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Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft

The National Football League logo is displayed near the stage during round one of the 2011 NFL Draft Pick at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. UPI/Monika Graff

After putting the finishing touches on my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft, I sat back, looked it over and become extremely disappointed.

When does the NFL draft ever play out the way everyone expects? The answer is never. The NFL draft never goes as planned and yet my mock had zero trades, very few surprises and not enough risks. It was boring, which is the one thing the NFL draft isn’t.

The NFL draft is a study in failure, from the prospects that don’t pan out, to the teams that misjudged players’ talent, to clowns in the media who think we have it all figured out. And that’s exactly why I decided to scrap my mock and start over.

Mock drafts are supposed to be fun and creative and yet, everyone gets so caught up in trying not to look foolish that they don’t make bold predictions.

Lucky for you I don’t mind looking foolish so without further adu, here is my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts will have an opportunity to rebuild the way all teams in their situation would want to: By drafting a franchise quarterback to usher in a new era. Luck certainly has some big shoes to fill but he has all the tools to become successful.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
It’s great that the Redskins have found their franchise signal caller but they better protect their investment by building Griffin a quality offensive line and by continuing to add playmakers that will help shoulder the load. If they don’t, they’ll look awfully foolish for giving up so much to trade up to No. 2.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
GM Rick Spielman has been a godsend for Roger Goodell and the NFL because he’s brought intrigue to the top of a draft that will offer no conspiracy at No. 1 or No. 2. Seeing as how Charlie Johnson is penciled in at left tackle and the Vikings invested a first round pick in Christian Ponder last season, Matt Kalil makes the most sense at this pick. But considering nearly half of Minnesota’s schedule is against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, watch Spielman surprise and take the best cornerback in the draft.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
There’s a chance that someone will jump ahead of the Browns and nab Richardson at No. 3 but which team has the resources to do that? The Bucs may pull a fast one but it’s doubtful – Richardson falls to the Browns as projected.

5. Buffalo Bills (Projected trade w/Tampa Bay): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Rumors have started circulating that the Bills want to move up to No. 3 in order to secure Kalil. But if the Vikings want what the Rams got in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick, then the Bills will likely baulk. That said, with Claiborne off the board, there isn’t a clear choice for the Bucs at No. 5. Thus, they trade back with the Bills, who land the left tackle they so desperately need.

6. St. Louis Rams: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Rams need a receiver that can make plays outside the numbers, which is why Justin Blackmon is the most logical fit at this spot. But Jeff Fisher is a defensive-minded coach and a throw back, so look for him to build from the inside out. In a division that features Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Beanie Wells, the Rams beef up the interior of their defensive line with the best DT in the draft. Seeing as how deep the draft is at receiver, the Rams could always trade back into the first round for Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright by using one or some of the selections they acquired from the Redskins for the No. 2 pick.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Jaguars could go a number of different routes with this pick, including selecting a receiver or trading out of this spot entirely. But Jeremy Mincey emerged as the Jaguars’ only legitimate pass rusher last season and you can’t win in the NFL if you can’t get after the quarterback.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Thirty-one teams may grade Tannehill as a second round prospect but it only takes one team to view him as a franchise quarterback in order for him to be selected in the first round. The moment the Dolphins hired Mike Sherman to be their offensive coordinator Tannehill was the most logical choice at this pick.

9. Carolina Panthers: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon could come off the board at No. 6 to the Rams and if that happens, Fletcher Cox will likely fall into the Panthers’ laps at No. 9. But if team’s draft boards get dirty and Blackmon falls to the Panthers here, they take the best player available and give Cam Newton another weapon opposite Steve Smith.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Projected trade w/Buffalo): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
If Claiborne comes off the board at No. 3, the Bucs could do much worse than to trade back, acquire more picks and still wind up with one of the top cornerbacks in the draft.

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 left on the board, 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. San Diego Chargers (Projected Trade w/Seattle): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The strong safety position has been a revolving door in San Diego since Rodney Harrison left in 2002. The Chargers could wait and hope that Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith falls to them in the second round but why? They might as well trade up ahead of Dallas (which could also use Barron) and land the best safety in the draft.

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: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Cowboys need help at safety and guard, but with Barron and DeCastro off the board they decide to take the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in the draft in Brockers.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I was a little surprised that the Eagles didn’t pursue middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency, but maybe they figured they could address their need at MLB without having to spend over $6 million a year on a veteran. Kuechly could go earlier than this but I doubt it. Teams just don’t put a premium on inside linebackers anymore, but he’s certainly a great fit for Philadelphia.

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Jets have been missing that outside pass-rushing threat since Rex Ryan arrived to New York in 2009. Upshaw is a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker who has the ability to battle offensive linemen in run defense but also rush the passer when the situation calls for it.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
There’s a good chance that Floyd won’t fall this far but considering his issues with alcohol-related arrests, don’t rule out the possibility. No offense to Brandon Tate or Jordan Shipley but after A.J. Green the Bengals’ depth at receiver is thin. Getting younger at cornerback is also a priority for Cincinnati but receiver is arguably a much bigger need and if Floyd were to fall this far, he’d be a solid selection.

18. Seattle Seahawks (Projected trade w/San Diego): Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples has top-10 talent but he’s a risk to fall because teams reportedly question is motor, which runs “hot and cold.” He would be a value at this spot, however, and would fill Seattle’s massive need for a pass rusher.

19. Chicago Bears: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Reiff could be long off the board by the time the Bears are on the clock and if he is, then I fully expect Chicago to address its needs along the defensive line. But if Reiff does fall, look for the Bears to upgrade over left tackle J’Marcus Webb, who is constantly battling injury issues and inconsistent play.

20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Stephon Gilmore will be an option at this pick if he falls but if he doesn’t, Kirkpatrick would be a nice consolation gift for a Tennessee team that was burned repeatedly through the air last season.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Bengals could take a defensive end or a cornerback at this spot but Poe is arguably the best player on the board (albeit a very controversial player).

22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Offensive tackle is also a need for the Browns but Wright is a better much prospect than Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin, who are the two best OTs available. Wright had an underwhelming performance at this year’s combine but watch the film – the kid can play.

23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
Cornerback is the Lions’ top need but with Claiborne, Gilmore and Kirkpatrick all off the board, they’ll select a versatile Glenn and groom him as Jeff Backus’ replacement. They can address their need at corner and running back in the middle rounds.

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 Hightower 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
Once Brodrick Bunkley left via free agency the Broncos had an immediate need to fill at defensive tackle. Ty Warren is 31 and Justin Bannan is 33, so Worthy would inject much-needed youth along the interior of Denver’s defensive line. As a potential wildcard, don’t rule out the Broncos selecting running back Doug Martin.

26. Houston Texans: Ruben Randle, WR, LSU
Some may view Randle as a slight reach at this pick but the Texans need a No.2 receiver that can make plays outside the numbers. Randle is a legitimate vertical threat that would look great opposite Andre Johnson in Houston’s passing attack.

27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, OLB, USC
The Patriots have a massive need for a pass rusher and Perry fits the bill. He’s a highly disruptive edge rusher that could flourish in Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme.

28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
The Packers’ pass rush regressed last season so adding a player in McClellin who racked up 19.5 sacks for Boise State last season makes sense. He could be a solid addition opposite Clay Matthews in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
Silatolu is projected to go in the second round but the Ravens have a need at guard with the departure of Ben Grubbs in free agency. Silatolu might be a little raw coming out of a small school but he could turn out to be one of the gems of this year’s draft.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal both left via free agency, leaving the Niners thin at guard. Zeitler is a powerful run blocker who helped Wisconsin become the eighth best rushing team in the nation last season. He appears to be NFL-ready and could be a starter in his rookie year.

31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins could easily slip into the second round with the amount of baggage he carries into the draft, but Bill Belichick is rarely scared off by players with character concerns (see Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Albert Hanyesworth). Maybe landing in New England and playing for Belichick will help Jenkins fly straight off the field.

32. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
There’s a chance that Martin will slip into the second round but I’m basing this pick mostly on need. Like all teams picking at the bottom of the first round, the Giants could go in multiple directions with this selection.

Updated: 6:00PM ET.

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 Mock Draft 2.0

The University of Alabama Crimson Tides Trent Richardson runs past the University of Texas Longhorns Aaron Williams to score a touchdown during the second quarter in the NCAA’s BCS National Championship football game in Pasadena, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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
See above.

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.

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2012 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (12) hands off to running back Stepfan Taylor (33) against USC in the first half at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on October 29, 2011. UPI/Lori Shepler

For some reason while compiling my annual mock drafts I always imagine all 32 general managers getting together after the draft, sharing a few adult beverages and just laughing at how off us bloggers are when it comes to these picks. I’d laugh too if I weren’t crying inside.

Enjoy!

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Bill Polian has hinted in recent weeks that the Colts haven’t settled on Luck but there’s very little chance that Indy will take Robert Griffin III. What impresses me most about Luck is his pocket presence. A signal caller that can stand in the pocket and give his receiver time to complete his route is invaluable to a NFL team and Luck has excellent pocket awareness.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Washington media is already discussing whether or not Griffin will start Week 1 for the Redskins. He was a slam-dunk for the No. 2 pick as soon as the Skins gave up 17 first round picks to move up. Griffin is a plus-athlete who can make every throw at the next level, including the deep post, which separates a good quarterback prospect from a great one.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
GM Rick Spielman has tried to drum up interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne because the Vikings seemingly prefer to trade down. But unless some team is in love with Trent Richardson or Ryan Tannehill, the Vikings will likely stay put. They could surprise and take Claiborne but at the end of the day, they need a long-term answer at left tackle and Kalil is the best OT prospect in the draft.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
In a perfect world the Browns would trade this pick to Miami, acquire more draft selections and still land Richardson at No. 8. But my gut says the Dolphins won’t trade up and the Browns will be “stuck” at No. 4. Cleveland needs impact players on offense and despite my penchant for drafting running backs in the middle round, Richardson fit’s the mold of an Adrian Peterson-type prospect. The Browns could do much worse than drafting Richardson at No. 4 if they can’t trade down.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Aqib Talib is a jaywalking ticket away from serving a lengthy suspension and Rone Barber is near retirement. While the Bucs did sign Eric Wright in free agency, 26-year-old corner has been inconsistent during his career. I don’t see Claiborne slipping out of the top 5 and thus, if he gets past the Vikings at No. 3 I think the Bucs will scoop him up here.

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
There’s no shortage of possibilities for the Rams here, although I don’t believe they’ll move back up after trading down from the No. 2 pick. They could move down, they could take Blackmon, or they could wind up with someone like Trent Richardson or Morris Claiborne depending on what happens three through five. But this is a team in desperate need of an impact player at the receiver position. And while some have suggested that Michael Floyd is a better prospect than Blackmon, I think that’s just pre-draft fodder. Sam Bradford desperately needs a No. 1 and Blackmon fits the bill.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I’ll be honest, I’m not enamored with this pick but I do think the Jaguars will either choose a defensive end or receiver at this pick. Seven seems too high for Floyd, but after his strong performance at his Pro Day, there’s been speculation that he could be selected in the top 10. That said, Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples are definite possibilities at this pick.

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I think the Dolphins will land Tannehill and they won’t have to move up to get him. I firmly believe the Browns won’t select him at No. 4 and teams like the Chiefs won’t want to part with a first round pick in order to move up. Thus, the Dolphins can stay pat and take their franchise signal caller at No. 8. Now, whether Tannehill will pan out is a topic for another time.

9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Panthers desperately need a defensive tackle but No. 9 is too high for Dontari Poe, who impressed at the scouting combine but who got lost in the mix when you watched Memphis games. If either Coples or Melvin Ingram fall to this slot, and I believe one of them ultimately will, then the Panthers could do worse than to add a pass rusher opposite Charles Johnson.

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: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Ingram may not fall this far but if he does, he would seemingly make a lot of sense for a team that needs help at both pass rusher and linebacker. Quinton Coples is another possibility at this spot if he were to fall and not Ingram.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
I actually had the Cardinals scooping up DeCastro at this spot but then I couldn’t see the Chiefs passing on him at No. 11. Offensive tackle is a huge need for the Cardinals and if Reiff falls, he’d be an option here as well. Defensive tackle, receiver, and linebacker are all possibilities, too.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Many scouts view Poe as nothing more than a workout warrior who will be overdrafted because of his impressive combine performance. But the Cowboys appear to be smitten with him and if he gets past the Panthers at No. 9, Dallas will have an opportunity to see whether or not Poe can really play.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I was a little surprised that the Eagles didn’t pursue middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency, but maybe they figured they could address their need at MLB without having to spend over $6 million a year on a veteran. Kuechly could go earlier than this but I doubt it. Teams just don’t put a premium on inside linebackers anymore, but he’s certainly a great fit for Philadelphia.

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: 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.

18. San Diego Chargers: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Barron is the top safety in the draft and I could see him being swiped by Dallas at No. 14. But if falls, he would be a great value pick for a San Diego team that, as usual, doesn’t have a ton of glaring needs heading into the draft.

19. Chicago Bears – Nick Perry, DE, USC
The Bears could use upgrades at linebacker and safety but I ultimately believe they’ll go defensive line with this pick. Some have Perry slated as an outside linebacker but at 6-foot-3 and 271 pounds, he certainly has the size to play with his hand in the dirt. He led the Pac 12 in sacks last year and could be a solid fit in the Bears’ “Tampa 2.”

20. Tennessee Titans – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Titans should have a couple of defensive tackles to choose from, including Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Michael Brockers of LSU. In fact, Dontari Poe of Memphis may also fall to them if Dallas passes on him at No. 14. Either way, I see the Titans addressing the defensive line with this selection.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
When I looked down and still saw that Glenn was available on my mock board, I was shocked. Glenn may not fall this far but if he does, he would be a great value pick for a Cincinnati team that could take David DeCastro at No. 17 if he were to fall. Glenn is the second best guard in the draft and the Bengals would do very well to address their needs at cornerback and guard in the first round.

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: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Some believe Devon Still as the better defensive tackle prospect but I really like Brockers’ potential. He hasn’t developed into a pass rusher yet but man can he stuff the run.

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.

2010 Big Ten College Football Preview: Ohio State back on top

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hands off to running back Brandon Saine #3 of the Buckeyes during a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Here’s a quick and dirty look at how I see things playing out in the Big Eleven this season:

#1 Ohio State
Some believe the Buckeyes’ offense might be close to catching up to their defense in terms of dominance, which is saying something with the way OSU’s D played a year ago. The Buckeyes return all three leading rushers from 2009 in Brandon Saine, Dan Herron and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who some believe has become a more committed teammate over the offseason. The key to OSU becoming a national title threat is Pryor, or more specifically, whether or not he’ll make opponents respect his passing game. The good thing for him and the Buckeyes on a whole is that they return four starters to a veteran offensive line that will open up plenty of holes for a deep and talented group of running backs. Defensively, OSU was a top five unit last season and could be once again this year assuming they can generate a pass-rush and the safeties can hold up in coverage. Cameron Heyward is one of the nation’s best defensive ends and Ross Homan is a playmaker at the outside linebacker spot. The secondary isn’t flashy, but cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are solid. From a schedule standpoint, if they can beat Miami in Columbus in the second week of the season, they should be 6-0 heading into Madison on October 16. From there, they’ll be tested by Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa, but this is your clear favorite to win the Big Ten.

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