This updated version of my 2012 NFL Mock Draft features several major changes. Most notably is the rise of Alabama's Trent Richardson. Until this point, I had Richardson coming off the board in the middle of the first round. He has jumped into the Top 10.
North Carolina's Zach Brown has solidified his spot in the first round, and could even make a push to be a Top 10 selection. Teams are always looking for fast linebackers capable of making plays all over the field. At this point, Brown is battling Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw to be the first outside linebacker selected.
Stanford's Andrew Luck will secure the future for one NFL franchise. The Indianapolis Colts are lucky that they have the opportunity to transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Luck is NFL ready and should start from day one.
Peyton Manning's health shouldn't play a role in this selection. At 35 years old, Manning figures to have about three good years left. The addition of Luck answers the biggest question for the Indianapolis Colts, what do we do when Manning retires?
The injuries and ineffective play of Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold will force the St. Louis Rams to address the tackle position. Stanford's Jonathan Martin will be a hot name come April. He plays the game with great balance and quickness. His ability to protect the passer is something every NFL team covets.
Adding Martin will solidify the Rams left tackle position, but also improve other spots. This selection will bump Rodger Saffold to right tackle and Jason Smith inside to guard.
The Martin pick is as much about value as it is about need. St. Louis also needs a playmaking wide receiver, but neither Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery are worthy of the second overall pick.
A lot of evaluators have USC's Matt Kalil rated higher than Martin. However, I feel that Kalil is a bit overrated. He doesn't possess the same fluidity as Martin, which impacts his ability to protect the edge. Both players will be excellent offensive tackles, but Martin has slightly more upside.
USC's Matt Kalil will be an elite left tackle in the NFL. He has quick feet and good balance, which allows him to protect the edge and open running lanes. The Minnesota Vikings need to add Matt Kalil, as they are lacking good options at the position.
Minnesota signed free agent Charlie Johnson as a stop-gap solution. Johnson would be a better option as a backup offensive lineman. Adding Kalil would allow the Vikings to use Johnson in a different role.
The Vikings used their 2011 first round pick to select Christian Ponder. Ponder has shown some promise, but needs to be surrounded by more talent. Kalil will help provide himr with the protection needed to locate open targets.
There are reports that Kalil will be returning to school. If that is the case, Minnesota will likely turn to LSU's Morris Claiborne.
Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary allowed a struggling Philip Rivers to dominate the game. He appeared to be unstoppable, but that was more about the Jaguars' secondary. LSU's Morris Claiborne would be able to provide an immediate upgrade.
Claiborne is a terrific athlete, who has lock-down corner potential. His coverage abilities make up part of his value. He also possesses excellent ball skills, which make him a threat to comedown with an interception.
Jacksonville also has a need at the wide receiver position. This need makes Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon a legitimate option. The addition of Blackmon would help open the offense, while also providing Blaine Gabbert with a No. 1 target.
The Washington Redskins don't need to bring in another veteran quarterback, they need to add a quarterback through the draft. USC's Matt Barkley has the experience and talent to be an immediate starter in the NFL.
Barkley is an accurate passer, who is capable of sustaining drives. His ability to accurately place the ball provides the playmakers an opportunity to pick up yards after the catch. Barkley has the "it" factor that separates him from other quarterbacks.
Mike Shanahan's future depends on the addition of a young quarterback. Ownership will not tolerate any more failed experiments.
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is an explosive talent, who will have an immediate impact. The Carolina Panthers need to find a young wide receiver to grow alongside Cam Newton. Blackmon is a versatile target, who is able to stretch the field and work the underneath routes.
His size and ability to create after the catch will help the development of Newton. Steve Smith has a few good years left, but eventually he will lose some of his speed. The Panthers invested a lot in Newton and need to surround him with weapons.
If Blackmon is off the board, I expect them to target help along the defensive line. North Carolina's Quinton Coples would likely be their top target.
Most NFL running backs begin to decline around 27 years old. Cleveland Browns' Peyton Hillis is 25, demanding a big contract and in the middle of a terrible season. The Browns should move on from Hillis and add Alabama's Trent Richardson.
Richardson's versatility would upgrade the Browns at the position. He can break off a long run, as well as grinding out the tough yardage. Because of his balance and strength, he is the ideal every-down running back.
Cleveland could also focus on the defensive line and receiving corps. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and North Carolina's Quinton Coples would top the list at those positions.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o makes plays all over the field, covering sideline to sideline. Because of his size and strength, he is able to step up and hold at the point of attack-- just what the Eagles need to improve their run defense.
Philadelphia's defensive system puts a lot of pressure on the linebackers. It doesn't provide them with clean lanes to the football. This makes it important to have a middle linebacker capable of fighting off blocks, and Te'o possesses that skill set.
The Eagles could also use help on the offensive line. Iowa's Riley Reiff would be their top target at that position.
Baylor's Robert Griffin III has taken the country by storm. His ability to make plays on the ground and through the air separates him from the rest of the quarterback class. The Miami Dolphins need a game changer at quarterback.
Matt Moore is playing quality football, but his upside is limited. He would be the ideal candidate to hold down the fort until Griffin III is ready. Griffin III is much more than an athlete, his skills as a passer have improved each season.
The Dolphins don't have a need greater than their need a quarterback.
Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict possesses the ability to change an offense's game plan. Because of his ability to cover sideline to sideline, he is a threat to always chase down the ball career. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense needs a defensive game changer.
Adding Burfict would allow the Buccaneers to shift Mason Foster to the outside, effectively improving two linebacker positions. Foster is a talented linebacker, who would make more of am impact on the outside.
Tampa Bay will also have to consider adding a cornerback. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick would be a good fit for the Buccaneers defense.
Larry Fitzgerald is a great football player, but he needs someone to help draw away double teams. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery will demand attention and free things up for Fitzgerald. Because of his size and leaping ability, he is a constant mismatch.
Arizona invested a ton it Kevin Kolb, and they need to surround him with the pieces to succeed. Because of their success with Fitzgerald and Anquan Bolden in the lineup, Arizona understands the need for multiple playmakers.
The Cardinals could also target an offensive lineman. Iowa's Riley Reiff would instantly upgrade the left tackle position.
Iowa's Riley Reiff will be a hot commodity come April. He is a fluid athlete, who plays with great technique. The Kansas City Chiefs could use an upgrade at left tackle. Brandon Albert has done a good job, but would be more effective on the right side.
The addition of Reiff would improve two spots along the offensive line. Because of his ability to protect the passer, he would be an upgrade over Albert. Kansas City places a high value on offensive line play. This will put Reiff high on their draft board.
The Buffalo Bills have not created enough pressure on the quarterback. Chris Kelsay and Spencer Johnson are fringe starters, who have a combined three sacks this season. North Carolina's Zach Brown would be an instant upgrade at outside linebacker.
Brown's versatility makes him an attractive prospect. Because of his quickness, he possesses a ton of upside as a pass rusher. The Bills would see an all around improvement from the addition of Brown. A skilled pass rusher would especially help the secondary.
If Iowa's Riley Reiff drops to this spot, he would get a lot of consideration.
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback situation doesn't offer much hope. Tarvaris Jackson can't lead Seattle to a Super Bowl. Because of his potential, Oklahoma's Landry Jones provides hope to a franchise. Jones possesses the physical abilities to an effective NFL quarterback.
Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch and Mike Williams give the Seahawks a wide array of playmakers. Their presence would greatly impact the development of a young quarterback. Because of accuracy concerns, Jones might need bigger targets early in his career. Rice, Williams and Miller offer great size and leaping ability.
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is also an option at this position.
The San Diego Chargers defense needs an upgrade at the outside linebacker position. Travis Laboy is a good rotational player, but shouldn't start for a playoff contending team. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw would be an immediate upgrade.
Because of his strength and quickness, Upshaw brings a lot of versatility. He excels at setting the edge against the run, as well as creating pressure. Upshaw is still developing as a pass rusher, but has a lot of potential.
San Diego also needs to consider adding an offensive tackle. If Iowa's Riley Reiff is available he would be the likely selection.
The New York Giants linebacking corps consists of average football players, especially at the middle linebacker spot. Boston College's Luke Kuechly would give the unit a high impact player. Since the retirement of Antonio Pierce, New York has been searching for consistent linebacking play.
Kuechly is an instinctual player, who consistently makes his presence felt. Because of his ability to identify developing plays, he is always around the football. He doesn't possess elite athleticism, but has enought to cover sideline to sideline.
New York might also look to upgrade along the offensive line. They could potentially add either a guard or tackle. Iowa's Riley Reiff and Stanford's David DeCastro would fit the Giants needs.
North Carolina's Quinton Coples is an elite talent, who could end up in the top 10 of the draft. Because of owning two 1st round picks, Cincinnati has the luxury of focusing on best player available. Coples possesses the skill set to develop into an elite player.
Coples would join a crowded defensive end rotation, but he possesses more upside than anyone on the roster. While he is considered a strong pass rusher, he also holds up against the run. Because he is a complete player, he will be a highly sought after prospect.
If Coples is off the board, the Bengals will target some help on the offensive line. Stanford's David DeCastro would fit a need.
The Tennessee Titans need an upgrade along the interior of their defensive line. Clemson's Brandon Thompson has the capability to make an immediate impact. He plays with great leverage, which allows him to hold at the point of attack.
Thompson's strength is his ability to occupy blockers and push the pocket. Because of his anchor ability, he will immediately improve the Titans' run defense. His strong leg drive allows him to collapse the pocket and get pressure in the face of the quarterback.
Tennessee also needs to add an offensive playmaker. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd will be in play for the Titans.
South Carolina's Melvin Ingram's versatility makes him an asset to any defense. His skill set would be best utilized in a defensive system like the New York Jets run. Ingram has lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker and defensive tackle. Because of his athletic ability, he has found success at each of those positions.
The Jets need to find someone capable of bringing pressure off the edge. Without the emergence of Aaron Maybin, New York's outside linebackers would only have a total of 6.5 sacks. Ingram's quickness would provide Rex Ryan with another pass rushing option.
Georgia's Cordy Glenn would also fit at this spot, as the Jets need help along the offensive line.
Landing Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick would be a dream scenario for the Detroit Lions. He would provide them with an elite talent at the cornerback position. Chris Houston and Eric Wright are good complementary pieces, but neither are top level cover guys.
Kirkpatrick's aggressiveness fits the Lions physical style of play. He uses his length to play close to the line and disrupt the time of the offense. His presence will only increase the effectiveness of the Lions' pass rush.
If Kirkpatrick is off the board, Detroit will look to Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard.
The Chicago Bears have been without a difference making wide receiver since Curtis Conway. This current group consists of No. 2 and No. 3 type talent. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd would provide the Bears with a gamebreaker with No. 1 receiver potential.
During the offseason, Chicago added Roy Williams hoping he would provide them with some big plays. However, he has more drops than big plays. Floyd will succeed where Williams failed. His size and leaping ability gives him big play potential. Jay Cutler will appreciate a big target with consistency.
Ohio State's Mike Adams also makes sense for the Bears. He would be an upgrade over J'Marcus Webb at the left tackle position.
The Cincinnati Bengals are set at the skill positions, but need an upgrade along the offensive line. Stanford's David DeCastro would be a great long term replacement for veteran Bobby Williams. Cincinnati understands the importance of strong line play.
DeCastro's balanced play will help improve the Bengals run and passing attack. Because of his experience at Stanford, he will have an easy transition to the NFL.
Cincinnati's Super Bowl hopes depend on strong offensive line play. That road requires many face-offs versus the tough Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens defenses.
Many feel that Cincinnati will add a running back in the 1st round of the draft. However, they could potentially could land a player like Virginia Tech's David Wilson in the 2nd round.
The Cleveland Browns offensive line needs an upgrade at right tackle. Georgia's Cordy Glenn possesses the ideal skills to play right tackle in the NFL. His good size and quick feet allow him to effectively protect the pass. Glenn uses a strong leg drive to create a push and open running lanes.
Cleveland wants to run a balanced offensive, with strong running game. In order to employ that attack, the Browns need to have strong offensive line play. Adding Glenn would give Cleveland above average players at left tackle (Joe Thomas), center (Alex Mack) and right tackle.
The Denver Broncos are winning football games because of good defense. This unit has taken a positive step, but still needs some upgrades. Penn State's Devon Still will provide the Broncos with a disruptive force.
Still spent the majority of his season in the offensive backfield. Because of his quick first step, he is able to penetrate the pocket. His penetration disrupts the timing of the offense and forces quick decisions. Denver creates pressure off the edge, but lacks a push up the middle.
Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are approaching the end of their careers, which makes adding a cornerback another need. Because of his physical play, Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard would be a fit in Denver.
The Houston Texans are getting a glimpse of how a strong defense can impact a season. Without the play of their defense, Houston would not be closing in on their first playoff appearance. Washington's Alameda Ta'amu can only strengthen this unit.
Because of his size and strength, Ta'amu is an ideal fit at nose tackle. He excels at occupying blockers and stuffing the run. His explosiveness off the line also allows him to gain penetration. Houston's current starter Sean Cody doesn't have the upside of Ta'amu.
Houston could also look to target a wide receiver. Baylor's Kendall Wright would be a nice fit for the Texans.
North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins is more than a coverman, he is a playmaker. The Dallas Cowboys need a difference maker at cornerback. His instincts allow him to read a quarterback and jump a route. Because of his click and close skills, he is able to get interceptions and breakup passes.
The Cowboys offseason priority will be to replace Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkings. Both players have seen better days, and are now only marginal starters. Because of his skill set, Jenkins provides an immediate upgrade.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz will be another target for the Cowboys. He would provide them with an upgrade at the center position.
Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is a physical cornerback, who loves to play close to the line of scrimmage. His style of play would be a perfect for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dennard excels at playing bump and run coverage, which is a skill needed to play for the Steelers.
William Gay is better suited for a nickel role, while Ike Taylor is starting to show signs of aging. Dennard would instantly replace Gay, and become the long term replacement for Taylor. Because of their blitz heavy scheme, Pittsburgh needs talented cornerbacks.
The Steelers could also look to upgrade along the offensive line. Ohio State's Mike Adams or Wisconsin' Kevin Zeitler are likely targets.
The back end of the New England Patriots defense has more than a few holes, especially at safety. James Ihedigbo needs to stick to a special teams role. Alabama's Mark Barron would be an immediate upgrade over Ihedigbo.
Barron prefers to play in the the box, but he also has good coverage skills. Because of his skill set, he is capable of fitting any defensive system. His presence would provide support to the running game and sure up the back end defense.
New England could also look to add help on the defensive line. Penn State's Devon Still or Connecticut's Kendall Reyes would be possible targets.
As the saying goes, offenses win games but defenses win championships. The San Francisco 49ers are embracing that method. Because of their play on defense, they are strong candidates to make a Super Bowl run. However, the 49ers need to improve their secondary.
South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore possesses the abilities to become an elite coverman. He plays with a lot of aggressiveness, not afraid to come up and support the run. Because of his ball skills, he is threat to create turnovers. Gilmore would come in and replace Tarell Brown, opposite Carlos Rogers.
There is a possibility that San Francisco will target Wisconsin's Peter Konz to upgrade the center position.
Bryant McKinnie's run as an elite left tackle has come to an end. The Baltimore Ravens need to find a long term answer at the position. Ohio State's Mike Adams could potentially develop into an elite NFL tackle.
Adams combination of size and quick feet make him a well rounded player. His use of proper technique helps him avoid mistakes. Because he keeps low pad level, he is able to anchor after contact and push defenders off the ball.
The signing of McKinnie forces me to believe that Baltimore doesn't see Michael Oher as a left tackle. This the main reason behind this selection.
The New England Patriots defense lacks a consistent pass rushing presence. Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis is capable of generating a lot of pressure off the edge. He uses a quick burst and good snap anticipation to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield.
Due to some personnel issues, Bill Belichick was forced to 4-3 base defense. However, he prefers to employ a 3-4 attack. Lewis would be one of the pieces needed to transition back to the 3-4. Because of his pass rushing ability, he would be a fit at outside linebacker.
New England could also look to add another defensive tackle. Penn State's Devon Still would be a good fit for the Patriots.
The Green Bay Packers defensive line needs an infusion of talent. Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn are fringe starters, best utilized as part of a rotation. Connecticut's Kendall Reyes possesses the skill set needed to play the 5-technique.
Reyes uses leverage to help him hold at the point of attack. Because of his strong anchor, he is able to play two gap football. Reyes' quick burst off the line allows him to get into the backfield and create pressure. Adding Reyes would immediately improve the Packers entire defensive line.
Florida State's Brandon Jenkins could also land in this spot. His pass rushing skills would help take some pressure off of Clay Matthews.