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Tony Nowak | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

2012 NFL Draft2012 NFL Mock Draft: Version 3.0

Round 1

Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
GM Ryan Grigson has confirmed he’ll be the first pick, so it’s all but validated what we’ve known since the Colts got the first overall pick – Luck is headed to Indy.

2. Washington Redskins (via St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
As usual, the last minute scrutiny pours in, but the latest character concern about selfishness is silly. This is the player Mike Shanahan traded up to get. The Vikings are on the clock.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
GM Rick Spielman is doing a good job spreading propaganda in attempting to create a trade market, but unless they are blown away with an offer, Kalil is their man. They need to see what Christian Ponder can do and will only set him up to fail if they pass on a potential franchise LT to fill a glaring hole.

4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Now the draft becomes interesting. I don’t believe the skyrocketing market among pundits for TAMU’s Ryan Tannehill realistically hits this ceiling. I could have seen the Redskins reaching for Tannehill in a panic move with the sixth pick if they failed to trade up, but not Browns’ President Mike Holmgren. The biggest need for this team is playmakers and a face for this offense, even if it isn’t at QB. I previously mocked WR Justin Blackmon here, but after parting ways with Peyton Hillis, Richardson can step in as the engine on offense while they sort out the other skill positions and add more pieces to an emerging defense.

I still believe the value of the position has been marginalized enough that this might not be a pick. This is particularly high, considering I am among those in widespread agreement that Richardon doesn’t have the ceiling of Adrian Peterson, who fell to the seventh pick overall. However, 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 it is also undeniable and they’ve spent their first two picks on defense the last two years. Mike Holmgren rode another do-everything Alabama workhorse running back in Shaun Alexander the last time he made it to the Super Bowl and could have visions of Richardson being able to do the same for him.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State
The Bucs will squeeze one more year out of Ronde Barber, have added Eric Wright, and new HC Greg Schiano has talked of a fresh start for troubled CB Aqib Talib, although the state of Texas and/or the league may have something to say about his NFL future when his trial for assault with a deadly weapon starts this summer. The felony charge was from an incident where he and his mother allegedly opened fire on his sister’s boyfriend. None of that, nor the alleged 4 on his Wonderlic, should prevent them from drafting Claiborne, the best player available, at this spot.

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. The addition of WR Vincent Jackson in the offseason, along with the expectation for a return to form of WR Mike Williams and the remaining potential of WR Arrelious Benn, should remove Justin Blackmon from consideration.

6. St. Louis (via Washington Redskins) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
If Claiborne falls here, I think he is a no-brainer. I’ve come around to also believe Richardson could go here, especially after Jackson has begun groaning about his contract. With those two off the board in this mock, the pick comes down to having their choice of the top WR or top DT. I don’t think there is an OT of value here and the team has restructured Jason Smith’s contract, so he’ll apparently be given another chance. In my previous mock, I had Blackmon going earlier and not an option, but even with him here, I still handicap it as a pick ‘em between Blackmon and DT Fletcher Cox, who appears to have passed Dontari Poe as the most desired interior target.

The arguments against Blackmon are he isn’t an “elite” prospect and this WR class is deep. Countering the first, I’d say his productivity says otherwise. He may not have the measurables of a Calvin Johnson, but Blackmon has been a dominant force. I like the comparisons to Terrell Owens, except he doesn’t have alligator arms over the middle like T.O. As for the depth of the WR class, the DLine in this class provides similar appealing opportunities when the Rams come back up with the 33rd pick. The team has a lot invested in QB Sam Bradford and need to give him some weapons to throw to.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina
I know, I know, he’s not a “(GM) Gene Smith player”. Smith’s alleged preference for high-character, high-motor players over more highly-rated prospects will be tested here with a player whose motivation and effort is highly questioned among scouts. However, as I mentioned in my previous mock with this same pick, 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. DE is a mess in Jacksonville and the variety of band-aids they’ve applied the last few years have all failed. Coples has the highest ceiling of, at least, any DLineman in this class and it will be the job (problem?) of new HC Mike Mularkey, not Smith, to properly motivate him to achieve it.

8. Miami Dolphins – 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. I hate to buy in to the hype, but I can easily believe reports majority owner Stephen Ross is pushing for the pick, especially after the GM Jeff Ireland failed in his pursuit of a number of free agents or moving up to get RGIII. New OC Mike Sherman developed Tannehill at TAMU so the fit is appealing, but will be more telling if the team passes on him.

Alternatively the team would look to replace retiring RT Marc Colombo or give new DC Kevin Coyle, who is expected to run a hybrid 3-4, an exceptional multi-purpose player like Melvin Ingram for the front seven. Coples would be another strong possibility if he falls here, as their current pass rushers are causing problems this offseason. Cameron Wake is a sporadic participant in voluntary workouts as he angles for an extension and Koa Misi has run afoul of the law.

9. Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
I had DT Dontari Poe going here in my first mock draft and DT Michael Brockers in my second, I’m still sold on the position, but have bought in to the growing consensus that Cox will be the first DT off the board. 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. Cox blew everyone away at the Combine and brings the best combination of film, measurables, and upside of interior linemen, with the athleticism to play outside, as well.

10. Buffalo Bills – Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
I’ve had the Bills pigeon-holed for a DE all along, but the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson should have them focusing their attention elsewhere. S Mark Barron and CB Stephen Gilmore are the hot names associated with the Bills, but the loss of Demetress (formerly Demetrius) Bell leaves a glaring hole at LT. I’ve struggled with tagging the second best OT in this class and now think the converted guard’s prototypical size for the blindside and greater potential than Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin win out.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe displayed some freakish athleticism for a 350-lb man at the Combine, 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, I can see GM Scott Pioli and HC Romeo Crennel envisioning him as the next coming of Vince Wilfork.

12. Seattle Seahawks – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
A tackle-machine who erased any concerns about his athleticism with a surprisingly impressive Combine performance. They would love to land a premier edge rusher here, but all of them in this class come with caveats. Kuechly has none and brings tremendous talent and stability to a position the team has struggled with the last few years.

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 are desperate at the position. 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 – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Cowboys spent $30M to bring in free agent guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, and while neither seem the inspired addition to the OLine that drafting David DeCastro would be, they are indicative the team is probably going to focus on defense in the draft. Barron is the dynamic force in the secondary this team has been lacking and the type of player I can see DC Rob Ryan and HC Jerry Jones both drooling over.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State
Mostly because this is what HC Andy Reid does – drafts linemen, which also makes G David DeCastro a possibility. Despite a disappointing Combine, Brockers has a ton of upside and the interior in Philadelphia isn’t as deep as Reid likes it. I think Reid and co. will be pretty disappointed to see Barron go the pick before, especially to the rival Cowboys, because I see him as their top target to solidify a position that was more of a problem than expected last year. I also wouldn’t rule them out taking Kuechly, who I previously mocked her, if he falls. The addition of FA DeMeco Ryans in no way rules out Kuechly. Ryans has battled significant injury problems recently and while effective, didn’t return to the elite level of production he showed early in his career. Even if he does, adding one LB doesn’t solve the problems they had overall with that group the last few years. Kuechly would be the best player available if he fell this far and I can see Reid breaking his normal drafting patterns here to add him.

16. New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, DL/OLB, South Carolina
The Jets reportedly like Ingram and I think it’s possible he falls this far. Despite his tremendous film and solid Combine, I think some teams will struggle to reconcile his dimensions with certain positions. Sometimes versatility is a plus, sometimes it means a team won’t know what to do with you. I think Ingram will suffer from the latter. Not the Jets. HC Rex Ryan envisions a squatty Adalius Thomas.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland) – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Going WR with their first pick in back-to-back draft conjures visions of the bad Detroit Lion days, but Floyd has the talent to go higher. Character concerns that may prevent it are never an issue with the Bengals. He is also a tremendous run blocker, which will be an asset as the Bengals may look at more of a RBBC here with lesser talents as Cedric Benson moves on. I think they add another RB later in the draft, and absolutely will take a corner with one of their two first round picks, but this seems to be the floor for Floyd.

18. San Diego Chargers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
I’m fairly torn on this pick. I previously mocked G David DeCastro here, as QB Philip Rivers didn’t enjoy the pass protection he’d been used to last year and G Kris Dielman is retiring, but I keep coming back to San Diego having to address their lack of an edge rush. It is the key to making their defense a success and they are desperate to pair someone with OLB Shaun Phillips as former first-round pick Larry English hasn’t been the man. There’s concern Mercilus is a one-year wonder, but a solid Combine affirmed the athleticism is there, and elite collegiate sack production tends to translate well. He led FCS with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles last season, also totaling 22.5 TFL. I find him comparable to Baltimore tweener Terrell Suggs. GM A.J. Smith 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 – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
If Martin or Cordy Glenn, maybe even Riley Reiff or David DeCastro, are available here, there is no doubt in my mind an OLineman will be the pick. Sure they need another pass rusher and wide receiver, yes they need help in the secondary, but addressing those pales in comparison to continuing to improve the OLine. The team has shown with Jay Cutler they are a championship contender and without him, they are a mess. He has taking a beating during his time in Chicago and Job Number One for new GM Phil Emery and new OC Mike Tice are to keep Cutler upright. They took a first step in adding OT Gabe Camiri in the first round last year, but he appears a better fit to maul at RT. The turnstile known as J’Marcus Webb gets an “A” for effort, but an upgrade is needed. Martin protected Andrew Luck’s blindside for all but two games as a freshman and anchored an excellent Cardinal OLine. He has the size and feet for the role, but the knock on him is he’s too much of a finesse blocker, which may prevent him from being the top ten pick he could be. Tice and new OLine coach Tim Holt will relish the chance to knock that out of him if he falls this far.

If all the top tackles are gone by this pick, DeCastro is an option, but the team has gone about soliciting veteran help to fortify the interior of the OLine. They will probably look at a pass rusher to pair with DE Julius Peppers, likely having Mercilus, Nick Perry, Courtney Upshaw and Chandler Jones among those to chose from. Another alternative could be corner, but I’d be shocked if they go WR with this pick. I think they address it at some point in the draft, but the addition of Brandon Marshall means they have the go-to target Cutler has lacked and can address bigger needs with this pick.

20. Tennessee Titans – David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Despite adding FA DE Kamerion Wimbley, I don’t disagree the team is looking for more help in the front four and with the pass rush, but I think they are also looking for better interior run blocking. While many think DeCastro could go much higher, the teens to about here are the right spot for a top guard, no matter how high his potential.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – 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 had been feel-good tour for Jenkins with strong performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine, but his character concerns have pundits dropping him on the path to the draft. As we know, that never stops the Bengals. 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, so one of the safest bets in the draft is the Bengals will use one of their two first-round picks to address the position. Stephen Gilmore is the flavor of the week and the more physical Dre Kirpatrick are other options, but I think Jenkins is the second-best corner in this draft.

22. Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
In my previous mock, I had Cleveland selecting Blackmon fourth overall and sold myself on a campy reunion with Weeden at this pick. While I now believe the Browns must and will go with Trent Richardson with the fourth pick, I’m staying with the Weeden selection – 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 – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
One of the hottest late risers according to many pundits, Gilmore may very well not be available here, but I have him as the third corner and it is looking more and more like the Lions will have the opportunity to select one of the top four with this pick. Another focus could be addressing the offensive line, particularly tackle where they have an unimpressive RT Gosder Cherlius and aging LT Jeff Backus.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers are strict BPA drafters and Hightower won’t be that player in my opinion, but I’ll make an exception for a guy who seems like he was made to play for them. A physical presence inside with the athleticism to fill in as an edge rusher, the Steelers are never shy about adding LBs, the heart of their defensive scheme.

25. Denver Broncos – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Not only are the Broncos desperate for DTs, but many would argue Miller isn’t the next best RB prospect in this class. Regardless, I have a strong gut feeling about this pairing. Willis McGahee had a nice swan song last season, but he isn’t the long-term workhorse HC John Fox needs, and clearly former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno isn’t that player. QB Peyton Manning has some déjà vu as successfully partnering with another brash young ‘Cane will be the key to making this offense move in Denver.

26. Houston Texans – Nick Perry, OLB/DE, Southern California
I am a big fan of Perry and think he could go higher than this and to a 4-3 team, but also like the fit here. The emergence of Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin last year made Mario Williams expendable, but that doesn’t mean DC Wade Phillips doesn’t need a deeper rotation.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans) – Shea McClellin, OLB/DL, Boise State
Another late riser, the versatile and athletic McClellin can be the new Mike Vrabel for HC Bill Belichick.

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 – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama
A disappointing Combine has brought 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 who will find a role on the Ravens. The other alternative is C Peter Konz, a nice fit to replace departed G Ben Grubbs immediately and be developed as the successor to aging C Matt Birk. Konz make more sense, but nobody picks up overlooked talent like GM Ozzie Newsome, and Upshaw would be another victory.

30. San Francisco – Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
The departure of Adam Snyder leaves a big hole at guard and the athletic Zeitler gives them versatility. Overlooked in most mocks about HC Jim Harbaugh is he knows the importance of a strong OLine and will act quickly to patch any holes in his because his offense can’t function without it. Midwestern State G Amini Silatolu is the late riser, but I like Zeitler better.

31. New England Patriots – Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
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. A smart, productive player filling a hole is such a good fit it almost certainly won’t happen because Bill Belichick never makes the seemingly obvious pick.

32. New York Giants – Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
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.