12. Seattle Seahawks (Flip): Melvin Ingram DE/OLB (So. Carolina)
Seattle could look to trade back and possibly acquire QB Ryan Tannehill at the end of the 1st Round if they don’t see any players they like at #12. Yet Seattle has a dire need to upgrade their Defensive Line at both DT and DE. I know it seems early, but I could definitely see the Seahawks taking a gamble on South Carolina speed rusher Melvin Ingram.
Ingram, a DE in college who could end up playing there in a 4-3 or switch to OLB in a 3-4 once he gets to the pros, has illustrated an ability to get to the QB during his tenure at South Carolina (10.0 Sacks in 2011 and 9.0 Sacks in 2010).
At a short 6’1″ but a stout 276 lbs, Ingram might need to be moved around a bit to find his true position in the N.F.L.. Nevertheless, Ingram’s athleticism and pass rushing ability could pay huge dividends for a Seattle team that has only one real pass-rushing threat in the form of Chris Clemons.
(Previous Selection: Reilly Reiff, OT, Iowa)
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro OG (Stanford)
Finally, a top tier O-Lineman for Russ Grimm to work with. DeCastro fits the mold of what Arizona would like to do on Offense: Pound the rock and hit the opposition through the air on play-action fakes to the League’s best WR in the form of Larry Fitzgerald.
DeCastro kind of reminds me of former Steelers Guard and future Hall of Fame candidate Alan Faneca. He gets to the 2nd Level quickly, he pulls very well, his pass blocking is solid, and he’s got some tenacity to him.
If Kevin Kolb/Jon Skelton want to keep from getting planted next season, and Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams want holes to run through between the Tackles, then Arizona could very well be looking in DeCastro’s direction.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick CB (Alabama)
Leave it to Dallas to go after players with “character concerns” (Kirkpatrick may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time though) but boat-loads of talent. Jerry Jones has illustrated over the course of his career as a G.M. that a players’ issues don’t matter very much unless they can actually play the game (see Bryant, Dez). That being said, if Dre’ Kirkpatrick falls to Dallas at #14 and DeCastro is taken by Arizona at #13, the Cowboys could end up taking Kirkpatrick.
Before they can make more upgrades to their lowly Offensive Line, Dallas must first find a way to stop the opposition through the air. Dallas had the N.F.L.’s 23rd Ranked Pass Defense in 2011, and their ineffectiveness really cost the team at some crucial points in meaningful games (both Giants contests). If Dallas wants to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, fixing the CB situation is of the utmost importance.
(Previous Selection: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska)
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly ILB/OLB (B.C.)
“The Dream Team” faced quite a bit of nightmares in the early going during the 2011 season, and just couldn’t get back on track enough to qualify for Postseason play. One of Philadelphia’s biggest issues however was at the Linebacker position. And the Eagles problems at LB proved to be an Achilles Heel for their already shaky Defense.
Thankfully, Philly can get exactly what they need in the form of Boston College’s Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has the size (6’3” 237 lbs.), athleticism, and versatility to play the MLB or OLB spot in a 4-3 Defense like Philadelphia’s.
With Philly’s “Wide 9” sets on the Defensive Line, it is imperative that the Linebackers are able to not only shed blocks, but make tackles as well. Kuechly himself proved to be a tackling machine at B.C., and could step in Day 1 to help Philadelphia’s undersized and underachieving LB corps.
16. New York Jets: Dont’a Hightower ILB (Alabama)
If Rex Ryan ever wants his crazy Super Bowl predictions to come true he had better think about upgrading his team on the Defensive side of the ball in a couple of months. With Bart Scott beginning to show his age (32) and David Harris possibly leaving via Free Agency, the Jets might need some help at the ILB position sooner rather than later.
Dont’a Hightower could be the player that helps New York for the next decade at ILB. Hightower (6’4″ 260 lbs.) had a highly successful career at Alabama where he started 40 games, was named a 1st Team All-American in 2011, and also led the Tide’s #1 Ranked Defense in Tackles to boot. Furthermore, Hightower can get after the QB in passing situations and do a passable job in pass coverage. Ultimately, Hightower possesses the type of skill set which Rex Ryan covets on the Defensive side of the ball. If the Jets decide not to upgrade at Safety or WR, they could end up taking a long look at Hightower.
(Previous Selection: Mark Barron, S, Alabama)
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Janoris Jenkins CB (North Alabama)
The Bengals have a litany of problems at the CB position heading into 2012 due to poor performance and injuries hitting in 2011. Cincinnati’s Secondary was dealt a major blow after Jonathan Joseph left for Houston, Leon Hall was hurt at midseason, and Pacman Jones proved to be utterly useless down the stretch. The dude basically melted-down in Cincinnati’s Wild Card loss to Houston a few weeks ago.
Thus, I believe Cincinnati will be looking to select North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins at #17. The Bengals (probably more than any team) will probably look past Jenkins’ off-the field issues and look to him to help out at the Nickel Back right away. In spite of his run-ins with the law, the 5’10” Jenkins started as a Freshman on Florida’s 2008 B.C.S. National Championship team, and established himself as one of the S.E.C.’s top CB’s during his three year career in Gainesville. Had Jenkins declared for the Draft last season he would have likely been a Top 15 Pick.
(Previous Selection: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL))
18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry DE/OLB (Southern Cal)
San Diego’s Defense didn’t do a very excellent job rushing the passer last season, and a lot of that had to do with their lack of an OLB pass-rushing threat. Luckily for the Chargers, if Nick Perry is available at 18, San Diego could continue to rebuild their Front-7 and get one heck of a pass rusher in the process.
Perry, a 4-3 DE in college, who also led the Pac-12 in Sacks with 9.5 in 2011, will get his chance step in Day 1 and help the Chargers at one of their OLB spots if selected. Travis LaBoy is in the twilight of his career, and Larry English has proved himself to be a full-scale bust since being drafted in the 1st Round in 2009. The Chargers must put another pass-rushing threat across from Antwan Barnes if they wish make some noise in the A.F.C. West come 2012.
(Previous Selection: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina)
19. Chicago Bears: Michael Floyd WR (Notre Dame)
While Chicago’s Offensive Line is still in need of help, they can’t pass up a chance to take a talented player like Michael Floyd. To be perfectly blunt, Chicago’s WR corp is not only awful, it is arguably the worst in the League. If Jay Cutler is going to succeed in the “Windy City” he must have better targets than Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett to throw to, plain and simple.
Even with his off-field issues (D.U.I.), Floyd played incredibly at Notre Dame during his 4 year career in South Bend. Floyd’s got the body type (6’3″ 224 lbs.), the speed, the route running ability, and the attitude to make it in this League. Now it’s just a matter of him getting his shot. And with Chicago, he could inevitably be a starter when Training Camp begins.
20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus DE (Illinois)
The Titans ranked #31 in the N.F.L. in Sacks last season, and if they want to take the next step from a 9-7 team on the outside looking into the Playoffs, they’d better find some Defensive Ends which can rush the passer. Tennessee might be able to find their next Javon Kearse “Freak,” in the form of “one-year wonder” Whitney Mercilus.
Mercilus tallied 16.0 Sacks and amassed 9 Forced Fumbles in 2011. What’s particularly remarkable about that is because it was during his first season as a starter. At 6’4″ and 265 lbs. Mercilus has a decent frame to work with as a Defensive End, and illustrated last season how explosive of a pass rusher he was. Pairing him with 2010 1st Round Pick Derrick Morgan would give the Titans two terrific young pass rushers which could bring the heat on guys like Matt Schaub and Andrew Luck four times per season.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mark Barron S (Alabama)
If Cincinnati is unable to find a way to trade up and select RB Trent Richardson to help Andy Dalton, they could look to improve their Defensive Backfield with both of their 1st Round selections.
Cincinnati could end up losing both their Safeties this offseason. Reggie Nelson will be a Free Agent, and had himself a fine 2011 campaign (85 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 4 INT’s, 1 TD, and 2 FF’s). But Chris Crocker drastically underachieved last season, and was eaten alive by teams with solid passing games.
Mark Barron (6’2″ 218 lbs.) is the consensus #1 Safety in this 2012 Draft Class, and fills a position of need for the Bengals while in turn being considered one of the BPA’s at #21. Barron is an All-SEC player, has a knack for forcing turnovers, and established himself as the anchor on the Tide’s back end. If Cincinnati is going to compete with the likes of New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, etc. over the next decade, they need to draft more Secondary help. Round 1 of 2012 could provide the perfect place for the Bengals to start.
(Previous Selection: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama)