Matt Barkley Returns to USC: Updated NFL Mock Draft

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 22, 2011

Matt Barkley Returns to USC: Updated NFL Mock Draft

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    USC quarterback and potential top-5 draft pick Matt Barkley has announced he will return to college for his senior season, waiting until 2013 to enter the NFL draft.

    Barkley's decision was met with shock around the NFL and NFL draft community. Rarely do top players bypass the guaranteed millions of the NFL for another season of college football—but just like last season with Andrew Luck, we're seeing it again.

    How does Barkley's decision change our look at the first round of the 2012 NFL draft? Quite a bit. 

    *Draft order courtesy of nepatriotsdraft.com 

1. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford

    No surprise here, right?

    Andrew Luck is hands down the best quarterback in college football, and on top of that he's the best quarterback prospect I have ever scouted. Don't let the naysayers get you down on Luck; this is a rare talent at quarterback, and NFL scouts know he's the real deal.

    Indianapolis has to plan for a future without Peyton Manning. I don't buy into the talk that Manning and Luck can't coexist—they can and will as long as Manning wants to be a Colt.

    Forget the talk that the Colts would select Robert Griffin III over Luck, or that they plan to trade this pick. The Colts need Luck and shouldn't make any other pick when they are on the clock.

2. Minnesota Vikings

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    Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC

    The Minnesota Vikings have the young quarterback to lead this team (Christian Ponder) and the work-horse running back (Adrian Peterson) to carry the load. What they don't have is a franchise left tackle.

    Yes, it's shocking, but Charlie Johnson isn't getting it done on the left side.

    Matt Kalil is not on the same level as Jake Long or Joe Thomas as far as prospects go, but he's a massive upgrade over Charlie Johnson. Kalil would be an opening-day starter on Ponder's left side and allows Minnesota to focus their later picks on improving the talent in the secondary and at wide receiver.

    It's worth noting that no pick in the draft will be more likely to be traded than this pick. Any team wanting to secure Robert Griffin III will eye the No. 2 overall slot as the point to move up and get him.

3. St. Louis Rams

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    Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

    The St. Louis Rams could go a few directions with the No. 3 overall pick, but their best bet would be to get help for quarterback Sam Bradford. Pronto.

    Some would argue that offensive tackle is a bigger need, but I'm not ready to give up on Rodger Saffold or Jason Smith. Give them one more year to gel and learn a new offense before putting the two talented young tackles out on the street.

    A healthy St. Louis in 2012 would be greatly enhanced by a threat at receiver like Justin Blackmon. Look at the impact A.J. Green has had on the Cincinnati Bengals as a model for what Blackmon could do to help Bradford and the Rams.

    If the No. 2 overall pick isn't traded for a team moving up to get Griffin, this would be a great spot for a trade as well.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina

    It's tough to predict much for the Jacksonville Jaguars right now without knowing what offense they will be running in 2012, but we know for sure that they need help at wide receiver in a big way.

    Jeffery has been one of college football's elite receivers over the past two seasons. He's big, strong, productive and has the toughness to be a difference-maker against press coverage and in the red zone. While he doesn't bring elite speed, Jeffery uses his body well to separate from defenders and is a major deep threat.

    If Jacksonville is to ever improve upon what they have with Blaine Gabbert, they need to get him help on the edges, and fast.

5. Cleveland Browns

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    Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama

    No, the Browns won't select a quarterback in the first round. At least not this year.

    Peyton Hillis is suffering from the curse of a video game in his contract year, Montario Hardesty can't stay off the trainer's table and Chris Ogbonnaya is a good backup but nothing more than a spot starter.

    Running back is a need in Cleveland, and an early one. 

    With two first-round picks (thanks, Atlanta), the Browns can make a move to get the best back in the class (and in many classes prior)—Trent Richardson of Alabama. The Heisman-caliber back has torn through SEC defenses for two seasons and is ready to assault the NFL.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU

    The Tampa Bay front office could look to draft a cornerback here to replace the aging (maybe aged is better) Ronde Barber.

    Morris Claiborne would be an immediate starter opposite Aqib Talib, giving Tampa a fearsome coverage duo to build their young defense around. When facing quarterbacks Drew BreesMatt Ryan and Cam Newton six times each season, building a solid secondary has to take priority in Tampa Bay.

7. Washington Redskins

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    Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor

    The Washington Redskins have proven over the past few weeks just how badly they need a new quarterback. Rex Grossman and John Beck just can’t get it done.

    Mike Shanahan has built a good offensive line and defense in Washington; now he needs his quarterback.

    In the past, Shanahan has targeted athletic quarterbacks who can get outside the pocket and make plays. He likes players who aren’t afraid to take chances but have the accuracy to pick apart a defense underneath. John Elway and Jay Cutler are his type of players.

    Griffin may not be an Elway-level quarterbacks, but he’s as good a prospect as Cutler was when Shanahan nabbed him to be his starter in Denver.

    Full disclosure: Washington will most likely have to move up to get Griffin. It's highly unlikely he's still on the board at No. 7 overall.

8. Carolina Panthers

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    Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama

    The Carolina Panthers would love to see Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery available here, but they just miss out.

    Cornerback is not the biggest need in Carolina—that would be defensive tackle—but the Panthers are in a good position to draft the highest-rated defensive player on the board. In this case, that's the first defender to go off the board, and he's a good one.

    Dre Kirkpatrick would be an immediate starter opposite Chris Gamble, giving Carolina a fearsome coverage duo to build their young defense around. With a healthy Jon Beason returning in 2012, Carolina's defense could start to keep up with their offense.

9. Miami Dolphins

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    Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

    No team is hurt more by the decision of Matt Barkley than the Miami Dolphins. With Barkley out of the draft, the Dolphins sit at No. 9 and find no quarterback of value on the board. Without Barkley in the draft, Miami may go the route of a free-agent quarterback.

    Riley Reiff would be a great addition if they can't draft a quarterback here. He would step in at right tackle, where Vernon Carey leaves via free agency, and become an instant starter and upgrade.

    Reiff compares very well to Nate Solder from the 2011 draft class.

10. Buffalo Bills

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    Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford

    The Demetrius Bell project can be deemed a failure. Bell wasn't able to last through the 2011 season, but that's a moot point here. The Buffalo Bills need a dominant offensive line, and as of today, the left side at tackle is incredibly weak.

    Buffalo could go a number of directions here, but Jonathan Martin is the best player available and fits a big need on the roster.

11. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

    The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to field the best team money could buy this season; instead, they are on the verge of an insurmountable climb back into contention. It won’t be too much longer until fans in Philly are looking forward to 2012—if they aren't already.

    With DeSean Jackson's contract expiring and Steve Smith failing to make an impact, the Eagles will be desperate to add a consistent threat for Michael Vick. Michael Floyd has the body type and run-after-catch skills to be very dangerous in Andy Reid's offense.

    This is an area where Philadelphia could also look at linebackers, but no player fits the bill in a 4-3 defense this early.

12. Kansas City Chiefs

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    David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford

    Why draft an offensive guard with the No. 12 pick overall? Because this offensive guard has All-Pro skills as a rookie.

    Kansas City is in a great position to simply draft the highest player on their board, a philosophy Scott Pioli employed many times during his run with the New England Patriots. No one thought the Patriots were wise to draft Logan Mankins, but we now know the pick was brilliant.

    DeCastro allows the Chiefs to move Rodney Hudson to center, where he will replace Casey Wiegmann. This solidifies four of five positions on the line, with only right tackle left to be fixed.

13. Arizona Cardinals

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    Cordy Glenn, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

    The Arizona Cardinals have been down this road before. With the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 draft, the Cardinals were hoping to draft a tackle to protect then-franchise quarterback Matt Leinart. They used the selection on Levi Brown.

    Brown, like Leinart, has been a bust. Even though he’s still starting at left tackle, Brown is the worst left tackle in the league this season. And that’s not just conjecture. Pro Football Focus ranks Brown as the worst tackle in the NFL this season.

    The Cardinals will hope things are better this time around.

14. Tennessee Titans

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    Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois

    The Tennessee Titan defense has been solid all season, but they rank sixth-worst at sacking the quarterback. The defensive tackles are solid, but bringing in speed and power at defensive end is needed.

    Derrick Morgan, the team's last first-rounder at defensive end, has been a bust and may discourage the front office from pulling the trigger on another defensive end.

    Outside of drafting a cornerback to replace Cortland Finnegan, should he leave in free agency, no other selection makes sense for the Titans.

15. Seattle Seahawks

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    Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (FL)

    Seattle fans may not like this pick, but if Matt Barkley doesn't enter the draft and Landry Jones decides to stay at Oklahoma, the Seahawks are in a spot where there is no quarterback worth selecting.

    Lamar Miller gives Seattle insurance against Marshawn Lynch leaving through free agency or potentially getting hurt. Miller and Lynch in the backfield would be a scary thought for NFC defenses.

    There's also the chance the Seahawks trade back in the first round and pick up a player like Arizona quarterback Nick Foles.

16. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska

    The loss of Johnathan Joseph in free agency is still being felt in Cincinnati. For the team to compete in the AFC North, they need more cornerback help.

    Dennard is a powerful press-coverage corner who has good lateral quickness, but he really excels at high-pointing the ball and shutting down elite receivers in a press-bail system. He's good in space, but Dennard excels in man-to-man coverage.

17. Chicago Bears

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    Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State

    The Chicago Bears used their first pick in the 2011 NFL draft to select offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. While Carimi has missed much of his rookie season to injury, he's projected as a long-term starter at right tackle.

    Fixing the problem at left tackle is the focus of this pick. Adams is a fast-rising prospect who will catch the eye of NFL scouts with exceptional agility and strength at the position.

    Chicago needs to get better at many positions, but none is more important than finding an NFL-quality left tackle.

18. San Diego Chargers

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    Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin

    The San Diego Chargers could either reach for a left or right tackle here, or draft the best available interior lineman with the plans of either keeping him at center if Nick Hardwick leaves, or they move him to guard. It's a solid plan.

    San Diego's offseason hinges on free agency. If they can re-sign Hardwick, as well as Vincent Jackson, they'll be in a great position to add to their offensive line through the draft.

19. New York Giants

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    Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker, Arizona State

    The New York Giants have a fierce defense, but they could use more speed and more coverage ability from their linebackers. The team needs a big upgrade in the middle.

    Vontaze Burfict is a name college football fans know well. It may be for his violent hits, or for his 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but there's no doubt Burfict is a difference-maker.

    Vontaze routinely lines up at outside linebacker in the ASU defense, particularly when they are facing three-receiver sets. He has the athleticism and speed to make plays on the edge and help in pass coverage.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama

    There are bigger needs in Cincinnati, like running back, but weighing the value of the player and the pick, Mark Barron makes the most sense for the Bengals here. Expect a running back in Round 2.

    Replacing Chris Crocker with Barron will immediately improve a secondary that has seen their production drop off without Johnathan Joseph at cornerback. Crocker's replacement could be found in the second round.

    Barron is a hard hitter with range and the quickness to cover tight ends and slot receivers.

21. Dallas Cowboys

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    Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, N. Alabama

    The Dallas Cowboys toyed with the idea of drafting a cornerback last year, but instead struck gold with right tackle Tyron Smith and running back DeMarco Murray. This time around, they'll look to the defensive side of the ball.

    Jenkins had to leave Florida after three marijuana-related arrests, landing on his feet at North Alabama this season, where he's kept his nose clean and played at a very high level as a cornerback and return man.

22. New York Jets

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    Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

    The New York Jets have so many needs that it would almost be easier to tell you what they don’t need. They won’t draft a quarterback, left tackle, middle linebacker or cornerback—that much is certain. Any other position is wide open.

    The biggest need in New York is for a pass-rusher. The team has struggled with free agent Calvin Pace and never got a return from Vernon Gholston or Bryan Thomas here. It’s time to try again.

    Courtney Upshaw is a dynamic pass-rusher who can get to the quarterback and is always around the football. He has some ability in coverage and comes from a 3-4 defense at Alabama, so he's comfortable playing on the edge.

23. Denver Broncos

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    Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State

    You might think the Denver Broncos would want to look for offensive linemen, cornerbacks, maybe a quarterback or even help at running back. Nope.

    Under John Fox, the Broncos are committed to building a strong defense to complement a ball-control offense. The next step for Denver is to draft a stud defensive tackle to draw double-teams and split the gaps in the offensive line.

    Devon Still is the best defensive tackle in this class and brings great value for Denver with pick No. 23.

24. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)

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    Nick Toon, Wide Receiver, Wisconsin

    The Cleveland Browns hold two first-round picks, thanks to the Atlanta Falcons and their 2011 draft-day trade to move up and get wide receiver Julio Jones. With the selection they received in return, the Browns will draft their own receiver.

    Greg Little has been progressing as the season wears on, but he's not a true No. 1 wide receiver and may never be one. Nick Toon has No. 1 threat written all over his DNA and his production at Wisconsin.

    Toon has impressive talent, and if not for nagging injuries, we would be talking about him as a top-15 pick.

25. Detroit Lions

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    Zach Brown, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina

    The Detroit Lions would love to find a left tackle on the board, but no player of value is on the board. This means Detroit will move on to need No. 2.

    Some may say a cornerback or even a running back would be the better pick, but upgrades at outside linebacker are needed. Justin Durant has been good, but DeAndre Levy could be moved to a backup position.

    Brown is a top-12 player on my board, but the value of his position and lack of need pushes him down the board.


26. Houston Texans

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    Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor

    The Houston Texans, if healthy, should be considered Super Bowl contenders in 2012. To make those dreams a reality, Houston needs to find and develop options at wide receiver other than Andre Johnson.

    Jacoby Jones has been a fine No. 2 receiver, but the team needs a burner in the slot who can stretch a defense and create mismatches. Kendall Wright is a human mismatch. 

    Wright brings speed to the Houston offense—something sorely missing—and gives the team a big-play threat who can attack defenses from multiple positions.

27. Baltimore Ravens

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    Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, South Carolina

    The Baltimore Ravens could look at multiple positions here, but the team has a solid draft history due to their ability to find talent that fits their system. Melvin Ingram is a great fit for the versatile defense in Baltimore.

    Ingram can play both on the line and in space, giving the Ravens a player similar to Terrell Suggs on the other side of the line. 

    This pick also fills a need, as outside linebacker Jarrett Johnson is a free agent after the season.

28. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)

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    Jared Crick, Defensive End, Nebraska

    The New England Patriots are getting by with cast-offs in the starting lineup at defensive end and defensive tackle, but the lack of talent outside of Vince Wilfork has been evident.

    Mark Anderson and Andre Carter have had good games, but are they long-term answers? If the team hopes to transition back to their 3-4 scheme, or even if they want to improve the play next to Wilfork at the three-technique position, they'll need to focus on the draft.

    Jared Crick has top-15 talent but has missed the second half of the 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle. He should be fine by the time the Scouting Combine rolls around in late February, but there is a likely chance his draft stock takes a hit from it.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis

    Casey Hampton has been one of the best nose tackles in the NFL over the past decade, but his time is wearing out. The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent two of their last three first-round picks drafting future starters at defensive end. They will round out their new defensive line with the selection of Dontari Poe this year.

    Poe is a massive body with the strength to command a double-team from the center-guard combination. He's also quick enough to shoot the gap and makes plays in the backfield.

    Poe has the talent to be another B.J. Raji.

30. San Francisco 49ers

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    Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers

    The San Francisco 49ers are finally getting solid production from Michael Crabtree, but Braylon Edwards' signing has been a bust in the Bay and it's unlikely the team will ask him back when his one-year deal expires this summer.

    Enter Mohamed Sanu.

    Sanu is a triple-threat as an offensive weapon. He has lined up at wide receiver, quarterback and even running back at Rutgers. His versatility as a weapon will excite Jim Harbaugh, among others, as the NFL draft heats up.

    San Francisco could also look at free safety Robert Lester here, depending on what Dashon Goldson does in free agency.

31. New England Patriots

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    Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina

    When the New England Patriots have two first-round selections, Bill Belichick has never traded the first of those picks. The second, he's not afraid to move. 

    Chances are this pick will not belong to New England by the time the pick comes up on the clock, but should Belichick buck history and decide to hold on to the selection, the team could do worse than adding a rookie starter at cornerback.

    Stephon Gilmore is as NFL ready as any cornerback this class. He's been very good in run support, can help immediately as a returner and has experience playing off the ball and in press coverage.

    Others aren't as high on Gilmore as I am, but I see a long-time NFL starter and playmaker on defense and special teams.

32. Green Bay Packers

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    Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina

    The Green Bay Packers have built a juggernaut through the draft. Their 2012 class will feature solid picks on the offensive line and defensive line, with help coming in the secondary and at running back in later rounds.

    First up, getting a defensive end. Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn are merely average, both being protected by exceptional play at nose tackle and linebacker.

    Quinton Coples opened the season as a potential top-five pick, but hasn't played with the fire or burst needed from speed rushers at the next level. Coples is a former defensive tackle, though, and has great potential as a 3-4 defensive end.