Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 1st Edition

Did your team not make the playoffs?  Don't worry, there's always hope that they will have an awesome draft and be relevant next year, just ask the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers.  Even though Southern Cal. and Oklahoma quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Landry Jones are staying for another season, there are plenty of other prizes in this year's draft.  I encourage comments, concerns, questions, etc. on my mock drafts so if you have anything to say please say it!  Let me preface this draft by saying that I believe that Robert Griffin will go at the #2 spot via a trade with Cleveland, Washington, and Miami most likely to move up and draft the Heisman award-winner.

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1

  1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB Stanford.  The $28 million bonus owed to future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning may force the team to be different in this slot, but the player remains the same.  Luck can beat the opposition with both his arm and his legs, but most importantly, he can beat them with his brain.  Stanford calls three plays in the huddle and then, based on the defense, Luck chooses the final play.  There used to be an NFL team that did the same thing: oh yeah, it was the Colts with Peyton Manning.
  2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT Southern Cal.  Do I expect St. Louis to stay at this pick with Robert Griffin III on the board with teams like Miami and Washington fighting for the opportunity to draft this year's Heisman trophy winner?  No.  Throw in the regression of Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Matt Barkley's decision to stay at Southern Cal. for one more year and St. Louis suddenly finds itself in a position of leverage.  However, if the Rams stay at the #2 spot in the draft, they need to protect their $78 million quarterback in Sam Bradford whose three-step drop goes, "one, two, three, DUCK" because he is constantly getting hit/knocked down/sacked/injured.  Kalil has ideal size and athleticism to start right away in the NFL.  The most NFL-ready tackle since Jake Long in 2008
  3.  Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB Louisiana State.  Despite his counterpart Tyronn Mathieu getting all the attention with his Heisman nomination, Claiborne is the more complete NFL cornerback.  Minnesota ranked 21st in total defense and head coach Leslie Frazier, as a former defensive coordinator, will not tolerate that going forward.  If North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples has a good combine, he could be another option here as Jared Allen's counterpart on the defensive line.
  4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB Alabama.  The Madden Curse continued this year with Peyton Hillis spitting the bit all year, this year.  Montario Hardestry couldn't stay healthy as a backup and Chris Ogbonnaya was awful.  With Hillis likely departing via free agency, Richardson makes a ton of sense to help support quarterback Colt McCoy and the Browns offense improve to an NFL level.
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dre' Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama.  I've been higher on Kirkpatrick than others because he passes my 'eye test.'  He always seems to make plays for Alabama's vaunted defense against both the pass and the run.  Kirkpatrick also will fill a void in Tampa's aging/troubled defense.  Aqib Talib's future is up in the air and Ronde Barber can't play forever, can he?  This won't be the flashiest pick, but it will be one of the more instantly beneficial.  
  6. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor.  Griffin will never make it to this pick, but if he does, the Redskins' time spent on the clock would total the amount of time it took commissioner Roger Goddell to walk to the podium and pronounce Robert Griffin III.  On a fantasy football sidenote, head coach Mike Shanahan will further frustrate fantasy owners with his newest running threat.
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma St.  Blackmon brings the talent of Dez Bryant, a fellow Oklahoma St. prodigy receiver, but also brings and NFL-grade brain and work ethic.  Blackmon's 8 rec. 186 yard, 3 TD performance in the Fiesta Bowl (against Andrew Luck by the way) was herculean and inspired Oklahoma St. to come back and win the Fiesta Bowl in overtime.  Jacksonville's anonymous wide receiver corps desperately needs an upgrade for Blaine Gabbert to be even remotely successful.
  8. Miami Dolphins: Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina.  One of the highest ceilings for defensive players in this draft.  He's not the most athletic player in this draft, but his size and speed combination on the defensive line make him a potential force opposite Cameron Wake on a pass rush and against the run.
  9. Carolina Panthers: Devon Still, DT Penn State.  I apologize to Carolina for all of my doubts in Cam Newton.  With that being said, don't go crazy and draft a wide receiver here, there is no one of value (I'm referring to Michael Floyd from Notre Dame).  Improve that 28th ranked defense.  There's talent in the linebacking core with Jon Beason and James Anderson, but zero anywhere else on that defense.  Still was the MVP of Penn State's turmoil-filled season and showed that he could be versatile at the next level.
  10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT Iowa.  Reiff has not played his best football yet, and that's the scary part.  He shows good movement for someone of his size, and needs to develop to become an elite left tackle, but could easily start for Buffalo on day one protecting their newest quarterback investment Ryan Fitzpatrick.
  11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin, OT Stanford.  I've had Martin ranked in my top five for a while, but he lacks the athleticism necessary for the NFL's elite pass rushers.  If that develops, then I can see him being back up in the top 5-10 range, but he is a good value for the Chiefs at the 11 spot.
  12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE South Carolina.  Seattle finished with a better record this year than the year previous, but did not make the playoffs (7-9 vs. 8-8).  Seattle is mediocre at everything so the best player available would be a good draft pick, and Perry represents that player here.
  13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, OG Stanford.  Arizona paid a hefty price for Kevin Kolb and they need to keep him upright.  DeCastro is a versatile o-lineman who is a mauler in the run game.  He also shows the athleticism to keep up with the best pass rushers.  Also showed the ability to effectively pull and seek out linebackers in space.  Arizona could also look to improve their defensive backfield here, but protecting their investment in Kolb should take priority.  
  14. Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama.  Jenkins was a former University of Florida standout, but was dismissed from the team when Will Muschamp took over.  The cornerback was a man amongst boys playing for division II North Alabama under Terry Bowden, but that was to be expected.  If teams drafted on pure talent alone, Jenkins would be a top-5 pick, but above the shoulders he may be undraftable to certain teams.
  15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuelchy, ILB Boston College.  Kuelchy is not the most athletic linebacker by any means, but the Eagles don't necessarily need that from their inside linebackers. Kuelchy is extremely intelligent and has superior instincts that led to his 191 tackles in 2011.  Could be an excellent quarterback of the Eagles defense.
  16. New York Jets: Mark Barron, S Alabama.  Barron is a Rex Ryan dream come true at safety.  He can make plays moving up into the box in the run game, and dropping back and playing the point against the pass.  The Jets were weak, at best, at safety, and were scary-bad once Jim Leonard went down.
  17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders): Alfonzo Dennard, CB Nebraska.  Cincinnati really felt the loss of Jonathan Joseph in pass defense and Dennard is the best available defensive back.  Dennard is sub-par vs. the run and was easily blocked by most wide receivers, but Cincinnati was solid against the run with its front seven and can afford to have an above average cover-corner on the outside.
  18. San Diego Chargers: Vontaze Burfict, ILB Arizona State.  The Chargers first pick will depend on whether Vincent Jackson is retained.  If not, look for the Chargers to improve at wide receiver.  If Jackson stays, Burfict is a great athlete has has prototypical size and speed for a middle linebacker that the Chargers desperately need.  Burfict needs to develop some better instincts, but the Chargers have one of the best instinctual linebackers in Takeo Spikes who helped develop Patrick Willis in San Francisco and could show Burfict the ropes.
  19. Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina.  Chicago has desperately needed a wide receiver for a while now and picking up scrubs like Roy Williams via free agency has not worked thus far.  Jeffery doesn't have the breakaway speed of a Justin Blackmon, but his size and athleticism should open up more space for the speedsters already on the Bears like Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
  20. Tennessee Titans: Andre Branch, DE Clemson.  Tennessee's defense wasn't bad last season, but it did rank 31st in sacks.  Branch is a great athlete with good size at defensive end (6'5", 265) who can flat out pass rush.  He is, however, a liability against the run, and would need a lot of coaching in that aspect of his game.  Branch is loaded with the dreaded 'p' word: potential.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB Miami (FL).  With 29-year-old incumbent Cedric Benson approaching free agency, the Bengals need to find a potential replacement to go along with Bernard Scott at running back.  Miller declared as a redshirt sophomore due to the fact that the NFL draft advisory board thought he was a first round pick.  Although I am more skeptical than others, this could be a good fit for the Miami running back.
  22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta): Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame.  Cleveland desperately needs to be able to create a threat of a vertical passing game in a division that contains the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals defenses.  Some consider Floyd to be the best all-around receiver in this draft given his route-running and speed combination.  The Browns have done well adding the best RB in the class and arguably the best WR in the first round. 
  23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OG/T Georgia.  Detroit will draft who they think is the best available player in the first round, regardless of need.  The Lions have ignored their perimeter defensive players despite a glaring need the past three season, and it won't change in the first round this season.  Glenn is one of the most versatile lineman in the draft, playing at nearly all five line positions with success at Georgia.  I guess it's never a bad idea to protect Matthew Stafford, who showed that when he plays a full season, he plays at an all-pro level.  Glenn will help Stafford play more complete season going forward.
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kelechi Osemele, OG/T Iowa State.  The Steelers really wanted Glenn to fall one more spot, but will have to settle on Osemele.  He played tackle for the Cyclones, but will most likely end up being an interior lineman at the NFL level due to his lack of athleticism to keep up with elite speed on the edge.  He, however, displays a nice nastiness constantly driving defense ends to the ground, and putting linebackers on their backsides, which is something Pittsburgh loves to do.
  25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT Michigan State.  Worthy is a beast to move, and would fit well in Denver's system under John Fox.  Can be deployed as a NT in a 3-4 and demand a double team.  At 6'3" and 310 pounds, Worthy showed some ability to get to the quarterback for the Spartans, but did not show enough consistency to count it as a potential upside to his game.  Denver, however, already has two elite pass rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville and Worthy would allow them more one-on-one matchups on their way to opposing quarterbacks.
  26.  New York Giants: Zach Brown, OLB North Carolina.  Brown is a track star at the linebacker position and will give the Giants another dimension on defense.  His ability to fly to the ball on running plays and his ability to back up and cover like a safety will be just what the doctor ordered to back up the elite pass-rushing defensive ends the Giants already possess, could be the steal of the first round.
  27. Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, DT Memphis.  Poe hasn't even played his best football yet, and that's the scary part.  His talents are very raw, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a track record of developing defensive players quickly and effectively (see J.J. Watt).  Poe has the highest ceiling of all the DT/NT's in the draft this  year, and the Texans may be able to get the most out him.
  28. New England Patriots (via New Orleans): Courtney Upshaw, OLB Alabama.  Who better to take over a Nick Saban defensive player, than his mentor in Bill Belichek.  New England needs everything on defense, but a good pass rush can make up for some lapses in the secondary.  Upshaw is the best available pass rusher, and in future mock drafts will most likely be gone before this point.  But, for now, Upshaw lands in New England to play alongside Jerod Mayo.
  29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, ILB Alabama.  Obviously, middle linebacker is not an immediate need for the Ravens with Ray Lewis being the lifeblood of the defense, but he will not be around forever.  Hightower has elite size and speed for the position and showed that he can be an effective run stopper as well as a guy who could drop back in pass coverage.  Hightower could not be happier with where he is heading.
  30. San Francisco 49ers: Kendall Wright, WR Baylor.  Wright was the main beneficiary of RGIII's magic at Baylor, hauling in big play after big play.  He has track star abilities as far as speed, but struggles with tracking and adjusting to the ball when going deep.  San Francisco has showed that they can punch people in the mouth with its offense.  Wright will add another speed dimension outside that could open up more running lanes for Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore in the run game and vice versa.
  31. New England Patriots: Fletcher Cox, DT Mississippi State.  Cox has something that Bill Belichek loves in his defensive players: versatility.  In four-man fronts, Cox can be a disruptive force as a DT, but can also slide to DE in a three-man front, and utilize his violent and active hands in stopping the run and eating up blockers.  Bottom line is that he is the best available on defense, and New England needs to start utilizing its picks on defensive players so that Tom Brady only needs to score 25 points/game instead of 30 to win.
  32. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Thompson, DT Clemson.  Thompson may be better suited as a 4-3 DT, but Green Bay may take a risk on the one of the ACC's most disruptive interior forces.  Thompson never got many sacks (5 in his career) but that will not be necessary in Green Bay who have plenty of sack artists.  Thompson can, however, require a double team and open up space for the likes of Clay Matthews.

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