Mel Kiper 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Evaluating Every Pick

Wes StueveContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

Mel Kiper 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Evaluating Every Pick

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    For years, Mel Kiper has been "The Guy" in the NFL draft world. He was the first draft expert to find the public spotlight, and he remains in center stage.

    And, as any celebrity knows, with fame comes criticism.

    No one gets hammered for projections quite like Kiper does. Some draftniks look to knock him down a notch, and others simply disagree with him.

    This article isn't about criticizing Kiper, but taking an objective look at each of his first-round projections. If it ends up negative, that's because I disagreed with the picks.

    How good is the ESPN star's mock draft looking?

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

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    This pick is simply obvious. The Colts seem to be moving away from Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck is the best quarterback to enter the draft in over a decade.

    Luck is ready to start out of the gate, and his play could give the Indianapolis offense a huge boost. There's absolutely no reason for the Colts not to take Luck here.

    Any other pick here would be awful.

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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    It's easy to see the logic behind this pick.

    The Rams need a wide receiver, and Justin Blackmon is a likely top-five pick. On many levels, it makes a ton of sense.

    However, Matt Kalil would be a much better selection. St. Louis also has a need at offensive tackle, and Kalil is easily the better value here.

    Players like Blackmon are in every draft. Meanwhile, Kalil is the best left-tackle prospect since Jake Long in 2008.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

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    Matt Kalil is a terrific pick here.

    The Minnesota offensive line has been a huge issue for years, and Kalil is the best player left on the board.

    In 2011, Charlie Johnson started at left tackle for the Vikings. If the team is smart, they will not allow this to happen again in 2012. Kalil is a legitimate franchise left tackle and could immediately dominate.

    This pick makes way too much sense not to happen.

4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

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    After a not-so-awful rookie season, Colt McCoy played horribly in 2011. The Browns seem likely to move on at quarterback, and Robert Griffin is the obvious pick if he's available.

    A fantastic athlete, Griffin isn't a perfect fit in Pat Shurmur's West Coast Offense, but he can play in any scheme. To put it simply, the Browns need playmakers, and Griffin is exactly that.

    Some do think Cleveland would prefer to add talent around McCoy, but this is the much better move.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

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    In this scenario, Tampa Bay would probably prefer to add Morris Claiborne.

    Trent Richardson is a terrific player, but the Buccaneers have a huge hole at cornerback, and Claiborne is the better value.

    In Tampa Bay, Richardson would split carries with LeGarrette Blount, and no team likes drafting a running back this early. Claiborne, on the other hand, would immediately start, and cornerback is a highly-prioritized position.

    This pick really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

6. Washington Redskins: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

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    This isn't a great scenario for the Redskins, but Morris Claiborne is probably the best option.

    Washington's cornerbacks are far from great, and Claiborne is the best player available.

    At 6'1", 185 pounds, Claiborne isn't overly big, but he's a great athlete who uses terrific technique. The team's only other options here are to reach for an offensive lineman or Ryan Tannehill.

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

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    For years, experts have been clamoring for the Jaguars to draft a pass-rusher. They have tried to address the issue in free agency, but this hasn't worked. Quinton Coples isn't a stud off the edge, but he's the best option.

    A 6'6", 281-pound freak, Coples has huge upside. With time, Coples could develop into an elite player, and he's already great against the run. 

    The Jaguars could opt for Dre Kirkpatrick, but Coples is probably the better value and fits a better need. 

8. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

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    Carolina's defensive ends are solid. Their defensive tackles are not.

    Though he isn't an elite prospect, Michael Brockers possesses terrific athleticism to go along with his 6'6", 310-pound frame. There's a lot to like about Brockers.

    There's been some debate about whether Brockers is worth this pick, but he's probably going to be drafted in this range. And no team is a better fit than the Panthers.

9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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    In 2011, Vernon Carey was moved inside to guard, all so Marc Colombo could play horribly at right tackle. (Note: Carey was no better at guard.) Here, the Dolphins have an opportunity to fix the right tackle position.

    Riley Reiff is probably capable of playing left tackle, but in Miami, he would man the right side. The 6'6", 305-pounder is a terrific athlete and should be able to step in immediately.

    Ryan Tannehill shouldn't be ruled out.

10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

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    Well, the Bills certainly need to add a pass-rusher. The question is whether Courtney Upshaw is that pass-rusher.

    A 6'1", 271-pound outside linebacker, Upshaw would rush from the linebacker and defensive end positions in Buffalo. The Alabama star is terrific against the run, but he will never be great at rushing the passer.

    NFL teams seem to love Whitney Mercilus, and he could easily be the pick here as well.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

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    This pick is, uh, interesting.

    Look, Derrick Johnson is one of the NFL's best inside linebackers, and though the other spot is a bit of an issue, Kansas City can find that player elsewhere.

    Inside linebackers aren't popular picks this early, especially for a team that already has a star there. The Chiefs could easily add a right tackle in Mike Adams or a nose tackle in Dontari Poe.

    Either of those picks would make a lot more sense. 

12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

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    The position makes sense, but Melvin Ingram is a reach this early. Though the 6'2", 275-pounder is incredibly versatile, he's not great off the edge and should not be drafted in the top 15.

    Ingram's versatility is intriguing in Seattle, though. The Seahawks use a variety of defensive looks, and Ingram could be a valuable piece. This is just too early.

    Ryan Tannehill would be a fantastic fit in Seattle's offense. 

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

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    It's no secret that the Cardinals need offensive line help, but Jonathan Martin is not the guy. Mike Adams would be a terrific pick, though, and he could start at left tackle.

    Martin has received a ton of type, but he really isn't that good.

    The 6'5", 310-pounder is a finesse player who lacks great footwork. There isn't much of a market for players like that.

    Even David DeCastro would be a better pick.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

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    Mark Barron over Dre Kirkpatrick makes no sense.

    The Cowboys have just as big of a need at cornerback, and Kirkpatrick is a much better player than Barron is. There's absolutely no justification for taking Barron here.

    Kirkpatrick's alleged off-the-field issues aren't going to hurt his stock this much, and Dallas would be stupid to pass on him.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

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    An athletic, penetrating defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox is a terrific fit in Jim Washburn's defensive scheme. The Eagles need to improve their run defense, and Cox is the best guy to do it.

    At 6'4", 295 pounds, Cox isn't overly big, but he isn't terribly small either. Though the Mississippi State product will never be great against the run, his ability to make plays in the backfield will make up for it.

    The Eagles could also look for DeSean Jackson or Evan Mathis's replacements by drafting a wide receiver or David DeCastro.

16. New York Jets: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

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    Cordy Glenn ahead of David DeCastro? What?

    The guard pick makes some sense here. The Jets are still searching for Alan Faneca's replacement, and their offensive line is far from perfect. The problem here is who the guard is.

    Glenn simply isn't as good as DeCastro is. DeCastro is the best guard prospect to come along in years, and Glenn shouldn't even be a first-round pick.

    Yes, the Jets favor power blockers, but DeCastro is still a better player.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

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    The Bengals need a cornerback to play opposite Leon Hall, and Dre Kirkpatrick is somehow still available. So yeah, this pick makes sense.

    Kirkpatrick is a 6'3", 190-pounder with excellent athletic ability. There are some concerns about his ability to play in coverage downfield, but he is definitely the draft's No. 2 cornerback.

    Though Cincinnati could go a few different directions here, Kirkpatrick makes the most sense. 

18. San Diego Chargers: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

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    This makes sense. The Chargers are losing Vincent Jackson in free agency, and they need a big, physical presence to replace him. Michael Floyd is exactly that guy.

    If it weren't for injury and off-the-field issues, Floyd would probably be a top-10 pick. As it stands, the 6'3", 225-pounder is a solid value here.

    San Diego has been linked to pass-rushers here, and Whitney Mercilus could be an intriguing fit.

19. Chicago Bears: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

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    Mike Adams is an absolute steal here. He also happens to fill what is by far Chicago's biggest need.

    The 6'7", 323-pound Adams is as talented as any offensive lineman in football, and he has unbelievable upside. The Ohio State product occasionally looked lazy as an underclassman, but he really stepped up his game as a senior.

    In all honesty, Adams will probably be long gone by this point. If he's available, however, the Bears simply have to jump on him.

20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

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    In some ways, this pick makes sense. Tennessee's pass rush is one of its weakest units, and the Titans need help at defensive end.

    Then, you look at who else is available and see David DeCastro's name.

    The Titans would be insane to not take DeCastro. The team's interior line didn't help Chris Johnson any in 2011, and DeCastro would give the unit a huge boost.

    This is a dream scenario for the Titans, but Kiper gave them the wrong guy.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

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    Finally, someone selects David DeCastro.

    The interior line isn't Cincinnati's biggest need by any means, but they could use some help at guard, and DeCastro is too good to pass on.

    At 6'5", 315 pounds, DeCastro can do anything on the field. The Stanford product can play in space or dominate at the point of attack, and he fits any blocking scheme.

    Kendall Wright would make a lot of sense here too.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

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    After already upgrading at quarterback, the Browns need to add some more offensive talent. Cleveland desperately needs speed on offense, and if he's anything, Kendall Wright is fast.

    The 5'10", 190-pounder isn't particularly big, but his playmaking ability cannot be denied. Despite his small stature, Wright is capable of playing on the outside, and he would immediately add another dimension to the Browns' offense.

    Cleveland also needs help at defensive end and cornerback, so Nick Perry and Janoris Jenkins could be fits.

23. Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

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    Eric Wright is probably a goner, and even if he isn't, the Lions need to add a cornerback.

    Martin Mayhew has typically ignored need in the first round, but Janoris Jenkins happens to be a terrific value.

    At Florida, Jenkins was one of the NCAA's best cornerbacks. However, Jenkins was kicked off the Gators football squad and spent his senior season at North Alabama.

    This doesn't change the fact that Jenkins is really good, though, and he is worth the risk.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

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    In recent years, the Steelers have devoted plenty of early picks to the defensive line, but they still need a nose tackle. Casey Hampton is probably done as a Steeler, and the team doesn't have a great backup plan.

    Dontari Poe is an absolute steal here. The 6'5", 350-pounder is an incredible athlete with elite strength. The Memphis star isn't a great player yet, but with time, he could develop into one of the game's best defensive linemen.

    Pittsburgh could add an offensive lineman like Kevin Zeitler here, but Poe is the best option.

25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State

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    Even if the Broncos keep Brodrick Bunkley, the team probably wants to add a defensive tackle. Many believe Devon Still will be long gone by this point, and he is a bit of a high-risk/high-reward player.

    A prized recruit, Still never played up to his talent level until his senior year. The 6'5", 310-pounder is a great athlete, but he is still inconsistent.

    The Broncos could go a lot of ways here. A running back, tight end or cornerback would all make sense. 

26. Houston Texans: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

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    This pick is baffling.

    It would be one thing if Jerel Worthy were capable of playing nose tackle, but he isn't. And with Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt at defensive end, the Texans don't need a 5-tech.

    Houston has options here. Worthy is a reach at the end of the first round, and he fits neither a need nor the Texans' defensive scheme. 

    Houston really needs to add a wide receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson, and Alshon Jeffery is a great option.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall

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    By most accounts, Vinny Curry is a reach here, but Bill Belichick is not afraid to go against popular opinion. Curry fits a need and is exactly the type of pass-rusher Belichick looks for.

    The 6'3", 265-pounder is a relentless pass-rusher with the versatility to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Curry isn't a freakish athlete by any means, but he is a hard-working player with great size.

    With Dan Koppen returning from injury and likely leaving in free agency, the Patriots could select Peter Konz.

28. Green Bay Packers: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

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    Ted Thompson is unpredictable, but this pick goes beyond unpredictability. The Packers don't need a safety, and Harrison Smith is a reach. That really doesn't fit Thompson's persona.

    Though Smith could end up in the second round, the first round seems out of reach. Thompson doesn't reach for players, and with Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett, they Packers don't need Smith.

    Here, Green Bay should look at Nick Perry to play across from Clay Matthews.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

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    Matt Birk is probably gone—either through free agency or retirement—and the Ravens need to find his replacement. With Ben Grubbs also possibly leaving, Baltimore really needs to focus on the offensive line.

    A 6'5", 315-pound junior, Peter Konz is the rare center to leave college early. The Wisconsin product is a great run blocker, but he's nothing special in pass protection.

    Baltimore often selects the best player available, and that just might be Vontaze Burfict.

    Burfict would be an interesting fit in Baltimore, to say the least. 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

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    A wide receiver makes a ton of sense for the 49ers. Michael Crabtree hasn't developed into a star, and the Braylon Edwards experiment was a huge failure. 

    The problem here is the player, not the position.

    Rueben Randle is probably a second-round pick, but Alshon Jeffery and Mohamed Sanu are both good values here. Randle over those two simply doesn't make sense.

    If they don't take a wide receiver, the 49ers will likely look at cornerbacks, and Stephon Gilmore is still available. 

31. New England Patriots: Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut

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    The Patriots need interior defensive linemen, and Kendall Reyes is a great schematic fit. However, Reyes is probably a reach here, and New England also has a huge hole in the defensive backfield.

    At 6'4", 300 pounds, Reyes can play defensive tackle or 5-tech. This versatility is key, as is Reyes's ability to play in a two-gap scheme. As a player, Reyes is ideal for the Patriots. Just not this early.

    Stephon Gilmore is too good for New England to pass on here. He fits a huge need and is a solid value.

32. New York Giants: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

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    OK, the Giants could use a more dynamic threat at tight end. But if New York is taking a tight end in the first round, it will be Coby Fleener. Dwayne Allen is a reach.

    Athletically, Allen is nothing special, and he's a below-average blocker. Fleener is bigger and better at catching the football. There's no reason to take Allen over Fleener.

    New York desperately needs offensive line help, so they could reach for Zebrie Sanders. They could also use an inside linebacker, and Vontaze Burfict is a potential star.