2012 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down the Entire First Round with Analysis
Now that the combine is over, we know all there is to know about how the NFL draft will play out, right?
No, not by a long shot.
Still, the raw numbers, the winners, the losers and the exposure all give GMs, fans and the media a better understanding of who is a hot prospect, who is not and whose stock has risen or fallen since early February.
Sure, there's a lot left to be determined, most notably the destinations of key free agents and cap casualties, but the picture is getting clearer.
No. 1: Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Barring some sort of bizarre, absurd, unexpected change of fate—akin to the earth starting to spin in the opposite direction or gravity ceasing to exist—Andrew Luck will be the first overall choice in this year's draft.
With the Colts almost certainly in need of a quarterback starting on March 8 when Peyton Manning is due his $28 million bonus, it's just as likely that Luck winds up in Indy.
Anyone who tells you otherwise (Tony Dungy) and implies that the Colts are wowed by the enormous ceiling of Robert Griffin III is just playing the role of a contrarian: Death, Taxes, Andrew Luck to the Colts.
No. 2: Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor*
*This is dependent on the Redskins giving up a king's ransom, including their first-rounder in 2012, the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center, for the St. Louis Rams' second overall choice.
A handful of teams are in play for the right to give up a ton to acquire the second overall pick and draft the majestic talents of RG3.
While the Browns are probably the best equipped to do so, considering they have so many extra picks from last year's deal with Atlanta, I still expect the Rams to pit each team against one another and perpetually increase the asking price.
So if there's a team (and owner) that is willing to overpay and mortgage the future to get the Heisman Trophy winner, it's Washington and Daniel Snyder.
No. 3: Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Because the two quarterbacks will almost certainly go first and second (and the Vikings just spent a first-rounder on Christian Ponder last year), there are several options available to Minnesota here.
I feel like the best choice for them is Morris Claiborne, who can improve a terrible secondary and help give the Vikings a fighting chance against Aaron Rodgers' Packers and Matthew Stafford's Lions, but I just don't see them pulling the trigger and taking a corner third overall.
Besides, Kalil is the best offensive lineman in this draft and has a chance to be that superstar blindside cornerstone, so they'll cross their fingers and hope for the best.
No. 4: Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
As John Clayton said last night on ESPN Radio, the Browns are probably in the driver's seat as of now for the RG3 trade sweepstakes, but that's going to change over the next six weeks as the price continues to rise.
There's no way Mike Holmgren—who made his career by developing quarterbacks—will give up three first-round picks to take Griffin, especially when Colt McCoy remains an unknown commodity.
While McCoy will sit on pins and needles over the next few weeks wondering if he's going to be out of a job, he'll be pleasantly surprised when the Browns land the top wideout on the board.
Cleveland has one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL, and that's something that's slowed down McCoy's progress. Now he'll have no excuse: He'll either sink or swim.
No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
LeGarrette Blount is really an intriguing running back because of his size and agility, but don't expect the new regime in Tampa Bay to consider him the foundation.
Since more and more teams are starting to become comfortable with a two-back system, Richardson is in play for the Bucs at the overall spot.
Especially since Richardson is a versatile back, he will be a great asset to Tampa Bay's woeful passing game.
No. 6: St. Louis Rams: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This is the first example of the classic draft-day conundrum: Do you draft for need, or do you draft the best available player?
The Rams offensive line is a mess. The Rams receiving corps isn't much better. So certainly Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin and Michael Floyd are fine options.
But with what they are going to get from trading out of the second spot, they can afford to take the best available player and build up those need spots with other picks.
Claiborne is an absolute stud and will add instant credibility to a defense that took a major step back last season. (You can look at that seventh overall ranking against the pass and say it's great, but why would any team bother throwing against them when they have the second-worst run defense in the NFL?)
No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The top reason why Mike Mularkey was brought in for the head coaching gig in Jacksonville was to get that Jags passing attack to respectability.
When you trade up to take Blaine Gabbert 10th overall, you better supply him with talent.
And Jacksonville's wide receiving corps is the weakest in the NFL.
Floyd won't be an instant panacea, but he is so physical and so skilled that he'll be able to draw coverage away from Marcedes Lewis and allow the Jags to rely a tad less on Maurice Jones-Drew.
No. 8: Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Either Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn will already be ahead of the game with Jake Long as the blindside protector.
But that doesn't mean that offensive line is set for the long haul.
Marc Colombo will be gone, leaving a big hole to fill at the right tackle spot, one that Reiff can certainly fill right out of the gate.
There are other options here for the Dolphins, including Jonathan Martin, but Reiff comes from the ideal college program to keep Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush on track for an even better season in 2012.
No. 9: Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
While his 40 time (5.36) disappointed many since he didn't necessarily come in overweight or out of shape and is a defensive tackle (not a wideout or safety), it shouldn't be such a major red flag.
He still comes from an elite program and has plenty of value in rushing the passer (on top of his great run-defending skills), so that will grab Ron Rivera's eye.
The Panthers offense made enormous strides in 2011 under Cam Newton. Now it's time to give Charles Johnson (who they paid a fortune to last summer) some help.
No. 10: Buffalo Bills: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Despite their unexpected rise to relevance early in the 2011 season, the Bills have several holes to fill this offseason.
They could lose Stevie Johnson, so wide receiver might be an option, and the offensive line—which was so banged up last year—might be an option as well.
But Kirkpatrick was a key member of two national championship teams and will bring a winning attitude to a team that sorely needs one.
Besides, he is a fine corner. Forget about the marginal 40 time—he is 6'2" and has a 35-inch vertical. That will come in handy against the mighty tight end duo up in New England.
No. 11: Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Even without the draft and free-agency period, Kansas City's offense figures to be much improved next season: Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki will be back (assuming, of course, they don't lose Dwayne Bowe).
Still, there is a tremendous need to upgrade at the tackle position. Barry Richardson really struggled throughout 2011 and probably won't be back.
So even though Riley Reiff and Matt Kalil are off the board when the Chiefs select, they still have to be thrilled to land Martin.
He comes directly from a pro-style offense, is extremely durable and boasts ideal agility.
No. 12: Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Given what happened with Jake Locker and Christian Ponder last year, there's no reason to believe the best "second-tier" prospect will last beyond the first half of the first round.
Tannehill has nearly all the same qualities as Robert Griffin III (he's fast enough to play wide receiver and has an extremely accurate and strong arm), but he hasn't received as much hype.
The Seahawks aren't necessarily desperate for a quarterback since they just signed Tarvaris Jackson, who played decently down the stretch. But Jackson is a free agent after next season, and Pete Carroll has to find a franchise quarterback to keep his job.
No. 13: Arizona Cardinals: Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina
The Cardinals' outside pass-rushers (Clark Haggans, Joey Porter) got old in a hurry, and it's time to get better and younger.
Ingram is the ideal fit.
He's not the biggest player available, but he certainly has the versatility to be a top-notch outside pass-rusher, play the run with consistency and do what he's asked in the passing game.
No. 14: Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Dallas isn't going to be scared off by the "baggage" that forced Jenkins to leave Gainesville in 2010.
Not only is "character" not one of the traits that Jerry Jones and company look for first, but the example set by the Ravens' Jimmy Smith might be a lesson for teams: In the right circumstance, "baggage" players can be rehabilitated.
The Cowboys desperately need to get younger, faster and cheaper at the corner position, especially considering how trigger-happy with the blitz Rob Ryan can be.
No. 15: Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
Despite the fantastic combine that Kuechly had, the need for a true mike linebacker isn't overwhelming these days, as more and more teams are relying on the 3-4.
Still, if Kuechly is still on the board, the Eagles will be ecstatic.
Not only does Boston College churn out great linebacker talent, but he clearly has ideal speed (4.58), athleticism (38-inch vertical) and size (6'3", 242).
As early as Week 1, the Eagles' Wide Nine will be much improved with him at the defensive helm.
No. 16: New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Jets defense has its share of big names, most notably all-world corner Darrelle Revis, but in 2011 Rex Ryan's group took a major step back—and a big reason why was its pass rush.
Bart Scott is probably on his way out, and 31-year-old Calvin Pace was beat up (making him largely ineffective last year).
Upshaw is probably the best 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker in this draft, and the Jets will be thrilled if the Cardinals pass on him in favor of the much bigger Quinton Coples.
Pairing Upshaw with Muhammad Wilkerson might be enough to get the Jets pass rush back on track.
No. 17: Cincinnati Bengals: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Cincy's defense was perhaps the most improved in the NFL last year, and it has plenty of pieces in place going forward.
But there is probably a spot available in the future for a defensive end.
Frotee Rucker is a free agent, and even if Carlos Dunlap fills that spot, since Robert Geathers is a free agent after 2012, there might be another opening.
Coples' size and upper body strength make him a steal in the second half of the first round.
No. 18: San Diego Chargers: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Kris Dielman's retirement leaves an enormous void in the Chargers offense.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that San Diego has to spend its first-round draft choice on his replacement, as there are a few excellent free-agent prospects out there.
But DeCastro is an awfully intriguing player at this spot in the draft. He's the best interior lineman in the draft, and the Chargers have spent plenty of early picks on defense in recent years.
DeCastro is a safe pick, and Norv Turner and A.J. Smith can't afford to roll the dice any more.
No. 19: Chicago Bears: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
The Bears are still desperate for a game-breaking receiver on offense, one who can help Jay Cutler finally reach his potential.
They'll miss out on the top two names on the board (Blackmon and Floyd), but Randle is a very interesting option.
He showed decent speed at the combine (4.5 in the 40-yard dash), but it's his size and strength that have to be most appealing to new Bears general manager Phil Emery.
No. 20: Tennessee Titans: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Other than Robert Griffin III, Poe might be the biggest winner of the combine: When the President of the United States is talking about you, that's a big deal.
Poe has absurd strength (44 reps at the bench), ideal size (6'4", 346), and relatively wonderful speed, running a 4.98 at the 40-yard dash.
The Titans don't necessarily have a huge hole to fill along the defensive line: Jurrell Casey figures to become a strong player, and Karl Klug had a great rookie season.
But (along with being from the area) Poe has a chance to become a dominant player and perennial Pro Bowler—and no one values dominance in the trenches more than head coach Mike Munchak.
No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Jerome Simpson's inevitable departure (felony, free agency) isn't the only reason why the Bengals make this choice.
Sure, Jordan Shipley will be coming back and be a nice complementary player to A.J. Green, but Wright make that offense go from good to great.
He's a much different type of receiver than Green—shiftier with a smaller frame—and can play in the slot.
Besides, at this point, the Bengals are playing with house money. No one expected them to be a playoff team in 2011 or to swindle the Raiders in the Carson Palmer deal.
No. 22: Cleveland Browns: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Other than the nagging injuries to Peyton Hills and the completely new offensive scheme, the greatest disruption to the Browns offense was the season-ending injury to Eric Steinbach.
Steinbach is on the books for another two years at over $6 million per season and therefore is a good candidate to be a cap casualty, so filling his spot will be essential this offseason.
Like the Bengals, the Browns can afford to draft the best player available and not necessarily to fill an enormous need.
Although David DeCastro is still regarded as the top guard available, Glenn had an awesome combine, running a 5.15-second 40 and recording 31 reps on the bench.
No. 23: Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Lions front seven is only going to get better. Even if they lose Cliff Avril to free agency, an emotionally contained Ndamukong Suh is probably the best interior defensive lineman in the game. And if Nick Fairley has a full, healthy season, who knows what they'll achieve?
But it doesn't matter how good they are up front—if that secondary continues to play so-so, the Lions won't be able to take the next step, regardless of that prolific offense.
Gilmore has flown under the radar a bit because (if you include Janoris Jenkins) he was not even the third-best corner in the SEC this year.
But he's big, has excellent instincts and ran a 4.4 flat at the combine. That should push him up a few boards.
No. 24: Pittsburgh Steelers: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Chris Hoke is retiring, and there's a decent-sized chance that Casey Hampton is a cap casualty. Even if he's not, this is his last season, and he's coming off ACL surgery.
Devon Still didn't overwhelm at the combine, but he's big and athletic.
There's plenty of merit to those who think he's too small to play the nose in the Steelers 3-4, but remember, Hoke wasn't nearly as big as Hampton, and he was a suitable replacement in 2004 and at times last year.
No. 25: Denver Broncos: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Brian Dawkins is almost certainly going to retire, and a strong safety replacement should be on John Elway and John Fox's to-do list.
Barron is easily the premier safety available and was a key member of two national championship-winning teams. For his position, he's enormous (6'1", 213) and will bring the wood to opposing ball-carriers.
Pair Barron and Rahim Moore together—along with that outstanding pass rush—and Denver's defense has a chance to dominate for years to come.
No. 26: Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Andre Johnson needs help. It's that simple.
Even if it means the Texans have to reach with their first-round choice.
(Sure, there are a handful of outstanding free agents available this spring—Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, etc.—but I don't see them breaking the bank for another veteran considering they have to re-sign Arian Foster and Chris Myers.)
Hill is not talked about in the same way that Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd or even Kendall Wright are, but his raw numbers are staggering.
He ran a 4.36 at the combine, is 6'4" and 215 pounds and in that option offense averaged nearly 30 yards per catch.
No. 27: New England Patriots: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
As maligned as the Pats pass defense (and therefore their secondary) has been the past few years, the front seven is just as culpable.
They gave up Richard Seymour way too early and are still trying to recover from that mistake. Although Vince Wilfork is a borderline Hall of Famer, he can't do everything, especially since Shaun Ellis will be 35 this summer and soon-to-be 33-year-old Andre Carter is coming off a major injury.
Translation: The Pats need another pass-rusher.
Worthy isn't the ideal fit, because he reportedly lacks some of the tools to instantly become a 3-4 end, but Bill Belichick loves to buck trends.
No. 28: Green Bay Packers: Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
You'll hear it all offseason: The reason why the Packers defense was so bad (statistically) and why they ultimately failed to repeat as Super Bowl champions was because their pass rush was well below par.
Cullen Jenkins' departure was quietly one of the worst free-agent losses during the 2011 offseason.
Ted Thompson can make up for that loss with this first-round choice.
J.J. Watt proved last year with Houston that a player from a 4-3 scheme can instantaneously excel in an NFL 3-4, and that will lead to this late first-day surprise.
No. 29: Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisonsin
It's looking more and more like the Ravens will lose cornerstone center Matt Birk to retirement. Now maybe five years ago, the draft wouldn't have been the ideal place to find that instant replacement, but the last two first-round rookie centers (coincidentally, both named Pouncey) have stepped right in and started on day one.
So even though Konz—the top-rated center in the draft—had a pretty miserable week during the combine (only able to rep 225 18 times and not running the 40-yard dash because of an injury), he still figures to be a first-round choice, and the Ravens are the ideal landing spot.
Assuming they are able to keep Ben Grubbs, he will have great assistance between Grubbs and Marshall Yanda.
No. 30: San Francisco 49ers: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
The 49ers are one of those teams that will certainly wait until the free-agency period shakes out to determine what they want to do with their first-round pick.
Their fans don't want to believe it, but Carlos Rogers just doesn't seem likely to be back next year. He's coming off his best season, wants that last big payday and is reportedly demanding a long-term deal, which they won't give to a 31-year-old. (Franchising him would also be an enormous salary cap burden.)
In time, Dennard will be a fine replacement: He lacks ideal size and ran just a decent 4.55 40-yard dash, but a corner with a 37-inch vertical is a major asset.
No. 31: New England Patriots: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
I don't care one iota what happened at the combine: I still think Alshon Jeffrey has a chance to be a superstar in the NFL.
That leaping ability is outstanding, his hands are magnificent and his size is ideal.
There seems to be a hit-or-miss quality to Jeffery, but because the Pats have a handful of extra picks and need to infuse new, young blood into that collection of wide receivers, Bill Belichick might try to hit a home run rather than make a safer choice in Nick Toon or Mohamed Sanu.
Ryan Mallett to Alshon Jeffery in 2015 or so has a nice ring to it.
No. 32: New York Giants: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
The Giants have a glaring need this offseason because of the two costly Super Bowl injuries to tight ends Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard.
Now that Jermichael Finley is off the market, the draft is even more likely the place where Jerry Reese will look.
Coby Fleener has the size and experience in an NFL-style offense with an NFL quarterback and several NFL linemen, but Allen has tremendous hands, and with his 4.89 speed and tremendous strength he is a more dangerous run-after-the-catch threat.