The 2012 NFL Draft is a week away. For those of you who, like myself, get crazy about the draft, this particular version will probably look similar to many you’ve seen. It seems to me that, barring any draft day trades, that the first six picks are pretty much a lock. So let’s take a look at what will happen on draft day.
1.) Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck QB, Stanford. For the past two years, Luck hasbeen the consensus #1 pick. After deciding to stay another year in 2011, he turned in another solid season at Stanford to cap off a very impressive college career. While Heisman Award Winner Robert Griffin III is also an option, Luck’s ability to see the entire field as well as possessing a very accurate arm and surprising athletic ability will get him the nod as the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Word on the street is that this pick is already decided,
2.) Washington Redskins (From St. Louis)- Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor. This kid has game, and I have no doubt that he would be the #1 pick if Luck decided to stay at Stanford one more year. His combine was good, and his pro day was phenomenal. He has a big arm, and his accuracy and football smarts are underrated as well. He’s going to be a very good player for the Redskins who have been looking for a long term answer at quarterback for years. Whether or not he’s worth two 1st round picks and a 2nd has yet to be determined.
3.) Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil Left Tackle, USC. There has been rumors about that the Vikings are interested in Morris Claiborne to help them with their pass D. Some would argue that Justin Blackmon would be a good pick to help out Percy Harvin in the wide receiver department. The fact is, in order to succeed in the NFL, you have to have a good quarterback. As of now, the Vikings can’t be 100% sure of what they have in Christian Ponder, but a good way to evaluate that (aside from him having a full offseason of work) is to draft the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long and give the second year QB better protection. He’s a great pass blocker and possesses athleticism to help on the outside run plays as well.
4.) Cleveland Browns- Trent Richardson RB, Alabama. Simply put, they lost Peyton Hillis. They need a running back to replace him, and Richardson is looking like a very special player whose big and quick. Blackmon is a possibility, but this draft is deep at receiver. Look for Cleveland to target that position at 22.
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne CB, LSU. The Bucs added former Lion Eric Wright in free agency (along with a ship full of others) but that doesn’t change the need at the cornerback position. Ronde Barber is getting older and Aqib Talib can’t stay out of trouble. Don’t mind his 4 score on the Wonderlic, because Claiborne has made quite the highlight reel of big plays and was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award (for best defensive back) this past season. As well as being a great cover guy, Claiborne also isn’t afraid to lay the wood on bigger players.
6.) St. Louis Rams (From Washington)- Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma State. It seems almost unfair that after trading down four spots and acquiring three extra picks that St. Louis will still be able to get the guy they would have drafted at pick #2. Justin Blackmon is regarded as the best receiver in this draft, although Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd has been making a case for that honor.
Blackmon does not have elite speed, but is still able to make catches at any area on the football field. Personally, I think he’s a bit overrated and is only the #1 WR because there isn’t talent like last year’s first round. However, he does have great hands and route running ability and guys like Larry Fitzgerald have shown that a lot can be done with those tools. Regardless, the Rams have a big need for receiver and Blackmon is the best available.
7.) Jacksonville Jaguars- Melvin Ingram DE, South Carolina. This is a bit of a tricky one, because the Jaguars have a HUGE need at receiver, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them take Floyd here. They could also go offensive line to help out second year QB Blaine Gabbert. However, Ingram gives the Jags a great player who comes hard off the edge and can also go into coverage if need be. He’s also very fast for his position. Ingram gives Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker a player to use in a myriad of ways.
8.) Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill QB, Texas A&M. There have been rumors for weeks now that Miami has been trying to move up and get Tannehill. Whether these rumors are true or not, you have to figure that the Dolphins would love the third best QB in this draft. Tannehill has a gun of an arm and can throw moving to the left as well as the right. The Dolphins currently have Matt Moore who did well last season, but Tannehill could help them reach the next level.
9.) Carolina Panthers- Quinton Coples DE, UNC. There have been questions about Coples’ motor and effort level but if the coaches do their job, this kid could be a stud. He is an explosive player who will dominate if he can go one on one with the offensive tackle in open space. He’s very fast and will have no problem getting to the quarterback at the next level.
10.) Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff LT, Iowa. The Bills need a left tackle. They have Demetrius Bell who is a very talented player but who can’t stay healthy. They need a run-blocking machine like Reiff to pave open holes for Fred Jackson. Reiff is also a good pass blocker as well, but he’s known for his ability to blast open that left side for the running back. This way, they can move Bell over to RT and if he can stay healthy, this offensive line should be in good shape.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs- Luke Kuechly ILB, Boston College. The era is gone where middle linebackers are a high commodity in the NFL. Now it’s all about the athletic, pass rushing OLB/DE highbred. This being said, Kuechly is a unique player with great instincts. He can tackle with the best of them and has hands and speed where if he gets the ball in his possession, he has a good shot at taking it back. Kuechly will instantly help this front seven and will make a good defense reach the next level.
12.) Seattle Seahawks- David DeCastro OG, Stanford. DeCastro is the second best offensive lineman in this draft, and the Seahawks would be thrilled it they can land him at 12. Eleven years ago, the Seahawks signed another guard in the first round. His name was Steve Hutchinson and for a decade, he was a top guard in the NFL. The Seahawks are hoping DeCastro will be their next Hutchinson and indeed he could be. Easily the best guard in this draft, DeCastro blows up the middle and opens HUGE holes for running backs to get through.
13.) Arizona Cardinals- Jonathan Martin OT, Stanford. I honestly think Martin excelled because he played along with the aforementioned DeCastro. The Cardinals could definitely use defensive help, but they need to give Kolb more time to throw and Martin is a good pass protector. Kolb is running out of excuses, so better pass protection should give the opportunity to excel, or be replaced.
14.) Dallas Cowboys- Mark Barron S, Alabama. The chances are that the Cowboys will either make a pick to bolster up the secondary or the offensive line. I think in this case it will be the former. The Cowboys had an awful secondary last season and they are looking to change that in 2012. Along with their recent pick up, cornerback Brandon Carr, Barron could turn around the Cowboys defensive woes by becoming an immediate starter.
15.) Philadelphia Eagles- Fletcher Cox DT, Mississippi State. The Eagles won’t waste any time to turn in their draft card this year if the dominant Miss. St. product falls to them. I honestly believe this is who they are hoping for and for good reason. Cox is a very talented defensive tackle who can help a very average run-stopping unit. He can also be moved to the edge and get after the quarterback as well.
16.) New York Jets- Michael Brockers DT, LSU. Brockers could end up being the defensive lineman that everyone wish they would have grabbed in the top 10. He consistently finds himself behind the offensive line making tackles in the backfield, no matter how many blocks he needs to shed to get there. He has a good jump at the snap and will be a definite upgrade at the position for the Jets.
They could also look to Michael Floyd here, but I don’t think adding a kid with a shady past to a WR core that is similarly troubled would be a great recipe for success.
17.) Cincinnati Bengals-Stephon Gilmore CB, South Carolina. Aside from Claiborne, Gilmore is my favorite CB in this draft. He has excellent cover skills and is a fun guy to watch tackle receivers. He also has a nose for the ball and has made a number of great interceptions. Gilmore should give the Bengals the CB that they haven’t had for a couple years since losing Jonathan Joseph.
18.) San Diego Chargers- Courtney Upshaw OLB, Alabama. The Chargers need help in stopping the run game. Upshaw is the guy to turn to. He can stop the run as well as any linebacker in this draft and has good instincts for how the play is developing. Another product of an elite Alabama system, Upshaw will not disappoint in San Diego. He is the perfect fit as a 3-4 OLB.
19.) Chicago Bears- Michael Floyd WR, Notre Dame. The smart thing to do here would be to take an offensive lineman but the Bears won’t let Floyd fall further than he already has. Floyd is an interesting prospect. He is a big receiver who is also very fast. He has all the tools needed to be successful in the NFL. Plus, he would compliment recent pickup Brandon Marshall very well. If he can stay out of trouble off the field, he’ll make a lot of teams regret passing on him in the first half of this draft.
20.) Tennessee Titans- Dre Kirkpatrick CB, Alabama. I’m not sold on Kirkpatrick. I feel like he got beat quite a few times last year. However, the Titans just lost veteran CB Cortland Finnegan in free agency so the position needs to be addressed. Janoris Jenkins is also an option here, but the guy’s past might scare the Titans off.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals- Cordy Glenn OG/OT, Georgia. Glenn is a very respectable player who played tackle in 2011. That being said, his skill set might be better suited in the NFL as a guard. The Bengals already have a solid left tackle, so plugging him in at either guard spot would be a good option. Either way, the Bengals can’t lose with this pick.
22.) Cleveland Browns- Kendall Wright WR, Baylor. The Browns are going to overload on offense in the first round this year. After seeing what they could have had in Julio Jones last year before trading the pick, they’re going to want to pick up a receiver of their own. Kendall Wright is the surest bet available at 22. He had a somewhat disappointing combine, but his skills are undeniable. He plays fast and can get separation. The young combination or Richardson and Wright should be enough to get quarterback Colt McCoy ready to lead this team.
23.) Detroit Lions- Mike Adams OT, Ohio State. The Lions would have loved to get their hands on either Gilmore or Kirkpatrick, but they’re going to have to go o-line with this pick. Mike Adams could add a HUGE body to an aging Lions line. Longtime left tackle Jeff Backus isn’t getting any younger despite having never missed a game in his career and Mike Adams, at this point, would be a worthy replacement.
24.) Pittsburgh Steelers- Jerel Worthy DT, Michigan State. The Steelers would have loved to have grabbed one of the top offensive linemen (and perhaps they still will reach for one like Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler) but they won’t pass up on Worthy. Worthy, in my opinion, is the surest bet at defensive tackle in the entire draft. He has shown consistency in penetrating the line to stop the run and that alone is very Steelers-esque.
25.) Denver Broncos- Dontari Poe DT, Memphis. I confess I’d never heard of Poe before his pro day. Some people got a little crazy projecting him to go in the top ten after that (and some people still do have him in the top 10). The fact is, this guy has a very underwhelming tape to go along with his overwhelming pro day. Athletic freaks who don’t produce much in college rarely workout in the NFL. There are definitely exceptions, but I don’t think Poe is one of them. Regardless, Denver will take him at 25 to try and help bolster their run defense.
26.) Houston Texans- Stephen Hill WR, Georgia Tech. Andre Johnson has been doing it all himself for the past couple season. The #2 receivers on the Texans over the years would be 3’s and 4’s on most other teams. Stephen Hill is the offensive equivalent of Dontari Poe. Underwhelming production in college (28 receptions last year) but a great pro day. However, Hill averaged nearly 30 yards per reception in GT’s run first system. That’s pretty impressive. GT has produced a few good receivers over the years such as Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, so perhaps Hill can be the next great from this school. He’s definitely raw right now, but he has one of the best in the game to mentor him.
27.) New England Patriots- Nick Perry DE, USC. Year in and year out it seems like the Patriots have a top three offense and a bottom three defense. People will eagerly point fingers at the pass defense but the problem has been that they haven’t had a great pass rusher since Richard Seymour. Nick Perry can change that. By putting more pressure on the QB, some pressure will be alleviated from the secondary, creating a more balanced unit.
28.) Green Bay Packers- Chandler Jones DE, Syracuse. The Packers want Perry badly, and they might even trade up to get him although that would be very “un-Packerly.” They’ll take the next best thing in Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, who is himself a very good pass rusher. Aside from losing Nick Collins last season, the Packers’ main problem was the lack of a pass rush opposite of Clay Matthews. They had lost Cullen Jenkins and nobody else stepped up. Jones will be that guy in 2012.
29.) Baltimore Ravens- Peter Konz C, Wisconsin. Matt Birk has been a great center for the Ravens for a long time, but it’s time to look for his imminent replacement. Peter Konz, the latest product of great offensive linemen from the University of Wisconsin, would be a great replacement. Konz isn’t the biggest or fastest at his position but he has smarts and technique which will help him excel in the NFL.
30.) San Francisco 49ers- Devon Still DT, Penn State. What else would the league’s best defense do besides adding another talented player to their defense? Before free agency I would have had them taking a WR here, but after picking up Mario Manningham and signing Randy Moss, they will likely wait to get a receiver later. Devon Still is the best defensive lineman available and due to the talent around him, he will likely have an impact as well as he will never be the focus of offensive coordinators.
31.) New England Patriots- Janoris Jenkins CB, North Alabama.Bit of a risk here. Many weed rumors as well as a baby per lady have dropped this kid far down the board. He could have been a top ten pick if he would have gotten his life together, and it’s no sure thing that he’ll be picked here. However, I truly believe if anyone is going to get him in line, it’s Bill Belichick and crew. The truth is, Jenkins is a very good talent. For that reason alone, he could go absolutely anywhere in this draft.
32.) New York Giants- Coby Fleener TE, Stanford. The Giants could potentially take a linebacker here, but after the injuries that their starting tight ends suffered in the Super Bowl, I think it’s safe to say they’ll go with the best tight end in the draft. Fleener was Andrew Luck’s favorite target all season and is as reliable as they come. He has good hands and can block pretty well too. His speed is also underestimated. He will be another great weapon to add to Eli Manning’s arsenal.