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2012 NFL Draft First Round Recap

Which teams emerged from the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft as winners?

Honestly? Who knows. It’ll be at least three years before we can answer that question.

That said, based on draft strategy, trades, value based on pre-draft projections, here are my thoughts from Thursday’s first round, including moves that I liked and didn’t like.

- The Vikings traded down one spot, collected three extra picks, and still landed the player they wanted at No. 3. While I bought into the rumors that Morris Claiborne was the top player on their board, Matt Kalil made the most sense for a Minnesota team that needs to protect young quarterback Christian Ponder. GM Rick Spielman did a great job not only landing the top left tackle in the draft, but also acquiring three extra picks. (Albeit they were late picks, but extra picks nonetheless.)

- While the Cowboys could stand upgrades at safety and along both lines, they didn’t have any pressing needs coming into this year’s draft. Thus, for them to nab a top 5 prospect when they came into the draft with the No. 14 overall pick was impressive. At the end of the day, giving up a second rounder to pair Morris Claiborne with Brandon Carr was an opportunity that Jerry Jones couldn’t pass up. And say what you want about Jones, he usually lands impact players in the first round.

- Based on his potential alone, Fletcher Cox should have gone in the top 10 and could have gone in the top 6 based on some of the pre-draft reports that emerged about his soaring stock. So for the Eagles to land him at No. 12 was huge, especially considering how porous their run defense was last season. Cox is still raw in some areas but his skill set is a perfect fit for Philadelphia’s aggressive defense.

- Rams fans are no doubt frustrated that their team didn’t land either of the top two receivers in this year’s draft. But once the Jaguars traded up for Justin Blackmon and Les Snead was presented with the option to trade back, he took it. As you would imagine, the 2-14 Rams have a ton of holes to fill so acquiring as many picks as Snead did was impressive. Plus, they land the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in Michael Brockers, who will look great playing alongside Kendall Langford…

- …that said, the Rams had a golden opportunity to land a top 5 prospect had they just stayed at No. 6. Granted, St. Louis did sign Cortland Finnegan in the offseason but this was a team decimated by injuries in their secondary last year. Having a chance to add Claiborne opposite Finnegan would have been an opportunity I would have jumped at, but Snead weighed that option against potentially acquiring one more starter (i.e. that second round pick he acquired from the Cowboys). Time will tell if he should have went with the impact player instead of the opportunity to address another need in the second round.

- Three years ago A.J. Smith whiffed on Larry English in efforts to beef up the Charges’ pass rush. He should have more success with Melvin Ingram, who could be an impact defender if San Diego can get creative with his skill set.

- There’s no doubt that the Titans’ selection of Kendall Wright was a surprise but it’s hard to argue with the pick. Wright is a playmaker with outstanding run-after-the-catch ability and he’s a great add to an up-and-coming offense.

- It’s amazing that one of the safest picks in the draft fell into the Steelers’ laps at No. 24. David DeCastro has the talent to be a top 15 pick but since guards aren’t viewed as impact players he fell into the middle 20s. The Steelers always seem to draft well and this is why – they continue to select players at the top of their position class.

- The Bengals did well to land two players in Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler that not only addressed needs, but could also make impacts in their rookie seasons. Kirkpatrick helps the Bengals get younger and more physical at corner, while Zeitler is a mauler in the running game that helped Wisconsin finish eighth in the league in rushing last season.

- Just like the Eagles and Steelers, the Packers had a very good prospect fall into their laps and they didn’t over think the situation – they just pulled the trigger. Nick Perry should have been off the board well before No. 28 based on his explosiveness and ability to rush the passer as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’ll look great opposite Clay Matthews in Dom Capers’ defense.

- Bruce Irvin looks like a reach in the first round. He gets swallowed up by offensive lineman because he relies too much on his speed and athleticism to get to the quarterback. He’s also undersized as a 4-3 defensive end and isn’t thick enough to shed blockers as an outside linebacker. With Quinton Coples still on the board at No. 15, I’m surprised the Seahawks went with Irvin.

- With how many trades transpired in the first round this year, I’m surprised that the Bears weren’t able to trade back and still land Shea McClellin. Not to knock the highly productive, high-motor defensive end/outside linebacker out of Boise, but you’re telling me the Bears couldn’t trade back, acquire more picks and pick him in the 20s? I didn’t have the luxury of being in the war room with Phil Emery and Lovie Smith so maybe McClellin was at the top of their board and they just pulled the trigger on their guy. But again, with how many times teams moved back and forth tonight, I’m shocked the Bears stood pat and took McClellin at No. 19.

- Neither Ryan Tannehill nor Brandon Weeden look like first-round prospect in my eyes, but I can understand why the Dolphins and Browns felt the need to take each quarterback where they did. Weeden can make all the throws but he played in a college offense, he doesn’t fare well under pressure and he’s already 28. Tannehill has limited experience, he’s a major work in progress and he wouldn’t have been a top 10 pick in most other drafts. But we’ll see if either quarterback can prove doubters wrong in a couple of years.

- Dont’a Hightower is just a pure football player in every sense of the word. He’s going to make a ton of plays in Bill Belichick’s system and while I don’t know enough about Chandler Jones as Mike Mayock, he’s an intriguing talent on paper. No surprise – the Patriots did well in another draft.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2012 NFL Scouting Combine: 15 players that improved their draft stock

Missouri Tigers Michael Egnew (82) gets past the Iowa State Cyclones defense for a 39 yard touchdown in the first quarter at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 15, 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Which NFL prospects improved their draft stock at this year’s scouting combine?

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe may have been the most impressive player at this year’s combine. He’s already a physical marvel at 6-foot-5 and 348 pounds that can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. But toss in the fact that he ran an unreal 4.9 forty and did 44 reps on the bench press and what you have is a sure-fire top 20 pick.

Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill ran a 4.36 forty, which was the fastest time among all of the receivers (Miami’s Travis Benjamin also ran a 4.36) and placed him second behind only Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson (who ran a 4.33). He also posted an impressive 39.5-inch vertical jump and displayed good quickness in short shuttle drills. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hill has the size and speed that teams look for in a potential No. 1 receiver. With his stellar combine workout, he may have moved himself into the late first round.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Griffin made the Rams very happy with his 4.41 forty time, which bested all quarterbacks at the combine. He was a top 5 pick heading into Indianapolis but he may have just upped his asking price with his impressive performance. The Rams seemingly want to deal the No. 2 overall pick and after Griffin shinned in Indianapolis, they should have plenty of trade suitors come April.

Luke Kuechley, LB, Boston College
Teams were well aware of Kuechly’s productivity (he finished with 532 tackles at Boston College), instincts, toughness, and I.Q. before the combine. But after he posted a 4.50 forty and a 38-inch vertical leap, he cemented his status as a top-20 pick. He looks like one of the safer first-round prospects in this year’s draft.

Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Robinson blew scouts away when he ran unofficial forty times of 4.31 and 4.29, respectively. Those times made him the fastest prospect at this year’s combine and he also posted the best broad jump among the defensive backs with a mark of 11-foot-1. He’s a raw underclassman but after compiling 10 interceptions at Central Florida, Robinson has the speed and ball skills to merit a second round selection.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Kalil is a monster at 6-foot-7 and 306 pounds and is the younger brother of Panthers Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil. He posted a 4.99 forty, was excellent in the three-cone drill, and also did 30 reps on the bench. He cemented his status as the top left tackle in the draft and he may have guaranteed that the Vikings will select him with the No. 3 overall pick in April.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Glenn shocked observers by running a 4.96 forty and proved that he’s quick enough to play either right tackle or guard at the next level. He’s a massive run blocker at 6-foot-6 and 345 pounds, yet he stood out in the 10-yard split by clocking a 1.76. He also posted 31 reps on the bench press and cemented his status as a top-20 pick.

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Behind Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, Floyd was the most impressive receiver in Indy this year. He quelled some fears about his ability to separate from defenders by clocking a 4.47 forty, and at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds he has prototypical size for a receiver. While some scouts remain skeptical about his on-field speed, Floyd definitely improved his draft stock this past weekend.

Nick Perry, USC, OLB/DE
Perry was highly impressive in most of the drills at the combine, posting a 4.50 in the forty, a 38 1/2 –inch vertical leap, 10-foot-4 broad jump, and 35 reps on the bench press. He looks like an ideal fit as an edge-rusher in a 3-4.

Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
I included Kendricks in my “Spotting defensive value” article last week and he didn’t disappoint at the combine. At 5-foot-11 and 239 pounds, there are questions about his size, which is why he was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round before last week. But he posted the fastest forty in the linebacker group with a time of 4.47 and is a violent, explosive hitter from his inside linebacker position. I think he has a spot on a NFL roster and will make some team extremely happy in the fourth round.

Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
Egnew was one of the top performers at the tight end position in the three-cone, broad jump, short shuttle, and vertical jump, and also posted a 4.6 forty. Some believe his game speed isn’t as fast as his forty would suggest but he nevertheless looks like a solid “Y” or slot tight end at the next level.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
Cousins was arguably the most impressive quarterback in passing drills last weekend. Granted, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin II and Ryan Tannehill didn’t throw but that shouldn’t take away from the natural skill set that Cousins possessed in the three and five-step drop drills. Before the combine, Cousins was projected to go in the third round but he may have jumped into the second with his impressive performance.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore posted a 4.37 forty, which highlighted his excellent speed. Considering he’s also 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, teams will be just as intrigued by his size as they are with his speed. He looks like the third best corner in the draft and is ideal for a zone scheme.

Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
Brown is a former track star and after running an unofficial 4.4 forty, teams will love his potential as a weak-side linebacker. He’s an ideal fit in a Cover-2 scheme that will allow him to track down ball carries in the open field. Look for him to be drafted in the late first or early second.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Ingram was already viewed as a first-round pick coming into the draft but he may have guaranteed that he’ll be a top-15 pick with his performance at the combine. He clocked an unofficial 4.66 forty and a 1.65 10-yard split, and teams could fight over his versatility and athleticism come April.

2012 Senior Bowl: Five players to Watch

You draftniks ready for another year of speculation, frenzy and intrigue leading up to this year’s NFL draft? Here are five players to keep an eye on this Saturday the 2012 Senior Bowl kicks off from Mobile, Alabama.

Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
The consensus ranks Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III as the top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but who will be the third signal caller to come off the board? Some like Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill but keep an eye on how Foles plays this weekend. He’s a big kid at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and made strides as a senior this past year despite playing behind two freshman tackles. Arm strength definitely won’t be a problem but his accuracy and decision-making has often been questioned throughout his collegiate career. Once Luck and Griffin come off the board in the top 10 picks, Foles could be selected anywhere between the first and third rounds. Thus, this is one player that could definitely improve his draft stock with a strong showing in Mobile.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Top-rated defensive tackle Devon Still of Penn State will miss the Senior Bowl with a sprained big toe, so here’s Ingram’s chance to steal the spotlight. This isn’t regarded as a very strong draft for pass rushers but Ingram is a raw talent that can get to the quarterback in a variety of ways. He’s a three-technique defensive lineman who proved he could consistently beat blockers on the inside while at South Carolina. That said, 4-3 and 3-4 teams will take a long look at him because he exhibits a fast first step and good burst off the ball. He does a nice job of shedding blockers in the run game as well so again, he’ll intrigue teams that run a 3-4.

Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
USC’s Matt Kalil and Iowa’s Riley Reiff are projected to be the top two tackles taken off the board but Adams is already gaining some attention in Mobile because of his frame. He’s massive at 6-foot-7 and 323 pounds, with an 82 1/2 –inch wingspan and huge 11-inch hands. Despite his size, he’s a good athlete with natural bend and is being viewed as a left tackle at the next level (as opposed to some college prospects that are forced to move to the right side because of limitations in their game). He was suspended the first two games of the 2009 season for violating team rules, was cited in January of ’09 for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia (chargers were eventually dropped) after being stopped for running a stop sign, and was part of the group that was suspended for “Tattoogate.” But he has all of the physical tools to become a top 15 pick in April.

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
The top receiver in this year’s draft, Justin Blackmon, is a junior, while Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and Nick Toon have all been declared out of the Senior Bowl with various injuries. Thus, Saturday is a great opportunity for a guy like Adams to impress. He returned a punt for a touchdown in Arkansas’ victory over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, which was his fourth punt-return TD of the season. He’s a perfect fit in the slot because of his quickness and vertical ability, as well as the fact that he has trouble disengaging defenders at the line. He needs to improve as a route runner but NFL teams will definitely look at him as a returner and a potential No. 3 wideout.

Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins was overshadowed earlier in his college career by former top-10 pick Joe Haden (Browns) at Florida and then was kicked off the team his senior year following his arrest on misdemeanor marijuana charges (his second run in with the law). If he can stay out of trouble this kid has a ton of natural talent and could be a steal in the second or third round. He played a lot of man at North Alabama and has the ability to develop into a very good cover corner at the next level. Because of character concerns he’ll likely fall further in the draft than he should, but he’s got first-round talent.

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