All you football fans—especially you draftniks—know it’s never too early to look ahead to the next NFL draft. So with that said, I decided to come up with a mock draft for the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Next year’s draft promises to be one of the most talented ones we’ve seen in a few years. But who’s going where? Keep in mind that this mock draft was created under the assumption that every underclassman selected will be declaring for the pros in 2012. Also, this mock draft concerns who I think each team should pick, not necessarily who they will pick.
Now that those issues are cleared up, here is the first round of my 2012 NFL mock draft.
The Dolphins would have the first pick if the season ended today. Do I really need to think about this selection?
If Andrew Luck goes pro, this one’s the biggest no-brainer in Dolphins history. Ever since Dan Marino retired, the 'Fins have tried to replace him with a revolving door of mediocrity at quarterback.
From Jay Fiedler, to Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels, John Beck, Matt Moore and Chad Henne, the lack of talent at quarterback is the biggest reason why Miami has done nothing in the playoffs the past decade and is making the first pick once again.
It’s time they got themselves a legitimate franchise quarterback, and there’s nobody more legitimate than Luck. While I will stop short of saying he walks on water, he’s the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning and John Elway. This is one player Miami won’t regret picking.
For the Colts, it’s Andrew Luck or bust. Since they just missed out on Luck, Bill Polian will hope that Peyton Manning can make a healthy return in 2012.
He will then use the second pick to take the draft’s top defensive line prospect in Worthy. At 6’3”, 310 lbs, Worthy already has the size needed to be an exceptional NFL defensive tackle.
Throughout his Spartan career, he has been a disruptive force in opposing backfields and has progressed every year under head coach Mark Dantonio’s guidance. Adding Worthy with the lethal defensive end tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will give the Colts a much-needed shot in the arm on defense.
The Rams desperately need a stud wide receiver for quarterback Sam Bradford to throw to. But this spot is a little too high to pick a wide receiver, and with the depth at that position in this draft, St. Louis can always snag a quality one in the next few rounds.
The next logical choice here is cornerback, but Janoris Jenkins is the only one with the talent to be taken this high and his character issues don’t make him worthy of the third pick. So it’s onto plan C in Coples.
He’s widely regarded as the best defensive end in this draft, and pairing him with Chris Long will give the Rams a defensive line that could harass NFC West quarterbacks for years to come.
It’s probably not wise for Arizona to draft a quarterback here, but it also wasn’t wise to throw a ton of money at Kevin Kolb. He simply hasn’t been the answer for the Cardinals, and this quarterback class is too good for the team to pass up taking a guy like Jones.
While I think Matt Barkley is actually the better quarterback, I’m certain the Cardinals will be reluctant to pick another USC quarterback, given how Matt Leinart didn’t exactly turn out too well.
Jones is no slouch; in fact, he may be able to come in right away and challenge Kolb for the starting job. He’s that good, while Kolb is that bad.
The Vikings believe they have their franchise quarterback in Christian Ponder. Now, they need to help Ponder out and land another dynamic target to line up opposite Percy Harvin. While it’s tempting to choose the hometown boy in Michael Floyd here, I bet the Vikings will take the sure thing in Blackmon.
In a deep and talented receiver class, Blackmon is at the head of it. He has breakaway speed, runs exceptional routes and can make catches outside of the numbers and over the middle.
Blackmon may even be a better, more polished prospect than fellow Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant was when he was drafted. Harvin and Blackmon will give Minnesota the best receiving tandem in the NFC North.
The run on wide receivers continues, which makes perfect sense, because the Jags desperately need help at this position. While Broyles may be a reach here, keep in mind that the Jags don’t usually pay big money to their first-round picks (see Tyson Alualu).
Broyles will contribute immediately with his above-average speed and solid route running. Although Jacksonville may be tempted to select a taller receiver like Jeff Fuller, they should be advised to pass, as prior experiences with taller receivers (like Matt Jones) haven’t panned out too well.
Another pick, another wide receiver. The Panthers could use an upgrade here, since Legedu Naanee is the starter opposite Steve Smith.
Floyd will be a good complement to Smith, as he’s the best possession receiver in the draft. What he lacks in separating speed, Floyd makes up for with his thick frame and strong hands. This gives him the ability to dominate on jump balls and rack up damaging yards after the catch on screens.
Also, Floyd has the potential to be the heir apparent to Smith when it comes to the role of Carolina’s top receiver, as Smith (although still productive) is playing on the back end of his career.
Just like Andrew Luck to the Dolphins was a no-brainer, so is Barkley to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. Seattle’s franchise quarterback falls into their lap, and it’s someone who Carroll coached in his final season with the Trojans.
While his mechanics aren’t totally polished, Barkley has the arm strength, accuracy, experience, pocket presence and poise to be easily the best pro quarterback USC has produced in decades. I think Barkley is going to have a very fruitful career in the NFL. Think of him as Luck, sans all the hype.
Another West Coast quarterback with plenty of professional promise is Lindley. John Fox and John Elway will abandon the Tim Tebow experiment, so it’s only natural they try and find a franchise quarterback.
Lindley has great size (6’4”) and arguably the strongest arm in the draft. While he still needs to improve his footwork, Lindley is already more polished than Tebow arguably ever will be. If he has to sit a year behind Kyle Orton, so be it.
While he may not necessarily be the next John Elway, Lindley will be a better option for the Broncos than Tebow or Orton in the near future.
No matter what head coach Mike Shanahan ever tells you, he knows his quarterback situation is pretty dire. To put it kindly, the duo of Rex Grossman and John Beck stinks.
So it only makes sense that Shanahan drafts the best remaining quarterback in Foles. Some scouts put Foles right up there with Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck in terms of talent.
While his accuracy needs to improve, Foles has ideal size (6’5”), along with a cannon arm and great footwork in the pocket. We all know what Shanahan can do when he has a good quarterback under center (see John Elway). With Foles leading the way, the Redskins could be a playoff team for years to come.
What does the Dream Team need? Well, no matter how good you are, you can never have enough good offensive linemen. I say Philadelphia bulks up on the line and chooses the best offensive lineman in Reynolds.
While Reynolds won’t necessarily replace left tackle Jason Peters, he will add welcomed depth to a unit that struggles at times to keep star quarterback Michael Vick upright. With ideal size (6’6”, 330 lbs) and strong character, Reynolds is a safe pick for Andy Reid here.
Also, the Eagles have to face the likes of the Giants’ fierce defensive line and DeMarcus Ware each twice a year. Like I said, you can never have enough good offensive linemen.
In terms of overall talent, Jenkins is far and away the best cornerback in this draft. The problem is his character stinks.
Jenkins is trying to rehabilitate his reputation at North Alabama after being dismissed from the Florida Gators for multiple violations. While many teams will pass on Jenkins and his baggage, I can totally see Jerry Jones taking a chance on him.
It wouldn’t be the first time Jones acquired a troubled cornerback (PacMan Jones, anyone?) and Jenkins does fill a need here. In case you Cowboys fans don’t agree, just remember that it was Jones who made a serious push to sign Nnamdi Asomugha this past offseason.
The Browns could use help at the safety position, and Barron is the man to do it. He has good size (6’2”, 215 lbs) for the position and nice speed, even clocking in at 4.4 sometimes.
Barron is a well-rounded prospect. His strength is defending the run, but he’s no slouch in coverage, either. And he’s also a sure tackler who can lay the wood when needed.
Paired with cornerback Joe Haden, Barron will instantly add credibility to Cleveland’s secondary. He will also help the Browns compete in a division that has shifted from a power running to a passing group over the past few years.
In case you haven’t noticed, star running back Chris Johnson is putrid right now. Some say it’s because he’s out of shape; others point out that the Titans need help in their run-blocking personnel.
If the Titans brass decides the latter is true, then Miller will be the pick here. Miller has good size (6’8”, 310 lbs) and is versatile, as he can play both guard and tackle. Plus, Colorado is quickly developing a reputation for producing quality offensive linemen.
Tackle and former Buffalo Nate Solder was drafted by the Patriots this past spring and has played very well his rookie season. If the Titans want their playmaker Johnson to start making plays again, they’d be well advised to pick Miller.
This past spring, the Bucs improved their defensive line in the draft. In 2012, they should improve their linebacking corps, and Burfict is a great start.
This guy is an absolute freak on the field, someone who reminds me of a young Ray Lewis. I’m not saying he’s as good as Lewis, but I think the guy has the athletic potential to be really special at the next level.
Although he can be out of place at times, Burfict has scary speed for someone his size (250 lbs) and can easily shed through blockers up the middle. A little bit of coaching from Raheem Morris, and the Bucs will have the second coming of Derrick Brooks on their hands in Burfict.
The Chargers are in danger of losing star wide receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency in the offseason. Rather than break the bank in re-signing him, they’ll likely replace him with a highly touted rookie.
Fuller makes sense here because he is almost a carbon copy of Jackson. While he lacks the vertical explosiveness of Jackson, Fuller has great size (6’4” 220 lbs) and exceptional athleticism. And if he puts on enough size, he could be a suitable receiver-tight end hybrid (all the rage these days). I only say that because Antonio Gates has struggled to stay healthy lately, while backup Randy McMichael isn’t getting any younger himself.
The Bengals acquired this selection from the Raiders in the deal for Carson Palmer.
You would say the Bengals don’t need a middle linebacker, given how they already have Rey Maualuga. The problem is that Maualuga has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.
And with Te’o still on the board here, it will be hard for the Bengals to pass on him. Te’o is one of the more complete middle linebackers in this draft. While his athleticism has come under fire at times, Te’o makes plays in space, is disciplined and is aggressive at the point of attack. At the very least, he will be a nice insurance policy should Maualuga go down again.
The Jets are back to ground-and-pound, and they’ll take this opportunity to bolster their personnel in that department. LaDainian Tomlinson is going to be a year older and the jury is still out on whether Shonn Greene is capable of being the every-down back.
Luckily for Gang Green, they’ll have a great every-down back in Richardson. While his predecessor Mark Ingram got all the hype in college, many scouts view Richardson as the better pro player.
He’s just as bruising as Ingram, only with more speed at the second level. Either way, the Jets will add some quality depth to its ground-and-pound scheme.
According to Monday Night Football’s Ron Jaworski, the Chiefs have one of the smallest offensive lines in the league, clocking in at an average of just over 300 pounds. It’s time to add some beef—and young talent—to that line.
Adams has good size (6’6”, 320 lbs) and is considered one of the better tackles in this draft, certainly one worthy of the 19th pick. Plug him right in right away, and he has the potential to protect Matt Cassel’s blind side for years to come.
Plus, he’ll be a little fresher than other rookie linemen, considering he’s only played half of the season for Ohio State because of suspension.
The Bears could use a talented safety to bolster the back end of their defense. They’ll be getting a steal here with Tate.
He’s widely regarded as the best free safety in this draft. But a season-ending leg injury could damage his standing as a top-10 pick, which is why I think he’ll fall to Chicago at 20.
Quite frankly, the Bears need the help at free safety. Chris Conte is a good, not great, player. And Brandon Meriweather is too undisciplined for my liking.
If Tate can bounce back from his injury, he has the skill to significantly bolster the Bears secondary.
The Browns acquired this pick from the Atlanta Falcons in the Julio Jones deal. Cleveland already bolstered the back end of their defense, and snagging Crick will help in the front.
Although a bit undersized (under 300 lbs) and coming off a pectoral injury, Crick can help the Browns from a defensive end position. With a big motor, I see him as a similar prospect to guys like J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan, defensive ends who are playing well for Houston and Washington, respectively.
The patriots acquired this pick from the New Orleans Saints, who traded up to select Mark Ingram in the 2011 draft. The Patriots statistically have the league’s worst pass defense.
They just released veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden and placed rookie Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve. To make matters worse, second-year player Devin McCourty has regressed from his impressive rookie season of 2010.
Drafting Gilmore will give the Pats a physical cornerback who thrives in bump-and-run coverage (something they desperately need), while adding critical depth. Plus, the fact that Gilmore plays in the SEC doesn’t hurt his stock, as Bill Belichick embraces players from SEC schools.
More often than not, the Texans draft front-seven players often in early rounds. They’ll do so again in 2012 with Bradham. He’s fast enough to cover a lot of ground in space, although he can struggle to shed bigger blockers.
The physical tools are all there for him to be a three-down linebacker at the next level. Bradham has the potential to pair nicely with Brian Cushing and Mario Williams, and he will give Wade Phillips another weapon in his aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme.
The New York Football Giants have one of the worst run defenses in the league right now, ranking 28th. Drafting Kuechly will instantly improve the Giants in this facet.
Kuechly has been a tackling machine his entire college career, and is an ideal run-stopper. He’s smart, tough, sheds blocks nicely and is in on almost every tackle.
Plus, he’s a Boston College kid, and Tom Coughlin (former Eagles coach) obviously has a thing for BC players. Kuechly will fit in very nicely with players like Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich and Chris Snee, all BC alums.
Wes Welker will be a free agent after this season. Deion Branch will be a year older. The Chad Ochocinco project has flopped. Taylor Price has yet to see the field.
And Julian Edelman may be a former Patriot after his arrest for battery.
It’s time Bill Belichick drafts a wide receiver here, and Criner would be a good fit. He has great size (6’4”) and breakaway speed, something the Patriots have been sorely lacking since the Randy Moss days. Give him some time to improve his hands, and Criner could blossom into a star in New England.
Josh Robinson just may have the wheels to keep up with the likes of Mike Wallace.
This pick is a reach here, but given how Bengals owner Mike Brown has uncharacteristically pushed all the right buttons (dumping the T. Ocho Show, drafting Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, trading Carson Palmer for a king’s ransom) lately, he’s due for a head-scratcher.
While he’s slightly undersized (5’10”, 192 lbs) and a bit unpolished, Robinson does have blazing speed. That will come in handy, especially when Cincinnati faces Mike Wallace and Torrey Smith a combined four times per year. So if you think about it that way, maybe this pick isn’t a reach, after all.
This past draft, the Bills addressed their defensive line needs in the first round by drafting Marcell Dareus. In 2012, it would be wise for them to address their offensive line needs and better protect their new franchise quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While he is a bit undersized (300 lbs), Potter has the versatility to play both guard and tackle. Also, staying in school an extra year has paid dividends for Potter, as he has improved his footwork and strength. The Bills do need to improve their offensive line, and Potter will help immediately.
The Ravens picked up veteran Bryant McKinnie at the last minute this offseason to anchor their left tackle position. They need a backup plan, should McKinnie not return in 2012.
Kalil has great height (6’7”) and is a monster in run blocking. He also has quick enough feet to hold his own in pass blocking. Having Kalil and Michael Oher flanked on both ends gives the Ravens offensive line a good foundation for the present and future.
The Steelers offensive line seems to get banged up on a yearly basis—especially up the middle. Putting Good next to center Maurkice Pouncey will give the Steelers a formidable duo in the interior of their line. Good excels at run blocking and is exceptionally strong (he has been one of the nation’s leaders in knockdowns his entire college career).
There has been chatter that Good could also play tackle on a spot-start basis, which will help the Steelers, should their line get bit by the injury bug again in 2012.
Hard to believe a receiver as talented as Jeffery hasn’t been picked yet. So, I’m going to give him some love and send him to the Motor City.
The move actually makes good sense, if you think about it for a minute. While the Lions already have the game’s best wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, it never hurts to have quality depth at this position, especially given how the league is so obsessed with passing these days.
Imagine a stable of Megatron, Jeffery, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew for Matt Stafford to throw to. The Lions could spread out opposing defenses with deadly results, much like their division rivals the Packers do now.
San Francisco 49ers fans should salivate over a Patrick Willis and Brandon Lindsey combo.
The 49ers will be looking to bolster their pass rush, and Lindsey is the right pick in this spot. Although he’s not very good against the run, the 49ers don’t need to worry about that, since they have guys like Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga taking care of that.
Lindsey would be in there solely as a pass-rusher, a role he’s very capable of embracing at the next level. He’s incredibly quick off the line of scrimmage and has a knack of getting to the quarterback and pursuing running backs on swing passes. Plus, lining him up next to an elite player like Willis may hide Lindsey in running situations.
What do you get the team that seems to have everything? How about some help in the secondary? With Nick Collins’ future up in the air after suffering a gruesome neck injury, Sean Cattouse is a solid pick here.
Cattouse has good size (6’2”, 213 lbs) for a strong safety. He is also very balanced, able to stuff the run at the line of scrimmage and drop back into coverage. Even if Collins does return in 2012, his neck injury isn’t one to take lightly. Packers GM Ted Thompson shouldn’t take a chance in that situation and should draft Cattouse.