2012 NFL Mock Draft: Analyzing Mel Kiper's Latest Mock for Every AFC East Team
Mel Kiper, Jr. is one of the most respected voices in the NFL draft pundit community. But that doesn't mean we can't cast a magnifying glass on what he has to say and look at it from a closer perspective.
He posted his first, and most recent, mock draft back on January 18. Let's take a look at what he had to say about the AFC East.
You can find Kiper's most recent mock draft here (ESPN Insider required).
No. 9: Miami Dolphins Select Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
Kiper says: "Reiff's tape was exceptional this past season, and he has a lot of experience and a proven ability against top competition. ...The Dolphins could be another team looking for options at quarterback, but even if they go into the season with Matt Moore back as starter, Reiff adds further stability to an offense that could continue to improve."
My slant: If the Dolphins are able to get a quarterback in free agency, a young offensive tackle is the next logical piece to the puzzle. Marc Colombo is set to become a free agent, and part of the reason he was even with the Dolphins in the first place was his relationship with former head coach Tony Sparano. Even if he's back, he's 33. It's time to start looking toward the future.
Reiff had some trouble with the law in the past, but the Dolphins have shown willingness to overlook some of those issues in the past.
No. 10: Buffalo Bills Select Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB Alabama
Kiper says: "Upshaw is currently the best 3-4 outside linebacker in the draft, and he should be able to apply a lot of pressure to opposing quarterbacks from the edge for whoever gets him for 2012. No Buffalo player had more than 5.5 sacks in 2011, and the Bills simply can't get enough pressure without bringing extra players."
My slant: A slam dunk if it pans out. The Bills are starved for pass-rushing talent and came two years too soon on Aaron Maybin and two years too late on Shawne Merriman.
If Upshaw isn't available, the Bills might look at South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram. He's not a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker, but he could certainly bolster the pass rush in sub-package situations while he learns the position.
No. 16: New York Jets Select Mark Barron, S Alabama
Kiper says: "In Barron, the Jets would get the best safety in the draft, a big, rangy talent with big-game experience and the ability to match up against taller receivers and tight ends. The Jets have schemed around a weakness at safety, but it's time to put a better talent back there."
My slant: This is a spot where need meets opportunity, and the Jets would be smart to capitalize by adding a talented safety to their defense. The futures of Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool are in question, but either way, Barron would bring just the type of presence the Jets need at safety. They typically run a Cover 1 scheme in the back seven, and Barron wouldn't be left in coverage all that often. He's been improving in that area, but it remains his biggest weakness.
His capabilities in run defense would be welcome for a team that ranked near the bottom of the league at one point in the season.
No. 27: New England Patriots Select Michael Brockers, DL LSU
Kiper says: "Brockers could end up a lot higher than this when the evaluation process is over because his reputation is growing. I list him simply as a defensive lineman because the Pats could use him in a couple of different ways up front in that scheme. What he can do is add explosiveness on the interior -- he's a pentrator with the ability to dominate if left to a single blocker, which frees people up."
My slant: The Patriots got abused up front in the final four games of the regular season, yielding 639 rushing yards and 5.7 yards per carry to opposing backs in that time. They had turned it on against the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, but were tossed around in the final game of the season to leave the Patriots defensive line with a sour taste in their mouths.
As endorsed earlier on the blog, James Christensen of NEPatriotsDraft.com calls him a schematic fit for the Patriots and says, "Brockers has the size (6'6"/305), length and ability to take on double-teams that Coach Belichick craves for his 3-4 defensive ends. ...If the Patriots are going to land this Richard Seymour-esque prospect, they almost certainly will have to move into the top 20 picks of the draft."
That certainly has to be music to the ears of Patriots fans.
No. 31: New England Patriots Select Andre Branch, LB Clemson
Kiper says: "He racked up 10.5 sacks this past season and has a 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame, a good physical fit for the transition. Branch also has the athleticism to be more than a pure pass-rusher, as he should be able to develop into a well-rounded OLB under Bill Belichick."
My slant: After what happened to the Patriots in the Super Bowl (again), the prospect of adding a young talented pass-rusher sounds pretty enticing. Unfortunately, the Patriots have never drafted a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the first round under Bill Belichick, even when presented with multiple opportunities to do so.
From this perspective, that is an indication of how Belichick likes to find his talent. The Patriots struck free agent gold with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, but with both hitting free agency, it would be wise for the Patriots to have a backup plan. The two accounted for 20 of New England's 40 regular season sacks.
If the Patriots don't go with a pass rusher here, they could target a defensive back. Or they could do as they usually do: trade.