2012 NFL Mock Draft

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.

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL

Adrian Peterson’s Recovery

Every Vikings fan remembers Christmas Eve of 2011 for two reasons. First, a missed opportunity to bring in three extra draft picks, as a loss to the Washington Redskins would have given Minnesota the second overall pick. The St. Louis Rams ended up getting two extra first round picks over the next two years as well as a second round selection this year after trading the number two pick to the Redskins.

Secondly, and more seriously, the horrific injury that star running back Adrian Peterson suffered at the hands (or helmet) of safety DeJon Gomes. The draft picks would have helped the rebuilding process, but Peterson is the heart and soul of this football team, as well as the focal point of the offense. Watching him go down was one of the worst sports injuries I’ve witnessed.

Miraculously, it has recently been reported by Vikings GM Rick Spielman that Peterson is running on solid ground again roughly three months after tearing his ACL and MCL. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! No one will say that he’s football ready, because he’s not, but the fact that he’s running this soon after his injury is an impressive feat and just shows what a little determination and a lot of hard work can do.

After having surgery on a torn ACL, athletes are often told to rehab and wait 7-9 months before resuming athletic activities. Peterson has said that he hopes to be ready for the start of the 2012 season, and others in the organization have repeated this hope. However, in the current state of this franchise, the Vikings’ star player should feel no rush whatsoever in returning to the field.

The Vikings have a perfectly capable backup running back in Toby Gerhart who averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season. Furthermore, with Peterson out, the coaches can focus on Christian Ponder as the focal point of the offense and monitor and adjust his development. With an improved offensive line (it is widely assumed the Vikings will take USC left tackle Matt Kalil with their first round pick) Ponder will have more time to find his targets and we can see if 2011’s 12th overall pick is the player we need him to be going forward.

The team is in rebuilding mode folks. There’s no reason to expect the Vikes to be a contender this year, especially in the fierce NFC North. If Peterson can come back the player he was before his injury by week six or so, that would be a phenomenal accomplishment. It would be a pity to seem him come back before he is ready and re-injure himself (think Jerry Rice in 1997). In the meantime, let’s see what CP7 (yeah that’s my nickname for Christian Ponder) can do with a full offseason and move forward from there. Skol Vikings!

By paulcanavati Posted in Vikings

Free Agency (or lack thereof)

Greetings Norsemen! I understand that many of you are perplexed as to why the Vikings  were not bigger players in free agency despite the number of holes they have. Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, has said that he wants to build through the draft rather than sign one or two players to big contracts.

This is a respectable strategy, but the problem is that while the Vikings have had some good drafts, they have failed to find long terms starters at the wide receiver and defensive back positions in the later rounds. As you all know, these two areas are among the three biggest needs that the Vikings currently face along with the offensive line. Hopefully Matt Kalil, the highly acclaimed left tackle out of USC, can help with the latter problem (assuming that they pick him with the 3rd overall pick).

So with 20+ million dollars of cap room (after cutting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera along with cornerback Cedric Griffin) what did the Vikings do?

First, they targeted Minnesota native John Carlson, the former Notre Dame and Seattle Seahawks tight end. Carlson missed all of last season due to injury, but had a very productive first two seasons with 106 receptions for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Not too shabby. However, he had a very lackluster third season with 31 receptions for 318 yards and only one touchdown. Carlson got a 5 year, 25 million dollar deal from the Vikings. While this seems steep, there is also a clause where the Vikings can release him after two seasons if he fails to produce, at which point they would only pay him 11 million dollars. If he can play at the level that he did his first two seasons, he will will be a nice complement to fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph who looks to be the Vikings starting tight end next season. Having two good pass catching tight ends will greatly aid second year quarterback Christian Ponder in his development.

Geoff Schwartz is the second player that the Vikings have acquired so far this offseason. Another player who missed the 2011 season (due to a hip injury), the former Carolina Panthers offensive guard/tackle was the starter for the entire 2010 season. Signed to a 1-year deal, Schwartz will be given a chance to start at the right guard position (and hopefully at right tackle as well).

Zach Bowman is a name some Vikings fans might be familiar with as he was previously on the Bears’ roster. Bowman had a very successful 2009 season as a starter in which he was responsible for 66 tackles while picking off six passes and deflecting ten. Bowman was also given a 1-year deal. With Chris Cook coming back and Antoine Winfield returning for a 14th season, Bowman will have a great opportunity to compete for minutes. At this point, second-year Brandon Burton seems to be Bowman’s only competition for that third spot.

So what do all of these signings have in common? Well, it’s giving players the opportunity to not only earn playing time, but a fatter check next season. All of these deals can be considered “good-value” signings as every one of these players could end up being a big contributor to this football team. The Vikings also decided to re-sign Erin Henderson to a one-year deal which will give him the chance to prove himself worthy of a big contract extension after having a very solid 2011 season.

No, we did not get Vincent Jackson or Carl Nicks in free agency. While they would have helped this team by becoming instant starters, they would also have taken up a lot more cap space that will be needed down the road to re-sign guys like Percy Harvin and Chris Cook.

Besides, I honestly believe that other than the right tackle position, the offensive line is in better shape than we think. If they draft Kalil, you instantly have the left tackle and center positions locked up. For the two guard slots, there is a huge number of young players who will be battling for starting jobs.

In terms of wide receiver, there are many options out there in this draft. It would not surprise me to see the Vikings draft two this year, especially with the addition of two conditional 4th round draft picks. The team was reportedly interested in former Colts wideout Pierre Garcon but given the amount of money that he is slated to make, it makes sense why they didn’t pursue him more aggressively.

With free agency almost over now, the Vikings are unlikely to make any more notable moves. The only other fit out there that I can see would be middle linebacker David Hawthorne who has been a very productive player for the Seattle Seahawks for the past three seasons. However, if he wants a contract similar to the one the Cleveland Browns gave D’Qwell Jackson (5 yr/42.5 million) then expect the Vikings to turn the other way. In the case that he would accept a deal that Spielman finds even slightly respectable, I’d expect him to be in purple in no time. He’d be a great fit, and the Vikings desperately need a presence in the middle of their defense.

It is far more likely that they will just continue to bring in players for depth purposes and then look towards the draft in order to find a couple starters as well as players to compete with the aforementioned free agents.

By paulcanavati Posted in Vikings

Peyton Manning chooses Denver

The decision has finally been made. Although less than two weeks have passed since his March 7 release, many have been watching and waiting for the fifteen-year veteran to make his choice.

While many teams initially had Peyton Manning on their radar, he ultimately spent the weekend mulling over three options, consisting of the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, and  Denver Broncos. Reports have indicated that the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals were also interested.

Since finalized details are still being discussed between Manning and Broncos’ brass, the question must be asked: Why the Broncos? Why choose chilly Denver over beautiful San Francisco or the mild-tempered Tennessee?

The 49ers were a top ten QB and a deep threat receiver away from making it to the Super Bowl last year before losing to the Giants in overtime in the NFC Championship Game. With newly signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, there is little doubt that the 49ers would have been able to repeat their success with Manning. Again, for a guy who has played every home game since 1998 in a dome, what’s not to like about the sunny Bay Area?

On the other hand we have Tennessee who, while they struggled in both offense and defense last season, still has, when healthy, a very dangerous offense consisting of receivers Kenny Britt and Nate Washington as well as running back Chris Johnson. They also spent their first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on quarterback Jake Locker who would highly benefit by watching and learning from one of the best quarterbacks in recent history.

Denver’s defense struggled early on last season but played very well in the second half of the season (minus porous efforts against the Patriots and Bills). However, like the 49ers, they struggled in passing offense with Tim Tebow under center, while leading the NFL in rushing yards per game. The latter was due largely to Tebow’s unconventional style of playing the quarterback position, but running back Willis McGahee also contributed by putting in one of his better seasons.

Manning was reportedly interested in playing for a team that has both a good defense and run game, and all three teams have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. They are also all playoff teams, aside from Tennessee who missed out on playoff contention due to a tie-breaker against the Cincinnati Bengals. Needless to say, Manning would take any of these three teams to the playoffs in the 2012 season, but does Denver really give him the best chance at a Super Bowl?

When one looks at the Denver offense, they see a talented offensive line, a 30 year old running back, and a young but talented receiving corps. Peyton has historically made average receivers look great (see Austin Collie) and it would not be surprising to see Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both breach the 1,000 yard mark. There have also been mutterings of a possible reunion between Manning and free agent tight end Dallas Clark. If they look towards drafting a younger, change of pace running back in this year’s NFL Draft, the Broncos could have a very potent office come the start of the season.

The Denver Broncos will be a fun team to watch next season and much of the credit goes to John Elway, the Broncos’ Executive Vice President of football operations, for bringing in Manning. With this done, the next big headline becomes last season’s biggest headline: Tim Tebow. What will he do now that his team has found a new quarterback? The team will have to decide, but it would not hurt Tebow to learn behind Manning for a few seasons.

By paulcanavati Posted in NFL