Here is my Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by any late breaking 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. If you're looking for new insight on your favorite team, you probably won't find it here. If you want to know what every other team is thinking before or after your team picks, it's provided for you below.
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. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota) – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: The Browns are in the position to stay put and select one of the six impact players in this year’s draft. Cleveland would improve their running game with a franchise back in Trent Richardson and still be able to complete the skill position trifecta by targeting a wide receiver and a quarterback with their next two picks. If Cleveland truly values a running back over WR Justin Blackmon and CB Morris Claiborne, they may want to consider striking a deal now to swap picks with Minnesota at #3 to assure that Tampa Bay does not leap-frog over them for Richardson. In the event that happens, look for Claiborne as the Browns fallback pick. (Breaking news, the Browns have traded up with Minnesota for the right to select Richardson).
4. Minnesota Vikings (from Cleveland) – 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. In actuality, the Vikings are doing everything they can to try and induce the Buccaneers to trade up by feigning an interest in LSU CB Morris Claiborne, which is a trade scenario that would still allow the Vikings to select Kalil at #5. Unless Tampa Bay really wants to trade up and leap-frog Cleveland for the right to select Alabama RB Trent Richardson, the Bucs should be able to stay put at #5 and still get Claiborne, as Minnesota is still likely targeting Kalil as a premier left tackle, they're just trying to play their cards right and gain an extra pick or two in the process. (Breaking news, the Vikinjgs have traded out the #3 spot with Cleveland, and will now likely select Kalil with the 4th pick).
5. Tampa Bay, 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? If Tampa Bay is feels that Claiborne is rated higher than or equal to Trent Richardson, they should ignore Minnesota's smokescreens that are clearly being made to induce them to trade up. However, in the event that new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano truly does value a bell-cow back like Richardson over a corner like Claiborne, they should use Minnesota's over eagerness to trade down against them and underpay pursuant to the Trade Value Chart to leap-frog over Cleveland for the top running back in the draft. (Breaking news, Cleveland has traded up with Minnesota, securing them the right to select Richardson).
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: With Jeff Ireland having missed out on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and every other free agent that they targeted, the Dolphins need to find a quarterback of the future. Ryan Tannehill, who played for Mike Sherman (Miami’s new offensive coordinator) in college, certainly fits the system. 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 3-4 pass rusher like South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram or Quinton Coples of North Carolina, but it appears that Miami owner Stephen Ross is pushing for Ireland to take Tannehill.
9. Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: The Panthers have a huge need at defensive tackle. Not only does Marty Hurney takes a best player available philosophy with the draft, but some draft insiders now have Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox ranked as high as the top six for the entire draft. While DT Dontari Poe of Memphis received the most notoriety for his athleticism at the Scouting Combine, Cox not only nearly matched him in terms of his workout, but he has the better game film to back it up.
10. Buffalo Bills – Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Late breaking reports have the Bills expressing a serious interest in Alabama safety Mark Barron, South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore, and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, with Barron and then Gilmore being the preferred players. While a safety like Barron to pair with Jairuss Byrd would help counteract division rival New England’s two tight end attack, it’s hard to believe that the Bills will continue to ignore ongoing needs at left and right tackle.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: 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 one of the remaining defensive ends at a better value or Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
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. If Riley Reiff is available, he'd likely be the pick. However, late reports have the Cardinals expressing a strong interest in Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd to play opposite Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: 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. In the event that Barron and Cox off the board by the time the Cowboys pick, I'm hearing that their fallback plan is DT Michael Brockers of LSU. However, I'd almost be more intrigued with making a play for Quinton Coples of North Carolina and playing him as a 3-4 DE, where he could be the disruptive pass rusher from the interior that the Cowboys are looking for much like when he played DT in a 4-3 defense his junior year at North Carolina.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: With the Eagles addressing their glaring hole at linebacker by trading for Demeco Ryans, they can turn their attention to other positions. Ideally the Eagles would love for Fletcher Cox or Mark Barron to be available when they pick at #15, but that is looking less and less likely as those two players are moving up draft boards. The Eagles traditionally have invested their first round picks in offensive and defensive linemen, so if a run stuffing defensive tackle like Michael Brockers of LSU is available, he could be their pick. If Buffalo takes Barron as has been recently rumored, that could trigger a chain of events where none of the aforementioned players are available. Barring Philadelphia trading up, that could result in their pick turning into DE Chandler Jones of Syracuse, who is looking more and more like a top 20 pick.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (predicted trade with New York Jets) – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: With only six consensus impact players in the 2012 Draft, Jacksonville would love to trade down, and they may find a willing partner in the Jets, in a deal that would likely cost New York their 2nd and 4th round picks pursuant to the Trade Value Chart. The Jaguars have recently expressed an interest in South Carolina CB Stephon Gilbert, and while he could be the pick for them at #7, he’d be a much better value if they can manage to trade down a few spots.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: The Bengals could look at a guard like David DeCastro of Stanford or Cordy Glenn of Georgia, but I'm hearing they are no longer leaning in that direction. Instead they are looking at defense, and Courtney Upshaw could fill a need on the edge for the Bengals.
18. San Diego Chargers – David DeCastro, G, Stanford: The Chargers could have plenty of needs, including pass rusher and safety. Offensive line is also a concern with the retirement of Kris Dielman. David DeCastro of Stanford would represent a huge windfall at guard in the event that he falls to #18. If DeCastro does not fall to San Diego, a defensive end who can play 3-4 outside linebacker like Whitney Mercilus could be the likely pick. Keep an eye on the Chargers making a play to trade up for Mark Barron of Alabama at safety as well, but as he pushes up the draft boards it looks as if the cost to do so could become too expensive.
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.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – 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, Marvin Lewis is said to have his eye on Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, or they could look to solidify their offensive line with Cordy Glenn of Georgia at G/T.
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 – Riley Reiff, T, Iowa: Offensive line and the secondary are Detroit's biggest areas of need. However, William Clay Ford, Jr., Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand have quickly changed the culture in Detroit not by reaching for need, but by taking a best player available approach. Dre Kilpatrick and Janoris Jenkins have the talent at cornerback that the Lions will be looking for, but if Kirkpatrick is not available or Jenkins character concerns do not fit with the Lions organization, they could look at a defensive end like Chandler Jones or a versatile lineman like Cordy Glenn of Georgia, who could plug in at guard or compete with Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. If Riley Reiff of Iowa falls, he could play on the right to begin and ultimately take over for Jeff Backus on the left.
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 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 – Cordy Glenn, T/G, Georgia: While WR has been a popular pick in mock drafts for the Texans, I’m hearing that they definitively will NOT being going in that direction in the first round, although that position would not be out of the question in the second or third round. Instead, the Texans will target a replacement at Eric Winston at right tackle, or an outside linebacker who fits their 3-4 system to given them extra ammunition at pass rusher following the departure of Mario Williams. Cordy Glenn of Georgia would be the idea pick here, but if he is off the board, look for Chandler Jones of Syracuse, Nick Perry of USC, Courtney Upshaw of Alabama, Shea McClellin of Boise State and Andre Branch of Clemson to all receive consideration.
27. New England Patriots - Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: The Patriots have needs at DE, OLB and their secondary. If the the top hypbrid pass rushers are gone when they select at #27, they can look to improve their secondary with a safety like Harrison Smith of Notre Dame, with enought depth at DT to find someone to play five-technique in their 3-4 defense.
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. Jacksonville Jaguars (predicted trade with Baltimore) – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: While the Jaguars have a huge need at wide receiver, they no longer seem to be in the mix for Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon at #7. If they don’t stay at #7 or trade down and select Michael Floyd, whose character does not seem to fit Jacksonville’s draft philosophy, look for the Jaguars to take a receiver with their second pick in this year’s draft. With a growing interest in Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill being reported, the Jags should be able to find a willing trade partner in Houston to trade back into the first round to select him. Moving up from #39 to #27 would likely cost Jacksonville a 3rd Round pick pursuant to the Trade Value Chart.
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 guard even though that's not typically a position of value in the NFL. 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.
32. New York Giants – Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson: The Giants will take a best player available approach to the draft. While Doug Martin has been receiving a lot of consideration of late in mock drafts, Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano just informed me that New York will likely go in a different direction. In the event that Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill is not available, look for the Giants to target a pass rusher to ultimately replace Osi Umenyiora in the draft. Andre Branch of Clemson would fill that need and give New York some added versatility on their defensive line.