2012 NFL Mock Draft: Highlighting Potential Defensive Rookie of the Year Winners

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Linebacker Luke Kuechly of Boston College takes part in a drill during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL draft is stacked with superb talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

Of the prospects up for grabs, the one that will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award next season is very likely going to come from the first round. 

Sure, a guy in the later rounds could emerge and shock everyone by dominating next year, but the chances of that happening is rather slim. 

That being said, here's my updated 2012 NFL mock draft with info on each pick and a more in-depth look at those players with great potential to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. 

2012 NFL Mock Draft 

1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford   

Luck is the top prospect in the draft, and it's a no-brainer the Colts will select him to run the team and be the face of the franchise. 

2. Washington Redskins (5-11): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

The Redskins spent a lot to get to No. 2, but they feel it's worth it because of the talented skills Griffin has that will help save the team. 

3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13): Matt Kalil, OT, USC

The Vikings may trade this pick or select Claiborne, but finding that cornerstone tackle (which is what Kalil is projected as) to protect Christian Ponder for his entire career is the best decision Minnesota can make. 

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 

The Browns have to help their offense in this draft, and they'll be starting off with a bang by selecting Richardson. 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU 

Claiborne is the top defender in the draft, and he'll definitely contend for the defensive ROY this coming season. 

Not only is Claiborne excellent in coverage, he also has the skills to make some noise in the return game as well. 

Tampa Bay needs an upgrade in the secondary, and getting Claiborne will do wonders for the Bucs. 

6. St. Louis Rams (2-14):  Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Instead of taking a huge gamble on a WR, the Rams should go with Brockers because he is the safer pick here. 

At 6'5", 322 pounds, Brockers will be an instant hit in St. Louis, providing much-needed youth to the defensive front. 

The Rams have aging defensive tackles, which is just another reason Brockers is a better pick here. His massive frame will be making tons of plays during his rookie campaign, showing everyone he was the right choice. 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State 

The Jaguars are desperate for playmakers, so look for them to take the risk on Blackmon and hope he doesn't bust. With Blaine Gabbert as his QB, though, the chances of failure increase. 

8. Miami Dolphins (6-10): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina 

The popular pick at No. 8 is Ryan Tannehill, but that's way too much of a risk for the Dolphins to take in my opinion. With Brandon Marshall gone, Miami really needs a gifted playmaker to help the offense out, and selecting Jeffery is the Dolphins' best bet. 

9. Carolina Panthers (6-10): Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina 

Coples is an absolute monster in the trenches, fighting his way into the backfield to disrupt plays.

His attitude is in question, and he had a poor season a year ago, which prompts people to believe he'll be a bust. 

However, Coples has tremendous talent, and if he puts his mind to it, he can easily take home the defensive ROY award. 

Cople has amazing potential, and if he plays his cards right, he'll excel in the early going, proving his doubters wrong. 

10. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame 

The Bills need help on defense, but they know they also have to keep up with the Patriots. Because of that, they'll draft Floyd in hopes of building a more elite offense. 

11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): David DeCastro, G, Stanford 

The Chiefs have options here, but boosting the offensive line with the best interior lineman in the draft in DeCastro is their safest bet. 

12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Nick Perry, DE, USC 

Seattle could also think about Ryan Tannehill here, but getting an explosive pass-rusher like Perry to bolster the defense is the smart move, especially since head coach Pete Carroll and Perry have the USC connection. 

13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina  

Ingram is a stud defender that will make a major impact for the Cardinals. 

Arizona will hope Floyd falls their way, but if he gets picked before the Cardinals are on the clock, the next best option for them is to upgrade the pass-rush. 

Ingram thrives on getting into the backfield. He'll waste no time in making his presence known in the NFL, terrorizing opposing QBs as he contends for the defensive ROY. 

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Boosting the secondary is a must for the Cowboys, and they're quite high on Barron right now, which makes a lot of sense. Safety is a big need for Dallas, and Barron happens to be far and above the best one in the draft class. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College  

Kuechly is a tackling machine, which will help him contend for the defensive ROY. 

He plays all over the field, something the Eagles will love. Whether he's in the backfield getting after the QB, stuffing the run by drilling running backs in the hole or out in coverage, Kuechly does it all.

Philadelphia needs better depth on D if it's going to win it all, and adding Kuechly will be a fantastic move. The Eagles will get him for depth and then realize they've landed a star.  

16. New York Jets (8-8): Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama  

The Jets might think about a playmaking wideout here, but addressing the need at the outside linebacker position is a much better choice, especially with Upshaw still on the board. 

Upshaw doesn't have elite speed, but he plays with great passion and a ton of intensity, which Rex Ryan and the Jets will love. 

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK 8-8): Lamar Miller, RB, Miami  

This is a little high for Miller, but the Bengals take the gamble because of his blazing speed. They know BenJarvus Green-Ellis won't be able to do it alone, so adding Miller to the mix is the right call. 

18. San Diego Chargers (8-8): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa   

The Chargers need to get better protection for Philip Rivers, and Reiff is the best option here at No. 18. 

19. Chicago Bears (8-8): Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford 

Jay Cutler can't be on the ground a ton this season, or else the Bears won't be winning big. Drafting Martin to give Cutler more protection and create huge holes for Matt Forte would be a wise decision for Chicago. 

20. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina 

With the best pass-rushers of the board, the Titans play it smart and draft Gilmore to fix another need. There's no need to reach on a defensive end here when such a talent like Gilmore is still up for grabs. 

21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama  

Jenkins has major character concerns, but with such remarkable skills in coverage and in the return game, the Bengals will overlook his character and hope he stays out of trouble. 

22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL 10-6): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor   

The Browns continue to make smart decisions by addressing their biggest needs on offense. Adding another playmaker like Wright will significantly help Colt McCoy and Cleveland get better. 

23. Detroit Lions (10-6): Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia                              

Cornerback is an option here, especially with Kirkpatrick still on the board, but Glenn is too talented to let walk away. Matthew Stafford needs to stay safe, and Glenn will make sure he does. 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Kirkpatrick will be a great fit for the Steelers, a team in dire need of getting young on defense, especially in the secondary. 

25. Denver Broncos (8-8): Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis  

Denver's biggest need is at defensive tackle, and it has plenty of options here. However, Poe is the one the Broncos need to take because his combination of size, strength and speed will be a warm welcome in Denver. 

26. Houston Texans (10-6): Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech  

If the Texans want to win a Super Bowl, they need to get someone to help get pressure off Andre Johnson. Since Hill is exceptionally fast, he'll force opposing defenses to worry about him, freeing up Johnson from time to time. 

27. New England Patriots (via NOLA 13-3): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin  

Bill Belichick won't pass on the chance to stack his offensive line with the best possible talent. Konz is still available thanks to a run at defenders, and the Patriots will pick him for their future instead of getting a defender to help right now. 

28. Green Bay Packers (15-1): Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois 

Mercilus had 16 sacks this past season, but it was his only good season in college. Despite that, the Packers will bring him in to work opposite of Clay Matthews, instantly making Green Bay much more dangerous on defense. 

29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama 

Offensive line is a need for the Ravens, but Hightower is the best available, and it would benefit Baltimore much more by drafting him to be the next Ray Lewis as opposed to reaching on an OL.

30. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State 

The 49ers did a tremendous job during free agency, so all of their draft picks will be to help with depth and the future of the franchise. An OG would be ideal here, but there's no point in reaching on one when the 49ers can get a gifted big man to help strengthen the aging defensive line. 

31. New England Patriots (13-3):  Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

This pick will probably be traded, but for once, the Patriots should hold steady and keep it to fix needs immediately. Branch will be a big boost to the defensive line. 

32. New York Giants (9-7):  Chris Polk, RB, Washington 

Brandon Jacobs departed to San Francisco, leaving the Giants with a hole in the backfield. Polk can do it all from the backfield, and he'll be a solid complement running back to Ahmad Bradshaw. 

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