I'd normally have a problem with posting an NFL mock draft every week, especially when we're still in the pre-Combine stage of the offseason. However, considering the current shape-shifting nature of this Dolphins team (the Joe Philbin hire, Matt Flynn-to-Miami rumors, a pending change to the 4-3 defensive scheme, the likelihood that Paul Soliai is going to make mega-bucks playing for a different team next season, etc.) a weekly mock draft is the only way to keep up with Miami's ever-changing offseason needs
And with that in mind, I present to you, the passionate reader, NFL 2012 mock draft 5.0.
Let me just say that I really despise the Indianapolis Colts franchise. How is it that these thieves end up with the No.1 pick every year there's a hot-shot, destined-to-be-great quarterback prospect in the draft? Sickening. Anyway, the Colts have again bottomed out at the right time, and will receive Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck for their trouble. Thank you. Please drive through.
It's tempting to project a trade at this spot, but if Sam Bradford is half as good as Jeff Fisher believes, then this pick has to be a franchise left tackle. Protect that investment, mustache boy!
USC's Matt Kalil is a polished blindside protector who should be able to come in and immediately helm the left side for the Rams. This selection would be a "two birds with one stone" move, as well, since current left tackle Rodger Saffold can kick over to right tackle (the position he should've been at from the start). As for former No.2 overall pick Jason Smith ... well, who knows?
3) Minnesota Vikings - Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
Yep, I went there. Minnesota's situations at offensive tackle and cornerback are both horrendous, but in a draft class that is rather deep at the latter position, the Vikings would be wise to shoot early for a franchise left tackle who can help prevent Christian Ponder from getting beaten to a pulp by defenses every Sunday. Riley Reiff's not as well known as Kalil right now, but I really believe Reiff is the better prospect of the two. He's the total package at left tackle--technique, smarts, great footwork and durability. Mark my words, Reiff this offseason is going to scale draft boards like Spider Man.
You know it's bad when a team doesn't show any concern for its concussed starting quarterback, which is why we probably should've seen the Griffin-to-Cleveland possibility immediately after Colt McCoy was blasted back to the fourth grade by James Harrison last month. Griffin won't have many offensive weapons to play with in Cleveland, but he will have premium protection on the left side of the line. Hey, it could be worse ...
Brace yourselves, Bucs fans, because you might not be selecting a cornerback in the first round of this draft. Instead, Tampa Bay lands Trent Richardson, the most dominant college running back since Adrian Peterson ... and a guy who should have no problem forming an immediate, sledgehammer-like backfield with LaGarrette Blount. For the Buccaneers, it'll be smash and more smash.
The Morris Claiborne free fall ends at this spot, as the Redskins proved this season that they desperately need an upgrade or two in the secondary. Claiborne has premier cover corner written all over him, and his presence will be a big help to Washington's promising front seven on defense.
If the Jaguars really want to maximize Blaine Gabbert's potential, they need to get him an actual receiver. Justin Blackmon was an absolute terror against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month, and he's going to be an even bigger problem for AFC South secondaries next season. He's the epitome of a No.1 wideout.
Several people here (myself included) have speculated for months that Coples would be a big possibility for the Dolphins if they flipped back over to the 4-3 defense. Pro Football Talk earlier today announced that Miami is indeed going back to a four-down-linemen scheme, so Coples is now the guy for the Dolphins if they decide to this pick on a defensive player. Coples has completely busted up Senior Bowl practices this week, displaying his usual run-stuffing ability while also surprising many scouts with his wealth of pass-rush moves. A defensive line of Coples/Odrick/Starks/Wake sounds tasty, yes?
Let the run on pass-rushers begin! Melvin Ingram, like Coples, has slapped his competition silly at the Senior Bowl this week, and his tweener size (6'1", 270) means he might be more suited to the outside linebacker position in the NFL. Good thing for the Panthers, because they want to be a 3-4 team and are in need some nasty at edge-rusher.
10) Buffalo Bills - Jonathan Martin, OT Stanford
Buffalo fans may disagree, but the Bills' offensive line really needs to be addressed early in this draft. Stanford's Jonathan Martin is a colossal tackle prospect (6'6", 310) who can come to Orchard Park and lock down either side of the offensive line (presumably across from the very impressive Chris Hairston) right away. Ryan Fitzpatrick will thank you later, Bills fans.
Offensive line is a need in Kansas City, but with the top three OL prospects off the board, the Chiefs should lock up the trenches with a strong 5-technique player like Penn State's Devon Still. Still is rock solid at the point of attack and flashes the ability to disrupt the backfield.
Seattle desperately needs to dial up its pass rush, but if no knockout defensive ends are available at this spot, it would make perfect sense for the Seahawks to nab Michael Brockers--the most punishing 4-3 defensive tackle in this draft. Brockers is considerably tall (6'6") for his position, but he plays with great leverage and has the strength to push the pocket back at will. You can't go wrong with these LSU defensive tackles. They're monsters.
Arizona's dire need for offensive line talent is similar to the Chiefs' situation, but the Cardinals' edge-rush linebacker position is in serious need of an upgrade, as well. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is the most well-rounded outside linebacker in the this draft, capable of disrupting the run, rushing the passer and providing support in coverage. And since Upshaw played in the 3-4 scheme at Alabama, he can contribute in Arizona from day one.
Dallas' secondary in Week 17 was slapped around helplessly by Giants receivers, so it's time for the Cowboys to find a corner who will hit back. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is a tall, super-athletic cornerback prospect who excels at mangling the run, but don't lose sight of the fact that he really improved his coverage skills this season. Think of Kirkpatrick as a lankier Ronnie Lott.
When was the last time an NFL team lost so many games purely because of sub-par linebacking? The Eagles need something ... anything ... at the linebacker position, and Boston College's Luke Kuechly is a brilliant prospect with advanced instincts, awareness and tackling ability. And while Kuechly's undersized for the position (6'2", 235), he does possess adequate speed and strength.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kuechly plays the linebacker position at genius level. He's a steal at this spot.
For a defense that's supposedly aggressive, the Jets' just couldn't dial up much of a pass rush in 2011. Rex Ryan and Co. might want to take a page out of San Francisco's book and draft an edge-rush linebacker with speed, length and a bevy of moves to get to the quarterback. Illinois' Whitney Mercilus bears a strong resemblance to 49er standout Aldon Smith, which should be enough to convince the Jets to pull the trigger on Mercilus at this spot ... if they're not still scarred by Vernon Gholston, that is.
We've officially reached the portion of the draft where it's okay to select interior offensive linemen, and there's a good chance the Bengals will use the first of their two first-round picks on a prospect who was the best guard in the country this year. David DeCastro is an absurdly well-rounded lineman with rare athleticism and flawless technique.
San Diego needs to not skimp on offensive line protection in this draft, since left tackle Marcus McNeill can't seem to stay healthy and center Nick Hardwick is on the verge of retirement. Ohio State's Mike Adams has been dominant in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl this week, meaning he's almost a lock to be the fourth offensive tackle on the board. If the Chargers have any sense, they'll use this selection to bring Adams to Southern California. He's a phenomenal talent with upside galore.
Like San Diego, the Bears can't afford to cheese out on protection for Jay Cutler. However, if Mike Adams and David DeCastro are both off the board, Chicago should immediately move to Plan B and nab a big-time wideout to bolster the passing game. Cutler has proven that he knows how to get the most out of big targets, and Floyd is Brandon-Marshall-type receiver with hulking size, adequate game speed and near-flawless mitts.
Michael Griffin might not be in a Titans uniform next season, so look for Tennessee to upgrade its safety position at this spot. Alabama's Mark Barron is a phenomenal do-everything safety who is equally at home smacking the run or playing centerfield in the secondary, and his instincts and awareness border on prototypical for the position.
21) Cincinnati Bengals - Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama
The Bengals have proven time and time again that they're willing to roll the dice on prospects with character concerns, so it won't be a stretch if Cincinnati bolsters its depleted corner position with a talent like Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins was a lockdown corner prospect at Florida for three seasons, but was booted off the team for, well, an inability to behave himself. He claims he's all business at this point, and he'd be a huge upgrade over Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings.
22) Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) - Lamar Miller, RB Miami
Cleveland's decision to pass on Trent Richardson at No.4 makes sense if they use this pick on a franchise-caliber running back. The Browns' backfield is wholly underwhelming and rarely healthy, so perhaps the Dawg Pound will do the right thing and give Robert Griffin III a monster presence at running back.
23) Detroit Lions - Vontaze Burflict, ILB Arizona State
A linebacker with no shortage of talent or violent temperament? You know Jim Schwartz and the Lions are signing up for that. Can't say I blame them, either; Burflict would be a real problem behind Detroit's near-unruly defensive line.
Pittsburgh needs to briefly do away with the defense-in-the-first-round mentality and get Ben Roethlisberger some premium protection along the interior. Cordy Glenn has looked polished, athletic and versatile at the Senior Bowl this week, so he'd be able to fill in at several spots on a Steelers offensive line that is almost always riddled with injuries.
The Broncos proved throughout this season that they can dial up an outside pass rush whenever they please, so it's time for Denver to start thinking about reinforcing the interior with a penetrating defensive tackle like Michigan State's Jerel Worthy. Worthy, who has looked really impressive at the Senior Bowl, is athletic enough to get into the backfield often and do damage, but where he truly shines is his ability to dominate the point of attack.
It's time for the Texans to add an explosive receiver who can complement all-world wideout Andre Johnson, and Baylor's Kendall Wright is pretty much the epitome of "explosive," pairing good hands with a strong frame and jaw-dropping speed. Wright will be an immediate match-up problem in a division that isn't necessarily known for its dominant cornerback play.
The Patriots really tightened up their run defense last week against Baltimore, but are still in need of an upgrade next to Vince Wilfork. Regardless of whether New England is running the 3-4 or 4-3 next season, they could use the services of Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox. Cox flashes the ability to rush the passer, and he has the bulk and strength to be a big-time disruptor against the run.
Green Bay's linebacker corps basically needs an overhaul, so it might be wise to use this selection on a tall, well-rounded pass-rusher like Clemson's Andre Branch. Branch can get to the quarterback with ease (like most Clemson defensive ends), and he holds up surprisingly well against the run, which means he could be an ideal fit across from Clay Matthews.
29) Baltimore Ravens - Dont'a Hightower, ILB Alabama
Dont'a Hightower proved himself to be a rangy, powerful defender and leader for the Crimson Tide defense this season, and he's the kind of ruthless linebacker prospect who could come in and eventually take over for Ray Lewis when he retires at the age of 70.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the 49ers would be taking a cue from New England with the selection of nightmare tight end Dwayne Allen at this spot. Allen has become a do-everything tight end during his time at Clemson, and he'll wow you with his speed, ball skills and willingness to block. Allen is like a Swiss Army Knife at the tight end position.
31) New England Patriots - Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina
The Patriots have developed two major weapons in tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but their wide receiver position needs serious work. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery is a massive (6'4", 230), aggressive wideout with elite ball skills and surprisingly decent speed, and his presence would make the Patriots' offense a near-impossible match-up for the rest of the NFL.
32) New York Giants - Zach Brown, OLB North Carolina
Zach Brown has looked ridiculously good during Senior Bowl practices, essentially debunking the notion that he's a sprinter in pads. Rather, Brown is a football player who can sprint, and he pairs rare athleticism with very good instincts and awareness at the outside linebacker position. The Giants' defense is built around their havoc-wreaking line, but New York could certainly use some more talent in their linebacker corps, which makes Brown a great value at this spot.