Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

 NFL free agency will officially be underway this afternoon, so I thought it'd be a good time to update my first-round mock draft once more before team needs change drastically as needs are filled by veteran players.

This is also the first mock draft since the Rams dealt the No. 2 pick to the Redskins for a tremendous haul, giving Washington a clear chance at what will likely be Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (assuming the Colts take Andrew Luck, as expected.)

You can view my previous mock draft (from Jan. 15) here, and be sure to stay tuned for future NFL draft coverage as well as Dolphins free agency updates!

1. Indianapolis Colts — QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

This pick has been assumed for months, and with Peyton Manning officially on the market it's as sure as ever. Luck is the safest quarterback prospect in the draft and is a natural choice for the rebuilding Colts.

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) — QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

The Heisman Trophy winner's stock has been on the rise since the college football season ended and it created a natural bidding war for this pick with Cleveland lurking at No. 4. The Redskins won out by giving up three first-round picks and a second-round pick, but they'll certainly get an impressive prospect that could be a franchise quarterback.

3. Minnesota Vikings — OT Matt Kalil, USC

With Luck and Griffin going 1-2, that frees up Kalil for the Vikings. He's a major upgrade over Charlie Johnson at tackle and should do well to protect Christian Ponder.

4. Cleveland Browns — QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

This might seem a bit of a reach, but the Browns will miss out on Griffin and don't seem interested in Matt Flynn, so a move has to be made. Tannehill is a much better prospect than Colt McCoy ever was and should develop into a strong pro.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Ronde Barber can no longer run and is hardly effective in coverage, while likely-psychotic Aqib Talib can't seem to go a season without getting into some kind of trouble. Claiborne would be a great pick that could solidify the Bucs' secondary for years to come.

6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Trading down to No. 6 could cost the Rams a chance at Claiborne, but at least they'll be able to grab a nice weapon for Sam Bradford on offense. Blackmon is a stud receiver that plays bigger than his size and has all the makings of a No. 1 threat.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

The Jaguars keep swinging and missing in the pass rusher department and might lose the emerging Jeremy Mincey to free agency, so it's time to go back to the well once more. Coples has some concerns about him, but his talent and physical tools are undeniable.

8. Miami Dolphins — DE Nick Perry, USC

This is a little higher than many have Perry going, but he's had as strong an offseason as anyone and appears to be a worthy prospect to bookend Cameron Wake at defensive end in the Dolphins' new 4-3 scheme.

9. Carolina Panthers — DT Devon Still, Penn State

The Panthers used a jumbled mess at defensive tackle last year, so it's time they brought in some big-time talent. Still is a sound prospect that should be able to start and produce from Day 1.

10. Buffalo Bills — DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

The Bills are shifting back to the 4-3 scheme and are still in desperate need of some pass rush help. Ingram lacks ideal size, but he's got a great motor and has ridiculous athleticism for his size.

11. Kansas City Chiefs — NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

Kelly Gregg failed as a short-term fix for the Chiefs last season, so it's time they found a real solution at the position. Poe had an incredible Combine and certainly boosted his stock, so he's a logical choice for the Chiefs here.

12. Seattle Seahawks — OG David DeCastro, Stanford

The Seahawks have used a handful of draft picks on the offensive line in recent years, but holes remain. DeCastro is about as safe as it gets and could be an All-Pro guard very quickly, so he'd be a nice pickup here.

13. Arizona Cardinals — OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

Former first-round bust Levi Brown is now officially a former Arizona Cardinal, which means the team will need to focus its efforts on fixing its pass protection issues. Reiff isn't an elite left tackle prospect, but he's solid and could start on either side for a long time.

14. Dallas Cowboys — OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Dallas might need to end up replacing Doug Free and has some issues inside. Glenn has incredible athleticism for his size and projects at both tackle or guard, so the fast-rising Georgia prospect should be high on the Cowboys' wish list.

15. Philadelphia Eagles — LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

The Eagles' lack of talent at linebacker killed them this year, but the instinctive and talent Kuechly would go a long way in shoring up the unit. He's a safe prospect in the same way Patrick Willis was a few years back and would be an instant producer in Philly.

16. New York Jets — LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Jets could use an upgraded pass rush, and they might be hoping to land the next LaMarr Woodley with the talented by slightly height-deficient Upshaw here.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

Many have Richardson much higher than this, but I firmly believe that most running backs simply aren't worth top-10 picks in this day and age. Richardon is of course a talented back, however, and would be a huge upgrade over plodding free agent Cedric Benson.

18. San Diego Chargers — OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Chargers' offensive line has been decimated by injuries in recent years and they need to shore it up through the draft. Local prospect Martin is a legitimate first-round tackle that could contribute as a rookie.

19. Chicago Bears — CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Most of the Bears' cornerbacks are free agents and Charles Tillman is solid but lacking athleticism. Kirkpatrick's stock took a hit with an offseason marijuana incident, but he's a talent player and a nice value here.

20. Tennessee Titans — CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Gilmore's stock has been on the rise since his 4.4 forty at the Combine, and he'd be a nice addition to the Titans' secondary if they lose Cortland Finnegan to free agency, as most expect.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — S Mark Barron, Alabama

Reggie Nelson is a free agent and Chris Crocker just doesn't cut it as a starter, so adding a quality young safety like Barron would be a nice move for the Bengals here.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) — WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

The Browns struck out in the RG3 sweepstakes, but they'll surround their quarterback (whoever it ends up being) with some more toys. Floyd is a well-round receiver prospect with the upside of a No. 1.

23. Detroit Lions — OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

The Lions have settled for Jeff Backus at left tackle for far too long and they didn't really hit on Gosder Cherilus, so it's time they go back to the draft for a potential long-term left tackle.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

The Steelers could use some youth at linebacker where James Farrior and Larry Foote have been holding down the fort. Hightower is a great 3-4 prospect and could be fantastic teamed with Lawrence Timmons inside.

25. Denver Broncos — DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Cox has been rising up the draft boards and may end up going much higher than this, but for now he's an obvious pick here. The Cowboys missed with the Ty Warren acquisition and have little talent at the position, so Cox would be a huge addition.

26. Houston Texans — WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

Houston honestly doesn't have many holes now that their defense has been turned around, but a true No. 2 receiver to team with Andre Johnson would be a nice luxury. In-state prospect Wright would be a perfect fit and brings legitimate 4.4 speed (despite his Combine time) to the NFL.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) — DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

The Patriots got along just fine with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter in 2011, but some more youth and talent is needed in the pass rush department. Mercilus is a fantastic prospect that could go much higher, so he'd be an excellent value here.

28. Green Bay Packers — LB Vinny Curry, Marshall

Many see Curry as a second- or third-round prospect, but I love his motor and potential either as a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker. The Packers have no talent opposite Clay Matthews III and Curry could change that quickly.

29. Baltimore Ravens — C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Matt Birk might be returning for another season, but he'll eventually need replacing and Konz is the best center prospect in the draft. He'd be a great understudy to Birk in the meantime.

30. San Francisco 49ers —WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

They might have signed Randy Moss on Monday, but that's not a long-term solution. Like Demaryius Thomas before him, Hill comes from the Georgia Tech triple option but is shooting up draft board with his workout numbers. He could develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver if Michael Crabtree continues to underachieve.

31. New England Patriots — CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

Jenkins certainly has a checkered past, but he's a better talent than this draft spot and Bill Belichick has hit on former Florida Gators with character concerns in the past like Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes. If the Patriots can get Jenkins to keep his head on straight, he could be a huge addition to a weak secondary.

32. New York Giants — TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

The Giants lost two tight ends to torn ACLs in the Super Bowl, so it's suddenly a position of need. Fleener is a great athlete and could be a tremendous target for Eli Manning as a rookie.

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