2012 NFL Mock Draft: Complete First Round Predictions
There are plenty of shakeups here in my latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft. A lot of adjustments had to be made because of USC's Matt Barkley's decision to return to school. This elevated the stocks of Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma's Landry Jones. Both players could end up inside the top 10 based on team needs.
Griffin III might actually be the second player selected, because someone is bound to trade up to get an elite quarterback prospect. The Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks all could potentially move up to select Griffin III.
Check out the rest of the adjustments in the upcoming slides.
No. 1 Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, Quarterback- Stanford
Stanford's Andrew Luck remains the top player in this draft, and is the type of prospect that cannot be passed over. The Indianapolis Colts must find Peyton Manning's successor, and Luck fits that role. He possesses the arm strength to attack all parts of the field. His accuracy and ball placement provides receivers with an opportunity to pick up yards after the catch.
Peyton Manning will likely play next season, but this pick is more about the future. Eventually Manning's career will be over and having a succession plan already in place will be beneficial. Luck is NFL ready right now, but sitting for a year or two will only help his transition.
With a win in the final week, Indianapolis will fall out of the running for the No. 1 overall pick. This would drastically change their draft plans, as Luck won't be an option at No. 2. If this happens look for the Colts to trade down and pick up more assets.
No. 2 Minnesota Vikings- Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle- Stanford
The Minnesota Vikings offensive line struggles to protect the passer, especially left tackle Charlie Johnson. Stanford's Jonathan Martin possesses the quickness and balance to effectively limit pressure on the quarterback. He also does a good job opening up running lanes and moving defenders off the line of scrimmage.
Minnesota needs to surround Christian Ponder with the pieces needed to succeed. Owning the No. 2 overall pick gives them the opportunity to land an elite left tackle. This is a position that isn't easy to fill, but vitally important to an offenses success.
LSU's Morris Claiborne also has a chance to land in Minnesota. The Vikings lack consistent play from their secondary.
No. 3 St. Louis Rams- Morris Claiborne, Cornerback- LSU
The St. Louis Rams cornerbacks have been ravaged by injuries, but even when healthy this group lacks elite talent. Ron Bartell and Jerome Murphy project has the starters next season, but LSU's Morris Claiborne would be an upgrade over both.
Claiborne is a terrific athlete, who has a great feel for the game. He uses his instincts to read the quarterback's eyes and break on the football. Because of his ball skills, he is always a threat to pull down an interception.
St. Louis doesn't have a lot of specific needs, they just need to add talented players to the roster. They don't come much more talented than Claiborne.
No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars- Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver- Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon possesses the combination of size and speed needed to be effective in the NFL .His abilities allow him to create separation and pickup yards after the catch. The Jacksonville Jaguars need to find a playmaker capable of threatening the defense.
Jacksonville uses a 1st round pick on Blaine Gabbert, threw him into the fire and provided him with little surrounding talent. They need to provide Gabbert with a young playmaker, who can help his development. The addition of Blackmon will also open things in the running game for Maurice Jones-Drew.
No. 5 Cleveland Browns- Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle- USC
USC's Matt Kalil is a top three talent, but falls to this spot because of team needs. However, the Cleveland Brows would be extremely please to land Kalil at No. 5. Kalil and Joe Thomas would immediately give the Browns one of the top tackle tandem's in the NFL.
Kalil plays with good balance and strength. His ability to both protect the passer and open running lanes make him a great all-around tackle. Kalil projects as a left tackle, but might actually be better off on the right side of the line.
The fact that Cleveland owns another 1st round selection means that they can afford to make this pick. It may seem as a waste to put Kalil on the right side, but he is too talented to pass up on here.
No. 6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver- South Carolina
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled through a very disappointing season. However, this is still a very young team with tons of promise. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be a great addition to the Buccaneers offensive attack. His size and leaping ability provides a quarterback with a reliable target who can make plays on poorly thrown balls.
Tampa Bay has Mike Williams and a few average wide receivers. Players like Dezmon Briscoe and Preston Parker fit more as backup and No. 3 options. Jeffery gives the Buccaneers a true No. 1 receiver capable of winning in one on one situations.
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatick is another option for the Buccaneers. Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib provide more question marks than security.
No. 7 Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin III, Quarterback- Baylor
Baylor's Robert Griffin III is unlikely to last to the No. 7 pick. He will be a very coveted prospect and a trade target for several teams. Since USC's Matt Barkley decided to return to school, Griffin III secured the NO. 2 ranking among the quarterbacks. One could argue that he and Luck are the only elite quarterbacks in this draft.
The Washington Redskins desperately need to find their quarterback of the future. They cannot afford to go through another failed veteran experiment. Washington has to do everything possible to ensure they land either Luck or Griffin III.
If the Redskins miss out on one of the top quarterbacks, they will look to improve their secondary by adding Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. DeAngelo Hall's struggles this season make him a good candidate for an offseason release.
No. 8 Carolina Panthers- Quinton Coples, Defensive End- North Carolina
The Carolina Panthers have a lot of good pieces on the offensive side of the ball. However, the defense lacks talented playmakers. North Carolina's Quinton Coples potentially could develop into a double digit sack defender. His combination of size and quickness allows him to attack the edge and create pressure. Coples isn't only a pass rusher, as he also does a good job holding up against the run.
Carolina could team Coples and Charles Johnson to form one of the top defensive end tandem's in the league. The ability to consistently create pressure from your defensive line opens different possibilities for the unit.
The Panthers might want to focus on providing Cam Newton with more weapons. This puts the following three players into consideration: Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon and Iowa's Riley Reiff.
No. 9 Miami Dolphins- Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle- Iowa
The Miami Dolphins offensive line is one player away from becoming a truly elite unit. Right tackle Marc Colombo just doesn't have the talent needed to win on a consistent basis. Iowa's Riley Reiff would be an immediate upgrade and greatly improve the unit.
Reiff projects as a left tackle, but is capable of excelling on the right side. His quick feet and strong base allow him to protect the passer. Reiff's ability to keep his pad level low helps with leverage and increases his effectiveness in the run game.
Miami needs a quarterback more than an offensive tackle, but at this point it might be a reach to grab Landry Jones. The Dolphins are the ones hurt the most from Matt Barkley's decision to return to school.
No. 10 Buffalo Bills- Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker- Alabama
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw possesses the skills needed to be an elite NFL linebacker. His best position will be as a strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 system. The Buffalo Bills need to find a linebacker capable of setting the edge and rushing the passer.
Upshaw does a great job holding at the point of attack, disengaging and wrapping up the ball carrier. His pass rushing skills are still developing, but his athletic ability gives him upside as a pass rusher. Upshaw is an all-around player and will have an immediate impact.
Buffalo's current starting outside linebackers have only combined for four total sacks. Chris Kelsay and Spencer Johnson are not the long term solution at outside linebacker.
No. 11 Philadelphia Eagles- Luke Kuechly, Linebacker- Boston College
The Philadelphia Eagles linebackers received a ton of criticism this season. This unit has struggled to consistently get off blocks and make plays on the ball carrier. Their struggles can be attributed to a lack of experience and instincts. Boston College's Luke Kuechly may be the most instinctual player eligible for the 2012 draft.
Kuechly does a great job reading his keys and quickly identifying the developing play. Because of his instincts, he consistently around the football making plays. Kuechly also brings leadership and someone capable of calling the defense.
Philadelphia needs someone to come in and lead this linebacking corps. Most of their struggles have come in the mental aspect of the game. Kuechly makes those around him better by always being in the correct position.
No. 12 Kansas City Chiefs- Trent Richardson, Running Back- Alabama
Alabama's Trent Richardson boasts exceptional power and quickness. He is a complete running back, capable of remaining on the field for all three downs. The Kansas City Chiefs need offensive playmakers, who can change the outcome of a game.
Jamaal Charles will be back next season, but his lack of bulk limits the amount of carries he can handle. The combination of Charles and Richardson would pose a lot of problems for opposing defenses. Their contrasting styles would allow both players to be on the field at the same time.
Sometimes the adding to a position of strength his the best way to improve your football team. This pick is more about value than need, but it will help improve this football team.
No. 13 Arizona Cardinals- Zach Brown, Linebacker- North Carolina
The Arizona Cardinals main struggles come on the offensive side of the ball and at linebacker. This defense needs a rangy linebacker who can also provide pressure off the edge. North Carolina's Zach Brown possesses the skills necessary to develop into an elite outside linebacker.
Brown's quickness and short area burst allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline. He does a great job identifying the developing play and attacking. Brown is an impactful player, who will immediately challenge for the team lead in tackles.
Arizona will also look to bring in some help for the offensive line. Someone like Iowa's Riley Reiff would be the pick if he is still available.
No 14. Tennessee Titans- Brandon Thompson, Defense Tackle- Clemson
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak wants to win the battle in the trenches. As a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Munchak knows that controlling the line of scrimmage allows you to control the game. Clemson's Brandon Thompson excels at eating up blockers and holding at the point of attack.
Thompson is an ideal candidate to play the nose tackle position in a 4-3 defensive system. His combination of size and strength makes him tough to move off the line. Thompson does a great job playing two-gap football and keeping the linebackers clean. He also has the quickness to get off the ball and penetrate the pocket.
The Titans defense was at its best when Albert Haynesworth was playing dominant football. Thompson has a lot of the same skills as Haynesworth.
No. 15 Seattle Seahawks- Landry Jones, Quarterback- Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Landry Jones benefited from Matt Barkley's decision to return to school, this all but ensure him of being a 1st round pick. Jones possesses all the physical tools needed to be an elite NFL quarterback. The Seattle Seahawks lack a long term solution at quarterback, and at No. 15 their options are a bit limited.
Jones will provide Seattle with a strong-armed quarterback with a ton of upside. The presence of Tarvaris Jackson gives the Seahawks the opportunity to sit Jones and allow him to learn. Sitting behind Jackson will teach him to be a leader and pro.
Seattle could potentially make a move up the trade in order to land Robert Griffin III. In my opinion, Griffin III is a few notches ahead of Jones.
No. 16 Cincinnati Bengals (from Oak)- Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback- Alabama
The offseason loss of Jonathan Joseph really hurt the Cincinnati Bengals defense. His ability to play lockdown coverage and create turnovers has been sorely missed. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is talented enough to step in and have an immediate impact.
Kirkpatrick plays an aggressive style of football. He loves to disrupt the timing of the offense by playing bump and run coverage. His length helps him get a hand on the receiver and force him to adjust his route. Kirkpatrick can improve an already strong Bengals defense.
No. 17 Chicago Bears- Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver- Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears offense lacks great playmakers, which has been made apparent by their recent play. Losing Jay Cutler and Matt Forte has emphasized the need for a playmaking wide receiver. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd possesses the skills that will help improve this Bears offensive attack.
Floyd uses his combination of size and quickness to stretch the field. His body control and leaping ability allow him to attack the ball at its highest point. This allows him to make a play on poorly thrown footballs, which will greatly help Cutler's effectiveness.
Chicago could also look to address the offensive line by adding Ohio State's Mike Adams. Adams would be able to come in and replace J'Marcus Webb at left tackle.
No. 18 San Diego Chargers- Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker- Arizona State
The San Diego Chargers defense lacks a player capable of striking fear into the opposing offense. Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict boasts the physical skills needed to make plays from sideline to sideline. His quick first step helps him close on the ball carrier and create pressure on the quarterback.
San Diego could use Burfict at either outside or middle linebacker. His versatility is one of the keys to his draft value. The Chargers might ask Burfict to focus on generating pressure and setting the edge from an outside linebacker spot.
Help along the offensive line is another need for this Chargers team. They could potentially add either a tackle or a guard. Ohio State's Mike Adams should be available at this spot in the draft.
No. 19 New York Giants- David DeCastro, Guard- Stanford
The New York Giants offensive line is responsible for producing the worst rushing attack in the NFL. This running attack only averages 86 yards per game. Stanford's David DeCastro will immediately help open up running lanes for Ahmad Bradshaw and company.
DeCastro's steady play allows him to effectively impact the running and passing game. His experience at Stanford will help with his transition into the NFL. The Giants could use him as a replacement for either Dave Diehl or Chris Snee.
This could be another potential landing spot for Ohio State's Mike Adams, as the Giants also need help at tackle.
No. 20 Cincinnati Bengals- Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line- Georgia
Georgia's Cordy Glenn's versatility makes him a very attractive prospect. He has the ability to play either guard or tackle in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals would use him at guard, as a replacement for the aging Bobby Williams. However, he also gives them some depth at the tackle spot.
Glenn is a massive player with good athletic ability. His quick feet allowed him to make the adjustment and play left tackle this season. He does a good job protecting the passer, but his strength is his ability to open up running lanes.
The Bengals need to surround Andy Dalton with the pieces needed to be successful. Glenn helps provide protection and a more potent ground game.
No. 21 Dallas Cowboys- Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback- Alabama
The duo of Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins are not as effective as they were in the past. Newman is starting to show signs of aging and Jenkins has been inconsistent in coverage. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins provides the Dallas Cowboys with a younger, cheaper and more effective option.
Jenkins excels at reading the quarterback and breaking on the football. His ball skills make him a threat to pull down interceptions. Because of his instincts, it is hard for teams to consistently find success to his side of the field.
Dallas could also look to address the offensive line, especially along the interior. Wisconsin's Peter Konz would be an upgrade over current center Phil Costa.
No. 22 New York Jets- Melvin Ingram, Linebacker- South Carolina
Rex Ryan loves to find players who can fit multiple positions. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram has lined up at outside linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle. His versatility will provide Ryan with many options for the New York Jets defense.
The Jets need to find a player capable of bringing some pressure off the edge. Without the emergence of Aaron Maybin, this defense would rank towards the bottom of the NFL in sacks. This is an unacceptable stat for a Rex Ryan run defense. The addition of Ingram would help increase the amount of pressure created by this defense.
New York could also look to make improvements along the defensive line. A nose tackle like Washington's Alameda Ta'mau would make some sense.
No. 23 Denver Broncos- Devon Still, Defensive Tackle- Penn State
Penn State's Devon Still used his Senior season to propel himself into the 1st round discussion. He showed the ability to consistently play in the offensive backfield. The Denver Broncos are winning games because of their defense. Adding a penetrating defensive tackle will only increase this unit's effectiveness.
Still, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil would make up one of the NFL's most disruptive defensive front sevens. Dumervil and Miller will force quarterbacks up into the pocket where Still will be lurking to lay down a big hit.
Denver's offense is still a work in progress and needs more of an identity before they can start adding pieces.
No. 24 Cleveland Browns (from AtL)- Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End- Illinois
The Cleveland Browns are still working through their transition to a 4-3 scheme. Their biggest hurdle is finding defensive ends capable of creating a constant pass rush. Jabaal Sheard has had a very good rookie season, recording 7.5 sacks. However, adding someone like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus will only increase his effectiveness.
Mercilus is kind of a one-year wonder, but that one year has been filled with dominant play. He has shown the ability to quickly get off the line and into the backfield. His ability to use his hands and keep clean helps him create edge pressure.
4-3 defensive systems are at their best when pressure is created from the front four. The combination of Mercilus, Sheard and Phil Taylor would provide a ton pressure.
No. 25 Detroit Lions- Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback- Nebraska
The Detroit Lions defense would benefit from the addition of a top-not coverman. Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard possesses the type of mentality to fit with this Lions roster. He plays a physical brand of football and loves to get up close to the line. Dennard excels in bump and run coverage, but is also effective in zone schemes.
Detroit could plug Dennard in as a replacement for either Chris Houston or Eric Wright. The addition of Dennard doesn't only help the secondary, but also impacts the pass rush. His cover skills will make it harder for receivers to get open, thus providing more time to get after the quarterback.
Ohio State's Mike Adams might be another target for the Lions. He would be a replacement for the aging Jeff Backus.
No. 26 Houston Texans- Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver- Baylor
Andre Johnson remains one of the top wide receivers in all of the NFL. However, his recent injury problems have taken their toll on this Houston Texans offense. Baylor's Kendall Wright would be a great complement and insurance policy for Johnson.
This season, Wright proved that he is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He uses his quickness to gain separation, and then create with the ball in his hands. Houston's offense could use another player capable of stretching the field.
The Texans might also target a nose tackle like Washington's Alameda Ta'amu or Memphis' Dontari Poe. Both would be an upgrade over current starter Shaun Cody.
No. 27 Baltimore Ravens- Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle- Ohio State
The offseason addition of Bryant McKinnie was only a stop-gap solution for the Baltimore Ravens. McKinnie hasn't played at an elite level for several years, and a long term solution is needed. Ohio State's Mike Adams possesses the size and athletic ability needed to play left tackle in the NFL.
Adams will see his stock rise as we get closer to the draft. He was hurt by his early season suspension, which cost him five games. However, teams will again begin to appreciate his talent level and ability to anchor an offensive line.
Baltimore's decision to bring in McKinnie was very telling, as it showed that they don't see Michael Oher as a left tackle. Adding Adams through this draft will help Oher come to grips with this move to the right side.
No. 28 Pittsburgh Steelers- Mark Barron, Safety- Alabama
The backend of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is rapidly aging. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are both over 30 years old and showing signs of slowing down. Alabama's Mark Barron provides both depth and youth to the Steelers secondary.
Barron makes an impact in both the passing and running game. He isn't afraid to step up and support the run and has the range to cover the backend. His experience against SEC offenses will help with his transition to the next level.
Pittsburgh could target an offensive lineman rather than select Barron. Florida State's Zebrie Sanders is a rising prospect, capable of playing left tackle in the NFL.
No. 29 New England Patriots (from NO)- Ronnell Lewis, Linebacker- Oklahoma
This season the New England Patriots were forced to turn to Andre Carter and Mark Anderson to provide a pass rush. Both have performed better than expected, but neither have a ton of upside. Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis possesses the quickness and motor needed to develop into a top-notch pass rusher.
Until this season, Bill Belichick has always ran a 3-4 system. However, he lacked the pieces needed to continue that attack, so he has gone to a 4-3 scheme. Adding Lewis to the mix will allow Belichick to get back to his 3-4 roots. Lewis would be a great fit at outside linebacker.
No. 30 San Francisco 49ers- Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback- South Carolina
The San Francisco 49ers defense is the main reason this team has an 11-3 record. This unit hold opposing offenses in check, which allows the 49ers offense to score just enough points to earn the victory. The defense would be even better if they improve their secondary. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore is capable of making an immediate impact.
Gilmore's addition allows Tarell Brown to move to nickel back, a spot bet suited for his talent. Jim Harbaugh and company like to play an physical brand of football. Gilmore isn't afraid of contact and loves playing close to the line of scrimmage.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz might be another target for the 49ers. He would be an immediate upgrade over current center Jonathan Goodwin.
No. 31 New England Patriots- Kendall Reyes, Defensive Line- Connecticut
Connecticut's Kendall Reyes' scheme versatility will make him a hot commodity. He possesses the quickness to play the 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme, and the anchor ability to play a 5-technique in a 3-4 system. The New England Patriots lack of a defensive identity puts a focus on adding versatile players.
Reyes is a bit underrated and could see his stock rise after some workouts. His high motor and relentless effort makes it possible that his best football is still ahead of him. Reyes' personality and good work ethic would be a great fit in New England.
It might be time for New England to package some of their assets and move up the draft. They can get two nice players at No. 29 and No. 31, but they can get an elite player in the top 10.
No. 32 Green Bay Packers- Lamar Miller, Running Back- Miami
The Green Bay Packers are in the position to add the best player available. This leads them to Miami's Lamar Miller, who could potentially land a lot higher in the 1st round. Miller is and explosive runner who possesses home-run ability. Green Bay's current stable of runners lack that big play potential.
James Starks and Ryan Grant only receive a handful of carries per game, but they haven't done a lot with those carries. If Green Bay wants to continue to limit their rushing attempts it would make sense to add more of a home-run hitter.
Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis might be an option here if he is still available. Green Bay needs to add another pass rusher to the mix.