Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

The 2012 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and things have changed quite a bit since my previous mock that was posted just before free agency began. Team needs have changed quite a bit due to player movement, which in turn affects how I mock.

As an add-on to the third version of this mock draft, I've expanded things to cover the full first two rounds of the draft. The first 63 picks of the draft (the Saints lost their second-rounder due to the bounty scandal)

For reference, you can check out my Jan. 15 mock here and my March 13 mock here.

1. Indianapolis Colts — QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

This might not be the foregone conclusion it once was thanks to Robert Griffin III's outstanding offseason, but Luck remains the safest prototypical quarterback prospect in the draft and I'd be surprised if he's not the Colts' pick.

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

The Redskins traded up with the obvious intention of landing one of the top two quarterback prospects in this draft. If Luck goes to Indianapolis as expected, Washington will "settle" for a sweet consolation prize in Griffin.

3. Minnesota Vikings — OT Matt Kalil, USC

It's possible the Vikings could trade out of this spot, but I don't expect that and I don't project trades anyway. Kalil is the obvious choice as the lone franchise left tackle prospect in this draft, as this is something the Vikings have been lacking for years now.

4. Cleveland Browns — RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

I'm steadfastly against running backs going this high, but that doesn't mean everyone agrees with me. The Browns are potentially torn between Richardson and Ryan Tannehill, in which case I expect them to go with a workhorse running back.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Word is the Bucs love Trent Richardson, but he might not make it this long. If that happens, the Buccaneers might be saved from themselves and could take a bigger/harder-to-fill need in cornerback. Claiborne would be a great addition for a secondary that includes an elderly Ronde Barber and criminal Aqib Talib.

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

The Rams may have traded down a little to far to get some much needed secondary help, but the addition of Blackmon would give Sam Bradford a great No. 1 receiver to target for years to come.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

The Jaguars have swung and missed on pass rushers in the draft time and time again, so they go back to the drawing board once more. Some people are down on Coples, but I think his effort issues are overplayed and I love his physical tools and versatility. He'd be a great addition for the Jags.

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

I am not in the school of thinking that the Dolphins must draft a quarterback early here after failing to add a long-term solution in free agency. That being said, some of the draft's best experts are very high on Tannehill and the Dolphins have inside knowledge due to the presence of former Aggies' head coach Mike Sherman on the staff, so they may very well pull the trigger if he's still on the board.

9. Carolina Panthers — DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Carolina mixed and matched it's defensive tackle last year with sub-par results, so it might be time to add some legitimate talent. Cox is a fast-rising prospect and could be an anchor in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line.

10. Buffalo Bills — OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

With the additions of pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, offensive tackle moves to the front of the Bills' list of needs. Demetrius Bell still looks likely to sign elsewhere and Reiff is easily the No. 2 prospect in the draft at his position.

11. Kansas City Chiefs — NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

The Chiefs could go linebacker or offensive line here, but nose tackle stopgaps like Ron Edwards and Kelly Gregg have failed. Former Patriots' executive Scott Pioli would be wise to try and land his own Vince Wilfork-type prospect here.

12. Seattle Seahawks — LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

David Hawthorne is a free agent and offers limited upside, so the addition of an intelligent, rangy linebacker would be beneficial. Kuechly is arguably the best linebacker prospect since Patrick Willis in 2007.

13. Arizona Cardinals — OG David DeCastro, Stanford

Both guard and tackle are needs for the Cardinals and tackle is the harder position to fill, but DeCastro has the potential to be an elite guard for the next decade and is probably a safer pick than any of the outside protectors left on the board.

14. Dallas Cowboys — OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Tackle Doug Free failed miserably in 2011 and the Cowboys have parted ways with a few guards in recent years, so there are needs on the line. Glenn is an athletic freak at 6-foot-6 and 346 pounds and could project either inside or out.

15. Philadelphia Eagles — DT Michael Brockers, LSU

The Eagles have addressed the linebacker position a bit with the trade of DeMeco Ryans, and I already have Luke Kuechly off the board. In that event, the Eagles might opt to add some bulk to the defensive tackle position that Andy Reid loves so much.

16. New York Jets — LB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Ingram's height (6-foot-1) is a concern for many, but his pre-draft workouts and interviews have been phenomenal and there's no reason to think he can't excel in the NFL with his physical "limitations." The Jets could use some youth and talent at outside linebacker and Ingram fits the bill.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — S Mark Barron, Alabama

Chris Crocker is the lone strong safety on the Bengals' roster and is a mediocre starter at best. Barron is the best prospect at his position in this draft class and could be a starter in the Bengals' secondary as a rookie.

18. San Diego Chargers — OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Chargers' offensive line has been decimated by injuries over the past few seasons and could use more help even with the re-signing of inconsistent tackle Jared Gaither. Martin is a bit of a scary prospect but has starting upside and could fit in nicely at right tackle.

19. Chicago Bears — CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

The Bears have already lost two cornerbacks in free agency and Charles Tillman, 31, remains a fairly average starter. Kirkpatrick's stock has fallen a bit due to an arrest for marijuana in the offseason, but he'd be an excellent value here.

20. Tennessee Titans — CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Tennessee is tasked with replacing No. 1 corner Cortland Finnegan, who left with free agency. Gilmore is a near-lock to go in the first round thanks to his combination of length and athleticism, so the Titans would certainly consider him here.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Bengals ranked fifth in the NFL with 45 sacks in 2011, but their individual leader was an interior lineman with just 7.5 quarterback takedowns. Upshaw is concerning because of his height and forty times, but the talent to excel as a pass rusher is certainly there.

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

Greg Little struggled as a rookie and the Browns lack a true No. 1 receiver. Floyd is the complete package and could solve the Browns' problems in that department.

23. Detroit Lions — OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

The Lions brought back veteran Jeff Backus on a one-year deal, but he's been a sub-par starter for years now and youth is certainly needed. Adams has all the tools to be an NFL left tackle and would be a nice addition to Detroit's budding offense.

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

James Farrior and Larry Foote aren't getting any younger, so it's time the Steelers start thinking about a long-term inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons. Hightower fits the mold and the scheme perfectly.

25. Denver Broncos — DT Devon Still, Penn State

With Peyton Manning settling things on the offensive side of the ball, the defense still has some holes and some talent at defensive tackle would be a great addition. Still is a legitimate top-10 talent and would be a great pick for the Broncos here.

26. Houston Texans — WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

I seriously question whether or not Wright falls this far, because he's a legitimate Top-20 pick and most NFL teams aren't concerned with his 4.6 forty times. If he is on the board at No. 26, however, the Texans would be crazy not to pick him as a burner alongside Andre Johnson.

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

The Patriots' pass rush is lacking with Mark Anderson moving on and free agent Andre Carter still banged up. Mercilus projects well into whatever scheme the Patriots choose to employ and could be a serious force.

28. Green Bay Packers — LB Nick Perry, USC

The Packers have sorely lacked a second pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews III for a few years ago. Perry works out like a top-10 talent and could put up sick numbers on an already-talented defense.

29. Baltimore Ravens — C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Veteran Matt Birk might be returning for another season at age 35, but there's no guarantee how long he'll keep playing and Konz would be a nice replacement to develop behind the former Pro Bowler.

30. San Francisco 49ers — TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

The Niners already have an elite tight end in Vernon Davis, but as the Patriots have showed there is plenty of room for two at the position. Former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh loves Fleener and he'd be another great weapon for Alex Smith.

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

The Patriots' defense is seriously lacking right now and Bill Belichick has hit on former Florida Gators with character concerns in the past. Jenkins is a top-10 talent and would be an incredible value here.

32. New York Giants — OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State

A small-school prospect rising fast up draft board, Silatolu compares to former first-rounder Mike Iupati and could help solidify the Giants' offensive line.

33. St. Louis Rams — CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

The Rams finally address the secondary here with the addition of first-round talent Dennard.

34. Indianapolis Colts — NT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

Ta'amu is the best 3-4 nose tackle on the board and is a must for Chuck Pagano's new scheme.

35. Minnesota Vikings — WR Rueben Randle, LSU

A potential first-round pick, Randle would be a nice complement to Percy Harvin.

36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

The Bucs already went secondary in the first round, but they have no talent at safety so Smith would make sense.

37. Cleveland Browns — QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Some don't think the Browns will go quarterback here, but Weeden has infinitely more upside than Colt McCoy.

38. Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

Like Demaryius Thomas before him, Hill has made a name for himself despite playing in a run-oriented offense in college.

39. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — OT James Brown, Troy

Concussions have derailed Jason Smith's career, so the Rams might need some protection help.

40. Carolina Panthers — WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

Jeffery has had a rocky pre-draft period, but he's got first-round talent would be a nice red-zone target for Cam Newton.

41. Buffalo Bills — LB Zach Brown, North Carolina

The Bills are switching back to the 4-3 and Brown has superior athleticism for the outside linebacker spot.

42. Miami Dolphins — DE Vinny Curry, Marshall

The Dolphins need another pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake and Curry would be a truly excellent addition after they went quarterback in the first.

43. Seattle Seahawks — OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

The Seahawks have struggled to rebuild the offensive line for years and Zeitler is a very sound guard prospect.

44. Kansas City Chiefs — OG Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

Tackle and center are fairly set, but guard is still an issue and Osemele could be a nice future starter.

45. Dallas Cowboys — DE Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

A potential first-round pick, Worthy would fit in nicely at defensive end in the Cowboys' 3-4.

46. Philadelphia Eagles — CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana

The Eagles are likely to part ways with Asante Samuel and will need a new third corner.

47. New York Jets — WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers

The local prospect impressed with his forty time and could be a nice target when Santonio Holmes complains his way out of town.

48. New England Patriots (from Oakland) — DE Andre Branch, Clemson

The Patriots already addressed the pass rush with Mercilus in the first round, but they need more than one guy at the position. Branch could team with Mercilus to give the Pats two long-term rushers.

49. San Diego Chargers —DE Kendall Reyes, Connecticut

Defensive end isn't a huge need, but Reyes is a nice value here and could be a strong rotational lineman.

50. Chicago Bears — DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

The Bears remain iffy at defensive tackle and Thompson could solve a lot of those problems.

51. Philadelphia Eagles (from Arizona) — LB Lavonte David, Nebraska

David is undersized but is an athletic tackling machine that could boost the Eagles' depth.

52. Tennessee Titans — RB Lamar Miller, Miami (Fla.)

Miller is a bit of a luxury pick, but he's a great athlete and could be a nice complementary back to Chris Johnson.

53. Cincinnati Bengals — RB Doug Martin, Boise State

Bernard Scott is entering a contract year and free-agent acquisition BenJarvus Green-Ellis is an average talent. Martin is a strong runner and could eventually be a starter in Cincinnati.

54. Detroit Lions — CB Brandon Boykin, Georgia

Boykin might not immediately address the Lions' secondary needs, but he has upside there and is a versatile athlete that could help elsewhere in the meantime.

55. Atlanta Falcons — C Ben Jones, Georgia

The Falcons re-signed veteran Todd McClure to a one-year deal, but local prospect Jones could be groomed as his eventual replacement.

56. Pittsburgh Steelers — OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State

Tackle injuries have killed the Steelers over the past few years and Sanders could develop into a starter on the right side.

57. Denver Broncos — QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

The Broncos have no immediate need at quarterback, but Cousins would be an excellent project to develop behind Peyton Manning.

58. Houston Texans — NT Josh Chapman, Alabama

Chapman goes a little shorter than preferred, but he's a great 3-4 nose tackle.

59. New Orleans Saints (forfeited)

60. Green Bay Packers — DE Jared Crick, Nebraska

Crick projects as a possible starter at end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme and would be a nice addition.

61. Baltimore Ravens — RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

The Ravens could use a long-term backup behind Ray Rice and Wilson is the best on the board.

62. San Francisco 49ers —S George Iloka, Boise State

Colin Jones and Mark LeGree don't profile as starters, so adding a talent like Iloka would be huge for the Niners' secondary.

63. New England Patriots — CB Josh Robinson, Central Florida

The Patriots look for more secondary help here with a blazing prospect in Robinson.

64. New York Giants — LB Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Lewis is a versatile player that could play end for the Giants or move to linebacker like Mathias Kiwanuka and Clint Sintim before him.

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