Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck
No time like the present to look ahead to the 2012 NFL draft, right?
Mr. Irrelevant, the annual nickname given to the last and final selection of the NFL draft, was just taken in the seventh and final round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Now, it’s time to start evaluating each team’s choices and look ahead to next year. Right off the top, it appears that while the 2012 NFL draft will have some excellent skill position players available—Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and Oregon running back LaMichael James, to name a few—the first round, at least, is skewed more defensively.
But it doesn’t appear to be a particularly deep draft, either, at first look.
For the purpose of this 2012 Mock Draft, we’ll use the most recent NFL odds of getting to next year’s Super Bowl, which means the Carolina Panthers are on the clock with the first pick—again—in the 2012 Mock Draft.
Or are they?
Since it’s a mock draft, we’ve taken the liberty of conducting a mock trade to start things off. We’ve also taken the liberty of making a few assumptions, namely that a certain junior or two will be foregoing his senior year in order to make himself available for the 2012 draft.
With that in mind, we give you one man’s opinions and projections of next year’s first round of the draft. Let’s just hope the operative word here—“mock”—doesn’t come back to bite him in the you know what in about 12 months.
So let’s assume that it takes Cam Newton a year or so to really get the hang of things in the NFL, and the Panthers fail to make a dramatic improvement in 2011 over 2010’s pitiful mark. That means Carolina is staring at the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft again.
Only this time, the Panthers can play a little bit. They don’t need another franchise quarterback, not with the selection of Newton in this year’s draft. Hard to believe they’d throw in the towel after just one year.
So the Panthers trade the No. 1 pick to the Washington Redskins for the No. 4 pick overall, a second-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013.
The Redskins DO need a franchise quarterback, and as Luck would have it, one is available.
SELECTION: ANDREW LUCK, QUARTERBACK, STANFORD
The Bills wouldn’t mind having a franchise quarterback either. Let's face it—is Ryan Fitzpatrick really your long-term solution? Problem is, they just didn’t want to give up the two second-rounders as easily as the Redskins did.
So the Bills take a flyer on their future.
SELECTION: MATT BARKLEY, QUARTERBACK, SOUTHERN CAL
Five players attempted passes for the Cardinals in 2010, including wide receiver Steve Breaston. Problem is, Arizona is definitely not going to waste the third overall pick in the draft on a Terrelle Pryor or Nick Foles or Kirk Cousins. So unless the Cardinals can trade into the No. 1 spot for Andrew Luck—or trade down and hope the draft choices in 2013 are a little better—it’s best available. Since it added yet another running back in this year’s draft with Ryan Williams and a tight end with Rob Housler, Arizona goes defense with its first pick in 2012.
SELECTION: JEREL WORTHY, DT, MICHIGAN STATE
The Panthers drafted Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen in 2010 and Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton in this year’s draft. They won’t need to burn a choice on another quarterback next year, hence the flexibility to trade out of the No. 1 spot in the 2012 Mock Draft.
But the Panthers wouldn’t mind having a home run hitter in that backfield to help Newton.
SELECTION: LaMICHAEL JAMES, RB, OREGON
The Titans got what they wanted in this year’s draft, surprising everyone by taking Washington quarterback Jake Locker in a bit of a reach at No.8.
Now they have to give him help.
SELECTION: JUSTIN BLACKMON, WIDE RECEIVER, OKLAHOMA STATE
Mark it down that this is the first place you heard this. The next great trifecta of quarterback-receiver-receiver is going to be right here in Cincinnati. The Bengals got an A+ in this year’s draft for nabbing Georgia receiver A.J. Green and then TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round, their QB of the future.
Who’s the third member of this triumvirate?
SELECTION: RYAN BROYLES, WR, OKLAHOMA
The Broncos did little to address their offensive needs in the 2011 draft, so the emphasis in 2012 has to be on skill position players. Denver was 26th in the NFL out of 32 in rushing average in 2010, getting 95.5 yards per game.
The 2012 draft choice might get that by himself.
SELECTION: KNILE DAVIS, RB, ARKANSAS
The Browns were workin’ it during the 2011 draft with all their trades. In 2012, they’ll stay put, but at this point, they’ll be going best available.
SELECTION: VONTAZE BURFICT, LB, ARIZONA STATE
Last year, the Rams had the No. 1 pick and decided to not only go quarterback in taking Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford but to throw him to the wolves as the Jets did with Mark Sanchez and see what happens.
Bradford actually played pretty darn well for a rookie, and the Rams finished 7-9, almost winning the weak division they play in. Now they have to start thinking about protecting Bradford.
SELECTION: JONATHAN MARTIN, OT, STANFORD
There’s still a need at quarterback and on the defensive line. Without the big names among the quarterbacks in 2012, the Seahawks opt to shore up the defense.
SELECTION: BRANDON JENKINS, DE, FLORIDA STATE
The Jags did what they needed to do to address their needs on offense during the 2011 draft, moving up to take Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and then drafting offensive tackle Will Rackley.
Now comes defense.
SELECTION: CLIFF HARRIS, CB, OREGON
Once again, a flat year for quarterbacks inhibits the Vikings from making a value pick at the position. So, instead, they’ll opt for somebody who can help open up holes for Adrian Peterson.
SELECTON: MIKE ADAMS, OT, OHIO STATE
The Raiders finished sixth in the NFL in total offense in 2010, second in rushing. Whatever holes they thought they had on offense, they filled by taking five offensive players among their first seven in the 2011 draft.
Defense now becomes the priority.
SELECTION: QUINTON COPLES, DE, NORTH CAROLINA
How ‘bout them Lions in the 2011 draft? They get a dominant defensive player in Auburn’s Nick Fairley to go along with Ndamukong Suh, and they get another running back in Mikel Leshoure to push Jahvid Best. And, true to form, they even added a wide receiver. Now they’ll shore up their pass defense.
SELECTION: ALFONZO DENNARD, CB, NEBRASKA
Hard to believe that the Dolphins didn’t go quarterback when they had a chance at either Andy Dalton or Ryan Mallett in the 2011 draft, but they must have faith in Chad Henne. And even if they didn’t, they won’t find a suitable replacement in this position in the 2012 draft.
Next best thing?
SELECTION: TRENT RICHARDSON, RB, ALABAMA
The Niners went and got quarterback of the future Colin Kaepernick of Nevada with their second pick in the 2011 draft, and although they did draft a wideout in the fifth round, the 49ers do a little better at the position in 2012.
SELECTION: MICHAEL FLOYD, WR, NOTRE DAME
For the 2011 season—assuming there is one—the Houston Texas needed to concentrate on filling needs on the defensive side of the ball in anticipation of their switch to a 3-4 defense. They did that with a defense-heavy draft this year. Now it’s time for offense.
SELECTION: NATE POTTER, OT, BOISE STATE
Depending on how Da’Quan Bowers’ various injuries hold up, the Bucs either had a great 2011 draft or a brilliant one. It’s no lose. Heavy on defense with their first two choices both defensive ends, and a pretty good one waiting behind them in OLB Mason Foster. So the first pick in 2012 goes to solidifying their pass defense.
SELECTION: DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB, ALABAMA
The surprise of the league in 2010. Then they went and ruined it all with a suspect 2011 draft. The Chiefs need a solid pick here, especially on defense.
SELECTION: BILLY WINN, DT, BOISE STATE
Shades of the New England Patriots and their choice of quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 draft. Peyton Manning’s not getting any younger, but he certainly has a few good years left him, enough to be a great contributor and to mentor his replacement.
SELECTION: LANDRY JONES, QB, OKLAHOMA
So much for that whole dream—statement?—of playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium last season. Maybe this year.
SELECTION: TRAVIS LEWIS, OLB, OKLAHOMA
Chicago’s defense was good enough to get the Bears all the way to the NFC Championship Game in the 2010 season. The offense clicked but clearly needs to keep Jay Cutler on the field. Tough dilemma this deep in the first round, but go with best available. Maybe another Monster of the Midway?
SELECTION: MANTI TE’O, LB, NOTRE DAME
Ah, the little engine that could but, ultimately, doesn’t. The Giants always seem to crap out when it counts the most, finishing 2010 with a respectable 10-6 mark that, nonetheless, wasn’t good enough for the playoffs. It was semi-surprising that the Giants passed on Alabama RB Mark Ingram in the first round of the 2011 draft to take Nebraska DB Prince Amakumara, but they’re going to have to address the running game at some point.
SELECTION: BRANDON BOLDEN, RB, MISSISSIPPI
One of the most prolific offenses in the league—the most prolific, in fact, in the passing game—went heavy defense in the 2011 draft. Assuming all working parts of the offensive machine are intact, that philosophy won’t change much in 2012.
SELECTION: JARED CRICK, DT, NEBRASKA
The Saints did a little dealing to get back in the first round of the 2011 draft to nab RB Mark Ingram. This time around, they’ll sit tight with the one pick late in the game, and go defense.
SELECTION: JACQUIES SMITH, DE, MISSOURI
Michael Vick has been a god-send to the Eagles, and we’ll assume that by the time the 2012 NFL draft rolls around, Kevin Kolb will have been dealt. That actually might even happen more sooner than later. Either way, Philly still needs a backup.
SELECTION: NICK FOLES, QB, ARIZONA
The Falcons went skill position in two of their first three 2011 draft picks, nabbing Alabama receiver Julio Jones and, in the third round, Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers. That’s going to be one heck of an offense that was already clicking under QB Matty Ice. Back to concentrating on defense.
SELECTION: CHRIS MINNIFIELD, CB, VIRGINIA
Back-to-back AFC Championship Games for the Jets in 2009 and 2010, largely crafted on the backs of their defense. New York didn’t do much to address an up-and-down offense with the 2011 draft, and at this spot in the draft, it’s best available.
SELECTION: DEVIN TAYLOR, DE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Two "bad" players. Enough said as to why this pick won’t be giving Baltimore any problems like he did in college.
SELECTION: JANORIS JENKINS, CB, FLORIDA
Heading into the 2011 season, the Steelers have made three Super Bowl appearances in the last six years. It is, arguably, the most balanced franchise on both sides of the ball in the league right now. They’ll continue to beef up their defense in the 2012 draft with this pick, and they won’t have to go far to find it.
SELECTION: BRUCE IRVIN, DE, WEST VIRGINIA
Aaron Rodgers, once the quarterback of the future and the protégé to Brett Favre (who?), is now the quarterback of the present and a really good one. Protecting him is of the utmost importance.
SELECTION: LEVY ADCOCK, OT, OKLAHOMA STATE
With Tom Brady now 34, are the next couple of seasons the last hurrah for the Patriots? Brady is automatic and has shown no signs of slowing down. New England will go as far as its defense takes it.
SELECTION: DELANO HOWELL, FS, STANFORD