As the 2012 college football season comes to an end, it's time for the NFL draft talk to begin.
When it comes to mock drafts and analyzing talent, there is no one more respected than Todd McShay. Every year McShay and his partner, Mel Kiper, release a mock draft that is updated daily with every workout and combine that goes on.
These mock drafts get critiqued and criticized like they are government documents. Fans check back every single day to see the latest updates for their favorite teams. They look to see which players Todd McShay has slipping in the draft and which he has skyrocketing towards the top.
Here's my analysis of Todd McShay's most recent 2012 NFL mock draft.
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This is the obvious selection. No analysis necessary.
The first step for a rebuilding team is to find your franchise quarterback, which they have in Sam Bradford. The next step is to get him protection so he stays your franchise quarterback for years to come. Kalil is the best offensive lineman in this draft and the right selection here.
I see two glaring needs when I look at the Minnesota Vikings, WR and CB. McShay believes the Vikings will go the CB route with this selection and Claiborne is definitely the best CB available in this draft. This season the Vikings' defense ranks last in points allowed and 30th in passing yards, so adding a shut down corner like Claiborne will really help this defense out. Expect to hear Claiborne's name with cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha in years to come
This is the first pick I have to disagree with McShay on. I know they have a young starter in Colt McCoy, but I really don't think he's been anything special this season and I believe RG3 is just too good to pass up on here. That being said, this is no knock on Trent Richardson at all, who is the definition of a "beast." His unique mix of power and speed makes him unlike any other running back in the league. I see nothing but success in Richardson's future.
The Jags' biggest need has to be on the defensive line. They are 26th in the NFL in sacks and not one player on the team has more than 5.5 sacks this season. Coples isn't going to be a speed rusher off the end, but he will use his strength and quick feet to clog up running lanes inside and get to the quarterback.
CB isn't the biggest need for the Bucs right now, so if I were them I would select WR Justin Blackmon. Even though Ronde Barber is at the very end of his career and Aqib Talib has had many off the field issues, Blackmon is just too talented to pass on here. This is especially the case considering Mike William's drop off in production this season from 11 TDs last year to only three this year. That being said, a CB duo of Talib and Kirkpatrick would be one of the best in the NFL in a few seasons.
I would be shocked if the Heisman Trophy winner falls this far in the draft, but the Browns are the only team ahead of them that really needs a QB. I feel a team will definitely trade up into the top five to select him. If no one does, though, this is the right pick for the Redskins. They are in desperate need of a franchise QB and I am a true believer that RG3 will continue to have success once he reaches the NFL.
Matt Barkley held a press conference to announce he was returning to USC for his senior season. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins still look to draft a QB, since Luck, RG3 and Barkley are the only top-10 worthy QBs in the class. The Dolphins could be the team to trade up into the top five to steal RG3 from the Redskins or down if they really like Landry Jones.
The Panthers may be getting the most talented player in the draft with this pick. No player in college football has worked harder than Blackmon the past two seasons, where he's averaged 112 receptions, over 1500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Blackmon is so explosive on the field. It's hard to believe, but Cam Newton will definitely be much better than he already was with Blackmon as his main target.
I'm not sure why McShay has the Bills selecting an offensive lineman with this pick. This is a team with many holes to fill, but offensive line isn't one of them. They are currently first in the league in sacks allowed. They are also 13th in the league in rushing yards, while only 28th in rushing attempts. I believe a WR or OLB should be the selection here for the Bills.
I am torn on whether or not I agree with McShay on this pick. On the one hand, the Eagles have a glaring need at middle linebacker. On the other hand though, the Eagles have never drafted a linebacker in the first round under Andy Reid. There may be a first time for everything though, as Kuechly is the best linebacker in the country and will fill a hole in the middle of the Eagles defense.
There is much debate over which offensive tackle should be the second one selected, Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin. McShay has Reiff getting selected two picks higher than Martin, but Mel Kiper Jr. has Martin one spot ahead of Reiff on his Big Board. Martin may have more of an upside than Reiff does, but I agree with McShay that Reiff is the better tackle right now.
I really like this selection for the Cardinals. Upshaw has been effective at stopping the pass and the run in college. The Cardinals are extremely weak at the linebacker position, so I believe Upshaw can step in right away and be their best linebacker, even in his rookie season. If one of the three offensive tackles already selected slips to them though, I think the Cards will take them instead.
This may be the pick I disagree with McShay on the most. Last season the Titans selected a defensive end, Derek Morgan, with their first-round pick, so I don't think they should do the same again. Even with Kenny Britt, the Titans have one of the worst WR cores in the NFL. I would select Alshon Jeffery to pair with Kenny Britt if I were making this pick for the Titans.
With this selection, McShay has the Chargers taking the best player available and not necessarily their biggest need. Barron is the best safety in the draft and combined with Eric Weddle, would form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. The Chargers' biggest need is at offensive tackle, but any of the ones left would be a reach at this pick. Don't be surprised to see the Chargers trade down in the first round and stockpile some future picks.
This pick should only be made if Pete Carroll has no confidence in Charlie Whitehurst ever becoming his starting quarterback. Even though they signed Tarvaris Jackson last offseason, he has shown he's clearly not the QB of the future in Seattle. This is a talented team though and I feel Jones could step in right away, win the starting job and make a playoff push in his rookie season.
Vontaze Burfict would definitely fill a need for the Giants at inside linebacker, but his talent is still very raw. That seemed to work out for the G-Men last draft, though, with Jason Pierre-Paul, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them try it again. Another route they could go would be selecting Virginia Tech RB David Wilson, whose speed would complement Jacobs and Bradshaw's power running style perfectly.
This is an easy selection for McShay and the Bengals. Both of their current starting guards are set to become free agents after the season and DeCastro is by far the best guard in this draft class. This pick is a no-brainer to me. The Bengals should definitely get some solid protection for their franchise quarterback, Andy Dalton.
I agree with the Bears selecting a WR with this pick, but I don't believe McShay has them taking the right one. Blackmon is clearly the No. 1 WR in the class, but I believe Alshon Jeffery is No. 2, not Floyd. Michael Floyd is still worthy of a first-round selection, though, because he is able to beat bigger corners with his quickness and beat smaller corners with his height and strength.
Dallas definitely needs more help in their secondary than they do defensive line. I see the Cowboys selecting the best secondary player available, regardless of if it's a CB or S. The Cowboys should hope Mark Barron falls to them, but if he doesn't Alfonzo Dennard would also be a solid selection.
After Leon Hall went down for the year, the Bengals cornerbacks started to get exposed every game. They are also 31st in the NFL in interceptions this season with only seven. If Dennard is available, the Bengals would be smart to add the depth to their secondary.
As a Jets fan myself, I couldn't love this pick more. As I stated before, I feel Jeffery is the second best WR in the class, so obviously he would be a steal with the 22nd pick. Mel Kiper Jr. even has Jeffery currently rated No. 12 on his Big Board. Jeffrey will use his 6'4" frame and amazing hands to become a Pro Bowl WR in the NFL.
If the Broncos hope to continue winning games with Tebow only playing productive football in one quarter, they are going to need exceptional defense. Rookie Von Miller has proven he's a stud and will most likely win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Devon Still is a huge force in the middle that will attract double teams and therefore allow Miller and Dumervil easier access to the quarterback.
The Browns need help on both sides of the ball and should go defense with this pick after selecting Trent Richardson with the fourth overall pick. Reddick is the second defensive player from UNC who should get drafted in the first round because of his strength and toughness. He also fits nicely into the Browns' 4-3 scheme as an outside linebacker.
The Lions have no luck drafting running backs with high selections in the draft. Jahvid Best has proved he can't stay healthy enough to be their premiere back. I don't know if Wilson is capable of being that guy either, though, as he reminds me a lot of Best and not of a real workhorse running back. I see the Lions selecting a guard or maybe even the first center with this pick.
Due to a season-ending injury to Matt Schaub, I have to assume the Texans will look to beef up their offensive line to provide him better protection next season. It will be very interesting to see which lineman the Texans select, as many good ones like Sanders, Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn will most likely all be available. I agree with McShay though that Sanders should be the pick because of his versatility. At Florida State he played both tackle spots as well as guard.
I think the Ravens could go two ways with this selection, offensive line or cornerback. Todd McShay feels they will go with the lineman. Mike Adams would be a very solid selection who could step in right away and start if one of the Ravens' current starters leaves during free agency. I think the better selection for the Ravens, however, would be to go with a cornerback. They are very young at this position and a guy like Johnthan Banks or Janoris Jenkins would get a chance to compete for a starting spot right away.
The Steelers don't really have any holes, so this pick should just be the best player available. Based on the way McShay has the draft playing out, Jarvis Jones or Melvin Ingram would be the best players left at this pick. If I'm the Steelers, I would probably go with Ingram over Jones since he has the ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
The Patriots are known for stockpiling draft picks. This will be the Pats first of two selections in the next three picks. The Pats rank dead last in the league in defense this season, so I expect both of these picks to be on that side of the ball. The Patriots desperately need help at cornerback, as well as on their defensive line. If Ingram is available with this selection, he would be an excellent pick, but I expect him to be taken already and the Pats will need to take another lineman instead of him.
The 49ers are the biggest surprise team this season. They really haven't had consistent play from their passing game, but their power running game and superb defense have been too much for opposing teams to handle. The 49ers could take a risk by drafting the next best quarterback available, Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M, but he is really a reach at this pick. Kendall Wright has been virtually unstoppable this year for Baylor, but he is small and doesn't really complement Michael Crabtree that well.
Since the Pats went defensive line with their first pick in the first round, they should go after a corner with this pick. There should be a few solid ones available, whether it's McShay's projection, Johnthan Banks, or someone else. Either way, selecting two defensive players in the first round can only result in improvements for the Patriots defense in 2012.
The Packers' only slight weakness is their pass rushing ability. After Clay Matthews, there is really no other consistent rusher who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. McShay believes the Packers will select Oklahoma linebacker, Ronnell Lewis, to help fix this problem. Lewis currently has a knee injury that is keeping him out of the Insight Bowl, but if he can get back to full strength he could be a real sleeper pick in this draft.