Mel Kiper 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Critique and Analysis

James TateAnalyst IIIJanuary 19, 2012

Mel Kiper 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Critique and Analysis

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    Mel Kiper has finally put out his first mock draft of the 2012 NFL Draft season. You can always expect Kiper to put a couple of picks in there that make you scratch your head. In this first mock, he has Trent Richardson going to the Buccaneers with the fifth pick. That makes absolutely no sense.

    Click through to see Kiper's mock and a critique of each pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

    This is the pick you are going to see on every mock draft from here until April. Luck is the best prospect since the guy that has been calling signals for the Colts for over a decade.

    There are not very many no-brainers this far in advance of the draft, but there is no way that Luck's name is not the first one called.

2. St. Louis Rams

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    Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

    As Kiper mentions, the Rams could look to trade out of this spot. There are going to be a couple of teams that really want to move up to get RG3, and this is a spot where the Rams could pick up some extra picks and possibly still get Blackmon.

    If Jeff Fisher does not get an offer that suits his fancy, the right pick here is Blackmon. Sam Bradford needs weapons, and the Rams need to do something to energize their fanbase. An offensive tackle with the second pick would not do that.

3. Minnesota Vikings

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    Matt Kalil, OT, USC

    This is an easy pick for the Vikings if Blackmon is off the board. They could also look to move down if a team wants Griffin here, but if not, they will no doubt take Kalil.

    Kiper says the comparisons to Jake Long are not far off. That is high praise considering how good Long has been early on with the Dolphins. Only time will tell if Kiper is right about that one.

4. Cleveland Browns

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    Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

    There are reports that NFL scouts are all over the board on RG3. That is probably true, but it only takes one team falling in love with him to have him off the board in the top five.

    Cleveland would probably be better served getting a quarterback in free agency if they are not sold on Colt McCoy, so they can use this pick to add someone who could actually help a quarterback on offense. But, RG3 is a good pick for them here if they are not able to do that.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

    This pick does not make any sense at all. Kiper says that you can never have enough running backs, but the fact is that the NFL has undervalued running backs to the point that Richardson might not be picked in the top 10.

    The Buccaneers have huge needs on defense and will be in the position to get the best defensive player in this draft, with the first four picks being offensive players. There is no chance they go with Richardson at this pick. Look for them to pick Morris Claiborne here.

6. Washington Redskins

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    Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

    This would be a good pick for the Redskins here, but there is just no way that it happens.  The Buccaneers will not leave Claiborne on the board.

    The Redskins are also one of the teams that will be in the mix to move up and get RG3. Do not be surprised to see them make a deal with the Rams on draft day. Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher are good friends, and a trade up there could benefit both sides.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

    Kiper loves Coples. If the Jaguars take him here, they will be stuck with another first-round defensive end that is a bust. Jacksonville already has a couple, no pun intended, of those guys on their roster. There is no need to add another.

    They should go with either Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd with this pick.

8. Carolina Panthers

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    Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

    The biggest thing to keep an eye on with Kirkpatrick is the off-the-field trouble he has gotten himself into this week. How much will that affect his stock?

    There is no doubt that Kirkpatrick has the physical skills to be an elite corner in the league, and this would be a great pick for the Panthers, who were terrible on defense in 2011.

9. Miami Dolphins

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    Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

    The Dolphins are another team that could be looking to move up to get RG3. If they are not able to do that, Reiff is a great pick for them here. 

    Football games are won in the trenches, and Reiff would give the Dolphins an excellent offensive line. He would come in and be a starter from day one.

10. Buffalo Bills

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    Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

    This is a pretty easy pick for the Bills. They need help against the run and the pass.  Upshaw will give them just that. He can get after the quarterback, and he is stout against the run.

    This is one of those things though that probably will not end up happening. It seems like every year, there are at least two or three consensus mock draft picks that end up being wrong.  This one has been a consensus so far in the mock draft world.

11. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Devon Still, DT, Penn State

    Michael Brockers is a better player than Still, but Still might be a better fit for the Chiefs.  Romeo Crennel is going to run a 3-4, and he needs a guy in the middle that can hold up against the run and the pass. Still could be that guy.

    The biggest concern with Still is that his production really was not that good in college. He only had four sacks in each of the last two years. That does not scream top-11 pick.

12. Seattle Seahawks

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    Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

    Kiper does make a good case for the Seahawks taking a defensive end here, and Ingram might be the best 4-3 defensive end in this draft. Coples will probably go higher, but you cannot argue with Ingram's production in college. He had 10 sacks in his senior season at South Carolina.

    As Kiper mentions, the Seahawks' biggest need is quarterback, but they are not going to find the solution to that problem here.

13. Arizona Cardinals

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    Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

    This is another pretty easy pick. The Cardinals absolutely have to get better on their offensive line before the 2012 season.

    If they do, they have the chance to be an elite offense. If they can get Kevin Kolb to the level they think he can play, all they need is protection to put a lot of points on the board. Martin would help make sure Kolb is around for 16 games next season.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

    The Cowboys biggest need is in the secondary, but if there is not a guy available that is worthy of this pick, DeCastro could be a good pick for them. This seems early for a guard, but if adding DeCastro makes the offensive line a strength of the team, it is a good pick.

    Dallas already has a powerful offense. An elite offensive line could make the offense good enough that holes on the defense will not really matter.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

    This pick will ultimately come down to Kuechly and Dont'a Hightower, who Kiper does not have going in the first round, because there is no question that the Eagles need help at inside linebacker.

    The Philadelphia run defense was a disaster, especially early in the season, because their linebackers were terrible. Kuechly would come in and be an upgrade from the first day he walks on the field. He has the chance to be a real star in the NFL.

16. New York Jets

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    Mark Barron, S, Alabama

    This is another pick that has been very popular in early mock drafts, and it is easy to see why. The Jets had a big hole at safety last season, and Barron is the best safety in this class. 

    He is also the prototypical NFL safety. Barron is big enough to play around the line of scrimmage to help in run support, but he also has the range to be effective in coverage. This pick would help the Jets get their defense back to the elite unit it was a couple of years ago.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)

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    Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

    The Bengals have the luxury of having two first round picks in this draft, so they could go a variety of directions here. Dennard makes sense here because Cincinnati needs to upgrade at corner, and Dennard is the best corner left on the board here.

    It would not be a surprise at all here to see the Bengals go after Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd. They have a star on one side with A.J. Green. Adding another stud receiver here would really help with Andy Dalton's development.

18. San Diego Chargers

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    Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

    This is not a good pairing. The only way an interior lineman goes this high is if he is elite.  Glenn will be a good player in the NFL, but he will not be elite.

    It would make more sense for the Chargers to use this pick on a defensive player because they really struggled on defense last season. Guys like Nick Perry and Zach Brown would help them more than Glenn.

19. Chicago Bears

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    Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

    The Bears obviously fill a need here with a wide receiver. The biggest question with this pick is if Floyd is the best receiver still on the board. Alshon Jeffery is the better prospect if the can keep his weight under control. Most teams will probably have Floyd and Jeffery really close on their boards.

    This move would finally give Jay Cutler a big NFL receiver.

20. Tennessee Titans

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    Nick Perry, DE, USC

    Perry makes sense for the Titans. They have an obvious need at defensive end, and Perry is probably the best pass rusher left on the board.

    Tennessee actually has a need at every level of the defense. They would be thrilled if a guy like Mark Barron were to fall to this spot.

    The Titans could also look to add a guy like Alshon Jeffery here because their receivers are pretty weak behind Kenny Britt. 

21. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

    The Bengals obviously need an upgrade at running back, but Miller is not a good pick here.  Trent Richardson is really the only first round running back in this draft. This would be a waste of the extra first-round pick.

    Again, Cincinnati should use this pick to get a receiver to pair with A.J. Green. Alshon Jeffery or Kendall Wright would be good solutions.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)

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    Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

    If the Browns are able to get RG3 with their first pick, adding Wright here would make a log of sense. As Kiper points out, Wright quietly had a huge season. His numbers were second to almost no one in the country.

    Adding Wright would also help RG3 feel comfortable early because of the chemistry the two already have. It also fills a need of playmaker the Browns have on offense.

23. Detroit Lions

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    Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

    The Lions will likely take the best non-defensive lineman defensive player available with this pick. They would like for that guy to be a corner, but there is not a first-round corner after the first three are off the board.

    That makes Brown a good fit. He can cover tight ends in the NFL, so that will help with some of their woes against the pass. Brown would really benefit from learning next to Stephen Tulloch if the Lions are able to re-sign him.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis

    As Kiper points out, the Steelers defense is aging, and a 3-4 defense is only as good as the nose tackle in the middle of the line. There is no doubt Pittsburgh needs to upgrade there.

    The only problem with Poe is that he has not played against the level of competition you would like to see from a first-round pick. He dominated the guys he played against, but 99 percent of the guys he played against will have to have a ticket to get into an NFL game.

    (Picture courtesy)

25. Denver Broncos

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    Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

    The Broncos would be best served to load up on defense, because they are not going to be scoring many points as long as Tim Tebow is playing quarterback.

    It would make more sense for the Broncos to take Michael Brockers with this pick because he is a better player. Kiper points out that Denver needs help with the interior pass rush, and that will be Brockers' strength, as the next level has a guy that is a little bit of a "tweener" between end and tackle.

26. Houston Texans

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    Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

    This is a pair that has not been put together in many mock drafts, but it makes a lot of sense. The Texans have terrible receivers after Andre Johnson, and as Kiper mentions, Johnson is about to turn 31. Houston would be foolish to count on him playing many more 16 game seasons.

    They are in the unique spot where they do not have many holes. They can afford to take a chance on a player who might not necessarily be at a "need" position.

27. New England Patriots (from Saints)

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    Michael Brockers, DL, LSU

    There is no shot Brockers is still on the board at 27. He can do too many things well. Do not be surprised to see him shoot up draft boards and even go in the top 10.

    That being said, if the is still on the board at 27, the Patriots will be getting the steal of the draft here. They could use him a number of different ways in their scheme, but most of all, he would help with their pass rush.

28. Green Bay Packers

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    Whitney Mercilus, LB, Illinois

    There is no question that the Packers are going to go defense with this pick. Mercilus makes a lot of sense because he can get after the quarterback. Kiper says that no team had a lower sack rate than Green Bay this season. They are going to have to change that if they want to stay on top in this pass-happy league.

    The Packers will also be looking for some help in the secondary, but there is not a guy here that fits that hole.

29. New York Giants

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    Zerbie Sanders, OT, Florida State

    Sanders is good fit for the Giants. Their passing offense is one of the best in the league, but their rushing attack was not where they would like it to be this season. Sanders is a guy that could be an immediate upgrade.

    New York would probably also be tempted by Vontaze Burfict here. That is not necessarily because they need him, but he is the best player left on the board.

30. Baltimore Ravens

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    Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

    The Ravens need to look for a replacement for Ray Lewis. Lewis might have a year or two left, but he is in the twilight of his career. Burfict would really benefit from having a year to watch Lewis play the game. It would be impossible to find a better teacher.

    Sitting behind Lewis would also give Burfict a little bit of time to mature. His immaturity is the biggest knock on him coming out of Arizona State.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

    This could end up being the best pick of the first round. Jeffery is a top-10 talent if he stays in shape. Adding him to the 49ers arsenal would be a huge help to Alex Smith.

    Jim Harbaugh worked a miracle on Smith in a short amount of time. The sky is the limit for Harbaugh and Smith with a full offseason and another weapon.

32. New England Patriots

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    Andre Branch, LB, Clemson

    The Patriots will be a scary team in 2012 if the first round plays out this way. They will have added two guys that can flat get after the quarterback with Brockers at 27 and now Branch at 32.

    Branch played end in college, so the transition to linebacker could be a tough one, but if anyone can help him make a smooth transition, it is Bill Belichick. These two picks could help the Patriots have a top-15 defense next season.

    Follow James Tate on Twitter @JamesTateBR

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