29 February 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition

And just like that, the NFL Scouting Combine has came to a conclusion (with none other than Rich Eisen closing out the show in Indianapolis). This was the one stage where almost every elite prospect and those almost there would be on one stage before we all head to New York in April for the draft. Some guys boosted their stock (Dontari Poe for example) while some destroyed theirs (Vontaze Burfict for example). Here is my post-combine mock draft, featuring many changes from my pre-combine edition.

For even better mocks, check out the exponentially growing mock draft database at WalterFootball.com. 350 mocks and counting.

NFL Draft Order

Projected Trade
St. Louis trades 2nd overall pick to Cleveland for the 4th and 22nd overall picks

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. Luck is going to go number one, no questions asked. Luck did not throw at the combine but didn't have to, but he did flash his athleticism running pretty much the same 40-yard dash as Cam Newton a year ago. Now the question will be what happens with the team and Peyton Manning.

2. Cleveland Browns (from St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I know I have said I'm not a fan of projecting trades on the draft but this is one that I really think is going to happen unless I see evidence otherwise. It's an about an even trade when using the value chart and will benefit both teams.  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 (which he flashed at the Combine), that will have teams drooling to be able to select him.

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings' offensive line was absolutely pitiful last season, most notably with left tackle Charlie Johnson, who sucks. The Vikings need to protect Christian Ponder if they want him to develop and they would be jumping for joy if Kalil is available here. Kalil is an absolute stud, he has all the tools that you want out of your franchise left tackle. There's a reason on why people are saying it is not a stretch that he is the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas, like Scott Wright suggested.

4. St. Louis Rams (from Cleveland) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Like I alluded to earlier, a trade down to here makes plenty of sense for St. Louis. Not only do they pick up another first round pick, we'll get to their pick later of course, but they still get to fill a major need by selecting Blackmon. Sam Bradford has not really had anyone to throw to before they acquired Brandon Lloyd via trade last season but he is a free agent and he could very well sign with the Patriots to be with his boy Josh McDaniels. 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 came in shorter than expected at the Combine but he plays bigger than his height indicates.

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. 

6. Washington Redskins - Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa
I've considered the Browns the favorite to trade up to the second pick and take Robert Griffin and I still do but it sounds like the Redskins are going to get really aggressive, as reports of the club willing to deal multiple first rounders and more in order to get RGIII. But for now, I'm leaving them here because I still think they are the favorite for Peyton Manning. In the meantime, I like them taking Rieff, who will fill a need at right tackle opposite Trent Williams because Jamaal Brown has struggled to stay healthy of late. 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. There are questions about the length of his arms, however.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Blaine Gabbert was an unmitigated disaster in his rookie season in 2011 with Football Outsiders saying he had the fifth worst season by a quarterback ever. But the Jaguars need to give him another chance because quite frankly, who the hell was he throwing to? Jacksonville desperately needs to find him some threats at wideout and thus Floyd makes a ton of sense. Floyd had a strong combine, running faster than expected, and while he has some off the field issues (which GM Gene Smith always takes note of), 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.

8. Miami Dolphins - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Dolphins are moving to a 4-3 and regardless of what defense they ran, they needed to find another pass rushing threat opposite Cameron Wake. Coples makes sense because he is the ideal 4-3 defensive endthanks 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. He had a very good Combine, looking tremendous in the on-field drills. Coples and Wake will make for a badass pass rush combo, which could make this defense elite.

9. Carolina Panthers - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
I've had the Panthers taking Devon Still here for a while but I feel that Brockers has passed Still as the best defensive tackle in the draft. Still had an ok combine while Brockers had a solid one, his size was bigger than expected but his long arms are a definite plus. Brockers can play both defensive tackle and defensive end and he has great size, as he showed at the Combine which I already mentioned, and solid mobility along the defensive front.

10. Buffalo Bills - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
There is no question that the Bills need to upgrade their pass rush. They finished tied for 27th with a very mediocre 29 sacks. I have been mocking Courtney Upshaw here for a while now but with the news that the team is moving to a 4-3 with Dave Wannstedt becoming the new coordinator, he is not a very good fit in that defense. Ingram is a better fit. 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 Gamecocks' season with a combined 3.5 sacks against Clemson and in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. And he absolutely killed it at the Combine.

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 - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe was the clear winner of the Combine in Indianapolis this weekend. A guy who weighs about 350 pounts should not be running around a 4.8 and 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, fasther than what Ndamukong Suh ran a couple of years ago. He also was brilliant in the drills and showed great strength. And he is not just a workout warrior because he was strong in Memphis, he was a first round pick (albeit lower first round) before the Combine. There's a reason why folks are comparing him to Haloti Ngata and say he is a freak on the level of Jason Pierre-Paul (obviously different positions). And the Seahawks need line help as well.

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 - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
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. And I think Jenkins has passed Kirkpatrick as the second best cornerback prospect as his coverage skills are better. The questions with Jenkins are his character problems as before he went to UNA, he had multiple arrests when at Florida but it does he appear he got his act together when he went to North Alabama. The Cowboys better hope so.

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. Plus, he had a great combine and he ran much faster than predicted. I'd be surprised if he fell past Philadelphia.

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 throw to. Now I know folks are really down on Wright because he ran a really poor 4.6 40 and he was thought to be a demon in that. But Joe Haden ran a poor 40 a couple years back and it didn't hurt his stock because teams saw he played fast on tape. When you look at the tape, Wright plays fast and is a stud. This is why folks like myself say the 40 is overrated.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bengals taking a guy with character concerns? Great match, eh? Kirkpatrick was recently arrested for marijuana possession and while the charge got dropped, it still raised eyebrows about the people Kirkpatrick hangs with. But he would fill a need in Cincinnati with Nate Clements, who was mediocre this year, getting older and entering a contract year so it fills a need. Kirkpatrick is a stud in run support and hits really hard. He has the ability to be a solid cover corner as well.

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. And yes I have San Diego taking Perry ahead of Courtney Upshaw and that's due to each players' Combine. Upshaw looked really stiff and came in heavier than expected, leading to questions about how he will fit in a 3-4 while Perry looked tremendous at the Combine. Sounds like a fit.

19. Chicago Bears - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Bears would absolutely love if DeCastro was still on the board, he's an absolute stud. The Bears need help throughout their offensive line and a real upgrade could be used in the interior, which got hurt by the decision to part ways with Olin Kreutz. 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?

20. Tennessee Titans - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Titans' defensive line has a bunch of players, particularly at defensive end, and their pass rush really was not that good by any stretch last year and in a division with Matt Schaub and eventually Andrew Luck, their pass rush has to improve. Upshaw's stock was hurt by his mediocre Combine as he looked very stiff in the linebacking drills and came in a little big so people may feel he will be better fit in a 4-3. But Upshaw has great tape to fall back on and he really was tremendous at 'Bama, particularly in the BCS Championship Game.

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. And Glenn's stock will only rise after a very strong performance in Indy.

22. St. Louis Rams (from Cleveland) - Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still's stock has dropped a little in part because he was only decent in Indianapolis but he got passed by a good performance from Michael Brockers and a ridiculous performance from Dontari Poe. But Still is still a very good tackle prospect as 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. The Rams, who acquired this pick in my projected trade, need help at defensive tackle and he would be one of the top players on the board.

23. Detroit Lions - Alonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
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. 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.

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 - Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
Champ Bailey is still elite but let's be honest, he is not getting any younger. And opposite of Bailey is an aging Andre Goodman, who's best years have passed him by. 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.

26. Houston Texans - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Texans have a solid offensive line but the interior of that line comes with some questions as both center Chris Myers and right guard Mike Brisiel are both free agents. Therefore is Konz is available here, it really depends on where DeCastro goes, this makes a lot of sense. 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.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
This is an absolute steal for the Patriots here. New England was 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. Mercilus only falls to New England out of circumstance as he had a very good Combine, showing good measurables and performing well in the drills. 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.

28. Green Bay Packers - Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson
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. So they could use a guy like Branch, who was tremendous at the Combine, showing great speed as well as ideal arm length, which plays a key factor for any pass rusher off the edge.

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, as proven by his 4.4 40-yard dash who can play the run and pass very well and he has shown tremendous pass rushing ability.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The 49ers' offensive line performed tremendously all 2011 but the clear weakness in the line is on the right side, notably right tackle Anthony Davis who really has not shown that much during his time in the NFL. Taking a guy like Adams, who may be the best guy on the board, would allow San Francisco to shift Davis inside where he may be a better fit. Adams really disappointed at the Combine and there are some questions about his work ethic but this guy is a strong fit for the right side with his talent in run blocking.

31. New England Patriots - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi 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. Cox then makes a lot of sense. He had a field day at the Combine, showing plus athleticism and perfoming well in the on-field drills as well. Cox would be a good value pick here for Bill Belichick and co.

32. New York Giants - David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
The Giants were at the statistical floor of the league in rushing this season, mostly because Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were rarely healthy at the same time and the team has nothing much more at back. The rushing game picked up in their playoff run but Jacobs is not likely back due to his hefty salary. So the Giants would be wise to bring in a back, one that is talented like Wilson, who passed Lamar Miller as the second best running back in the draft after an excellent Combine where he showed excellent speed and athleticism, good work in the drills and interviewed very well, something very important for Tom Coughlin.

For even better mocks, check out the exponentially growing mock draft database at WalterFootball.com. 350 mocks and counting.

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