2012 NFL Mock Draft: Full First-Round Predictions
The 2012 NFL Draft will be here before you know it and it is already time to start belting out some mock drafts. We don't have the exact draft order, but we are getting a better feel for what teams will be drafting at the top. The Indianapolis Colts are the early favorites to land the top overall pick.
Stanford's Andrew Luck is going to be the first player selected in the 2012 draft. He is seen as the overwhelming top player in this draft. His potential and NFL readiness make him an instant game changer. Many feel that landing Luck will really change the future for one NFL franchise.
Luck isn't the only quarterback with the potential to develop into a star. This draft could also feature Matt Barkley, Landry Jones and Robert Griffin III. We could see all four of those quarterbacks selected in the top 10.
Quarterback isn't the only strength of this draft, as several other positions have excellent prospects. Offensive line has two top-level left tackles in Matt Kalil and Jonathan Martin. Both of these prospects appear likely to develop into Pro Bowl caliber tackles.
No. 1 Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, Quarterback- Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts could very well finish the season without a victory. At this point, they could even win a game and still land the top overall pick. This Colts team has a ton of needs, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, the best player in the draft is at a position where they have a future Hall of Famer.
Stanford's Andrew Luck is by far the top overall prospect in the 2012 draft class. He is seen as a can't miss franchise quarterback. Luck is athletic, smart and a great leader. Indianapolis will have no choice but to select Luck with the top pick.
This decision will not come easily because drafting Luck will begin the end of the Peyton Manning era. Manning's future is uncertain, but many feel he will return at some point next season. With Manning at quarterback, the Colts instantly become a championship contender.
Selecting Andrew Luck will not help the Colts win a championship next year. However, it is the right choice for the long term success of the franchise.
No. 2 Miami Dolphins- Landry Jones, Quarterback- Oklahoma
With every victory, the Miami Dolphins get further away from landing Andrew Luck. There is no doubt that Luck is Miami's top target, but they will need the top pick to land him. With Luck off the board, Miami is forced to turn to another quarterback option.
The Dolphins need to bring in a new face of the franchise. Chad Henne's career in Miami is finished, leaving a major void at quarterback. Oklahoma's Landry Jones is the second-rated quarterback on my draft board. He possesses a strong arm, capable of making all the necessary throws.
Jones is anything but a guaranteed star, but he has a ton of potential. He has improved in each year at Oklahoma, with the biggest improvement coming with his accuracy. The NFL Draft is about projecting what a prospect's career may look like. Some will project Jones to be a very good NFL quarterback.
No. 3 Minnesota Vikings- Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle- Stanford
Most of the scouting world has USC's Matt Kalil ranked as the top overall offensive tackle. However, I feel that Stanford's Jonathan Martin is a better prospect. Martin is a terrific athlete, who possesses quick feet and fluid movements.
Martin excels at protecting the passer, but is also a capable run blocker. He plays the game with great technique and balance, which puts him in a position to succeed. Martin's experience and skill level will allow him to instantly contend for a starting role.
The Minnesota Vikings are in a rebuilding mode, with Christian Ponder being the centerpiece. When building around a quarterback the best move is to protect him. Adding Martin would help give Ponder the protection he needs to succeed.
No. 4 St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver- Oklahoma State
This season has been a complete disaster for the St. Louis Rams. Entering the season, the Rams were facing high expectations, with many feeling they had a shot to make the playoffs. However, they started the season 0-6. A lot of the struggles are being laid at the feet of second-year quarterback Sam Bradford, who is having a sophomore slump.
While Bradford has struggled, he hasn't really been surrounded by top-level talent. The Rams receiving corps lacks a true playmaker. Adding weapons to surround Bradford will be the Rams top offseason priority.
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon would be a great addition for the St. Louis Rams. He is a true game breaker, who makes plays all over the field. Bradford and Blackmon would be able to grow and develop together.
No. 5 Carolina Panthers- Morris Claiborne, Cornerback- LSU
The Carolina Panthers' future looks very bright thanks to the early success of Cam Newton. Offensively, the Panthers have a lot of pieces in place. However, the defense needs an upgrade at several key positions. At this point, Carolina could look to add the best player available and still hit a position of need.
LSU's Morris Claiborne has used his breakout season as a way to really improve his draft stock. Claiborne was kind of stuck in the shadow of Patrick Peterson, but now has emerged as an equally talented prospect.
Claiborne has good athletic ability, but even better instincts. He is capable of playing in any type of system. His ability to play bump-and-run will intrigue a lot of defensive coordinators. Claiborne also does a good job in zone, as he is capable of quickly breaking on the ball.
No. 6 Cleveland Browns- Matt Barkley, Quarterback- USC
The Cleveland Browns have Colt McCoy on their roster, but I get the feeling the franchise isn't committed to him. He has shown signs of promise, but has yet to really grab hold of the long-term starting role. McCoy was drafted before new head coach Pat Shurmur took over, which means he doesn't have any true loyalty to McCoy.
We are constantly reminded that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, meaning everyone in the organization needs to be on board with the current starter. The uncertainty surrounding McCoy's future means that Cleveland could target a quarterback in the 2012 draft.
USC's Matt Barkley is one of the top-rated quarterbacks on my board. He plays the game with great feel and poise. His experience level is something that should make for a smoother transition to the NFL. Barkley has the skills to fit perfectly in Pat Shurmur's West Coast system.
No. 7 Arizona Cardinals- Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle- USC
The Arizona Cardinals are either going to target a defensive player or an offensive tackle. At this point, the best player available happens to be USC's Matt Kalil. Some have Kalil ranked as their top offensive lineman, but I have Jonathan Martin rated slightly higher.
Kalil is a terrific prospect who projects as a well-rounded left tackle. He has the skills to immediately step in and improve the Cardinals' offensive line. Kalil is an above average pass and run blocker who uses technique and leverage to gain the upper hand.
Arizona needs to add an offensive tackle capable of protecting Kevin Kolb's blindside. They made a huge investment in Kolb and now they need to ensure he has time to be effective.
No. 8 Jacksonville Jaguars- Quinton Coples, Defensive End- North Carolina
The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely be bringing in a new coaching staff next season. This new coaching staff will have a major impact on the Jaguars' draft strategy. However, a new coaching staff doesn't necessarily change the needs of a team.
Jacksonville has spent several years searching for a defensive end capable of generating a pass rush. They used the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft to select Derrick Harvey. However, Harvey was never able to live up to expectations. After the Harvey debacle, Jacksonville took a chance on signing Aaron Kampman, but he was never able to regain his pre-injury form.
North Carolina's Quinton Coples is the top defensive end on my draft board. He is a physically gifted athlete who is capable of creating pressure off the edge. Coples is not only a pass rush threat, as he also does a good job holding up against the run. He has a chance to finally solve the Jaguars' pass rushing problems.
No. 9 Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin III, Quarterback- Baylor
My opinion on Baylor's Robert Griffin III is very fluid, one week I have him in the top ten and the next he is out of the first round. One thing I know is that Griffin III is a terrific athlete who is showing that he is capable of playing quarterback at the next level.
The concerns I have mainly surround his style of play and limited experience in a pro-style offense. Baylor employs a wide open spread attack, which doesn't allow Griffin III to make many reads. Most of his reads are made pre-snap or to one side of the field. The NFL is all about reading defenses and making good decisions.
Griffin III will likely be a first round selection, mainly due to his potential. The Washington Redskins are in desperate need of an answer at the quarterback position. Mike Shanahan is known as an offensive guru, making Griffin III an intriguing addition.
No. 10 Seattle Seahawks- Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback- Alabama
The Seattle Seahawks have one glaring need and it's at the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson is the current starter, but he is only seen as a stop-gap solution. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are on the outside looking in, as all the top quarterback prospects are already off the board.
Without a worthy quarterback available, Seattle needs to turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball. The Seahawks could really use an upgrade at the cornerback position, where starters Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are not playing at a high level.
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is my second-rated cornerback prospect. He is a highly talented player, who also possesses good instincts. His strength is his ability to read the quarterback and break on the football. He would be a perfect fit for a zone coverage scheme.
No. 11 Philadelphia Eagles- Manti Te'o, Linebacker- Notre Dame
The Philadelphia Eagles season has been a complete disaster and we could potentially see some major roster changes. One thing is for sure, this team has more than a few holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Arguably, the biggest need is at the linebacker position.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is my top rated linebacker and a player capable of making an instant impact. He is not only a terrific player, but also an excellent leader. Te'o has the size and quickness to be an excellent middle linebacker in a 4-3 system.
Philadelphia needs a bigger linebacker, who is capable of stepping up and stuffing the run. Te'o does a nice job around the line of scrimmage, while also possessing the ability to cover sideline to sideline.
No. 12 Kansas City Chiefs- Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle- Clemson
Clemson's Brandon Thompson is one of the top defensive linemen eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft. Throughout his career, Thompson has shown that he is a player who is capable of disrupting the timing of the offense. His best attribute is his ability to occupy blockers and push the pocket. He plays with good leverage and a strong base which allow him to hold at the point and play two-gap football.
Thompson's skills make him a good fit for the nose tackle position in a 3-4 system. The Kansas City Chiefs' defense has seen some improvement thanks to the addition of Kelly Gregg. Gregg has shown that this team needs someone capable of clogging running lanes.
Gregg is at the end of his career, making the addition of Thompson a wise decision. Thompson would be capable of stepping in and contributing from day one.
No. 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker- Arizona State
Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict is an explosive athlete with the quickness to cover a ton of ground. He is a tenacious player who is constantly pursuing the football. Burfict is the type of defender that needs to be accounted for at all times.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken a step back this season. They appear to be on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff race. However, this is still a very young and talented football team with a very bright future. The Buccaneers are in a position where they can continue to focus on adding the best player available.
Burfict represents the best player available and also fills a need. He could slide in as the starting middle linebacker, allowing Mason Foster to shift outside and replace either Quincy Black or Geno Hayes. Adding Burfict would improve more than one position.
No. 14 San Diego Chargers- Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker- Alabama
The San Diego Chargers' defense was at its best when Shawn Merriman was performing at a Pro Bowl level. However, Merriman lost his touch and was let go. San Diego is still trying to find a suitable replacement, even more so after the failure of former first round pick Larry English.
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is going to be one of the top outside linebacker prospects in the 2012 draft. He is a versatile player, capable of handling a number of positions. Upshaw would be a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. His ability to rush the passer and set the edge is something not every player is capable of handling.
The addition of Upshaw would take some pressure off of Shaun Phillips, who is constantly facing double teams.
No. 15 New York Jets- Trent Richardson, Running Back- Alabama
The New York Jets' offense is a complete mess, lacking an identity. They want to be able to "ground and pound," but none of their running backs are averaging over four yards per carry. This lack of a consistent running attack has put a lot of pressure on Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez has been unable to put this team on his shoulders and win football games. It appears as though the Jets really need a strong running attack if they want to stick with Mark Sanchez. However, I am not sure that Shonn Greene is the long term answer at the position.
Greene has not been able to find the magic he had during the Jets' 2009 playoff run. This leads me to believe that New York needs to add a running back in the 2012 Draft. Alabama's Trent Richardson is the top-rated running back and likely the only one worthy of a first round selection.
Richardson is a complete back, capable of attacking the edge and running between the tackles. He has a rare combination of power and speed. This is the type of running back the Jets need to employ their "ground and pound" system.
No. 16 Buffalo Bills- Ronnell Lewis, Linebacker- Oklahoma
The Buffalo Bills are tied for 27th in the NFL with only 15 sacks, 10 of those coming in the game against the Washington Redskins. This lack of a pass rush is at the heart of the Bills defensive struggles. It puts a lot of pressure on the defensive backs to cover longer, which then causes the need to pull defenders out of the box. The less defenders in the box, the less defenders in position to help support the run.
Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis is the premier edge rusher in this draft class. His breakout season has put him at the top of a lot of draft boards. Lewis mainly lines up at defensive end, but will need to play outside linebacker in the NFL.
Lewis uses his quick burst to get off the ball and attack the edge. He has shown a high motor, which helps him pursue the football. Lewis is exactly what this Buffalo Bills defense is lacking.
No. 17 Denver Broncos- Luke Kuechly, Linebacker- Boston College
Boston College's Luke Kuechly is one of the best lesser-known prospects eligible for the 2012 draft. He plays for a struggling Boston College team that doesn't get a lot of national attention. However, Kuechly is a player that everyone should make time to watch.
Kuechly has a nose for the football while also possessing the athletic ability to make plays. He isn't as athletic as the other first round linebackers, but he has better instincts. Add Kuechly to the middle of that Broncos defense and you will see a major improvement. A linebacker corps of Kuechly, Von Miller and D.J. Williams would be very successful.
No. 18 Tennessee Titans- Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver- South Carolina
The Tennessee Titans are in a unique position, as they are trying to both win now and build towards the future. Thanks to the play of quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck, they currently still have a shot at making the playoffs.
Hasselbeck is signed for the next few seasons, which means the Titans will still be fielding a competitive team. However, they still have Jake Locker waiting in the wings. Ideally, they should be making draft selections that will both help the team now and in the future.
South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery is the type of player who can make an instant impact, while also providing a building block for the future. Jeffery also fits a position of need, as the Titans lack great wide receiving talent.
Tennessee has Kenny Britt, but he has had a handful of off the field issues. These issues make Britt an unreliable player, as he could be suspended at any moment. Damian Williams has shown signs of life, but he needs someone else to complement him.
No. 19 Cleveland Browns (from AtL)- Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle- Iowa
This is the Cleveland Browns second first round selection, picking quarterback Matt Barkley with the 6th pick. After adding a new franchise quarterback, Cleveland should focus on surrounding him with talented players. They could focus on adding either an offensive lineman or wide receiver.
At this point, Iowa's Riley Reiff is the best player available at either position. Reiff is a fast-rising prospect who could very well go much higher. He is currently my third-rated offensive tackle prospect, and I doubt there will be much movement in his ranking.
Reiff has a good combination of size and athletic ability. He has the capability of playing left tackle, but would also be a nice fit on the right side. Adding Reiff would give the Browns an excellent tackle tandem, already having Joe Thomas on the left side.
No. 20 Dallas Cowboys- Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback- North Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys' secondary is a unit that needs an infusion of young talent. Terrence Newman is on the downside of his career and could possibly find himself as a cap casualty. On the other side, Dallas is also dealing with the oft-injured Mike Jenkins.
At this point, neither Newman or Jenkins can be counted on for next season. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins would be a nice addition to the secondary. He is an instinctive player, who possesses the skill to be an immediate starter.
Jenkins strength is his ability to read the quarterback and break on the football. He has a knack for closing quickly and creating the turnover. Jenkins would really benefit from the pressure the Cowboy defense is capable of creating.
No. 21 Cincinnati Bengals- Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver- Notre Dame
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd has used this season to turnaround his dropping draft stock. Floyd saw his stock drop after a DUI incident. In order for teams to ignore a red flag, the prospect needs to show that there is more reward than risk.
Floyd is having a spectacular season, proving he is a legitimate first round talent. He possesses a good combination of size and speed. His ability to use his body to gain position makes him a good red-zone threat.
The Cincinnati Bengals are quickly becoming one of the better young teams in the NFL. They have been able to find success thanks to the development of rookie-quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals have some really good offensive weapons, but could use someone to complement AJ Green. Floyd would make it really tough to defend this Bengals offense.
No. 22 Detroit Lions- Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback- Nebraska
The Detroit Lions are in the middle of a very good season, but they still have some areas of need. This team has done a good job adding talent on both sides of the ball. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and a ferocious pass rush.
However, they need to add some help at the cornerback position. Chris Houston and Eric Wright are decent players, but neither are top-level talents. Adding a potential shutdown corner to the mix would really enhance the production of this defense.
Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is a tough and physical cornerback who would fit right in with this team. Detroit is working to establish themselves as a physical and nasty team. Dennard is a very talent player who excels in bump and run coverage. However, he has the skills to play in several defensive systems.
No. 23 Chicago Bears- Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle- Ohio State
Mike Tice continues to work his magic with the Chicago Bears offensive line. He seems to get the most out of his players, as he continuously shifts to find the perfect combination. This line isn't a great unit and features a ton of later round draft picks. However, Tice has found a way to keep this unit afloat.
The Bears' biggest need is at the left tackle position, where JaMarcus Webb is the current starter. Webb has the physical tools to fill the position, but he has yet to solidify the long term starting job. I firmly believe that the Bears will use their first round selection to address the offensive line.
Ohio State's Mike Adams is flying under the radar but will find his way into the first round. He is a big and athletic tackle who is an above average run and pass blocker. Chicago needs someone capable of protecting the blindside of Jay Cutler, something Adams will be able to accomplish.
No. 24 Baltimore Ravens- Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle- Florida State
As we approach the draft, Florida State's Zebrie Sanders is going to be a fast-rising prospect. He possesses the size and physical abilities necessary to play left tackle in the NFL. His ability to protect the quarterback is something all NFL teams covet.
Sanders has quick feet and a natural bend, which allows him to mirror potential pass rushers. He is also a capable run blocker, but he could benefit from adding some strength to his game. Sanders is a guy that possesses great potential.
The Baltimore Ravens need to find a long term answer at the left tackle position. The thought was that Michael Oher was that guy, but it appears as though the Ravens feel differently. This offseason, Baltimore decided to sign Bryant McKinnie and shift Oher to the right side. McKinnie doesn't have many more seasons left, making this a position of need.
No. 25 Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK)- David Decastro, Guard- Stanford
The Cincinnati Bengals are an offensive unit that wants to employ a balanced game plan. They have added players to the offense that allow them to find success in both the run and passing game. So much of the offensive success happens because of a strong offensive line.
Cincinnati has benefited from an offensive line who protects the quarterback and opens running lanes. One of the best players on the line is guard Bobby Williams, who is on the back-end of his career. Williams missed the four games of the season, and you were able to notice a difference in the line play with him out of the lineup.
Stanford's David DeCastro would be a great candidate to replace Williams when he is ready to retire. DeCastro is my top-rated offensive guard and appears likely to be a first-round selection. He is a physical player who loves to run block. DeCastro also does a nice job in pass protection.
No. 26 New York Giants- Kevin Zeitler, Guard- Wisconsin
The New York Giants love to run the football and utilize play action. In order to find success running the ball, a team needs to have strong offensive line play. New York knows the importance of a strong offensive line, as the line played a major role in their latest Super Bowl run.
That Super Bowl winning offensive line has started to age, with some players already on their way out the door. New York needs to address the offensive line before they find themselves without any young talent.
Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler is the type of player that would fit into New York's style of play. He plays with good leverage and strength. Zeitler has a nasty demeanor and loves to drive defenders off the football. His ability to open running lanes will be something the Giants appreciate.
No. 27 Houston Texans- Alameda Ta'amu, Nose Tackle- Washington
One of the biggest offseason additions wasn't a player, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The addition of Phillips has really elevated the Houston Texans' defense. This unit ranks in the Top Five in both stopping the run and pass.
While the unit has seen a major improvement, they still have several areas of need. At this point, I feel that they could use an upgrade at the nose tackle position. Shaun Cody has done a nice job, but he doesn't have star potential. Adding a dominant nose tackle would take the Texans defense to a new level.
Washington's Alameda Ta'amu is my top-rated nose tackle. He possesses the size and strength needed to occupy blockers and play two-gap football. Ta'amu is not just a big-bodied defensive lineman, he also possesses some explosiveness.
No. 28 New England Patriots(from NO)- Kendall Reyes, Defensive Line- Connecticut
The New England Patriots need to put their offseason focus on adding talent on the defensive side of the ball. This unit is one of the worst in the NFL, with most of the issues coming with stopping the pass. The secondary is allowing over 300 passing yards per game.
All of the problems cannot be placed at the feet of the secondary, as the front seven is struggling to generate a consistent pass rush. New England needs to utilize their draft choices and add talent to the front seven.
Connecticut's Kendall Reyes would be a great addition to the Patriots defense. He provides a defense with tough play and versatility. Reyes is capable of penetrating the pocket and also playing two-gap football. He will fit in whatever scheme the Patriots decide to run, as either a three or five technique.
No. 29 New England Patriots- Zach Brown, Linebacker- North Carolina
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots love players who are capable of playing in different systems. Drafting a versatile player allows defenses to make adjustments based on their opponents, not based on their roster.
North Carolina's Zach Brown is an extremely athletic player who covers a ton of ground. He has the ability to rush the passer, drop in coverage and hold up against the run. Brown will likely either play weak-side backer in a 4-3 or a rush linebacker in a 3-4. He is only scratching the surface of his talent.
The Patriots would really benefit from adding a player like Brown. He would allow them to continue mixing up their defensive alignments. His ability to pursue sideline to sideline will really help this defense make stops.
No. 30 San Francisco 49ers- Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback- South Carolina
The San Francisco 49ers are playing great football thanks to the play of their defense. This unit is extremely tough against the run, but has struggled against the pass. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are good complementary pieces, but shouldn't be a team's top option.
San Francisco seems very likely to be selecting at the back end of the first round. They have jumped out to an 8-1 start and have a very favorable schedule. The back-end of the first round is a good place to find some talented cornerbacks.
South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore has emerged as a likely first-round selection. He is a quick and fluid athlete who possess good ball skills. Gilmore is always a threat to jump a route and come down with an interception. His ability to read the quarterback and quickly break on the ball is his biggest strength.
No. 31 Pittsburgh Steelers- Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line- Georgia
The past several seasons have been very tough for the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line. This unit seems to suffer an injury each and every week. The rash of injuries has made the Steelers aware of how important offensive line depth is to a team.
Georgia's Cordy Glenn would not only provide depth but would also represent an upgrade at a few positions. Glenn is a versatile player that is capable of playing either guard or tackle. He possesses great size, but also excellent foot speed. Glenn would fit best at either right tackle or guard, but can fill in at left tackle if needed.
No. 32 Green Bay Packers- Devon Still, Defensive Line- Penn State
It is very hard to find a major flaw for the undefeated Green Bay Packers. They have really played great football, only having a few hiccups here and there. The biggest concerns are on the defensive side of the ball, where they have allowed over 24 points in each of their games.
The defensive line appears to be the weakest part of this defensive unit. They have B.J. Raji at the nose tackle, but they could use an upgrade at the end position. Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn are good rotational players, but lack the ability to dominate.
Penn State's Devon Still is quickly emerging as one of the top defensive line prospects. He has been a disruptive force for the Penn State defense. His explosiveness allows him to fire off the ball and penetrate the pocket. Still also does a good job of occupying blockers and holding at the point of attack.