17 April 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 15th Edition

We are now officially one week until the 2012 NFL Draft is opened and the Indianapolis Colts are put on the clock. As the weeks now turn to days until the show gets on the road seven days from this Thursday, here is my fifteenth mock draft.

For even better mocks, check out the mock draft database at Walter Football with over 400 mocks.

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is a stone cold lock right here. There is zero chance that the Colts do not select Luck. Heck, there may be a negative chance, although I do not know how that would work. All this talk that they are considering Robert Griffin III is garbage and a smokescreen. Yes, Griffin has the tools to be a star quarterback as well. But when you have the opportunity to select a quarterback that many are saying is not just the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning but all the way back to John Elway (a fellow Stanford product), you cannot pass that up.

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
This selection is just as obvious as Indianapolis selecting Luck in the pick before. You don't trade three first round picks and a second round selection to not take a franchise quarterback. So Griffin will be the selection here, no ifs ands or buts. Griffin may be a little small but he has every tool you want out of your quarterback. He is extremely smart, has a great arm with tremendous accuracy, absurdly fast, he is a natural leader and a kid of high character. And Mike Shanahan will love this kid as mobile quarterbacks succeed in his system (but Elway and Jake Plummer are not even close to being as athletic as Griffin, a track star).

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
I'm not buying the nonsense that the Vikings are considering Morris Claiborne over Kalil. Not that Claiborne isn't a great prospect, which he is, but when you have a young quarterback that you have invested in to lead your franchise, you need to protect him. They didn't protect Christian Ponder well at all last season as left tackle Charlie Johnson was a disaster. 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. Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Cleveland is in a tough position here. They need a franchise quarterback as Colt McCoy is not the answer, quite frankly, but they seem to be moving ahead with him and they are not keen on selecting Ryan Tannehill here, although they may try to trade down a few spots for him. Morris Claiborne is an option as he and Joe Haden would immediately form an elite corner duo but the biggest needs are on offense. Justin Blackmon is also an option and would fill a big need but Mike Holmgren is not a fan of drafting receivers high, plus a good receiver should be available with their second pick. So therefore, I see them taking Richardson, who fills a need at back and is the back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
If Richardson is on the board, then I think Tampa would select him considering they did just way overpay Eric Wright. But with Richardson off the board as well as the fact that Ronde Barber is not getting any younger, even as he is returning to Tampa this year, plus Aqib Talib is skating on thin ice, taking an elite cornerback prospect like Claiborne makes a lot of sense, more so than taking Blackmon, as they also overpaid Vincent Jackson. Claiborne may not be Patrick Peterson, he is very close in my eyes, but he does have all the tools in size, ball skills, speed, athleticism, playmaking ability as well as tremendous return ability.

6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Rams would be very happy if they were still able to get Blackmon down here at six. Sam Bradford has not really had anyone to throw to at all, save for some scrubs and Danny Amendola, who has done a decent job as a poor man's Wes Welker. 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.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
I have been mocking Michael Floyd to Jacksonville for a while need for the dire need for wideouts for young quarterback Blaine Gabbert but it appears that the Jaguars really likes Ingram and he fills a big need as they still were one of the worst teams at rushing the passer last season, tied for 25th in sacks, even as Jeremy Mincey had a really good season, breaking out midseason for eight sacks. Taking Ingram could make for a very strong pass rushing tandem. 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.

8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins are desperate now for a quarterback and have been turned down by everyone they tried to woo down to Miami Gardens. Peyton Manning chose DenverMatt Flynn chose Seattle and Alex Smith went back to San Francisco. So the Dolphins' next best option is taking Tannehill, who has a connection to the coaching staff as his collegiate coach was Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Now everybody knows that Tannehill is talented, he has a great arm and athleticism, but he is still raw as a quarterback after coming to A&M as a wideout. He can be a really good QB but needs to be coached well and the familiarity with Sherman's system and style is a major plus. Plus he won't have to play right away since Matt Moore played pretty well down the stretch last season.

9. Carolina Panthers - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I've had the Panthers taking a defensive tackle for a long time now but now I'm starting to ponder they may go somewhere else. Pat Yasinskas does not believe it is a lock that Carolina will go tackle with their first pick and it is not crazy to think why. They did invest two third round picks in the position a year ago and maybe they want both Sione Fua and Terrell McClain to develop more if they are high on both. The Panthers have always loved having talented linebackers throughout the history of their franchise and Kuechly is about as good as it gets. With Thomas Davis seemingly injured all the time, going linebacker makes sense considering Dan Connor left for Dallas. Kuechly looks like a lock. His instincts for the football are special, he's a great tackler and he shook off fears of his athleticism with a great combine.

10. Buffalo Bills - Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa
I've had a defensive end mocked to Buffalo for every one of my mocks, or at least most, but after spending $100 million on Mario Williams, the need for a pass rusher is not there any more. The biggest need now is at offensive tackle, particularly as Demetrius Demetress Bell, who was great last year at left tackle, signed with Philadelphia. 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.

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
I have mocked Dontari Poe to the Chiefs in my last couple of mocks but Rob Rang made a really strong argument in my eyes in favor of Brockers here. Rang likens the Chiefs selecting Brockers here as to when the Patriots took Richard Seymour early in the 2001 draft as both are similarly built, even as Brockers is a little bit heavier. The Chiefs really need a nose tackle and while some think that the 6'6" Brockers is too tall to be on the nose, his long arms and his leverage down on the line could make him dangerous over the center. Plus, it would make for an all LSU defensive line, which would be kinda cool. Or at least I think it would.

12. Seattle Seahawks - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Seahawks have themselves a pretty good defense but they could use some reinforcements in the pass rush. Seattle has nothing opposite Chris Clemons as Raheem Brock provided virtually nothing last season plus Clemons is a free agent in a year. Coples has all the tools to be an awesome end, he has ideal size for a 4-3 end, is very athletic and has solid speed off the edge but there are questions with his effort, which he gave himself a C in that category last year.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
It has been a few years since the Cardinals had a strong threat opposite Larry Fitzgerald and while Fitzgerald has put up incredible production because he's freaking ridiculous but a quality threat opposite him would make him even better. Andre Roberts came on at the end of 2011 but if Floyd is available here, Arizona has to take him. Floyd had a strong combine, running faster than expected, and while he 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. A Fitzgerald-Floyd combo would make whoever starts at quarterback look really good.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The reasoning for this selection is similar to when I mocked Quinton Coples to the Cowboys last week. Dallas really needs to find an upgrade at the 3-4 end spot over either Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears, neither or whom are really getting the job done. Selecting Poe, a natural nose tackle, would allow the Cowboys to move current nose tackle Jay Ratliff to end where his pass rushing skill would show even more but in the meantime, he is a little small for a nose. Poe was the winner of the Combine. A guy who weighs about 350 pounds should not be running around a 4.8 and 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, faster than what Ndamukong Suh ran a couple of years ago. He also was brilliant in the drills and showed great strength. There's a reason why some folks are comparing him to Haloti Ngata, although I think they may be a stretch.

15. Philadelphia Eagles - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Eagles addressed their biggest needs in free agency as they signed Demetress Bell to play left tackle after Jason Peters' torn Achilles injury and they shrewdly acquired DeMeco Ryans to play inside linebacker. So what do the Eagles do here? Even as defensive tackle is not a huge need, it looks like Andy Reid and co. will take a tackle, as Eagles insider Ray Didinger has suggested for a whole now. Cox is starting to move up draft boards, starting after he had a field day at the Combine, showing plus athleticism and performing well in the on-field drills as well. He also had a strong pro day and his selection would allow the Eagles to have a lot of flexibility along their defensive line.

16. New York Jets - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Unless Michael Floyd falls here, which could happen although I'm not betting on it, the Jets are going to go pass rusher here. The Jets have been to almost all the workouts of the top pass rushers in this draft and it is a big need, even as Aaron Maybin showed some flashes last season. There are some concerns about Upshaw and his athleticism after a mediocre Combine but there were some questions about Terrell Suggs's athleticism coming out of college and he was awesome in Rex Ryan's system in Baltimore before he took the Jets job. Upshaw was a great pass rusher in college, was tremendous at the Senior Bowl and did have a solid pro day. Charlie Campbell sees comparisons with Suggs and LaMarr Woodley.

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 - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Chargers really struggled to rush the passer last season, finishing tied for 23rd in sacks despite a breakout season by Antwan Barnes, who had 11 sacks last season but is not an every-down player, as Shaun Phillips didn't do much and Larry English is a disaster. San Diego made a great signing in Jarret Johnson, who is a great all-around linebacker but is not a great pass rusher. And you could never have too many pass rushers so taking Mercilus makes a lot of sense. 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 - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
If DeCastro falls to the nineteenth overall pick, the Bears would be absolutely ecstatic. I don't care what the Bears' brass says about their offensive line, when your offensive line sucks (which Chicago's does, without question) and you have the opportunity to bring in a big upgrade with a talent like DeCastro, you have to pull the trigger. DeCastro is a special guard, arguably the best to hit the league out of college since Steve Hutchinson was draft back in 2001, he's that good. He can fit in any blocking scheme, man or zone. His technique is fantastic and he can absolutely maul. Line coach Mike Tice would love this kid.  


20. Tennessee Titans - Nick Perry, DE, USC
The Titans came into the offseason needing to bring in some reinforcements for their defensive line, particularly their pass rush which was the second worst in the NFL with only 28 sacks on the season a year ago. Tennessee did make a good signing in Kamerion Wimbley but they still need help in the pass rush because of right now all they have is Wimbley and Derrick Morgan, who has barely seen the field much. Perry killed it at the combine and his athleticism and speed will have scouts drooling and his size makes him a good fit for a 4-3.

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. Cleveland Browns - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Browns really need to add more weapons to their offense and particularly at wideout, where the team has a dearth of down the field threats. Pairing Wright with Tannehill could make for a quality duo in the downfield attack. 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 a little overrated.

23. Detroit Lions - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
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. Gilmore's value has been on the rise and he looks like a solid bet to be a late first round pick. He's got a lot of talent, and he is very good in run support, but he is inconsistent in coverage. He has good size and can run with anybody, if he is coached well he can be a really good one.

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 - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
I had Martin, not that Jonathan Martin, going in the middle of the first round for a while and he could still very easily go 13 to Arizona if either David DeCastro is off the board or they select Martin instead. But it isn't the case of Martin's stock falling, it is just more of circumstance. The Broncos could use an upgrade along their offensive line at either left guard or right tackle, if they move Orlando Franklin to guard. 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.

26. Houston Texans - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
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 Hill makes plenty of sense. Hill comes from an offense that barely throws at all, the classic triple-option of Paul Johnson, and thus his stock was middling going into the Combine. But he absolutely tore it up at the combine, flashing incredible speed and making highlight-worthy catches.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
A lot of folks are really high on Barron and think he could higher than this and he could very well go to Dallas, New York or Detroit. But I think he will be available here for New England and since the Patriots really need help in their secondary, at corner and at safety next to Patrick Chung, because their pass defense last year was a disaster. Barron has the skills to be a great strong safety who is very instinctive with a great nose for he football and is very physical.

28. Green Bay Packers - Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
The Packers have an elite pass rusher in Clay Matthews but they have struggled to find a consistent pass rusher off the opposite edge, allowing protection schemes to focus on Matthews and really hurting Green Bay's pass rush. So they should try to find a pass rusher with this pick to take some pressure off of Matthews. It has been said that the Packers love McClellin and his stock is on the rise. He had a great senior season with 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

29. Baltimore Ravens - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Ravens are in a pretty good spot in terms of their roster and Ozzie Newsome is as shrewd of a drafter as anybody so I think they'll address their offensive line and find a successor to Bryant McKinnie, who was solid last year on the left side but he is 33. Adams has the ideal frame you want for a left tackle but he is raw so he would make sense in Baltimore so he can sit for a year or two. He already is a strong run blocker but he needs to work on his pass blocking, particularly against speed rushers.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Cody Fleener, TE, Stanford
Utilizing multiple tight ends in an offense is now becoming a new trend (see: New England) and one I'm a big fan of. Adding a guy like Fleener to team up with a stud like Vernon Davis would add yet another wrinkle to this 49ers offense and give Alex Smith another weapon to work with and coach Jim Harbaugh loves using multiple tight ends. Fleener is the clear top tight end on the board and he projects to be a complete tight end, one with the athleticism and the hands to be a force in the passing game, while the blocking technique to be vital in the running game.

31. New England Patriots - Devin Still, DT/DE, Penn 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. Still is a versatile d-lineman that Bill Belichick would love to have because he can seamlessly play the 3-4 end and the 4-3 tackle spot. Still is an active pass rusher, who would help upgrade the Patriots' pass rush, and he reminds me of Shaun Ellis.

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.

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