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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pegging the 5 Best First-Round Playmakers

John RozumCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pegging the 5 Best First-Round Playmakers

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    It's without a doubt that the NFL Draft is easily one of the most exciting weekends on the year, especially in the world of sports and more specifically, the liaison that connects college and pro football.

    That being said, there's also exciting playmakers in every draft, whether they're on offense, defense or help out on special teams as additional responsibilities.

    Here are five of the best playmakers in round one of the 2012 NFL Draft

Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR (South Carolina)

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    South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery may not be the best WR in the draft (that goes to Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon), however, he's definitely one of the best and arguably the biggest playmaker.

    After the 2010 season, Alshon caught 88 passes for over 1,500 yards and scored nine TDs. Mind you, he was just a sophomore and his QB was Stephen Garcia. Those numbers come out to a staggering average of over 17 yards per catch.

    This season, Jeffery has been subject to poor QB play once again with both Garcia and backup Connor Shaw taking over midseason. Although his numbers in 2011 are down (45 receptions, 614 yards, seven TDs), he's still averaging over 13 yards per catch.

    A team like Jacksonville is desperate for a player like him who can stretch the field, take pressure of Blaine Gabbert, and help out RB Maurice Jones-Drew. A good player comparison would be Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace.

    He doesn't get a whole lot of receptions, but has a high average, is fast, can out-jump any defender and is great at getting yards after the catch.

Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB (Baylor)

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    Let's put it this way: If Robert Griffin was not the starting QB at Baylor, the Bears would be lucky if they were bowl-eligible; that's how important he is to Baylor. That said, Griffin is a perfect fit for Washington, who is desperate for a QB and a good coach in Mike Shanahan.

    The Redskins defense is solid, so that takes some pressure off Griffin having to miraculously perform and their ground game has been more consistent in recent weeks. The only thing hurting Washington right now, other than stud WRs, is the QB position.

    Griffin, however, knows how to make those around him better and is excellent at buying time with his feet. In addition, when needed he can make plays with his feet, as he's recorded 32 rushing TDs as well as just over 2,200 rush yards.

    What's more impressive is that he's not a run-first QB. Griffin is calm is the pocket and always keeps his eyes downfield. His ability to take off running is just a natural dynamic that adds to his playmaking ability.

Panthers: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)

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    Next to teammate Tyrann Mathieu, LSU's Morris Claiborne is arguably the nation's best defensive playmaker. On the year, Claiborne has recorded six INTs (11 the past two seasons) and returned one for a TD.

    He's obviously getting some attention because of Mathieu as well as safety Eric Reid, but nonetheless, Claiborne has stepped up to the plate and answered the call. Perhaps the most impressive aspect about him though, is after the INT.

    As a sophomore Morris picked off five passes and collected 101 return yards. This season, he's got those six picks but has upped the return total to 173 yards. In gaining 274 return yards on 11 picks, he's changing the field position by almost 25 yards every time.

    When you can get your offense essentially 2.5 first downs every time you get the rock, the odds significantly change.

    He would be perfect for a Carolina team lacking in pass defense, especially against teams like Atlanta and New Orleans.

Patriots (From Saints): Jayron Hosley, CB (Virginia Tech)

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    With the New England Patriots literally needing help across the board defensively, a ball hawk such as Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley would be a nice pick in the draft.

    In 2010, Hosley led the nation with nine INTs and returned them for a combined 110 yards. This season, he may have only picked off three passes, but you can't expect offenses to throw in his direction after his sophomore campaign.

    Nonetheless, on top of three INTs returned for 56 yards, Hosley forced two fumbles and has recorded almost 60 tackles. He's significantly improved as a tackler and with more opportunities this season, Hosley's developed into a solid sure tackler in the secondary.

    That's basically every aspect New England needs to improve defensively, so Hosley would thrive in Belichick's defense. The Patriots lack playmakers on defense. Adding Virginia Tech's finest can only help.

Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE (South Carolina)

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    Yes, another South Carolina Gamecock on the list, but easily one of the better DEs in the country. Melvin Ingram simply has a knack for finding the football, getting sacks, making tackles and always giving great effort.

    He's a big reason why South Carolina's defense has dominated this season even better than 2010, and that's saying something. On the year Ingram has collected 8.5 sacks, picked off two passes and recorded 44 tackles.

    In addition, he's recovered two fumbles (both for TDs) and even has a rushing TD where he scampered 68 yards on a fake punt. The man can ramble down the field and is quick off the ball. Putting him opposite of Clay Matthews would take a ton of pressure off the Packers' vulnerable pass defense.

    Not to mention his ball skills are excellent, so dropping him into coverage and utilizing Ingram's solid awareness and football IQ/instincts will do wonders for Green Bay. Their defense is basically made up of playmakers, so Melvin will fit right in. 

     

    2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft

    1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB (Stan.)

    17. Chicago Bears: Nick Toon, WR (Wisc.)

    2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR (Okla. St.)

    18. Tennessee Titans: Jeff Fuller, WR (Tex. A&M)

    3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT (USC)

    19. Dallas Cowboys: Alfonzo Dennard, CB (Neb.)

    4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR (S. Car.) 

    20. Cincinnati Bengals: Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)

    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB (Ala.)

    21. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin (OT Stan.)

    6. Miami Dolphins: Matt Barkley, QB (USC)

    22. New York Jets: Brandon Thompson, DE (Clem.)

    7. Cleveland Browns: Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame)

    23. Denver Broncos: Chase Minnifield, CB (UVA)

    8. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB (Baylor)

    24. Detroit Lions: Luke Kuechly, LB (B.C.)

    9. Carolina Panthers: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)

    25. Cleveland (From ATL): Vontaze Burfict, LB (ASU)

    10. Philadelphia Eagles: Manti Te'o, LB (ND)

    26. San Francisco 49ers: Mark Barron, S (Ala.)

    11. Buffalo Bills: Janoris Jenkins, CB (N. Ala.)

    27. New England Patriots: Cam Johnson, DE (UVA)   

    12. Kansas City Chiefs: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Ala.)

    28. Houston Texans: Devon Still, DT (Penn State)

    13. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, LB (Ala.)

    29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT (Ohio St.)

    14. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G (Stan.)

    30. N.E. (From N.O.): Jayron Hosley, CB (Va-Tech)

    15. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE (UNC)

    31. Baltimore Ravens: Zach Brown, LB (UNC)

    16. Cincinnati (From OAK): Cordy Glenn, OG (UGA)

    32. Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE (S. Car.)

     

    Follow John Rozum on Twitter @ Sportswriter27

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