The NFL 2012 draft doesn’t take place until the end of April, and while the Super Bowl isn’t for another week, the off-season is well underway for 30 NFL teams which means scouting is wrapping up and NFL would-be’s are busy going through the grind that is getting prepped for the draft.
What follows is my first NFL 2012 two round mock draft. Feel free to hate it or love it.
1) Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Andrew Luck, for the past two years, has been the best college player in the country. He’s also the most NFL ready quarterback since Peyton Manning, nearly 15 years ago. Luck can make all the throws, has great accuracy, stands in the pocket, and can pick up yardage with his legs when needed. It’s almost deja vu for the Colts when the last time they had the #1 overall pick in the draft they selected perhaps arguably the greatest quarterback (statistically) the league has ever seen. The Colts are in full-fledged rebuilding mode and Luck will kick the process off right.
2) St. Louis Rams – Matt Kalil, OT, University of Southern California
Kalil is the most NFL ready offensive tackle prospect in the draft and he’s the only tackle that carries the definition of “can’t miss” on him. He’s being compared to Miami Dolphins LT Jake Long and that’s a pretty fair comparison. He’s a massive man with long arms and great fluidity to him. He’s light on his feet and carries good leverage. He’s a smart player and can react uber fast to double-moves and quicker linemen. Kalil will replace current STL LT Jason Smith, who was also a very high draft pick after being selected several picks too early. Sam Bradford will get the pass protection he needs on his blindside and Kalil will give the running game a much needed boost.
3) Minnesota Vikings – Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State University
The Vikings are in desperate need of playmakers in their defensive secondary and it just so happens that Claiborne is the definition to a “T”. While at LSU Claiborne wasn’t the “playmaker” that others were at the position, opposing offenses never threw the ball in his direction. He’s a shutdown cornerback and perhaps the only cornerback in this draft class that you can leave on an island with the receiver and not worry about him getting beat as a rookie. Claiborne is also a physical CB who likes to make the tough/hard tackle and wraps up nicely. He’s an asset, instead of a liability, in the run game. He’s just what the Vikings are looking for.
4) Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor University
Colt McCoy was a nice stop gap for a little bit but he’s just not the answer the Browns organization is looking for in a quarterback. It’s the most important position on the team. Griffin III is arguably the most exciting player in this draft class but he’s far from what I would call a “lock”. Griffin III is a playmaker and he can make all the throws. However, his accuracy can take a dive at times and his pocket presence could use some work. I’m nit-picking though. If I was in need of a quarterback I’d consider trading up for Griffin III, which is what the Redskins might look into.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The NFL has transitioned into such a passing league that taking a runningback in the top 15 of the draft is considered taboo nowadays. That may be the “rule” now but there are always exceptions. Richardson is that exception. He’s a player with size and speed. He has agility and the burst to cut to the outside or wiggle through the guards past the linebackers. He’s incredibly strong and plays with a mean streak. He has a bit of Ricky Williams in him (on the field, not off), and that’s never a bad thing. He’s not a bad option catching the ball out of the backfield either.
6) Washington Redskins – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State University
The Redskins may not have a franchise QB at the present moment but it’s never a bad idea to give what ever QB you have a franchise wide receiver. Blackmon has been the nation’s best wide receiver for the past two years catching passes at OSU. He’s got size, quickness and enough speed to be a special receiver at the NFL level. He reminds me alot of Michael Crabtree but with more potential. Crabtree was overdrafted based on his production in college but Blackmon has the skill to back up a top 10 selection. The Redskins could get Blackmon, ala the Bengals with Green, and then draft their franchise QB in the 2nd round.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DE, University of North Carolina
The Jaguars have long been looking for their franchise defensive end capable of getting 12-15 sacks per year. They tried with Derrick Harvey…bust. They tried with free agent acquisition Aaron Kampman…two torn ACL’s later…bust. However, you can’t draft scared. Coples had a TREMENDOUS 2012 Senior Bowl this past week and just dominated the competition, which wasn’t half bad by the way. He had a down year his senior campaign after playing the entire 2010 season at defensive tackle and producing well. He’s a similar player to Julius Peppers when he was coming out and has drawn that comparison many times. The new rookie pay-scale has made it where teams can now draft a little bit more risky due to the money not being so involved up front. Coples would be well worth the risk for Gene Smith and the Jaguars.
8) Carolina Panthers – Devon Still, DT, Penn State University
I really believe the Panthers selection will come down to either interior defensive linemen or wide receiver. If Blackmon falls this far he would surely be the pick but since in this mock he does not the Panthers are going to go with the highest rated DT on their board, which should be Devon Still. Still has great size (6’5, 310lbs.) and very good speed. He can get after the QB and hold up against the run. It’s one of the Panthers biggest need areas and he would solve a lot. I would compare him to Tyson Alualu (Jaguars), both being penetrating defensive tackles that could pop outside in a pinch.
9) Miami Dolphins – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Dolphins have used a couple of first round draft picks in the past five years to shore up their offensive line, and it’s worked. Just look at Reggie Bush’s rushing numbers this past season, and that guy’s a bum! Jake Long and Marquise Pouncey were the two top linemen and now Reiff will join them on the right side of the line. He’s a solid technician with his craft that comes from a program notorious for producing top OL talent in Iowa. Reiff plays with a mean streak, has great leverage and great strength to drive his defender back. Reiff could go much higher than this depending on how the draft goes. He could go as high as #5 or #7.
10) Buffalo Bills – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Courtney Upshaw capped off a great National Championship game against LSU with a dominating week of practice during the 2012 Senior Bowl. The actual game wasn’t as conclusive as his practices but I wouldn’t be worried. Upshaw can shift all around the defensive line and can play standing up. He’s quick with a nice array of moves to get past linemen. He’s in the mold of Lawrence Timmons (Steelers) but can also put his hand down on the ground and play that way, like a Brandon Graham (Eagles). The Bills desperately need a stud pass rusher and with some easy coaching they could get that with Upshaw.
11) Seattle Seahawks – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, University of South Carolina
Melvin Ingram was another defensive end hybrid that had a great week at the 2012 Senior Bowl. He’s a downhill runner with good body strength to get past tackles and guards and nice pass rushing moves. The Seahawks are in need of a pass rusher to cap off their defense. Ingram could also move around the defensive line or the Seahawks coaching staff could get cute and play him standing up as a pass rushing OLB. Either way, expect Ingram to get to the QB.
12) Kansas City Chiefs – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor University
The Chiefs could possibly lose their franchise wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to free agency in March, if that happens (as I think it will) look for them to draft his replacement. Kendall Wright is shooting up draft boards after a very strong senior season, catching over 100 passes for over 1600 yards with 14 tds. He’s one of the main reasons the Baylor Bears were so good this past season. He’s comparable to Santonio Holmes as he’s fast enough to run past you on the outside for the deep threat and he’s quick enough to catch a pass over the middle and take it to the house. He can score on you multiple different ways. He could go much higher than this with a good combine and pro-day.
13) Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Cardinals need better protection along the offensive line for their now franchise QB Kevin Kolb. DeCastro is a big bodied mauler who protected Andrew Luck for three years. He’s a better pass protector than the run game but he’s able to run block with the best of them. I expect DeCastro to blow away people at the combine with his quickness and strength. He could get a look from teams higher than this. I wouldn’t rule out DeCastro’s teammate Jonathan Martin here either.
14) Dallas Cowboys – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Boys are in dire need of defensive back help and Kirkpatrick is just the man for the job. He’s a physical zone coverage CB that with the right safety over the top can play the role of “risk taker” much in the mold of Antonio Cromartie. He’s quick and fluid and can break on the ball on a dime. The only thing that worries me with Kirkpatrick is that he’s got some past transgressions that make you wonder and he’s been burned before by lesser competition and faster WR’s.
15) Philadelphia Eagles – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Martin falls a bit here mainly due to the fact that he struggles with speed rushers off the edge. That is correctable though and if corrected you’re looking at a top 5 LT in the NFL. He’s a very dominant run blocker and with the Eagles, that is needed. Martin could play RT if needed but I think he’s built more for the left side.
16) New York Jets – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, University of Southern California
The Jets defense wasn’t what it should have been this past season and that’s mainly due to them not having elite pass rushers. Perry can be that and more. He’s a smaller edge rusher that plays bigger than himself. He stands out playing in a stand up formation and getting around tackles and backs to the QB. He had 9.5 sacks for the Trojans as a junior in 2011.
17) Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State University
If there was a weak spot on the Bengals defense it was the interior defensive linemen play. Michael Brockers plays very similar to John Henderson, former Tennessee Volunteer DT standout. I’m not saying he’ll have Henderson’s career but their play is very similar. Brockers can swallow up the RB and put pressure on the QB as he’s a three down DT.
18) San Diego Chargers – Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Kuechly is your standard inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He’s a tackle machine capable of getting past the guards to the QB or RB for a sack or loss. The Chargers could use an upgrade through the interior of their linebackers with Kuechly the transition would be simple. Takeo Spikes isn’t getting any younger and Kuechly would fit in nicely.
19) Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Bears are in desperate need of a wide receiver that can be a playmaker. They tried that route with Devin Hester and it didn’t work out quite so well on the receiver front. Johnny Knox is a nice #2 option but he’s not anything more. Roy Williams is a just a shell of what he was drafted to be. Floyd can come in and start right away. He’s drawn comparisons to Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald concerning body type but I think he’s more of a Vincent Jackson type receiver. He’s a receiver you can rely on to make the tough catches over the middle and pick up yardage after the catch.
20) Tennessee Titans – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Konz is the best center prospect in the 2012 draft and he’s a behemoth of a man but he can also play guard. Considering that the Titans don’t necessarily need a center, Konz could start right away for the Titans. Capable of run blocking and pass blocking equally well Konz can start from day one.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
This is a bit higher than most think Sanu will be drafted, but I think with a good combine and pro day and a run on WR’s early, Sanu can get this high. He’s a swift receiver in the mold of Kenny Britt (another former Rutger WR) who can go across the middle or down the sideline. I actually think Sanu will be a better pro than Britt (as Britt can not stay healthy) but we’ll see. The Bengals would then have AJ Green and Sanu outside, a formidable 1-2 threat capable of scoring every play.
22) Atlanta Falcons – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins could go much higher than this if he had his head screwed on straight. His brush-ups with the law was a direct result of his transfer from UF to North Alabama. While at Florida Jenkins shut down the likes of AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Alshon Jeffrey. If that’s not a awesome resume to be drafted in the first round, I’m not sure what is. Jenkins could step in immediately in the Falcons secondary and make an impact, especially if the Falcons lose Brent Grimes to free agency.
23) Detroit Lions – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Lions are facing losing Cliff Avril to free agency in a few months and Kyle Vanden Bosch is nearly 1000 years old. They’re going to need a stud pass rusher to step in and sack the QB. Mercilus is a lean pass rusher that has an array of moves and would be nice situational rusher going into his rookie year. The Lions could also go secondary help here if one of the DB’s falls, especially Jenkins.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
The Steelers offensive line stays in shambles and if they ever want to win another Super Bowl they’re going to have to address that. The guard play for the Steelers was simply atrocious during the 2011 season. Cordy Glenn had a pretty fantastic 2012 Senior Bowl week and capped it off with a nice performance in the game itself. Glenn would do nicely matched up next to Pouncey at center.
25) Denver Broncos – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Broncos starting safeties were Brian Dawkins, Quincy Carter, and Rahim Moore. Dawkins is eligible to collect social security, Carter is a back up at best, and Moore is a free safety. Barron would be able to come in and compete right away to be the starter. He has Darren Sharper like attributes and with some coaching up can be a Sharper-type safety. He’s a hard hitter with ball hawking skill.
26) Houston Texans – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State University
If there was one weak spot on the Texans surprise defense, it was the defensive tackle position. Imagine if they had a DT who could stop the run and rush the passer. They might have beaten the Ravens and then who knows? Worthy is a stout, physical DT who’s main claim to fame is stopping the run but he’s surprisingly agile for a big man. He fits right in as a nose tackle in Wade Phillips 3-4 defense but could kick outside as well.
27) New Orleans Saints – Alshon Jeffery, WR, University of South Carolina
The Saints could potentially lose one or both of Marques Colston and Robert Meachem to free agency. If that happens (as I think one of them is gone) look for them to draft their replacement early on. Alson Jeffrey fits the mold of Colston and but has the ability past his. Jeffery actually reminds me of a young Brandon Marshall, someone capable of catching everything his way but could also slip past you. Jeffery’s combine workout and pro day will be very important to his chances of going in the first round.
28) Green Bay Packers – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Packers need to shore up their defensive line around NT BJ Raji. Dontari Poe is a mammoth tackle that would eat space on the outside as a 3-4 DE, allowing the Packers rush LB’s to get to the QB. The Pack’s defense was one of the main reasons why Eli Manning was able to pick them apart on their way to the Super Bowl. Poe would be a welcome addition.
29) Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Ravens need to seriously consider drafting Ray Lewis’ replacement as he can’t play forever. Hightower comes from a program in college that was known for producing very good linebackers. Hightower will get some comparisons to Oakland Raider (and former Bama ILB) Rolando McClain but I’m pretty sure that Hightower would be the better pro in the Ravens defense.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL.)
The 49ers really need another playmaking wide receiver but the value just isn’t here for one (things would be different if say Jeffery or Sanu dropped). Frank Gore is getting up there in age and preserving his body would be in the 49ers best interest. The best way to do that would be to draft his eventual replacement. Miller has the size, strength, and shiftiness not mention QUICK. He actually compares to another former Hurricane in Clinton Portis.
31) New England Patriots – Zach Brown, OLB, University of North Carolina
The Patriots defense used to be one of the best in the business, then things fell apart. Now they’re built for offense. Zach Brown and his speed would do wonders for that defense. He’s got a little bit of Patrick Willis in him…a little bit. Quiet now. Line Brown up on the outside as a pass rusher and he could get you a sack or put him in coverage and he could pick one off for you.
32) New York Giants – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State University
In all fairness to Adams, he’ll probably go much higher than this. He’s a bruising OT that can play both sides of the line and play both sides well. Keeping Eli Manning upright, something that hasn’t always happened during their Super Bowl run, should be the priority.