02 February 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 6th Edition

Many top draft prospects congregated down in Mobile for the annual Senior Bowl last week. It was one of the first opportunities for prospects to really shine, or really stink, in front of scouts. Let's see how, or if, it affected my 2012 NFL mock draft, this being the 6th edition.

5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st
* 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.
RELATED: Colts Hire Chuck Pagano as Head Coach

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?)

RELATED: Rams Hire Jeff Fisher as Head Coach

3. Minnesota Vikings - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I have been mocking Morris Claiborne here for a while but now I am switching it up to mock Blackmon here because while there is no question that the Vikings need a cornerback, they also need a big-time wideout badly to maximize Christian Ponder's potential. Percy Harvin is a good weapon and a solid receiver but he is not a number one weapon and you always have to have concerns about his migraines. 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.

4. Cleveland Browns - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Remember how 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 - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This is the ideal selection for Tampa Bay as it fills their greatest need with the top player on the board. The Buccaneers do have a solid cornerback tandem in Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber. But I would be surprised if Talib was on the team next season considering his numerous character concerns, he almost got cut before this season before Raheem Morris said no. And Barber is 36 and seems very likely to retire. 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.
RELATED: Buccaneers Hire Greg Schiano

6. Washington Redskins - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
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 right tackle opposite Trent Williams because Jamaal Brown has struggled to stay healthy. I have had Riley Rieff going here but now I think that they would go with Martin because he is more of a classic right tackle. 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.

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.
RELATED: Jaguars Hire Mike Mularkey as Head Coach

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* - 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.
RELATED: Chiefs to Retain Romeo Crennel

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 late first 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 which could happen in Seattle considering Tarvaris Jackson was not terrible in 2011.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
We all know how good Larry Fitzgerald is, especially when you see him with a quality quarterback, but since Anquan Boldin left, or if you are generous when Steve Breaston left a year later, the Cardinals have had nothing of note opposite him. Sure Andre Roberts played well down the stretch but he could be upgraded and selecting a weapon like Floyd would make sense for whoever is playing quarterback. Floyd has some off the field issues, three alcohol arrests at Notre Dame, but he is an awesome athlete who can catch any pass and is really good in the red zone.

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 - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Andy Reid has not been a fan of drafting linebackers early but it has shown as the linebacking unit has been the sore spot on the Eagles' defense over the last few years, particularly last year. They have holes at all three linebacking spots so they would be crazy not to take Kuechly right here. 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.

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. 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 - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
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. 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.

19. Chicago Bears - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Bears could really use some reinforcements to their receiving unit. Their leading receiving this season was running back Matt Forte while their wideouts are mostly all secondary weapons at best. Johnny Knox is a good deep threat but not much else, Jay Cutler loves Earl Bennett who is a fine possession guy but not much else, Devin Hester is not the playmaker at receiver that he is as a returner and Roy Williams was not very useful. If Jeffery is available, they should take him. 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 increase. Plus he showed himself to be a good teammate this season by not complaining openly about the quarterback issues in Columbia.

20. Tennessee Titans - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
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 Ingram. Ingram would be on the bigger side of outside linebackers but he has great speed and agility which should allow him to rush the passer off the edge very well. He 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.

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 - Alonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Cornerback is not the biggest need for the Browns but opposite of Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown is not getting any younger and is starting to show his age and the team does not have any real replacement options, although they are high on Buster Skrine. Therefore selecting Dennard makes sense and it is a good value pick. 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.

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) - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
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, especially considering both are free agents this offseason. The Patriots would be wise then 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.

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.

29. Baltimore Ravens - Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
Ray Lewis may be returning to the Charm City for one more run at another Super Bowl ring but obviously he is not going to be playing for the Ravens much longer and the team is really going to have to start trying to find a potential replacement. Enter Brown. Brown is probably a better fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker but I have no reason to see why he won't be able to play the MIKE position. He is a heck of an athlete who can play the run and pass very well and he has shown tremendous pass rushing ability.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The 49ers have a good offensive line and it shows all season as they were able to open holes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter as well as keep pass rushers off of Alex Smith. And while center Jonathan Goodwin is one of the better at his position, he is 33 and not getting any younger. Konz is the kind of guy every team wants for their line. He's a well-rounded interior lineman who is very physical, can pass and run block very and is athletic.

31. New England Patriots - Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Patriots should use one of their first round selections to help fortify their defensive line and bringing in someone who is versatile to be able to play a 3-4 end position as well as defensive tackle in their base 4-3 defense. Worthy then makes a lot of sense. Worthy is a very good pass rusher from the interior and he can also stuff the run as well. But his disappointing 2011 season will raise some eyebrows, he entered the season considering to be one of the elite tackle in the country but he really never dominated.

32. New York Giants - Cordy Glenn, G/OT
The Giants have long had a very solid offensive line and it has been a key component of their recent run of success. But as some of its key players have started to age, it would be a smart move to bring in some depth that could be groomed to start down the line. 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 and if he can play tackle as well, the more the merrier.

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