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2012 NFL Mock Draft
By Matt Horkman

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The old guard in Indianapolis is ending and the Luck era is about to begin. Most pundits will talk up his accuracy and pocket presence, which is all-good. However, I love the fact he called his own plays. That’s a sign of leadership and football intelligence. For comparisons, Peyton Manning also called his own plays. How’d that work out Colt fans?

2. Cleveland Browns (from St. Louis)* - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Projecting trades in mock drafts is not something I’m fond of, but even the most casual fan would acknowledge St. Louis’ willingness to get out of the No. 2 slot. The Browns attempted to trade the farm for Sam Bradford three years ago, so they‘re aggressive enough to make a move. While RG3 doesn’t fit the west coast offense, Coach Pat Shurmur is willing to change his scheme to accommodate the athletic QBs vertical style of play.

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings need to address their offensive line. Kalil is a perfect fit and a majority covets him as this year’s top OLT prospect. He’s such a good pass protector that Tryon Smith, who Dallas took with the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft, was forced to play the right side in college.

4. St. Louis Rams (from Cleveland)* - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This season, the Rams were decimated at corner, so they called upon Al Harris to fill their void. I know I couldn’t believe it either. Al Harris is still playing! Claiborne fills a dire need and he has the skill set to be an all-pro caliber corner. Those don’t just grow on trees and their more coveted today than ever because of the NFL’s passing boom.
Trent Richardson
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson is the best prospect at RB since Adrian Peterson. He runs violent, is explosive, and can carry a workload. The Buccaneers have LeGarrette Blount, but Minnesota had Chester Taylor and that didn’t stop them from selecting Peterson in ‘07. The Bucs would be wise to follow their lead.

6. Washington Redskins - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
We know the Redskins need an offensive overhaul, so it won’t come as a surprise if they choose Blackmon this high in the draft. Frankly, I’m not sure Blackmon is the elite prospect many make him out to be. He doesn’t have the speed to garner consistent separation, but he runs quality routes, which makes him an ideal fit in Mike Shanahan’s offense.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Jaguars need to help QB Blaine Gabbert. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely Cleveland, St. Louis, and Washington will let Blackmon fall to the Jags at No. 7. Therefore, I suspect they’ll look to help Gabbert in different ways. A potential franchise tackle to replace the often-injured Eben Britton, who should kick inside anyways, is the next best thing.

8. Carolina Panthers - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
After selecting Cam Newton (rightfully so) over Marcell Dareus and Von Miller last year, Carolina now needs to turn its attention to their defensive line. Brockers may need a year to develop, but he could be the foundation of Ron Rivera’s defense. 

9. Miami Dolphins - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Bill Parcells might not work in the building any longer, but GM Jeff Ireland does, and he’s a Parcells guy. What does that mean? That means you can expect big, strong, and fast players. That’s Parcells’ philosophy and Coples fits the bill. It’s true his senior season was disappointing, but he had a strong junior showing, and some scouts regarded him as the best prospect at the Senior Bowl.

10. Buffalo Bills - Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama
Switching to a 4-3 defense doesn’t change the dynamic in Buffalo. They must find a pass rusher. Because of his scheme versatility, Upshaw reminds me a lot of Washington LB Brian Orakpo, despite his lack of length. He could play SLB in a 4-3, DE on third downs, or OLB in a 3-4.

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Chiefs have put off drafting a nose tackle high for years now, but something tells me that will change with Romeo Crennel roaming the sidelines. We all saw the difference Vince Wilfork made for New England in the AFC championship, and that’s exactly the presence Poe could give the Chiefs.

12. Seattle Seahawks - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Signing Matt Flynn would obviously allow the Seahawks to use this pick on another position, possibly pass rush, but if they don’t get Flynn, then Tannehill is likely the third QB off the board. He’s a raw talent, who actually converted to QB from WR just two years ago, but the demand of young QBs drives up the value of them on draft day. See Christian Ponder to Vikings as a recent example.

13. Arizona Cardinals - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
I know draft geeks overuse the term NFL ready or pro-ready, but DeCastro is exactly that. Plug him in the middle of your offensive line and you have a Pro Bowl caliber guard for many seasons to come.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Frankly, I would prefer Dallas bolster up their defensive and offensive lines, but their secondary was among the worst in the NFL last season, and that was especially apparent against the Giants. Off-field issues could force Kirkpatrick down the board, but Jerry Jones has never been afraid to take a chance on talent.

15. Philadelphia Eagles - Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever, Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie, and Andy Reid uses his first round picks on big men. Still was an underachiever early in his career, but he put together a strong senior campaign, and is a first round pick because of it.

16. N.Y. Jets - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
There is a new specimen of TEs dominating the NFL and archrival New England has two of them. Barron upgrades the middle of the Jet defense and gives them a defender capable of matching up against the Patriots’ TEs.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Bengals never truly replaced Jonathan Joseph and corner remains arguably the one missing component to an otherwise solid defense. Jenkins is the second best corner in this draft and is similar to Charles Woodson in the way he plays the position. However, off-field baggage makes him a risky selection. Vontaze Burfict

18. San Diego Chargers - Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Burfict is the most talented inside backer to come out for the draft since Patrick Willis. Unfortunately, he brings a lack of focus to the table and maturity isn’t one of his strengths. Still, I can’t imagine 20 teams forgoing a big, fast, violent ILB that can rush the passer from multiple spots on the field.

19. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Last year’s first rounder, Gabe Carimi, should solidify the right side of Chicago’s offensive line. That leaves the left side to tend too and Martin is the prototype OLT. He’s not a top 10 prospect, however. OG David DeCastro made him look better than he actually is, but he still has the capabilities of being an adequate OLT in the pros. There’s no shame in that.

20. Tennessee Titans - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Losing Jason Babin left a void along Tennessee’s defensive line. Ingram would potentially fill it. He doesn’t do anything at an elite level, but he’s really good at many things. He rushes the passer from the outside or you can kick him inside. In addition, he could potentially standup and play a little LB.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
Many have the Bengals targeting a RB in round one, but there are other ways to upgrade a running game. Enter Konz, who is a big powerful interior hog that can play right away. He anchored a Wisconsin line that dominated running the football in the Big Ten. I think you can make a case that he’s a better prospect than Mike Pouncey, who went in the top 20 in last year’s draft.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Could the Browns really select two Baylor Bears in the first round? It’s possible, but Floyd is a better fit in Cleveland. He runs better routes and is more explosive than he gets credit for being. He and Greg Little, who was last year’s second rounder, would make a young formidable receiving duo.

23. Detroit Lions - Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
You have to go through Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Aaron Rodgers in the NFC. The Lions simply don’t have the secondary to slow down those passing games. Look no further than Matt Flynn’s six TDs in the season finale. Gilmore hasn’t put it all together yet, but he’s big, fast, and the Lions aren’t afraid to take on a potential project.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Injuries after injury has derailed the Steelers’ line, especially at OLT, where Max Starks just can‘t remain healthy. The Steeler OLT has started only 19 games in the last two years. Adams didn’t enter this draft with a lot of fanfare, but a strong showing at the Senior Bowl has elevated him into late round one.

25. Denver Broncos - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Kuechly is the reigning Butkus Award winner in large part because of his instincts. He’s seemingly always involved in a play and is the surest tackler in this draft. He could play the same role for John Fox in Denver that Jon Beason did in Carolina.

26. Houston Texans - Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Receiver is the most popular projection for Houston, but they also need to continue to add to a young ascending defense. They still lack a presence inside and Thompson is the second best potential nose tackle available.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Bill Belichick likes scheme versatile players and Cox is one of few versatile defensive linemen on the board. He could play the five technique in a 3-4 or kick inside and play along side Vince Wilfork in a 4-3. The latter would be especially intimidating.

28. Green Bay Packers - Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Illinois
It’s not a big revelation that Green Bay needs to address its pass rush. Mercilus played DE in college, so the Packers would have to convert him to OLB. He’s coming off an outstanding season, but he’s a bit of a one-year wonder, which is why he could slide on draft day.

29. Baltimore Ravens - Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
You may not like him as a person, but nobody plays the game with more passion than Ray Lewis does. His career is winding down, however. Whether it’s Hightower or Burfict, the Ravens must think about their long-term plans at ILB.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor Kendall Wright
Vernon Davis stretches the middle of the field, but the 49ers need somebody explosive on the outside. Wright is coming off a tremendous senior season in which he’s gone from being a third round pick to a first rounder. Many scouts consider him the second best wideout in this draft, but I wonder how much of his rise has to do with RG3 elevating his teammate's level of play.

31. New England Patriots - Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Don’t be surprise if the Patriots trade this selection for a 2013 first rounder. In fact, that’s exactly what’s probably going to happen. Nevertheless, the Pats need a long-term fix at guard and Glenn thrived as a guard in ‘10 before switching to OLT last season.

32. N.Y. Giants - Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Overlooked in the Super Bowl XLVI aftermath was the fact that both TEs Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tore their ACL. Even before the injuries, I thought TE was on the Giants’ radar. Allen is the total package, which is why he’s the best in this class. He has soft hands, operates in space well, and isn’t afraid to block. He’d add another dimension to the Giants’ offense.

* Indicates a projected trade

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