Here’s my second crack at predicting the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. You can also check out my 2012 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 to see what changes I made from my first projections.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
There’s not much intrigue at the top of the draft, at least not compared to previous years. Barring a massive upset, Luck will be taken No. 1 and Griffin will be selected No. 2.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
ESPN’s Adam Schefter insists that Kalil isn’t a lock for this pick and I believe him. But at the end of the day, can the Vikings really go with Charlie Johnson again at left tackle? They invested a first-round pick in Christian Ponder last year and now they need to protect him. Kalil could anchor their line for years to come.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Running backs are becoming increasingly less valuable in today’s pass-happy NFL. But the Browns need to replace Peyton Hillis and the Browns aren’t going to win if Colt McCoy has to throw the ball 50-plus times a game. The comparisons to Adrian Peterson might be slightly off but if Richardson comes anywhere close to AP’s production in his first couple of years, Cleveland will be thrilled.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Upgrading at cornerback isn’t an absolute necessity at this point but it might be depending on how Aqib Talib’s June 25th felony assault trial plays out. The team did sign Eric Wright and re-signed Ronde Barber but Wright is inconsistent and Barber is nearing retirement. Claiborne is a stud and a bona fide top 5 pick.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I wouldn’t rule out the Rams trading back for defensive help but the reality is that this team needs to give Sam Bradford more weapons. Both Blackmon and Floyd are very talented but to me, Blackmon is the safer choice based on injury history and offensive fit.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jaguars’ two biggest needs are receiver and defensive end. And even though they signed Laurent Robinson in the offseason, he’s had a history of injury problems and Blaine Gabbert will need more than one guy on the outside. Floyd could be a difference maker if he stays healthy and out of trouble.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins’ biggest need is a component front office but the NFL doesn’t make those available in the draft. Truth be told I’m not completely convinced that the Dolphins will take Tannehill, but what else are they going to do at quarterback? Find another John Beck in the second round? They might as well take their shot with Tannehill at No. 8 (even if he’s a small reach), instead of hoping that Brandon Weeden falls to them in the second round.
9. Carolina Panthers: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Panthers could go in a variety of different ways here, including cornerback, defensive tackle, and linebacker. But the Panthers also need more pass rushers and Ingram is a safer choice than North Carolina’s Quinton Coples.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Tackle was a need for the Bills before Demetress Bell signed with the Eagles. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn are also options here but Reiff is rumored to be their top choice.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Inside linebacker and defensive tackle are definite needs for the Chiefs, who may even surprise and trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But if I were a GM, DeCastro is a much better player than Luke Kuechly (the top inside linebacker) and Dontari Poe (who is arguably the best DT, although I think Michael Brockers is a better prospect). DeCastro played in a pro style system at Stanford and could start right away. Guards aren’t typically top 15 picks but DeCastro is a as close to a guarantee as you can get in my eyes.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Middle linebackers don’t have the same value as they once did in the NFL because it’s a passing league now, but Kuechly is arguably one of the safest picks in the first round. He reminds me a little of Rams’ MIKE James Laurinaitis in that he just flat out makes plays and racks up tackles. Seattle did sign Barrett Ruud in the offseason but he’s been highly ineffective the past few seasons. Kuechly could be a legitimate answer to the Hawks’ MLB need.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
I could see the Cardinals taking DeCastro or even Floyd if he were to fall this far. But given what’s available in this mock, Glenn is arguably the best fit. Most assume he’ll kick back inside to guard after playing one year at left tackle at Georgia (his senior season), but he had a strong showing as a tackle in the Senior Bowl and would upgrade Arizona’s situation at RT.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Cowboys signed Brodney Pool in free agency but he made just six starts for the Jets in 2011. Both he and Gerald Sensabaugh could start, but neither will give Jerry Jones the confidence to pass on a talent like Barron. Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers would be fits here as well.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi State
There’s a very good chance that Cox will be gone by this pick and the Eagles may have to trade up to land him if he is in their sights. But in this mock, it just happened to work out that Philly didn’t have to budge and still landed a player in Cox who is a very good fit for defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s system.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
This is the point in the draft where multiple names start to look good slotted next to the team’s name. The Jets need to groom somebody to eventually take over for OLB Bryan Thomas, but Michael Floyd, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn, Mark Barron and Michael Brockers would all make sense as well.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
There’s a good chance that Coples won’t fall this far but given his supposed lack of work ethic, don’t rule the possibility out. If he were to fall this far, the Bengals would be getting a steal based on talent alone.
18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, OLB/DE, USC
A.J. Smith whiffed on Larry English three years ago and while Antwan Barnes is an underrated player of sorts, Perry is seemingly a solid fit for a team that needs OLB help.
19. Chicago Bears: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
If Brockers were a better pass-rushing prospect, he would be long gone by the time the Bears are on the clock at No. 19. He’s the best run-stuffer in the draft and while he isn’t known for his ability to rush the passer, I actually think the potential is there. I believe Chicago will address the defensive line first and then move on to offensive line and receiver later in the draft.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
There’s a strong chance that Poe turns out to be a “workout warrior” after he tore up the scouting combine, but the Titans don’t have a ton of glaring needs and he’d be a value at this point in the draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Leon Hall is coming off an ACL injury and while the team did sign Jason Allen this offseason, the Bengals could still stand to upgrade their secondary. Apparently Kirkpatrick didn’t interview well at the combine but that won’t scare away a team like the Bengals from drafting him.
22. Cleveland Browns: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Adams has great size and long arms, which is key for offensive tackle prospects. But he doesn’t look like a left tackle to me. That’s fine for Cleveland, which has Joe Thomas already locked in at left tackle. After landing Richardson with the No. 4 pick, the Browns can target a player like Adams to help pave the way for their new back.
23. Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Janoris Jenkins is arguably a better overall prospect than Gilmore but after the Lions were just burned by Nick Fairely (their first round pick in 2011), they may choose to stay away from a prospect with character concerns. Either way, cornerback is a top need for Detroit and either Jenkins or Gilmore would make sense here.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers could zero in on their offensive line and therefore move up for somebody like Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin. But with all the top offensive linemen off the board, Hightower would be a nice parting gift. He has experience playing in the 3-4 and could help fill the void left by the release of James Farrior.
25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Worthy might need a season to become a full-time starter but he could be worth the wait in the end.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Texans could use an upgrade opposite Andre Johnson to take help pressure off AJ in the passing game. Wright isn’t very big but with Johnson on the other side commanding double teams, his size (or lack thereof) wouldn’t matter. Wright is a solid first-round prospect.
27. New England Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus only produced one year at Illinois, so the question becomes: Will he turn out to be Jason Pierre-Paul or Jamaal Anderson? I trust Bill Belichick will know what to do with a raw but talented Mercilus.
28. Green Bay Packers: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Lose Scott Wells in free agency? No problem – just replace him with the top center in the draft. Things always seem to work out for the mastermind Ted Thompson.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia
With Knoz going one pick before the Ravens at No. 28, I could see Baltimore trading this pick instead of reaching for a safety like Harrison Smith. But they also need help at outside linebacker and/or defensive end, which is why I went with Irvin here. That said, I’m not enamored with the pick and if someone like Courtney Upshaw were to fall this far, I think he would be a solid selection as well.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
This was a tough selection because the only position that the Niners absolutely need to fill is at guard. And with so many solid guards available in the middle rounds, I’m willing to bet San Fran will wait to address that need. Hill is a second round talent in my eyes, but he won’t be there when the Niners pick in Round 2.
31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins has character concerns that could cause him to fall out of the first round but a player that has some off-field question marks won’t intimate Belichick. Jenkins has loads of talent and as long as he buys into the “Patriots way,” he could be a steal this late in the first round.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Fleener could be long gone by this pick but if he’s still available, what a coup he’d be for a Giants team that needs tight end help. He has to develop into a better blocker but he could essentially be the seam-buster that Mario Manningham has been for the Giants the last two years. Fleener would be an excellent fit in New York.
Tags: 2012 nfl draft, 2012 NFL mock Drafts, Andrew Luck, Cleveland Browns, David DeCastro, Dontari Poe, Indianapolis Colts, Justin Blackmon, michael floyd, Minnesota Vikings, Mock Drafts, mock drafts 2012, Morris Claiborne, Quinton Coples, Riley Reiff, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kalil, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trent Richardson, Washington Redskins