With the 2012 NFL draft kicking off tonight, here are my projections on how the first round will play out. I think that the Cleveland Browns will take wide receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 4, which will have a ripple effect on other teams' plans throughout the rest of the round. Let's take a look at what might happen:
1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is a done deal. They announced it. It makes sense. Good pick.
2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
They traded away a king's ransom in draft picks to get here. It was to get their franchise QB.
3. Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OL, USC
While he may not be as much of a mauler as the Vikings would like, Matt Kalil has the tools to become the type of blind-side protector you can leave on an island with the league's elite pass-rushers. He will help give last year's first-round pick, Christian Ponder, enough time to throw and develop as a passer.
4. Cleveland: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
While Trent Richardson will be tempting, tailbacks have been devalued at the top of the draft. There is no denying his talent, but giving Colt McCoy (or whoever starts at QB) a target like Blackmon is hard to pass up. They will look to get a tailback later in the draft.
5. Tampa Bay: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
He is tough to pass up. A talent like this can do wonders for their offense.
6. St. Louis: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
He is the best player on the board, and he happens to fill a need. Great pick.
7. Jacksonville: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
Jacksonville needs help at almost every position. Cox can give their defense a centerpiece to build around who can step in and make plays right away.
8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tannehill is reunited with his college coach, Mike Sherman, as Miami tries to build a winning franchise again.
9. Carolina: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore stays close to home as the Panthers take arguably the best player available. Ron Rivera will love to have a talent like this to work with.
10. Buffalo: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
This is a steal in my opinion. Kuechly is too talented to pass up at this point. This addition helps the Bills build what is shaping up to be a young and talented front seven.
11. Kansas City: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
This seems like a Scott Pioli pick. Barron is a safe pick who can pair up with Eric Berry to make a safety duo that will keep quarterbacks up at night.
12. Seattle: Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina
Coples has the talent to take over a game when he wants to. If Pete Carroll can't get him to play hard consistently, then I don't know who can.
13. Arizona: David DeCastro, OL, Stanford
DeCastro is an immensely talented player at a position Arizona needs help with. He can help pave running lanes for Chris Wells and Ryan Williams.
14. Dallas: Whitney Mercilus, DL/LB, Illinois
An explosive edge rusher to help last year's 23rd-ranked pass defense. DeMarcus Ware and Mercilus on the same field is a sight that will make quarterbacks cringe.
15. Philadelphia: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU
Brockers gives the Eagles someone in the middle who can help stop the run and keep blockers off their linebackers.
16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd gives both high-profile quarterbacks a talented target. They should be able to prove themselves while throwing to Floyd, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller.
17. Cincinnati: Riley Reiff, OL, Iowa
Reiff provides good value at a position they can use help at. He will help keep Andy Dalton on his feet.
18. San Diego: Nick Perry, DL/LB, USC
San Diego needs an explosive playmaker on defense.
19. Chicago: Mike Adams, OL, Ohio State
Chicago needs help on their offensive line in the worst way. They may be willing to forget about Mike Adams' off-field issues for that reason.
20. Tennessee: Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
Chris Johnson is the centerpiece of their offense. They need a guy like Glenn to open holes for him. Not to mention they need to protect Jake Locker when he takes over at quarterback.
21. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick can pair up with Leon Hall to form a nice corner duo like they had when Johnathan Joseph.
22. Cleveland: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Martin's hard running style and three-down skill set will help Cleveland forget they passed on Trent Richardson.
23. Detroit: Melvin Ingram, DL/LB, South Carolina
Ingram gives Jim Schwartz a new toy to play with. His versatility will fit in well with their rotation.
24. Pittsburgh: Dontari Poe, DL, Memphis
Casey Hampton is getting old. Dontari Poe has limitless potential but is still raw. They can form a deadly duo while rotating at nose. At the same time, Hampton can slowly pass on the reins while Poe learns from one of the best.
25. Denver: Jerel Worthy, DL, Michigan State
His talent is undeniable. John Fox will try to get the most out of him while filling a position of need.
26. Houston: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wright can give Houston an explosive and speedy receiving threat while taking pressure off of Andre Johnson.
27. New England: Andre Branch, DE/LB, Clemson
Branch has shown ability to rush the passer with his hand on the ground or while standing up, something New England needs very badly.
28. Green Bay: Courtney Upshaw, DL/LB, Alabama
Upshaw is a talented player who can play with his hand down or up. He will be hard to pass up for a team that needs more talent in their front seven.
29. Baltimore: Peter Kontz, OL, Wisconsin
Whether he plays center or guard, Kontz can bring a smart and physical presence to Baltimore's offensive line. Good pick for a team that is always looking to be more physical than their opponents.
30. San Francisco: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
A familiar face for Jim Harbaugh as he looks to add weapons for Alex Smith to throw to.
31. New England: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
More defensive help for New England as they look to return to the Super Bowl.
32. New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler, OL, Wisconsin
The Giants have no glaring needs and can stick to their big board here. Zeitler is the best player available, in my opinion, and he can push for a starting spot immediately for the defending Super Bowl champions.
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