18 January 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 4th Edition

Heisman Trophy recipient Robert Grffin III and his socks will be a hot commodity in the 2012 NFL Draft. With teams needing a quarterback so badly and the superb talents that Griffin brings to the table, he will be in high demand. That could potentially mean somebody (like Cleveland or Washington) trading up for him. Continue reading to see where I think all of the elite talents of this NFL draft will end up.
Draft order
* Order to be determined by coin flip.

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* - Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Panthers had major issues at defensive tackle before last season, thought they had answered their questions in the draft by selecting a pair of tackles in the third round and while Sione Fua was not terrible, the problem was not sufficiently taken care of and thus the defense got abused by the run. And thus selecting Still, whose stock has risen of late, makes a lot of sense. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year has ideal size to stuff the run and also showed in college to be a solid pass rusher. He can also play a little defensive end as well.

9. Miami Dolphins* - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Note not the same Jonathan Martin of Politico. 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 Martin. 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.

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* - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Seahawks have a solid defense right now but they need help at defensive end. Raheem Brock did not rush the passer well at all in 2011 and while Chris Clemons did, he is 31 and will be a free agent after the season. Bringing in a talent pass rusher to complement, and eventually replace, Clemons would allow this defense to take another positive step and Ingram could very well be that guy. Ingram really took off at the end of the Gamecock's season with a combined 3.5 sacks against Clemson and in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
So the Cardinals had a nice hole at one of their inside linebacker positions opposite Daryl Washington, so they signed Stewart Bradley to a five yard, $25 million contract with ten million guaranteed. Too bad Bradley did nothing all season and only started once. He could very well be gone. Kuechly would be able to start from day one. He is not the greatest athlete in the world, but he is very instinctive and intelligent. He works his ass off on every play and knows how to find the football. He has been the most consistent linebacker in all of college football and would make for a very solid pro.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Surprised to see Kirkpatrick go here? Well this is what happens when you fail a drug test. While I don't think the failed marijuana test will nuke his stock, I think it will cause some teams to pass on him, leaving him to be taken by the Dallas Cowboys. And 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. So Kirkpatrick would be a great fit in Dallas.

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 - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Jets' needs at safety have magnified of late. Jim Leonhard was having a solid season but then he tore his patella tendon against Kansas City. And he's also a free agent. Meanwhile opposite him, Brodney Pool did not contribute much and Eric Smith's serious woes in pass coverage were picked on. Barron is a big hitter as well as a solid cover guy. His best attribute is his instincts which allow him to find the ballcarrier and leave a mark.

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. Perry has got ideal measurables as well as a lot of upside. He's a very explosive athlete with some surprising power in his skill-set.

19. Chicago Bears - Alonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
The Bears really struggled against the pass in 2011, ranking 28th in the league. They got picked apart by Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford through the air, showing help is needed. And one of their starters, Tim Jennings, is a free agent. Enter Dennard. 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.

20. Tennessee Titans - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Titans really struggled to rush the passer in 2011 and it may have been the reason they fell just a game short of the playoffs. They had the second fewest sacks in the league and thus would welcome a talent like Mercilus. Mercilus was a monster this season for the Fighting Illini, leading the nation in sacks with sixteen and forced fumbles with nine. This is a guy with excellent size, speed and strength with solid technique and some are comparing him to Jason Pierre-Paul.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Bengals do have a pretty solid offensive line but they could use some upgrades in the interior and particularly at guard. Their left guard is a free agent and thus the talented DeCastro can fit right into that slot immediatly. 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?

22. Cleveland Browns - Kendall Wright, WR/KR, Baylor
The Browns desperately need a deep threat on offense at wide receiver as Greg Little is more suited to be a number two receiver. And since you are bringing in RGIII, why not bring in his top and favorite receiver? Wright has been awesome throughout his career at Baylor as Griffin's top option and has great speed that can help stretch any offense. Plus he has been very durable in college as well and he's a plus returner that can spell Josh Cribbs.

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 - Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers are going to have to think long and hard about a potential replacement for James Farrior, who is starting to show his age out there on the field, as well as injecting some youth and talent in their linebacking corps. Hightower was a tackling machine and a key force in the awesome Alabama defense and is a great fit for the Steelers because he plays in a downhill style and always hits hard, which the folks in Pittsburgh always appreciate.

25. Denver Broncos - Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU
The Broncos are still looking for more production from their defensive line, even as Brodick Bunkley played very well. The importance of guys who can tie up the offensive line is high because the Broncos get most of their pass rush from defensive end Elvis Dumervil and outside linebacker Von Miller. Brockers can play both defensive tackle and defensive end and he has great size and solid mobility along the defensive front.

26. Houston Texans - Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
For years, the Texans have struggled to develop a target opposite Andre Johnson and while the offense did not totally stagnate when Johnson was out for several weeks this season, the passing game really struggled to move the ball down the field (although you could attribute this to T.J. Yates's incompetence). But the team really needs a second weapon at wideout and thus selecting Sanu makes a lot of sense. Sanu was tremendous this season for the Scarlet Knights and he proved himself to be a talented playmaker who could create space and has good speed.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
The Patriots were pitiful against the pass this season and while Andre Carter and Mark Anderson both put together ten sack seasons, another pass rusher would be welcome. Lewis played mostly defensive end for the Sooners and very well in fact but has also played a little at outside linebacker so the Patriots would be able to utilize his versatility in a variety of ways to attack the passer. And you know Bill Belichick loves versatility.

28. Green Bay Packers -  Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
The Packers have been gashed on the defensive side of the field. Of course one can attest it to consistently playing with a big lead but nevertheless, the defense has not played great as compared to last year's unit. While the Packers have some solid players playing opposite Clay Matthews, they still do not have much of a pass rush threat to move the offense's attention away from Matthews. Curry is a very fast and athletic rusher off the edge who could put up nice sack numbers on Dom Capers' defense.

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

1st Edition
2nd Edition
3rd Edition

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