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Tony Nowak | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

2012 NFL Draft2012 NFL Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Round 1

Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
Already regarded as the best prospect as a passer, Luck surprised many by also displaying athleticism in testing at the Combine equal to Cam Newton. Not much more to say. The uniform Peyton Manning wears this season is still in question, but not the one Luck will be in.

2. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with St. Louis) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I hate projecting trades in mocks because picks moving muck up the rest of the process since the other picks involved are unpredictable and the trades that happen are rarely are the ones expected, but it is at the point it would be more surprising if the Rams don’t trade this pick than if they do. This one is a bit cleaner because (1) Cleveland appears to be one of the obvious top suitors, (2) they have the most appealing chips to offer with two first-round picks in this draft, the first dropping the Rams just two spots, and (3) where the Cleveland staff and front office are intersecting with the draft at this time seems the perfect storm for bringing RGIII aboard. HC Pat Shurmur and the staff were likely already familiar with Griffin before last fall. The team selected Griffin’s former teammate, DT Phil Taylor, in the first round last year. I imagine the area scout who tracked Taylor also made them aware about the Baylor’s exciting QB back then. Shumur’s most extensive experience was as in Philadelphia, where he eventually ascended to QB Coach and helped mold dual-threat Donovan McNabb in to a successful West Coast QB. Shumur replaced Brad Childress as the QB Coach when Childress was bumped up to OC for the Eagles. Now Childress is the new OC for Shurmur and this pairing seems ideal for developing a QB like Griffin. Furthermore, Shumur’s twist on the WCO obviously comes from his time in Philly, when current Cleveland GM Tom Heckert was also there. Heckert was part of the decision to draft Kevin Kolb out of Houston where he was developed in a spread offense by then HC Art Briles. Clearly they had confidence Kolb could transition to the WCO, and he successfully did, in short bursts, regardless of where he is at now in his career with Arizona. The same Art Briles installed his offense at Baylor, where in his first season as head coach he handed the keys over to Griffin as a true freshman and has developed him from there.

While the comparisons to Cam Newton are inevitable, they are a bit unfortunate. Physically, Newton is huge. At 6’5” and just under 250 lbs., Griffin gives almost 3” and twenty-some pounds. While both have plenty of speed, Newton is also a bulldozer. Griffin, lacking Newton’s bulk and power, is more elusive and Michael Vick is a better comparable as a runner. While there were concerns about Newton’s accuracy and his limited FBS experience, Griffin has been a four-year started at Baylor (although he tore his ACL in the third game of his second year and missed the rest of the 2009 season) whose accuracy improved steadily each year, culminating with a 72.4% this past season. I’m a bit indifferent to the numbers, because the defense in the Big 12 was nothing like what Newton faced in the SEC. While both had/have raw mechanics at this stage, Newton was already at least tall in the pocket and naturally stepped in to his throws. Griffin’s throws are all arm and he moves around slinging it from all angles, like Vick or Jay Cutler. Although Griffin doesn’t always step in his throws, his footwork dropping back and setting up seem solid. He also has done more work from under center than Newton. Despite some unorthodox releases, at times, Griffin gets the ball out quickly. Both have plenty of arm strength. Durability will be a bit of a concern with Griffin. In addition to the knee injury, the thinner frame is a much bigger concern for a mobile QB, as seen by the problems Vick has had staying healthy, compared to the hits Newton and Tim Tebow can absorb. However, Griffin has shown plenty of toughness and been very reliable to this point for a running QB.

There are reports the Browns won’t part with both first round picks in this trade, but it’s early in the negotiation. They are talking up Ryan Tannehill, but are still either going to have to take him fourth or move up to get him because he won’t fall to the 22nd pick, the one they have from Atlanta. If the Rams do somehow fail to parlay this pick in to a windfall, OT Matt Kalil is their pick. Former first round pick OT Jason Smith is an injury-prone bust and OT Roger Saffold regressed in his sophomore season last year, rekindling questions on if he is a better fit at guard or right tackle going forward.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California
The Vikings want to see a trade above them as much as anyone, ensuring their top target falls here. While the Vikings have the most feared pass rusher in the league, DE Jared Allen, on the defensive side of the ball, their offensive line was a sieve, allowing the most sacks in the league last season. Some of that can be attributed to their QB play, between a floundering Donovan McNabb and breaking in rookie Christian Ponder, but the team parted ways with LT Bryant McKinnie in the preseason and plugged in free agent Charlie Johnson, and found out why he was a free agent.

Matt is the brother of Carolina’s Pro Bowl center, Ryan. K2, as Matt is known, is bigger than his brother and stood out after earning the starting left tackle job as a third-year sophomore in 2010. A prototypical LT for the next level, Kalil was the player who kept Tyron Smith, last year’s ninth overall pick, on the right side at USC. His Combine workout validated his status as a top prospect.

In the unlikely scenario where the Rams fail to move the second pick and take Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne would be the smart addition to a position in turmoil, even though this high would be a historical anomaly for a defensive back.

4. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Every top prospect goes through phases when negatives are identified and the scrutiny of pundits blows them out of proportion. Blackmon’s came after the Combine, despite a solid workout. He measured just under 6’1”, which would make him the shortest WR drafted in the top ten since Ted Ginn Jr. in 2007, and didn’t participate in the glamour event, the 40-yard dash, declining because he said he was battling a tender hamstring. Blackmon was ridiculously productive the last two years and while another inch of height and another 1/10th of second off the 40 he runs this week at his pro day would be nice, he’s the complete package as a WR and the target QB Sam Bradford has been missing.

In the event the Browns aren’t the trade partner with the Rams for RGIII, this pick will be interesting. The lack of commitment to RB Peyton Hillis and the acrimonious circumstances around his weekly status last season would make a parting of ways unsurprising. Combined with the inability of Montario Hardesty to stay healthy, a pick of RB Trent Richardson seems to be popular here, though the value of the position has been marginalized enough to make this spot too early, especially with a team, who in this scenario, still have another first-round pick.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State
Free agent CB Ronde Barber could be done in Tampa Bay, or call it a career, and while new HC Greg Schiano has talked of a fresh start for troubled CB Aqib Talib, the state of Texas and/or league could have something to say about his NFL future when his trial for assault with a deadly weapon starts later this month. The felony charge was from an incident last March where he and his mother allegedly opened fire on his sister’s boyfriend.

A year after AZ CB Patrick Peterson was debated as potentially the best overall prospect in the draft coming out of LSU, his former teammate – Claiborne – stepped out of Peterson’s shadow to become the best corner prospect in this year’s draft. Claiborne isn’t as big or fast as Peterson, but has more than enough of both. He is as good, if not better, in man coverage and has better hands. Like Peterson, he also adds value as a returner. Claiborne was fourth in the SEC with over 26.1 yards per kick return, taking one 99 yards for a score at West Virginia.

After being on the verge of turning their young core in to a playoff team after the 2010 season, a lot went wrong for the Bucs on their way to trying to be a contender this season. Among the most disappointing aspects was the regression of LaGarrette Blount. Concerns about his character prevented him from being drafted coming out of college, but his durability and ball security issues are recent developments. When taking the whole picture in to account, is he really the guy a new head coach wants to make a long-term commitment to? If Claiborne isn’t the selection here, RB Trent Richardson makes sense as an alternative, but I have the same reservations mentioned in the previous pick above about if he is worth going this early.

6. Washington Redskins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
With limited collegiate experience at the position, at first I assumed the broken foot that cost Tannehill participating in the Senior Bowl and Combine would cost him being a first-round pick. Then I thought about last year and the panic that resulted in Jake Locker going 8th and Christian Ponder going 12th in the draft. Once the Peyton Manning situation is sorted and free agent Matt Flynn has a home, the remaining QB-needy teams will be scrambling. If any two of Cleveland, Miami, Washington, and maybe Seattle remain unresolved at QB after free agency, Tannehill is Plan B for the loser of the RGIII sweepstakes.

The Texas native was recruited as a dual-threat QB, but when his top choice, Texas Tech, didn’t recruit him he chose to walk-on at TAMU. After redshirting his first season, he was slotted at the third QB, behind Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson, under new HC Mike Sherman in 2008. He moved to wide receiver and had a strong showing there as a redshirt freshman. In 2009, he led the team in receptions and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. With starter Jerrod Johnson struggling in 2010, Tannehill took over at QB halfway through the season and caught fire, continuing to develop and show great potential through his senior season in 2011, starting all 13 games at QB. Tannehill broke his right foot Jan. 12 in a non-contact incident while running a rollout during a personal working out preparing for the Senior Bowl and had a pin inserted. Acccording to Tannehill, the doctor believed he was already playing on a stress fracture and it finally gave. For a player with just 19 career starts in college at the most important position, his absence at those key draft preparation events would have previously sent the player tumbling down draft boards. However, in this era of desperation for a quick fix, I once again point to the panic picks at QB last year. I agree with Mike Mayock that Tannehill has more potential than Locker or Ponder, so with a strong Pro Day later this month, it is reasonable to expect he’ll be back in consideration for a first-round pick. Whether or not he goes this high depends on how desperate the Redskins become if they miss out on the other options.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina
After 6.5 TFL and 5 sacks as a backup defensive end in 2009, he was expected to start at LDE opposite Robert Quinn in 2010. However, after the agent scandal that devastated the Tar Heels that season, Coples was needed to slide inside to replace Marvin Austin. All Coples did there was become a first-team All-ACC defensive tackle with 15.5 TFL and 10 sacks. Bumped back outside in 2011, he seemed to rest on his laurels early in the season before finishing with 15.5 TFL and 7.5 sack with first-team All-ACC honors at end. He is no Julius Peppers, but Coples is an impressive physical specimen who can dominate, when motivated. Questions about his motor prevent him from being a top 5 pick, but not a top 10.

8. Miami Dolphins – Melvin Ingram, DL/OLB, South Carolina
Perhaps GM Jeff Ireland tipped his hand a bit this week by not using his franchise tag, leaving open an estimated $15M in salary space, likely to make a run at QB Peyton Manning or free agent QB Matt Flynn. The Dolphins and Flynn have been a seemingly obvious match since former Green Bay OC Joe Philbin was hired as Miami’s head coach. Although new OC Mike Sherman turned TAMU QB Ryan Tannehill in to a star, if he falls here, it looks like the Fins will be looking elsewhere. And that position will almost certainly be a lineman, with needs on both sides of the ball. New DC Kevin Coyle is expected to run a hybrid 3-4 and Ingram is a most exception hybrid player. He was a playmaker all over the line for the Gamecocks, where he stood out on a stacked front four, and showed the same flexibility in drills at the Combine, where he also tested well. Another pick could be DT Dontari Poe, as the team looks likely to part ways with NT Paul Soliai and his amazing beard after not using the franchise tag on him. On the other side of the ball, taking an OT here would also make sense, as RT Marc Colombo needs to be replaced.

9. Carolina Panthers – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The athleticism Poe displayed at the Combine shouldn’t be possible for a 350-pound man. He solidified himself as the top DT prospect in the draft and showed he isn’t just a space-eating 3-4 nose. The interior of the defensive line has been a problem for this once-proud defense for some time and their pair of third-round DTs drafted last year didn’t appear to be the solution.

10. Buffalo Bills – Nick Perry, DE, USC
After 10 TFL and 9 sacks as a freshman, Perry was hampered by foot problems in 2010. He was back with a vengeance in 2011, posting 13 TFL and leading the PAC-10 with 9.5 sacks on his way to first-team all-conference honors. He blew up at the Combine, and did it at 271 pounds, having packed on around 20 pounds of muscle. New DC Dave Wannstedt is moving the defense back to a 4-3 and Perry is the perfect fit to be the marquee edge rusher for a team that had was among the worst at getting to the QB last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Perry was the first DE off the board and not available here, in which case Buffalo seems likely to look at one of the other top prospects at the same position.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
GM Scott Pioli will be disappointed to see DT Dontari Poe off the board two picks early and turn his focus to improving offensive tackle. RT Barry Richardson is a turnstile and many believe LT Branden Albert would be more successful kicking in side. I have Martin, who protected Andrew Luck’s blind side for all but two games as a freshman and anchored an excellent Cardinal OLine, rated slightly ahead of Iowa OT Riley Reiff, who is a popular pick here in mocks.

12. Seattle Seahawks – Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
A big performance at the Combine confirmed Cox as one of the top three DTs in the draft. His quickness and agility will provide a boost inside and he has enough of both to also work as the anchor end.

13. Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in two year, and none before the fifth round since 2007. They allowed the second most sacks in the league and both their starting tackles are free agents. The Cardinals need to do something upfront, most likely at OT. Reiff isn’t elite in any blocking skill, but has a nice punch, the requisite nastiness, and finishes blocks strong. A versatile lineman, he started 11 of 13 games all over the line as a redshirt freshman before locking in at left tackle for Bryan Bulaga after he left for the NFL.

14. Dallas Cowboys – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
After a litany of off-field problems saw him depart the limelight of Florida for Division II North Alabama, the post-season has been feel-good tour for Jenkins has he looks to have successfully climbed back up draft boards with strong performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine. The Cowboys secondary is a mess and Jenkins can go a long way toward rebuilding it as a lock-down corner who can take one receiver out of the game. I can’t believe I haven’t found a spot for G David DeCastro yet, so he could easily be the pick here if he falls this far.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
A tackle-machine who erased any concerns about his athleticism with a surprisingly impressive Combine performance is the player who will overcome HC Andy Reid’s aversion to drafting LBs early. The position absolutely killed the Eagles last year and if they don’t address it in free agency, this is the floor for Kuechly.

16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama
A disappointing Combine brings in to question if Upshaw has the athleticism to play with his hand off the ground at the next level, but Upshaw is an attack-minded player with one speed on the field who flies around blowing people up, and Ryan will love him. I think DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus has more potential as a pass rusher and would be a better pick. Mark Barron, the only safety with a first-round grade, would also make sense here.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland) – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Despite my belief in the position being devalued and the minor knee issue that kept Richardson from performing at the Combine, I don’t think he’ll fall this far. Someone, likely the Bengals, will swing a trade once Richardson once the Bucs pass on him. Most believe Richardson is one of the top six players in this draft, and there’s a fair case for it. As much as Mark Ingram left Alabama because he had nothing left to achieve at the collegiate level, he also had to be concerned about losing too many carries if he stuck around because Richardson was the superior player. After patiently waiting his turn, Richardson lived up to the hype as the feature back for the Crimson Tide. He is a physical beast (although that also makes me concerned he’ll take a beating at the next level and breakdown sooner) who also has good speed and hands. The team is ready to part ways with Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott isn’t a featured runner. This would be an ideal scenario for the Bengals, but they’ll likely have to trade up to get Richardson. Other options at this pick would be G David DeCastro, who also is unlikely to fall this far, and addressing cornerback. An aging Nate Clements was a downgrade after being brought in to fill the hole left by the departure of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon.

18. San Diego Chargers – David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Similar to Richardson, I’d be surprised if DeCastro fell this far, but I’ve struggled to fit him in earlier. GM A.J. Smith would love to see him here to plug him for the retiring Kris Dielman. QB Philip Rivers didn’t enjoy the pass protection he’d been used to last year and if DeCastro isn’t available, the team could be looking at OT too, where they could part ways with both Marcus McNeill and Jared Gaither. If there isn’t a top OLineman here, an edge rusher could also be the pick. The team should be familiar with Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus after drafting his former teammate, DL Corey Liuget in the first round last year.

19. Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Reports are out that the Bears are all in for WR Vincent Jackson, who will be a free agent after not being franchise tagged by the Chargers. If not, they must find a way to address the position and Floyd here would be a great fit. If they don’t go receiver, the offensive line still needs plenty of work and they have thin depth and aging stars at many key positions on defense.

20. Tennessee Titans – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
There’s concern Mercilus is a one-year wonder, but a solid Combine affirmed the athleticism is there, and while a bit smaller than ideal for a 4-3 end, elite sack production tends to translate well. He led FCS with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles last season, also totaling 22.5 TFL. Tennessee has tried to find a pass rush a variety of ways the last few years, and although this would be the second first-round pick they’d use in the last three years on the position, they need to.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
While his drug charges have been dropped, the questionable decision to put himself in that position could still hurt him. The Bengals never put character before talent, so either Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins falling this far should find a home with their issues at corner I discussed earlier.

22. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The second part of the trade I’m projecting with Cleveland. Despite a disappointing Combine, Brockers may have the most upside of any DT in the draft. A young project who helps solidify a patchwork interior. If either Kirkpatrick or Jenkins were available, the decision would be more challenging. Already a weak spot on the roster, injuries absolutely devastated their corners last season.

23. Detroit Lions – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Missing out on the top three corners, Detroit turns their focus to addressing unimpressive RT Gosder Cherlius and aging LT Jeff Backus.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
The OLine nees help and Pittsburgh values the versatility at both guard and tackle this man-mountain brings.

25. Denver Broncos – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
HC John Fox loves to build around his running game and an aging Willis McGahee isn’t the answer. Instead, they bring in the first back from The U to rush for 1K in a season since McGahee.

26. Houston Texans – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Workout warrior? Maybe, but he didn’t get a chance to catch much in that offense. Finally a compliment who can spread the field for WR Andre Johnson with his speed and his strong run blocking is a plus too.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans) – Mark Barron, S, Alabama

28. Green Bay Packers – Jerel Worthy, DL, Michigan State

29. Baltimore Ravens – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

30. San Francisco – Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina

31. New England Patriots – Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson

32. New York Giants – Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson