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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
2012 NFL Mock Draft
By Matt Horkman

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Luck is one of the best QB prospects of the last 30 years. His accuracy and pocket presence are off the chart. In addition, he‘s an underrated athlete. He escapes pressure within the pocket, scrambles well, and delivers precise throws on the run.

His most telling asset is leadership, however. He ran the Cardinal offense, calling his own plays, and putting players in the right position to succeed. I can think of only one prominent pro QB that ran his offense in the NFL. How did that work out Colt fans?

Alternative: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

2. Washington Redskins (From St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Trading three first round selections for one player makes a statement. The Redskins have found not just a franchise QB, but the face of their organization for the next 10-15 years.

In any other year, RG3 would be the top overall player in this draft. His athleticism is elite, which makes him an ideal fit for Mike Shanahan’s offense. He can create plays with both his arm and legs, while outside of the pocket. He also elevates players around him. He carried Baylor on his back all season on route to winning the school’s first Heisman trophy.

Alternative: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OLT, USC
The Vikings find themselves in excellent position to land Kalil, who is the draft’s best tackle prospect. On paper, he’s a prototype left tackle. He’s athletic, big, and long.

More importantly, he’s the best pass protector in the draft. In fact, Tyrone Smith, who was last year’s No. 9 selection, played right tackle because Kalil was the foundation on the left side.

Alternative: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

4. Cleveland Browns - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
After failing to trade up for RG3, Cleveland now faces the draft’s most dramatic decision. Do they grab Blackmon or Alabama RB Trent Richardson? You can make a case for both, but today’s NFL would seem to favor the receiver.

Blackmon is a strong receiver making him difficult to press at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he uses his size and physicality to out muscle the ball from defensive backs. He’ll remind Browns President Mike Holmgren of former Packer WR Sterling Sharpe.

Alternative: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Perhaps no team’s off-season has been as busy as Tampa Bay’s has. First, they hire Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, and then they spend 100 million in the early stages of free agency.Morris Claiborne

By spending big money, they’re now in position to draft the best player available. Claiborne is that player, according to many. He’s not as versatile as former teammate Patrick Peterson, but he’s arguably a better cover corner. Schiano is a defensive-minded coach, so landing the draft’s best defensive player would put his blueprint all over this team.

Alternative: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

6. St. Louis Rams - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
On paper, St. Louis is a logical fit for both Blackmon and Claiborne. However, there’s a strong possibility neither is available when it’s the Rams’ turn to select. This puts new head coach Jeff Fisher on the spot. The Rams can move down, reach for a player, or take the best player available. The latter is the right course of action.

Richardson is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He can carry a workload, explode for a big gain, and violently run defenders over. Current RB Steven Jackson is a fine player, but backs don’t regress slowly. They regress fast. The bottom line is that you win in the NFL with difference makers. Richardson’s a difference maker and he’s one of the draft’s safest selections.

Alternative: Trade Down

7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Jacksonville GM Gene Smith has an outside of the box approach to the draft. He often puts an emphasis on character over pure talent. Look no further than the last two drafts as evidence of this. His selections of DT Tyson Alualu and QB Blaine Gabbert were certainly against the grain.

This year, his approach should be simpler. Help Gabbert or find a pass rusher. Ingram solves the latter problem. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in character and versatility. 3-4 teams will covet him as an OLB, but 4-3 teams will use him as an inside pass rusher as well as the ideal 4-3 end.

Alternative: Riley Reiff, ORT, Iowa

8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins are coming off a tumultuous off-season to say the least. They failed to hire Jeff Fisher as their coach and sign either Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning to play QB. As a result, they’re now poised to make one of this draft’s biggest reaches.

Tannehill shouldn’t be a top 10 pick. In fact, he shouldn’t even be a first round pick, but the demand in young QBs is driving up their value. See Christian Ponder to Minnesota last year as an example.

Nevertheless, Tannehill spent two years as a receiver before putting together a year in a half of quality football for then head coach Mike Sherman. Sherman is now Miami‘s offensive coordinator. Despite many misgivings about this selection, we’re still talking about a strong-armed QB that possesses the athleticism to throw on the run. If he learns to play with more control, he could develop into an adequate starting QB.

Alternative: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
 
9. Carolina Panthers - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
After rightfully selecting QB Cam Newton over defenders Marcell Dareus and Von Miller, Carolina now needs to turn its attention toward the defensive side of the ball. The two areas of concern are corner and defensive tackle, with odds favoring the latter because of the spot they’re picking.

Most covet Memphis DT Dontari Poe. However, Coach Ron Rivera prefers athletic defensive tackles that use their quickness and hand technique to penetrate the backfield rather than relying on just brute strength. That favors Brockers, who is a developmental prospect. He won’t immediately contribute, but he could be one of the 10 best players in this draft after two years.

Alternative: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

10. Buffalo Bills - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Switching to a 4-3 defense this off-season, Buffalo made it a priority to improve their pass rush. They’ve done that via free agency, with the signings of DEs Mark Anderson and Mario Williams. However, Buffalo’s defensive makeover is hardly complete, as their linebacking corps remains thin.

Upshaw is an intense rusher in the mold of Washington OLB Brian Orakpo. He’s a strong, hardworking, quick player capable of fitting into several schemes. The Bills can use him as a SLB in their base packages and then put him at end during passing situations opposite of Anderson. This allows Buffalo to kick Williams inside and it gives them three legitimate down linemen to rush New England QB Tom Brady (among others) in their nickel and dime sets.

Alternative: Jonathan Martin, OLT, Stanford

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Every year, Kansas City seems to bypass selecting a nose tackle to anchor their defensive front. Perhaps that finally changes this April. Poe could do for the Chiefs what DTs Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork do for their respective teams.

At 345 pounds, Poe is surpassingly agile, which we saw at the combine. He ran the forty in under five seconds flat. In addition, he’s also ridiculously strong. His 44 reps of 225 pounds were a combine best. His minimal production at Memphis is concerning, but he’s the potential run stopping machine GM Scott Pioli needs to add to a defense that was 26th against the run a year ago.

Alternative: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

12. Seattle Seahawks - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Signing free agent QB Matt Flynn allows the Seahawks to address other needs via the draft. Specifically, Seattle needs to improve a below average pass rush. Many consider Coples one of the draft’s elite rushers. That’s true if you only examine his junior campaign.

However, he significantly regressed his senior year, which is why many label him a boom or bust prospect. He possesses an outstanding blend of size, speed, and versatility. Some 3-4 teams may want to convert him to OLB, but he looks better suited to play with his hand in the dirt, as an end or even inside as a tackle in specific packages. In other words, he’s a diverse player for Pete Carroll’s diverse defense.

Alternative: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

13. Arizona Cardinals - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Retaining OLT Levi Brown gives the Cardinals more flexibility with their first selection. Instead of reaching for his replacement, Arizona can focus on selecting the best player available.

DeCastro doesn’t play a premium position, but he’s by far the second best offensive lineman in this draft. He’s the mauling run blocker that assistant head coach Russ Grimm hasn‘t had since joining Arizona in ‘07. The Cardinals can plug him into their starting lineup on day one and they’ll have an all-pro caliber guard for the next decade.

Alternative: Riley Reiff, ORT, Iowa

14. Dallas Cowboys - Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi State
The Cowboys are all flash and no substance. Jerry Jones has spent so much time attempting to replace Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith that he’s forgotten the early 90s dynasty had a dominating offensive line along with a tenacious defensive front.

To his credit, he finally addressed the o-line last draft, so maybe it’s the defensive line’s turn. For his size, Cox is quick off the ball. He changes direction well and shows the agility that makes offensive lineman look silly. He could kick outside and set the edge in a 3-4 possibly freeing up OLB Anthony Spender to be the playmaker that he was in the latter half of '09.

Alterative: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

15. Philadelphia Eagles - Riley Reiff, ORT, Iowa
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars movies. Andy Reid drafts big men. These are three facts of life, people.

Reid again finds himself in position to draft a big guy after trading for Houston ILB DeMeco Ryans. Reiff is an intriguing prospect. He doesn’t have the athleticism or length to play left tackle, so this isn’t OLT Jason Peters’ replacement.

However, the Eagles will gladly plug him in on their right side. Reiff is a more cerebral player. He’s well coached coming from Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa program and knows his assignments well. His technique makes up for a lack of physical ability. He compares favorably with Green Bay ORT Bryan Bulaga.

Alternative: Jonathan Martin, OLT, Stanford

16. N.Y. Jets - Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Ground and pound football is Rex Ryan’s philosophy. He wants to grind a defense into submission. When the Jets were successful, they did this as well as anyone in the league. However, last year their rushing attack ranked 22nd and the Jets missed the playoffs for the first time under Ryan.

The immediate thought is to replace RB Shonn Greene, but they’re other ways to upgrade a rushing attack. Get better inside, for starters. Nick Mangold is the best center in football, but think of the impact New York’s o-line would make with a 340-pound intimidating run blocker lining up next to him.

Alternative: Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson

17. Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland) - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Bengals never truly replaced CB Johnathan Joseph, who is now with the Texans. Corner happens to be the one missing component to an otherwise good defense in Cincinnati.

Based on talent, Jenkins is one of the elite prospects available. Because of his versatility, he‘s comparable to Green Bay CB Charles Woodson. Jenkins can play on the outside or move inside and compete in the slot, where he could also blitz. Character is a major red flag, but Mike Brown is not one to shy away from a prospect because of poor character.

Alternative: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

18. San Diego Chargers - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Losing WR Vincent Jackson in free agency opens up a major hole on the outside for San Diego. Adding Robert MeaMichael Floydchem helps their receiving core, but it doesn’t solve the long-term void. Floyd would, however.

He’s a big, athletic, and sure handed receiver with the upside to develop into a No. 1 target. His ability after the catch is underrated and he aggressively goes after the ball in the air. At the combine, he proved his vertical straight-line speed is good enough to make him a threat outside the numbers. That solidified him as this draft’s No. 2 receiver.

Alternative: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

19. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Martin, OLT, Stanford
Martin came into the season with a lot of fanfare, but his stock has regressed because many feel he’s not an elite pass protector. While that’s true, he still has the athleticism and length to play OLT, not to mention he’s already an effective run blocker.

If offensive coordinator Mike Tice can help him hone his pass blocking skills, then Martin can have an above average career on the left side. More importantly, Chicago would have bookend OTs for the next decade if Gabe Carimi can rebound and compete on the right side.

Alternative: Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin

20. Tennessee Titans - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Titans have several needs to address in April’s draft. They need to bolster their offensive line, replace departed CB Cortland Finnegan, and upgrade their pass rush. Pass rush takes the backseat in part because of the signing of DE Kamerion Wimbley, so that leaves two options, with Kirkpatrick’s athleticism winning out over Konz’s brute.

Kirkpatrick is an outstanding athlete with long enough arms to engage receivers at the line of scrimmage. His technique needs refining, but he has the ability of a No. 1 corner. Off-field issues could force him down the board, even though corner is a premium position in today’s league.

Alternative: Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
Many have Cincinnati targeting a RB in round one because of Cedric Benson‘s departure. However, the Bengals did sign New England RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis in March, and you can improve your running game in other ways.

Enter Konz, who is one of the most physical run blockers in the draft. At 6-5 and 315 pounds, he has the size and strength to hold his ground against many of the elite nose guards. He’s a superior prospect to Mike Pouncey, who went No. 15 overall last year.

Alternative: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

22. Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta) - Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Fleener is an outstanding pass-catcher capable of stretching the seam. He has excellent size at 6-6 and Stanford's pro day, he displayed the type of athleticism that will cause problems for opposing defenders.

The Browns are publicly committed to QB Colt McCoy. Personally, I have my doubts, but the draft is a good stage to prove the skeptics wrong. Adding Fleener with Blackmon or Richardson would certainly prove they’re committed to giving McCoy the weapons he needs to succeed.

Alternative: Mike Adams, OLT, Ohio State

23. Detroit Lions - Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC is a tough one. Chances are you’ll have to go through at least one or a combination of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Eli Manning. Detroit simply doesn’t have the secondary to do that. Look no further than former Green Bay QB Matt Flynn’s six TD passes in the season finale.

Losing starting CB Eric Wright doesn’t help their cause, but this is a strong class of corners, and the Lions could begin addressing their secondary with this selection. Among those corners, Gilmore has the best combination of athleticism and size. His consistency is questionable, but with development, he could be a No. 1 starter on the outside.

Alternative: Mike Adams, OLT, Ohio State

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Adams, OLT, Ohio State
Injuries remain a major red flag along Pittsburgh’s o-line, especially at left tackle, where incumbent starter Max Starks just can’t remain healthy. He has played in only 19 games over the last two years.

Adams didn’t enter the draft with a ton of fanfare, but a strong Senior Bowl showing solidified his first round status. He’s a mammoth of man, standing at 6-7, and his athleticism isn’t bad considering his size. He can play either left or right tackle, though the Steelers would undoubtedly try him on the left side first.

Alternative: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

25. Denver Broncos - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
It’s hard not to talk about Peyton Manning when writing about the Broncos. His presence certainly changes their dynamic, which is why many are penciling in an offensive player for this pick. However, the Broncos need defensive help more. They gave up 40 or more points in five games last year, including their 45-10 playoff loss at New England.

The reigning Butkus Award winner, Kuechly is an instinctive, smart, and productive LB. His draft stock is ascending after he silenced critics about his athleticism at the combine. He’s a surefire defensive player of the year candidate, who could serve the same role for head coach John Fox in Denver that ILB Jon Beason did for him in Carolina.

Alternative: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

26. Houston Texans - Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Trading ILB DeMeco Ryan for essentially a fourth-round pick was a controversial move, according to many. However, Ryan doesn’t fit defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme. In 2011, his tackle total roughly split in half from his last healthy season. In other words, it was a good trade, especially if they replace him.

Hightower can do just that. While he struggles in pass coverage, he plays downhill and has the versatility to rush the passer from a number of positions. Phillips could play him inside on running downs and outside on passing downs to create more confusion for opposing QBs.

Alternative: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

27. New England Patriots (From New Orleans) - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Bill Belichick has not drafted well the last few years. He’s done well with TEs, but his defensive picks have been below average, especially all those second round selections he covets so much. I don’t think the Patriots are going to get cute in this draft, as a result. They’ll keep it simple.

Barron played under Coach Nick Saban at Alabama, who Belichick knows well from their days together in Cleveland. Injuries have slowed Barron’s draft stock down after he seemingly had momentum heading into the process, but he‘s still a solid first round choice. The Patriots know better than anyone does how TEs are becoming more valuable. The best way to counter them is with an athletic, big, physical safety.

Alternative: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

28. Green Bay Packers - Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson
It’s not any revelation that Green Bay needs to boost their pass rush. In 2010, the Pack finished second in sacks, but they finished 27th last season. Most Packer fans blame DE Cullen Jenkins’ departure for the significant drop, but thAndre Branche Packers have nobody opposite of OLB Clay Matthews, either.

Branch is an explosive long-armed pass rusher in the mold of San Francisco OLB Aldon Smith. He’s an ideal 3-4 OLB and could be a 10-plus sack player in that system. Like Smith, his run defense needs developing, so he may only be a situational pass rusher early in his career.

Alternative: Jerel Worthy, DE/DT, Michigan State

29. Baltimore Ravens - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
One of the overlooked moves of the off-season was San Diego’s signing of OLB Jarret Johnson. The former Raven was a solid complimentary pass rusher, but he also sealed the edge against the run well. He leaves an empty void opposite of OLB Terrell Suggs, which the Ravens could fill with Mercilus.

In 2011, Mercilus had an All-American campaign. He was a sack machine, who got to the QB 14.5 times. He’s also an outstanding athlete as was evidence with his sub 4.7 forty. He’s a top 15 talent on raw ability, but he can’t seem to ditch the one-year wonder label, which is why he could slide on draft day.

Alternative: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

30. San Francisco 49ers - Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Most of San Francisco‘s success is the result of their fearsome pass rush. Their secondary, while good, is still a liability against high-octane passing offenses. Remember New Orleans did drop 32 points on them in their divisional playoff matchup.

Adding another CB may solidify their defense and an outstanding combine has propelled Robinson into first round consideration.  His 4.3 speed benefits him well as he doesn’t give up a ton of separation. His ball skills are above average, but he needs coaching up, especially with his technique.

Alternative: Trade Down

31. New England Patriots - Jerel Worthy, DE/DT, Michigan State
New England covets scheme versatile players and Worthy is capable of fitting into multiple schemes. He can takeover a game, disrupting both the running and passing games.

Unfortunately, Worthy disappears for long droughts, which has become a major red flag for him throughout the draft process. He could drop into the second round, as a result. Nevertheless, Belichick isn’t afraid to take a chance on an inconsistent player and get the most out of him. Worthy fits those criteria, though it’s likely Belichick deals this selection for a 2013 first rounder.

Alternative: Trade Down

32. N.Y. Giants - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
On the surface, losing WR Mario Manningham isn’t that big of an omission. After all, WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are arguably the league’s top duo. However, the NFL is becoming more pass-heavy, so teams are starting to become three-deep at the position. That’s why adding another receiver makes sense for GM Jerry Reese.

Hill is 6-4, 215 pounds and runs a 4.33 in the forty. Those numbers compare to Detroit WR Calvin Johnson, who also played his college ball at Georgia Tech. Unlike Johnson, Hill is tough to judge because he played in a triple-option offense, but Reese isn’t afraid of drafting projects. He surprised everybody two years ago with his selection of South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul. How’d what work out?

Alternative: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

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