard is selected this high, he better be a good one. The athleticism I saw from Decastro at the NFL combine had him really appearing as a standout amongst this group. This pick was a bonus in exchange for fleecing the Raiders for Carson Palmer anyways. There's no reason for Cincinnati not to take a complimentary piece for the offense here.
18. San Diego Chargers - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd's slide ends with him landing in the warm weather city of San Diego. Philip Rivers will need a nice number one weapon in Vincent Jackson's absence. I think the questions about Floyd's maturity are overstated. He will step into the NFL with the ability to be a game changer from his debut onward.
19. Chicago Bears - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
With Floyd suddenly off the board the pick before, Wright's value skyrockets as the next most valuable receiver left in the draft. Wright gives the Bears another legitimate option in a division that contains Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. Chicago will need to be able to score quickly and the addition of Brandon Marshall won't be enough by itself. The pick of Wright makes perfect sense.
20. Tennessee Titans - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Titans would be likely to select a defensive end at this spot without the recent signing of Kamerion Wimbley. The Titans can add a player here with a dominant upside, whose floor still has him as a pretty safe option. Their interior line play could needs improvement and this selection brings it almost instantly.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The substance abuse problems that have reportedly plagued Jenkins will not scare off the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals desperately need a top corner out of this draft, and Jenkins will be the top remaining at the position at this point. The Bengals need for the position will outweigh concerns over the player's character.
22. Cleveland Browns - Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Every year, the Cleveland Browns are in a position to make themselves better. And every year it seems that they talk themselves into some type of pickle as an organization. It's not that Weeden is a bad player. It's that there are much better options for the Browns to strengthen their offensive unit with this pick. The Browns have made mistakes like this an annual pattern of each off-season.
23. Detroit Lions - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Detroit Lions pull off the steal of the draft, snagging a player who was rated as high as three overall in some mock drafts. This acquisition vaults the Lions into instant conversations about having the finest draft after day one in terms of talents and needs filled. Detroit is about to enter a special era as a franchise, and Gilmore will be one of those reasons.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Steelers have made a tradition out of building the trenches from their usual contender's spot in the draft. At some point you have to think there's something to it that gets results. With Adams, Pittsburgh adds one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the draft from a college that they trust (they plucked Cam Heyward out of Ohio State around this spot last year).
25. Denver Broncos - Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
It seems like speculation has picked up that the Indianapolis Colts would love to add the top tight end in the draft out of Stanford to go with the top quarterback in the draft (also from Stanford). A bit of irony sets in when Fleener ends up paired in the pros with the man Luck will be replacing in Indy, Peyton Manning.
26. Houston Texans - Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
Cordy Glenn has the size, athleticism, and versatility to be a great addition to the Houston Texans zone blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak implements. Some mocks have Glenn being selected sooner, I've thought this spot was closer to his true value all along.
27. New England Patriots - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Bill Belichick loves versatile players who can get after the quarterback. It's been a long time since the Patriots have added a pass rusher with the upside to be as dominant as Mercilus. He should be able to have a lot of success in Belichick's 3-4 scheme.
28. Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The first thing you're likely thinking about is that the Packers already have B.J. Raji. Now, add in a talent who can stuff the middle like the former Spartan Worthy. Now imagine how much fun this is going to be.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower will be a Peter Boulware-like talent when it comes to rushing the passer. It's weird to think about Ray Lewis bridging the gap between two generations, but that's exactly what will happen here. Lewis began things with Boulware and will close things out with the great future talent Hightower.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Jim Harbaugh's squad will continue to upgrade the level of talent around the quarterback position with a high-octane receiving weapon. Expect to see Calvin Johnson-esque catches on Sunday's without the Johnson-esque numbers.
31. New England Patriots: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
When mock drafts first began making their way to press, I had the Nittany Lion being selected much earlier. For whatever the reason the public believes he will slide a bit and I've joined them. Bill Belichick will oblige for all that value and take him just before the evening wraps up.
32. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Giants don't have a ton of holes, so building the trenches is the name of the game. Their offensive line has been together as a unit for a long time. The selection of Martin infuses some youth into the group. Martin knows all about protecting high-priced quarterbacks from his day as a Stanford Cardinal.
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