NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: A general view of the Draft stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Here it finally is. My one and only mock draft for this season. Talk about waiting until the last minute, right? But, if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute....write that down.
Okay, enough with my Van Wilder moment. Here is my projection of the first round of tonight's 2012 NFL Draft; a projection sure to be wrong. I mean, really wrong.
My one rule was, no trades. Now, I fully expect several trades, but I didn't want to sit here and try to figure out who trades with whom and what it will cost. So, no trades.
Other than that, I tried to figure out who fits where, and what I would do as that team's GM. We'll see how good I am. On to the mock...
There really isn't any drama here, since even the team has announced now that they plan on selecting Luck. Maybe the most intriguing part of the first overall pick is going to be, how much time from the 10 minutes each team is allotted to make their selection will the Colts take?
There really isn't any drama here, since you don't trade away the next two first round picks, a second round selection, a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, and the naming rights to Washington, DC if you aren't planning to take Luck or Griffin. With Luck off the board, maybe the most intriguing part of the second overall pick is going to be, how much time from the 10 minutes each team is allotted to make their selection will the Redskins take?
There really isn't...oh, wait, I can't just copy and paste that paragraph again. This is where the drama of the draft starts. The Vikings want out of this position, and are actively looking to find a dancing partner. Minnesota is also reportedly considering Morris Claiborne over Kalil, which makes absolutely no sense, and therefore could be exactly what the Vikings do. Let's see, a cornerback in a Tampa 2 defense that looks to bail out corners on every play, or a stud left tackle to protect your investment in a quart back last year? I have to believe the intelligent choice will be made here.
The Browns are positioned to be the first team to make a decision on the most discussed player leading up to the draft, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but I don't think they are ready to pull that trigger. They have a young quarterback in Colt McCoy, and they need offensive weapons. If they can surround McCoy with talent this year, they will be in a better position next year to truly determine if he is or isn't their franchise quarterback. That starts with a replacement for Peyton Hillis, and a running back who is a versatile threat out of the backfield, both running and receiving.
5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Tampa Bay has a ton of needs. Two years ago, they looked like a young, up-and-coming team. Last year, they couldn't get out of their own way. Now, they are a complete mess, needing pieces just about anywhere. And, sitting at five, they are going to get one of those pieces. I don't think it really matters to the Bucs if they get Kalil, Richardson, or Claiborne - they are going to be happy. With the mess that their secondary has become this offseason, Claiborne is probably the best of the three choices for Tampa, moving them from happy to ecstatic.
6 - St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
This one is a toss up for me. With Justin Blackmon still sitting on the board, the Rams could be tempted to grab him, and look for a defensive tackle in the second round, and that scenario makes a lot of sense, but I think Cox is the perfect fit up the middle for Jeff Fisher.
7 - Jacksonville Jaguars - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
This is the dream scenario for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are desperately looking to trade out of the seventh spot, using Miami at pick eight as the bait to get a team to move up for Tannehill, but if Blackmon falls to them, all trades are off the board. The team needs excitement, and something to sell to the fan base - Blackmon does that. Plus, he will be an asset for Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, both of whom are trying to prove they can be starters in the NFL.
8 - Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I have really debated this pick the last two weeks. It's way too clean and easy. The draft is never this clean and easy. Where's the smoke screen? Where's the zig instead of a zag? But, I keep coming back to Tannehill. I have to believe, if Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin want Tannehill, they know what they are doing. Likewise, if they skip him, then I believe they know what they are doing. I'm fine either way. But, i do think Tannehill has been the target for awhile - and is probably the biggest reason Matt Flynn isn't in Miami If it's not Tannehill, it's either Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram - and I lean toward Ingram in that debate.
9 - Carolina Panthers - Stephon Gillmore, CB, South Carolina
The Panthers could be sitting in a "best player available" spot at number nine, and could have a ton of choices. I would not be surprised to see them go wide receiver here, grabbing Michael Floyd, or look to get Luke Kuechly to bolster the middle of their defense, both of which could also fit a BPA mentality, but the need for a cornerback will sway that best layer available a little.
10 - Buffalo Bills - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Bills have built a formidable defense, especially with the addition of Mario Williams to their pass rush, and I could see them going Luke Kuechly here, adding a potential star to the middle linebacker position. However, with the commitment the team made to Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, they have to find him some weaponry. CJ Spiller coming out of the backfield, with Stevie Johnson on one side and Floyd on the other could be exactly what the Bills are looking for. Don't be surprised if it's Kuechly, or even tight end Colby Fleener here, but I think they look toward Floyd.
11 - Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
This one is easy. If Kuechly makes it out of the top ten, he'll be a Chief. The need at inside linebacker may not be their most pressing need heading into the draft, but the talent Kuechly would bring is too much for Kansas City to pass up.
12 - Seattle Seahawks - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Seattle probably has a couple of players - including Tannehill and Kuechly - they would love to see fall to them here, but neither one will. In that case, they look to add a pass rusher to give what should be a strong secondary a boost. At this point, they have their choice of Coples or Ingram, with the edge being size - leading to Coples.
This is a tough one, because the Cardinals need help all over the offensive line, and David DeCastro could be ranked ahead of Reiff. However, I think the value of getting a tackle - even one with the short arms Reiff has - will overpower DeCastro's ability at guard, and lead to this pick.
After several picks where the team is settling after watching their top choice come off the board, I think the Cowboys could be staring their top choice in the face right here. The team has spent the offseason fixing their horrible secondary, and Jerry Jones is reportedly in love with Barron - for what that's worth in pre-draft rumors and speculation - so this pick makes absolute sense.
The Eagles are in love withFletcher Cox, but unless they jump way up in the draft (a possibility) they won't be anywhere near in position to get him. However, they can just as easily sit back and wait for Poe and Michael Brockers to fall to them. If Poe is gone, I could see them looking to trade back, rather than grab Brockers here, but I think Andy Reid would be happy to land Poe.
16 - New York Jets - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Jets, and the mob of them sitting in Radio City Music Hall, will be dancing if Ingram, a player they could be considering moving up to grab earlier in the draft, is still sitting here at 16. He would be my top defensive choice for the Dolphins, and to see him go here to the Jets is painful, but the fit is perfect, and it just makes sense.
The Bengals need to protect Andy Dalton, and DeCastro has the potential to be a long-term star at the guard position, and is ready to step in and play day one. While it may not be the sexiest pick they could make, with another pick coming up, it's probably the best one.
The Chargers have two big needs for the first round, pass rusher and pass protection, but can only solve one here. I think they will value keeping Phillip Rivers upright over getting to Peyton Manning, Matt Cassel, and Carson Palmer, for now. There are defensive linemen and pass rushers they can find in the second round.
The Bears have two concerns for the first round - a cornerback to help in coverage against Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford, or a pass rusher to guest to Rodgers and Stafford. In this instance, I think they look pass rush. McClellin might not be the guy most people would template here, with Whitney Mercilus and Courtney Upshaw still on the board, but for some reason, I think McClellin's rise up draft boards pulls him all the way up to 19.
Absolutely makes sense. The Titans have to reload their secondary, and Kirkpatrick does that. Another easy pick.
21 - Cincinnati Bengals - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
That unsexy pick earlier bites the Bengals here, with Kirkpatrick as the most likely target for them. However, with him going one pick earlier, they will turn to a guy falling down draft board due "character issues" - something never a concern for the Bengals. Jenkins has enormous potential, and could be the steal of the first round.
The Browns were briefly in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, but did not want to give up this pick to get him. So, now, with the selections, they take RG3's wide receiver. With Richardson early on in the draft, and now Wright here, this team really is loading up the offense. Time for McCoy to shine - or fail.
23 - Detroit Lions - Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama
The Lions don't seem to ever draft by need, instead always taking the best player available. In this case, those two actually coincide. The Lions need to be able to pressure the quarterback from the edge as Suh blows up the middle, and Upshaw gives them that capability.
24 - Pittsburgh Steelers - Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Lions may as well have copied the best player available method of drafting from the Steelers. And, once again, the BPA method may just have landed a need player for the Steelers. Everything about Hightower seems to scream Steelers - he's a perfect fit for their system, he can control the game as a 3-4 inside linebacker, and the team has to replace James Farrior. Everything here points to Hightower to the Steelers.
25 - Denver Broncos - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
I think the Broncos have a decision to make here - shore up the middle of the offensive line, or shore up the middle of the defensive line. I could very easily see them taking Peter Konz, the center from Wisconsin. The team had wanted to bring in Jeff Saturday to team up with Peyton Manning, but the man Peyton has caressed professionally for year's decided to go to Green Bay instead. A center to work with Peyton, and someone who can help block for him, makes a ton of sense. However, they have to fill the defensive tackle role in the first or second round, and I think they want to have the ability to snag a quarterback in round two for insurance on Manning's neck, and to start grooming for when Manning finally hangs up the cleats. That means Brockers.
26 - Houston Texans - Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Illinois
The Texans have a couple of options here. They could try to find a receiving threat to team with Andre Johnson, add some offensive line talent to block for Arian Foster, or try to replace Mario Williams. With Mercilus on the board, I think they take option three.
The Patriots are notorious for blowing up mock drafts with trades and random picks. But, with Matt Light retiring, and a former top 10 prospect sliding down the boards, the pick makes a ton of sense. Shore up the offensive line with this pick, then look somewhere else - or do the typical Bill Bellichick trade - with the 31st selection.
The Packers probably go one of two ways here - pass rush or secondary. I considered Devon Still and Nick Perry here, but as bad as the safety play was for the Packers last year, the neck injury to Nick Collins - who the team released yesterday - makes it even more of a need. Smith is a very smart safety, and could upgrade the Packers immediately.
29 - Baltimore Ravens - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Ravens need a center. Konz is a center. Seems pretty simple. Peter King from SI.com does not think the Ravens like Konz at all - which only tells me they actually love him and are telling King they don't.
The Stanford quartet is complete with this pick, getting all four guys into the first round. Fleener is getting mocked all over the place, sometimes mid-first round, sometimes not even going in the first. I wouldn't have considered Fleener here, but I talked to David Fucillo of Niners Nation Tuesday night, and it's makes absolute sense. The two tight end thing the Patriots have going could be even more dangerous in San Francisco with Fleener and Vontae Davis' brother, Vernon (like how I did that?). I am absolutely convinced now, Fleener to the 49ers could be the most genius move of the draft - and reuniting him with Jim Harbaugh only makes it that much better.
31 - New England Patriots - Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
I absolutely don't expect the Patriots to make this pick. There is no possible way the Patriots actually make two selections in the first round. They need a pass rusher, and all the signs point to Nick Perry being the next guy off the board - which is why I think they will take Jones. To be fair, most mock drafts have Jones up in the mid-first round; I just think he tumbles for some reason, and the Patriots grab him here.
The Giants have to protect Eli Manning at some point, right? Why not start here? I nearly took Doug Martin with this pick, because I really think the Boise State running back ends up in the first round (Lions? Patriots? Ravens?), but really, I just can't figure out who will not take whomever I have projected for them. He could make sense for the Giants, but I think the need to protect Eli outweighs the desire for another runner.