The format of this Mock Draft will be the same as the last one (3 Full Rounds + Steelers Picks in Rounds 4-7), but it will feature some changes for a number of teams across the board.
Each NPC mock draft will be featured in the following mock draft databases listed here: DC Pro Sports Report, WalterFootball.com, Sports Jabber, hailredskins.com and fftoolbox.com. All of these sites keep track of a large number mock drafts all over the web so you can get different opinions and takes on certain players and figure out for yourself where your favorite team might be thinking about going this April. Also be sure to check out NFL Mocks and With the First Pick for comprehensive NFL draft coverage year-round. So without further delay, here’s my new Mock Draft:
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck QB (Stanford)
This pick is a no-brainer. Luck is probably the best and most NFL-ready QB prospect to be draft eligible since Peyton Manning. The 6’4″ 235 lb. Luck ran a pro-style system in college, can make every throw, and has fantastic athleticism for a guy his size. There is no way Indianapolis passes him up, and he could be signed before the Draft even begins.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III QB (Baylor)
Mike Shanahan is staking his career on RGIII panning out, because he gave up a “King’s Ransom” to acquire the Heisman winning QB from Baylor. Griffin III throws the best deep ball in this draft class, and brings so much to an Offense from an athletic stand-point. While he didn’t run a pro-style Offense at Baylor, Griffin III is a smart, mature, and heady player that should not have a problem fitting into Shanahan’s system which requires a lot of mobility and accuracy from its QB.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil OT (Southern Cal)
The Vikings were terrible up front in 2011, and they will need to address the Tackle position in either Free Agency or in the 2012 Draft. If they are truly committed to Christian Ponder and want to see Adrian Peterson finish his career healthy and in Minnesota, rebuilding their Offensive Line must be their top priority. The 6’7″ 306 lb. Kalil established himself as a terrific all-around Tackle for the Trojans during his career, and earned 1st team All-America honors in 2011.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson RB (Alabama)
Even though they will not select “RGIII,” Cleveland will be in a perfect spot to give Colt McCoy some weapons with the #4 selection. I personally believe their selection will be Trent Richardson of Alabama. Richardson’s size and speed combination (5’11 and almost 225 lbs.) is ridiculous, and he tore up the S.E.C. this past season (and his entire career) to the tune of 1,679 yards on the ground and 21 TD’s to boot. Plus, the fact that Richardson is an above-average receiving threat out of the backfield only makes him worth more to a team that runs The West Coast Offense like the Browns do.
(Previous Selection: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State)
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne CB (Louisiana State)
The Buccaneers are going to need some help at Cornerback, because Ronde Barber is entering his 16th season and Aqib Talib just can’t stay out of trouble on a consistent basis. Coming from the “Defensive Back Factory” at L.S.U., Morris Claiborne has a solid frame (6′ 185 lbs.), great speed, and terrific instincts to succeed in the N.F.L.. And last season, Claiborne anchored the Secondary for the Tigers dominating Defense, and week in and week out he proved he could hold his own against top competition in the S.E.C.. If Tampa Bay is serious about fixing their Defense, they will not hesitate to select Claiborne at #5.
(Previous Selection: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama)
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon WR (Oklahoma State)
Even by trading down, the Rams still will emerge as winners in the #6 spot. If Justin Blackmon is available, there is no way he will get past them. . As Warren Moon so eloquently put it: “He’s Dez Bryant with brain cells.” And all the film and games I’ve watched with the 2x Biletnikoff Award Winner (The 2010 Alamo Bowl comes to mind), Moon’s assessment seems to hold some weight. If Sam Bradford is truly St. Louis’ “guy,” the Front Office must make a commitment to him in this Draft by getting him pass catching weapons and OL protection.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram DE/OLB (South Carolina)
Jacksonville finished tied for 25th in the League in Sacks last season with a paltry total of 31. If the Jaguars wish to stop Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, and Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker six times every season, they had better bolster their pass rush. Melvin Ingram illustrated a solid knack to get to the QB during his tenure at South Carolina, and his Sack numbers are indicative of his success: 10.0 Sacks in 2011 and 9.0 Sacks in 2010. At a short 6’1″ but a stout 276 lbs, Ingram reminds me of a more athletic LaMarr Woodley. Not bad considering Woodley is a Pro Bowl player.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill QB (Texas A&M)
New Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman was Tannehill’s Head Coach at Texas A&M, and Miami is looking for a QB. I personally don’t believe that Tannehill warrants a high 1st Round selection (decision making, experience, experience at QB, and accuracy at times, ), his athletic ability, arm, and upside have pushed his stock into the high 1st Round. Although he played WR for half his college career, Tannehill understands kind of Offense Sherman wants to run, and at #8 Miami could be looking to select him. They couldn’t acquire Flynn, Manning, or even the rights to the #2 pick, so Tannehill makes sense here.
9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples DE (North Carolina)
While the Panthers are considered by some to be a potential playoff team this season, they might want to consider bolstering their pass-rush after recording only 31.0 Sacks (25th in League) last season. In the event that Quinton Coples falls to them, I believe they would be hard pressed to pass on an athlete of Coples’ caliber. At 6’6” and 284 lbs., Coples has the perfect size and enough experience to wreak havoc from the DE spot in a 4-3 set, but also displayed some versatility as well. Due to the Tar Heels’ pressing need for Defensive Tackles in 2010, Coples filled in admirably and was named first-team All-ACC and amassed 10.0 Sacks.
(Previous Selection: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa)
10. Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd WR (Notre Dame)
While Buffalo may have filled their immediate need for a pass-rusher by over-paying Mario Williams, there are still some glaring holes which must be fixed on their roster. In the event that the Bills do not select an Offensive Lineman at #10, Michael Floyd could be a viable option to give Ryan Fitzpatrick another weapon. Even with his off-field issues (D.U.I.), Floyd played incredibly at Notre Dame during his 4 year career in South Bend. Floyd has the body type (6’3″ 224 lbs.), the speed, the route running ability, and the attitude to make it in this League, and pairing him with Stevie Johnson would give opposing Defenses fits.
(Previous Selection: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina)
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe NT (Memphis)
Kelly Gregg is entering the twilight of his career at this point, and if Kansas City must find a replacement soon. If the Chiefs are going to have any sort of stout Defense against the run in 2012 and beyond, they might want to look in the 6’4″ 350 lbs. Poe’s direction. The Chiefs’ Run Defense was ranked 26th in the League last season in YPG, and Romeo Crennell could inevitably see “The Gold Medalist of the Underpants Olympics (The Combine)” Poe as a raw Vince Wilfork type of prospect which he can’t ignore.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly ILB (Boston College)
Because the Seahawks re-signed Red Bryant, they likely will not have to go Defensive Line in Round 1 now. Nevertheless, Seattle should consider upgrading their Defense, and Luke Kuechly would be a terrific B.P.A. selection at #12. Kuechly has the size (6’3” 242 lbs.), athleticism, intelligence. and positional flexibility to play the MLB or OLB spot in a 4-3 Defensive set. Kuechly was a tackling machine in college, and should be a solid addition to the Seahawks’ Defense which is steadily improving.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff OT (Iowa)
In the event that Riley Reiff falls to Arizona, he would give the Cardinals an immediate upgrade at a position of need. Reiff could come in right away and play Right Tackle, or if he performs up to a high standard, could switch places with Left Tackle Levi Brown and protect Kevin Kolb/John Skelton’s blind side in 2012. The 6’6″ and 313 lb. Reiff was a three year starter and All-Big Ten performer at Iowa, and is thought by many to become yet another solid OL churned out by Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa program.
(Previous Selection: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford)
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick CB (Alabama)
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, and selecting Dre’ Kirkpatrick of Alabama is Step 1 of the aforementioned process.
(Previous Selection: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford)
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox DT (Mississippi State)
“The Dream Team” sure could use some upgrades on the Defensive side of the ball after last season’s disaster. One area in need of help is on the Interior of the Defensive Line, and the Eagles could be interested in Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State. At 6’4″ 295 lbs. Cox can play a 4-3 Defensive Tackle and is solid against the run. But one of Cox’s best attributes is that he can get to the QB and can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Cox racked up 14.5 Tackles For Loss and 5 Sacks in 2011 while earning First Team All-SEC honors from the A.P.. Having a guy that can bust up things in the trenches would allow the “Wide-9″ sets employed by Philly to actually have a chance at working when teams attempt to gash them inside.
16. New York Jets: Mark Barron S (Alabama)
The Jets are in desperate need of help at Safety because Eric Smith should be playing in the Arena League, and Jim Leonhard always seems to be on the sidelines with some sort of injury come January. That being said, Mark Barron (6’2″ 218 lbs.) is the consensus #1 Safety in this 2012 Draft Class, and could help New York’s Secondary right away. He is an All-SEC player, gets turnovers, and was the anchor in the Tide’s Secondary as a collegian. If New York is going to compete with the likes of Tom Brady for the next half decade, they need to draft more Secondary help. Otherwise Brady will simply avoid “Revis Island” and pick the rest of the Defense apart through the air.
(Previous Selection: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame)