NFL Mock Drafts have become a national phenomenon spawned by the enormous popularity of the National Football League; its fans so enamored they yearn for their beloved game even during the long 7 month offseason. In this down time 2 events draw the fans back in and get them excited about their teams again.
The first at the beginning of March is free agency, when teams get to bid for the services of players whose current contracts have expired. Huge contracts are signed and superstar athletes find new homes. Suddenly a mediocre team becomes a contender with the acquisition of key talents to their squad and fans have new idols to root for on their favorite teams. Then in late April comes the NFL Draft.
Once long ago it was just a minor news worthy event that lost the interest of its fans not long after the first round. When aired on TV it drew a meager audience of die hard football geeks but then came one man who changed all that. His name was Mel Kiper and he was the king of all NFL draft geeks. His enthusiasm was contagious. He was a veritable encyclopedia of information on draft prospects. He seemed to know everything about every aspiring college football player eager to find a team in the great NFL. He brought excitement to what was once considered a barely watchable TV event. Then with the internet came mock drafts. Started in little corners of the web among forums of draft geeks it started to spread in popularity and of course Mel Kiper and then his younger counterpart Todd McShay started doing their own Mock Drafts.
That was all it took for the trend to catch fire. Now there are countless sports websites offering mock drafts from their "Draft Gurus" and the fans can't seem to get enough. There are sites now that allow the fans themselves to make their own mock drafts and they are recently growing in popularity at a fast rate. The most ironic thing about it all is that 99.9% of mocks wind up so far off the mark in their predictions once the draft finally plays out. Yet we fans still love to read them. Why is that? It's because we'd all love to have our own team and get into the minds of those who create these teams. In much the same way the Sims games involve us in a pretend world where we get to be in control, making mock drafts allow us to play out the scenarios, to step into the shoes of the owners, GMs and coaches and for a short time step behind that closed door of the draft room and be more than just a fan.
The most gratifying thing being when your team chooses the same player you wanted them to choose and it almost seems as if you were right there in that room with them when they made their choice. Now without further ado I present to you complete with explanations and brief scouting reports for each pick and player my 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
It's hard to believe the order of events that lead to the Colts letting go of one of the best QBs to ever play the game. The injury and eventual surgery that sidelined Peyton Manning for the entire 2011 season lead to the Colts having the worst record in the NFL and granting them the 1st pick in the draft. The question marks about Manning's recovery and the huge bonus due to him this offseason all were factors in the decision to cut the best QB in the game. In one word it was "Luck" good and bad that lead to this. If Andrew Luck doesn't play that extra year at Stanford he wouldn't have been there to tempt the Colts into rebuilding their new franchise around the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning himself. This is why the draft can be so interesting. Legacies are born and die in the draft.
Andrew Luck doesn't look anything like a college QB. When watching tape of him you swear that you’re watching one of the NFL's elite QBs who just happened to don a Stanford uniform for a day and played for them just for the practice reps. Maybe Tom Brady was at the game and got bored and decided to chip in or maybe Drew Brees wanted to give a lesson in football to some Stanford college players. It's much harder to find flaws in Luck's game than weaknesses. He doesn't have monstrous arm strength like say Mathew Stafford, but his arm is still pretty strong. He's tremendously brilliant in reading defenses and making pre-snap adjustments. He does get fooled by linebackers sometimes when they drop into coverage (an Achiles heel of Peyton Manning's) but overall Luck is one those once in a blue moon prospects that just has no chance of busting. I guess some teams just have all the "Luck".
When the Redskins traded up to the 2nd pick in the draft it was clear who they were going to pick. Desperate for the last 2 years for a franchise QB Mike Shannahan finally gets his guy and it couldn't be a better fit for his style of offense which demands mobility and a strong arm from his QB. RGIII would be the #1 pick in any other draft in the last few years but alas he lacks the "Luck" in that he's in a draft that has the one QB that is the embodiment of the "Ideal" nfl quarterback. But he sure comes in a close 2nd.
RGIII has an astounding combination of speed and arm strength. While his passes from the pocket aren't as pin point accurate as Andrew Luck's within the first 30yds his deep passes may be a little more accurate. Griffin's lightning quick release and sound mechanics and strong arm makes coaches drool. Where RGIII needs to improve the most is in pre-snap audibles, reading the defense and consistency making decisions in the pocket. He's a player who will run the play the coach calls and do his best to make it work with his amazing athletic and passing skills. He's been compared to a lot of players but the one that comes to my mind the most is Randall Cunningham. Like Randall Cunningham RGIII has blazing speed and a great ability to throw accurate and deep passes on the run while still playing well in the pocket also. RGIII has a bit of a slender frame and like Cunningham did and that may cause him troubles in avoiding injury against hard hitting NFL defenses.
Miami has to make this move. They struck out multiple times in free agency to get a high quality quarterback and Tannehill is the last quarterback prospect that clearly shows franchise potential. Minnesota has shown great interest in trading down from the third pick and for 2nd and 3rd rounder or maybe a 2013 1st rounder and a 2012 3rd rounder they would gladly trade down. Tannehill's former coach is now OC at Miami and the head couch is well known for developing QBs. There are some similarities between Tannehill and Aaron Rogers.
Ryan Tannehill has all the physical attributes to develop into a franchise QB (although he could benefit to gain some weight). The former reciever has great speed for a QB and cover a lot of ground with his long strides. He goes through his progressions well and when scrambling will keep his eyes out for an open receiver, Throws very well on the run. Can make all the throws. Will make some big throws with his strong arm that will wow you. Knows where his check down receiver is when a play breaks down. On the downside Tannehill will make some bad decisions especially under pressure. He has a habit of patting the ball once he locks on his receiver that is a tell for the defense to block his throw or break for the INT. The most glaring problem is his accuracy issues when throwing to receivers running horizontal across the field. He often throws behind them and the contrast between his sharp passes on vertical routes and his bad throws on crossing routes is jarring. Ideally Miami can sit him for a year and let him develop behind journeyman Matt Moore.
Peter King recently reported that the Browns have a lot of interest in Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. There's a famous line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in which Caesar is warned "Beware the Ides of March" but when it comes to the NFL draft the line should read "Beware the Ides of April" for it seems it's very common for the NFL owners and GMs to play out April fools on the media through the entire month leading up to draft day. These are referred to as smokescreens and they are abundant in April. Mike Holmgren doesn't usually draft WRs in the forst round and he love to have a workhorse RB to take the heat of his QBs. Based on Holmgren's tendencies he'll likely go RB or CB so this pick could be Morris Claiborne but with the release of Peyton Hillis the Browns need a great RB more than a CB. Trent Richardson is the only real elite prospect at RB in this draft.
Mark Barron is as blue collar a running back as they come. He doesn't dazzle you with a lot of flashy plays or wow you with his speed. He simply moves the ball forward and efficiently on a reliable basis and he NEVER LETS UP. That's how he killed so many defenses he went up against last year. He will methodically pound away at a defense until they're gasping and their legs are tired and then he'll come at them as strong as he was the first carry of the game. He's solid or great in nearly every aspect of the position he plays. The downside is that coaches will be tempted to lean on him too much and this may shorten his career if he has to carry the ball over 370 times a season every year. Used correctly he could be one of the top backs in the NFL for 6 to 8 seasons.
With the apple of their eye Trent Richardson gone to the Browns the Bucs must look elsewhere. Even though they brought back free agent Ronde Barber there's a good chance Aqib Talib will be in prison and they don't have much behind them in talent. They desperately need a #1 corner. Claiborne is the clear cut best corner in the draft.
Morris Claiborne is the best overall corner in the draft. He has good size and speed. He plays physical in the receiver and is a willing tackler. He stays with his man and reacts well when the ball is in the air. He has good hands for making interceptions. Though he's not as dynamic a playmaker as his former teammate Patrick Peterson or a Deion Sanders type he's very good and worth a top 5 pick.
The Rams would love to have Kalil fall to them at 6 and it may very well happen. In order for Rams QB Sam Bradford to be productive he'll need a good protector on his blind side. There will be wide receivers in the draft in the 2nd round so their top priority should be protecting Bradford.
Matt Kalil is without a doubt the top left tackle in this draft. He is and elite pass blocker with great athleticism and solid as a run blocker. He's not monster road grader type who will drive defensive linemen 5 yards back but that won't be asked much of a left tackle. What he does best is protect the quarterback and that is a huge factor in a pass happy NFL.
The Jags love Blackmon and there will be a tug of war between selecting Blackmon and Melvin Ingram but in the end they want to give their new QB Blaine Gabbert weapons to show that they made the right decision last year by drafting him and Blackmon is the consensus top wide receiver.
Blackmon like his former teammate Dez Bryant can be a bit of a hot head with his passion for the game but he backs it up with his play. Blackmon has an uncanny knack for finding the soft spot in coverage and attacking those gaps. He runs great routes with deceptive speed. He has good hands but will occasionally lose concentration. He's strong and makes yards after the catch. He's a willing blocker and a hard worker. He's definitely one of the most complete WRs in this draft.
Minnesota gets Philly's 15th and 51st pick in exchange for their 8th pick (aquired from the Miami trade) and a 5th rounder. Philly loves Fletcher Cox and reports are they're willing to trade up for him. He's the exact type of player they like to have on their defensive line both solid against the run and reeking havoc as a pass rusher. If they want him they'll likely have to trade up for him as Carolina, Kansas City and Seattle could all need help on the defensive line.
Fletcher Cox is a tenacious well rounded defensive tackle who penetrates offensive lines and gets on the QB consistantly. He's good enough against the run that that won't be an issue especially when running down players behind the line of scrimmage. He's probably the best DT in the draft and seems to have room to get even better.
This isn't just because he played for North Carolina. Coples fills 2 spots with one pick for the Panthers. He can play both as a DE and a DT for the Panther's 4-3 defense. He's drawn comparisons to Julius Peppers who the Panthers still receive criticism from fans for letting go. If Coples can play to his potential he could make the fans forget Peppers ever played there.
Coples scares a lot of scouts due to his inconsistency. In the same way the former Carolina Panther and Tarheel Julius Peppers was criticized for taking off plays, so is Coples. Both are outstanding physical specimens who are athletic enough to cover a lot of ground and strong enough to bullrush offensive lineman. Coples can play both defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense and be a threat at both positions. His upside is huge so long as he can stay motivated enough to consistently put force a full effort.
After losing their left tackle in free agency (Yet again to the Eagles) Buffalo has a severe need for a left tackle. This is one of those picks that if a GM doesn't make it he may not have a job next season.
Reiff comes from a college that has produced quality offensive linemen for quite some time now. He has good technique and quick feet. He could play better with his arms and is not elite in neither pass nor run blocking. He is however consistent and that could be attractive to a team that needs to count on him at left tackle. I think he's better suited as a right tackle but he do well on either side.
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