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. Now that it’s official, Colts fans can embrace the Andrew Luck era.
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.
http://m.startribune.com/sports/?id=136682723; http://m.startribune.com/news/?id=136591293; http://m.startribune.com/news/?id=136948183;
4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: 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. If they don’t get an offer they like, they could improve their running game with a franchise back in Trent Richardson while targeting a wide receiver and a quarterback with their next two picks.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: 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, or even up with Minnesota if Greg Schiano wants a bell cow running back in Trent Richardson to base his offense around.
6. St. Louis Rams - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: 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 might have the opportunity to select the elite go to wide receiver they covet for Sam Bradford in Justin Blackmon. While Minnesota and Cleveland have put up weak smokescreens regarding their potential interest in Blackmon to try and induce St. Louis to trade up, the Rams should be able to stand put and land their go-to receiver and keep their picks.
7. New York Jets (predicted trade with Jacksonville) – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: The Jets defense suffered last season due to a lack of pass rush from the edge and speed at safety. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina is an ideal 3-4 OLB in the Jet’s defensive scheme, but he no longer projects to last to the middle of the first round. Mark Barron of Alabama could also be a consideration for some much needed speed at safety, but he’s also rising up draft boards as the lone free safety worth drafting early in this year’s draft. The Jets at least appear interested in trying to trade up for either of those two players, with Ingram as their ideal target. Likewise, Jacksonville appears to be equally willing to trade down.
8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A and M: While the Dolphins are strongly denying a report that owner Stephen Ross is pushing for Ryan Tannehill, if you read between the lines it appears that is who their target really is. Tannehill played for Mike Sherman in college, who is Miami’s new offensive coordinator. In the event that Tannehill has already been selected or they feel he’s not worthy of a top 10 pick, the Dolphins could target an outside rusher like South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram or an interior disruptive presence like Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State.
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, that position could still be considered a reach at #9. If Quinton Coples were to fall to Carolina, he could become an ideal hybrid player. While draft analysts have called Coples a high risk pick because he was inconsistent with his motor during his senior season, he's actually one of the safest picks in the draft. Having changed positions to defensive end after being one of the top interior rushers in the nation as a Junior, a team in need like Carolina would have the option of using Coples on passing downs as an interior pass rusher, or even moving him back inside to where he was most productive in college as a fallback option, minimizing his risk of being a draft bust as a pure defensive end.
10. Buffalo Bills – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: 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. While they’ve had the same need at left tackle since Jason Peter left for Philadelphia, GM Buddy Nix is going to draft whoever the hell he wants, even if his rebuilding plan will still be in place long after he’s dead. There’s no question that Luke Kuechly’s coverage skills are ideally suited for New England’s two tight end attack in the AFC East, but unless the Bills draft a left tackle, even if that means reaching for Riley Reiff of Iowa, they will not be contenders.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – David DeCastro, G, Stanford: With the Chiefs having upgraded their offensive line by signing T Eric Winston, they would like to turn their attention to other areas, such as a LB like Luke Kuechly of Boston College. However, if Kuechly’s not available, drafting G David DeCastro of Stanford would help transform a below average offensive line from last season into a potentially elite group, especially in terms of run blocking.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (projected trade with Seattle) – 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. With Seattle in the market to trade down, moving up to #12 to select Cox should only cost the Eagles a 3rd Round pick.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: The Cardinals need to improve their offensive line, either at tackle or guard. If Buffalo passes on Iowa tackle Riley Reiff as it is now being rumored, it would be an ideal situation for the Cardinals. Even if Reiff does not beat out incumbent starter Levi Brown on the left side this year, he'd be an immediate upgrade on the right side until such time that he's ready to take over.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S, Alabama: The Cowboys have improved their secondary with the signings of CB Brandon Carr and Brodney Poole, but they still have holes to fill at both positions. 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 Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, 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. Seattle Seahawks (predicted trade with Philadelphia) – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama: Seattle has needs at defensive end and linebacker, although GM John Schneider will take a best player available within Seattle’s system approach to the draft. 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 Ingram is off the board, Coples could be the pick. Otherwise, the Seahawks are reportedly interested in trading down where they would target Perry at a better value or Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who’s reported to be on their radar in the event that they trade down.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (predicted trade with New York Jets) – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Wide receiver and defensive end seem to be the Jaguars biggest needs. In the event that Justin Blackmon doesn't fall to them at #7, the Jaguars will be looking to trade down, and they may find a willing partner in the New York Jets. Michael Floyd would be a value pick that would fill a major need at #16 if Jacksonville is satified with his character, while they are also said to have an interest in South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – 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 Stephon Gilmore falls, he could join Leon Hall as a starter in what would become an extremely deep Bengals secondary. If Gilmore doesn’t fall, Marvin Lewis is said to have his eye on Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, or they could look to solidify their offensive line.
http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/26/coyle-to-fins-nearly-done-talking-senior-bowl-corners/; http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/20/the-20-questions-mailbag-offseason-edition/; http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/12/bengals-chat-with-joe-reedy-at-noon-;
18. San Diego Chargers – Nick Perry, OLB/DE, USC: 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 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 play to trade up for Mark Barron of Alabama at safety as well.
19. Chicago Bears – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: Improving an aging offensive line would seem to be a priority for the Bears. However, 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. With no true value left on the offensive line when they pick at #19, the Bears can address their outside pass rush with Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, who lead the nation in sacks last year.
20. Tennessee Titans – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, 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 Nick Perry of USC or Courtney Upshaw of Alabama. A cornerback like Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina or Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama could also be considerations with Courtland Finnegan having signed with the Rams in free agency.
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.
http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/20/the-20-questions-mailbag-offseason-edition/; http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/12/bengals-chat-with-joe-reedy-at-noon-5/; http://cincinnati.com/blogs/bengals/2012/01/26/coyle-to-fins-nearly-done-talking-senior-bowl-corners/;
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: While the Browns are definitely kicking the tires on QB Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, they expressed very little interest in free agent Matt Flynn, who would have fit their West Coast Offense perfectly. Accordingly, it doesn’t look as if they’re going to make a move to replace Colt McCoy in the first round of this year’s draft. If they land 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 the man going forward.
23. Detroit Lions – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: 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, but the question remains as to whether his value will meet Mahew’s BPA philosophy at #23. Mike Adams would have been a consideration, but having tested positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combine is indicative of a chronic problem, which the Lions will try to avoid. Under this scenario, the Lions would be thrilled with Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, who would be highly rated and fill an area of substantial need.
25. Denver Broncos – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: 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 Michael Brockers could all fill a need for the Broncos at that position if they stay put. Brockers would be the better run stuffer, while Worthy would be more disruptive as a pass rusher from the three-technique.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: 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. Dontari Poe of Memphis would be an ideal two-gap DT that Pittsburgh is looking for in their 3-4 defense. If Seattle doesn’t trade back or Baltimore doesn’t trade up to grab ILB Dont’a Hightower of Alabama, he will also garner strong consideration from the Steelers.
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 – Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State: The Patriots are always in need of hybrid pass rushers in their 3-4 system. That need is even bigger this offseason with Kevin Carter coming off of an injury and Mark Anderson having left via free agency. Shea McClellin of Boise State is an ideal 3-4 pass rusher at OLB who can also play in coverage, and New England would likely need to select him at #27 to avoid Green Bay from taking him at #28. In the event that the Patriots are scared off by his three reported concussions in college, Andre Branch of Clemson Chandler Jones of Syracuse, or Vinny Curry of Marshall are all talented pass rushers who’s skill-sets translate well to standing up in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, with plenty of quality defensive tackles who can play end in a 3-4 likely to be available.
28. Green Bay Packers – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: The Packers are still looking for a replacement for Cullen Jenkins, who's departure after their 2011 Super Bowl victory in free agency created a huge hole at end on their defensive line. Michigan State DT Fletcher Cox would be a disruptive force in Green Bay's 3-4 defense that could occupy some of the extra attention that Clay Mathews received this year, freeing him up to get after the passer like he did two seasons ago. Forget the reports that Worthy was inconsistent, Michigan State played a bunch of teams that threw nothing but quick bubble screens, and that's what caused him to disappear at times. Every time he faced a pro-style offense he blew them up...As University of Wisconsin and Georgia fans will attest.
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 – Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin: The 49ers typical draft philosophy is to take the best player available on their draft board. However, San Francisco GM Trent Baalke recently said that he is targeting one specific player who he believes will be there when the 49ers pick at #30. Assuming he isn’t having fun with the media, that could mean reaching in terms of overall draft rating to fill a specific need for a starter at right tackle. Wide receiver and defensive tackle could also come into play at this pick if San Francisco sticks with a BPA philosophy.
31. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: The Patriots need to bolster the front of their 3-4 defense at end. While that position is particularly deep in this year’s draft, the Patriots are said to have their eyes on Kendall Reyes of UConn to play the five-technique. If they land a defensive tackle/3-4 end with their first pick at #27 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.
32. New York Giants – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: 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, while a tackle like Jonathan Martin of Stanford would stabilize their offensive line going forward.