Round 1 Cont.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro OG (Stanford)
Despite signing Travelle Wharton, the Bengals should still look to upgrade the Interior of their Offensive Line in 2012. If David DeCastro falls to them at #17, there is no chance that Cincinnati passes on one of the best Guard prospects since Steve Hutchinson to be Draft eligible. At 6’5″ 316 lbs. DeCastro is an imposing force that can blow holes open for BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the run game, and can also provide fantastic protection for “Ginger Spice” when he drops back to pass.
(Previous Selection: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama)
18. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB (Alabama)
San Diego’s Defense didn’t do a very excellent job rushing the passer last season (32.0 Sacks), and a lot of that had to do with their lack of an OLB pass-rushing threat. The 6’2″ 265 lb. All-American Upshaw is an absolute beast in terms of his versatility and tenacity. Upshaw can come off the edge as a down lineman in a 4-3 system, or he can stand up as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, and be the pass rushing threat the likes of which the Chargers haven’t seen since Shawne Merriman was in his prime from 2005-2007.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin OT (Stanford)
By trading for Brandon Marshall, Chicago will likely not be looking to draft a Wide Receiver in Round 1 unless Michael Floyd falls to them. In any case, Jay Cutler is in need of some guys that will prevent him from having the tar beaten out of him every time he drops back to pass. One player which could be available at #19 is Stanford’s Jonathan Martin who protected Andrew Luck’s blind-side when they both were at Stanford. The 6’6″ 305 lb. Martin was an All-Pac-12 performer in 2011, and should be able to at least help the Bears lowly Offensive Line, which surrendered 49.0 Sacks last season, in the immediate future.
(Previous Selection: Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia)
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 who tallied 16.0 Sacks and amassed 9 Forced Fumbles in 2011. 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: Janoris Jenkins CB (North Alabama)
The Bengals have a bunch 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 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.
(Previous Selection: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech)
22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright WR (Baylor)
Wright was Robert Griffin III’s main-man at Baylor (108 grabs for 1663 yards and 14 TD’s in 2011) and had himself a whale of a collegiate career while Baylor experienced a football “Renaissance” period. Speedy and possessing good hands, Wright (5’10” 190 lbs.) could consistently burn teams underneath when they decide to key on Greg Little and McLovin Massaquoi. Wright’s big-play ability could also add an electrifying element to a Cleveland Offense which has been lacking it in recent years.
(Previous Selection: Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal)
23. Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore CB (South Carolina)
If the Lions want to be the N.F.C.’s representative in future Super Bowls that they must find a way to stop the aerial shows led by the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, etc.. One player which they could be interested in, and is moving up many draft boards at the moment is Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina. Gilmore is a big and physical Cornerback (6’1″ 193 lbs.) that would benefit from Detroit’s strong pass rush and provide an immediate upgrade to the Lions’ 22nd Ranked (in YPG) Pass Defense.
(Previous Selection: Dre’ Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn OG/OT (Georgia)
If Glenn falls to the Steelers at #24, I believe that they will select him over Dont’a Hightower or any other prospect if they elect not to trade down. Glenn is a talented player that started at both Guard and both Tackle spots in college (he projects as a Guard by most scouts), and has the versatility and size (6’5″ 346 lbs.) that the Steelers like in Offensive Linemen. Adding Glenn to the mix of Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, and a hopefully healthy Willie Colon would give Pittsburgh actually something solid to work with heading into the 2012 season.
(Previous Selection: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama)
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers DT (Louisiana State)
It’ll be Year 2 in Denver’s transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and the Broncos will be looking to acquire more personnel to fit their new scheme. In need of a 1-Technique or even a 3-Technique, Denver could find a terrific value pick in the form of the raw Michael Brockers at #25. One of the reasons I think that Brockers might fall to Denver is the limited amount of time he spent on the field at L.S.U. as he logged only 15 career starts for the Tigers. Still, the 6’6″ 306 lb. Brockers could help out at the 1 Technique DT or the 3 Technique for a team that is in search of help at both spots like Denver.
26. Houston Texans: Peter Konz C/OG (Wisconsin)
Houston could use some help on the interior of their Offensive Line at the Guard spot, and it would not hurt if they acquired depth behind Center Chris Myers. If there are no WR’s worth taking at #26, Houston could look in the direction of Peter Konz of Wisconsin. Konz anchored the Badgers’ outstanding Offensive Line in 2012, and has the experience and grit to step in by at least the middle of Year 1 and start. Konz was a huge reason behind Heisman Finalist Montee Ball’s success last season in Madison, and if he brings his 6’5″ 314 lb. frame to Houston, the DT’s in the A.F.C. South and the rest of the N.F.L. had better watch out for him.
(Previous Selection: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor)
27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry DE/OLB (Southern Cal)
If New England really wants to wreak havoc on the Defensive side of the ball, they had better find some guys that can rush the passer from the outside to collapse the pocket. Perry, a 4-3 DE at Southern Cal, led the Pac-12 in Sacks with 9.5 in 2011, and will get his chance step in Day 1 and help a Patriots Defense which racked up a decent 40.0 Sacks, but ranked 31st in the League in YPG against the Pass. Perry has a stout type of frame (6’3″ 271 lbs.), and nice speed (4.64 40 Yard Dash) to be able to line up at either the Defensive End or Outside Linebacker positions and attack the Quarterback.
(Previous Selection: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech)
28. Green Bay Packers: Andre Branch DE/OLB (Clemson)
I had been saying it all season long, but the Giants finally exposed the Packers’ Defense as the fraudulent bunch they are when they cannot effectively rush the passer/cause turnovers. Green Bay found out this season that having one All-Pro OLB in the form of Clay Matthews is not enough, and they could thus be looking to upgrade in the pass rushing department. Thus, the Packers should definitely look in Andre Branch’s direction if he is indeed available at the end of Round 1. At 6’4″ and 259 lbs., Branch could be a versatile force if lined up across from Matthews, or even asked to pass rush off of the line of scrimmage in exotic formations on 3rd Downs.
Previous Selection: (Mark Barron, S, Alabama)
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont’a Hightower ILB (Alabama)
Like it or not Baltimore fans, but a replacement for Ray Lewis needs to be found sooner rather than later. Granted you can’t replace Lewis, but somebody needs to fill his spot when he retires. In the event that Pittsburgh passes on Dont’a Hightower, Baltimore is the next logical landing spot for the 2011 All-American from Alabama to land. Hightower (6’4″ 260 lbs.) played in a 3-4 system for the Tide, started 40 games in the S.E.C., and last season led college football’s #1 Ranked Defense in Tackles. I’m not sure how Baltimore can pass on him if he indeed falls to them.
(Previous Selection: Peter Konz, C/OG, Wisconsin)
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill WR (Georgia Tech)
Much like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas before him, Stephen Hill is the next tall, field-stretching Yellow Jacket WR to emerge as one of the Draft’s top prospects. While a bit raw in terms of route-running and understanding the nuances of playing the WR position, Hill is an absolute physical freak at 6’4” 205 lbs. with good hands, nice speed, and tremendous upside. Even though Hill only caught 28 passes his Junior season in 2011, he still amassed 820 Receiving Yards in Georgia Tech’s run-heavy Triple Option Offense. And while Hill, like Demaryius Thomas, could take a year/year and a half to learn how to play WR at the pro level, a WR with his size and deep threat ability could be of good use to a team like San Francisco in search of a viable threat to stretch the field on the outside.
(Previous Selection: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State)
31. New England Patriots: Devon Still DT (Penn State)
If the Patriots do indeed decide to hold on to their two 1st Round picks in 2012, they will likely go with at least one Defensive difference maker. With Gerard Warren and most importantly Vince Wilfork creeping into their early and mid 30’s, New England could lessen the blow and keep those guys fresh by drafting a player of Still’s caliber. Standing 6’4″ 310 lbs., Still has the frame to play either a DT in a 4-3 system as he did in college, or even spend some time as a 3-4 DE (or even smaller NT) in the professional ranks if the Patriots want him there.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener TE (Stanford)
Losing Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard in the Super Bowl was not good, and H-Back Bear Pascoe cannot be counted on to shoulder the load at TE in 2012. Thankfully , the most N.F.L. ready TE is available for them to select at the bottom of the 1st Round: the (6’6″ 245 lb. TE) Coby Fleener. In 2011 alone, Fleener racked up 36 catches for 667 yards and 10 TD’s. Without any big play threats at WR in 2011, Andrew Luck used his weapons at TE like Fleener to perfection. And to his credit, Fleener responded with some great catches all season long while he worked in all areas of the field and kept producing.