UPDATED FEBRUARY 23RD, 2011: We've already ran through our2012 NFL Mock Draft 1 - 16, and we saw the potential for a few surprises—like the possibility of the Bengals upsetting the Texans , so let's close out the first round of the draft with the final 16 picks.
The interesting aspect of this part of the draft is the fact that there could be a huge emphasis on defense which would push a lot of quality offensive players down to the second and third rounds, simply because there are a lot of teams that have a considerable amount of defensive needs.
Or, perhaps not...let's see!
Round One - Picks 17 Through 32:
#17 - Cincinnati Bengals, 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—not enough to erase the fact he is top talent on the board, though.
#18 - San Diego Chargers, Melvin Ingram - OLB - South Carolina: I had the Jets potentially taking Courtney Upshaw OVER Melvin Ingram simply due to size, and the need for a dual-backer who would inevitably play more linebacker than end.
Conversely, I have the Chargers potentially taking the bigger Ingram for his presence and ability to play on the outside (a liability in San Diego's scheme in 2011) as well as at DE.
The Chargers need a backer to help improve upon a corp. that had significant trouble getting to the quarterback in 2011, and Ingram and his physical style of play would certainly fit that bill.
#19 - Chicago Bears, Nick Toon - WR - Wisconsin: The Bears must find a sizable receiver either through the draft or in free agency, but with so many players at the end of their contract, it appears the draft is the better avenue.
Given the fact that the higher ranked receiver are likely to be gone at this point, the Bears could entertain grabbing the sizable receiver from Wisconsin.
Toon is an aggressive receiver with great hands and is the type of route runner the Bears could use in their pass first system. For a more in-depth look, check out my Chicago Bears Full 7-Round Mock Draft.
Previous pick: Coby Fleener - TE - Stanford
#20 - Tennessee Titans, Sam Montgomery - DE - LSU: The Titans has literally no pass rush as their team leader—Karl Klug—finished with just seven sacks, and 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; making him an exciting choice for a Tennessee team that absolutely needs to upgrade at DE.
#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, and with A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson already on the outside, the pick would give the Bengals a viable three-headed monster attack.
#22 - Cleveland Browns, Alshon Jefferey - WR - South Carolina: There's a lot of factors that could determine just who will be available here, but Jefferey could potentially be one of those players, and 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.
His only knock is his route running abilities, which could stand some improvement.
#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. The other issue facing this team is the fact that their two top corners (Eric Wright and Chris Houston) become free agents in 2012.
The Lions could wait until later to grab a CB, but it makes much more sense to draft for the future with the best player on the board (arguably).
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.
The other factors to take into consideration is the fact that Casey Hampton is no longer the menacing force that commanded double teams anymore, and there's little chance that Chris Hoke will even return—both players also dealing with heavy injuries in 2011.
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 pas-rush while leaving the run support in tact.
Worthy could very much still be available, and would be the best player on the board at this point, so passing him by wouldn't make much sense.
Previous Pick: Michael Brockers - DT - LSU
#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 hauling in 8 TDs.
He's a terrible 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 Patriot 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 is 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, Vonte Burflict - ILB - Arizona State: I think everyone pretty much knows that the Ravens are currently looking for Ray Lewis' "heir", and I'm not sure of another LB in this year's draft that fits that mold better than Burflict.
Burflict has a little bit of everything a team needs from an ILB: size ( 6'3, 250) agility, speed, power and a definite mean streak that is fueled by a non-stop motor.
He is just as good of a run stuffer as he is a pass-defender or open field tackler, and would make a fine student to learn under Ray Lewis.
The Ravens will be hard pressed to choose any other insider backer other than Burflict here.
#30 - San Francisco 49ers, Michael Floyd - WR - Notre Dame: The 49ers are another team who could be looking to add another high-profile weapon to its offense in the first round, and Floyd is the sort of weapon the 49ers need.
This team needs another sizable receiver who will draw the attention away from their ground assault and TE, but to do that, you have to be very good against press coverage while also being a solid route runner.
Floyd has all of these talents and more.
The 49ers could also take another route and target a veteran FA receiver, thus allowing them to draft a corner in the first round, but i don't see that happening since they will save their money to hopefully retain Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson
#31 and 32: Not like the order really matters here, but the last two first round selections are owned by the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
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.
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.
For the New York Giants I think their first pick has to be an OLB, 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, and be sure to check out our Early First Round Fantasy Draft Look.
If you want more draft coverage, also take a look at my Top Five Draft Prospects You Must Have On Your Radar