2012 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Final 1st-Round Mock Draft
The 2012 NFL Draft promises to be one full of talent, intrigue and hope for the fans nationwide. How will your team fare in the first round?
We take a look at all 32 picks—giving you the lowdown on what will happen and also what should happen (should the player hypothetically be available) when commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium at Radio City Music Hall.
One small note for draft fans: Please don't judge me or any analyst by how many mock draft picks we accurately guessed. That would be like calling the Mega Millions winners the smartest people in America. Mock drafts are as much about guessing right as they are about making educated guesses.
For this reason, we're adding a "what they should do" section to the mock that will show how teams would draft if I was running their war room.
1. Indianapolis Colts
What They Should Do: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
What They Will Do: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
This pick has been in the cards for well over a year. Whichever team landed the first overall pick in the 2012 draft was going to select Luck or trade the pick to a team that would. This is a no-brainer.
Tasked with replacing the great Peyton Manning, no one in college football is better prepared than Andrew Luck.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams)
What They Should Do: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
What They Will Do: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
The second the Washington Redskins traded with the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall pick, this selection was set in stone.
The Redskins need a quarterback and a face for their franchise. RG3 can be the player to take over the franchise and deliver not only wins, but also ticket sales.
3. Cleveland Browns (Via Trade with Minnesota)
What They Should Do: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
What They Will Do: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
One of the few no-brainer picks in the 2012 draft class, Trent Richardson is one of the elite players in this year's crop. Richardson is a sure-thing prospect who can play every down—bringing talent as a receiver, blocker and runner.
With a young quarterback in Colt McCoy who hasn't proven himself yet, the Browns could do no better than adding a go-to running back who can be his safety valve on first, second and third down.
4. Minnesota Vikings (via Trade with Cleveland)
What They Should Do: OT Matt Kalil, USC
What They Will Do: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
There is a solid argument for drafting an elite cornerback when you play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler—but the bottom line is that you have to protect your quarterback first and foremost. The Vikings' current outlook at left tackle is bleak at best.
If you look at this year's draft class, you see an elite cornerback in Morris Claiborne and a very good tackle in Matt Kalil—very good, but not elite.
The difference is the depth at each position. Cornerback is incredibly deep this year—left tackle is not.
Common sense says you draft the very good tackle in Round 1 and a good cornerback in Round 2 instead of the elite cornerback in Round 1 and a subpar left tackle in Round 2.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What They Should Do: OT Matt Kalil, USC
What They Will Do: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to build a great thing—or really mess up their draft with the No. 5 overall pick. The good thing would be drafting Matt Kalil and solidifying their offensive line. The bad?
Should Tampa draft Luke Kuechly, it will be a mistake. Kuechly is a fine player, but he's not a dominant force who can change the way teams plan and scheme for the Buccaneers.
Kalil can do that.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)
What They Should Do: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
What They Will Do: OT Matt Kalil, USC
In my "what they should do" mock draft, Matt Kalil is off the board to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making this pick easier to nail down. In a "what they will do" mock, Kalil is on the board and the pick for the Rams.
St. Louis is in a good spot to draft the best available lineman, on offense or defense, and Brockers is my guy here. The Rams have been very aggressive in pursuing Brockers this offseason, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him drafted here.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
What They Should Do: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
What They Will Do: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
This is where the Jaguars could really mess things up for everyone.
The best option for Jacksonville is to draft a guy who played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, kick returner and running back at South Carolina. Did I mention that Ingram is incredibly versatile as a pass-rusher?
Justin Blackmon is a No. 2 receiver in my mind as he lacks the abilities to separate on his own and draw a defense his way.
8. Miami Dolphins
What They Should Do: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
What They Will Do: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
The Dolphins seem intent on drafting Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 and marrying him with former A&M head coach Mike Sherman. That combination worked so well in Aggieville that Sherman was fired for a failure to win big games. Please note the sarcasm here.
Tannehill is a great guy and may eventually be a fine quarterback, but Miami needs immediate help. Drafting a future No. 1 wide receiver makes a lot more sense for the Dolphins.
When we re-draft the 2012 class next season, Jeffery will be the No. 1 receiver taken.
9. Carolina Panthers
What They Should Do: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
What They Will Do: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
The Carolina Panthers would love for Matt Kalil to fall to them, and maybe even Michael Brockers, but in this scenario the best and most likely option involves drafting Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina.
Gilmore is one of the players many of us were on the bandwagon for early in the year, and now he's seen as a potential top-15 pick by most in the media—and with good reason.
10. Buffalo Bills
What They Should Do: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
What They Will Do: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
There is a very good chance that if Matt Kalil starts to drop, Buffalo would trade up for the best left tackle prospect in this year's class. If not Kalil, the Bills will gladly select Riley Reiff.
Buffalo never really recovered from its decision to let Jason Peters walk—their attempt to replace him with Demetress Bell failed to pan out and now he's in Philadelphia.
Reiff will be an instant starter for the Buffalo offense, giving Ryan Fitzpatrick the blindside protection he's never had.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
What They Should Do: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
What They Will Do: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
The Kansas City Chiefs are in a great position to trade back should another team want to move up for Ryan Tannehill or Mark Barron. In our "what they should" do scenario, both prospects are available.
The best pick for Kansas City is David DeCastro, a big and sturdy guard who has All-Pro potential early on in his career.
The most likely pick? That would be Dont'a Hightower.
12. Seattle Seahawks
What They Should Do: DE Nick Perry, USC
What They Will Do: DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
The Seattle Seahawks seem likely to draft a defensive lineman with the No. 12 overall pick, and with good reason.
Seattle needs to get faster on defense, even if they prefer a monster defensive line that lives on stuffing gaps. What the team lacks is speed on defense in their front seven. Nick Perry and his 4.51 forty speed at 271 lbs. would solve that problem.
Chandler Jones is a hot name right now, and he does have excellent potential, but his ability pales in comparison to that of Perry as a rush end.
13. Arizona Cardinals
What They Should Do: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
What They Will Do: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
If Blackmon is off the board, Arizona could quickly shift focus to Michael Floyd from Notre Dame.
The reality is that Arizona is in a perfect position to draft the best player who falls through the cracks of the top 12. If that's Blackmon or Floyd, they will be happy. If that's David DeCastro, Russ Grimm will do cartwheels in the war room.
14. Dallas Cowboys
What They Should Do: SS Mark Barron, Alabama
What They Will Do: SS Mark Barron, Alabama
There is absolutely no doubt that if the Cowboys can draft Mark Barron, they will.
That may mean trading up to No. 10 with Buffalo to guarantee his rights, but Jerry Jones loves the Alabama safety and is prepared to do whatever it takes to land him.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
What They Should Do: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
What They Will do: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a great situation to simply draft the best available defensive tackle. In our final mock draft, that happens to be Fletcher Cox. If he's not drafted by the St. Louis Rams, Cox will fall down to this spot barring a trade up by an unexpected suitor.
It's worth noting that if Ryan Tannehill falls past the Dolphins, it's very likely the Eagles would trade up to grab him at No. 11.
16. New York Jets
What They Should Do: OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
What They Will Do: OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
If Melvin Ingram is there for the Jets, he should be the pick, but the likelihood that Ingram lasts until pick No. 16 is quite slim. The same goes for Nick Perry. However, in this mock scenario, Ingram makes it down to 16.
The Jets are in great shape to simply draft the best outside linebacker available. When you play Tom Brady twice each season, rushing the passer has to be your No. 1 priority.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders)
What They Should Do: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
What They Will Do: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
The Bengals would do backflips if David DeCastro were still here, but since he's not, they can address the fact that slot receiver Jordan Shipley is listed as their No. 2 wide receiver.
A.J. Green was great in year one, but they need to find a consistent threat opposite him that will keep safeties honest. Shipley is an all-time favorite of mine, but he's not that guy when lining up outside.
Both Stephen Hill or Michael Floyd could fill that role.
18. San Diego Chargers
What They Should Do: DT Quinton Coples, North Carolina
What They Will Do: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
Michael Brockers could go as high as No. 5 overall, and once a few trades shake up the order, he should go much higher than No. 18 overall. As the board falls here, he makes sense for the Chargers, who missed on 2011 first-rounder Corey Liuget for their 3-4 scheme.
They will stretch to find a 5-technique defensive end who can hold up at the point of attack. Brockers is the best in this class at doing that. Quinton Coples could be good, but he has to go to a team that can glean max potential from him.
19. Chicago Bears
What They Should Do: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
What They Will Do: DE Nick Perry, USC
Assuming the best defensive ends are off the board in our "what they should do" scenario, the Bears could load up and complete their defense by drafting Luke Kuechly from Boston College. An inside linebacker at Boston College, Kuechly is a great fit at outside linebacker due to very good speed and elite cover skills.
Should the time come when Brian Urlacher retires, Kuechly would be a natural option to replace him as well.
With Kuechly off the board, however, Nick Perry will be Chicago's pick.
20. Tennessee Titans
What They Should Do: OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia
What They Will Do: OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia
For several months now, my mock drafts have had the Tennessee Titans drafting a defensive end here, which is still a very real possibility.
This change stems from something a Titans coach told me at the Senior Bowl.
The coach told me that they felt upgrading at guard was the priority this offseason, and he was intently watching Glenn on the practice field. He's a great fit in their offense, is a good value at No. 20 overall and with the best defensive ends off the board, this pick makes a ton of sense for the Titans.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
What They Should Do: CB Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma
What They Will Do: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Once the Bengals address their need at wide receiver with pick No. 17, they can move over to addressing their huge hole at cornerback.
Dre Kirkpatrick is in New York City for the draft, largely because someone in the NFL offices feels he will be drafted in the first round. He's not rated as highly on my board; Jamell Fleming actually grades out at my No. 3 cornerback.
The Oklahoma corner is a big, strong and can dominate in press coverage. He's just what the Bengals need to handle the physical receivers in the AFC North.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons)
What They Should Do: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
What They Will Do: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
If Alshon Jeffery is available, he should be the pick. Jeffery and Greg Little side-by-side for the next decade could make even the shakiest quarterbacks look good—especially with Trent Richardson in the backfield.
Wright is an equally promising player at the position, and he brings value as a return man. However, Wright is not quite at the level as Jeffery is in terms of stretching the field. Nonetheless, he should be a great No. 2 receiver whether he's playing off the ball or in the slot.
23. Detroit Lions
What They Should Do: DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
What They Will Do: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Getting a pass-rusher is of the utmost importance here as the Lions try to find ways to slow down Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler within the division.
The Lions couldn't go wrong with either guy—so whichever is still on the board should be the pick when No. 23 comes around.
If Riley Reiff is somehow still available, however, he could be a strong consideration as the pick to replace Jeff Backus at left tackle.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
What They Should Do: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
What They Will Do: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Pittsburgh needs to address its defensive front seven, where age and rare misses in the first round are hurting their future.
The Steelers could add a nose tackle in Poe to replace Casey Hampton, but I like Quinton Coples here, as the team's locker room would instantly challenge his poor work ethic and motor.
25. Denver Broncos
What They Should Do: RB Doug Martin, Boise State
What They Will Do: RB Doug Martin, Boise State
Adding a feature back who can run, catch and block for Peyton Manning should take the focus in Round 1 for Denver.
Martin has the ability to stay on the field for all three downs. He's a shifty, versatile running back who is enough of a threat to run between tackles that Manning will be able to effectively run play-action and get defenses creeping up near the line of scrimmage.
26. Houston Texans
What They Should Do: WR Rueben Randle, LSU
What They Will Do: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
With Hill off the board based on our hypothetical mock draft, Rueben Randle is the next best thing. In fact, the two are very similar in terms of ability, potential and size.
If Houston can't get the big-bodied but raw receiver from Georgia Tech, they will take the one from LSU.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints)
What They Should Do: OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia
What They Will Do: OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Based on a mock draft where Upshaw is off the board in our "what they should do" rankings, Bruce Irvin becomes a very nice option for the Patriots at No. 27. He's incredibly raw, but few players in this class have more upside or pass-rushing potential.
Irvin has some off-field question marks, and he played a very specialized role in 2011 for West Virginia, but he's the type of talent that Bill Belichick can mold in to something great.
28. Green Bay Packers
What They Should Do: OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
What They Will Do: OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
This pick may already be filled out on a card in Radio City Music Hall at the Green Bay Packers' table. The team needs help at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews, and McClellin is their guy.
29. Baltimore Ravens
What They Should Do: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
What They Will Do: OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia
If Dont'a Hightower isn't drafted by No. 12 overall at Seattle, he could slip all the way to the end of Round 1. Hightower's a very good player, but the value of the inside linebacker position isn't as high as it used to be.
Irvin, as mentioned before, has some issues that need addressing, but he's a terror as a pass-rusher.
30. San Francisco 49ers
What They Should Do: OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
What They Will Do: OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
The San Francisco 49ers filled every single need on their roster through free agency, returning almost all of their 2011 roster and making key additions like Josh Johnson, Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham.
The one position they didn't touch? Right guard, where they let their two incumbent players walk in free agency.
Amini Silatolu may not be a big-name player, but die-hard draftniks and evaluators are drooling over this guy's potential and impact.
31. New England Patriots
What They Should Do: Trade the pick
What They Will Do: Trade the pick
Bill Belichick plays the draft better than anyone in the NFL, and if Ryan Tannehill gets past the Seahawks at No. 12 overall, there will be a heavy market for him in Round 1. Pick No. 31 is closer to where Tannehill should be drafted, and New England will gladly move out for Cleveland, Miami or Philadelphia to get him.
In a more realistic, and flawed, world—Tannehill will go No. 8 overall, and the Patriots will instead trade out of this spot to a team hoping to move up and get a pass-rusher before the New York Giants come up.
32. New York Giants
What They Should Do: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
What They Will Do: DE Vinny Curry, Marshall
If the Giants are able to trade Osi Umenyiora—either before the draft or, if they are comfortable, move him after the fact—don't rule out the chance that they draft a pass-rusher here.
On the flip side, Jerry Reese loves athletes, and Coby Fleener definitely fit that mold. He's big, tall, fast and can be a matchup nightmare for safeties.
Much like Rob Gronkowski in many ways, Fleener could really open up the offense for Eli Manning.