2012 Mock NFL Draft--January edition
There are a few things to note as you go through this mock draft.
--The draft is still three months away, the Senior Bowl has yet to take place, nor has the scouting combine so a lot can change.
--The order of picks eight and nine will be determined by a coin flip between the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins.
--The order of picks 11 and 12 will be determined by a coin flip between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks.
--The order of picks 29-32 will be determined by the outcome of the Championship Games and the Super Bowl.
Without further adieu...
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
I don't care that the Colts still have Peyton Manning on their roster, Luck is the most slam-dunk top pick in memory. The Colts don't know when or if Manning will be fully healthy, so while the Colts could get quite the haul for the pick, passing on Luck is the type of decision that could haunt the organization for years. Expect Indianapolis to cut or trade Manning, since paying both Manning and Luck at quarterback would severely handicap Indy's ability to build the rest of their roster. Also, how cool is it that the Colts have had the top pick in the draft three times and will likely end up with John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck? Not too shabby, even though they traded Elway.
2. St. Louis Rams, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
There will definitely be teams trying to move up and trade with the Rams for this pick, but I'm not one to predict trades. The Browns, Redskins and Seahawks would be the most likely to try and trade up and grab Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the Rams may be interested in trading and getting more picks for Jeff Fisher to build with. However, if they don't trade, I bet they take Blackmon, the top receiver in the draft, to give their own young quarterback, Sam Bradford a weapon on the outside that the Rams desperately need.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
This too is a pick that will be coveted by potential trading partners in order to draft Griffin. If the Vikings don't move down (or miss their pick) I expect them to take the best player on the board, and that is Kalil, who projects as a left tackle in the NFL for years to come. The Vikings have said that they won't take a quarterback to compete with Christian Ponder for the starting quarterback job. They could, however, target a defensive back such as LSU's Morris Claiborne or Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick, since they have lots of holes in the secondary (especially with cornerback Chris Cook going on trial for domestic abuse in March).
4. Cleveland Browns, Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
This is somewhat of a dream scenario for Cleveland. They don't have to trade up or relinquish their second first-round pick and still land the Heisman Trophy winner. Sure, the Browns have Colt McCoy, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire and in Griffin Cleveland has a chance at grabbing the franchise quarterback it has been looking for for well, forever now. The Browns likely don't need to trade up to get Griffin, since the Rams are unlikely to draft him with Bradford only in his third season, and the Vikings said they wouldn't be drafting a quarterback. What the Browns do have to fear is a team like Washington or Seattle leapfrogging them to snag Griffin.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne is a big, physical corner, and while some will argue whether he or Kirkpatrick should be the first corner off the board, I'm going with Claiborne. The Buccaneers need an upgrade in the secondary, after finishing next to last in the league in yards given up per pass attempt. Tampa Bay could also target a pass rusher with this pick after finishing 2011 with just 23 sacks as a team, but Claiborne is the best player on the board, so I see him going to Tampa.
6. Washington Redskins, Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
The Redskins desperately need an upgrade at quarterback, but if they fail to get Griffin, No. 6 is simply too high to draft any other quarterback in the draft, with the top one left being Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. Washington also needs better play at wide receiver where Jabar Gaffney and Santana Moss are their top targets, and are both getting old quickly. Jeffrey isn't quite the prospect Blackmon is, but he is still a physical specimen who can make plays down the field.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Jacksonville is another team that has holes all over the field. Are the Jaguars ready to give up on Blaine Gabbert after just one season? Can they get him a receiver to throw to? In this case, I think they go with Coples here. While Kirkpatrick may be the best player on the board, Jacksonville was eighth in the league in defending the pass in 2011, but generated very little pass rush. Aaron Kampman will likely be gone, and Coples is the best pass rusher in the draft.
8. Miami Dolphins, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Dolphins could be picking ninth if they lose a coin flip with the Panthers. In this case, getting Kirkpatrick at No. 8 is good value, and it fills a need--two things teams look for in draft picks. The Dolphins only intercepted 13 passes last season and were 23rd in the league in pass defense. Kirkpatrick is a shutdown corner and a ballhawk. It's unclear, whether Kirkpatrick's recent arrested on marijuana charges will impact his draft status.
9. Carolina Panthers, Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Panthers offense certainly wasn't the problem in 2011. It was the defense that held the team back from moving into the upper echelon of the NFC. The biggest hole on their defense? The interior defensive line. Still is the top defensive tackle in the draft and fits Carolina's need at the position.
10. Buffalo Bills, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Upshaw will fit well as a 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush the passer--something Buffalo needs to do more of next season. Upshaw draft stock had to rise in the BCS National Championship Game, in which he was named Defensive MVP.