Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pre NFL Scouting Combine

Here is my Pre NFL Scouting Combine 2012 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by updates after the 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 ReportWalter Football, FF Toolbox,, The Football Expert, NFLDraftDogFantasy Football Help Desk, The Phinsider, The Huddle Report, NFL Mock Draft Central, NFL Pro Zach 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.

1st Round

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. Even in the event that Manning does return, the Colts will take Luck and groom him as his successor.;;

2. Cleveland Browns (predicted trade with St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: If the Browns really want Griffin, they will have to trade up with St. Louis in order to assure that Washington, Seattle or Miami do not leap-frog over them. Cleveland certainly 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 if they‘d rather target another option at quarterback like Matt Flynn via free agency or Ryan Tannehill later in the draft.;;

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, having assured him that they will not select another signal caller with their first round 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 a wide receiver or a cornerback.;;;;

4. St. Louis Rams – (predicted trade with Cleveland) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: The Rams are looking to trade down from the #2 spot, possibly with Cleveland at #4 or Washington at #6. By doing so, they would accumulate extra picks 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 one (Jacksonville) selects at #7.;;

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 - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: 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 stay put and take a cornerback like LSU's Morris Claiborne, or they could trade down for additional picks and still select a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill later in the first round.;

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 – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: 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 the Dolphins since his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Joe Philbim, is now their head coach. Assuming that Miami solidifies their quarterback situation via free agency, the Dolpins can address needs like pass rush or right tackle in the draft. While some would question the value of drafting a right tackle this high in the first round, that seems to be the Dolphins thinking at this point for their pick at pick #8.;

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. Morris Claiborne is also a player that the Panthers are considering to fill a need at cornerback. If both are off the board by the time the Panthers pick, Carolina will likely have to choose between Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick and LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers to fill those needs.;;

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.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The Chiefs are looking to upgrade their offensive line. By drafting a true left tackle like Stanford’s Jonathan Martin at #11, 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 by making that move.

12. 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 up from pick #12 and into the top 2 or 3 to even have a chance at one of the top 2 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 high, 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. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina would be another option to at defensive end get to the passer.;;;;

13. Arizona Cardinals – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: The Cardinals need to improve their current offensive line, especially if 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 more of an interest in Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams at the Senior Bowl.;;

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. Luke Kuechly of Boston College would be a solid step in remedying that problem.;; 

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 would help turn a weakness at safety into a strength, and push the Jets back towards being one of the top defenses in the AFC. A pass rusher like Melvin Ingram of South Carolina could also be a consideration here.;

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.;;;

18. San Diego Chargers – Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, South Carolina: 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, althoug it currently looks as if Gaither, Hardwick and Dielman will ultimately return. Adding a playmaker to rush the passer 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 that 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 and Johnny Knox to work as more complimentary big-play threats.;

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.;;
Sports Tennessee Titans

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.;;;

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: If the Browns can 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 favorite target at Baylor has to be intriguing to Cleveland's front office.;

23. Detroit Lions - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: 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. Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kilpatrick have the talent at cornerback that the Lions will 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 round pick if they can also add a first round pick in next year's draft.;;;;!/ttwentyman/status/164890568651046913

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 the prototypical two-gap DT that Pittsburgh is looking for in their 3-4 defense.

25. Denver Broncos – Devon Still, DT, Penn 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 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 Devon Still, Jerel Worthy, Fletcher Cox or Brandon Thompson could all fill a need for the Broncos at that position.

26. Houston Texans – Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: The Texans need a compliment to Andre Johnson at wide receiver, who's injury last season magnified their lack of depth at that position. Rueben Randle is a physical specimen at wide receiver who‘s numbers at LSU were hindered by the Tigers' lack of a vertical passing game, although there are questions about his maturity in how he handled not getting the ball as much as he would have liked.;;

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: 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. Jerel Worthy of Michigan State would be an ideal 3-4 end to provide the Patriots with some much needed pass rush while also stabalizing against the run.;;

28. Green Bay Packers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi 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. Mississippi State DT 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.;;

29. Baltimore Ravens - Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: While interior offensive linemen may be the Ravens biggest need, as they could stand to lose G Ben Grubbs to free agency and C Matt Birk to retirement, Peter Konz might be off the board by the time they select. Additionally, Baltimore takes a best player available approach when it comes to the draft, so there's no guarantee that they'd draft him to fill that need if he is available. Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State fits the mold of Ray Lewis, who's not getting any younger. Allowing Burfict to play alongside the veteran Pro Bowler would be an ideal situation, as Lewis could teach how to better channel some of his aggression.

30. San Francisco 49ers – Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: 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. Mohamed Sanu is a physical receiver, although questions about his speed may keep him out of the first round. Likewise, 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 if he were to keep his weight under control and run a good time at the Combine.;

Aside from Rich Eisen's quest to break 6.0, Mohamed Sanu and Alshon Jeffery will be running two of the most important 40-yard dashes at this year's Scouting Combine.

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 well 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 some of the 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 are positions that 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 available at those positions in this year's draft.;

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