Here is my Post Pro Day 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. Any talk about Robert Griffin III overtaking Andrew Luck as the first pick was recently discredited when Griffin refused the Colts offer to take a pre-draft visit, presumably because he knew that Luck was already going to be their selection.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Having given up three first round picks and a second, the Redskins will draft Robert Griffin III. While Griffin doesn't have the command of a pro style offense that Andrew Luck has, he has superior arm strength and accuracy, especially on the crucial passes in the NFL like the 20-yard out.
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, 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.
4. St. Louis Rams (predicted trade with Cleveland) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: With the Rams having traded down from the #2 spot with Washington at #6, they have accumulated a bounty of extra picks. However, to get the WR that they desire in Justin Blackmon, they may have to give up a third round pick in order to move up and assure they get him. While a go-to wide receiver seems to be the Rams biggest need, in the event that Cleveland is unwilling to trade or the price is too much, a lockdown corner like Morris Claiborne would also be a nice fit.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: It would be hard to argue with Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson at the #5 spot talent wise, but if Richardson is gone, do the Bucs really need another cornerback after signing Eric Wright to a big contract as a free agent? Depending on what they decide to do with the talented, yet troubled Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay could be in the position to trade down to a team like Detroit seeking a premium cornerback like Claiborne.
6. Cleveland Browns (predicted trade with St. Louis) – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: Having offered three first round picks and even a second rounder, the Browns still lost out to Washington on Robert Griffin III. However, as a consolation prize the Browns are in the 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 Blackmon, the Browns could feign an interest in either player in attempts to induce one of those teams to trade up, in which case they'd likely be looking at LSU corner Morris Claiborne.. If they don’t get an offer they like, they could add an elite running back like Trent Richardson while targeting a wide receiver and a quarterback with their next two picks.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South 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. They now appear to be targeting Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, the safer pick, over Quinton Coples of North Carolina, who has higher up and downsides.
8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A and M: With Miami having missed out on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and any other free agent who’s aware of Jeff Ireland being their GM, Dolphins need to find a quarterback of the future. Ryan Tannehill, who played for Mike Sherman (Miami’s new offensive coordinator) in college, could fit the 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 – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: While the Panthers have a huge need at DT, Marty Hurney takes a best player available philosophy with the draft. While this draft is deep in defensive tackles, any one of them would be a reach at #9. If Quinton Coples were to fall to Carolina he would not only represent the BPA as a rush end, but he would also have the skill-set to play inside as he did at times early in his career at North Carolina as a nickle pass rusher for the Panthers..
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 the gaping need at left tackle, especially since Demetrius Bell departed for Philadelphia in free agency.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: With the Chiefs having upgraded their offensive line by signing T Eric Winston, they can turn their attention to other areas. A nose tackle would help anchor their 3-4 defense, while Luke Kuechly of Boston College could be a consideration at linebacker. With this draft being deep at defensive tackle and Kuechly having elite zone coverage skills, Kuechly represents the better relative value at pick #11.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: Seattle has needs at defensive end and linebacker. If Luke Kuechly is off the board by #12, the Seahawks are said to have exhibited an interest in defensive ends Quinton Coples of North Carolina, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, and Nick Perry of USC. If Coples and Ingram are off the board, Perry could be reunited with former college coach Pete Carroll, the question remains whether or not Perry fits the best graded player within their system philosophy employed by GM John Schneider at #12.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: The Cardinals need to improve their offensive line, either at tackle or guard. If the Cardinals go with an elite guard like David DeCastro over a developmental tackle like Jonathan Martin, Adam Snyder could move over and man the right tackle position, representing an upgrade at both positions.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: The Cowboys have improved their secondary with the signing of CB Brandon Carr and Brodney Poole, but they still have holes to fill at corner and safety. Additionally, they could use either a defensive end or a nose tackle, thereby allowing Jay Ratliff to move to the five-technique. While recent reports have the Cowboys eyeing Memphis NT Dontari Poe, he may not make it to the 14th pick. In that case, look for Dallas to target someone like Alabama safety Mark Barron who can come in and make an immediate impact in their secondary.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: With the Eagles addressing their glaring hole at linebacker in trading for Demeco Ryans, they can turn their attention to other positions. While the Ryans acquisition doesn’t necessarily rule out drafting Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, he may not be available when Philadelphia picks at #15, and the Eagles traditionally have invested their first round picks in offensive and defensive linemen. With a need for an impact player at defensive tackle, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox proved to be nearly as athletic as Dontari Poe of Memphis at the Combine, plus he has better game tape to back his results in Indianapolis up.
16. New York Jets – Mark Barron, S, Alabama: The Jets entire secondary suffered last season due to a lack of speed at the safety position. A potential playmaker like Mark Barron at safety is necessary to avoid mismatches with division rival New England’s two tight end attack, and could push the Jets back towards being one of the top defenses in the AFC. A pass rusher like Melvin Ingram could also be a consideration here, but an ideal fit like Melvin Ingram is likely to be off the board, while I’m hearing that the Jets may not have much of an interest in second tear hybrid linebackers like Courtney Upshaw and Whitney Mercilus.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – David DeCastro, G, Stanford: From the interior of their offensive line to an explosive back, the Bengals could stand to improve their running game. David DeCastro projects as one of the highest rated guards in recent draft history, possibly going as high as the top half of the first round. Cornerback and safety will also be considerations depending on the value available when it comes to Cincinnati's draft board. If DeCastro slides to #17, interior offensive line will be the Bengals first pick.
18. San Diego Chargers – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama: The Chargers could have plenty of needs after heavy losses to retirement and free agency. Offensive line is a concern with the retirement of Kris Dielman, while adding a play maker to rush the passer at linebacker is also a major need. Courtney Upshaw of Alabama or Nick Perry of USC would be ideal fits. Keep an eye on the Chargers making a move for Mark Barron of Alabama at safety as well.
19. Chicago Bears – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: Improving an aging offensive line has to be a priority for the Bears. 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 opposite newly acquired Brandon Marshall. However, as much as the Bears might covet him, it looks as if they would have to trade up with a team like Seattle to have a shot at getting him. With bigger needs to consider than trading up for Floyd, the Bears can address their outside pass rush with Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, who lead the nation in sacks last year.
20. Tennessee Titans – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: 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 Courtney Upshaw of Alabama, Nick Perry of USC or Whitney Mercilus of Illinois if they were to fall. A cornerback like Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama or Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina could also be considerations with Courtland Finnegan having signed with the Rams in free agency.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: 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 or Stephon Gilmore are available, either one could join Leon Hall as a starter in what would become a deep Bengals secondary. If not, Marvin Lewis is said to have his eye on Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: While the Browns are definitely kicking the tires on QB Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, it does not appear that the Browns are seriously considering replacing Colt McCoy at quarterback, as they expressed very little interest in system fit free agent Matt Flynn, and they made a half-assed after the fact effort to match Washington's offer of three first round picks to trade up for Robert Griffin III. If Cleveland lands RB Trent Richardson with their first pick, a receiver like Kendall Wright of Baylor would give McCoy two explosive playmakers on offense to show whether or not he’s capable of being their man going forward.
23. Detroit Lions – Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford: 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. Jonathan Martin of Stanford would definitely fit that bill, and until then, he could potentially replace Gosder Cherilus on the right side until Backus plays out his final two years of his contract.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: With the Steelers having released James Farrior, don’t expect Larry Foote to be able to handle the starting duties at the inside linebacker spot opposite Lawrence Timmons. While Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower may not be explosive, he’s a solid tackler who just makes plays. In other words, he fits the Steelers system perfectly.
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, even if Kendall Wright was still available.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The Patriots have needs at defensive end and outside linebacker in their 3-4 system. Michael Brockers is an interesting player in this year’s draft, in that in the event that he makes it past Carolina and Dallas at #9 and #14 he could plummet all the way to New England at #27 or Green Bay at #28. In the event that Brockers does not fall, the Patriots are said to have their eyes on Kendall Reyes of UConn. While outside linebacker will be a consideration, the players that they will likely have to consider all have second round grades.
28. Green Bay Packers – Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State: Look for Green Bay to take the best defensive player available. A 3-4 defensive end could help free Clay Mathews, Jr. up like Cullen Jenkins did before leaving for Philadelphia a season ago via free agency, as would a pass rushing OLB to play opposite him. Shea McCellin of Boise State, Chandler Jones of Syracuse or Vinny Curry of Marshall all could fit that description. Of those players, the Packers are said have a particular interest in McClellin, who would be an ideal fit at OLB in their 3-4 system given that he has already proven that he can play in coverage in addition to getting to the passer with his high motor.
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 after losing G Ben Grubbs to free agency. Peter Konz could ultimately replace Matt Birk once he retires, but in the meantime he can play alongside 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 – Cordy Glenn, T/G, Georgia: The 49ers philosophy is to take the best player available on their draft board. If Cordy Glenn of Georgia makes it past Cincinnati and Chicago, he would be a value pick and fill one of the biggest needs for the 49ers on their interior line at #30.
31. New England Patriots – New England Patriots – Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: The Patriots need to bolster the front of their 3-4 defense at end. If they land a defensive tackle/3-4 end with their first pick, look for the Patriots to trade down to the top of the second round where they can pick up a 3-4 OLB like Vinny Curry of Marshall, Andre Branch of Clemson, Cam Johnson of Virginia or Chandler Jones of Syracuse at a better value and accumulate an additional pick or two as they’ve had a track record of doing in recent years. If the Patriots don’t draft a 3-4 defensive end at #27, they are said to have their eyes on Kendall Reyes of UConn to play the five-technique.
32. New York Giants – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: The Giants were able to mask holes on their offensive line, linebacker 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 Floyd Reese, a linebacker with a solid first round grade like Dont’a Hightower of Alabama would help solidify their front seven, or a tackle like Mike Adams of Ohio State would stabilize their offensive line.