2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

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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Browns seemingly hold the draft fate of the Bucs and Rams in their hands

If the top 3 of the 2012 NFL Draft goes the way many expect, then the Browns hold the fate of the two teams selecting directly behind them.

It’s safe to assume that the Colts will draft Andrew Luck with the top overall pick and that the Redskins will select Robert Griffin III at No. 2. And while GM Rick Spielman has tried to drum up interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne, chances are the Vikings will take offensive tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3.

But once the Browns are on the clock at No. 4, everything gets a little less predictable.

Cleveland could stand pat and take running back Trent Richardson (whom I selected for the Browns in my first mock draft), receiver Justin Blackmon, or Claiborne. If Minnesota somehow passes on Kalil, he becomes an option for the Browns at No. 4, even though they’re already set at left tackle with Joe Thomas. (Cleveland still needs a right tackle and it may be difficult for the Browns to pass on the opportunity to pair an intriguing talent like Kalil with a five-time Pro Bowler in Thomas.)

The Browns could also trade the pick, which might ultimately be in their best interest. If they can pull off a trade with Miami at No. 8 and still land Richardson, then Cleveland wins. That’s the Browns’ best-case scenario right there.

But the key is whether or not some team will want to trade up and if they do, whom would they target? Many believe that Richardson is an Adrian Peterson-type prospect, but running backs have become increasingly less valuable in a pass-heavy league. And while the Dolphins and maybe even the Chiefs could trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is he a top 5 prospect? Better yet, is he the type of franchise signal caller that teams would want to part with a first-round pick for? If the Dolphins stay pat at No. 8, they could feasibly get Tannehill there and not have to part with any picks in order to move up.

Thus, we’re back to the Browns and their options at No. 4. If they take Richardson, then the Rams would be ecstatic because that means Blackmon would likely fall to them at No. 6. If the Browns take Claiborne, it’s a realistic possibility that the Bucs will take Richardson at No. 5 because whom else would they take? They need defensive line help but Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram both have question marks, and they’d be reaching for a DT like Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers. If Cleveland selects Blackmon, then you’ll probably see St. Louis attempt to trade down or if Richardson is there, the Rams may tab him as Steven Jackson’s replacement.

Either way, it all starts with the Browns at No. 4. They’re the first piece of the domino.

2012 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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.

After losing out on Kelly, Bucs go back to college ranks and hire Rutgers’ Schiano

Lose out on one prominent college football head coach? No problem, just hire another.

Just days after Chip Kelly spurned them by deciding to stay at the University of Oregon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Rutgers’ Greg Schiano to be their next head coach. He takes over for Raheem Morris, who was fired after a disastrous 2011 season in which the Bucs lost their final 10 games while stumbling to a 4-12 record.

The three finalists to take over as coach of the Bucs were apparently Panthers’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, fired Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, and Schiano. Just 45 years old, Schiano gained the respect of his peers and media members after impressively transforming Rutgers into a Big East power. Since 2001, the Scarlet Knights have gone to six bowl games, winning their last five. Schiano led them to a win in their most recent bowl game, a 27-13 victory over Iowa State in the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl.

What’s interesting is that Kelly and Schiano couldn’t be more different in terms of offensive philosophies. Oregon has had one of the most dynamic offenses in college football under Kelly, who runs a zone-read scheme that is unlike any system currently in the NFL. Schiano, meanwhile, has always run a “smashmouth,” run-first offense that uses a heavy dose of running back committees.

The contrast in styles makes you wonder whether or not the Bucs knew what they wanted in their next head coach. Did the Glazers just want to make a splash hire following their Morris tenure? Were they focused on a disciplinarian? Did they want to use the same blueprint as the 49ers, who obviously just had a ton of success following the hiring of former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh last year?

Schiano is a great football coach and appears to be less of a gamble than Kelly, whose offense may not have survived in the pros. But it’s odd that in the end, the Bucs’ top two choices had such contrasting styles (at least offensively).

If nothing else, Chip Kelly would have been an intriguing hire for the Bucs

Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly (L) encourages his team during the third quarter of their NCAA football game against the Washington Huskies in Eugene, Oregon, November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

For at least the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been “jilted at the altar.”

Those infamous words came out of the mouth of former owner Hugh Culverhouse, who uttered them after Bill Parcells broke a handshake agreement to become the Bucs’ head coach in 1992. If Culverhouse were still alive to this day, he may have said the same thing about Chip Kelly.

According to a report by KGW NewsChannel 8 in Portland, the Bucs were in the process of finalizing a deal on Sunday night that would have made Kelly their next head coach. The St. Petersburg Times confirmed the report and for roughly 10 hours it appeared as though Kelly would bring his explosive zone-read offense to the pros.

But on Monday morning, Kelly reversed field and decided not to accept the Bucs’ head-coaching job. While he said he was flattered by the Bucs’ interest, Kelly ultimately decided that his heart was in Oregon and thus, a deal that was reportedly “done” on Sunday evening had fallen through. Once again, the Bucs are now back to square one in their search for Raheem Morris’ replacement.

But for a moment, we can at least discuss what it would have been like had Chip Kelly’s offense been brought to the NFL. As offensive coordinator in 2007 and ’08, and as head coach since 2009, Oregon has had one of the most dynamic offenses in college football under Kelly. He’s aggressive, innovative, and he isn’t afraid to try something new. He’s also known as a disciplinarian, which would have been a far cry from the way Raheem Morris ran things in Tampa.

His hiring would have also reeked of Steve Spurrier.

Dan Snyder gave Spurrier $25 million to bring his “Fun ‘n’ gun” offense to the NFL and the experiment lasted only two years as the Redskins went 12-20 over that span. Washington finished in the bottom of the league in every major offensive category under Spurrier, including total yards per game, passing efficiency and yards per attempt.

But Spurrier never acquired enough talent to run his offense either. He thought he could win with Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Patrick Ramsey, but all three usually wound up looking out of their ear holes because Washington’s offensive line couldn’t keep them upright. It’s easy to say that Spurrier’s offense didn’t work but it’s not like he put himself in position to win with the talent he surrounded himself with.

There are many current NFL coordinators that fail to attack defenses on a weekly basis and their conservative ways continue to hold their teams back. At the very least, Kelly would have installed an aggressive scheme and introduced some new elements to the pro game.

Would it have worked? We won’t find out any time soon.

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