1. Indianapolis Selects QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
The Draft figures to start off very predictably with an outcome that I have personally seen coming since November of 2009. Andrew Luck will go No.1 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Any talk of Robert Griffin going above him was never any more than nonsense as Luck is the consensus No.1 quarterback in the Draft with very little disagreement amongst scouts.
2. Washington Selects QB Robert Griffin, Baylor
This is an outcome I did not see coming as recently as a week or so before the Redskins pulled the trigger on this trade. Griffin has the feet and arm to execute the offense that Mike Shanahan likes. His tendency to bail on reads and begin improvising will be coached out of him to the best of the Shanahans’ abilities.
3. Minnesota Selects OT Matt Kalil, USC
I am not necessarily buying recent bluffs about not taking Matt Kalil. The Vikings need Christian Ponder to succeed and Rick Spielman has admitted that Ponder played aggressively early in his starting experience in 2011 because he did not know any better. However he started to feel the rush and pressure more and more and it made him gun shy. The Vikings need to reverse that trend, less they have another Blaine Gabbert on their hands.
4. Cleveland Selects RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
I do not believe the Cleveland Browns are truly entertaining the idea of taking Ryan Tannehill at this pick. However, I do believe they are serious about taking Trent Richardson. He fills a very important role in Pat Shurmur’s offense, as the guy that keeps the first down markers moving closer and closer with regularity. Richardson can also improve red zone performance, which is a must.
5. Tampa Bay Selects CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Greg Schiano has some experience with some pretty talented corners at Rutgers and I think he knows that Morris Claiborne is the best defensive player in the Draft. Ronde Barber is ancient and Aqib Talib will soon be out the door.
6. St. Louis Selects WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
There are a lot of games going on in the top ten as teams try and induce other teams to trade up. I am not planning for a surprise this early. I believe the Rams are in a position similar to the Vikings where they have a younger quarterback in jeopardy and need him to succeed in order to sleep better at night. Jeff Fisher took a big chance by trading down and saying no to Robert Griffin. He has to be all in on Bradford and the way to do that is to give him the best weapons possible.
7. Jacksonville Selects LB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
The Jaguars re-signed Jeremy Mincey but must realize that he is not a player that can consistently generate pressure on the quarterback on his own. He is a high effort player that takes advantage of favorable angles and poor blocks. The Jaguars need a player that can stir the drink on the defensive line and they may envision Melvin Ingram as their own version of Von Miller.
8. Miami Selects QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
There is much debate about what the Dolphins will do at this pick. While continuing to mock Tannehill to the Dolphins knowing Jeff Ireland’s history has the feel of the band continuing to play on as the Titanic sank into the ocean, I will keep this pick the way it has been for months. The opportunity to take a player that scouts have a consensus on as the third best quarterback in the Draft, a guy that notches all of the prototypes for size, arm strength, accuracy, feet, ability to make plays when the play breaks down, not to mention 4.5 speed, and oh by the way he was coached in a pro style west coast offense by your current offensive coordinator…what am I missing? The simple combination of size, arm strength, the quickest release in the Draft, accuracy, feet and ability to beat pressure when it comes in at you makes it almost unfathomable that this player could ever burn out of the league like some of the magnificent first round busts of years past.
9. Carolina Selects DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
The biggest need on the Carolina Panthers’ defense is as the tackle position and the team should have recognized that when their pair of rookie tackles got hurt and they replaced them with veterans, and the defense magically improved. If you can’t stop the run, you don’t get chances to pass rush. If you can’t generate push up the middle, your pass rushers can be contained. Fletcher Cox can help the team do both.
10. Buffalo Selects OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
Buddy Nix typically marches to the beat of his own drum and he is not particularly concerned over what is considered a reach and what is not. I believe he sees a long term left tackle in Riley Reiff and he will take him even as high as No.10 overall.
11. Kansas City Selects LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
This is tricky because I have wanted to mock Kuechly to the Seattle Seahawks one pick later for months and months. However, there is a buzz building that the Seahawks may not get the opportunity. Scott Pioli can be tough to figure out sometimes but he did take Jerod Mayo this high once and Kuechly is a far better college player than Mayo was at Tennessee.
12. Seattle Selects DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
The Seattle Seahawks could use a pass rusher opposite Chris Clemons. They haven’t quite gotten there yet with some of their other value pickups. I believe Pete Carroll will love Coples’ natural ability and be confident that he can get more out of him than North Carolina could with all the turmoil the program went through while Coples was there.
13. Arizona Selects G/T David DeCastro, Arizona
This is a pick I have had pegged for months and I see no reason to come off it. DeCastro could play right tackle for the Cardinals and could help them tremendously on offense.
14. Dallas Selects SS Mark Barron, Alabama
I do not project trades in my mock drafts, generally speaking. For some reason, it appears the Cowboys have got it bad for Mark Barron. They certainly have a need at the position. One way or another I expect them to end up with him, even if they have to manipulate the Draft to do it.
15. Philadelphia Selects DT Michael Brockers, LSU
The Philadelphia Eagles covet defensive tackles in this Draft and even though part of me wants to give them Dontari Poe, I believe they will go with the more proven Brockers.
16. New York Jets Selects DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
This could be the first big surprise of the Draft as Rex Ryan takes a guy that can help his defensive front be what he wants it to be. He has privately complained about his defensive front, and I believe that in Chandler Jones the Jets may see a player that will not just rush the passer by being fast, but can physically dominate while also having the loose hips to be used creatively.
17. Cincinnati Selects CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Some will tell me this pick is too low for Stephon Gilmore. They may be right. But the Cincinnati Bengals may also manipulate their Draft so that they can go up and get Gilmore. The NFL is absolutely nuts about these lengthy corners that can move and accelerate like controlled by an Xbox controller. I take some issue with Gilmore’s ability to play the ball in the air while in man coverage. However he can work on that skill at the next level.
18. San Diego Selects OT Cordy Glenn, Georgia
The Chargers’ offensive line is quickly deteriorating and I believe it took a toll on Phil Rivers in 2011 as he did not play anywhere close to his usual standards. You could see them steer toward this tackle that Courtney Upshaw described as the best he ever faced.
19. Chicago Selects DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
Dontari Poe’s combination of size, strength and athleticism make him perfect as a disruptive defensive tackle in Chicago’s system. His get-off from the line is unfair in a player that big. I realize he did not play particularly well at Memphis but he is a moldable piece of clay that has enormous athletic potential.
20. Tennessee Selects DE Nick Perry, USC
That the Titans covet a pass rusher is not necessarily unknown or unpredictable. The question is, which one? In this, I am going to go with the highly athletic and compelling Perry, who could be the team’s primary pass rusher for many years.
21. Cincinnati Selects WR Michael Floyd
Again, this may seem too high for Michael Floyd. However, I believe teams will be scared off by the alcohol history. There have been rumors of him failing to impress during interviews. Substance abuse is a serious issue. The mere whiff of a hint of a rumor of Ryan Mallett’s history with substance abuse caused him to tailspin all the way into the third round a year ago. However, if there’s one thing Mike Brown loves, it is picking up value players that fall for non-football reasons.
22. Cleveland Selects QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
I do not know if the Browns will take Weeden at No.22 overall, but I believe one way or another they end up with him, even if they have to trade up from No.37 overall back into the first round in order to be sure some other team does not try and beat them to the punch. Since I do not project trades, I will go ahead and link player to team here at No.22 overall.
23. Detroit Selects DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
The Detroit Lions could covet a pass rusher to play opposite Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch is clearly starting to slide into the back end of his career. Mercilus fits their style of all-out penetration and speed at the end positions.
24. Pittsburgh Selects CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
There is a movement to have Dre Kirkpatrick falling out of the first round altogether. I do not know if I buy that. I think his combination of size and physicality will particularly appeal to a team like the Steelers, who covet those attributes in their corners.
25. Denver Selects OC Peter Konz, Wisconsin
The Broncos need a better center to protect Peyton Manning. The team has a lot invested in Manning, and Jeff Saturday did not come with him from the Colts. I do not believe Peyton can trust J.D. Walton to be his second pair of eyes in spotting the defense’s blitz schemes.
26. Houston Selects OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
The Texans need another receiver, however with the loss of Eric Winston on the offensive line, they arguably need a tackle even more. Martin would seem a good fit in the Texans’ zone scheme, although one could argue that Martin is not valuable enough to be picked this high.
27. New England Selects DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Courtney Upshaw may slide down the board on draft day, but I have a tough time believing he would slide beyond Bill Belichick’s picks in the first round. Belichick has a special relationship with Nick Saban and Saban will personally vouch for Upshaw. Belichick will have as good an idea how to use a player with Upshaw’s natural violence and instincts for angles as any other coach in the NFL.
28. Green Bay Selects DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
This pick is a little dicey but it fits what the Packers need very badly on defense. Yes, they could use an extra pass rusher. However they had nobody on the defensive line outside of B.J. Raji and even he did not have a good year because there was nobody around him. The Packers need to strengthen their terrible defense up front.
29. Baltimore Selects LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
The Ravens need to start thinking a little more seriously about life after Ray Lewis. They have gotten away with playing linebackers like Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain, but that can’t last. Hightower is a versatile player that can even play a role similar to the one manned by Jarrett Johnson before he defected via free agency. Eventually, he could take over for Lewis.
30. San Francisco Selects OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
The secret is out that the 49ers are looking toward the best available guard prospect in the late first round, and I believe they will rate Amini Silatolu ahead of Kevin Zeitler or Brandon Brooks.
31. New England Selects WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
With the Denver Broncos, Josh McDaniels selected another Georgia Tech wide receiver with enormous physical gifts, even if he had not been taught the full route tree. He determined that Thomas’ big play ability outweighed his lack of experience. He has since watched as Thomas caught fire late in the 2011 season, and into the playoffs. This could translate into the Patriots reproducing that experiment, hoping for similar success.
32. New York Giants Selects WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
The Giants need to replace Mario Mannningham and may find a player available that they had not considered to be available to them.