Here is my Post Super Bowl 2012 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by updates before and after the NFL Scouting Combine 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, NFL Mock Draft Central 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: Peyton Manning's $28 million roster bonus will make this an easy transition. The Colts can select Andrew Luck with the first pick of the draft and play him right away, while Manning's uncertain health at the time that bonus comes due on March 8th will allow the Colts to cut ties with him without alienating their fan base.
2. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: I look for the Rams to trade down, possibly with Cleveland at #4 or Washington at #6, and still have the opportunity to select the number one wide receiver they covet for Sam Bradford in Justin Blackmon before the next team clearly seeking a wide out selects in Jacksonville at #7.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC: The Vikings appear to have made their decision to go with Christian Ponder as their quarterback of the future, assuring him that they will not select another signal caller with their first pick in this year's draft. Matt Kalil projects as a premier left tackle that Minnesota can rebuild their offensive line around. Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne would also fill needs here for the Vikings, but when all else is equal when it comes to talent, left tackle takes precedence over wide receiver or cornerback.
4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: If the Browns really want Griffin, they may have to trade up with St. Louis to assure that Washington, Seattle or Miami does not leap-frog over them. Cleveland has the picks to move up should they choose to go in that direction, but the question remains whether they are willing to part with them or are willing to gamble that the quarterback they like will still be around when they pick at #4.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Tampa Bay is having enough problems securing a coaching staff, let alone figuring out who they are going to draft at this point. It would be hard to argue with Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon 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.
6. Washington Redskins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A and M: Quarterback seems to be a popular pick for Washington. Rumor has it that both Peyton Manning and his center with the Colts, Jeff Saturday, will be joining the Redskins in a package deal. Another rumor floating around is that the Redskins are planning to announce a new quarterback on draft day who will "elate" their fans, suggesting that they already have some sort of deal in place. In the event that the Redskins do not acquire a new quarterback like Manning via free agency or a trade, they may look to trade down for additional picks and still select a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill.
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 go to receiver Justin Blackmon does not fall to them, they should have their choice of elite pass rushers in this year's draft, thereby representing the best value for Jacksonville at #7.
* Carolina Panthers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: While the Panthers certainly could use an impact interior defensive lineman, none of the defensive tackles have distinguished themselves as a clear cut top 10 pick as of yet. Should Morris Claiborne make it to Carolina at either the #8 or #9 pick (pending a coin toss at the NFL Scouting Combine), he would be the lockdown corner that the Panthers need to help solidify their porous secondary.
* Miami Dolphins – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: While there has been speculation that the Dolphins covet Peyton Manning should he be granted his release by the Colts, the smarter money is on Matt Flynn joining his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Joe Philbim, who is now the Dolphins head coach. Assuming that Miami solidifies their quarterback situation via free agency, that would allow them to address needs like pass rush or right tackle in the draft. With Jake Long entrenched at left tackle for years to come, there's little value in taking a right tackle with a top 10 pick, so look for Miami to draft a defensive end/outside linebacker like Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw or Quinton Coples should he slide to Miami at either pick #8 or #9 (pending a coin toss at the NFL Scouting Combine).
10. Buffalo Bills – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: An edge pass rusher like Courtney Upshaw would be a great combination to pair alongside fellow ex Alabama teammate Marcell Dareus in the Bill's new 4-3 defense.
* Kansas City Chiefs – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: The Chiefs are looking to upgrade their offensive line. By drafting a true left tackle like Iowa's Riley Reiff at either #11 or #12 (subject to a coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine), that would allow them to move Brandon Albert either inside to guard or to right tackle, his more natural position. Either way, Kansas City would substantially upgrade two positions on their line.
* Seattle Seahawks – Nick Perry, DE, USC: Seattle has needs at quarterback and defensive end. It certainly would not be surprising if the Seahawks used or packaged this pick for a new signal caller, but that scenario would require them moving from either pick #11 or #12 (subject to a coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine) and into the top 5 to even have a chance at one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the draft. If Seattle finds their new quarterback in free agency (where they have been linked to both Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn), or if the cost of moving up in the draft is too much, the Seahawks have also been said to have exhibited an interest in USC DE Nick Perry, which would reunite him with his former USC coach Pete Carroll.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The Cardinals not only need to improve their current offensive line, but they elect to let left tackle Levi Brown walk in free agency. 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.
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/articles/2012/01/23/20120123arizona-cardinals-2012-mock-draft-agency.html?page=4; http://www.azcentral.com/sports/articles/2012/01/20/20120120arizona-republic-nfl-mock-draft-2012-first-edition.html; http://www.freep.com/article/20120127/HSS/201270417/Best-Midwest-Catching-up-2008-class
14. Dallas Cowboys – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Cowboys have several glaring holes in their secondary, which for an aspiring Super Bowl contender like Jerry Jones is a recipe for disaster in the pass happy NFC. Look for the Cowboys to address that need and let their young interior offensive line develop another season before deciding whether it needs to be addressed.
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. The Eagles were woefully undersized and thin on depth at the linebacker position, where a complete overhaul is necessary.
16. New York Jets - Mark Barron, S, Alabama: The Jets entire secondary was brought down last season due to a lack of speed at the safety position. A potential playmaker like Mark Barron at that position would help turn a weakness into a strength, and push the Jets back towards the top defenses in the AFC.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – David DeCastro, G, Stan: 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.
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/
18. San Diego Chargers – Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: The Chargers could have plenty of needs depending upon whether they re-sign all of their own free agents. Offensive line could be a huge concern depending on the statuses of Marcus McNeil, Jared Gaither, Nick Hardwick and Kris Dielman. Adding a playmaker at linebacker is also a major need, and could represent better value at the 18th pick if the Chargers can sure up their line before the draft.
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 number 1 receiver. With Mike Martz having been run out of Chicago and into retirement, new offensive coordinator and offensive line guru Mike Tice might be able to make do with the pieces he currently has. In that case, Michael Floyd of Notre Dame would give Jay Cutler a natural go-to receiver to work with, allowing Devin Hester to work as a complimentary deep threat.
20. Tennessee Titans – Andre Branch, DE, Clemson: The Titans appear to be looking for help at defensive end. In the middle 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 if Tennessee lets Courtland Finnegan walk in free agency.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: The Bengals should look to upgrade their secondary at either corner or safety with at least one of their two first round picks. Janoris Jenkins claims to have distanced himself from the marijuana problems he had that caused him to get kicked out of the University of Florida. Given that the Bengals have a tendency to overlook character concerns, Jenkins may be a fit in Cincinnati given that he just may be the best cover corner in the draft.
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-
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: 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 - Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska: 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 by taking a best player available approach instead of reaching for players. Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kilpatrick have the talent at cornerback that the Lions would be looking for, but their character concerns may not fit with the Lions organization even if they were to fall to the #23 pick. Alternatively, the Lions could target OT Mike Adams of Ohio State, C Peter Konz of Wisconsin, or even look to trade down for an additional 2nd rounder plus a first round pick in next year's draft. If the Lions stay put, Alfonzo Dennard certainly did not help his draft stock with a poor showing at the Senior Bowl, but he may be schematic fit for a team like the Lions who value tackling in their secondary but do not rely too heavily on man-to-man coverage.
http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2012/01/detroit_lions_general_manager_4.html; http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2012/01/detroit_lions_watch_north_alab.html; http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2012/01/from_playoff_team_to_super_bow.html; https://twitter.com/#!/ttwentyman/status/
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – 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.
25. Denver Broncos – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami: The Broncos have more needs than there is value to them at the #25 pick. Ideally, Denver would probably like to trade out of the first round and accumulate players at positions of need like running back, center, defensive tackle and the secondary.
26. Houston Texans – Muhammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: The Texans need a compliment to Andre Johnson at wide receiver, who's injury last season magnified that problem. Muhammed Sanu is an explosive receiver, who many at Rutgers believe is more talented than Hakeem Nicks. If he's even close to that good, the Texans would instantly become a contender in the AFC.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU: 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 narrowly missed winning the Super Bowl. Michael Brockers of LSU would be an ideal 3-4 end to provide the Patriots with some much needed pass rush.
28. Green Bay Packers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: The Packers are still looking for a replacement for Cullen Jenkins, who departed after their 2011 Super Bowl victory in free agency. Mississippi State DT would be a disruptive force at end in Green Bay's 3-4 defense that could occupy some of the attention that Clay Mathew received this year, freeing him up to get after the passer.
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 stand to 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 Birk for a year at guard in order to learn the calls a center needs to make in the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: The 49ers will take the best player available on their draft board. However, if they are unable to sign at least one wide receiver in free agency, that position has to become a priority in the draft. Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina seems to have had his draft stock fall this season, but he certainly has the talent of a #1 receiver.
31. New England Patriots – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois: If the Patriots can address defensive end with the first selection in the first round, a 3-4 outside linebacker needs to be their next priority with Kevin Carter coming off of a substantial injury and Mark Anderson set to hit the free market. Whitney Mercilus of Illinois is a talented pass rusher who's skill set translates to standing up in the NFL.
32. New York Giants – Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia: The Giants were able to mask holes on their offensive line and in their secondary all season. With their secondary returning depth and talent that was lost due to injury, the Giants can focus on their line. Cordy Glenn of Georgia has the versatility to play either right tackle or right guard, both of which the Giants could stand to improve. Given that the Giants take a best player available philosophy under Jerry Reese, a defensive tackle or end would not be surprising given the depth and value at those positions in this year's draft.