10 January 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 3rd Edition

Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is the clear elite receiver of the 2012 NFL Draft and could potentially go as high as number two overall to the St. Louis Rams. We all know who is going number one but how will the rest of the draft shake out for guys like Blackmon? Here's my third look at a mock draft with the clubs that either missed the playoffs or were eliminated from the hunt last weekend.
Draft Order

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is rather obvious. Colts owner Jim Irsay has indicated that if the Colts were in position to draft Luck that they would not hesitate to select him and it's extremely difficult to pass up someone quite like Luck. Even though the decision of Matt Barkley to return to USC makes it a little easier to trade out of the pick with the QB crop a little leaner, don't bet on it, Luck will go number one. Now the question will be what happens with the team and Peyton Manning.

2. St. Louis Rams - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Another pretty easy pick. You could make a case for Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne with this pick but Kalil is the superior prospect plus fills a more important need. There is nothing more important than to keep a young quarterback healthy and the Rams' offensive line has been letting Sam Bradford down, leading to some injury woes and inconsistency. Rodger Safford has taken a step back on the left side and Jason Smith on the right side blows. Kalil has all the tools to be a stud left tackle for years. You could see a major play for a team to trade up for Robert Griffin here as well (Washington?)

3. Minnesota Vikings - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Vikings have gotten scorched all season throughout the air and something clearly has to change with Minnesota facing quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler six times a season. They need an upgrade at the cornerback position and thus Claiborne makes a lot of sense. Claiborne may not be Patrick Peterson but he does have all the tools, size, ball skills, speed, athleticism, playmaking ability as well as tremendous return ability. Justin Blackmon is also in major consideration here as well.

4. Cleveland Browns - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Remember how last week I said I could be changing my mind about whether Cleveland would select the Heisman winner? Well here we go. I don't think now that personnel czar Mike Holmgren thinks that Colt McCoy is a franchise quarterback and I don't think he will pass up the opportunity to bring in a franchise quarterback. Griffin has all the tools, quality arm strength, tremendous accuracy, intelligence, leadership, incredible athleticism, that will have teams drooling to be able to select him.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Wideout is not the biggest need for Tampa Bay, that would probably be cornerback but Claiborne is off the board, but for this team to regain the position it lost last season, Josh Freeman has to play like he did in 2010 and te best way to help him do that is to bring him a stud weapon at receiver and that would be Blackmon, who is also the top player on the board. Blackmon has good size, tremendous hands and the speed and athlecism to be a dangerous deep threat in the passing game. He was awesome in the Fiesta Bowl despite a leg infection. Blackmon is this year's A.J. Green.

6. Washington Redskins - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
As I alluded to earlier, Washington is the top team to look at in trying to trade up ahead of Cleveland to take Robert Griffin given their dire need for a franchise quarterback, if Cleveland doesn't try to trade up themselves. I don't see them reaching for Ryan Tannehill here so I think they would take the top player on the board who will fill a need at wideout considering how old Santana Moss is and the lack of a legit weapon opposite him. Therefore Jeffrey, who has not had a great season but has had some quarterback troubles to deal with, is a good option. Jeffrey is no speed demon but he is a big and physical wideout who has the athleticism to go up and get it, if he shows plus speed in the workouts, his stock will be worth this selection.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
When was the last time the Jaguars were able to consistently apply pressure on the quarterback? It's been a while and Jacksonville have spent a lot of money and many draft picks but the problems have remained. The Jags have a talented defensive tackle in Tyson Alualu and pairing him with a strong pass rushing threat would make him much better and vice versa. Coples is your prototypical 4-3 end thanks to his size and athleticism and can also rush the passer very well from the tackle spot and he's been excellent in Chapel Hill over the past two seasons.

8. Carolina Panthers - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, South Carolina
The Panthers have been gashed through the air and on the ground so they should aim to take the top defender on the board, which in this case would be Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick would provide an immediate upgrade for what has been exposed as a leaky secondary. He has tremendous size for a corner and stands at 6'2'' and he's also shown good ball skills and solid athleticism, even without great top-end speed. And if you were one of the unfortunate viewers of the National Championship Game, you saw Kirkpatrick making plays all over the field but particularly in run support. Would be a good fit on Ron Rivera's defense.

9. Miami Dolphins - Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa
Matt Moore played pretty well down the stretch and helped take the Dolphins out of the mix to take one of the elite quarterbacks in the draft and any other quarterback here would be a reach right now. So they need to address their porous offensive line now and can do so by drafting Rieff. Rieff is a very good pass blocker who has the frame to add more weight and strength to his body. It is easier to improve as a run blocker than as a pass blocker and he already is a solid enough run blocker. His versatility is also a plus.

10. Buffalo Bills - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Bills seriously need to improve their pass rush. They right now are last in the NFL with 19 sacks on the year, that's pretty pitiful. Upshaw is an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker having played that position in coach under Nick Saban. He may not have tremendous speed but he is athletic enough to chase the quarterback and has proven to make big plays in big games. At 'Bama, Upshaw defended the run and the pass equally well.

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Jamaal Charles is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL but he has never shown that he can handle a full load given his slight frame and will next season be coming off an ACL tear. The Chiefs could use a talented back to share the load with Charles and would make for a very strong pair at running back. Richardson is the clear top player on the board and has all the tools you want out of your running back.

12. Seattle Seahawks - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Is this a reach? Yes it is but you will always see quarterbacks get overdrafted (see Locker, Ponder from last year) and since the quarterback is the most valuable position on the team, if a team sees their potential franchise quarterback on the table, they will not hesitate. Granted I do believe that Tannehill is more of an early second round prospect, the decision of Matt Barkley and Landry Jones to return to school has allowed him to be selected here a real possibility. Tannehill has ideal size for a quarterback, a strong arm and really good athleticism but he has been inconsistent at times in College Station so would probably be better off holding a clipboard for a season.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals offensive line has been just pitiful yet again and it's not helping whoever is their quarterback, whether it be Kevin Kolb, who's getting the big bucks, and John Skelton. Levi Brown just does not cut it. Martin needs to work on his pass protection which makes him an iffy left tackle right now but his tremendous run blocking skills make him an ideal tackle on the right side initially. If he works on his pass blocking he can be a stud on the left side but the right side may be a better fit, at least initially.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Once again, cornerback is a major need for the Cowboys. Their secondary has been shredded multiple times of late after starting the season well. Terrence Newman has taken a couple of steps backward and Orlando Scandrick should be a nickelback. Dennard has shut down one part of the field for the Huskers this season and has displayed really good cover skills, especially after playing opposite Prince Amukamara last season.

15. Philadelphia Eagles -  Micheal Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I'm just gonna say that I'm pretty certain that DeSean Jackson will not be an Eagle next season. Andy Reid does not like players calling him out and the organization must be tired of his childish antics and his severe lack of maturity. Besides Jeremy Maclin is better than him anyways. But they will need a replacement at wideout with Jackson all but gone. Floyd has some off the field issues and does not have Jackson's top level speed (who does) but he is an awesome athlete who can catch any pass and is a boss in the red zone.

16. New York Jets - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Jets are going to need some reinforcements at wideout. Santonio Holmes is probably on the outs following his behavioral problems with some in the organization labeling him a "cancer" and Plaxico Burress, who had a solid season in his comeback from prison, is likely out too. The top receiver on the roster would be the surprising Jeremy Kerley and Mark Sanchez is going to need a top receiving option to miss throw to. Therefore Wright is a good option even though this pick is a little bit of a reach. Wright has been awesome throughout his career at Baylor as Robert Griffin's top option and has great speed that can help stretch any offense. Plus he has been very durable in college as well.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
A talent bereft with character concerns? Sounds like a Cincinnati Bengal much? Mike Brown has always loved to select troubled talents and Jenkins would fit the mold. Cincinnati also has a need at cornerback with Nate Clements, who's been mediocre this year, getting older and entering a contract year so it fills a need. Jenkins has some major character concerns and is not the biggest guy in the world but has tremendous cover skills thanks to his excellent speed and athleticism. If Marvin Lewis keeps him off the police blotter, a big if, he can be an elite corner.

18. San Diego Chargers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
After the failure of Larry English, who has still failed to make much of an impact, the Chargers need to find another pass rushing threat to take some pressure off of Shaun Phillips, who struggled in 2011, and the surprising Antwan Barnes. The Chargers would be wise to select the talented Perry, whose a very explosive athlete with some surprising power in his skill-set.

19. Chicago Bears - Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
It's been several years since the Bears had a legitimate thumper at one of the safety positions (anybody remember Mike Brown?). They did manage to find a quality free safety in rookie Chris (Don't call me Victor) Conte but need a hard-hitter to complement him. And Barron can be that guy. He also is a solid cover guy but his best attribute is his instincts which allow him to find the ballcarrier and leave a mark.

20. Tennessee Titans - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Chris Johnson really struggled to find his groove this season (and still ran for 1,000 yards) and it's his offensive line that could use an upgrade. DeCastro is a guy that can develop into one of the elite guards in football. He's got great size, can move very well, he's tough and physical and loves to pancake defenders. In fact, don't we all? And Titans coach Mike Munchak is one of the top guards of all time and would love to add a potential elite talent at the position.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
The Bengals do have a pretty solid offensive line but they could use some upgrades in the interior and particularly at guard, where left guard Nate Livings is a free agent. Glenn played guard at Georgia then moved to left tackle his senior year. He has the blend of size, strength and athleticism that you want out of your guards if he can play tackle as well, the more the merrier.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
The Browns had a solid defense last season, tenth overall in the league, but the pass rush was not great as they were 23rd in sacks and 24th overall in pass defense. And as we all know, a team can never have enough pass rushers. Lewis played mostly defensive end for the Sooners and very well in fact but has also played a little at outside linebacker so the Browns would be able to utilize his versatility in a variety of ways to attack the passer. Lewis could pair with the surprising Jabaal Sheard to have a solid pass rushing duo.

23. Detroit Lions - Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
For years the Lions have failed to address their mediocre secondary as they have continuously tried to piece together average cornerbacks but continuously gotten burned. This is when they finally bring in a quality talent at corner via the draft. Minnifield has nice size for a corner and it has been clear that this season that teams are not targeting him and throwing at his partner opposite the field. He fights hard for the football and has quality instincts and can contribute in the return game as well.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Sunday's loss to the Broncos made clear what the main problem with the Steelers is, a crappy offensive line that cannot keep defenders off of Ben Roethlisberger and keep him healthy. Adams is a prototypical right tackle who has excellent size and is a powerful run blocker. He has had problems with speed pass rusher before and would not make for a great elft tackle and seems like a much better fit on the right side if not at guard as well.

I will continually update this mock when further teams are eliminated from the playoffs.

1st Mock Draft
2nd Mock Draft

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