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NFL: Mock Draft 2012 (Picks 17-32) UPDATED *4/20/12*
17. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
The Bengals made great strides last season, but in order to get over the hump and be a contender they need to upgrade their secondary. The front seven of their defense wasn't great, but it did enough to create problems for opposing offenses. Leon Hall was one of the top corner backs last season before he went down for the season with a injury, and Nate Clements did an admirable job last season but he is getting up there in age. Clements at this point in his career could be better suited as a safety. Stephon Gilmore is then the likely pick here, granted Janoris Jenkins may actually be the better pick here but his attitude might make him a second round pick now. Gilmore would prove to be an adequate starter at the NFL level and give the Bengals a great duo once again at the corner position.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
With the recent salary cut of All-Pro guard Kris Dielman, the Chargers have a gaping hole in the interior of their offensive line. However, the Chargers have yet to fill the need of a pass rusher for quite some time now. Upshaw could immediately come in and be a situational edge rusher much like Aldon Smith was last season for the Niners. Truth be told, the Chargers have lacked a pass rusher since we have seen the best days of Shawn Merriman. Ever since his fall from grace as one of the best edge rushers in the league, the Chargers defense has not been the same.
19. Chicago Bears: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
Jay Cutler and Matt Forte need some help on the offensive side of the ball and they got that in Brandon Marshall. Oddly enough, in my first prediction for this pick I had the Bears taking Michael Floyd and compared his skill set to Marshall. I find it at least moderately amusing that the Bears went ahead and traded for Marshall when I had them selecting a similar receiver. The Bears have other holes, but for the most part they can simply select the best player available. The Bears could potential really boost their offense by adding a wide receiver of the likes of Kendall Wright. Granted they already have players with game breaking speed in the mold of Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, in this day and age you can never have enough speed. Having three wide receivers like them to go along with Brandon Marshall will scare any opposing defense.
20. Tennessee Titans: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
The Titans need to bolster their defensive line. Over the years their once feared defensive line has lost talent to free agency. The defense ends lack talent, the defense tackles lack talent. Thus they draft the highest rated defensive line prospect available with this pick. Quinton Coples was thought of as the best defensive end in the draft, and some will still argue that he is. However, due to the ways of the draft he falls to the Tennessee Titans where they receive a player much like the previous "Freak" that they had before. Coples game is similar to Jevon Kearse and due to his tremendous ability, the Titans will have him start from day one.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia
The Bengals biggest weakness had been previously upgraded in selecting Gilmore and will likely turn to bolster their offensive line. This is entirely a luxury pick as it doesn't necessarily fit a need, but with the age creeping up on the interior of their offensive line they can afford to draft Glenn now and have him learn the ins and outs of the system. Glenn has the flexibility to play multiple positions on the offensive line which is a trait that many teams always will covet as injuries happen so frequently along the offensive line. Having a player of Glenn's ability is a luxury but could potentially come with some great rewards down the line.
22. Cleveland Browns: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
The Browns decided to keep their plethora of draft picks in order to bolster their entire roster instead of trading up for the likes of a franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin. Instead of getting Griffin, one of the best running back prospects in a long time and a capable offensive tackle. Granted, Jonathan Martin doesn't project well as a left tackle that doesn't hinder the Browns as they already have one of the best in Joe Thomas. Instead, Martin can slide over to the right tackle position where his skills are best utilized and give their new running back a very good offensive line to run through. It is all completely necessary as the Browns struggled on the offensive side of the ball while having one of the best defenses in the league last season.
23. Detroit Lions: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Matt Stafford will be the first to point out that he needs help along the offensive line. Jeff Backus is and has been the offensive tackle for many years in Detroit. He has been consistent but never has been truly a great starter. With him getting up there in age it is now even more necessary to address the issue come draft day. While Mike Adams is available, he does not necessarily excel in pass protection, and he is better at run blocking. Thus the Lions are more inclined to help their pass defense where they were so frequently burned last season. In a division with the Packers and Bears, having a improved defense with be key for the Lions. We all know that the Lions can score, that was established last season, but for them to take the next step they need to make improvements of the defensive side.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State
With the release of long time Steeler linebacker James Farrior, their is a gaping hole at the inside linebacker position for the Steelers. However, the Steelers have a bigger hole at offensive tackle, hell just ask Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben needs a solid offensive tackle once again just as much as Rashard Mendenhall does. The offensive line over the past few seasons in Pittsburgh has significantly and quickly gotten worse. Mike Adams could come in and solidify the left tackle position. While he isn't the best blindside protection the Steelers could get, he is a terrific run blocker and regardless he could come in and be the best offensive lineman on the Steelers outside of Maurkice Pouncey.
25. Denver Broncos: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
It is rather amazing how far Brockers has fallen considering how talented of a player he is, but I am positive the Broncos will not complain. Defensive tackle is the teams biggest need, and the play of the defensive line was tremendous last season. Brockers would come in and start immediately as the Broncos have Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren slated as their starters right now. Warren and Vickerson are solid players, but best off as backups. Brockers provides the Broncos with a defensive tackle that can both rush the quarterback and stop the run like they did so efficiently last season.
26. Houston Texans: WR Rueben Randle, LSU
The Texans could use some depth at the wide receiver position as Andre Johnson suffered quite a few injuries last season. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones did an admirable job in his absence but were not great. Rueben Randle would provide the Texans with some nice size on the outside and another big body to throw to in the redzone giving Matt Schaub more viable options. Randle also does not shy away from the bigger moments in games, it also helps that he played in the power conference in college where he constantly played against the greater competition. Granted, he never put up fantastic numbers, he was never on a passing team. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee where his quarterbacks this past season and they never proved to be able to consistently get the ball down field. Randle showed enough that given the oppurtunity, he has sure hands. With that ability he can shine in Houston alongside Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub.
27. New England Patriots: DE/OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
The clear issue that the Patriots had on defense was the lack of a pass rush. Shea fits that need and also fits the bill as a Patriot type of player. He has great versatility and is an incredibly smart player just like many other players they have drafted before. He is similar in ways to previous Patriots like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. From day one, he would be happy to help solidify the Patriots pass rush as he plays with a high motor. Patriots fans will fall in love with the man and the player very quickly.
28. Green Bay Packers: DE Andre Branch, Clemson
The Packers offense was amazing last season, but it doesn't matter how good your offense is. You have to make stops because your offense will not always be there, especially come playoff time. The Packers need to simply add depth on the defensive side of the ball, when they won it all in the previous season they had great depth. Which is fairly evident when you consider how they did through all the injuries that accumulated over the season. Fast forward a year, they lost Nick Barnett and Cullen Jenkins, two leaders and two important pieces. Jenkins was a bigger loss on the field considering Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk are now the middle linebackers for Green Bay. Jenkins alongside B.J. Raji created many problems for opposing offenses. Thus, the Packers need to add to the defense and do so with Branch. Branch is a versatile player that they can play with his hand to the ground or up on his feet, either way he will find the quarterback.
29. Baltimore Ravens: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
Ozzie Newsome has said that he is looking for the future replacement of Ray Lewis in this draft, and he may have found it in the championship winning linebacker Dont'a Hightower. In fact it would not surprise me if the Ravens traded up to make sure they get him. Hightower fits the Ravens squad like a glove. He could come in immediately and start next to Ray Lewis in the middle of the defense and play at a high level. With Hightower next to Lewis the team's defense would not only improve, but it would solidify them down the line for when Lewis decides to hang up his cleats. Lewis, undoubtedly, will teach Hightower what it means to be a pro, what it means to be a Raven and above all else how to win. It may be surprising to see the Ravens add to their already solid defense with their first pick, but it is a necessary move for now and the future. Previously I had the Ravens taking C Peter Konz with this pick, but the Ravens have resigned Matt Birk alleviating them from having to take a center.
30. San Francisco 49ers: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
The Niners were one of the more surprising teams last season, and one more surprise for them this season. Jim Harbaugh is an offensive genius and last season he ran a lot of two tight end sets just like he did in college. Thus he is in prime position to land one his old players from when he coached Stanford in Coby Fleener. Granted, the Niners already have Vernon Davis but we can all admit that having two dynamic tight ends along with some nice weapons at wide receiver can make a offense incredibly difficult to defend. Alex Smith would be delighted to come back to the Niners to see the likes of Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Vernon Davis and Coby Fleener as his targets. It is infinitely better than last season's group of receivers.
31. New England Patriots: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
This pick could go anywhere, they may even trade down or choose another defensive end like Whitney Mercilus. The Patriots may look to bolster their passing game even more by selecting a wide receiver of the likes of Stephen Hill or take a risk on a talent like Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina. They have been down the road of a troubled wide receiver too recently, so the lengthy Hill makes more sense in the grand scheme of things. Hill would provide another tall receiver in the redzone that would provide many problems for opposing defense, especially with Tom Brady behind center. The Patriots seem more and more likely to surprise people by selecting Harrison Smith with every passing day, but I will leave Stephen Hill up as my selection.
32. New York Giants: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Considering what happened before the season and for some parts of the regular season, Osi Umenyiora created some issues. He put the issues aside and the defensive line helped secure another Super Bowl victory for the Giants. With Umenyiora possibly leaving, it is likely that the Giants would add to their stacked defensive line yet again. With that being said, they would draft the best defensive end available (mind you the best player available) in Whitney Mercilus. The best way to sum up his skill set is by calling him a poor man's Aldon Smith, which isn't such a bad thing and when he plays alongside Justin Tuck and company he will look that much better. He brings it on every play, he also is flexible which the Giants will enjoy as in college he played both on the outside of the defensive line and on the inside. The Giants like to move their defensive lineman around to create confusion allowing for a better pass rush.