2012 NFL Mock Draft | January Edition
The 2011 NFL regular season is over and done with. The playoffs are the last piece of the 2012 NFL Draft order puzzle, and from here on out, it’s all about the excitement of the draft.
The Colts ended up finishing with the #1 pick, which is a complete surprise if you would have asked any NFL fan going into the 2011 season. It’s almost a fact that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be their selection.
The Rams sit at the #2 spot, and this is where it gets interesting. Keep in mind that the 8th and 9th picks held by Carolina and Miami will be decided by coin flip, as well as the 11th and 12th picks held by Seattle and Washington.
Here is out first post-season 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
I don’t feel that this pick warrants an explanation. Luck is a top notch quarterback who would have been the number one pick of every draft since 1999.
Ironically enough, he will replace the former once in a decade prospect in Peyton Manning. The quarterback position was filled by three below average quarterbacks in 2011, which led to a 2-14 record.
Luck will be there to help get the Colts back into a playoff caliber status.
2. St. Louis Rams - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Rams will likely put this Robert Griffin situation to good use. They are not necessarily in a position to pass on him despite having Sam Bradford.
I’m expecting the Rams to look for a suitor for Sam Bradford in the off-season, despite his contract making him a bit tougher to trade.
If they can’t find a suitor, it’s possible that the Rams go after the rights to RGIII and trade him to a team that will give them multiple draft picks and players in a deal.
Either way, the Rams are in an excellent position.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings need to find a way to protect Christian Ponder. Charlie Johnson isn’t a long term solution, and DeMarcus Love is likely a better fit on the right side.
Kalil is a can’t miss left tackle that has the potential to be the franchise tackle for 10+ years. He’s a great investment to keep first round pick Christian Ponder on his feet, while also creating more running lanes for All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson.
4. Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Browns miss the boat on the RGIII sweepstakes (unless they use their first round picks to trade up, and then some), and opt to go for another weapon for their future quarterback.
Whether it’s Colt McCoy, Matt Flynn, or another player, that quarterback is going to need play makers. Greg Little is the only legit wide receiver on the team, and even he struggled quite a bit in 2011, granted he had not played football in over a year.
Blackmon fits the bill perfectly here.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Buccaneers defense needs a lot of work, and while Morris Claiborne would fit very well here, I think Tampa Bay opts to go with a back that can do it all.
LeGarrette Blount is one dimensional, offering no ability to stay in on third downs, be it catching passes or protecting the quarterback, and Blount also dropped off a bit in 2011.
Richardson is the whole package, and a Top 5 player in the nation, however, it is a gamble to take a runner this high when they can generally be found all over the draft.
6. Washington Redskins - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Redskins could have actually done a lot worse in 2011 defensively, but a great pass rush from rookie Ryan Kerrigan and veteran Brian Orakpo saved the secondary from giving up a ton of huge plays.
However, they still struggled against #1 receivers last season, ranking 24th in the league against an opponents #1. Morris Claiborne could do wonders for this secondary with a pass rush like the Redskins have the potential for.
Claiborne is the best pick available here at this choice as well.
It seems that we are projecting a defensive end for the Jaguars every year because their pass rush is so poor that it’s frustrating to watch.
They are set on the inside, however, with Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton, which has helped their run game, but the rest of the defense still needs quite a bit of work.
Coples is a bigger defensive end that is a very productive pass rusher and is strong. He’s more strong than fast, but he is a pure 4-3 end.
It’s no secret that the Panthers defense can’t stop anybody. After all, they seemed to get into a shootout with every team in the NFL nearly every week.
They can put up big time points with Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart, but that’s not going to win games consistently if you’re defense is giving up 30 points a game.
Kirkpatrick is just a start, but having a legit #1 cornerback will help them immensely as Brandon Hogan and Chris Gamble are both #2 corners at the most.
9. Miami Dolphins* – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Dare the Dolphins actually take a second interior lineman in the first round in as many years?
If not, they should. The interior line has been so bad for the Dolphins that I’m commending Reggie Bush big time for creating yards without running lanes.
The Dolphins ranked last in power offensive football, having success running up the middle 46% of the time.
To make things worse, Dolphin quarterbacks were sacked 52 times this year, which is another big reason for DeCastro to step in next to Mike Pouncey.
Two Stanford offensive lineman going back to back would be quite surprising, but the Bills need an upgrade on the left side.
The Bills have been trying to find a legit franchise left tackle for years, and they could have one in Martin.
11. Seattle Seahawks* - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
At some point you have to think that the Seahawks will look to upgrade the quarterback position.
Tarvaris Jackson isn’t the answer, and while I don’t believe Jones will be a very good quarterback at the next level, he has very solid upside.
There are weapons in Seattle, even though you have to do a little digging to find them. Jones could succeed under Pete Carroll.
The Chiefs made strides despite having injuries seemingly derail their season with Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry going down early in the season.
They have a chance to make some noise next year with a healthy lineup, and they can do it by drafting a potential stud 0 technique nose tackle.
Kelly Gregg has done a fine job, but he also just turned 35 years old. Poe could be groomed behind one of the better NFL defensive tackles of the last few years in Gregg, and take over in 2013 as a full-time starter.
Levi Brown has to go. He has been unable to grasp the speed of NFL edge rushers and he gave up a career high in sacks in 2011 with 11.5, while also having four false starts.
Reiff is a great pass protector who has evolved as a solid run blocker as well.
The Cardinals would be getting a steal here at 13 with the talented left tackle.
Mercilus has been improving on a weekly basis for the Fighting Illini, and has a high ceiling to become a legit pass rusher.
Anthony Spencer hasn’t been bad, but he’s inconsistent and lacks a high motor.
Mercilus is a quick edge rusher who gets up field in a hurry and has very good size.
The Eagles need to find a way to stop the run, as their linebacker corps is absolutely killing them.
Initial reaction is to throw Vontaze Burfict here, but his issues with penalties and not running the proper defenses at ASU tell me that Andy Reid and Co. will likely pass up on him.
Kuechly is a tackling machine, that is also excellent in coverage. He’s a very well rounded young linebacker.
16. New York Jets – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Jeffery isn’t a lock to fall this far, but his speed issues will likely cost him a few draft picks.
Still, he’s a great receiver with a huge body and huge hands. He’s going to catch a lot of touchdowns, and this is a target that not even Mark Sanchez can miss.
The Plaxico Burress project was ok, but there’s nothing showing that Burress can be a #1 receiver or have any effect outside of the red zone.
Since losing Jonathan Joseph, the Bengals secondary has taken a step back. While they have still done quite well, they need a long term replacement that can learn under veteran Nate Clements.
Adam Jones doesn’t promise to produce, but hasn’t looked bad, but we also know that Leon Hall struggles with nagging injuries.
Jenkins was a stud at Florida before transferring to North Alabama, and has the ability to make crucial tackles in the AFC North.
The Chargers can’t be comfortable with the incumbent Travis LaBoy at one outside linebacker spot, and Shaun Phillips has battled injuries of the last couple seasons.
Upshaw has great pass rushing ability, and comes out of an Alabama defense that already runs a 3-4 scheme. He knows the scheme and he’s quite comfortable playing either outside linebacker spot.
The Bears need depth in the secondary and have struggled to find a #2 corner opposite Charles Tillman. On top of that, Tillman is aging and will be 31 heading into the 2012 NFL Draft.
Tillman has a few years left, of course, but Dennard being groomed as a #1 corner in the future could certainly benefit a team who’s pass rush has saved their secondary on many occasions.
20. Tennessee Titans - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Caroliona
Ingram has been rising up draft boards, and is a very talented pass rusher who can add a lot to the Titans defensive line.
Tennessee’s pass rush has struggled mightily, and they will likely lose two defensive lineman to free agency.
Ingram can get to the quarterback and gets upfield in a hurry, while also having versatility to kick inside at defensive tackle at times.
21. Denver Broncos – Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington
The Broncos run defense struggled heavily in 2011, although they did show signs of life closer to the end of the season.
It’d be ideal for them to get a big, physical defensive tackle in there that can stuff the run, and help take up space on the defensive line.
Ta’amu is a hard tackle to move and has good strength at the point of attack, while also showing penetration ability at times.
This is an arguable situation for the Giants as they don’t really have a ton of needs, except for the fact that they need depth because of all the injuries they face.
But middle linebacker is a big need for them, especially if Goff struggles to come back from his ACL surgery. Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich have attempted to fill the role and have struggled with it.
Hightower has played as a 3-4 inside linebacker at Alabama, but he will be a sledgehammer in a 4-3 defense as well.
Don’t rule out the Bengals trading up into the Top 10 to snag Trent Richardson, but if they don’t, they can still get very good value for a talented running back like David Wilson, Lamar Miller or Chris Polk here.
Wilson doesn’t have a lot of wear on the tire like Chris Polk, which makes him quite intriguing, and he’s a physical back with good size and speed.
Wilson can catch out of the backfield and is an solid all-around back.
The Texans felt the loss of Andre Johnson this season after being forced to rely on Arian Foster and Owen Daniels more than the actual receivers in Houston.
Kendall Wright provides a speedy, slot receiver role that would compliment Andre Johnson very well.
Wright has great intangibles as well and could be an excellent option for Matt Schaub to replace Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter.
This pick will be interesting for the Browns as they could opt to go for a guy like Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback out of Texas A&M, or they could opt to improve the pass rush.
Jabaal Sheard was great at LDE for the Browns this season, but Jayme Mitchell was extremely disappointing.
Nick Perry gave opposing left tackles fits all season, including future first rounder Jonathan Martin from Stanford. He’s going to get up field quickly, and has violent hands when getting to the quarterback.
26. Detroit Lions – Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Burfict is a Top 10 talent, but his issues with committing personal fouls as well as changing plays and not following the coaching will hurt his draft stock a bit.
But Jim Schwartz is a guy that wants football players and head hunters on his defense, hence the picks of Ndamukong Suh, and Nick Fairley.
Burfict is a head hunter and will make big time plays. But he’ll also be fined heavily.
The Steelers need to replace Ramon Foster big time. They really have struggled to create running room for the runners in Pittsburgh.
Rashard Mendenhall has struggled this season partially due to a lack of explosiveness, as well as a lack of holes created by the offensive line. Glenn on the right side of the line would put him between Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert to give them an SEC based offensive line full of solid maulers.
The Ravens need an upgrade at left tackle, and they can afford to have incumbent Bryant McKinnie man the position for another year to let a rookie develop.
Mike Adams was a difference maker for Ohio State. Without him protecting the left side in 2011, the Buckeyes could not buy more than two seconds (literally) for their young quarterback Braxton Miller.
When Adams returned, they were rushing behind him successfully and giving Miller more time to throw. He’s quite a well-rounded tackle with a high ceiling.
The 49ers run defense doesn’t need improvement, but the defensive line could use a bit of youth.
Still has the versatility to move to a 5 technique at the next level and would compliment Justin Smith very well on the other side.
30. New England Patriots (from Saints) – Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
One of the more underrated pass rushers in the draft is Lewis who is coming out early from Oklahoma.
He’s experienced at outside linebacker and putting his hand in the dirt and rushing as a defensive end.
His versatility and athleticism is just what the Patriots need to help that defense turnaround.
31. New England Patriots - Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
The Patriots secondary was a big problem in 2011, mostly due in part to injuries.
However, the strong safety position could afford to be upgraded and Barron is an underrated coverage safety that prides himself in his ability to help out in run support.
Barron is athletic and has good size and realistically could be off the board prior to this pick.
Marshall isn’t a school in which you think to draft players early, but Vinny Curry is legit.
He has the athleticism to make the move to outside linebacker in a 3-4, and it’s evident that the Packers could use a real pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews.
Marshall gets up the field in a hurry with great hand usage and solid strength.
His 6’4 260 pound frame suits him well in preparation for the next level.
Stay tuned for more NFL Mock Drafts, as we update weekly in preparation for the 2012 NFL Draft!