Todd McShay 2012 NFL Mock Draft: ESPN Expert's Biggest First-Round Reaches
Then again, it's reasonable to suspect that at least a few players get selected higher than projected. Still, the following selections are a reach in Round 1, so let's break each down.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Whitney Mercilus, DE (Illinois)
Jacksonville definitely could use a strong pass-rusher, but ahead of Whitney Mercilus, guys like Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples will be available.
Mercilus undoubtedly has top-notch potential, but taking him inside the top 10 increases the risk potential. Although Mercilus collected 16 sacks and forced nine fumbles in 2011, it was his only legit season as a contributor at Illinois.
He's a first-round pick, but Mercilus must still prove his high-level of consistency on a yearly basis. In addition, Jacksonville already fields a top-10 defense against the rush and pass, but ranked No. 32 in passing offense in 2011.
Therefore, a receiver such as Michael Floyd makes the most sense. The Jags need a young standout target with immediate No. 1 potential, plus Floyd provides another reliable target for Blaine Gabbert to develop.
Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT (Memphis)
Here we see an area of need correctly addressed, but not the right prospect. Dontari Poe, for one, is more of a 3-4 defensive tackle with his 6'4", 346-pound frame. Carolina does need an efficient run-stuffer, but also a front-seven player that can apply quarterback pressure.
Poe isn't an effective pass-rusher, but he does draw double-teams to free up linebackers. However, in a pass-happy division, the Panthers need a stout perimeter player like Melvin Ingram whose versatility addresses multiple needs.
Taking Ingram at No. 9 solidifies a stronger pass rush and complement to Charles Johnson. Also, Ingram has the athleticism to occasionally sink into coverage. His field awareness helped him record two interceptions and prevent any big running plays on the outside.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is that Ingram can line up at defensive tackle in strict passing situations. His quickness will beat one-on-one blocks and apply interior pressure to help those in coverage.
Seattle Seahawks: Chandler Jones, DE (Syracuse)
The Seattle Seahawks definitely need a complementary defensive end opposite of Chris Clemons, but Chandler Jones is too high at No. 12 overall.
Jones does fit Seattle as he's a solid run defender, but the Seahawks also must get a dominant pass-rusher to help against play-action. Last season, Seattle ranked No. 15 against the run and it hurt when defending the pass early on.
Provided that he's available, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is the best solution. Kuechly is the draft's best 'backer for one, and two, he's overly dominant against the run and just as good against the pass.
Considering that NFC opponents like San Francisco, Dallas, Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay field a more balanced and potent attack, the Seahawks need an interior defender that can slow the run and isolate the intermediate passing game.
New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, Safety (Notre Dame)
Currently the New England Patriots have two solid cornerbacks in Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington in the secondary. So, taking Notre Dame's Harrison Smith at the end of Round 1 does fit the big need.
However, Smith benefited from having played behind a sound front seven, led by linebacker Manti Te'O. Also, he may have recorded seven picks in 2010, but three came against Miami in the bowl game. The Pats play an aggressive style of defense and Smith didn't roll down into the box like some other safeties do.
New England needs a prospect like Markelle Martin or George Iloka. Those guys are players that can roll down and fill against the run, take on tight ends and slot receivers in zone or man and sit back in Cover 1, 2 or 3 when needed.
At the end of Round 1, though, the Pats need a fast linebacker like Lavonte David that can get depth against the pass and provide a pass rush. This is a shallow draft for safeties, so looking into the middle rounds is where Bill Belichick can find Smith or someone else.
John Rozum on Twitter.
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