Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post Scouting Combine

Here is my Post NFL Scouting Combine 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 ReportWalter Football, FF Toolbox,, The Football Expert, NFLDraftDogFantasy Football Help Desk, 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: 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. The Colts are free to select Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and play him right away, while their fan base will have the excitement of watching him develop even though they are completely starting over.

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: With Peyton Manning having rebuffed Washington's attempt to lure him in free agency, the Redskins will have their quarterback of the future, having elected to give up three first round picks and a second for the right to draft Robert Griffin III.

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. Cleveland Browns – 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. If the Browns land their quarterback of the future via free agency in someone like Matt Flynn or draft a quarterback later in the first round at #22 like Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weedon, they will be free to select one of the six elite prospects in this year's draft, like Morris Claiborne of LSU.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: 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. The decision as to which position to pick will likely be determined by who the Bucs are able to sign in free agency, where there will be more top flight cornerbacks available than game changing running backs.

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 have the opportunity to select the elite go to wide receiver they covet for Sam Bradford in Justin Blackmon before the next team clearly seeking help at that position picks in Jacksonville at #7.;;

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 will make a strong push for Peyton Manning now that he has been released by the Colts. They could also pursue Matt Flynn since his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay is now Miami's head coach. Assuming that the Dolphins solidify their quarterback situation via free agency, they 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, especially if they sign Manning. Otherwise, Melvin Ingram could be the pick.

9. Carolina Panthers – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: 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 Memphis DT Dontari Poe. Poe would be a fit because he has the size to anchor a defensive line against the run, and the athleticism to be disruptive from the inside.

Aside from Rich Eisen setting a new personal best in the 40, nobody had a better Scouting Combine than Dontari Poe.

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. A left tackle could also be a consideration, but for now Buffalo hopes to re-sign Demetrius Bell.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The Chiefs are looking to upgrade their offensive line. Drafting a true left tackle like Stanford’s Jonathan Martin at #11 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 – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A and M: Seattle has needs at quarterback and defensive end. It would not be surprising if the Seahawks 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. Not only is Ryan Tannehill positioning himself as a top 10-15 pick, he would be a good system fit for Seattle's West Coast Offense. If the Seahawks find 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. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina could be another possibility.

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 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 upgraded.

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. While Philadelphia typically uses their first round draft picks on linemen, they were woefully undersized and thin on depth at linebacker last season, where a complete overhaul is necessary. Luke Kuechly of Boston College would be a solid step in remedying that problem, especially in light of his superb zone cover skills.

16. New York Jets - Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, South Carolina: The Jets entire defense was brought down last season due to a lack of pass rush from the edge. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina projects as an ideal 3-4 OLB in the Jet’s defensive scheme. Mark Barron of Alabama could also be a consideration for some much needed speed at safety, but I'm hearing that a strong pass rusher would be their preference.

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 – Andre Branch, OLB/DE, Clemson: 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 with the retirement of Kris Dielman and depending on the statuses of Marcus McNeil, Jared Gaither and Nick Hardwick, although it currently looks as if Gaither and Hardwick may 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. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina or Courtney Upshaw of Alabama would be ideal fits if they were to fall to San Diego at #18, while Andre Branch of Clemson would also fit the bill of a pass rusher at linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

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  #1 receiver. 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, allowing Devin Hester and Johnny Knox to work as more complimentary big-play threats. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill may have also worked himself into the mix with a strong Scouting Combine.

20. Tennessee Titans – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: 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 Andre Branch of Clemson. Cornerback could also be a consideration with Courtland Finnegan free to sign elsewhere as a free agent.
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 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 land their quarterback of the future via free agency in someone like Matt Flynn or trade back slightly and draft a quarterback earlier in the first round like Ryan Tannehill, they will need to find their new quarterback a go to target at wide receiver. Kendall Wright of Baylor is the type of deep threat that they have been lacking to stretch defenses.;

23. Detroit Lions - Mark Barron, S, 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. While Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kilpatrick have the talent at cornerback that the Lions would be looking for, their character concerns may not fit with the Lions organization even if they were to fall to Detroit at the #23 pick. Meanwhile, the first round may be too early to select a guard/center in terms of value. If the Lions were to draft a tackle, they’d ultimately be looking for someone to replace Jeff Backus on the left side. Unfortunately, the tackles projected to be on the board later in the first round don’t necessarily project to the left side at the NFL level. That leaves safety, and if Mark Barron slides to Detroit at #23, he’d fit the criteria of best player available and fill a position of need at the same time.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: 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. While DT Dontari Poe of Memphis received the most notoriety for his athleticism at the Scouting Combine, Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State not only nearly matched him in terms of his workout, but he has the better game film to back it up.

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.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) – Devon Still, DT, Penn 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 just narrowly missed winning the Super Bowl. Devon Still of Penn State would be an ideal 3-4 end to provide the Patriots with some much needed pass rush while also stabilizing against the run.

28. Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois: A 3-4 defensive end that could occupy some of the extra attention could free Clay Mathews, Jr. up, as would a pass rushing OLB to play opposite him. Whitney Mercilus of Illinois lead the nation in sacks last season, and could put some much needed extra heat on opposing quarterbacks. While there should also be plenty of talent available at DT/DE when the Packers select, that could also be a reason for them to wait until the second round to address that need.

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 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 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 – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: While the 49ers need a wide receiver, they will take the best player available on their draft board. While Michael Brockers of LSU did not appear overly athletic at the Scouting Combine, he's still too good of a football player to pass up at this point.

31. New England Patriots – Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall: 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 and Mark Anderson set to hit the free agent market. Vinny Curry of Marshall is a talented pass rusher who's skill set translates well to standing up in a 3-4 defense in the NFL.

32. New York Giants – Cordy Glenn, T/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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