This is my third mock for the 2012 NFL draft. These projections were made after the regular season ended.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The question isn't whether the first overall selection is going to be Andrew Luck or not, but it is what they are going to do with Peyton Manning. Bill Polian has been fired, so I think this means that they are going to stick with Peyton. Andrew Luck could also pull a John Elway or Eli Manning and just say he doesn't want to play for the Colts. I do not think Peyton and Andrew will be playing on the same team next season.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Matt Kalil could possibly be the best offensive lineman prospect since Joe Thomas. He has been flawless this year and has decided to declare for the NFL draft while his teammate, Matt Barkley, has decided to go back to USC. Kalil would work to protect Bradford's blindside and actually give him some time to work with. Kalil could theoretically solidify the entire offensive line because other young players could move to positions they are more comfortable playing.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon absolutely exploded in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. He received the ball 8 times totaling 186 yards including 3 touchdowns in a 41-38 win. Justin Blackmon reminds me of a young Terrell Owens. He also has body control similar to AJ Green, the fourth pick in last year's draft. Justin Blackmon made Oklahoma State fans forget about Dez Bryant and he could remind Minnesota fans of Randy Moss.
Scouting Report: Justin Blackmon
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Winning the Heisman is an incredible accomplishment. Does that mean he can be an NFL quarterback? I'm sick of mediocre Browns' quarterbacks so I'm just going to give them something they can finally be excited about. If Justin Blackmon falls to the Browns, look for them to snatch him up and give Colt McCoy another chance with an actual offensive weapon. The Browns picked a Baylor product last year in Phil Taylor, and it would be wise to do the same this year with RGIII.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
LeGarrette Blount seems to have no idea what he is doing unless he gets the ball in his hands. Trent Richardson absolutely tore it up this year and put on a highlight reel. At the combine he has a good chance of breaking the running back bench press record. Richardson is very hard to tackle and he would give the Buccaneers a building block to the future.
6. Washington Redskins: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Deangelo Hall sucks. Claiborne has performed very well and could lead his defense to an undefeated season. The Redskins' defense has performed well this year and could be scary with some help at corner. They could have used some offensive help, but since the first five picks were all used on offensive players they settle on the best defensive player.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Like the Redskins, the Jaguars could have also used some help offensively. Quinton Coples has fought off double teams all season long and could break onto the scene early next season. Coples is an athletic freak and dominates when he is blocked by one man. Coples would be a perfect fit for the Jaguars 4-3 system.
8. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Jake Long has been a great blindside protector for the plethora of quarterbacks the Dolphins have had. Jonathan Martin could move right in at right tackle and start. Marc Colombo has to be one of the worst offensive lineman in the NFL. Martin has been great all year in protecting Andrew Luck. The reason why I think Riley Reiff wouldn't be the ideal pick is that Reiff is a natural left tackle and it wouldn't be ideal for them to have Jake Long and Riley Reiff.
9. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
At 6'3" and 195 pounds with exceptional athleticism, Dre Kirkpatrick could be one of the only guys in the NFL to have a chance of shutting down Calvin Johnson. He is great at tackling and could be a great pair with Chris Gamble. This would provide support for Carolina's shallow secondary.
10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills had a hot start to the 2011 season but fell off short for a couple of reasons. Injuries, inconsistent offensive play, and a lack of pass rush are what hurt the Bills down the stretch of 2011. Kyle Williams was playing injured this season so if he comes back healthy, that would be a huge help. Marcel Dareus had a great rookie campaign and bolstered the Bills' run defense and actually provided a decent pass rush at times. Upshaw would further improve their pass rush and rushing the QB will help the secondary make plays. Turnovers is what this team used for fuel early in the season.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Riley Reiff is a natural left tackle and played outstanding football all season long. He has faced some good competition with Devon Still and Whitney Mercilus, two first round draft prospects. Reiff will provide protection to the blindside for whoever the next quarterback is for Kansas City.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
I'm predicting that Landry Jones will decide to return to school. However, until he declares, I'm considering him in play. His stock has steadily declined over the last month of the season. The combination of him not playing well and other quarterbacks excelling was not good for Landry. However, he is a talent and the Seahawks are desperate for a quarterback and are going to hope Jones declares and falls to them. Starting Tarvaris jackson or Charlie Whitehurst is unacceptable for any NFL team.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald have been hurting since Anquan Boldin left for the Ravens. Alshon Jeffery caught the hail marry pass to win the bowl game at the end of the season. Jeffery was incredibly under-used throughout the season and that has hurt his draft stock. Jeffery is a big, physical, talented receiver. He doesn't have the best speed, but makes up for it in size and physicality. I would compare Jeffery to a taller version of Dwayne Bowe or Anquan Boldin.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State
The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs again after a disappointing 8-8 season. There were plenty of games that could have gone either way, so I don't think they are too far from being a playoff team. The Cowboys could have taken JJ Watt last year, but instead they addressed right tackle. This year they take someone similar to Watt, a 3-4 end who had a breakthrough season. Still has been great this season and will make great contributions to whatever team that drafts him.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
For most of the season the Eagles were a disappointment. The late season surge was too little, too late. The Eagles simply had too many missing components. One of the largest pieces missing was a consistently producing linebacker. Consistency and productivity are Luke Kuechly's middle names. During the 2011 campaign, Kuechly recorded 193 tackles and his team didn't even get selected for a bowl game. Kuechly could be the safest pick in the entire draft. That is saying something when Andrew Luck is in the class.
16. New York Jets: Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
Rex Ryan's prediction fell short yet again. Their usually sound defense struggled at times because there wasn't a pass rush. Even with the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets couldn't muster up anything that really ever got to the quarterback. This also caused a lot of stress on Revis and Cromartie. Cromartie had an awful season and Revis was below par on the Revis scale. If Curry is added to this team they could be as successful as the Gang Green days.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
The Bengals lost Jonathan Joseph over the offseason to the Texans. They added Nate Clements but he is only a temporary option. Jenkins is the type of guy the Bengals could gamble on and is definitely worth what they were getting out of with Carson Palmer. Jenkins has character issues and I expect Marvin Lewis to help keep him motivated.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Much like the Jets, the Chargers couldn't generate a pass rush even with the addition of a first round defensive lineman. Whitney Mercilus reminds me a lot of Aldon Smith the year before. Mercilus showed why he is a beast as he led the nation in sacks with 16. Look for Whitney's stock to rise in the coming months before the draft like Aldon Smith's did in the previous year.
19. Chicago Bears: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Now that Jerry Angelo and Mike Martz have been fired, the Bears' pick becomes a crapshoot. Before, they were known for taking short speedy receivers in the middle rounds of the draft and none of them ever seemed to pan out. Now that all of that is out the window, maybe they will take an early selection on someone who can actually catch the ball. Michael Floyd has been fantastic this year and has stayed out of trouble. If he stays this long he should be a considered a gift just as Gabe Carimi was last year.
20. Tennessee Titans: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Titans offensive line situation could be in a bit of a jam this offseason if they are unable to resign Jake Scott. Either way they should draft DeCastro who is one of the best run blocking guards to come out in a while. He will help Chris Johnson find holes and give Jake Locker an easier time adjusting to the NFL level.
21. Denver Broncos: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Champ Bailey isn't going to be an all pro forever. They are going to need support and an eventual replacement when Champ decides to hang the cleats up. The Denver defense was great this year and needs to continue to be that way if they want to win with a quarterback that isn't spectacular.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Lamar Miller is very fun to watch. Well, a lot more fun to watch than Cedric Benson anyway. Cedric Benson is old and going to be washed up very soon. The Bengals were surprisingly good this year, but they could use another playmaker on offense. Lamar has great quickness and would be great in the Bengals offense. Remember the name fantasy owners.
23. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Kendall Wright was Robert Griffin III's top option this year. If this happens he will be his top option next year as well. Kendall Wright makes the spectacular catch when RG3 makes the spectacular throw. Wright reminds of Steve Smith for the Panthers, look for him to come on strong with whatever team he gets drafted to.
24. Detroit Lions: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Detroit's defensive line was great when Suh wasn't stomping on people. Stephen Tulloch was a great addition this year but they still need someone else that can consistently tackle. Zach Brown is a very versatile linebacker and could be used in a ton of different situations. He has maturity concerns, but who doesn't that went to North Carolina?
25. New York Giants: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Giants really came on at the end of the year and they are looking to make a playoff push. The defensive line has been great, and so has Eli. Jerry Reese always drafts linebackers in middle rounds hoping that one of them will eventually pan out. It is time for them to make the jump and get someone they can depend on. Vontaze isn't dependable, but Dont'a is a lot like his old teammate, Rolondo McClain.
26. Houston Texans: Gordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
The Texans have one of the best run blocking offensive lines I have ever seen. If you have two running backs that could consistently both get 100 yards a game, that is saying something. Wade Smith turns 30 over the offseason and hasn't exactly been the best offensive lineman for them. Gordy Glenn fits the scheme and could provide depth as he is a very versatile player.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
Another rushing linebacker? Well last year the Steelers made a similar replacement pick when they chose Cameron Heyward. James Harrison has regressed this season and they can't afford to lose their pass rush. This would be a classic depth pick the Steelers usually make.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
Braylon Edwards is gone and didn't ever pan out. Dwight Jones is a lot like him, just better. He doesn't really have the attitude problems Braylon does and could be a target for Andrew Luck. I understand that there is an unusual amount of receivers mocked, but I consider this a pretty deep class.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Boom or bust. Vontaze Burfict has put together an incredible highlight tape, however this doesn't mean he is consistent. Some people slate Burfict as the next Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis. Burfict would be going to the perfect place if he lands in Baltimore. The Ravens like to draft guys with high upside but are brought back because of character concerns. Vontaze could start right away and when Ray Lewis decides to call it a career, make the transition much more smooth.
30. New England Patriots: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
There are two reasons why the Patriots have had a terrible defense this year. They didn't get a pass rush and they couldn't even cover tupperware. They should address both of these issues in the first round. Melvin Ingram has been impressive this year. The entire South Carolina defense was impressive though. This could be a reason why Ingram was so effective, but he still has the size and athleticism you look for in a defensive end.
31. New England Patriots: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
New England's secondary has been ineffective for awhile now. The Patriots aren't afraid to draft defensive backs early in the draft. Mark Barron is the best safety in the nation and has been consistently hard hitting. He would start right away and give the Patriots a solid safety that could turn into a Pro Bowler.
32. Green Bay Packers: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Jermichael Finley has been somewhat of a disappointment for the Packers. If the Packers decide not to resign Jermichael, Dwayne Allen would be a solid replacement. Dwayne has had a breakthrough season and has exploded, showing why he is ranked first among tight ends.
This concludes my third mock for the 2012 NFL draft. Please stay tuned as there will be scouting reports posted soon. Please leave a comment on what you thought of the picks.