2012 NFL Mock Draft: Full First-Round Predictions for All the Top Prospects
The order for the draft is starting to become a little clearer. Even with the upset win over the Titans, the Colts will almost certainly have the first overall pick.
Three coaches have already been fired as well, and college players are declaring for the draft left and right.
All of that together is making the draft start to look about as clear as it's gonna be...at least until the combine, that is.
So who's going where? Read on to find out, and make sure to tell me how I did in the comment section.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
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As if it could be anyone else.
Unless the Colts decide to stick with Manning, then they'll be drafting Andrew Luck. If they do decide to stick with Manning, they'll trade this pick to one of the other quarterback-hungry teams.
However, I think that, since Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell is likely to lose his job, the Colts will have a new guy coming in. New regimes mean new quarterbacks, so whoever replaces Caldwell will want to go with Luck and start the rebuild process.
Griffin was more impressive than Luck this year, but if there is such a thing as a can't-miss prospect, it's Luck. Whether the Colts have the first overall pick or they trade it to another team, Luck will be the first guy off the board.
2. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
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Despite rumors that he was going to return to school, Kalil now looks like he'll be going to the NFL.
Matt Kalil is the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long. He's the perfect size (6'7" and 295 lbs.), he plays in a pro-style offense and has been great both years he's started. USC's right tackle has already gone to the NFL and done very well, and Kalil's brother already plays in the NFL and is a two-time Pro Bowler...the list goes on and on.
There's nothing wrong with him except, maybe, his weight. He's a little lighter than some might prefer, but having lighter, faster left tackles seems to be the new in thing in the NFL now, so even that isn't a problem.
He's second on my big board only to Andrew Luck, and he's a perfect fit for the Vikings.
3. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
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The Rams want Matt Kalil, but they'll take Justin Blackmon and still be pretty happy. Sam Bradford needs a guy that won't drop every pass that Bradford sends his way, and if Blackmon can consistently catch 90 mph passes from Weeden, then he'll have no problem with Bradford.
Justin Blackmon is a punishing, physical receiver who gets separation from every defensive back he is paired up against. In the 2010 season, when he was matched up against Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, he completely dominated.
He has 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns, by the way.
He's no A.J. Green, but he's definitely the best player available that makes sense for the Rams right here.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
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First surprise pick. If anything, new regimes mean new quarterbacks. The Jaguars will have a new head coach and a new owner, and the only member of their front office who is sticking around, general manager Gene Smith, is rumored to have never wanted Blaine Gabbert in the first place.
It's very possible, with the new rookie wage scale, that the Jaguars will decide that Gabbert was bad enough to toss aside, especially when their new coach and new owner will want their own quarterback.
Matt Barkley, in my opinion, is only the third best option at quarterback in the draft (behind Robert Griffin III), but he's the "safer" option, as a pure pocket passer coming from a pro-style offense.
In that pro-style offense, Barkley has thrown for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
The Panthers have been rewarded for getting out of their quarterback mistake and taking Cam Newton first overall. I expect the Jaguars to make the same move.
5. Cleveland Browns: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
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The Browns may be tempted to take Robert Griffin with this pick, but I see them waiting it out a little longer with Colt McCoy. Instead, they take maybe the best defensive player in the draft.
At 6'6" and 285 lbs., Coples is ideally sized to play as a 4-3 defensive end. He's also been a monster this year and last at North Carolina. Despite being constantly double-teamed, he has amassed 7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 51 total tackles.
He has been superb against both the run and the pass, and defensive ends and rush linebackers bust less than any other position in the first round. The Browns need that if they're going to keep up with the other defenses in the AFC North.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
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The Buccaneers went from 10-6 to 4-10 in a single season. Not a great start.
Not all of it is their fault. They play in a tough division and have had some critical injuries, but they've still disappointed. They need upgrades in quite a few places, but Morris Claiborne is perhaps the best player on the board, and he fits what the Buccaneers need.
Claiborne was a big part of getting LSU to the BCS National Championship. He snagged five interceptions and broke up five more passes. He's also an outstanding tackler and as quick as they come.
He'll enjoy getting to play against Cam Newton again.
7. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
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We still don't know whether Griffin will stay in school another year to go through his first year of law school (which, I know, is a horrible, horrible idea), forgo the draft to train for the Olympics, or make Redskins fans happy and declare for the draft.
Since he won the Heisman, I think he's much more likely to declare than he was beforehand. Baylor will not be competing for a national championship or even a BCS Bowl, even with Griffin back, so there's no reason for him to return to school.
Mike Shannahan likes him some mobile quarterbacks, and they don't come any more mobile than track star Robert Griffin III. That said, don't lump him in the "mobile quarterback" category with guys like Michael Vick and Tim Tebow. Griffin can prosper as a pocket passer as well.
Griffin beat out Andrew Luck in every single statistical category this season. He completed 72 percent of his passes for 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That's mindblowing.
The only things that Griffin has against him are that he is slightly shorter than is ideal (he's 6'2" tall) and he played in the spread system. He's smart, accurate, he can run and he doesn't turn the ball over. He's everything you could ask for in a quarterback.
8. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
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Carolina is doing well on offense. Their defense, on the other hand, needs some work.
They wanted Morris Claiborne, but he's gone. They'll get a pretty good consolation prize in the 6'3" tall, 190-lb. Kirkpatrick from Alabama.
Kirkpatrick came into the season as the No. 1 corner prospect, but Claiborne has since surpassed him. He has no interceptions this season, but it's hard to get interceptions when your front seven rarely lets the opposing quarterback get off a pass. Also, quarterbacks tend to avoid him when they can.
He's a little lanky, but he's tall enough to match up with any receiver in the NFL. He'll help the Panthers defense create a few turnovers.
9. Buffalo Bills: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
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Despite starting strong, the Buffalo Bills have flat-lined. They'd like to take a quarterback after a disappointing second half of the season by Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they dumped too much money into his new contract to do that, so instead, they give him another weapon.
Alshon Jeffery has had a disappointing season in South Carolina, but he's still a big, physical receiver who can do very well as a possession receiver. At 6'4" and 230 lbs., he's big enough to push around smaller corners if he needs to.
Jeffery has struggled to get good separation this season, but he was phenomenal in 2010, and if he shows up at the combine, teams will not hesitate to take him early and blame his numbers on poor quarterback play in South Carolina.
He'll give an extra boost to what is already a pretty high-powered offense.
10. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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Matt Moore has won the Dolphins out of the running for a top quarterback, and Landry Jones doesn't look like a big enough improvement over Moore to not take the second best tackle on the board.
Riley Reiff has had a great season, and right now, I have him a little higher on my big board than Jonathan Martin. He's 6'6" tall, 300 lbs, and a monster run blocker.
He's also quick enough on his feet to easily play left tackle in the NFL, even though some think he'd be better suited for the right tackle position, which is exactly what the Dolphins happen to need right now (Jake Long has them pretty well situated at left tackle).
Reiff may need to add a little weight, but other than that, he's a great fit for Miami. He'll help buy Matt Moore and Reggie Bush a little more time on their plays, which will keep the Dolphins above water for now.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
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New regimes mean new quarterbacks. Landry Jones didn't quite perform like he was expected to, but Blake Bell is nipping at his heels already, so I think he'll go ahead and head off to the NFL.
Playing in a spread system, Jones threw for a monstrous 4,302 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He's a little bit raw, but he only looks bad in comparison to the other three polished, NFL-ready quarterbacks in the class.
Landry Jones is an NFL-caliber quarterback—he just isn't Andrew Luck.
Whoever the next coach in Kansas City is, he's going to want his own player at the position. Matt Cassel has not thrived outside of Charlie Weis's system and I don't think anyone thinks Kyle Orton will be the long-term answer.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
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The dream team has been a disappointment this season and one area they drastically need to improve is their linebacking corps.
Luke Kuechly has a career 516 tackles. That's not a typo. This season alone, he had 191 tackles, 102 of them solo, and three interceptions just for good measure.
Kuechly was one of the bright spots for a mostly terrible Boston College team this season. He's the right size, too, at 6'3" tall and 237 lbs. He isn't a monster, like Vontaze Burfict or Dont'a Hightower, but he's big enough to get the job done.
He's also a great leader, and he'd help Philadelphia's defense find some cohesion that they've missed for most of the season.
13. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
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The Chargers' pass rush has been terrible this season, and they could use an upgrade. Courtney Upshaw is the best rush linebacker prospect in the draft class, so he makes a lot of sense here.
Courtney Upshaw has 46 tackles and 8.5 sacks for the season (and one interception because, why not?). He did this splitting tackles with Nico Thorpe, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower, Josh Chapman and Mark Barron. There are only so many tackles and sacks to go around after all.
He's also enormous, listed as 6'2" tall and 265 lbs.
He'll certainly stop Tim Tebow from running all around the backfield until a play opens up if the Chargers land him here.
14. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
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The Cardinals are desperate for a decent tackle. Luckily for them, Jonathan Martin is available in this mock.
Martin has been great blocking Andrew Luck's blind side. He's also been great at run blocking. I don't know if you noticed, but Stanford can run the ball on pretty much anyone. However, I don't have him as high as Riley Reiff because he was consistently beaten by USC defensive end Nick Perry in their matchup.
Still, save that one instance, he's been superb. He's also a sharp guy (he goes to Stanford after all) and has all the measurables: he's listed as 6'6" and 305 lbs.
Arizona spent a lot picking up Kevin Kolb. They need to keep him protected. Martin is just the player to do that for them.
15. Seattle Seahawks: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
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Another team that won their way out of the running for a top quarterback. Seattle needs a quarterback desperately, but the top prospects are already off the board, so Seattle will have to address a different position.
Alfonzo Dennard just happens to be the best player available that makes sense for them.
Alfonzo Dennard is probably better than his former teammate Prince Amukamara, who was the second corner taken in the 2011 NFL Draft. Dennard is a little short at 5'10" tall, but he makes up for it by being a true shut-down corner.
He has no interceptions, but that's simply because his man is never open. He has deflected six passes this season, though, so when the ball does come his way, he makes the play.
Seattle has quietly put together a pretty good defense. Dennard will make it that much better.
16. Cincinnati Bengals: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
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This is the pick that the Bengals get from Oakland via the Carson Palmer trade.
If I were a general manager of a team, I wouldn't spend a first-round pick on a running back. They have a very short shelf life and you can land a good one in the middle rounds or even later (Arian Foster and LeGarrette Blount were undrafted free agents).
However, not everyone sees things like I do, and I don't see Trent Richardson falling any further than the Bengals. He did win the Doak Walker award and was nominated for the Heisman, after all.
Everyone knows how great Richardson's year at Alabama was. He got nearly half his 1,583 total yards after contact with one defensive player. He also had a ridiculous nine 100-yard games and 20 touchdowns.
Simply put: He was Alabama's offense this season. The Bengals take him here to take over for Cedric Benson.
17. New York Giants: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
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Guards tend to not go until late in the first round, but David DeCastro is the best guard prospect to come along in years. He is worth a high pick.
DeCastro dominated every defensive player he was paired up against. He has perfect size, zero character issues and a few years of great tape. He's maybe the safest player in the draft.
Andrew Luck has not been sacked often this season. Stanford also put up 208 rushing yards per game (22nd in the FBS), and a lot of that was due to the superb run blocking of David DeCastro.
The 6'5" tall, 310 lb. guard will keep Manning protected and will open up holes a mile wide for Ahmad Bradshaw, or whoever else is running the ball in New York next year.
18. Chicago Bears: Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama
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They drafted one tackle last season with Gabe Carimi, and Barrett Jones will complete the duo.
Barrett Jones can probably play either guard or tackle in the NFL, and he's projected as a right tackle, but he's done such a superb job at Alabama this season that I see no reason why he couldn't stay at left tackle in the NFL.
At 6'5" tall, he's a little short for the position, but his versatility would be great for a Bears team that needs help everywhere on the offensive line.
Either way, he'll help keep Cutler in the game, which is all Chicago needs to stay competitive. They would not have lost to the Broncos or the Seahawks if they had a quarterback capable of scoring.
19. Tennessee Titans: Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
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The Titans' biggest need is wide receiver, but Zach Brown is the best player available and he fills a big need, so they go with him.
The Titans' pass rush has been horrible this season. Karl Klug currently leads the team with five sacks, and he's a rookie defensive tackle.
Zach Brown is more than capable of getting to the quarterback. He has 5.5 sacks this season to go along with two interceptions, 11.5 tackles for loss and 91 total tackles.
He also happens to be (probably) the fastest linebacker in the draft class, and would be a great weak-side linebacker for the Titans. They already have their strong-side guy of the future in Akeem Ayers and the middle of the future in Colin McCarthy, so Brown would complete a young linebacker trio.
The only downside that Brown has is his size. He's listed as 6'2" tall and 230 lbs., but since the Titans need him as a weak-side backer, he's fine as long as he actually is 230.
20. New York Jets: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
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The Jets could use an upgrade on their pass rush, and Whitney Mercilus is one of the best pure pass-rushers in the draft class.
Mercilus has been creeping up the draft boards all season, and for good reason. He has sacked the quarterback 14.5 times this season (the most in the FBS) and has an additional 19.5 tackles for loss. He did that going up against guys like Mike Adams and Ricky Wagner.
He's also the right size for a rush linebacker, at 6'4" and 265 lbs. Also, his last name is Mercilus! How awesome would a jersey reading Mercilus across the back be?
21. Cleveland Browns: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
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This is the pick that Cleveland gets from Atlanta for their trade in 2011.
Colt McCoy's No. 1 target right now is Greg Little. That simply will not do.
Mike Holmgren doesn't believe in taking wide receivers very high, but Floyd is too good to pass up at this point.
Floyd has caught 95 passes this season for 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns. He's also got great size, at 6'3" tall and 225 lbs. Despite his big size, he's pretty quick and has consistently gotten separation from the corners he's faced up to now. If it weren't for his DUI before the season, he probably would have overtaken Alshon Jeffery at this point.
He's a great player, and at the 20th pick, he's definitely worth taking a gamble on.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: Dont'a Hightower, MLB, Alabama
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Cincinnati uses their second pick in the first round to beef up their linebacker corps. With Manti Te'o staying in school and Vontaze Burfict ending his season in a disappointing fashion, Hightower becomes the consensus No. 2 inside linebacker.
Dont'a Hightower was a huge part of what made Alabama great this season. Listed at 6'4" and a monstrous 260 lbs., Hightower is a force on the inside. He's the main reason you just couldn't run on Alabama this year. I still get angry that the Tennessee native picked the wrong school to go to.
He managed to accumulate 79 tackles, three sacks and an interception on top of his great measurables.
With this pick, the Bengals add their second Alabama player of the draft.
23. Dallas Cowboys: Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
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Devon Still is the best defensive tackle in this class. He's been a beast all season for Penn State, and were it not for certain off-the-field problems with the team (you know the ones), Penn State likely would have been in the Big Ten Championship instead of Wisconsin.
Still piled on 17 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He's also very fast for a defensive tackle, but is still listed as 311 lbs., which is plenty big for the position.
Dallas has struggled this year defensively. They have big names on the roster and Rob Ryan coordinating them, but they haven't clicked. Still would be a big help for them as they struggle to find a defensive identity for themselves.
24. Denver Broncos: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
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Tim Tebow has been relatively successful this season, and running the option puts him at his best. For it to be as effective as it can, the Broncos will need a legitimate running back.
Lamar Miller declared for the draft already, and with Trent Richardson gone, he is the best running back on the board. He's powerful, he's fast and he's shifty. He can power through defensive backs and scamper around defensive linemen.
He rushed for over 1,000 yards and was one of the only things Miami had going for it offensively this season. At 5'11" and 212 lbs, he's just the right size for an every-down back. Tebow will enjoy being able to hand the ball off to him occasionally.
He supposedly runs a 4.46 40 as well, so there's that.
25. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
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The Lions always take the best player available, but they cannot ignore their offensive line any longer. This year, they will reach for an offensive lineman that makes sense if they need to.
Luckily for them, an offensive lineman happens to be the best player available.
There must be something about Wisconsin that makes them constantly put out quality offensive linemen. Konz is the latest in that trend. At 6'5" and 315 lbs., Konz has the size to start right away. He's been a great run blocker for Montee Ball (who had more than 30 touchdowns this season) and was also a great pass blocker. Russell Wilson didn't get sacked often this year.
Konz will fill a gaping hole in the Lions O-line and may be that missing piece that makes them a deep playoff threat.
26. Houston Texans: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
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I was not high on Cordy Glenn early in the season. Boise State's defensive line had their way with him.
However, he has since done very well against top-level SEC competition and improved his stock. Glenn is also enormous, standing 6'5" tall and weighing in at a whopping 330 lbs.
He plays tackle for Georgia, so he can move around with the best of them, but it would be best for him to move to guard in the NFL. His 330 lb. frame will keep defenders away from Matt Schaub and Arian Foster for years to come.
The Texans don't have a lot of weaknesses, but they've been eaten up with injuries this season, so they may as well increase their protection.
27. San Francisco 49ers: Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington
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The 49ers are another team that it's hard to find a gaping hole in, so they replace their nose tackle with Alameda Ta'amu.
There's a premium on nose tackles; good ones are rare. For example, this year, there are only three real quality guys at the position (Ta'amu, Memphis's Dontari Poe and Alabama's Josh Chapman), so the 49ers won't be afraid to reach a little bit.
Ta'amu has also been a monster this year for Washington. It's hard to stop a bull rush from 330 lb. defensive lineman. He racked up 28 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks this season despite seeing constant double-teaming.
He'll be welcomed in San Francisco. They already have a great defense; Ta'amu will make it that much better.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State
Big Ben plays well injured, but the fact that he's injured so often really says something about the Pittsburgh offensive line.
Osmele is a giant. He's listed at 6'5" tall and 337 lbs. A guy that size is tough to move no matter what, and the Steelers like oversized guards, so he fits right into what they like. Furthermore, he plays left tackle right now, so he can move very well for a guy his size.
Rashard Mendenhall has been injured a few times this season as well. With Osmele standing next to All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers will bolster their rush offense and ought to keep their playmakers off the injured list. They could use a tackle or two as well, but there isn't a tackle worth taking who's available.
29. New England Patriots: Brandon Thompson, DT/DE, Clemson
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The Patriots picked up Albert Haynesworth from the Redskins for a reason. He busted, so they cut him. Now they need a long-term replacement. Luckily, they'll get that in Brandon Thompson.
Thompson has been a constant thorn in the side of Clemson's opposing quarterbacks and he's faced a lot of double-teams because of it. Even so, he's racked up 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 45 total tackles.
He's also the perfect size to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 and defensive end in a 3-4 (6'2" tall and 310 lbs.). With his size and speed, he'll help iron out a few of the wrinkles that showed up in the Pats defense this season.
30. New England Patriots: Dwight Jones, WR, UNC
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One of these picks is the one that New Orleans gave up to the Patriots last season for the Mark Ingram pick. Normally, I would say that Belichick is just going to trade this pick away, but this year he might actually use it. The Patriots fell short of a lot of expectations this season.
The Patriots use their second one to give Tom Brady another throwing option that isn't a tight end. They could go for another defensive back with how bad their pass defense has been, but since a lot of their guys were injured this season, I think they'll wait one more year on the ones they've already picked.
Jones has only 79 receptions, but managed to turn those into 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dwight Jones is big enough (225 lbs) to make a corner's job much more difficult, and he's used that ability to his team's benefit quite a bit this season.
He'll continue to get lots of yards after the catch playing for the Patriots.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
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At one point, I had Vontaze Burfict as the best defensive player in the draft, but he's had a terrible last half of the season.
Still, I expect Burfict to blow the combine away and impress a lot of teams, which will make him jump back up the draft boards, but until that time, he slips to the Ravens.
The Ravens will be glad to have him, too. Ray Lewis may very well retire after this season, and if he does, the Ravens will need to fill a big gap.
Vontaze Burfict has seemingly corrected the character issues that have turned off some people and he's still a great player. At 250 lbs., he's also huge for an inside linebacker. His problem is some inconsistent tape, but under the defensive minds in Baltimore, he'll flourish.
32. Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, DT/DE, Michigan State
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The Packers could go a few different ways here. They need to replace Charles Woodson, who will retire soon, and beefing up their running back group wouldn't hurt, either. In the end, I think they'll go with whoever the best player available is. Here, it's Jerel Worthy.
There's a deep corner class this year, so missing a corner on this pick probably won't haunt them. They can grab a guy like Casey Hayward in the second round anyway, so here, they pick off a defensive tackle.
Jerel Worthy had a lot of inconsistent tape. Last season, he was a beast for Michigan State, but this year, he's been mediocre. He did have some great games, though. He was phenomenal against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.
Worthy had 8.5 tackles for loss for the season and got to the quarterback 3.5 times. Not stellar, but certainly good. He'll help improve a faltering Green Bay defense.