NFL Draft 2012: Best-Case Draft Scenarios for All 32 NFL Teams
Surprises are the most exciting, most anticipated element of the NFL draft.
We all know that Andrew Luck is going first overall to the Colts and Robert Griffin III second to the Redskins. But after that it's anybody's guess.
Even in the early portion of the first round, there will no doubt be some kind of shocker that no one saw coming, via a trade, a reach or just a team taking a position that seems like they don't need.
But those surprises affect more than just the team or teams involved. They affect every team throughout the remainder of the draft as well, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the better.
Say the Browns pass on Trent Richardson at No. 4: that means a team down the line can take the Alabama star. Or if the Jaguars or Seahawks pass on Michael Floyd, then the Bills can land him.
One for each team, here are circumstances that every GM, head coach and fan would like to see play out.
New York Giants
Best Case Scenario: Coby Fleener Slides to No. 32
We'll start with a scenario that I think has a great chance of playing out.
Yes, Fleener had an incredible pro day at Stanford, comes from a system that is very NFL-ready and has a relationship with Jim Harbaugh, but I just can't see the 49ers spending their top choice on a position where they already have a young star (Vernon Davis) locked up long-term.
Since the next club selecting, the Patriots, already seems to have the tight end position reasonably locked down (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez), they won't select Fleener.
That leaves the Giants free to take the former Cardinal as a huge upgrade to a position that is even weaker now, given the injuries to Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard.
Best Case Scenario: David DeCastro Slides Past the Chiefs and Cardinals
Not to (ever-so-slightly) knock another former Stanford player, but I can't get behind all this love for David DeCastro.
Guards just don't go that high, and while he may be able to play tackle, that just doesn't seem likely right out of the gate.
Having said that, I think the Chiefs and Cardinals should look elsewhere for a guard. The Cardinals don't have a second-round choice and really should try to get another outside backer. Besides, Russ Grimm should be able to make a competent guard. And the Chiefs are reportedly showing a lot of interest in Luke Kuechly.
The Cowboys signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but if DeCastro is really as good (and strong) as the experts say, then he's worth a surplus at guard.
Best Case Scenario: Michael Brockers Survives First 14 Picks
The Dream Team II's dream would be to add a stud interior defensive lineman to help Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Trent Cole and the rest of that front four.
And while there are a handful of excellent defensive tackles in this draft, I think LSU's Brockers is the best fit in Philly.
Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy are all (roughly) first-round talents, but Brockers is so big, strong and athletic that he has to have Jim Washburn drooling.
Cox does seem to be the front-runner for the top DT spot, but that all depends on which team selects him, and Brockers might prove to be a better fit for Jacksonville, Carolina, Kansas City or whoever wants a big man inside.
Best Case Scenario: Trade with St. Louis Gets Overshadowed By RG3 Hype
Let's face it, Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan and the rest of the Redskins front office may as well sleep in on Thursday and Friday: they really don't have any decisions to make until the early portion of the third round.
They're going to take Robert Griffin III, and they dealt away their second rounder to move up to get him.
So Washington has gone all-in in a way, and that's hard to justify when the Skins were a pretty mediocre team last year. It's not quite the Saints dealing everything for Ricky Williams, but it's the same ballpark.
Shanahan, Allen and Daniel Snyder have to hope that all the excitement and hype around RG3 overshadows the fact that they aren't likely to immediately improve at any position other than quarterback.
New Orleans Saints
Best Case Scenario: Brandon Taylor Still Available in 3rd Round
The Saints really mortgaged their future over the last two years: first via the Mark Ingram, Jr. deal that cost them their first-rounder in 2012, and then the Bounty Gate scandal that cost them their second-rounder in 2012.
So the best bet they have to improve through the draft doesn't come until near the end of the third round.
And although most of the Bounty Gate attention relating to player suspensions centers around Jonathan Vilma, it's a good bet that others will be punished.
Roman Harper is one such semi-star who'll probably miss a few games, and since he'll be 30 during this season, the should seek out an understudy.
So given where they are selecting, the best bet to add depth might be LSU's Brandon Taylor, whom not many people are talking about. He's undersized and hasn't gotten nearly the amount of attention as Mark Barron or even Harrison Smith, but he had a good pro day and was a two-year starer in one of college football's best defenses.
Best Case Scenario: Thomas Dimitroff Resists Urge To Trade Up
Last year, the Falcons' deal to acquire Julio Jones was one of the most divisive, controversial moves of the entire draft.
And while the results of that have been mixed after one year—Jones had a fantastic rookie season, but technically the Falcons took a step back as a team—a far bigger mistake would be trying to pull off another draft day move.
Going after Jones put Atlanta in a hole in terms of draft choices, one they have to suck up and endure this year. In short, they really could have used that 22nd overall choice to fill needs at linebacker or tackle.
They'll probably get an offer from a team looking to move out of their first-round choice, but there's really no player that they can go after that would justify such a move.
Best Case Scenario: Alshon Jeffery Still Available at No. 40
Wide receiver isn't the Panthers' top need to be addressed during the draft: it's unlikely that they'll spend that ninth pick on Michael Floyd, even if he's still available.
But it is a need position since Steve Smith is about to turn 33 and they lost Legedu Naanee to the Dolphins.
By passing up Floyd at No. 9, they'll almost certainly miss out on that top crop of pass catchers that follow: Kendall Wright, Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill. But Alshon Jeffery probably will survive that late, depending on what the Vikings, Browns and Jaguars do right ahead of them at the start of the second round.
Assuming those other clubs land a wideout in the first round or simply pass on Jeffery, the Panthers will be fortunate to take a talented pass-catcher with great leaping ability.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best Case Scenario: The Rams Pass on Doug Martin In Second Round
While selecting Trent Richardson would certainly not be a "bad" first draft day decision for new head coach Greg Schiano, I do think it's a mistake: they have LeGarrette Blount and there are bigger needs, especially if Aqib Talib is dealt.
Still, that doesn't mean the Bucs should entirely forget about adding to the running back stable, and early in the second day they'd like to have their pick of any running back in the draft not named Trent Richardson.
If that's the case, they'll probably target Doug Martin from Boise State, but there is one team ahead of them on Day 2 that also will have an interest in a running back.
The Rams are reportedly shopping Steven Jackson, which could open the door for them to take Richardson. If they do, the Bucs should be home free to land Martin on Day 2. If they don't, St. Louis will likely grab Martin with the first pick of the second round.
Green Bay Packers
Best Case Scenario: Trading Up
I'm going out on a limb here, but I think it's a move they should consider.
The Pack need one player right now: a star edge pass-rusher, either a defensive end or outside linebacker.
Sure, they can spend their late-first and late-second round choices on one of each, but why not consider bundling the two to get a really big name?
Plenty of those mid-first round teams will consider moving out of their spot once they see the player they target has surprisingly come off the board. That always seems to happen in the first round.
If Green Bay moves into (for example) the 15th or 16th spot and can take someone like Quinton Coples, Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram, they'd instantly upgrade that pass-rush.
Best Case Scenario: Josh Robinson Slips to Late Second Round
Despite the best season the franchise has had in well over a decade, the Lions do have some noticeable holes to fill this offseason.
Due to the presumption that Jeff Backus is near the end of his career, there is a need for a tackle. And while the two interior lineman are fantastic, there's also been mention of a need for a defensive end: Kyle Vanden Bosch will be 34 this season. When they pick at No. 23, there are going to be some excellent fits for both those positions.
Now cornerback is certainly an issue—they lost Eric Wright to the Bucs via free agency and have been torched by opposing offense—that alone doesn't mean they have to spend a top pick, especially since there is a fine prospect possibly available down the road.
Robinson runs with tremendous speed and has a great frame at over 200 pounds. He's a great second-tier option for a defense that is all about the front four.
Best Case Scenario: Mohamed Sanu Still Available at No. 79
This is a best-case scenario that I think is a long shot.
The Bears are going to do whatever they think is right with those first two picks, be it drafting a defensive end or an offensive tackle or a linebacker.
They're just not going to spend one of those two choices on a wide receiver when they traded for Brandon Marshall. They should, but they won't.
They'll hold out hope that a good, not great, wide receiving prospect is still on the board. And maybe that wish will come true.
Mohamed Sanu has all the tools to be a first-round pick: size, hands, leaping ability, strength, route running. Everything, except a decent (let alone good) time in the 40-yard dash.
That will scare every team off from making him a first- and likely a second-round pick, but because five or six wide receivers will come off the board in the first 80 or so selections, there's a chance he falls to the Bears at No. 79.
Best Case Scenario: Someone Panics Over Ryan Tannehill
The Vikings will make a wise and solid, if not excellent, choice at the third overall spot in this draft: all signs point to them taking Matt Kalil, and he very well could become a perennial All Pro.
But given the haul that the Rams received for trading out of the second spot and all the buzz over Ryan Tannehill, they'll do even better if they can trade down.
Whether it's a trade with Cleveland or Miami or whoever, the Vikings will still likely get a high first-round choice. More importantly, they'll probably also get a second-rounder or two or maybe even a first-rounder next year.
It may be tough for the front office and fans to realize, since they were an overtime interception away from the Super Bowl just two years ago, but this team is in full-rebuild mode, and Matt Kalil won't instantly make them a contender.
San Francisco 49ers
Best Case Scenario: Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle Remain on the Board at No. 30
It's a surprise, at least to me, that 49ers fans and mock drafters out there would be so inclined to look at Coby Fleener as their top choice, rather than a wide receiver. Just because a college coach moves to the NFL doesn't mean he'll draft or sign all his former players: take Pete Carroll with Matt Leinart, or Butch Davis with Clinton Portis.
Instead, I think if the 49ers are going to add a pass-catcher, it should be a wide receiver. Mario Manningham is not a No. 1 receiver, Michael Crabtree has been something of a disappointment and Randy Moss is a total long shot at being productive ever again.
So if the 49ers do target a wideout, they'll have to hold out hope that one of the two lower-end, top-tier wide receivers are still there: Stephen Hill and Rueben Randle.
One or both are a good bet to be off the board by the time the 49ers select, but it's not a given, and the 49ers should cross their fingers that someone makes a choice or two that shakes up the perceived order of things.
Best Case Scenario: Trading Down in the 1st Round
My minor indignation over teams spending a reasonably early choice on a guard like David DeCastro extends first to the Chiefs, but second to the Cardinals.
Can they use a player like DeCastro? Absolutely, especially if he turns out to be a fine guard. But they have Daryn Colledge and should be pretty confident in Russ Grimm's ability to make a fine guard out of what they have or with a third-round choice.
That's the gamble they should take, considering the top-notch outside linebacker/pass-rusher talent available later on in the first round. Whether it's Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus, Shea McClellin or Nick Perry, they can pair Sam Acho with another excellent young outside backer and perhaps reclaim a second-round choice (they lost one in the Kevin Kolb trade) in the process.
If they can find a club (Green Bay? New England?) eager to climb into the first half of the draft, they should make the deal.
Best Case Scenario: Kevin Zeitler Survives First 42 Picks
Another scenario tethered to David DeCastro.
There's been talk of the Stanford guard going to Seattle as well, but the Seahawks are best served spending that 12th overall choice on a defensive end, not a guard. (Again, I renew my objection that guards should not get drafted in the first 14 picks.)
If they do land one of the premier pass-rushers, like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram, there, then they can hold out hope that a guard is available to them when they select in Day 2. That's possible.
After DeCastro and Cordy Glenn, Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler is the best guard in this draft, but because the teams picking early on in Day 2 are really desperate for skill position players, he might slide through.
St. Louis Rams
Best Case Scenario: Jerel Worthy Slides To Second Round
Throughout this entire draft process, there have been 30-40 names that people throw into their mock drafts as first-round picks. That means someone who just about everyone expects to be a Day 1 choice will wind up going to bed Thursday night without a new team.
The Rams hope that turns out to be Jerel Worthy.
They clearly need another defensive tackle after cutting Fred Robbins, but couple the rumors about them trading Steven Jackson and their need for a wide receiver, and they won't go after Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers at No. 6.
But since they do have the top pick in the second round, and there are a handful of DTs (Cox, Brockers, Dontari Poe) who'll be gone before him, he might slide. The Packers, Broncos and maybe the 49ers will all show interest in Worthy, but they too have other needs.
New England Patriots
Best Case Scenario: Trading Up
For years the Patriots have been masters of trading down; this year, if they can find a partner, they should show an interest in trading up.
They have the capitol to bundle several of those first-, second- and third-round choices and send them to a team that has far more needs. Maybe that's climbing all the way up into the top 10 so they can land Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram or some stud pass-rusher.
That pass defense is not shaky because of the secondary, but because of the inability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And, with their depth on both sides of the ball, adding one stud defensive end or outside linebacker is a better fit than three pretty good ones.
New York Jets
Best Case Scenario: Mike Tannenbaum Resists the Urge to Draft Dontari Poe
Peter King's latest mock draft suggests not only that the Jets will take Poe with their first pick, but they should. I respectfully disagree, and not for the conventional reasons: you know, that they took a defensive tackle with their first-round pick last year, or that Poe is the next Mike Mamula or that he takes plays off.
No, I just feel that the outside linebacker is a much bigger need for the Jets' defense, and waiting until the middle of the second round will cost them a shot at a true impact player.
Courtney Upshaw is probably a less "sexy" pick (as strange as that seems since Poe is an interior lineman, but if his combine numbers are gaudy enough that the President of the United States is talking about him, he's a bigger name right now), but he or Whitney Mercilus is a better fit.
Best Case Scenario: Michael Floyd Slips To No. 10
This one's fairly simple.
The Bills need another wide receiver and there's a chance that the talented Floyd is still on the board when they are on the clock. Buddy Nix and his staff will have to sweat over it, while the Jaguars, Panthers and maybe even the Dolphins choose, but there's still a good shot at him being there.
Buffalo certainly has other needs, but Stevie Johnson is far from reliable, and Ryan Fitzpatrick needs more weapons.
Best Case Scenario: No One Trades Up to Take Ryan Tannehill
The biggest no-brainer on this list.
Considering everything that has gone wrong with the Dolphins in the last year, if they trade up to draft Ryan Tannehill (and make no mistake about it, they'd pay through the nose to do so, even if it's moving up just five spots), they'll be panned in the media.
Maybe that's not motivation to not do something, but it's certainly going all-in on a player who has limited experience under/behind center.
Having said that, simply drafting Tannehill (and not trading up for him) is not a bad decision for Miami. They are in the market for a quarterback, Tannehill is very familiar with new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and he is exceptionally talented.
So, fingers crossed, the Browns won't draft Tannehill at No. 4, and no other mystery team moves up to do so, either.
Best Case Scenario: A Top Offensive Tackle Slips To No. 26
The loss of Eric Winston isn't a crushing blow to the Texans: yes, he is a good tackle, but he's not Anthony Munoz or Orlando Pace.
And although it does threaten to disrupt the chemistry of an offensive line that produced a NFL rushing champion two years ago, in the long run, I think they can upgrade via this year's draft.
With all the hype over Ryan Tannehill, Dontari Poe, Luke Kuechly and Mark Barron, a few of the names who were tabbed as high picks a few months ago will take a minor drop on draft day, even if it's only a handful of spaces.
Either Stanford's Jonathan Martin or Iowa's Riley Reiff might fall into that category. It's not a matter of Martin or Reiff "not being good"—drafts just shift based on need.
Should either fall, the Texans will be there to scoop him up in a heartbeat.
Best Case Scenario: Andre Branch Slips To No. 52
The Titans are one of the more difficult teams to get a handle on in these mock drafts. Many see them zeroing in on a defensive end, an exceptionally wise decision.
But corner might be a more pressing need, and since there is more depth in this draft at the defensive end spot, that might be a risk Ruston Webster has to take.
Let's say the Titans land Dre Kirkpatrick 20th overall. If they can grab a very promising defensive end to pair with that talented linebacking corps and two very good defensive tackles, it's worth it.
The name that should pop up in that scenario is Clemson's Andre Branch. He's flown under the radar a bit and won't be a Day 1 choice, but he's loaded with talent and is excellent at causing turnovers.
Will he slip that far? Who knows, but since he is undersized (260) and didn't have an amazing combine, I could see it.
Best Case Scenario: Trade Down
Although they have other needs on defense, I still think the Jags have to add a wide receiver to complement Laurent Robinson. They are that thin at wide receiver.
Blaine Gabbert had a shaky rookie season, which is fine. But make it two—in light of the strong early showings by Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and even Jake Locker and Christian Ponder—and people will start to throw the bust label around. Especially since they traded up to get him.
Yes, at the seventh overall spot they could land Michael Floyd (all bets are off if Justin Blackmon were to last this long), but that's a reach. And moving back a dozen or so spots would allow them to add a second-rounder and take a look at Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle.
With (perhaps) a second second-round choice as a result of this deal, they can shore up their needs on defense.
Best Case Scenario: Kendall Wright Slides to No. 34
I'm going to go out on a limb—well, maybe not a limb, but a very thick branch—with this entry.
For months it was relatively a foregone conclusion that Kendall Wright was going to be the third wide receiver taken in the NFL draft, behind Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd.
But given their ideal size and great 40 times, I think both Stephen Hill and Rueben Randle will usurp the Baylor star for that title, dropping Wright down to the fifth receiver selected.
That would be music to new Colts GM Ryan Grigson's ears.
Despite bringing Reggie Wayne back, there is a major void to fill at wide receiver since Pierre Garçon and Anthony Gonzalez left, and Austin Collie has concussion issues.
Wright would be an ideal selection with the 34th overall choice (assuming the Rams don't jump on him), and since he's already used to playing with a top notch QB, he should be a great match with Andrew Luck.
Best Case Scenario: Dont'a Hightower Lasts Through the First 28 Selections
The Ravens fancy themselves Super Bowl contenders this (and every) year, so spending a first-round pick on an eventual replacement for one of their stars, rather than a player who can step in and contribute right away, isn't ideal.
Fortunately, however, if Baltimore is able to land Dont'a Hightower with their first-round pick, they'll get both in one player.
Hightower is the perfect fit to be Ray Lewis' heir apparent: he's a leader and a great inside linebacker. But he can also play that other inside backer spot in certain situations and make an impact that way as well.
Really, the only road block in terms of the Ravens landing Hightower is a familiar one: their AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Best Case Scenario: LaMichael James Stays On The Board Past No. 85
This one is way out of left field, but aren't you tired of the same old predictions? And that includes whether or not the Steelers will take Dont'a Hightower, Dontari Poe or an offensive lineman.
With the injury to Rashard Mendenahll, the Steelers have a vacancy at running back.
They like John Clay and Jonathan Dwyer as short-yardage guys, and Isaac Redman will do a nice job filling in for Mendenhall for a while. But Mewelde Moore hasn't been re-signed, and he was their best third down runner/pass-catcher.
Even if he's not regarded as a premier pass-catcher, former Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James is an interesting option for the Steelers.
He blocks decently for his size, has great vision and ran a 4.45 at the combine. He'd make a great outlet option for Ben Roethlisberger on third down and a nice change-of-pace back....if no one pulls him off the board during the early-to-mid parts of the third round.
Best Case Scenario: Luke Kuechly Slides To No. 17
Many of the experts out there are ogling Kuechly because he showed such incredible athleticism at the combine, but over time GMs and head coaches probably temper some of their zeal for workout warriors and come back to the basics of on-the-field play.
Still, that's not the reason why I think Kuechly's draft stock is being slightly overvalued.
By most accounts, he's a 4-3 mike backer, where he played at Boston College. But fewer and fewer teams are running straight 4-3s these days, and that greatly limits where he may wind up. And it's not an easy simple switch to the 3-4 for him....granted, it's not for almost any front-seven player, but I think it's toughest for the inside guys.
So since the Eagles (DeMeco Ryans) and the Chiefs are unwilling to try and stick him into their 3-4 scheme (I'm not sure why they need to spend another high pick on a front-seven player anyway), then Kuechly will have to wait until the first round is half over to be selected.
And while Kuechly would be a nice fit for the Seahawks, there are a few players out there (Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram) that, if still on the board, they have to go after instead.
Luckily for him, the Bengals—who aren't married to Rey Maualuga—will go after him.
Best Case Scenario: Tom Heckert Resists Urge To Take A Quarterback In Round 1 or 2
In some ways, I'm entirely against the Browns taking a quarterback at all: I don't think Colt McCoy has been given enough time or nearly enough talent to be successful.
But I'd be especially leery of taking a quarterback in the first two rounds, mainly because their two options will be Big 12 quarterbacks with relatively huge question marks attached to them.
We all know the knocks on Tannehill: his lack of refinement as a quarterback. So while the Browns probably will have a shot at taking him fourth overall, it's not a smart move: Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon or even Morris Claiborne will provide a much greater need.
And as for Brandon Weeden, who will be 30 in the middle of his second NFL season, he has value and should be a Day 2 pick, but not at the start of the second round....or worse yet, as Peter King suggests, near the end of the first round.
There's too much talent early on and too much potential in Colt McCoy to add another quarterback with zero NFL experience.
Best Case Scenario: Dre Kirkpatrick Slides To No. 25
Keep in mind that one reach and/or surprising selection in the first few hours Thursday night can shake up everything for the rest of the draft, especially in the first round.
So while Dre Kirkpatrick has almost always been considered a top-20 pick, seeing him slide to 25 isn't entirely out of the question, especially since there are two corners ahead of him (Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore) on virtually everyone's draft board.
And if history is any indication, three corners haven't been drafted in the Top 25 since 2008, so seeing Kirkpatrick slide a few spots isn't unprecedented.
The Broncos have been hinting at a need for corner upgrade, despite having the great Champ Bailey. They lost Jonathan White to the Bears and cut Andre' Goodman, and although they signed Tracy Porter, it was only to a one-year deal.
Best Case Scenario: Orson Charles Remains On The Board Through End of Round 3
Like the Saints and Falcons, the Raiders won't get in on the first-round fun, but—for the first time in years—that won't prevent them from being considered a viable playoff team.
And while they could look to fill some of those defensive voids with the seventh or eighth best linebacker or the seventh or eighth best guard, they might be better off going for the third best tight end: Georgia's Orson Charles.
They are pretty thin at the position, and Charles might slip through the cracks near the end of the second day, when the Raiders will conclude the third round with the final pick.
Amongst all the other great prospects, most notably Stanford's Coby Fleener, Charles hasn't gotten much notoriety, but he's very strong (35 reps at the combine) and has been a big contributor to the Bulldogs' offense the last three years. That relatively short (6'3") height, however, could make teams literally and figuratively overlook him.
Kansas City Chiefs
Best Case Scenario: Trade Down
As appealing as Luke Kuechly is to some, he's a reach at No. 11, and inside linebacker shouldn't be an overwhelming need for the Chiefs....especially since there should be some concern about Kuechly's place in 3-4 scheme.
So why not move down and take advantage of one of those 4-3 teams who does overvalue Kuechly?
Stepping back to roughly Nos. 15-25 would allow the Chiefs to take a name that can have more of an instant impact: Cordy Glenn, who can provide the versatility at both tackle and guard, or maybe even a wide receiver like Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle in preparation for Dwayne Bowe's leaving.
San Diego Chargers
Best Case Scenario: Mark Barron Slips Past Cowboys at No. 14, Jets at No. 16
In some ways, Barron is a late-riser during this whole draft process because he missed the combine's workouts. But as the "quarterback" of two national championship defenses, he's starting to get tons of attention. Where as he wasn't really on many mockers first-round list a few months back, he's now expected to come off the board in the first half of the first round.
The Cowboys have reportedly shown a ton of interest, but they also have eyes for David DeCastro. If that's who Jerry Jones targets, Barron will also get a perusing over from the Jets, who signed LaRon Landry, but only for one year and are probably concerned about his Achilles.
Still, he's no lock for that Jets' defense, largely because his Alabama teammate Courtney Upshaw is a good fit there at outside linebacker.
So the Chargers, who are looking to fill the strong safety void that Steve Gregory created by leaving for New England, could grab Barron.