2012 NFL Mock Draft: Playoff Contenders That Will Make Terrific Picks

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IApril 26, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with head coach Jim Harbaugh after Davis scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Some playoff contenders are just one star away from making a legitimate postseason run next season.

Teams like the Green Bay Packers will be looking to find that one impact player in the 2012 NFL draft to push them over the top en route to the Super Bowl.

Fortunately for these teams, there are some promising prospects in the late first round this year.

Here's my latest 2012 NFL mock draft, complete with playoff contenders who will score on draft day (in italics).

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

The Colts will draft a once-in-a-generation quarterback prospect in Andrew Luck, who has been compared to Peyton Manning coming out of Tennessee. He has all the tools and football IQ to be a superstar for years to come.

2. Washington Redskins (via STL): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Robert Griffin III, with his passing skills, leadership and legs, will fit just fine into the Redskins' system. If it weren't for a guy named Andrew Luck, he'd be the No. 1 overall pick. 

3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Morris Claiborne has elite coverage skills and he's not afraid to attack the run. He's a complete corner who figures to make an impact right away in the NFL. The Vikings could use him against quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in the same division.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

There's a lot of hubbub about what the Browns will do in this year's draft, but I find if hard to believe they would pass up a running back of Trent Richardson's caliber. He has all the tools to become a superstar in the NFL.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

If Claiborne and Richardson are gone, expect the Bucs to go with Matt Kalil, a complete offensive lineman who should star for years to come and give Josh Freeman more time in the pocket.

6. St. Louis Rams (via WA): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

There's a lot of commotion that the Rams may grab Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox here, but it's hard for me to ignore the obvious: The Rams desperately need a weapon in the passing game for Sam Bradford. It's not fair to throw him out there with what he currently has.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Melvin Ingram #6 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Jaguars need a pass-rusher and Melvin Ingram has the potential to be an elite one. He's a complete pass-rusher with a strong core and great athleticism and fluidity.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill may not even be a first-round prospect. He has a lot to learn about the game and struggled with decision-making last season. However, the Dolphins are desperate, and they will likely grab him in hopes of developing him into a starter.

9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

The Panthers need to plug up the interior and Fletcher Cox has great strength, quickness and football IQ. He's a solid pick who has earned his stop in the Top 10.

10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

After signing Mario Williams, the Bills would be wise to add more protection for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who struggled last season. Reiff is the second-best offensive tackle in the draft, without question. 

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

Pairing Luke Kuechly with Derrick Williams in the interior would be a great move for the Chiefs. Kuechly has the instincts, range and tackling ability to be a star in the NFL. His combine performance wasn't bad, either.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

I'm not a big fan of Quinton Coples, based on his inconsistent and sometimes lazy play at UNC, but his speed and strength are hard to ignore, and the Seahawks need help rushing the passer. It's hard to envision him sliding past this spot.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Michael Floyd, with his size, strength, leaping ability and hands, is beginning to creep up on Justin Blackmon in draft circles. He would look great opposite Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 15:  Defensive back Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide lines up against Mississippi on October 15, 2011 at Vaught- Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

Mark Barron is the do-it-all safety the Cowboys have been searching for. He has the strength, explosiveness to the ball and tackling ability to be a complete defensive back in the NFL.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

If the Eagles don't address that rush defense, they are going to be hurting next season. Dontari Poe has great size, strength and speed, as he showed at the combine. He does need to become more consistent to star in the NFL, however.

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

There are whispers the Jets could trade up to No. 3 overall and pick Trent Richardson, which I think would be a great move. If they don't, however, adding a pass-rusher like Courtney Upshaw would be wise. He has a nice combination of strength, athleticism and drive, and he has a knack for getting to the ball.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

David DeCastro may be a Top-10 pick, but he may slide here based on teams' primary needs. He's a powerful blocker with great lateral agility and footwork. I'd be surprised if he didn't provide instant protection for Andy Dalton in Cincy.

18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

The Chargers have been looking for a pass-rusher at outside linebacker since Shawne Merriman left town. Enter Whitney Mercilus, whose explosiveness, athleticism and motor could make an impact for San Diego right away.

19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Jonathan Martin has slid dramatically since the combine, primarily based on his 19 reps on the bench press, but I'm not going to ignore his work at Stanford, and neither should the Bears. He needs to bulk up, but his athleticism, balance and awareness could make him a nice protector for Jay Cutler. 

20. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Stephon Gilmore rose above Dre Kirkpatrick for me long before Kirkpatrick's arrest for marijuana possession. Gilmore not only has the speed and quickness to be a top cover corner, he flies to the ball-carrier. Did I mention he can also be used as a return man?

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Dre Kirkpatrick may be below Gilmore in my eyes, but that doesn't mean he can't become a solid player in the NFL. His physicality, strength and tackling ability could make him a complete corner in the pros, but I worry about his speed against fast receivers.

22. Cleveland Browns (via ATL): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The Browns absolutely have to give Colt McCoy weapons this season before they can properly evaluate him. I love the game of Kendall Wright, who has the speed, athleticism, leaping ability and hands to be a star in the NFL.

23. Detroit Lions: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 22: Nick Perry #8 of the University of Southern California Trojans brings down Tyler Eifert #80 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 22, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Ima
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nick Perry may be one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. He has outstanding quickness and explosiveness, and he registered 9.5 sacks for USC last season. Not a bad guy to add to the Lions' budding defense.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

With James Farrior gone, this is the obvious pick for the Steelers. Dont'a Hightower has great strength and explosiveness and he can burst throughout the interior. He could become a solid starter for the Steelers.

25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

The Broncos need to add a run-stopper to their defense. Michael Brockers didn't do himself any favors at the combine, but his combination of athleticism and strength makes him hard to pass up here. If he plays up to his potential, he could be a star in the NFL.

26. Houston Texans: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

I know some people have fallen in love with Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill based on his elite speed, but Rueben Randle is the more proven receiver for me and he has impressive quickness, length and fluidity. He would be a great fit opposite Andre Johnson in Houston.

27. New England Patriots (via NO): Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Peter Konz is a very impressive center prospect. His combination of strength, size, intelligence and focus could make him a great protector of Tom Brady down the line. 

28. Green Bay Packers: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Chandler Jones has quickly risen up draft boards the past year. He's solid in a lot of areas and has the length, size and quickness to be a solid pass-rusher. The Packers could be a pass-rusher away from making the Super Bowl again.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia

The Ravens could stand to add to the interior of the offensive line, and Cordy Glenn projects as a better guard than a tackle in the NFL based on his powerful, jarring blocking.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State

Photo Credit: SFGate.com
Photo Credit: SFGate.com

The 49ers allowed two guards to walk in free agency, so they need to address the offensive line. Amini Silatolu could be one of those fringe prospects who surprises in the NFL. He's a powerful blocker who finishes at the second level and plays consistent, hard-nosed football. 

31. New England Patriots: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

Andre Branch has the size, burst athleticism and length to be a solid pass-rusher in the NFL and the Patriots need to address their rush. He would be a nice bargain at No. 31 overall. 

32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

Last but not least, Coby Fleener. With Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard out for next season with torn ACLs, Eli Manning is going to need a weapon in the passing game. Fleener plays fast and has the strength, leaping ability and hands to be an impact player right away in New York.

Follow me on Twitter. We can talk about the 2012 NFL draft together.

Follow <span class=