Here is my Pre-Draft 2012 NFL Mock. It will be followed by relevant 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, Fantasy Football Help Desk, The Huddle Report, Niners Nation, EDS Football, 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. If you're looking for new insight on your favorite team, this is probably not your mock draft. If you want to know exactly what all the other teams in the league might be thinking, this is your site.
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, NFL insiders and scouts 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.
4. Cleveland Browns – 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, 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 trade 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. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: Wide receiver and defensive end seem to be the Jaguars biggest needs. In the event that Justin Blackmon does not fall to them, the Jags will desperately try and trade down a few spots and still land one of the top defensive ends or Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd. If they stay at #7, the Jaguars 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. Keeping in mind that Jacksonville values high motor, high character players, look for the Jaguars to target DE Melvin Ingram of South Carolina over Quinton Coples.
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.
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 – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: 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. That will allow them to address the glaring need they’ve had at tackle over that same period of time. Either Riley Reiff of Iowa or Jonathan Martin of Stanford would fill that need on the left side, which is an even bigger need following the loss of Demetrius Bell in free agency.
11. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: With the Chiefs having upgraded their offensive line by signing T Eric Winston, they can turn their attention to other areas. A nose tackle would help anchor their 3-4 defense, while Luke Kuechly of Boston College could be a consideration at linebacker. With this draft being deep at defensive tackle and Kuechly having elite zone coverage skills, Kuechly represents the better relative value at pick #11.
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 – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: 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.
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. Philadelphia Eagles – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: 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 an athletic defensive tackle like Dontari Poe of Memphis is available, he could be their pick.
16. New York Jets – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: 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 projects as 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. In the event that they stay at #16, there are mixed reports coming out of New York as to whether the Jets have an interest in Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw. Michael Floyd of Notre Dame would be a value pick at #16, giving the Jets another big target at WR with the impending departure of Plaxico Burress.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: The Bengals should look to upgrade their secondary 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.
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.
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.
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 – Mike Adams, T, Ohio State: With the Texans inexplicably having let right tackle Eric Winston leave in free agency, they now have a major hole on their offensive line. Unlike Jonathan Martin, Mike Adams of Ohio State has the power to play right tackle that will be needed to spring Arian Foster in the running game. Additionally, Adams has the left tackle pass protection skills to help Matt Schaub avoid contact given that he will be coming off of a serious foot injury. However, with Adams having tested positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combine, I’m still not sold that a wide receiver like Stephen Hill to compliment Andre Johnson won’t be the pick here, but for now the Texans appear to be targeting a lineman, and Adams seems to the most logical fit in terms of his talent and what the Texans are looking for.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (predicted trade with New England) – 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 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 New England to trade back into the first round to select him.
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. 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 – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The 49ers philosophy is to take the best player available on their draft board. Michael Brockers is somebody who could go as early as #9 to Carolina, or he could free fall to the later part of the first round given his lack of pass rush from the DT position. At #30, San Francisco would find value in Brockers as a good football player who would further solidify their run defense.
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 – 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.