With the NFL season halfway over, it is high time to begin thinking about next year.
Some draft picks are fairly obvious (cough, cough, Andrew Luck), but others are more up in the air as teams struggle to decide which prospects they feel will best suit their needs.
A single draft pick can make or break franchises as Cam Newton and JaMarcus Russell have shown in years past. Who will be 2012's biggest success? The biggest bust?
For now we can only speculate, but that is better than nothing.
Without further ado, here is the 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
Complete no-brainer here. The only difficulty for the Indianapolis Colts will be deciding what to do after drafting Andrew Luck.
Luck is by far the best player in the draft and there is no way any team could pass him up, even with a healthy Peyton Manning.
After the Colts draft Luck, they will have a difficult choice ahead of them. Is Peyton Manning healthy? Yes, but is he really healthy? If so, would you rather have a few more years of Manning or who knows how long with Luck? It will be a hard choice, but one that many other teams will be envious of.
Chad Henne is simply not the quarterback of the future for the Miami Dolphins. Obviously, neither is Matt Moore.
Since the Dolphins will have such a high draft pick, they will address their most pressing need with the next best thing to Andrew Luck: Landry Jones.
Jones has had a very solid career at Oklahoma and appears ready to take his talent to the next level. He should, at the very least, energize a Dolphins fanbase that has not had much to get excited about since Dan Marino in the 80's.
When losing Danny Amendola is a huge blow to the St. Louis Rams’ offense, you know the team needs more wide receivers.
Sam Bradford seems to have taken a step back in his sophomore campaign, but much of his inefficiency can be traced back to injuries and a miserable receiving corps.
Justin Blackmon is a big-time wide receiver. He can make impossible catches look easy. Blackmon will also be a big target for Bradford to spot down the field and his sure hands can provide quick receptions to give Bradford confidence at the beginning of games.
Kevin Kolb is not a horrible quarterback. His receiving corps is not awful—Larry Fitzgerald is out there, after all. The offensive line is just not giving Kolb enough time to make good throws.
Matt Kalil is the answer. The offensive tackle is quick, strong, and a natural blocker. He can protect Kolb in the pocket and open up running lanes. Kalil has all the physical tools necessary to be a meaningful addition to the Arizona Cardinals’ offense.
Why Pete Carroll thought that Tavaris Jackson was a high-caliber NFL starting quarterback is beyond me. After losing Matt Hasselbeck to the Tennessee Titans in the off-season, Jackson was inserted into the starting lineup. As expected, Seattle has not had an exceptional passing attack this season.
Enter Matt Barkley, a recruit who has lived up to his lofty expectations in college and has all the skills necessary to make him a successful NFL quarterback.
Barkley would also be reunited with his former college coach at USC. Ensuring that a quarterback is comfortable in their transition to the pros is an understated factor in their development. Barkley and Carroll could surprise some people next year.
The Minnesota Vikings have a need at left tackle and, fortunately for them, one of the top two players at the position is still on the board.
Jonathan Martin has quick feet, a big body, and the athletic ability necessary to help him succeed at the next level.
Martin has protected Andrew Luck for many years and will do the same for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder makes accurate throws, but often does not have enough time to see his receivers. As a rookie, Ponder has struggled to feel the pressure on his blindside. Martin will make sure there is no pressure to feel.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might elect to draft a wide receiver here, but the fact remains that the team needs a defensive end and Quinton Coples is by far the best one available.
Coples can play multiple positions on the defensive line. He is quick and can get to opposing quarterbacks, which will boost a Jaguars defense that at times this season has looked quite solid.
Coples is passionate about his play and will inject life into a young Jacksonville team.
Cam Newton has impressed many observers who pegged him as a mid-level talent unworthy of the first pick in the NFL draft. Most surprising about Newton has been his passing ability.
Newton has helped to resurrect Steve Smith’s career and has proved he comes to compete in every game. Smith is not young, however, and Newton’s other receiving prospects are few and far between.
Alshon Jeffery is a hometown kid who can step up and give Newton a big target to throw to. Jeffery can snatch receptions out of the air and his strong hands ensure he can hold onto the ball and battle with players in the secondary. Pairing Jeffery with Newton would give the Panthers one of the most dynamic quarterback-receiver tandems in the NFL.
Morris Claiborne has not received the same hype as teammate Tyrann Mathieu, but he will be a steal in this year’s draft.
The Denver Broncos need a cornerback as both of their starters are getting older and well past their primes.
Claiborne will be the perfect addition to the Broncos’ defense. His length, strength, and quickness makes him an unwelcome matchup for most quarterbacks and receivers. He will boost Denver’s play-making ability.
Peyton Hillis has been afflicted by the Madden Curse, pure and simple. The running back appeared to be the answer for the Cleveland Browns last season but has battled illness, injuries, and a contract extension this year and has been ineffective.
Trent Richardson is one of the most electrifying players in the draft. He has the speed to make cuts and run through defenses and the vision to break off big runs.
Richardson would also take some of the pressure off of Colt McCoy as the Browns’ quarterback. He will have an impact right away in Cleveland.
The Washington Redskins are looking for a player who can make an impact right away. Brandon Thompson has the versatility to play multiple positions on the defensive line and the skills to play as a rookie.
A dark-horse for this pick would be Robert Griffin III from Baylor as the Redskins desperately need a quarterback as well.
Matt Cassel needs protection. Riley Reiff is the best offensive tackle left on the board and fills the Kansas City Chiefs biggest need. Reiff is a strong player, capable of contributing early.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense, surprisingly, could use some work. The linebacker position is among their weakest. The Eagles need a player who can command the team and play aggressively to make big plays. Vontaze Burfict fits the bill. He can sack quarterbacks, deflect passes, and stop the run. Philadelphia needs linebackers and Burfict is the best player available.
The Tennessee Titans could use a true pass rusher. Their defense is not creating enough big plays or harassing the opposing quarterback. Melvin Ingram could be just that player. He has an eye for the ball and is always a threat to deliver a hard hit.
Much like the Denver Broncos, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary is either too old or too unreliable to last much longer in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick is a strong, aggressive cornerback who can disrupt plays while learning from Tampa Bay’s veterans.
A number of factors have contributed to the San Diego Chargers’ weakness at outside linebacker. What used to be a strong position on the team now lacks depth.
Zach Brown can be the answer. At North Carolina, Brown showed off his explosiveness and speed from the outside and would be the perfect fit in San Diego’s 3-4 defense.
The Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for taking on players with a few attitude problems. Their next case will be Janoris Jenkins, the talented cornerback from Florida who got kicked off the team and transferred to Northern Alabama. Jenkins was considered a first-round pick last season and if he still has the same skills, will be a steal for Dallas. The team needs help in the secondary and Jenkins can provide it.
The Cincinnati Bengals attempted to address their issues in the secondary during the offseason, but talks with cornerback Jonathan Joseph broke down. Mark Barron is a solid safety who will improve the Bengals’ pass defense. Cincinnati also needs a running back, but with Trent Richardson already off the board, that can wait until the second round.
Courtney Upshaw is the most talented player left on the board who fills a need for the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo needs to improve its defensive pressure up front and Upshaw is just the player to do it. The linebacker can get sacks and defend against the run, providing the Bills with some stability on defense.
The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to upgrade their defense. Alameda Ta’amu is a work in progress, but could be a great addition to the Bengals’ team. The defensive tackle is a large presence who can use his strength to get around opposing linemen.
The New York Jets are desperate for pass rushers. They lost Bryan Thomas for the year, and the rest of his position is aging fast. Brandon Jenkins can fill the void. The linebacker had 13.5 sacks last season and can continue his production in the NFL.
Colt McCoy needs help. The Browns have very few receivers capable of making big plays. Michael Floyd has used up all of his eligibility at Notre Dame and his experience will pay dividends at the next level. Floyd will become McCoy’s go-to target quickly.
The New York Giants have had a hole at the linebacker position for years. Luke Kuechly can be their answer. He does not have the physical tools that would define him as a top-tier pro-prospect, but he has instincts that simply cannot be taught.
Matt Schaub has a top receiver in Andre Johnson. Outside of that, though, the Houston Texans receiving corps is fairly thin. Nick Toon could provide solid presence as he is a sure-handed receiver who can be looked to for key receptions and first downs. The Texans could also use a safety, but can probably find one later in the draft.
The Detroit Lions need a cornerback. Stephen Gilmore is the best one available at this point. With their offense finally on track, the Lions should try and fix their needs on the other side of the ball.
The New England Patriots obviously have weaknesses on defense. Most importantly, they are getting no pressure on the opposing quarterback, which makes their secondary have to work even harder. Kevin Reddick is a speedy defensive end who can fix their problems. Reddick has the quickness necessary to get around blockers and alter passes.
Back-to-back draft picks is not a bad situation to have. With consecutive picks the New England Patriots can get much-needed help in both defensive areas where they have the most need. T.J. McDonald could bring aggressiveness and play making ability to their secondary.
The Baltimore Ravens are in the enviable position of not having many positions that need help. There are few offensive skill players left at this point in the first round so the Ravens will best be served by selecting one of the best available prospects, Dont'a Hightower. Hightower can spend a few years in Baltimore’s system as he will serve as the eventual successor to Ray Lewis.
Jay Culter has a reputation of being an inconsistent quarterback, but with receivers like the ones the Chicago Bears have, who can blame him? Ryan Broyles is the type of player who has the intangibles and experience that will make him successful at the next level. He has played on quality teams and will be a much-needed improvement at receiver in Chicago.
With San Francisco shocking the world and finally appearing competent on offense, the team can focus their draft pick on their defense. San Francisco has a great rushing defense, but needs help against the pass. Alfonzo Dennard is a physical player who could fill an important void on the 49ers secondary.
The Pittsburgh Steelers do not have any glaring holes. Therefore, they should take the best player available. At this stage that is Manti Te’o out of Notre Dame. Linebacker is an important position and one that has a large learning curve. Te’o will gain valuable experience learning from veteran Steelers players and could be quite the investment down the road.
The Green Bay Packers also do not have many dire needs. That being said, they could use some help at outside linebacker. Jarvis Jones may need a few years to get up to speed, but the physical tools are there. The Packers can afford to spend a draft pick on a player who might not start right away.