Here is my Post Free Agency 2012 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by updates up until the NFL Draft on April 26th.
My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports Report, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, hailRedskins.com, The Football Expert, NFLDraftDog, NFL Mocks, The Phinsider, The Huddle Report and No Limits Sportsline Fantasy Sports in their Mock Draft Databases. If you're a draftnik like me, be sure to click on their hyperlinks and check out all of their extensive NFL Draft related material.
This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams. I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting by searching the internet for tips from reliable beat writers and NFL insiders in order to provide links and analysis as to why that team may be targeting a particular player.
1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: With the Colts unwilling to pay a $28 million roster bonus to a quarterback coming off of four neck surgeries, and with Peyton Manning not wanting to take a pay cut to play through a major rebuilding project, this has been one of the better break-ups between a superstar and a franchise/city in recent history. While there has recently been some talk about Robert Griffin overtaking Andrew Luck as the first pick, which I personally wouldn’t disagree with, Luck will be Indianapolis’s pick.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: With Peyton Manning having rebuffed Washington's attempt to lure him in free agency, the Redskins will have their quarterback of the future, having elected to give up three first round picks and a second for the right to draft Robert Griffin III.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC: Rumors are starting to come out that GM Rick Spielman is not necessarily set on drafting USC T Matt Kalil with the third pick. Don’t buy into that smokescreen. Unless Minnesota is offered a party boatload of picks, and that isn’t going to happen, they’ll be staying put at #3 and selecting Kalil. Kalil projects as a premier left tackle that Minnesota can rebuild their offensive line around. While Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne would also fill needs here for the Vikings, when all else is equal when it comes to talent, left tackle takes precedence over any other position aside from QB and possibly DE.
http://m.startribune.com/sports/?id=136682723; http://m.startribune.com/news/?id=136591293; http://m.startribune.com/news/?id=136948183;http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/blogs/Access_Vikings.html?cs=3051&c=340187;http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/140088213.html;http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/23/4286980/vikings-weighing-the-need-for.html
4. Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: At #4 the Browns are in a position to stay put and select one of the six impact players in this year’s draft, or they can attempt to trade down. With Miami looking at Ryan Tannehill, and the Rams interested in Justin Blackman, the Browns could feign an interest in either player in attempts to induce one of those teams to trade up. If they don’t get an offer they like, they should resist the urge to select a quarterback. With Miami as the only other team actively seeking a starting caliber quarterback in the draft, and with Tannehill and Brandon Weeden as the two second-tier quarterback’s fitting that mold, they should be able to pass on that position with their first round picks and still land Weeden at a more reasonable value in the second round while picking up playmakers at skilled positions at running back and wide receiver with their picks in the first.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: It would be hard to argue with Morris Claiborne or Morris Claiborne at the #5 spot, but an electric back like Trent Richardson would immediately make life easier on quarterback Josh Freeman by forcing an extra defender into the box. The decision as to which position to pick will likely be determined by who the Bucs are able to sign in free agency, where there will be more top flight cornerbacks available than game changing running backs.
6. St. Louis Rams – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: With the Rams now having traded down from the #2 spot with Washington at #6, they have accumulated a bounty of extra picks and still have the opportunity to select the elite go to wide receiver they covet for Sam Bradford in Justin Blackmon before the next team clearly seeking help at that position picks in Jacksonville at #7. Minnesota and Cleveland will put up smokescreens regarding their interest in Blackmon to try and induce St. Louis to trade up, but if they stay put, they should land their go-to receiver and keep their picks.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Wide receiver, defensive end and tackle seem to be the Jaguars biggest needs. In the event that Justin Blackmon does not fall to them, they should have their choice of elite pass rushers in this year's draft, with defensive end representing the position of best value for Jacksonville at the #7 spot.
8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: With Miami having missed out on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and every other free agent who’s aware that Jeff Ireland if their GM, the Dolphins need to find a quarterback of the future. Ryan Tannehill, who played for Mike Sherman (Miami’s new offensive coordinator) in college might be a reach, but he’d be an obvious fit for their system. In the event that Tannehill has already been selected, or if they feel he’s not worthy of a top 10 pick, the Dolphins could target an outside 3-4 pass rusher like South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram.
9. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU: Ideally the Panthers would like for in-state product Quinton Coples to fall them at pick #9. Coples would have the skill-set to play inside as a disruptive tackle in the Panthers 4-3 system, as well as outside. While Brockers looked less than athletic at the Scouting Combine, defensive tackles don’t base their game on athleticism, and he has plenty of game tape against solid competition to back up his hype.
10. Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Buffalo has addressed the deficiency they’ve had at defensive end over the past several seasons by signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency. That will allow them to address the glaring need they’ve had at tackle over that same period of time. Either Riley Reiff of Iowa or Jonathan Martin of Stanford would fill that need on the right or left side, depending on whether or not the Bills re-sign Demetrius Bell at LT.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: With the Chiefs having upgraded their offensive line by signing T Eric Winston, they can turn their attention to other areas. A true nose tackle like Dontari Poe of Memphis would be an ideal component for their 3-4 defense.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: Seattle has a need at defensive end. With Seattle having found their new quarterback in free agency in Matt Flynn, the Seahawks are said to have exhibited an interest in USC DE Nick Perry, who could be reunited with former college coach Pete Carroll, but if Melvin Ingram of South Carolina falls, he should be the pick.
http://blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/2012/01/21/first-look-at-the-2012-draft/;http://blog.seattlepi.com/football/2012/01/03/so-now-what-seahawks-time-to-talk-about-the-draft/; http://www.freep.com/article/20120127/HSS/201270417/Best-Midwest-Catching-up-2008-class;http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/02/23/2037795/expect-hawks-to-look-at-other.html; http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/seahawks/2017606295_combine27.html; http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/seahawksblog/2017602452_whatarushdeprospects.html
13. Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The Cardinals need to improve their offensive line, Jonathan Martin of Stanford and Riley Reiff would seem to fit at #13 value wise, although the Cardinals seemed to have exhibited an interest in Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams at the Senior Bowl. Martin could push current LT Levi Brown to right tackle, while Reiff could start off on the right side before eventually moving over to the left.
14. Dallas Cowboys – David DeCastro, G, Stanford: The Cowboys have improved their secondary with the signing of CB Brandon Carr. Defensive end remains a need, but this draft is deep at that position, at least when it comes to 3-4 defenses. The Cowboys seem to be targeting an upgrade on the interior of their offensive line, and there would be nobody better than David DeCastro of Stanford, especially since some are projecting that he could play center at the NFL level.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: Despite spending significant amounts of money on the defensive side of the ball last season, it was relatively easy to foresee that the Eagles would struggle due to an inability to stop the run. While Philadelphia typically uses their first round draft picks on linemen, they were woefully undersized and thin on depth at linebacker last season, where a complete overhaul is necessary. Even after trading with the Texans for MLB DeMeco Ryans, Luke Kuechly of Boston College has some of the best zone coverage skills for a linebacker coming out of college in recent memory, so he could easily project on the strong side.
16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama: The Jets entire defense was brought down last season due to a lack of pass rush from the edge. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina projects as an ideal 3-4 OLB in the Jet’s defensive scheme. Mark Barron of Alabama could also be a consideration for some much needed speed at safety, but I'm hearing that a strong pass rusher would be their preference.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Bengals should look to upgrade their secondary at either corner or safety with at least one of their two first round picks. If Dre Kirkpatrick falls, he could join Leon Hall as a starter in what would become an extremely deep Bengals secondary. If Kirkpatrick doesn’t fall, defensive end is also looking like a strong consideration with the Bengals having re-signed Adam Jones as an insurance plan.
18. San Diego Chargers – Andre Branch, OLB/DE, Clemson: The Chargers could have plenty of needs depending upon whether they re-sign all of their own free agents. Offensive line is a concern with the retirement of Kris Dielman, while adding a playmaker to rush the passer at linebacker is also a major need. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina or Courtney Upshaw of Alabama would be ideal fits if they were to fall to San Diego at #18, while Andre Branch of Clemson would also fit the bill of a pass rusher at linebacker in their 3-4 defense. Keep an eye on Mark Barron of Alabama at safety as well.
19. Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Replenishing an aging offensive line has to be a priority for the Bears, as is adding a true #1 receiver. With Mike Martz having been forced into retirement, new offensive coordinator and offensive line guru Mike Tice might be able to make do with the pieces that he currently has. In that case, Michael Floyd of Notre Dame would give Jay Cutler a natural go-to receiver to work with even after the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall since Johnny Knox is still dealing with a season threatening injury and Devin Hester is better served as a deep threat/flanker. There is somthing to be said for making a strengh out of a former position of weakness.
20. Tennessee Titans – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: Even after signing Kamerion Wimbley, the Titans appear to be looking for help at defensive end. In the mid to later part of the first round they could find value in edge rushers like Nick Perry of USC or Andre Branch of Clemson. Cornerback could also be a consideration with Courtland Finnegan having signed with the Rams in free agency.
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120224/SPORTS01/302230113/Titans-search-special-player-rush-passer?odyssey=tabtopnewstextSports Tennessee Titans;
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn, T/G, Georgia: From the interior of their offensive line to an explosive back, the Bengals could stand to improve their running game. If the Bengals can obtain a top corner like Dre Kirkpatrick with their first pick in the 1st round, someone like Cordy Glenn of Georgia who projects as either a right tackle or guard in the NFL would be a nice fit.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) – Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: If the Browns can either land Robert Griffin III without having to give up their second pick in the first round or sign a franchise quarterback like Matt Flynn via free agency, the 22nd pick would be an ideal spot to grab an elite wide receiver. The thought of pairing Griffin with his number one target at Baylor has to be intriguing to Cleveland's front office.
23. Detroit Lions – Mike Adams, T, Ohio State: Offensive line and the secondary are Detroit's biggest areas of need. However, William Clay Ford, Jr., Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand have changed the culture in Detroit by taking a best player available instead of reaching for players, and with the draft back heavy on the defensive line, the Lions have to be hoping that a left tackle or top cornerback falls to them. If the Lions were to draft a tackle, they’d ultimately be looking for someone to replace Jeff Backus on the left side. Mike Adams of Ohio State could fit that bill, and replace Gosder Cherilus on the right side while Backus plays out his final two years on the left side.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: With Casey Hampton's health and contract jeopardizing his return to the Steelers, Pittsburgh could be looking for a nose tackle to replace him, or a 3-4 defensive end so that Ziggy Hood can move inside. While DT Dontari Poe of Memphis received the most notoriety for his athleticism at the Scouting Combine, Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State not only nearly matched him in terms of his workout, but he has the better game film to back it up.
25. Denver Broncos – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: The Broncos have more needs than there is value to them at the #25 pick. Ideally, they'd probably like to trade out of the first round and accumulate more players at positions of need like running back, center, defensive tackle and the secondary. Defensive tackle should be a particularly deep position in the late first or early second round, and Jerel Worthy, Devon Still, Fletcher Cox or Brandon Thompson could all fill a need for the Broncos at that position if they stay put.
26. Houston Texans – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: The Texans need a compliment to Andre Johnson at wide receiver, who's injury last season magnified their lack of depth at that position. Stephen Hill is a physical specimen at wide receiver who's numbers at Georgia Tech were hindered by their lack of a vertical passing game. After his performance at the Scouting Combine, teams have to be wondering how good Hill can become in an offense that utilizes its receivers. He just might be the best receiver in this year’s draft, which would represent a steal at #26.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Mark Barron, S, Alabama: New England has two picks in both the 1st and the 2nd rounds of this year's draft. With glaring holes at DE, OLB CB/S and possibly even WR, they should be in position to make major improvements to a team that just narrowly missed winning the Super Bowl. Mark Barron of Alabama would give them more athleticism at safety if he were to fall to them at the #27 pick.
28. Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois: A 3-4 defensive end that could occupy some of the extra attention could free Clay Mathews, Jr. up, as would a pass rushing OLB to play opposite him. Whitney Mercilus of Illinois lead the nation in sacks last season, and could put some much needed extra heat on opposing quarterbacks.While there should also be plenty of talent available at DT/DE when the Packers select, that could also be a reason for them to wait until the second round to address that need.
29. Baltimore Ravens - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: Baltimore takes a best player available approach when it comes to the draft. Fortunately for them, interior offensive linemen may represent the best value on the board when they select, as they could lose G Ben Grubbs to free agency and C Matt Birk to retirement. Peter Konz could either replace Birk should he retire, or he could play along side of him for a year at guard in order to learn the calls a center needs to make in the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Even after signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the 49ers could still use another wide receiver. While the 49ers philosophy is to take the best player available on their draft board, fortunately for them, it looks as if either Kendall Wright of Baylor or Stephen Hill could still be available when they pick. Not only would Wright be a receiver that the 49ers could develop for the future, but he would also be able to move into the slot immediately even with their veteran free agent acquisitions.
31. New England Patriots – New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Devon Still, DT, Penn State: Devon Still of Penn State would be an ideal 3-4 end to provide the Patriots with some much needed pass rush while also stabilizing their line against the run. A 3-4 outside linebacker like Marshall’s Vinny Curry or Whitney Mercilus of Illinois could also be in the mix.
32. New York Giants – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama: The Giants were able to mask holes on their offensive line, line backing corps and in their secondary all season. With their secondary returning some of the depth and talent that was lost due to injury, the Giants can focus on their line and linebackers. Cordy Glenn of Georgia has the versatility to play either right tackle or right guard, both of which are positions that the Giants could stand to improve. If Glenn is not available, and given that the Giants take a best player available philosophy under Jerry Reese, a linebacker with a first round grade like Dont’a Hightower of Alabama would help solidify their front seven.