Peyton Manning may be the highest paid free agent in NFL history, but the 2012 NFL Draft is still all the rage and will be until the very first pick is made by the Indianapolis Colts. This is basically the final draft of my 2012 NFL Mock Draft team by team predictions.
Many many players have found new homes by now and we have already taken a look at the NFL Free Agency Winners and Losers. Some of those players wound up having a profound effect on a few teams and their draft strategies.
While it is utterly impossible for any of us to accurately predict ALL the picks from each team in the NFL, it is getting easier to "see" where each team could possibly go with their first-round selection.
So let's waste no more time here and see what could be on tap for each NFL team in this year's 2012 NFL Draft.
#1 – Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: It’s the most obvious pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Luck will certainly have his work cut out for him in the early goings. But with his talent level, he has tremendous promise to be the next franchise QB in Indy.
Luck is the type of prototypical pocket-passer that every NFL team can easily salivate over. Which is why he is not only the number one pick, but also so coveted.
If his experience and talent carry him forward, he should have no trouble adapting by season's end.
#2 Washington Redskins (from St. Louis), Robert Griffin III,QB, Baylor: The Redskins missed out on every free agent QB so there is very little doubt—especially with this move ahead—that they will pass on RGIII.
RGIII is projected to ride a very long career in the NFL and should help this Washington Redskins offense that struggled heavily to move the ball through the air in 2011.
His mobility will also add another offensive dimension for Washington.
#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.
Take an even deeper look into my Minnesota Vikings 7-Round Mock Draft for further insight.
#4 – Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: The Browns will ride another year—or so it seems—with Colt McCoy under center which means they will need to continue surrounding him with upgraded talent. And the logical move here would be at RB.
With Peyton Hillis gone and only Montario Hardesty (can’t stay healthy) and Brandon Jackson (no better than a perpetual backup RB) to speak of, this team could be looking for another back to take a stab at the starting job.
The Browns have been non-committal regarding their RB situation. Richardson has both the speed and power to be a game changing addition to this offense.
#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: I originally had the Bucs taking Trent Richardson, but I believe the Browns beat them to the punch, leaving Tampa Bay to focus solely on another pressing matter: corner-back.
Current starter Aqib Talib’s future is in question as he faces gun charges in a civil suit and has been sort of a distraction with his past violence issues. Ex-Lions corner Eric Wright was recently inked to a five-year deal, but isn’t exactly a model of consistency.
Morris Claiborne is a spot-on player who is prolific in nearly every phase of being a corner. And if Talib’s past catches up with him and Wright doesn’t pan out, the Bucs will certainly be thanking themselves for this pick. It really does make sense for the long and short-term.
#6 – St. Louis Rams, Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma State: Blackmon has already been rated as the best WR 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!
#7 – Jacksonville Jaguars, Quinton Couples, DE, North Carolina: The ACC offers a bevy of formidable passing offenses and Quinton Couples caused quite a bit of trouble against every single ACC team, making him one of the best options at DE.
The Jaguars could easily target an offensive player first, such as WR Michael Floyd. But I expect the Jags to stick with a DE given the importance of such a player for Jacksonville.
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, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Whelp, the Dolphins missed out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn and instead, the Dolphins signed David Garrard to a one-year GUARANTEED deal.
The Dolphins also let Brandon Marshall walk which was the best offensive weapon they had, but at least they won’t miss out on the best tackle in the 2012 NFL Draft…right?
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.
#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 is a guy who can play NT, DT and DE. For all of his skill sets, he could be the solution to their pass rushing woes.
The Panthers are on the rise within the division. But without a decent pass-rush, this team will remain in catchup mode to Atlanta and New Orleans, so the moves makes perfect sense.
Another slim possibility here could be an outside receiver, but I don't see it happening in the first round.
#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 corner or safety. 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.
#11 – Kansas City Chiefs, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: 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.
#12 – Seattle Seahawks, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Now before you call for my head with this pick hear me out, ok?
The Seahawks recently signed Matt Flynn who they believe will be their quarterback of the future and helped him out by retaining RB Marshawn Lynch for the next four years.
The problem here is the receiving corp.
Golden Tate is not a long-term answer, Ben Obomanu is a 28 year-old role player and Sidney Rice is not even guaranteed to be ready by camp after two shoulder surgeries this off-season, which leaves just Doug Baldwin as a primary target for Flynn.
Floyd is a great vertical threat who would be a nice fit in Seattle’s ‘bait and throw’ vertical game. He’s very difficult to press at the line and is just as good with his hands in the open as he is in traffic.
If you're interested, take a more in-depth look at our 2012 Seattle Seahawks Full 7-Round Mock Draft.
#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 is both prolific at getting to the quarterback and in pass-coverage when not in their hybrid 5-2 look. 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.
I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Cowboys going corner here either.
#15 – Philadelphia Eagles, Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina: If there was one glaring weakness to the Eagles defense last season it was at the linebacker position, and the birds could very easily look to repair that through this year’s draft.
Melvin Ingram isn’t just the best OLB on the board at this point, but he is also a logical fit to the birds system. Philadelphia needs a physical linebacker who can play the middle as well as the outside. Even with DeMeco Ryans in the fold, this group of linebackers could use another boost of talent.
Ingram has above average speed, physicality and is a beast against the run and pass—the perfect solution.
#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.
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.
#17 – Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Janoris Jenkins – CB – North Alabama: The Bengals are likely to target a CB with their first pick and it could wind up being the elusive Janoris Jenkins from North Alabama.
With the aging Nate Clemens facing liability status, the Bengals would obviously be wise to go for youth here, while also settling a growing problem for them.
Jenkins is the type of aggressive, multi-talented corner the Bengals could use, but there is a slight concern with his arrest history. However, it's not enough to erase the fact he is top talent on the board though.
#18 – San Diego Chargers, Zach Brown, OLB, Morth Carolina: The Chargers will be another team potentially targeting an outside linebacker who can hopefully improve their pass-rush.
The Chargers had worlds of trouble getting to the QB in 2011 and Brown is the type of backer who can provide them with a youthful upgrade at OLB, while also giving them a dual-threat player as someone who can also play off the end.
The Chargers could possibly target Bama's SS Mark Barron here as well, but I believe they focus on linebacker first.
#19 – Chicago Bears, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: The Bears desperately need a tackle, more so than I originally thought.
With Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin and Matt Kalil already gone the Bears could easily decide to pull the trigger on the mammoth Adams, before he slips away to another team who is needy at the position.
Chicago also has another minor issue with last year’s first-rounder Gabe Carimi, who is still dealing with the healing process from surgery to repair connective tissue around his patella and MCL. But if Carimi does return this season in good health, imagine having Carimi on one side and Adams on the other?
#20 – Tennessee Titans, Sam Montgomery – DE – LSU: The Titans have literally no pass rusher as their team leader. Karl Klug finished with just seven sacks. If Montgomery is still around, the Titans would have a very good player on their hands should they decide to go with him.
Montgomery is fast, aggressive and difficult to prevent which makes him an exciting choice for a Tennessee team that absolutely needs to upgrade at DE.
The Titans could possible think about a WR here since they could use another viable weapon on the outside, but the draft trend may send a lot of the top shelf receivers to the second round by default.
#21 – Cincinnati Bengals, Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor: I really believe the Bengals could be in the market for a slot type receiver ala Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker and Wright may be the perfect man for the job.
Wright played as the inside receiver nearly his entire time with Baylor and has the hand skills and speed to operate as a true slot receiver. With A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson already on the outside, the pick would give the Bengals a viable three-headed monster attack.
The other solution Wright would provide is an upgrade over the pint-size Andrew Hawkins and a new face if Andre Caldwell does in fact leave, which is anticipated.
#22 – Cleveland Browns, Alshon Jefferey – WR – South Carolina: There are a lot of factors that could determine just who will be available here, but Jefferey could potentially be one of those players. The Browns absolutely need a down-field threat type receiver.
Jefferey has great size, speed and ability to catch the ball even in traffic. Aside from these aspects, he is almost unstoppable in the open field.
With Richardson being a potential pick at the number four spot and Jeffery another potential first round pick, the Browns could be in very good straight before the second round even comes along.
#23 – Detroit Lions, Dre Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama: The Lions could go several different ways here, but one of the glaring issues the Lions face is at CB.
The team was decimated by injuries so much in 2011, that there was a time when this team couldn’t even properly operate a traditional nickel package. And that’s a serious issue.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, Eric Wright is gone and Chris Houston is only signed through this season, so grabbing one of the best corners in the draft now would really solve some significant problems for the interim and the long-term.
Kirkpatrick is the type of corner who has the size and strength to match up well with the bigger pro receivers, while also being a solid run defender and tackler.
#24 – Pittsburgh Steelers, Dontari Poe, NT – Memphis: The Steelers have two issues to face in the early goings of the draft: draft a quality Guard and a quality NT.
The problem, however, is the depth at Guard is deeper than that of NT making the Steelers’ choice quite clear in Dontari Poe.
Poe is that mobile sizable NT that is sure to grab the attention of opposing lines as soon as he takes the field and he would be the perfect fit for Pittsburgh—now and for the future.
#25 – Denver Broncos, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: It’s actually very clear here. The Broncos had a pretty good run defense, but offered very little in the way of a consistent pass rush for the majority of 2011.
In addition to the aforementioned, Marcus Thomas is a FA (2012) as well as Broderick Bunkley (the only mentionable player on this team).
Worthy is the type of DT the Broncos need, to help bolster this line and re-introduce a significant pass-rush while leaving the run support intact.
Worthy could very much still be available and could wind up being be the best player on the board at this point, so passing him by wouldn’t make much sense.
#26 – Houston Texans, Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: It’s no mystery that the Texans need another high-profile WR opposite of Andre Johnson. And at this point in the draft, Randle would be the last of the prototypical “immediate-start-type” receivers on the board.
At 6’4?, 208 pounds Randle has the size the Texans are most interested in and the skill sets to back it up.
Randle was the LSU’s most productive receiver in 2011, leading the team with 53 catches for 917 receiving yards (17.3 AVG) while also hauling in 8 TDs.
He’s a terribly difficult receiver to slow down, a nightmare to press at the line, and is a solid route runner—not a bad addition indeed.
#27 – New England Patriots, Whitney Mercilus – OLD/DE – Illinois: The Patriots have needs at both OLB and DE, particularly the brand that can be an upgrade in the pass rushing department.
Whitney Mercilus is that guy.
Mercilus hass the prototypical build that can play both end and OLB and is a certified pass rushing specialist. He even has great size and speed which Coach Bill Belichick loves.
Mercilus fills two gaps in one, leaving the Patriots second first-round pick open for in-house discussion.
#28 – Green Bay Packers, Vinny Curry – OLB – Marshall: It’s a very intriguing pick indeed. And if Curry is there, I think the Packers MUST pick him up.
The Packers ranked 27th in sacks last year (29) and a big portion of that was inconsistent pressure from their backers. Curry could easily fix that problem.
Curry played a lot of DE, but he also has experience at OLB. Which is perfect for a team running a hybrid 3-4 defense. But his real selling point is the fact that as good as he is as a pass-rusher, he is equally talented as a pass-coverage player and run stopper.
He’d be a perfect fit in Green Bay and I would love to see him drafted here.
#29 – Baltimore Ravens, Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: If the Ravens are smart they are certainly going to exercise their ability to scoop up the best center in the draft while the opportunity is still there—provided here's available that it is, of course.
Yes, the Ravens did re-sign Matt Birk to a new three-year deal. But let’s face it, the guy is probably going to retire a year from now anyhow, perhaps two.
Getting a guy like Konz in now to study under one of the best center in the game would make perfect sense, and really lock down the position for the long-term.
#30 – San Francisco 49ers, David DeCastro, G, Stanford: I have a funny feeling that the San Francisco 49ers get extremely lucky here with David DeCastro falling into their laps.
The 49ers have already lost Adam Snyder & Chilo Rachal so the need is obvious. And the move makes sense.
The free agent market will undoubtedly have a noticeable effect on many teams and their draft strategies. And by default, DeCastro may just wind up sitting this late simply because many other teams are busy filling other positions.
DeCastro is a solid “NFL-ready” guard who is being called a modern day Steve Hutchinson. I couldn’t agree more. And the pick would provide an incredible addition to the 49ers.
#31 – New England Patriots, Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
The Patriots are likely to go ahead and possibly draft a corner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they completely screwed with everyone’s head and drafted Steve Addazio’s monster weapon at Temple: RB Bernard Pierce!
The Patriots have been without a solid and consistent ground assault for a very long time, and just imagine Tom Brady and the Patriots with a monster back like Pierce.
Look, the Patriots signed their downfield threat in Brandon Lloyd, so adding an actual running back who can be a legitimate threat on the ground, and out of the back field as a pass-catching back, would literally make this team nearly unstoppable.
Pierce has tremendous size, better than average speed and hands, and could easily give the Patriots the one element they have been without for a very long time.
#32 – New York Giants, Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: For the New York Giants I think their first pick has to be a linebacker. And if they are lucky, they could wind up with Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower.
The Giants struggled against the run this season, which is almost unheard of. And the entire linebacker corp. played with a lot of inconsistency.
But that aspect being apart, this team also needs to draft for the future. And passing up on the best player on the board at that point would be horribly bad.
Hightower has the necessary tools as a defender (straight across the board) the Giants could be interested in. He has great lateral movement across the line of scrimmage, great speed and is able to adjust as a coverage man.
The Giants could also draft a DT such as Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy (if Denver doesn’t draft him), but something tells me they target Hightower if available.
If you have a selection in mind for your team, be sure to leave your nomination below and let’s get the discussion going. For an individual team-by-team look, check out our 2012 NFL Draft Page.