2012 NFL Mock Draft
Since the 2012 NFL draft is tonight, it's time to make a final projection about what teams will do with their first-round picks.
Let's be honest, though, no matter what the "experts" predict, the final decision comes down to the NFL teams themselves.
One surprising first-round pick can throw any mock draft out the window.
With that being said, here is my 2012 NFL mock draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
If any mock draft has this pick wrong, that writer's credentials should be burned. It already has been announced that the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the first overall pick.
The last time the Colts committed to a quarterback with the first-overall pick was in 1998. It's safe to say that worked out pretty well for them.
2. Washington Redskins (From St. Louis Rams): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Now that Andrew Luck is off the board, it's time to select the next best quarterback in this year's draft.
Robert Griffin III is a quarterback first, athlete second. Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan finally gets a quarterback who fits his scheme perfectly.
There's really no question that the Redskins will take Griffin. After all, they traded three picks to move up so they could draft him.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Recently, many mock drafts have the Minnesota Vikings selecting LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the third-overall pick. Although that would be a solid selection, I just don't see them doing it.
To help their 26th-ranked pass defense, the Vikings already added cornerbacks Chris Carr and Zackary Bowman this offseason. While those aren't elite cornerbacks, they help improve a secondary that already includes Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook.
The Vikings need a left tackle that can protect quarterback Christian Ponder for the next decade. USC's Matt Kalil is that guy.
He will immediately improve the Vikings' offensive line, which allowed the sixth-most sacks in 2011.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns have no choice but to take Alabama running back Trent Richardson here.
It should be noted that Cleveland also has he 22nd overall pick, a spot they can use to address their needs on the offensive line or at wide receiver.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber is 37 years old. This means it's about time to look for a replacement. LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will be that guy.
Claiborne has an elite skill-set that will help him become one of the NFL's top cornerbacks.
6. St. Louis Rams (From Cleveland): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Some mock drafts have the St. Louis Rams selecting a defensive tackle at this spot. In my opinion, that would be a horrific move for Jeff Fisher to make in his first year as head coach.
That's why I believe the Rams will go with Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. He has a solid frame and the skill-set to be a top receiver for quarterback Sam Bradford.
A quality player at wide receiver could be the missing link for Bradford, who has struggled in his first two years in the NFL.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
With Justin Blackmon off the board, the Jaguars will take Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. Just like the Rams, Jacksonville is desperate for a wide receiver.
If the Jaguars want to see second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert improve, they must give him a weapon at the receiver position.
It would be an ill-advised move for Jacksonville to go any other direction with this pick.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Miami Dolphins don't have a choice but to go with quarterback Ryan Tannehill here. Miami has handcuffed itself not being able to bring in a solid quarterback during free agency.
This is why Tannehill gets reunited with former head coach Mike Sherman, who is now the offensive coordinator in Miami.
Hopefully, the Dolphins can bring in wide receivers in the later rounds to help ease Tannehill's transition into the NFL.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Carolina Panthers were ranked 25th in stopping the run last season.
That is why they will bring in the most proven defensive tackle in the draft, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox.
At 6'4, 298 pounds, Cox is a versatile defensive tackle who can blow back any offensive lineman to get in the backfield.
This is exactly what the Panthers need as they look to rebuild their defensive line.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Now that the two best receivers are off the board, the Buffalo Bills will address left tackle, their next position of need. That is why Buffalo will select Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who will be a pillar on the Bills' offensive line.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
It's difficult to find a mock draft that doesn't have the Kansas City Chiefs taking Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Well, lucky for you, here's one that is different from the norm.
While the Chiefs could select David DeCastro here, I believe they will focus on the guard position later in the draft.
That is why the Chiefs will select Alabama safety Mark Barron. By doing this, they can move Eric Berry to free safety and put Barron at strong safety.
If the Chiefs do take Barron, there will be much speculation that this safety tandem could become the NFL's best.
Therefore, don't be surprised if Kansas City does make this move.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
This is another spot where linebacker Luke Kuechly could go. However, I see the Seahawks deciding to upgrade their pass rush by drafting South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram.
Ingram might be the best pass-rusher in the draft and is a significant upgrade to the players currently on Seattle's roster.
Plus, I believe Seattle's signing of middle linebacker Barrett Ruud gives them a reason to not draft Kuechly here.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Arizona Cardinals would love to see a receiver such as Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd fall here. If neither drops, the Cardinals will look to upgrade their offensive line.
Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin could be the answer for a unit that allowed the second-most sacks in the league last season.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Now that safety Mark Barron is off the board, the Dallas Cowboys will have to look toward upgrading their defensive line. Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe is the kind of player you dream of having in a 3-4 defense.
At 6'3", 346 pounds, Poe is an absolute freak. At the combine, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times. Plus, he ran a 4.98 40-yard dash.
Pretty outstanding for a guy his size.
Poe will be a force at nose tackle if he can take coaching and lose a little weight.
The Cowboys are taking a chance by drafting Poe, as he didn't have the most productive college career.
However, if he plays up to his potential, Poe could end up being one of the top nose tackles in the NFL.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles struggled to defend the run. This was attributed to poor linebacker play.
This offseason, the Eagles traded for Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans. While that could solve some of their problems, the Eagles still aren't complete linebacker.
That is why they will be extremely happy when Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly falls to them.
By drafting Kuechly, the Eagles will have two inside linebackers. The solution? Kick either Kuechly or Ryans to an outside linebacker position.
That way, the Eagles will have two good linebackers on the field, instead of just one.
It's simple math.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been desperate to find a 3-4 outside linebacker with the ability to rush the passer. With the 16th pick in this year's draft, Ryan has several pass-rushers from which to choose.
The player who stands out the most, however, is outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. At Alabama, Upshaw got extensive work at that spot in the 3-4, which should ease Upshaw's transition to the Jets' scheme.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Cincinnati Bengals need a cornerback, interior offensive lineman and a receiver to complement A.J Green. The Bengals can get a solid corner with their 21st overall pick and a quality receiver in the second round.
That is why they will quickly jump on Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro with their first pick of Round 1. If DeCastro falls here, the Bengals will be getting one of the top interior linemen of this year's draft.
Guard is a huge position of need for the Bengals and protecting quarterback Andy Dalton is essential to their success.
That's the main reason why this pick makes complete sense.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
In the past week, Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones has been rising up draft boards and has often been projected to go to the San Diego Chargers.
Personally, I just can't see the Chargers taking a chance on another "project player."
That is why I have them going with the safer pick of Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus. He recorded 16 sacks in 2011 and is one of the more proven pass-rushers in the draft.
19. Chicago Bears: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Look no further, Quinton Coples' draft slide will come to an end at the 19th overall pick. This defensive end out of North Carolina is a perfect fit for the Chicago Bears 4-3 defense.
Coples should excel as a pass-rusher while also drawing attention away from DE Julius Peppers. Plus, Coples has the ability to move inside to defensive tackle, if needed.
20. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Titans could go a number of directions with this pick. They have needs at defensive end, interior offensive line and wide receiver.
The Titans have two good cornerbacks in Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty. But when they see South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore fall to them, they have no choice but to pick him.
This is especially true with the New England Patriots coming to Nashville in Week 1 of the 2012 season.
The NFL has developed into a passing league. Therefore, it doesn't hurt to have too many good cornerbacks on the roster.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Cincinnati brought in cornerback Terrance Newman this offseason to help aid an ailing secondary. However, that won't be enough as the Bengals corners are both banged up and aged.
Cornerback Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles injury, while Nate Clements is turning 33 this upcoming season. Not to mention, Newman will be turning 34 this year.
To put some youth in the secondary, the Bengals will draft Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. With his athletic ability and size, Kirkpatrick has the potential to be an elite pass-defender in the NFL. For a team that plays the Steelers and Ravens two times each every season, cornerback is a necessity.
If neither Kirkpatrick nor Stephon Gilmore falls here, look for the Bengals to draft a receiver to play opposite A.J. Green.
22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
With their second pick of the first round, the Cleveland Browns will take Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright.
Although the Browns could go with an offensive tackle, such as Cordy Glenn, they will instead look to give quarterback Colt McCoy another weapon.
Wright has the ability to start right away and will get many looks playing across from Greg Little.
23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, T, Georgia
The Lions would love to see cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick fall here, as that is the greatest position of need.
Also, I don't see Detroit making a reach for North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Last season, everyone saw how good the Lions could be when quarterback Matthew Stafford stayed healthy. That is why protecting Stafford must be the Lions main priority.
Therefore, the Lions will make a safe pick by drafting Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn. He has the size and the versatility to play offensive guard if needed.
Glenn can become a staple for this shaky o-line.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is aging, but that doesn't mean they are losing their ability to play.
With their first-round pick, the Steelers could look to find a future replacement for nose tackle Casey Hampton or inside linebacker Larry Foote.
With Dontari Poe off the board, the Steelers will look elsewhere to upgrade.
Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower could still be on the board here. However, I see the Steelers trying to solidify their offensive tackle position with this pick. This is why they could take Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams.
Playing in the Big Ten, Adams has faced some of the top defensive linemen in college football and held his own.
Adams should fall here and will be assigned to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the years to come.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Peyton Manning was a magician when it came to hiding the vulnerability of the Colts defense.
Just imagine what Manning could have done in Indianapolis if the Colts had a great defense.
Now that Manning is with the Denver Broncos, he has a great defense to complement his excellent quarterback play.
The only vulnerable spot on Denver's D seems to be the tackle position. At 25th overall, the Broncos are extremely lucky to find that LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers has fallen here.
The main area of concern about Brockers is his inexperience. He left LSU after being only a redshirt-sophomore. However, the Broncos have a lot of wiggle room to take a chance on a player of Brockers' caliber.
26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
The Texans need an explosive playmaker to play opposite wide receiver Andre Johnson. Stephen Hill fits that mold.
At Georgia Tech, Hill was No. 1 in the nation in yards per catch. What concerns me, however, is that he played in a run-first offense, which doesn't require receivers to run complex routes.
But Hill ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine and has enormous upside. If the Texans can be patient and work with him, Hill can become an excellent player for this excellent offense.
27. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
The New England Patriots have needs at defensive end, defensive tackle and safety. With their first pick, the Patriots will Chandler Jones, a defensive end out of Syracuse.
In the past week, Jones' draft stock has soared with many people predicting he may go in the top 20.
Personally, I don't see any teams taking him that early. Therefore, the Patriots may get a steal with the 27th overall pick.
Jones has a lot of potential and should flourish in the Patriots' 4-3 scheme.
28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
At 28th overall, the Green Bay Packers may draft USC defensive end Nick Perry. Last season, he recorded 8.5 sacks and had 54 tackles.
With the Packers using a 3-4 defense, Perry will be used as a pass-rushing outside linebacker while also taking attention away from Clay Matthews.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
The 49ers don't have many needs on either side of the ball. One position they could improve is the offensive guard position.
This is a run-first team. That's why they will take Kevin Zeitler out of Wisconsin. He can start immediately at right guard.
With Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis already on this o-line, Zeitler will help make this group even more special.
31. New England Patriots: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Earlier, the Patriots took care of their need for a pass-rusher by drafting Chandler Jones.
Now, they take care of their need for a defensive tackle with their second pick in the first round.
Here, the Patriots will take Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who is a beast in the interior d-line.
Worthy's numbers don't turn many heads. However, it should be noted he played in the Big Ten, which features some of the top offensive linemen in college football.
With this pick, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets another player with a lot of promise. If Worthy and Chandler Jones play to expectations, the Patriots defense could very well be feared again.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
With the final pick of the first round of the NFL draft, the New York Giants will select Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
Fleener, who was a top target for Andrew Luck at Stanford, can get significant playing time right away.
Yes, the G-Men have several tight ends on their roster. However, Fleener has the potential to be better than Martellus Bennett and Jake Ballard.
The Indianapolis Colts would love to see Fleener fall into Day 2 of the draft. Unfortunately for the Colts, Fleener won't escape the first round.