2012 NFL Mock Draft: Which High-Risk Players Are Worth the Gamble?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2011

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24:   Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils points and yells at quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the University of Southern California Trojans just prior to a play at Sun Devil Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

1. Indianapolis Colts: QB, Andrew Luck, Stanford

The Colts can't pass on the opportunity to bring in a guy who can replace Peyton Manning. They'll have to figure out how to handle having potential MVP and Rookie of the Year candidates, but with Manning's health in question, they aren't trading down.

2. St. Louis Rams: T, Matt Kalil, USC

Matt Kalil is a pass blocking machine with ruthless power, perfect feet and prototypical size. Sam Bradford has all the makings of an elite quarterback, but he's worthless if he's constantly sidelined with injuries. This is step one to ensuring he doesn't end up on a stretcher next season.

3. Minnesota Vikings: T, Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Vikings have their quarterback of the future and now they need his blindside protector. There is a huge dropoff from Kalil to Martin, but the Vikings have to upgrade their tackle situation immediately.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE, Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Quinton Coples is a defensive force and though offensive needs could force him down draft boards, the Jaguars are going to find it hard to pass on a rush end with his length, pass-rushing ability and upside.

5. Cleveland Browns: CB, Trent Richardson, Alabama

Trent Richardson is the most complete running back to come out in the draft since Adrian Peterson. He can run a defender over and throw a move on a defender that sends them to the turf without ever touching them. This is perfect for a Browns team who needs to fill the Peyton Hillis void.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, Morris Claiborne, LSU

The Buccaneers need a corner who isn't in jeopardy of going to prison and isn't older than their head coach. Morris Claiborne fits the bill and is being grossly overlooked because of the talent around him.

7. Miami Dolphins, QB, Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Robert Griffin has the highest ceiling of any player in this year's draft. He's one of the most athletic prospects in history and after he showcases his underrated arm, teams are going to be all over him.

He's incredibly intelligent, has great character and has shown the ability to take over games for his football team.

He's not Michael Vick, he's not Cam Newton and he isn't Tim Tebow. He's so unique that some teams are going to be reluctant to take the plunge, but the one who does could get their hands on the most electrifying player in football.

8. Washington Redskins, QB, Landry Jones, Oklahoma

Landry Jones isn't Matt Barkley, but he's a prototypical quarterback who would start immediately in Washington. Mike Shanahan needs to make serious strides this season and drafting a quarterback of this caliber is the quickest way to do so.

9. Kansas City Chiefs: T, Riley Reiff, Iowa

Riley Reiff would have been the first tackle off the board in the draft last season. He's not Matt Kalil, but he's going to make a late push and challenge Jonathan Martin to be the No. 2 tackle selected in this year's draft.

10. Carolina Panthers: WR, Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Imagine Cam Newton throwing to Justin Blackmon and Steve Smith. The Panthers have serious holes to plug, but a physical possession receiver like Blackmon in Carolina's offense sets them up to be one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league.

11. Buffalo Bills: LB, Kevin Reddick, North Carolina

Kevin Reddick gives the Bills a guy in the front seven who can help attack the passer and beef up run coverage. Kevin Reddick is a guy many people have never heard of, but he's a valuable asset, making him a perfect fit in team-oriented Buffalo.

12. Philadelphia Eagles: LB, Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Vontaze Burfict is the prospect in this draft with the most bust potential. At his best, he's the sort of defensive player who can completely take over a game.

At his worst, he's a liability that puts himself before his team, collects personal fouls on a regular basis and serves his team better when he's on the sidelines.

The potential is so great here, Philadelphia can't pass on the chance to turn Burfict into another redemption story.

13. Arizona Cardinals: G, David DeCastro, Stanford

The Cardinals need serious help up front and while a guy like Jonathan Martin would be ideal here, the odds of any of the three tackles worthy of a top-13 selection are going to be off the board.

Selecting a guard this high is a huge risk, but DeCastro is the best offensive lineman on the board and they've got no choice but to take him.

Trading up or down is a serious possibility for the Cardinals, but picking up the best interior lineman in the draft is the move they've got to make if they sit tight at No. 13.

14. Tennessee Titans: WR, Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

Many are going to see this as being way too high of a selection for Michael Floyd, but his playmaker ability and crazy production make him just the right fit for a Tennessee Titans team in need of a wide receiver that can become young Jake Locker's go-to guy.

15. San Diego Chargers: WR, Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

Alshon Jeffery has lost a ton of steam this season. Even so, the prospect of putting him in the Cahrgers' pass-happy offense is too attractive to pass on.

16. Seattle Seahawks: QB, Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

This is a huge risk, but one in which the Seahawks need to make. This quarterback-starved team is the biggest loser in Matt Barkley's decision to come out early and will force them to reach for Ryan Tannehill.

Last season, we saw a number of teams reach for quarterbacks with question marks surrounding them. Teams place so much value on the position, they're willing to take the plunge and bring in a guy who lacks the polish a first-round guy should have.

The Seahawks' late surge without a viable option at quarterback proves that they are a field general away from competing in the NFC West once again.

17. Dallas Cowboys: DE, Andre Branch, Clemson

Andre Branch may not fill the biggest need for the Cowboys, but he adds another weapon in their rotation and can be a difference maker alongside DeMarcus Ware.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland): CB, Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

Alfonzo Dennard has the ability to run stride for stride with most receivers and he makes up for his lack of height with his polished abilities. He's a more refined product than even Prince Amukamara and he should go at least as high.

19. Chicago Bears: WR, Kendall Wright, Baylor

The Bears are sorely lacking weapons. True deep threats are a rarity in the NFL, but Kendall Wright has the blazing speed to be special.

The Bears have a pathetic repertoire of weapons and it's no surprise that Matt Forte's injury has forced them to fall apart.

They have protection issues and Wright isn't a slam dunk, but he can stretch the field and if this works out, the Bears will finally have a receiver teams have to respect.

20. New York Giants: LB, Zach Brown, North Carolina

Jason Pierre Paul is destroying teams and the Giants' defensive line is feared once again. Now, they need to stack a few linebackers behind it to clean running backs up, rush the passer, and drop off into coverage when called upon, and Zach Brown is just the versatile linebacker they need to do so.

21. New York Jets: LB, Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Jets struck out on Vernon Gholston and still haven't found a guy who can take over the trenches as a rushing end. Upshaw has the potential to be the cookie-monster sack master the Jets so desperately need.

22. Cincinnati Bengals: DT, Devon Still, Penn State

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have paid dividends for the Bengals. Their defense has been overly impressive this season and adding Devon Still up front will make their talented LBs' lives easier.

23. Denver Broncos: DT, Brandon Thompson, Clemson

John Fox is a defensive mastermind and while the Broncos need help on offense, they shouldn't pass on a chance to bring in a guy like Brandon Thomson who can attack the backfield and join Von Miller in a rising, young front seven.

24. Cleveland Browns: LB, Jarvis Jones, Georgia

The Browns are in dire need of offensive play makers, but their defense still needs a bit of work as well. They have bits and pieces on defense and a little patchwork can transform their defense into one that can compete in the brutal AFC North.

25. Detroit Lions, CB, Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Dre Kirkpatrick is a dog, and the Lions like guys who aren't afraid to get in the face of their opponents. He's sound in press coverage, physical and isn't afraid to stick his nose in there and help out in run coverage.

26. Houston Texans, OT, Mike Adams, Ohio State

The Texans have a running back who can compete for the rushing title year in and year out, a franchise quarterback, an elite defense and the best wide receiver in football. This isn't a sexy pick, but it gives them a much-needed edge up front offensively.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB, Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Luke Kuechly is insanely productive, but he's a high-risk guy. He's not half the athlete Vontaze Burfict is and we've seen productive linebackers who lack the physical ability necessary to dominate at the position fizzle.

Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis set the standard for inside linebackers because they can play sideline to sideline. The Steelers will have to find out whether or not Kuechly's instincts and sure tackling ability will allow him to sustain his high level of play.

Kuechly's ceiling isn't nearly as high as other LBs in this class, but the Steelers need to reload and he wouldn't have to have the heavy role he had at Boston College on such an established Pittsburgh defense.

28. Baltimore Ravens: C, Michael Brewster, Ohio State

The Ravens are the most physical team in the NFL and while they have future Hall of Famers on the verge of hanging up their cleats, replacing them takes a back seat to beefing up the trenches with such a dynamic plug and play center available.

29. New England Patriots: DE, Jared Crick, Nebraska

Jared Crick is coming off an injury, but he's exactly the sort of high-motor five-tech DE they need to fill the void that's been in New England's trenches since Richard Seymour went to Oakland.

30. San Francisco 49ers: DT, Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

The 49ers need to get deeper at defensive line. Their star-studded defense would get a solid nose who can hold the point and compete for a starting spot immediately.

31. New England Patriots: S, Mark Barron, Alabama

Teams throw on the Patriots at will. They have problems in their front seven, but their huge gaping holes in the secondary pose a huge cause for concern. Mark Barron is the best safety in this class and a major steal here.

32. Green Bay Packers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Janoris Jenkins is the most talented corner in a class packed with first-round DBs. Either he's going to be a great success story or he's going to fizzle because of his character flaws, a la Pac-Man Jones.

Going into a locker room like Green Bay's would be perfect for Jenkins. He's got the tools to be a shut-down corner and while his character flaws shove him all the way down to the bottom of the first, his homerun potential makes him impossible to pass on here.

Drafting Jenkins is a high-risk move that would either ensure that they had the best cornerback tandem for years to come or leave them with a void after Charles Woodson leaves and Jenkins washes out of the league.


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