The 2011 NFL Draft has been over for a few weeks now, and people are already focusing on next year’s draft. The draft has become one of the most popular events in the NFL, and it’s an important part of a team’s ability to rebuild and reload for their next season.
There will be a bevy of good college football talent available for NFL teams to get in next year’s draft, and even though the 2011 college season hasn’t started and the NFL season is in a state of flux, it’s never too early to start looking at how things may shape up for next year.
Here is my first version of my 2012 Mock Draft.
(Note: This mock goes in order of my 2011 NFL Power Rankings for the preseason)
The Redskins will find out that there isn’t a quarterback on their roster that can help them win on a consistent basis. So with the first pick in the draft, they will take the best quarterback available in Luck.
The Bengals will take a fall this year especially if quarterback Carson Palmer doesn’t come back.
After filling some needs on offense in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bengals will turn to their defense in 2012 and grab the guy who should be the best pass rusher in the draft next year in Couples.
The Panthers are going to want to give new quarterback Cam Newton a solid wide receiver to throw the ball to, and Blackmon should be the top receiver in this draft.
The Bills are going to find out that current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long term answer for them at quarterback. So if they pick here (and miss out on Luck), they will take the Barkley at this spot.
If there is a quarterback available for the Cardinals when they make their pick in the draft, then they should go that route, but upgrading their offensive line next year is their second biggest need. Look for them to get the best offensive tackle available in 2012.
Von Miller was a great pickup for the Broncos, but they will find out that they really need that interior linemen to help them with their defense. Worthy could be a good pickup for them here, giving them what they will be lacking in the middle.
The Browns are going to need a receiver that helps them stretch defenses and gives their starting quarterback a solid option to throw the ball to. Jeffery could be that guy and could step in and start right away.
If Jenkins decides to come out early, the Titans may want to add him to their defense to give themselves another option rushing the quarterbacks as well as having someone that can play the run. Jenkins can do both well.
The Vikings offensive line is going to need an upgrade in 2012, and they could take a long look at Martin as a part of this rebuilding project. He has great skill and knows how to block for a star quarterback.
The University of North Carolina is producing some great talent lately, and the Jaguars could take advantage of that by taking Paige. They missed out on taking a much needed defensive end in the 2011 NFL Draft and will have to get one next year.
The Seahawks failed to get quarterback in this year’s draft, and after a season in which they are assured to experience problems at that position, the Seahawks will not let one get by them in the first round in 2012.
The 49ers secondary is going have it’s problems this coming season, and they are going to want to upgrade their cornerback position in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Kirkpatrick could end up being the best cornerback to come out of this draft and would be a good way for the 49ers to upgrade their pass defense.
The Dolphins did end up getting a running back in the middle of the 2011 NFL Draft, but they are going to want someone who is capable of making a huge impact running the ball on a consistent basis.
Richardson would be the ideal fit and could replace what they will probably lose in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
The Raiders are probably going to lose Nnamdi Asomugha this offseason, so they will be in the market for a new shutdown cornerback.
If Gilmore has a good season this year, the Raiders may be interested in taking him and shoring up their secondary.
Solidifying the middle of their defensive line is going to be something that the Cowboys have to take care of in the 2012 NFL Draft. They could end up selecting a guy like Crick.
Crick, with a good season this year, should end up being one of the most sought-after players in the 2012 NFL Draft and would fit the Cowboys well.
The Rams are going to want to try to find someone to start taking away some of the carries that Steven Jackson has been getting to help keep him fresh and healthy.
James won’t be able to stand up to the pounding that Jackson has been subject to during his career thanks to his size, but he would be a good option on the outside and catching passes. He can give the Rams another option in the running game and give defenses something else to be concerned about.
The Texans will be on the lookout for a good cornerback after not grabbing a good one in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Dennard, with a good season next year, could be a first round pick and one that the Texans pick up depending on where they end up picking in the first round.
We know that the Giants had a lot of interest in Mike Pouncey in the 2011 NFL Draft, but they didn’t get him, so is it possible that they try to get a new center in the 2012 NFL Draft?
If so, Brewster may be just the guy that they are looking for and may end up getting taken at this point in the draft.
The Lions need to get a good linebacker to help them clean up plays that get past their soon to be stellar defensive line.
There are some experts that feel Burfict would be a good fit for the Lions, and he could end up being the perfect first round pick for them.
The Chiefs didn’t go after an offensive tackle in the 2011 NFL Draft and will be in the market for one.
Iowa is known for producing some strong talent at the offensive tackle position, and Reiff could be just the guy that they are looking for.
The problems with Aqib Talib are going to force the Bucs to go after a cornerback in the draft in 2012.
If Harris decides to come out, he will be one of the most sought-after cornerbacks in the league, and with his ability to return punts, the Bucs will find that they could really use a player with his skills.
The Eagles are going to be in the market for a cornerback (it seems like they always have a need at that position), and Minnifield might be attractive to the Eagles in the first round.
With a good season in 2011, Minnifield’s stock should shoot up, and the Eagles could be better in the secondary if they take him.
If there is a solid offensive guard worth taking for the Bears in the first round then they might go that direction.
But if they feel that they need to improve their defensive end position (opposite Julius Peppers), then they might be interested in someone that could help them do that. Branch could be just the guy for them.
The Chargers are heading into this season with three free agent wide receivers (Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Nanee and Vincent Jackson) and are sure to not end up with all of them when the 2011 season ends.
Adding a wide receiver may end up being their top priority in the draft depending on what happens next season.
With Reggie Wayne getting older and injuries effecting what the Colts have at the wide receiver position, you could expect them to make a move for a solid receiver in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Sanu has started to cement himself as one of the top receivers in college football, and with a great 2011 season, he will be a surefire first round pick.
The Jets defense is an ever-changing and ever-improving unit and is the clear focus of head coach Rex Ryan.
They are going to want to add some starting power to that group of linebackers, and putting a guy like Upshaw in the lineup may help them take care of some of the issues they could have at the linebacker and defensive end positions.
The Ravens are going to be looking to improve their defense, especially their inside linebacker position, where it looks like Ray Lewis is close to retirement.
Kuechly could be the kind of guy that they are looking for and may be the long term solution for their defense.
The Browns will need to do some work to enhance their linebacking corps for the 2012 season, and they should try to get a good inside linebacker to help themselves out on defense.
Franklin has quietly become one of the top linebackers in college football, and he should be a first rounder with a strong season.
The Steelers are going to take a long look at first round talent at the offensive tackle position and could have some interest in BYU’s Reynolds. Problems on the offensive line cut into their ability to play well at times last season, so beefing up that part of their offense up should be a top priority for them.
The Patriots may end up losing Vince Wilfork at some point and will want to look for either his replacement or a backup.
Forston has been mentioned by some as having the potential to be the best nose tackle in the draft next year, which means that the Patriots could take a serious look at him.
The Patriots are going to try to find a wide receiver in 2012 and have them be their true number one guy. Adding another solid target for quarterback Tom Brady to throw the ball to would be huge.
Jones could end up being someone that they have their eye on depending on his growth and development this coming season.
Let’s face it: All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson does not have that much time left in the league, so it’s time that the Packers started grooming his replacement. Reid wouldn’t be a bad fit in Green Bay and could help them out on special teams.