UPDATE - February 23rd, 2012: Here are the latest updates to my 2012 full first round mock draft. Keep checking back for the latest updates.
This is a complete update over the original draft with additions and subtractions, so if a few of the comments do not make sense it is because they reflect the old draft.
We'll be keeping you covered all winter long with our 2012 NFL Draft coverage and Mock Draft posts as we get closer to draft day (including exclusive 7-Round per team mock drafts), so be sure to check back frequently for updates, new postings and other tasty tidbits we'll be leaving on the table for ya.
Round One - Picks 1 Through 16:
#1 - Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck - QB - Stanford: This pick is almost written in the stars for Indianapolis who could also wind up making veteran Peyton Manning available on the open market (albeit not likely). What makes Luck such a coveted pick is the obvious issue surrounding Manning's neck, but more importantly, the fact that Luck played in a NFL pro-style offense that really makes him start worthy from day one. Luck could have immediate fantasy value if he does in fact start the 2012 season.
#2 - St. Louis Rams, Justin Blackmon - WR - Oklahoma State: Blackmon has already been rated as the best WRs coming out of the draft, and he furthered that speculation in Oklahoma State's postseason exhibition game against Stanford, where he had eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams may wind up targeting an OT through free agency if they can part ways with the failed Jason Smith experiment, but if not, we could also see the Rams perhaps target OT Matt Kalil instead...my money is on Blackmon, since the Rams are very needy at WR.
If you would like a provocative viewpoint on why Justin Blackmon and nine other draftees could be overrated, be sure to check out this piece here from Rotoworld NFL scout Josh Norris. It's well worth the read!
#3 - Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil - OT - Southern Cal
6’6?, 295 pounds:
It’s the trendy pick here but it also makes the most sense, considering the talent level drops off significantly after the Top 3 OTs in the draft.
The Vikings need a sizable, NFL ready OT who will be able to protect Christian Ponder’s blind side, and Kalil definitely fits that bill.
Take an even deeper look into my Minnesota Vikings 7-Round Mock Draft for further insight.
Previous pick: Morris Claiborne - CB - LSU
#4 - Cleveland Browns, Robert Griffin - QB - Baylor: The Browns are not convinced that present quarterback Colt McCoy will ever turn the corner, and they could seriously consider drafting RGIII while he is still available. The issue with the Browns, however, is that they offer mediocre weapons for any QB under center, and the pick itself is one that I would advise against, since Griffin played in a very shotgun-heavy format at Baylor which would not bode well in Cleveland's tight formation attack.
#5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trent Richardson - RB - Alabama: The Bucs have a few player issues to take care of, but the fact of the matter is, the RB position is the most crucial. LeGarrette Blount showed a myriad of game weaknesses this season including an inability to separate himself from contact, while also showing himself unreliable in the passing game and Earnest Graham isn't expected to return in 2012. Richardson is an incredibly explosive and elusive back who can not only run in all directions, but he's also an exceptional pass catching AND BLOCKING back
#6 - Washington Redskins, Ryan Tannehill - QB - Texas A&M: This is obviously a very tentative selection as many different scenarios could play out for Washington in the first round. They could easily trade up with Cleveland or Minnesota and wind up with RGIII, or stay where they are and scoop up Ryan Tannehill, OR, they could sign a free agent QB and target a tackle such as Iowa's Riley Reiff.
Stay Tuned for updates as they happen!
#7 - Jacksonville Jaguars, Nick Perry, DE, Southern California: The PAC-12 offers a bevy of formidable passing offenses, and Nick Perry caused quite a bit of trouble against every single PAC-12 team making him one of the best options at DE—but we'll have to wait until January 15th to find out whether or not, he actually IS entering the draft.
If he doesn't make himself available this year, I would expect the Jags to stick with a DE, and perhaps target underclassmen Sam Montgomery (LSU) or even Quinton Coples (North Carolina). The Jaguars compete in a division that features prolific quarterbacks with bright futures in Jake Locker and perhaps Andrew Luck while also having to deal with Houston's deadly passing game, so getting to these guys is a must for a team that stunk at QB pressure in 2011.
#8 - Miami Dolphins, Johnathan Martin - OT - Stanford: I really believe the Dolphins will try their best to acquire a QB—namely Packers backup Matt Flynn—which will leave the table open for the Dolphins to handle other pressing areas such as OT. I know, history suggests against this approach for Miami, but both RG Vernon Carey and RT Marc Colombo are not expected back with the team this year, so the need becomes paramount.
Reiff is one of the more well-rounded tackles in the league. His aggressive nature allows him to effectively block one on one, while his shiftiness and solid feet work allow him to also fit right into teams utilizing zone-blocking up front.
Iowa is known for producing NFL ready tackles who wind up excelling at the pro level, and Miami could find themselves in a very good position to pull the trigger on a very good player.
Previous pick: Ryan Tannehill - QB - Texas A&M
#9 - Carolina Panthers, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: Brockers is looking more and more as if he could be a much better draft pick than any other consideration. The Panthers didn't get a lot of production out of their interior pass rush last year, and Brockers i a guy who can play NT, DT and DE. For all of his skill sets, he could be the solution to their 2011 problem.
Previous pick: Mohamed Sanu - WR - Nebraska
#10 - Buffalo Bills, Courtney Upshaw - LB - Alabama: The Bills were probably the worst team at getting to the quarterback in 2011 and a lot of that had to do with a weak LB corp. One can easily make the argument that the team needs a CB or S, but when your linebackers are giving opposing quarterbacks all day to throw, even the best cover-men look bad—a linebacker is more important.
Courtney Upshaw would be a perfect fit for a team that is in dire need of a linebacker aggressive enough to apply pressure where the Bills had none, while also keeping up in the pass coverage department. Upshaw's experience with both the 3-down and 4-down alignments is certainly a plus.
Previous pick: Matt Kalil - OT - USC
#11 - Kansas City Chiefs, Riley Reiff - OT - Iowa: The Chiefs would benefit greatly from an upgrade at OT over the underachieving Barry Richardson and Branden Albert, and Martin would be just the guy to put on the heat in camp.
The Chiefs may hold their breath for someone a bit bigger, as in my last pick with Iowa's Riley Reiff, but they may just miss the boat on him.
Martin already had the daunting task of protecting this year's number one ranked player (Andrew Luck) and he certainly has all the skill sets to fit right into Kansas City's system. it would almost be the perfect pick.
Previous pick: Riley Reiff - OT - Iowa
#12 - Seattle Seahawks, Nick Foles - QB - Arizona: The Seahawks need a lot of things. They certainly need a solid pass rusher on the outside, they could really use a solid option at TE, but they need a quarterback that could perhaps take over for the liability they have in Tarvaris Jackson.
Look, the Seahawks know that if they want to eventually compete in their division—let alone the conference—they must acquire an upgrade at QB, and if it's through the draft, Foles would be the best player available.
Foles is a sizable quarterback ala Bengals gunslinger Andy Dalton, as he stands at 6'5" 240 pounds, but he is amazingly mobile for a QB that large, which could bode well for Seattle. Foles' only real knock is his drawn out wind up which will have to be reversed if he's to succeed in the NFL.
#13 - Arizona Cardinals, Luke Kuechly - ILB - Boston College: The 25 million dollar investment in Stewart Bradley was a monumental failure (IDP competitors can safely forget about Bradley in 2012), and the Cardinals will more than likely look to fix that problem through the draft with the best available ILB available in Kuechly.
The Cardinals need an aggressive backer who both prolific at getting to the quarterback and in pass-coverage when not in their hybrid 5-2 look, and Kuechly can do all of that and more. If the Cardinals do grab him, he would be an immediate back-end fantasy draft consideration in IDP leagues in my opinion.
#14 - Dallas Cowboys, Devon Still - DE/DT - Penn State: The Cowboys need upgrades on both the offensive line and defensive line, but I think the Cowboys will target a player like Still who would be a perfect fit for an average Cowboys D-Line, especially with his dual-capable play at both the end and on the inside.
The Cowboys and Still seem to be a nice marriage in the wait with Still's ability to dominate in the trenches—especially against the run—and the acquisition would certainly bolster a defense that finished just outside the Top 10 at number 14.
#15 - Philadelphia Eagles, David DeCastro - G - Stanford: The Philadelphia Eagles have some thinking to do regarding their offensive line. For the most part, this squad is a young core of players who eventually found success in the complex blocking schemes designed by Howard Mudd, but the one glaring issue I see with this core is the aging Evan Mathis.
It's still unclear whether or not the Eagles will even bring back the 30-year-old left guard, but if they do, what could they offer? A long-term deal would be out of the question since it would be more of a potential liability. Going after a player such as DeCastro now, simply makes sense.
DeCastro would be the best available Guard in the draft. What makes DeCastro extra special, however, is the fact that he is complete NFL ready guard who would excel in Philadelphia's system. He's an excellent power-run blocker with great down field speed with exceptional center balance that allows him to anchor himself at the point of contact keeping the QB clean and free, and he is rarely beat off the snap which potentially makes him a better long term investment than Mathis.
#16 - New York Jets, Lavonte David - OLB - Nebraska: The Jets were surprisingly mediocre at getting to the quarterback this season, despite possessing an elite defense in coverage. In addition to their inferior play against opposing QBs, they lost the 32-year-old Bryan Thomas to a torn Achilles tendon back in October, adding insult to injury—backups Jamaal Westerman and Aaron Maybin were not viable solutions.
"David is a player who was almost exclusively left alone when covering spread offenses at Nebraska because the boy is just that damn good, but he was also utilized quite a bit against the run inside the box…..so much for the theory of having a smallish frame, eh?" - taken from my 5 Draft Prospects You Must Have on Your Radar
The idea here is that Mark Ingram could be overlooked by teams in need of a solid pass rushing LB, and Zach Brown doesn't seem to be a better fit over David. I really feel that David is going to wind up being that surprise pick if he heads to the right team, and that team could be New York.
Previous pick: Courtney Upshaw - LB - Alabama
Now let's take a look at picks 17 through 32.