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Tony Nowak | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

2012 NFL Draft2012 NFL Mock Draft: Version 2.0

Round 1

Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
Already regarded as the best prospect as a passer, Luck surprised many by also displaying athleticism in testing at the Combine equal to Cam Newton. Not much more to say. The uniform Peyton Manning wears this season is still in question, but not the one Luck will be in.

2. Washington Redskins (via St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Mike Shanahan’s biggest victory over Mike Holgren since Super Bowl XXXII happened off the field, as the Redskins outbid the Browns to secure one of the two franchise quarterbacks available in this draft. The team swaps first-round picks in this draft with St. Louis, plus sends their second-round pick (33rd overall) and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 for the QB who will make or break Shanahan’s legacy in Washington.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
The Vikings are as excited as the Rams to see a trade above them, ensuring their top target falls here. While the Vikings have the most feared pass rusher in the league, DE Jared Allen, on the defensive side of the ball, their offensive line was a sieve, allowing the most sacks in the league last season. Some of that can be attributed to their QB play, between a floundering Donovan McNabb and breaking in rookie Christian Ponder, but the team parted ways with LT Bryant McKinnie in the preseason and plugged in free agent Charlie Johnson, and found out why he was a free agent.

Matt is the brother of Carolina’s Pro Bowl center, Ryan. K2, as Matt is known, is bigger than his brother and stood out after earning the starting left tackle job as a third-year sophomore in 2010. A prototypical LT for the next level, Kalil was the player who kept Tyron Smith, last year’s ninth overall pick, on the right side at USC. His Combine workout validated his status as the top offensive line prospect in the draft.

4. Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
With the RGIII situation settled, this becomes the pivotal pick that sets up the rest of the draft. The Browns are saying all the right things in the media to keep up the confidence of Colt McCoy, but he is no more than a placeholder and needing him as anything else after this offseason is their worst-case scenario. I think Plan B for the Browns will be drafting TAMU’s Ryan Tannehill or Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, but not with this pick. As I had in my first mock, I could see the Redskins reaching for Tannehill in a panic move with the sixth pick if they failed to get RGIII, but not Mike Holmgren.

I’m tempted to go with DE Quinton Coples here, allowing the Browns to finish off the impressive front four they’ve been building, but GM Tom Heckert has said it wouldn’t be ideal for the team to go defense with this pick. It could be a smoke screen, but they’ve spent their first two picks on defense the last two years. For that reason I’m also ruling out CB Morris Claiborne. That leaves this pick coming down to RB Trent Richardson and Blackmon. The lack of commitment to RB Peyton Hillis and the acrimonious circumstances around his weekly status last season would make a parting of ways unsurprising. Combined with the inability of Montario Hardesty to stay healthy, a pick of RB Richardson seems to be popular here. However, as I said in my first mock, I believe the value of the position has been marginalized enough to make this spot too early. Blackmon had a strong showing at his Pro Day last week and he seems to have solidified his status as one of the top prospects in the draft. If Cleveland can’t get their next QB here, they will get whoever it will be a great target.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State
Free agent CB Ronde Barber could be done in Tampa Bay, or call it a career, and while new HC Greg Schiano has talked of a fresh start for troubled CB Aqib Talib, the state of Texas and/or league could have something to say about his NFL future when his trial for assault with a deadly weapon starts later this month. The felony charge was from an incident last March where he and his mother allegedly opened fire on his sister’s boyfriend.

A year after AZ CB Patrick Peterson was debated as potentially the best overall prospect in the draft coming out of LSU, his former teammate – Claiborne – stepped out of Peterson’s shadow to become the best corner prospect in this year’s draft. Claiborne isn’t as big or fast as Peterson, but has more than enough of both. He is as good, if not better, in man coverage and has better hands. Like Peterson, he also adds value as a returner. Claiborne was fourth in the SEC with over 26.1 yards per kick return, taking one 99 yards for a score at West Virginia.

After being on the verge of turning their young core in to a playoff team after the 2010 season, a lot went wrong for the Bucs on their way to trying to be a contender this season. Among the most disappointing aspects was the regression of LaGarrette Blount. Concerns about his character prevented him from being drafted coming out of college, but his durability and ball security issues are recent developments. When taking the whole picture in to account, is he really the guy a new head coach wants to make a long-term commitment to? If Claiborne isn’t the selection here, RB Trent Richardson makes sense as an alternative, but I have the same reservations mentioned in the previous pick above about if he is worth going this early.

6. St. Louis (via Washington Redskins) – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Apparently Washington offered the overall deal, but they appear to have dropped one pick too many to get any of the three elite players in this draft they covet. They want to see RB Trent Richardson go in one of the two previous picks to have a shot at Blackmon or Claiborne. When that doesn’t happen, this becomes the next pivotal pick of the draft. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, citing multiple sources in the organization, say the team is high on RB Trent Richardson, apparently because of the new conventional wisdom that you need two RBs in the league. This is a thinly veiled attempt to drum up trade interest, clearly planted by the organization. With the holes they have to fill, even if they miss out on Blackmon and Claiborne, they aren’t drafting Richardson.

So if they aren’t drafting a WR or CB here, that leaves addressing either side of the line. Former first-round pick Jason Smith is a bust and Rodger Saffold regressed last year and looks like he might not be the answer at LT either, and better suited on the other side or as a guard. OT Riley Reiff is a popular pick here, but I like OT Jonathan Martin a bit better, although I don’t think either is value here. The value here is on the DLine. Poe displayed some freakish athleticism for a 350-lb man, but that led to some pundits pointing to his limited collegiate production and labeling him as a workout warrior. Whether that should be viewed as a pejorative or not, one thing about new HC Jeff Fisher, through stints with two GMs in Tennessee, is he is fine with taking on players whose athleticism outshines their collegiate achievement. If we see a reunion of Fisher and Albert Haynesworth through free agency, I’d take it as a sign they go a different direction with this pick in my next mock.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina
After 6.5 TFL and 5 sacks as a backup defensive end in 2009, he was expected to start at LDE opposite Robert Quinn in 2010. However, after the agent scandal that devastated the Tar Heels that season, Coples was needed to slide inside to replace Marvin Austin. All Coples did there was become a first-team All-ACC defensive tackle with 15.5 TFL and 10 sacks. Bumped back outside in 2011, he seemed to rest on his laurels early in the season before finishing with 15.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks, as well as first-team All-ACC honors at end. He is no Julius Peppers, but Coples is an impressive physical specimen who can dominate, when properly motivated. The Jaguars have tried a lot of band-aids to fix their pass rush the last few years, but I think they have a hard time passing Coples if he is available here. Although if Claiborne or Blackmon somehow fall, I see this as the floor for either player, and both preferred over Coples.

I’ve seen a lot of justification about GM Gene Smith passing on Coples because he seems to favor high-character, high-motor players over more highly rated prospects. There is some validity to this, but it remains to be seen how much influence new owner Shahid Khan, whose own character has previously been brought in to question by the IRS, will impose on draft decisions. I expect it could be a lot, has Khan wasted no time being vocal about it being a mistake they didn’t draft Tim Tebow last year. I’ll stick with Coples, who I think has the higher ceiling, but wouldn’t be surprised if the pick is Melvin Ingram, a high-motor guy who is seemingly a better fit for Smith’s criteria. If we throw out the character criteria, WR Michael Floyd is a possibility here, as well. You have to think I also think they will be willing sellers if someone wants to jump in to stop Trent Richardson’s freefall, this spot would make sense for someone like Cincinnati to trade up to.

8. Miami Dolphins – Melvin Ingram, DL/OLB, South Carolina
I believe GM Jeff Ireland tipped his hand by not using his franchise tag, leaving open an estimated $15M in salary space, to make a run at QB Peyton Manning or free agent QB Matt Flynn. The Dolphins and Flynn have been a seemingly obvious match since former Green Bay OC Joe Philbin was hired as Miami’s head coach. Although new OC Mike Sherman turned TAMU QB Ryan Tannehill in to a star and this could be a fit, I think Flynn will be their first choice. That leaves them almost certain to look at a lineman, with needs on both sides of the ball. New DC Kevin Coyle is expected to run a hybrid 3-4 and Ingram is a most exceptional hybrid player. He was a playmaker all over the line for the Gamecocks, where he stood out on a stacked front four, and showed the same flexibility in drills at the Combine, where he also tested well. If he falls, Poe is a possibility here, as the team looks likely to part ways with NT Paul Soliai and his amazing beard when they didn’t use the franchise tag on him. On the other side of the ball, taking an OT here would also make sense, as RT Marc Colombo needs to be replaced.

9. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
I had Poe going here in my first mock draft, but the Redskins trading up with the Rams instead of the Browns shakes things up. Despite a disappointing Combine, Brockers may have the most upside of any DT in the draft. The interior of the defensive line has been a problem for Carolina’s once-proud defense for some time and their pair of third-round DTs drafted last year didn’t appear to be the solution.

10. Buffalo Bills – Nick Perry, DE, USC
After 10 TFL and 9 sacks as a freshman, Perry was hampered by foot problems in 2010. He was back with a vengeance in 2011, posting 13 TFL and leading the PAC-10 with 9.5 sacks on his way to first-team all-conference honors. He blew up at the Combine, and did it at 271 pounds, having packed on around 20 pounds of muscle. New DC Dave Wannstedt is apparently moving the defense back to a 4-3 and Perry is the perfect fit to be the marquee edge rusher for a team that had was among the worst at getting to the QB last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Perry was the first DE off the board and not available here, in which case Buffalo seems likely to look at one of the other top prospects at the same position.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
GM Scott Pioli will be disappointed to see Poe off the board, who he may have envisioned as the next coming of Vince Wilfork, and turn his focus to improving offensive tackle. RT Barry Richardson is a turnstile and many believe LT Branden Albert would be more successful kicking in side. I have Martin, who protected Andrew Luck’s blind side for all but two games as a freshman and anchored an excellent Cardinal OLine, rated slightly ahead of Iowa OT Riley Reiff, who is a popular pick here in many mocks.

12. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
With limited collegiate experience at the position, at first I assumed the broken foot that cost Tannehill participating in the Senior Bowl and Combine would cost him being a first-round pick. Then I thought about last year and the panic that resulted in Jake Locker going 8th and Christian Ponder going 12th in the draft. The Seahawks have tried a few different approaches at QB under GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll the last couple years and are no closer to a long-term solution. It’s been popular to mock a QB prospect to them the last few drafts, but they could finally pull the trigger this year.

The Texas native was recruited as a dual-threat QB, but when his top choice, Texas Tech, didn’t recruit him he chose to walk-on at TAMU. After redshirting his first season, he was slotted at the third QB, behind Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson, under new HC Mike Sherman in 2008. He moved to wide receiver and had a strong showing there as a redshirt freshman. In 2009, he led the team in receptions and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. With starter Jerrod Johnson struggling in 2010, Tannehill took over at QB halfway through the season and caught fire, continuing to develop and show great potential through his senior season in 2011, starting all 13 games at QB. Tannehill broke his right foot Jan. 12 in a non-contact incident while running a rollout during a personal working out preparing for the Senior Bowl and had a pin inserted. Acccording to Tannehill, the doctor believed he was already playing on a stress fracture and it finally gave. For a player with just 19 career starts in college at the most important position, his absence at those key draft preparation events would have previously sent the player tumbling down draft boards. However, in this era of desperation for a quick fix, I once again point to the panic picks at QB last year. With a strong Pro Day later this month, it is reasonable to expect he’ll be back in consideration for a first-round pick.

13. Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in two years, and none before the fifth round since 2007. They allowed the second most sacks in the league and both their starting tackles are free agents. The Cardinals need to do something up front, most likely at OT, especially if they have any hope of bringing Peyton Manning to town. Reiff isn’t elite in any blocking skill, but has a nice punch, the requisite nastiness, and finishes blocks strong. A versatile lineman, he started 11 of 13 games all over the line as a redshirt freshman before locking in at left tackle for Iowa, replacing Bryan Bulaga after he left for the NFL.

14. Dallas Cowboys – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
After a litany of off-field problems saw him depart the limelight of Florida for Division II North Alabama, the post-season has been feel-good tour for Jenkins has he looks to have successfully climbed back up draft boards with strong performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine. The Cowboys secondary is a mess and Jenkins can go a long way toward rebuilding it as a lock-down corner who can take one receiver out of the game. I can’t believe I haven’t found a spot for G David DeCastro yet, so he could easily be the pick here if he falls this far.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
A tackle-machine who erased any concerns about his athleticism with a surprisingly impressive Combine performance is the player who will overcome HC Andy Reid’s aversion to drafting LBs early. The position absolutely killed the Eagles last year and if they don’t address it in free agency, this is the floor for Kuechly.

16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama
A disappointing Combine brings in to question if Upshaw has the athleticism to play with his hand off the ground at the next level, but Upshaw is an attack-minded player with one speed on the field who flies around blowing people up, and Ryan will love him. I think DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus has more potential as a pass rusher and would be a better pick. Mark Barron, the only safety with a first-round grade, would also make sense here.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland) – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Despite my belief in the position being devalued and the minor knee issue that kept Richardson from performing at the Combine, I don’t think he’ll fall this far. Someone, likely the Bengals, will swing a trade for Richardson once the Bucs pass on him. Most believe Richardson is one of the top six players in this draft, and there’s a fair case for it. As much as Mark Ingram left Alabama because he had nothing left to achieve at the collegiate level, he also had to be concerned about losing too many carries if he stuck around because Richardson was the superior player. After patiently waiting his turn, Richardson lived up to the hype as the feature back for the Crimson Tide. He is a physical beast (although that also makes me concerned he’ll take a beating at the next level and breakdown sooner) who also has good speed and hands. The team is ready to part ways with Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott hasn’t shown he can be a featured runner. This would be an ideal scenario for the Bengals, but they’ll likely have to trade up to get Richardson. Other options at this pick would be G David DeCastro and addressing cornerback. An aging Nate Clements was a downgrade after being brought in to fill the hole left by the departure of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon.

18. San Diego Chargers – David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Similar to Richardson, I’d be surprised if DeCastro fell this far, but I’ve struggled to fit him in earlier. GM A.J. Smith would love to see him here to plug him for the retiring Kris Dielman. QB Philip Rivers didn’t enjoy the pass protection he’d been used to last year and if DeCastro isn’t available, the team could be looking at OT too, where they could part ways with both Marcus McNeill and Jared Gaither. If there isn’t a top OLineman here, an edge rusher could also be the pick. The team should be familiar with Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus after drafting his former teammate, DL Corey Liuget in the first round last year.

19. Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Reports are out that the Bears are all in for WR Vincent Jackson, who will be a free agent after not being franchise tagged by the Chargers. If not, they must find a way to address the position and Floyd here would be a great fit. If they don’t go receiver, the offensive line still needs plenty of work and they have thin depth and aging stars at many key positions on defense.

20. Tennessee Titans – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
There’s concern Mercilus is a one-year wonder, but a solid Combine affirmed the athleticism is there, and while a bit smaller than ideal for a 4-3 end, elite sack production tends to translate well. He led FCS with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles last season, also totaling 22.5 TFL. Tennessee has tried to find a pass rush a variety of ways the last few years, and although this would be the second first-round pick they’d use in the last three years on the position, they need to.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
While his drug charges have been dropped, the questionable decision to put himself in that position could still hurt him. The Bengals never put character before talent, so either Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins falling this far should quickly find a home in Cincinnati with their issues at corner I discussed earlier.

22. Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Now things get interesting. Reuniting Weeden and Blackmon in Cleveland almost seems too campy to be possible, but regardless of if the Browns take Blackmon with the fourth pick overall, they still have a QB situation to resolve. The main strike against Weeden has been his age – he’ll turn 29 in October after playing minor league baseball for a few years after high school before enrolling at Oklahoma State in 2007. On the spectrum of concerns in translating the success of collegiate QBs to the NFL, you can argue his age (read: maturity) will be more of an advantage to making a quick and successful transition. Your window to succeed closes quickly in the NFL, few GMs and coaches can afford the long view and the fact you might only get five years instead of ten from a player is beyond the horizon of their concern.

23. Detroit Lions – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Missing out on the top three corners, Detroit turns their focus to addressing unimpressive RT Gosder Cherlius and aging LT Jeff Backus.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
The OLine needs help and Pittsburgh values the versatility at both guard and tackle this man-mountain brings.

25. Denver Broncos – Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
A big performance at the Combine confirmed Cox as one of the top three DTs in the draft. His quickness and agility will provide a boost inside and he has enough of both to also work as the anchor end.

26. Houston Texans – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Workout warrior? Maybe, but he didn’t get a chance to catch much in that offense in college. Finally a compliment who can spread the field for WR Andre Johnson with his speed, while his strong run blocking is a plus too.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans) – Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Versatile potential and good athleticism, he is a nice fit in either base defense as the Patriots continue to rotate between 4-3 and 3-4 looks.

28. Green Bay Packers – Kendall Reyes, DT/DE, Connecticut
An excellent Senior Bowl and Combine, this post-season riser can fill the gap they have been struggling to left by the departure of Cullen Jenkins two years ago.

29. Baltimore Ravens – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
A nice fit to replace G Ben Grubbs immediately if he leaves and be developed as the successor to aging C Matt Birk.

30. San Francisco – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
After addressing their need for another WR with the addition of Randy Moss, they can focus elsewhere. Even if the team brings back free agent Carlos Rogers, who had a breakout season as an afterthought addition, they need more quality at corner.

31. New England Patriots – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
There’s a good chance a guy you played flag football against in a rec league before spent some time in the Patriots’ secondary last year. This is such a good fit it almost certainly won’t happen because Bill Belichick never makes the seemingly obvious pick.

32. New York Giants – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
The departure of Brandon Jacobs assures the team will be looking for a rotational partner for Ahmad Bradshaw and as value pickers, will find it here.