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NFL: Mock Draft 2012 (Picks 1-16) UPDATED *4/20/12*
The NFL season has come and gone likewise with the NFL Combine which showcases the prospects work ethic above all else. Some shine, some flounder, some rise on draft boards and some fall from a first round pick to a second or third rounder. The NFL Draft brings hope to must teams that have been on the losing end for too long, a glimmer of hope of better days. However, the NFL Draft is not an exact science. It is nearly impossible to predict how these young men will perform on Sundays. Even more so, it can be as simple as to how a player can fit into a system. Frequently that is what makes a player shine or fizzle out. Now, back to what you all are here for, my Mock Draft of 2012.
1. Indianapolis Colts - QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
The rebuilding process begins with this pick under the best quarterback prospect the NFL has seen in a very long time. Luck has it all, he has the mindset to be an elite quarterback, he has the arm, and even some mobility. It is easy to make the comparison of Luck to Aaron Rodgers, but I feel that is slightly disrespectful of Rodgers seeing how he has a ring and Luck has yet to play an NFL game. However with Luck, starts the process of building a more complete team in Indianapolis. The Colts problem with Manning, is that he covered up many holes within the team. Now with his health in question, the best move is to get young all across the board and move forward with Luck.
2. Washington Redskins *from St. Louis Rams*: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Boy, the Redskins did trade away their future for this kid. Griffin will have plenty of pressure on him now coming to a much maligned team over the past few seasons as they have constantly been at the bottom of the NFC East. Much of that has to do with the lack of a franchise quarterback, thus we have this trade where the Skins traded away three first round picks and this year's second rounder. It will be hard now to put young talent around their franchise quarterback considering what they gave away, but in a sense they were handcuffed into making a move this drastic. We constantly hear about how it is a quarterback driven league, and the Redskins could not afford to bring in Rex Grossman as their starting quarterback once again. The fans would not have been behind it as it would have made them the worst team in the division once again. In free agency the Skins have done a good job of putting talent on the outside for Griffin. While receivers of the likes of Pierre Garcon, and Josh Morgan are not elite, they are talented and fit the offense that Shanahan will implement with Griffin at the helm.
3. Minnesota Vikings: OT Matt Kalil, USC
The Vikings have their fair share of problems but if they want to keep last year's first round pick Christian Ponder healthy, then they will need to give him a better offensive line. Kalil comes in the draft as the clear cut best offensive line prospect, and the best offensive tackle prospect since Joe Thomas. Thomas has worked out pretty well for the Browns, so should Kalil for the Vikings. It is a very safe pick, and not a sexy one but it is necessary to help the Vikings become a more well rounded football team. They could also pick Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne for obvious reasons, but they can improve their receiving group in free agency or later rounds. The corners this season could be better in Minnesota with a healthy Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin. Although, Claiborne could help the Vikings secondary, the shift to becoming a passing league puts more of an emphasis on protecting your passer. Thus the Vikings select Matt Kalil to protect Ponder's blindside for many years to come.
4. Cleveland Browns: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
They were in prime position to move up in the draft considering the package of picks they received from the Falcons last season for Julio Jones, but instead of trading those picks to the Rams for Robert Griffin they decided to stay pat and use their picks to bolster their roster. The only problem with that mentality is that now they can't draft a player that will bolster their offense, which was their weakness last season. Instead, and espescially with this pick, the Browns look to make their defense better by selecting corner back Morris Claiborne. He and Joe Haden could create one of the best corner back duos for a long time. Haden was exceptionally good last season in his sophomore season as he didn't have big interception numbers, but he was top five in pass breakups.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Before free agency it looked as if they would go with Morris Claiborne here with this pick, but now that they have significantly bolstered their roster with the likes of Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright they can now select the best player available. Lucky for them, Trent Richardson is the best player available and the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. While LaGarette Blount had provided them with a solid running game the past two seasons, it had room for improvement. With Richardson now in the fold, it completes their offense. They have a bruising back in Blount and a star running back in Richardson. They also have a promising young quarterback in Freeman with plenty of targets to throw to in Mike Williams, Vincent Jackson, Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn. There is plenty of reasons to be happy in Tampa now. The future is bright.
6. St. Louis Rams *from Washington Redskins*: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The Rams will benefit greatly by making the trade with the Skins as now they will have plenty of picks over the next few seasons to bolster their roster, and will fill one hole with this pick by selecting the superbly talented Justin Blackmon. Blackmon will provide Sam Bradford with a type of receiver he has never had the benefit of playing with. He is frequently compared to Dez Bryant, who also went to Oklahoma State, but he isn't the headache that Bryant is. You could even argue that Blackmon has a better skill set, and clearly a better work ethic which translates well to the NFL. The frequent gripe with Bryant is how late in a close game he can disappear when it matters or when covered by a physical corner like Nnamdi Asomugha or Darrelle Revis (bad example I know but they came to mind the quickest) while Blackmon thrives for the bigger moments. That kind of attitude will make him a fan favorite quickly.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
The Jaguars would love to select a wide receiver here but the poor combine that Kendall Wright had hurt his draft stock significantly. Even then, most teams don't believe any wide receiver outside of Blackmon should be picked in the top ten. Instead, the Jaguars will likely look to bolster their pass rush as they had a good defense but were unable to put pressure on the quarterback consistently. Melvin Ingram could come in and automatically become the team's best pass rusher (although that's not saying much). The other issue is the bad luck that the Jaguars have had in getting defensive lineman. The only good one in recent memory that they have chosen was Tyson Alualu, while missing on Derrick Harvey and Quinton Groves. Aaron Kampman also did not become the pass rush specialist that they had hoped for either.
8. Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Miami has a sour taste in their mouth after losing out on their chances of acquiring Peyton Manning, then Alex Smith and then Matt Flynn. The Dolphins have struggled in acquiring a quarterback for quite some time. Chad Henne was the last quarterback they drafted and he didn't pan out to well. Now under the direction of a pass happy head coach instead of Tony Sparano's more rough and tough style, the team will look to get an actual quarterback. Tannehill has proven over his years in college that he has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. At first people had questions on how well his game could translate to the NFL level, but after a good combine and pro day work outs he silenced his critics. Tannehill would step in on day one as the likely new starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, however his only problem will be who will he throw to. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Bears for picks that they will likely use to upgrade their offense.
9. Carolina Panthers: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Brockers was one of the many defensive standouts on the LSU Tigers last season and would immediately come in and help stop the run for the Panthers. One of the main issues last season when the Panthers played on Sundays, were their inability to stop the run. Granted, they were also without Jon Beason and Thomas Davis but the Panthers have lacked an elite interior defensive lineman since Kris Jenkins left. Having an elite interior lineman on a 4-3 scheme makes everything much easier for the linebackers to run free and the defensive ends an easier time at getting to the quarterback. Cam Newton could use some help on the offensive side of the ball, but he did fairly well with an average group. The real problems with the Panthers lie on the defensive side, which should be addressed throughout this draft.
10. Buffalo Bills: OT Riley Rieff, Iowa
The Bills address the pass rushing issue that they had last season and now with that out of the way, they can add the best player available. It just so happens to be one of the best offensive lineman in the draft that can immediately come in and be one of the best offensive lineman on the Bills roster. The Bills lost offensive tackle Demetrius Bell to free agency, so their offensive tackles are for the most part career backups. Rieff could come in immediately and help protect Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a career year this past season. The Bills obviously believe in Fitzpatrick as they gave him a nice new pay raise, with that in mind it would be wise to keep him upright in the pocket. The Bills could also still go with defense to help solidify the move to a 4-3 defensive scheme. With that move, the Bills could draft Courtney Upshaw to put him on the opposite side of Mario Williams.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
The Chiefs have quietly had one of the best off-seasons thus far as they have brought in Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston among others. Winston covers up their hole at right tackle and Peyton Hillis helps to add depth to their running game. This pick can be a little bit of a luxury pick and they could go plenty of different ways. They could potentially bolster their passing game by selecting Michael Floyd to put with Dwayne Bowe, or they could draft a corner to really improve their secondary. Granted, they lost Brandon Carr and signed Stanford Routt. Routt isn't a terrific corner, and could be better off as a nickel corner but they will likely go with the best player available. Which most likely on their draft board will be David DeCastro. It is a bit high for a guard to go in the draft but DeCastro can stabilize the inside of their line for many years. He also has the ability to play the center position, giving the Chiefs flexibility with their offensive line.
12. Seattle Seahawks: MLB Luke Kuechly, Florida State
Luke Kuechly had quite possibly one of the most impressive Combine performances to date and it has him rising up draft boards. Kuechly is an instinctive linebacker much along the lines of James Laurinitis of the Rams. The Seahawks most likely will give Kuechly a long look considering the fact that David Hawthorne has hit the open market. Even if the Seahawks do eventually resign him, selecting Kuechly could be their move as they could very easily move Hawthorne to the outside. Kuechly is a hard player to pass up in this position considering how fast he has moved up the draft boards as of late with his combine performance, and his performance as a player.
13. Arizona Cardinals: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
The Cardinals desperately need any kind of help on the offensive line. However, Johnathan Martin and Mike Adams would be major reaches at this juncture. Thus if the Cardinals stay put at this spot, they would likely draft Michael Floyd giving Kevin Kolb two guys on the outside that are incredible match up problems. The Cardinals have not had great production from anyone outside of Fitzgerald since the days they had Boldin on the opposite side. Boldin was a great compliment to Fitzgerald and Floyd could bring back memories of that great duo. Does that mean Floyd is the kind of player that Boldin is? No, not at all. Floyd is a better option then any other wide receiver that they have on their roster not named Fitzgerald however. As I said before though, I truly believe this pick will not be made by the Cardinals. I find it much more likely that someone like the Eagles or even the Ravens could move up to this position to ensure they draft someone that they really like.
14. Dallas Cowboys: S Mark Barron, Alabama
Before, this pick was Kirkpatrick but corner is no longer a need as they fixed it by adding Brandon Carr in free agency. The Cowboys have lacked a playmaker at the safety position ever since the retirement of Darren Woodson however. Lucky for them, the skilled Mark Barron falls into their laps so that they can strike gold for the second year in a row in the draft. Barron could like walk in from day one and be a player for the Cowboys as he fits Rob Ryan's style to a tee. He can play center field where he can utilize his ball hawking skills and play up on the line to help against the run. He has tremendous size for the position and when he makes a tackle he carries with him a hell of a wallop. Granted, the Cowboys signed Brodney Pool but he is best served in a backup capacity.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
The Eagles lacked a vocal leader in the middle of the defense last season and a capable linebacker. Luke Kuechly can provide the Eagles with both of those things and he was a favorite for this pick up untill recently when the Eagles made a surprising trade for Demeco Ryans. Ryans provides the Eagles with a middle linebacker and leader that they have lacked for a long time making Kuechly unnecessary now. Instead, they can just add depth to wherever the see fit. Instead of picking up Plaxico Burress who has been trying to convince the Eagles to sign him, the Eagles could select Michael Floyd giving them a big red zone threat. The Eagles could also potentially select a safety to help round out that position, but however there isn't a safety in the draft that could be worthy of the fifteenth pick. Thus, it seems very likely the Eagles will go with a defensive tackle. After all we all know the Eagles like to draft lineman and with Trevor Laws, Derek Landri and possibly Mike Patterson leaving, it then becomes a logical pick.
16. New York Jets: DE/OLB Chandler Jones, Syracuse
With no more Plaxico Burress the Jets lack a tall receiever that can go and snatch the ball out of the air. However, the Jets for as physical of a defense that they have, they lack the ability to rush the quarterback consistently. Over the seasons they had hopes for players like Vernon Gholston, Aaron Maybin and Jamaal Westerman. Gholston is no longer with the team as he never lived up to his potential and Maybin surprised the team last season as he played fairly well with them in a short period of time. Westerman hasn't proved that he is a full time starter thus making Chandler Jones the pick here. Jones has quickly risen up draft boards over the past week or so as pass rushers continue to shoot up the board due to the change of philosophy in the NFL. Jones is a physical presence with great upper body strength and a surprising amount of athleticism. He has all the tools to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL with either his hands on the ground or up on his feet. Ryan will most likely utilize him in the best way possible.