Alright football fans, it’s almost here, just 22 days til the start of the 2012 NFL Draft. Some teams have already made bigger splashes through the Free Agency Market like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos. Others teams in need of filling bigger holes like the Cleveland Browns or last years big players the Philadelphia Eagles have kept somewhat stagnant in using Free Agency gearing more toward the Draft to build their rosters. I personally anticipate more trades in the first two rounds seeing that with the newer Rookie Pay Scale, Teams will not have to over pay high draft choices. They will only lose potential players by giving up the extra picks, so higher players on their draft boards might become heavier priorities. So let us take a look in the direction your franchise might head.
2012 NFL Mock Draft
1) Indianapolis Colts– Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts have been set here with Luck as their first pick since well back into last season. The horrible play and general age of last years team gave Jim Irsay the chance to head into this off-season in full rebuilding mode. New Head Coach, Front Office, and a New Franchise QB to build around all the solid steps in rebuilding the core of a team. Luck’s play within a Pro-Style Offense and tutelage of former NFL Quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, make Andrew the most NFL ready QB in this years draft. Manning Era over, time to hope for Luck.
2. Washington Redskins(from St. Louis)– Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Washington pulled the trigger early out bidding the Cleveland Browns and obtained the #2 Overall pick for what might turn out to be a King’s Ransom. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan haven’t stopped there. They upgraded their Receiving Corps with the additions of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, in Free Agency. Seems now that the only really big questions is can RG3 translate into a NFL Offense, and will Mike and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan be able to utilize his unique skill set successfully. Donovan McNabb has spoken out recently about both of those gentleman’s abilities to do so, and their track record in Washington supports that. Good Luck to RG3, it seems he’ll need it a lot.
3. Minnesota Vikings– Ryan Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings could go a number of ways here at #3, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne will be heavily in play filling needs in Minnesota. Kalil makes the most sense, securing their O-Line for last year’s #1 Christian Ponder. The receiving class is deep this year so the Vikes will go there a little later. Minnesota will gamble that better production from their defensive front four will mask deficiencies in their Secondary.
4) Cleveland Browns– Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The instant credit Mike Holmgren was suppose to give Cleveland is really non apparent. Season ticket holders and fans alike question the continued path of rebuilding the Browns have been doing for over a decade. The rise of teams like Detroit and the Texans only add to that pressure. Cleveland has so many holes to plug, although the Offense is in most need of the face lift. Richardson gives the Browns the best back to come out since Adrian Peterson. His skill set will also transition nicely into Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense. The Browns might also be inclined to trade down yet again. Cincinnati if enamored in say Richardson or Blackmon, might have enough ammunition to jump up. Only obtaining 3 first rounders in the top 22 would be worth the move.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Tampa Bay hit Free Agency running, nabbing the best WR and Guard available in Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Adding Eric Wright to the Secondary will not prevent the Bucks from passing on the versatility of Claiborne, especially with Richardson gone. Blackmon and Fletcher Cox might be possibilities as well but Morris’ explosiveness wins out.
6) St. Louis Rams(from Washington)– Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Rams decided to wait to see what fell to them at 6, once they decided to trade with Washington. Kalil Gone, Claiborne Gone, Blackmon Winner. Justin Blackmon now becomes Sam Bradford’s target to help Sam grow from his down sophomore year. It also reinforces Bradford’s Psyche in trying to increase his weapons so he can succeed. So far Jeff Fisher has made great decisions in retooling the Rams to fit his coaching style. Add picks, now get your players.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars– Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State
Jacksonville brought in competition for Blaine Gabbert by signing Free Agent Chad Henne. Retaining Jeremy Mincey and Rashean Mathis were solid moves, so throwing Cox into the defensive scheme will only improve upon those investments. Michael Floyd could be considered as well, despite bringing on Laurent Robinson, or even the likes of Melvin Ingram. Fletcher will help to clog the middle yet has the ability to move to the outside.
Miami Dolphins– Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tannehill’s stock has risen so high that the Cleveland Browns at #4 are rumored to have interest in Ryan. The Browns despite passing are still alive twice before the Fins draft again. New Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman knows Tannehill’s upside best, being a Head Coach of Ryan at A&M. It would also explain better why the Dolphins were OK not landing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. The signing of David Garrard helps give Ryan time to adapt. Miami keeps Cleveland from having another shot at Tannehill and grabs their core piece to start off Joe Philbin’s tenure.
9) Carolina Panthers– Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Carolina could opt to add weapons for Cam Newton. Michael Floyd could easily fit that billing. Quinton Coples and Dontari Poe could also land here in Carolina, but they would be projects and need time to make an impact. Ron Rivera is defensive minded and needs to upgrade the unit he knows best now.
10) Buffalo Bills– Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Bills landed Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to help their Defensive front. They retained Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler, Kirk Morrison, and surprisingly Bryan Scott. All that work leads to the Offensive Line and Wide Receiver being their biggest needs. Martin is an instant starter and will become a solid addition to the Bills’ Line for years to come. Michael Floyd and Dre Kirkpatrick could also fit in well for a team chasing the Patriots and Jets.
11) Kansas City Chiefs– David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
New Head Coach Romeo Crennel might be inclined to upgrade his D-Line, maybe Dontari Poe or Quinton Coples. The answers are found in the signing of Peyton Hillis. Hillis is a between the Tackles runner. Matt Cassel and Jamal Charles both are coming off injuries, and the Chiefs will not have a chance without a running game(see Cleveland 2011). The loss of Brandon Carr to the Cowboys hurts, but the instant impact on the O-Line is more important than finding another corner to Crennel.
12) Seattle Seahawks– Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Pete Carroll might look to upgrade the O-Line with Cordy Glenn or Riley Reiff, but the upside in talent of Coples has the Seahawks ready to take the gamble. I know they signed Matt Flynn and resigned Marshawn Lynch both solid moves. Flynn’s contract only gets him the chance at starting but might be enough of an upgrade for the Seahawks’ offense. An increased pass rush will only help recent draft pick Earl Thomas and the rest of Seattle’s Secondary. In a Division that has Larry Fitzgerald, just added Randy Moss and Justin Blackmon, getting pressure on the QB will be more of the necessity to survive.
13) Arizona Cardinals– Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd, and Whitney Mercilus would all be great additions as well. The Cardinals attempted to find a partner in Steward Bradley for Daryl Washington, and like the Eagles found out about Bradley, that didn’t work. Kuechly will work giving the Cardinals a young and more dangerous Line-Backing corps. Remember Pittsburgh has had a overly talented LB corps for years, that seems to work for them. Ken Whisenhunt learned it there, now he’s creating his own.
14) Dallas Cowboys– Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
Jerry Jones seems always wanting to excite his fan base. This might not do that but it will impact what Dallas has already done. Signing Brandon Carr to replace Terence Newman, upgrade. Anthony Spencer was franchised to keep a very solid group of Linebackers together. Still adds much needed versatility and depth for Rob Ryan’s Defense. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Whitney Mercilus could all fall here as well.
15) Philadelphia Eagles– Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans to fill the need at ILB, if Ryans can return to form. Don’ta Hightower could still be the target here as well. The Eagles have to clog the middle and Brockers quietly will eat it up. Help on the O-Line is also a need, but stopping the run and giving that scary secondary the opportunity to be the play-makers they are wins out.
16) New York Jets– Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Rex Ryan might be in the most important year of his tenure, especially after losing the locker room last year. Yes, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow but that seems to be a Wildcat move and a fire to light under Sanchez. More weapons on Offense would be nice for Sanchez’s success, but the Jets Defense has more holes needing to be filled. Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, and Courtney Upshaw will also be considered.
17) Cincinnati Bengals(from Raiders)– Don’ta Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Cincinnati picks just 4 slots later, so this is a luxury pick for the Bengals. The Bengals thank Carson Palmer for his play last year, securing them a Top 20 pick this year. They lost Frostee Rucker to the Browns and Rey Maualuga has had off the field issues, so the Defensive front seven is their biggest priority. Corner-back depth and a running mate for A.J. Green will be addressed later. Courtney Upshaw and Dontari Poe are possibilities as well.
18) San Diego Chargers– Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
The Chargers loss Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert in Free Agency but the retirement of Kris Dielman created the Chargers biggest hole. Glenn is a perfect fill for that. The Chargers invested in Ryan Matthews and needs to give him every chance of succeeding especially since losing Tolbert. Dre Kirkpatrick and Zach Brown would also be nice additions here.
19) Chicago Bears– Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Bears addressed their receiving corp by trading for Brandon Marshall. The added depth and power to the running game with Michael Bush. They need now to protect Jay Cutler and give him a better chance at using his new weapons. The Bears are ecstatic Reiff falls to them. Michael Floyd, Courtney Upshaw, and Dre Kirkpatrick all could help out also.
20) Tennessee Titans– Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Titans owner Bud Adams made his attempt to land Peyton Manning, that didn’t work out. The additions of Kamerion Wimbley and Steve Hutchinson should help out both lines. Now the Titans fall back to the plan giving Hasselbeck and Locker a more consistent target. Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins could be the direction to upgrade the secondary.
21) Cincinnati Bengals– Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Marvin Lewis corrected the middle of his Defense earlier with Hightower. Leon Hall is coming of injury and Kirkpatrick would provide Depth and the future for the Bengals secondary. Cincinnati might also opt in the direction of Kendall Wright or Mark Barron at this point. A trade back letting maybe the Texans a chance to get in front of the Browns is a possibility.
22) Cleveland Browns(from Atlanta)– Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
There are so many directions that the Browns could go with their 2nd pick in the 1st round(DE,CB,OT,WR,OLB,QB). Janoris Jenkins is too small to pair with Joe Hayden, and the addition of Frostee Rucker was a upgrade over Jayme Mitchell. The Browns are done waiting for the likes of Carlton Mitchell or Mohamed Massaquoi to develop. Wright can stretch the field and should pair nicely with project WR Greg Little. Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry, and Stephon Gilmore could be surprise picks here as well.
23) Detroit Lions– Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Lions lost Eric Wright in Free Agency to the Bucs, but even keeping him in Detroit they needed to upgrade their secondary. Linebacker help or another play-making receiver: Upshaw, Zach Brown or Stephen Hill might help the Lions in chasing down the Packers.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers– David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
The Steelers need to upgrade their secondary, add youth to the Defensive front seven, and solidify the O-Line. Rashard Mendenhall’s injury elevates the RB position ahead of all the other needs. Wilson’s combine performance showed the potential of him being a 3 down back, Pittsburgh sure hopes so.
25) Denver Broncos– Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The addition of Peyton Manning supposedly makes Denver a Play-off caliber team. Adding a WR or RB might help but Denver has a young core of WRs. Plus Manning has shown he can do with any RB. Upshaw is the best fit on the board and provides depth. Courtney is a more ready prospect than Dontari Poe, who would also be considered.
26) Houston Texans– Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
This will be an unpopular pick for the Texans who just loss Mario Williams, and traded away DeMeco Ryans. They are also in need of a better #2 WR. Two stud RBs means the Texans need a solid O-Line, and let’s not forget Matt Schaub is coming back from injury. Nick Perry or Stephen Hill would be the other way Houston might go.
27) New England Patriots– Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
There is not a question at this point, if Perry falls to this point the Patriots will not pass. Losing BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Cincinnati in Free Agency doesn’t even impact this pick. Zach Brown and Mark Barron will just grade out lower, but both could still be in play when the Patriots select again at 31. The potential of what Bill can do with Nick should greatly improve the Patriots Defensive Rankings in 2012.
28) Green Bay Packers– Kendall Reyes, DE/DT, Connecticut
The signing of Jeff Saturday should replace the loss of Scott Wells. Help on the O-Line could be possible, even the successor to Saturday in Peter Konz has a good chance. Green Bay has more needs Defensively, so the Zach Brown and Mark Barron will be in the discussion, especially if Nick Collins has problems returning. In that case I think this pick definitely will change.
29) Baltimore Ravens– Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office will have a difficult time with this pick since the Ravens are quietly developing a bunch of needs. Matt Birk, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed all need future replacements. Ray Rice needs a back-up to go with Anthony Allen. Vinny Curry, Mark Barron, and Kelechi Osemele are possible as well. Konz ability to play guard learning next to Birk seems the best option here, especially since they loss Ben Grubbs.
30) San Francisco 49ers– Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
There is no DE worth it here for the 49ers. The QB position seems oddly in line with overpaying Josh Johnson(former Harbaugh QB) to be the #3. They have given Vernon Davis and Crabtree help with Randy Moss and Manningham. Brandon Jacob was brought on for short yardage support. Ronnell Lewis could be a different direction as well.
31) New England Patriots– Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
First Perry now Lewis, the Pats just got a little quicker on the outside. Zach Brown and Mark Barron both could be a continuation of upgrading the Defense. This pick is also a great place for a team looking to jump up and grab someone, and the Pats will deal.
32) New York Giants– Kelechi Osemele, OG/OT, Iowa State
The losses of Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham don’t really phase the G-Men. They could consider Doug Martin here, but age of the O-Line is a bigger factor. Look for New York to address that next. Zach Brown could also sneak in here.
ROUND 2 COMING SOON!