Welcome to the second edition of my 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Here are the things that have changed since we last met:
-The Colts finally secured the No.1 pick by laying down like dogs against an embarrassingly beatable Jacksonville Jaguars team. And then they gave Bill and Chris Polian the boot.
-Chicago Bears ownership finally woke up out of its coma and fired general manager Jerry Angelo.
-Indications suggest that Robert Griffin III will not stay at Baylor for his final season.
-Justin Blackmon pummeled the dickens out of Stanford to the tune of three receiving touchdowns, confirming that he is indeed the nastiest college wide receiver in the land.
-Offensive tackles Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Riley Reiff (Iowa), and guard David DeCastro (Stanford), have all said they are going to declare for the 2012 draft. Big surprise.
That's all for now. Let's get started.1) Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
Let the drama begin! If Jim Irsay is actually serious about drafting Andrew Luck and keeping Peyton Manning, then the Colts can look forward to an eventual feud between the two quarterbacks as foretold by the "I am getting a sledgehammer to the nuts" look on Luck's face when he was asked about Manning after the Fiesta Bowl last Monday. Still, it's easy to overlook potential conflict when you're drafting an extremely rare talent at the quarterback position.
2) St. Louis Rams - Jonathan Martin, T Stanford
Let me explain this pick before anyone starts using the word "reach." I think there's a great chance that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder goes nuts over Robert Griffin III's pro day/combine performance and throws in every last chip he has in order to get the Baylor wunderkind. Therefore, the Rams can trade back to the sixth spot and get a premier left tackle to protect their suddenly gun-shy quarterback. Sam Bradford desperately needs a big-time wideout, but his career will be a short one if St. Louis doesn't commit to keeping him upright and in one piece. Mammoth Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin (6'6", 305) would also be an asset in the Rams' ground game, as he's arguably the best pure run blocker in an exceptionally talented offensive tackle class.
3) Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, T USC
It's hard to believe there was actually a time when the left side of Minnesota's offensive line was like a purple Fort Knox. These days, the Vikings' alarmingly poor pass protection is pretty much only good for thing: getting quarterback Christian Ponder pummeled by pass rushers. Regardless of whether it's Ponder or Joe Webb lining up under center next season, the Vikings absolutely need a franchise left tackle to help restore order and dignity to their offensive line. I think USC's Matt Kalil would probably help the Vikings out in that department.
4) Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
The reason why the Redskins need to move up for Robert Griffin III is sitting right here at the fourth pick. Now, no one knows if Mike Holmgren would even bother with drafting a spread offense quarterback, but speculation suggests that the Browns will be in the market for RG3's services. However, if Daniel Snyder trades up for RG3 (and honestly, Snyder would include his family as part of a trade offer if he thought it would help the Redskins win games), then 'Bama running back extraordinaire Trent Richardson makes the most sense for a Browns team that basically has an infirmary for a backfield.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
The Buccaneers' defense metamorphosed into pure garbage this season, and while injuries along the defensive line might explain Tampa's total inability to stop the run, the secondary was a huge liability for one simple reason: it's terrible. LSU's Morris Claiborne is a mint corner prospect with the in-your-pocket coverage ability that the Buccaneers desperately need right now.
6) Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
I've already explained the story behind this pick, but perhaps Robert Griffin's biggest appeal to Washington is the fact that his mobility and vision will buy time for a Redskins offensive line that basically consists of holograms on the right side.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars - Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State
Instead of throwing in the towel early on Blaine Gabbert (who continues to look more and more like Randal from Clerks), Jacksonville should consider pairing their misfit quarterback with Justin Blackmon--a monstrous receiver with sky-high potential and the ability to take over games by himself (as evidenced by his Fiesta Bowl performance against Stanford last Monday). Questions remain in the Jags' secondary, but this is a team that needs to score points through the air ASAP.
8) Carolina Panthers - Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina
No one is about to dispute just how good Cam Newton was in his rookie season, but the Panthers still need to maximize Newton's potential and find him a burly, big-time wideout who can pound lumps on just about any defensive back in his way. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery certainly fits that bill, and would form with Newton the most imposing quarterback/receiver duo in the league.
9) Miami Dolphins - Courtney Upshaw, OLB Alabama
The Dolphins' weakside outside linebacker spot has been a big "so what?" since Koa Misi hit town in 2010, and though Miami's defense overcame a slow start to post 41 sacks this season, getting a "concrete dynamite" pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake is an absolute must if the Dolphins want to take their young, explosive D to the next level. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw looks every bit the part of a game-changing pass rusher, combining a stout (6'2, 270) frame with good athleticism, heavy hands and the ability to take on and dominate blocks. Upshaw is also capable of either dropping into coverage or busting up the run, and has the instincts and overall intelligence to be a cerebral defender at the next level. He's the total package as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
10) Buffalo Bills - Riley Reiff, T Iowa
Injuries have hindered Buffalo's rather talented interior offensive line, but the Bills' tackles are deplorable at best. Still, it seems like Buffalo enters every offseason with a reluctance to address its offensive tackle position (maybe the organization is afraid that every franchise-caliber tackle behaves like Jason Peters?). That trend could end this April, however, as the Bills should really think about giving in and nabbing the best protector available. Interestingly, Riley Reiff might be the most complete left tackle in this draft class, and that's saying a lot.
11) Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Kuechly, ILB Boston College
Once upon a time, balding Patriots VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli (along with Bill Belichick) surprised everyone by taking an undersized, workmanlike inside linebacker with the 10th overall pick. That linebacker was Jerod Mayo, and we all know how that worked out for New England. Four years later, look for Pioli--now calling the shots in Kansas City--to again take a chance on an inside linebacker like Luke Kuechly, who is average in stature but has the high intelligence and refined technique necessary to make a big impact the first day he steps on the field. Pair Kuechly with Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and you have the makings of a ridiculous linebackers corps.
12) Seattle Seahawks - Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina
For a team that started so poorly in 2011, the Seahawks have a surprising amount of talent on the offensive line and in the backfield, and Seattle's receiver corps isn't anything to scoff at, either. What the Seahawks need right now is an explosive defensive end who is equally capable of smashing quarterbacks or destroying the run, and that's why North Carolina's Quinton Coples (6'6", 280) should maybe think about buying some flannel shirts this spring. Go (north)west, young man.
13) Arizona Cardinals - David DeCastro, G Stanford
Yes, this is a very high spot to take a guard, but when that guard is arguably one of the best to ever play college football, it's probably okay to reach a bit. And when your interior offensive line is as godawful as Arizona's, then reaching on a freakish guard like David DeCastro is pretty much a no-brainer. For those of you who went through the 2011 season wondering how Beanie Wells was racking up huge yardage behind the Cardinals' porous offensive line, imagine how he'll do with DeCastro bulldozing paths well into the second level of defense.
14) Dallas Cowboys - Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama
We've known for a while that Dallas needs a reboot at the cornerback position, but after watching the Cowboys get helplessly slapped around by the Giants receivers on Sunday night, I'd say cornerback is a flat-out necessity for Jerry Jones and Co. Janoris Jenkins, despite the fact he couldn't behave himself while at Gainesville for three seasons, is a corner prospect with excellent technique and the ability to play much bigger than his listed size (5'10", 180). Check out his near-domination of A.J. Green during the Florida/Georgia game in 2010 if you need further evidence that Jenkins is the real deal.
15) Philadelphia Eagles - Vontaze Burflict, ILB Arizona State
Andy Reid might not be fond of drafting linebackers in the first round, but it's not like he really has a choice this year. Philadelphia's linebacker corps is as bad as it gets--in need of speed, awareness and plain old hitting ability. Vontaze Burflict is a brick house on wheels and would be a great addition to a defense in need of a big presence at the mike linebacker spot.
16) New York Jets - Mark Barron, S Alabama
After leaning a bit too much on Darrelle Revis' presence in the secondary the last few seasons, Jets opponents in 2011 made a concerted effort to go after NYJ's extremely soft safeties ... and it worked. Mark Barron would end that nonsense in a hurry, as he's athletic enough to play centerfield in passing downs and physical enough to come up and smack the run.
17) Cincinnati Bengals - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama
The Bengals have been a great story this season, but you're just asking for it when Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings are holding it down for you at corner. Leon Hall will be back next year, and Cincinnati could do him a gigantic favor by bringing in a tall, ferocious corner prospect like Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick isn't exactly a sleuth in coverage (despite the fact he's made great strides in that department this season), but what he lacks in overall technique, he makes up for in size (6'2 1/2", 190), strength, speed, willingness to take on the run, and the ability to consistently deliver body-rattling hits. He'll remind of you a bigger Ronnie Lott.
18) San Diego Chargers - Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
Lack of quarterback pressure on defense was a big reason for San Diego's sub-par 2011 season, and it's not going to get any better until the Bolts commit to improving their pass rush from the edge. Georgia's Jarvis Jones is a powerhouse outside linebacker who did some serious damage to opposing backfields (13.5 sacks) in 2011, but he's far from a one-trick, pass-rushing pony. Jones is strong enough to hold up against the run, and has the instincts and athleticism to do work in coverage. Just a redshirt sophomore, Jones looks like an explosive defensive talent at this point.
19) Chicago Bears - Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
The fact that Chicago axed Jerry Angelo after making it clear that he would be a part of their 2012 offseason plans tells me that the Bears aren't messing around in this draft. Jay Cutler looked every bit the part of a franchise quarterback this season, so Chicago would be wise to get him receiving weapons and a quality offensive linemen or two (especially along the interior). With this philosophy in place, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd would be an enticing option for a Chicago offense that needs to get much bigger and faster at receiver.
20) Tennessee Titans - Alfonzo Dennard, CB Nebraska
Judging by the haymakers Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (5'10", 205) threw at Alshon Jeffery (6'4", 230), in the Capital One Bowl last Monday, Dennard will fit right in on a Titans secondary that has carried a chippy reputation over the last few years. The real question is if the 'Fonz will be joining Titans corner Cortland Finnegan or simply replacing him. Tough call.
21) Denver Broncos - Jerel Worthy, DT Michigan State
The Broncos' defense really turned into something special this season, but while linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil have terrorized quarterbacks week in and week out in 2011, Denver still needs a dominating presence along the interior of the defensive line. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy would be an ideal fit in Denver's stifling scheme, and though he's athletic enough to get into the backfield and do damage, where he truly shines is his ability to dominate the point of attack.
22) Cincinnati Bengals - Lamar Miller, RB Miami
Cincy needs a powerful, explosive running back to complement its Grade A passing game, and Lamar Miller has the game-changing speed and thick build necessary to survive against the brutal run defenses in the AFC North. I still like David Wilson at this spot, but my friend Joe last week seemed legitimately upset about the Bengals going with Wilson over Miller. Consider this an apology.
23) Cleveland Browns - Andre Branch, DE Clemson
Cleveland still needs a receiver at this juncture, but with several big names available in the second round, the Browns might be wise to secure a heavy-handed pass rusher like Clemson's Andre Branch. Tall (6'4"), fast, strong and every bit the part of a 4-3 powerhouse defensive end, Branch would pair favorably with excellent rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard
24) Detroit Lions - Zach Brown, OLB North Carolina
Like the Eagles, Detroit's linebacker situation borders on sickeningly bad. But while the Lions would probably prefer a corner at this spot, they'll have to settle for Zach Brown--a linebacker with cornerback-like speed. Brown would be an immediate upgrade at the will linebacker spot in Detroit's 4-3 scheme, and he's answered questions about instincts with a very impressive senior campaign at North Carolina.
25) New York Giants - Dwayne Allen, TE Clemson
Eli Manning continues to impress this season, but while the Giants' receiver corps is in great shape right now, the tight end situation in New York is a slightly different story. Dwayne 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.
26) Houston Texans - Kendall Wright, WR Baylor
Andre Johnson's absence took a lot of air out of Houston's passing attack earlier this season (before the Texans' quarterback position became an infirmary, that is), so it makes sense to bring in a receiver with the elite speed to add another dimension to Houston's offense and take some heat off of Johnson. Wright is also a valuable weapon in the return game.
27) Pittsburgh Steelers - Dontari Poe, NT Memphis
Good God, how long can Pittsburgh lean on nose tackle Casey Hampton? The Steelers have an adequate amount of youth in their defensive front seven, but need to find some youth and increased athleticism at nose tackle--the position that anchors the defensive line in a 3-4 front. Dontari Poe is a massive (6'3", 330) 0-technique prospect who does much more than simply stuff the run in a two-gap role. I wouldn't call Poe a bona-fide pass rusher, but he certainly gets into the backfield more than your average space eater at the collegiate level. Best of all, Poe has incredible strength and is difficult to block one-on-one.
28) San Francisco 49ers - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB Illinois
The 49ers struck gold with the selection of powerhouse outside linebacker Aldon Smith last spring, and San Francisco could really put the screws to opposing offenses by bringing in another fearsome pass rusher like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, who was a nightmare match-up for Big Ten offensive tackles this season. San Francisco could also address its sub-par secondary with this selection.
29) Baltimore Ravens - Devon Still, DT Penn State
It's hard to believe that the Ravens actually need more beef on their defensive line, but Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still is a powerful, mega-stout defender with the build to easily transition into the 5-technique position in a 3-4 scheme. Still can get to the quarterback, but he's an absolute killer against the run.
30) New England Patriots - Brandon Thompson, DT Clemson
New England's defensive line has really struggled this season, and regardless of whether the Patriots want to run a 3- or 4-man front, the bottom line is that they need to get much bigger and stronger in the trenches. Clemson's Brandon Thompson can play tackle in the 4-3 or end in the 3-4, and though he lacks the sheer athleticism to qualify him as pass-rushing threat, he's a tackling machine with the size (6'2", 310) to command the trenches at the next level.
31) New England Patriots - Cordy Glenn, T/G Georgia
It wouldn't be a true NFL draft without the Patriots trading away one of their first-round picks. However, should New England actually keep this pick, Georgia's Cordy Glenn--an absolute house of an offensive linemen--would be a no-brainer addition to an offensive line that is almost close to rebuilt at this point (Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are both very promising tackles, and Logan Mankins is still the best guard in the game). Glenn can play tackle or guard, and he moves absurdly well for a linemen measuring in at 6'5", 350.
32) Green Bay Packers - Melvin Ingram, DE South Carolina
Green Bay's weak secondary has gotten plenty of attention this season (from analysts and opposing passing attacks alike), but the Pack's outside linebacker position across from Clay Matthews is almost as much of a problem right now. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram is a fast, ruthless pass rusher who will likely jump into the outside linebacker position without missing a beat. Ingram lacks polish and overall technique, but his freakish strength will help him dominate at the point of attack, and he's already demonstrated an ability to effectively eat the run.