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2012 NFL Mock Draft

Last Updated: April 25, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

I'm heading to New York City for the 2012 NFL Draft, my first time to attend the event in person and I will be at Radio City Music Hall for at least the first two days of the draft. Tomorrow morning I have to be at Nashville International Airport very early, so I'm locking my 2012 mock in place with this final update.

I nearly made a last minute switch toward the top with the NFL Network's Mike Mayock curiously projecting Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon to Cleveland at #4 less than a week after saying that Blackmon should not be in the conversation for the Browns. The last time such an abrupt change happened was in 2009, when Mel Kiper made a late move sliding LSU DE Tyson Jackson up from the 10-12 range to Kansas City at #3. I didn't follow him on that move and ended up regretting it.

Is this a case of history repeating? Perhaps it is, and if Mayock knows something about Cleveland's plans then I will be incorrect with my projection of Alabama RB Trent Richardson being selected by the Browns. But I'm keeping Richardson in that slot, and you might remember that I was a long-time holdout in projecting Richardson going considerably lower, with the thought that no running back in the modern NFL is worthy of a top ten selection. But I finally came around on the idea, and I'm sticking with it now.

Also, Charley Casserly was rather emphatic on today's Path To The Draft show on the NFL Network in saying that Richardson will go at #4 overall to Cleveland, which makes me feel more confident about not shifting from that projection.

2012 NFL Mock Draft

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (6'4" 235)
Barring something completely unexpected happening, the Colts will select Luck at this spot.

2. Washington Redskins (via St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (6'1" 220)
Mike Shanahan mortgaged the Redskins' future to move up to draft RG3, and why not? He's in year three of a five-year, $35 million deal. He needs to win *now* and he knows it. If they lose, he's out, but that would have been true with or without trading away so many future picks and setting up potential dead cap space down the line with big contracts used on the likes of Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Adam Carriker, etc.

I've been angered at anonymous shots that have been taken at Griffin in recent days, and I wrote about it at length -- and why what Baylor did with RG3 after he suffered a concussion last season against Texas Tech is far more shameful than any of the trumped-up things that have been thrown out about Griffin.

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC (6'7" 295)
Kalil is the clear-cut top prospect at offensive tackle, which could work out well for the Vikings since they have a very strong need at left offensive tackle to protect Christian Ponder's blind side. The reported short list for Minnesota at this spot is Kalil, LSU CB Morris Claiborne, and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. I would be quite surprised if Minnesota opts to pass on Kalil here, though there is late speculation that Claiborne will go in this position.

4. Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (5'10" 225)
The Browns could really use a primary running back, and Richardson is the best RB prospect in this draft by a mile. Running back value is at an all-time low in the modern NFL, but Richardson has been praised across the board by seemingly every major NFL Draft evaluator out there.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (6'1" 185)
Ronde Barber is 37 years old. Aqib Talib faces a felony criminal charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, with his trial slated for June. The Buccaneers are in the same division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan at quarterback, in a league where the passing game has never been more important. Even if Cleveland makes the mistake of selecting Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill at #4 and leave Richardson on the board, the Bucs would almost for sure have to go with Claiborne here.

6. St. Louis Rams (via Washington) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (6'1" 210)
To induce St. Louis to move down from #2 to #6 in this draft, the Redskins gave the Rams their 2012 second-rounder (#39 overall) along with their 2013 and 2014 first-round picks. The great thing for the Rams: there is a very real chance that they can fill their massive void at wide receiver with their pick of the 2012 WR class at this spot. It almost takes away the way the team slapped their loyal fans in the face by agreeing to give up one home game a season for the next three years in favor of playing as the designated "home team" in a neutral-site game in London. Almost. Look at how that worked out for Tampa Bay in 2011 and get back with me.

St. Louis hasn't had a top-notch wide receiver since Torry Holt left via free agency after the 2008 season, and Holt's last great year was in 2007. Don't count out the possibility of Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd going here instead of Blackmon. Blackmon is perceived the safer choice, but Floyd has more upside and potential. He's taller, bigger, stronger, and ran a faster 40-yard-dash than Blackmon.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina (6'2" 270)
Jacksonville retained defensive end Jeremy Mincey with a four-year, $20 million deal ($9 million guaranteed) last month, but Jacksonville was tied for #27 in sacks last year. Mincey can't do it all by himself. Ingram is considered by most as the top 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB prospect in this draft and would be an excellent addition to the Jaguars defense.

8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (6'4" 220)
The Dolphins were spurned by Peyton Manning, embarrassed by Alex Smith (who said he only interviewed with the Dolphins to have a chance to visit South Beach), and most importantly want to finally escape from their post-Dan Marino era funk and their revolving door of unsuccessful quarterbacks.

Perhaps Tannehill will be the man to make that happen, though I am highly skeptical at this point. His completion rate of 61.6% in 2011 is troubling, particularly when you consider that QB accuracy is more important than ever in the NFL. One factor that cannot be overlooked is that Tannehill's college coach, Mike Sherman, was fired by Texas A&M in December and is now the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins.

9. Carolina Panthers - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (6'4" 300)
What has helped Cox to emerge as a favorite for many among 4-3 DT prospects is his capacity to pressure the pocket from an interior defensive line position. There are very few players who can do that effectively while still stuffing the run, but Cox has shown that he has that ability, and he would be a huge boost for the Panthers' defensive line.

10. Buffalo Bills - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa (6'6" 300)
This is becoming a very popular projection -- and rightfully so. When the Eagles lost All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for the 2012 season to a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg, they knew they had to take action -- and they quickly snapped up former Bills OT Demetrius Bell, now known as Demetress Bell. Reiff would fill a need in Buffalo and this is the range where many expect Reiff to go, likely to be the second offensive tackle drafted in 2012.

There is also plenty of speculation that Buffalo might go with a cornerback here, perhaps stretching to take South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore or Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick at this slot.

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis (6'5" 350)
It's an ideal situation for KC here: they need a true huge nose tackle to fill the middle of the team's 3-4 defense, and Poe would definitely fit the bill for the Chiefs. Poe was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dismal Memphis Tigers football team in 2011. Other considerations for this spot include Stanford OG David DeCastro, Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly, and even Washington NT Alameda Ta'amu, though Ta'amu going this high would be a surprise.

12. Seattle Seahawks - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College (6'2" 235)
With the New Orleans Saints signing former Seahawks MLB David Hawthorne, the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere for an answer at middle linebacker for 2012. Kuechly is a tackling machine who had a strong 2011 season despite being part of a dismal 4-8 Boston College team last year, and he could be in position to produce right away for the Seahawks.

I had suggested in previous iterations of this mock that Pete Carroll's job might be in jeopardy if Seattle posts a third consecutive losing season under his watch, but that provoked outrage from multiple people who follow the Seahawks closely.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame (6'3" 225)
This is lower than where I think Floyd should go, but adding Floyd would provide an instant upgrade for the Cardinals at a need position. Larry Fitzgerald is very talented, but Arizona adding Floyd to its receiving corps would represent a significant bump-up from Early Doucet and Andre Roberts.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Mark Barron, SS, Alabama (6'2" 215)
The time-honored tradition of Jerry Jones tipping off his team's draft plans has happened yet again, with the Cowboys owner indicating the distinct possibility that the Cowboys will trade down from this position in the first round.

It's not a huge surprise though, and it might prove to be a savvy move to slide down. Barron makes the most sense as far as team need and draft value spot goes, but there are several other teams (e.g. San Diego at #18) that are reportedly interested in moving up to take Barron, plus perhaps clubs looking to trade up to select Stanford OG David DeCastro, LSU DT Michael Brockers, or other players expected to go in the 10-20 range.

15. Philadelphia Eagles - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (6'6" 305)
It seems very likely that the Eagles will look to draft a defensive tackle in this spot. Any thoughts of the Eagles drafting BC ILB Luke Kuechly here disappeared when Philly traded for Texans ILB DeMeco Ryans, and the silly brief notion of them taking an offensive tackle here to replace Jason Peters (out for 2012 with a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg) was quickly put to rest when the Eagles signed Bills OT Demetress Bell (formerly know as Demetrius Bell) off the free agent wire.

Brockers is raw, with only two years of experience at LSU (he redshirted in 2009). But he has great physical tools and his potential upside at the defensive tackle position is strong.

16. New York Jets - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama (6'2" 265)
Upshaw played in a 3-4 set at Alabama and should be able to make a quick transition to the NFL in a outside linebacker role. There are a number of options for the Jets at this spot, but Upshaw is an outstanding defensive talent who could considerably improve the Jets' pass rush in 2012. Aaron Maybin will likely return for 2012, but the Jets need more than Maybin to increase the pressure they bring against opposing quarterbacks. There is speculation that the Jets may be looking to move up to draft South Carolina DE/OLB Marvin Ingram, but in the event that doesn't happen, Upshaw could fill the Jets' 3-4 OLB need quite well.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland) - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (6'5" 310)
This represents both a good value pick based on where most prognosticators rate DeCastro and also fills a need for the Bengals. Bobbie Williams has been a mainstay at offensive guard for Cincinnati, but he turns 36 in September and is a free agent as of this writing. With or without Williams, DeCastro would be an excellent addition for the Bengals, providing interior offensive line protection for Andy Dalton and opening holes for the running game.

18. San Diego Chargers - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois (6'4" 260)
Mercilus proved to be a disruptive force on defense for the Illini in 2011, leading all I-A/FBS college football players in 2011 with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. The Chargers received a boost from breakout star OLB Antwan Barnes, who recorded 11 sacks last year, though San Diego needs more help in the pass rushing department since Barnes accounted for more than 1/3 of the team's total sacks last season.

19. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (6'6" 305)
It's cloak-and-dagger season: is Chicago really content with its offensive line, including OT J'Marcus Webb (who is coming off a poor season)?

My take: the Bears are saying the right things to not ruffle feathers, but there's a difference between not breaking the bank for an elite offensive tackle free agent (and notice there weren't many healthy top offensive tackles who hit the open market) and being ready to pounce on a talent like Martin if he falls to this spot.

Martin protected Andrew Luck at Stanford, and he could potentially be targeted to fill Chicago's left offensive tackle spot. Chris Williams has been much more productive as a guard than he was as a tackle, the position he played at during his time at Vanderbilt, and Martin would provide depth and the potential to start at left tackle with Gabe Carimi keeping his spot at right tackle.

20. Tennessee Titans - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (6'0" 190)
CB Cortland Finnegan left for a free agency payday in St. Louis, and it's imperative that the Titans address the position in the draft. Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick may also be a consideration here, though Gilmore's perceived edge in man coverage skills may earn him the nod over Kirkpatrick. Both proved their mettle against elite wide receiver talent in the SEC (and beyond), but I'm projecting Gilmore to the Titans at this spot for now.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (5'10" 190)
Wright isn't a huge receiver, but he proved to be a steady and reliable target for Robert Griffin III at Baylor last season. He has elite speed and should be able to stretch opposing defenses with his big play potential.

Much like Arizona at #13, just because the Bengals have an elite WR talent in A.J. Green doesn't mean they don't need to bring in more help for the passing game. I have written this over and over on here, but the new template for success in the NFL is a strong passing game and a strong passing defense. Deviate from that at your own risk in the modern NFL.

22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta) - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (6'4" 215)
If the Browns plan to give Colt McCoy one more season to prove his worth as a starting quarterback, they desperately need to give him more weapons at wide receiver to truly assess his long-term potential. Hill is a player who I like, whose perceived value is likely depressed due to him having played at Georgia Tech, which utilizes the triple option and is very run-heavy. But Hill has tremendous measurables, and there aren't many 6'4" 215 pound athletes who can run a 4.36 40-yard-dash like Hill did at the NFL Combine.

23. Detroit Lions - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (6'3" 195)
Kirkpatrick didn't post huge stats last season at Alabama, but he didn't have to do so -- he forced opposing offenses to avoid passing in his direction. While some question Kirkpatrick's skills in man coverage, he has the size to jam opposing receivers on the line of scrimmage, and his lack of big interception numbers at Alabama is in large part because teams simply didn't throw at him.

Think about that for a second. Alabama has had a loaded defense over the past couple of seasons, yet Kirkpatrick is such an elite talent that some opposing teams intentionally tried to avoid throwing in his direction.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia (6'5" 350)
In recent years, the Steelers have failed to properly protect QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has been sacked literally hundreds of times during his tenure in Pittsburgh. And, while cornerback is a need, with Gilmore and Kirkpatrick off the board addressing a need spot on the offensive line with Glenn would be an advisable route to take. His tweener ability to play both guard and tackle would benefit the Steelers, though the hope I imagine would be that Glenn could play tackle.

25. Denver Broncos - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin (6'5" 315)
The Broncos won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, and it would make sense to bring in a top-tier center like Konz to ensure that the ball is snapped effectively to Manning, a critical part of the offense. Konz is more than just a football snapping machine though, with effective interior blocking skills that should come into play right away for Denver should they take him at this spot.

26. Houston Texans - Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama (6'4" 260)
With Houston trading ILB DeMeco Ryans (a poor fit in their 3-4) to Philadelphia (which runs a 4-3) for a fourth rounder, finding a player to fill that spot will be important. Hightower played ILB in Alabama's 3-4 defense and proved to be a sturdy playmaker, and he would seem to be a good pick both for need and value relative to this spot in the draft.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans) - Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse (6'5" 265)
The massive Jones has been a late riser who many feel will end up as a first-round selection. His size and, more importantly, his pass-rushing ability should make him a tempting target for several teams in the bottom half of the first round.

Something to keep in mind: don't be surprised if New England trades either the #27 or #31 pick to land a 2013 first-rounder (and more). Two things the Patriots do very well: identify players who they believe will best fit their system and think long-term with the draft. Coach/GMs who are on the hot seat tend to do the opposite, even when it's not in the team's best long-term interest.

28. Green Bay Packers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC (6'3" 250)
Perry lived up to his "workout warrior" name at the Combine, building off his impressive 9 sack 2011 season for the Trojans with a strong performance in front of the scouts in Indianapolis. The Packers could use a pass rusher to line up across from Clay Matthews, and Perry would help an already strong front seven become even stronger in 2012.

29. Baltimore Ravens - Harrison Smith, SS, Notre Dame (6'2" 215)
Smith has made a late charge up draft boards, separating himself from the rest of the relatively weak safety class below only Alabama's Mark Barron, a safety who seemingly half of the teams in the NFL are interested in, at least if you believe the rumor mill. After Smith the drop is considerable, and while he might be rated as more of a second-round talent on some boards, Smith would fill a need for Baltimore and wouldn't be a huge stretch here at #29.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (6'3" 210)
Depth at wide receiver is more important than ever before in the modern NFL. Randle ran a 4.42 40-yard-dash at his pro day, and he has the size to develop into a solid NFL wide receiver. And, while the 49ers did sign free agent WRs Mario Manningham and Randy Moss this off-season, they also lost WR Josh Morgan to the Redskins. Any way you slice it, Randle would be a quality addition to the 49ers, with the potential to have an immediate impact for the team.

31. New England Patriots - Quinton Coples, DT, North Carolina (6'6" 280)
Coples is the biggest wild card in the draft. He could go as high as #7 overall to Jacksonville or as low as the middle of the second round. I could see New England lining him up as a 4-3 DT, particularly in passing situations, and utilize his ability to pressure the quarterback. The capacity that the Patriots believe he can be motivated is key, but Coples looked great at the Senior Bowl and physically he has the tools to become an elite NFL defensive lineman.

32. New York Giants - Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (6'6" 245)
Fleener had a great pro day late last month and he will most likely be the first tight end selected in 2012. And, in the copycat NFL, I know that plenty of general managers and scouts saw what Jimmy Graham provided for the Saints and what New England did with a dual tight end receiving threat and will look into making that happen for their team.

The Giants signed former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett last month, but it was only to a one-year contract, which should not preclude them from considering Fleener at this spot.

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