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.
Kansas City's guards are getting very old and their play is slipping. The Chiefs want to run the ball mare and they need a guard who will open lots of running lanes for their running backs. They will be thrilled of DeCastro gets to them at 11.
DeCastro is an Elite guard. he excels in run blocking and is good in pass protection. He's highly athletic and has power. He plays till the whistle and looks for blockers down the field after his first guy is taken out. He plays tough and hard and will make running backs look even better than they are.
The Seattle Seahawks struggled throughout the season to get a good pass rush on QBs from both their interior and outside defensive linemen. They upgraded their defensive tackle position through free agency but still need to add a good pass rusher on the outside. Some teams view Melvin Ingram as the best defensive end in the draft.
Melvin Ingram is a tenacious pass rusher who can also play well against the run. He seems to run in high gear the whole game and is very quick off the snap. He is equally skilled on inside moves as on outside rushes. If there are some flaws it would be he's still a bit unrefined and can get caught overshooting his target. He doesn't seem to have hit his peak yet and that's the advantage he'll have over Coples if he's drafted before him. His upside is still pointing up.
The Cardinals desperately want to return to the type of passing attack they had when Kurt Warner was under center. Arizona needs a receiver across from Larry Fitzgerald to take the double teams off from him. Michael Floyd would give the Cardinal Passing game an impressive 1-2 punch.
Floyd is a lot like Justin Blackmon in many ways. He has better hands but runs a bit slower. The reason he goes second behind Blackmon is character concerns. While Blackmon did have one DUI, Floyd has had 3 alcohol related incidents and other off field issues.
Via former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus the top 4 prospects that the Cowboys expect to be therefore there at 14 are Mark Barron, Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe and Courtney Upshaw and it's in that order they are ranking them.
Mark Barron is easily the best safety in this draft class. While he projects as a Pro Bowl caliber strong safety Barron showed in his Junior year that he was capable of playing well in the deep centerfield. He plays with great instinct and reacts to plays instantly. He comes off blocks as well as any linebacker would and seems to always be around the ball. He was the centerpiece and leader of probably the best college defense last year at Alabama. He seems to make big plays in every game and he has ballhawk skills when reading the quarterback. He's a good student and well behaved off the field. The biggest knock in Barron would be his skills in man cover. That is when he has to line up against a slot receiver and stay on his hip like a cornerback throw out the receiver’s route. He doesn't possess blazing to recover from mistakes he rarely but sometimes makes against fast receivers. Overall Barron is an Adrian Wilson type playmaking safety who isn't perfect but can be a top 10 safety in the NFL on a yearly basis.
If Minnesota takes the trade down route they may be looking at a guy like Kirkpatrick to bolster their secondary that was often torched be QBs last season.
Kirkpatrick is one of the most physical corners to come out in the draft in a long time. He never shies from contact and will intimidate WRs with his bravado. He is a willing tackler who will come up and put hits on tight ends and running backs. He can blitz and play both press and zone coverage. He's not much of a ballhawk and won't rack up a lot of interceptions but he'll bat away a lot of balls. He may not be a total shut down corner but he'll be successful in the NFL especially on physical teams like Minnesota, Baltimore or Pittsburgh.
The New York Jets have had trouble the last couple seasons finding a good pass rush from the edge. They have shown a lot of interest in the top edge rushers in this draft and very likely will take the best one available when they pick.
Courtney Upshaw's measurables don't jump off the screen at you and his workout numbers don't blow you away but when you watch him play he just lights up and puts everything he's got into each play. He has good power and takes the corner to get to the QB well. He's not overly fast and you wouldn't want him dropping back into coverage often but he plays smart enough to mask those weaknesses decently. He plays the run well and hits hard. He's a very blue collar type player and will be a team leader. He's better suited on the weak side where he can focus on rushing the QB. His never quit mentality will be the asset that gets him picked this high because coaches will hope it carries over to his teammates.
The Bengals seem to be losing patience with some of their current core of LBs. Between their run-ins with the law and disappointing production and injuries they may want to look for a brilliant MLB like Kuechly to direct their defense.
Luke Kuechly is not a large or fast linebacker. He's just really smart and plays 100% every down. He's great coming off blocks and finding the ball. He's solid dropping in coverage but is best playing the strong side in the box where he can sniff out the play. He's the best overall middle linebacker in the draft.
San Diago has virtually no pass rush and hasn't remedied that issue in free agency. While they could look for help in the secondary if they get a good pass rusher that alone will help their secondary.
Mercilus is all about speed. He flies off the snap and once he gets around the corner on a tackle its game over. He has the quickness and athleticism to drop in coverage although he wasn't asked to much in college playing in a 4-3 DE position. He doesn't show tremendous power and lacks some awareness especially against the run but for a team looking for a speed rusher in a 3-4 Mercilus seems very well suited.
The Bears desperately need to protect QB Jay Cutler. Each year he receives bad Protection from his tackles and gets injured because of it.
The scouts are really split on Glenn as a left tackle. Some will point out his lack of foot speed as a red flag that he isn't a good fit against speed rushers from the outside while others will point out his huge frame and long arms and athleticism and say that if he cuts down some weight and works on his technique with his feet he can be a great tackle. One thing for sure is that while his pass protection abilities are in question his run blocking is elite. He's a bruising powerful monster who will bowl over anyone in his path and he's athletic at a mammoth 345 lbs. Considering how the Bears love to run the ball Glenn may be too tempting to pass up.
Tennessee had one of the worst Centers in football last year and tried and failed to upgrade that position in free agency. It would be no surprise if they take the best Center in the draft with their first pick.
Konz is everything you'd want in a center. He's powerful and quick, athletic and smart. He can blast open holes for running backs as well as some of the best guards and is good in pass protection as well. He's strong enough to take on DT on his own and looks like a top center in the NFL from day one. He'd go higher if there were better position value on centers.
After losing Jerome Simpson the Bengals will be looking for a playmaking WR to pair with A. J. Green.
Kendall Wright is a threat to take it all the way to the end zone every time he touches the ball. He's a shifty speedy receiver who can run reverses and even throw passes off a screen. He's the type of guy who offensive co-ordinator will enjoy inventing new trick plays to get the ball in his hands. While he needs to polish up some on his routes and his slight size opens him to injury if he runs routes over the middle he's a useful weapon to have for a team that already has a big dominating receiver like Green.
Cleveland reportedly likes Brandon Weedon a lot and it makes sense because Mike Holmgren admired QBs like Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Delhomme who Weedon is simular too. If Cleveland passes on Tannehill they'll likely look to draft Weedon. Colt McCoy simply lacks the tools to be a lasting starter in the NFL.
Brandon Weedon will be 29 at the start of this season and while that puts a limit on his longevity in the league there are enough QB needy teams this year to warrant him being drafted in the 3rd round. When in the pocket and protected Weedon looks very good throwing the ball. He makes adjustments, goes through his progressions find the open receiver and throws the ball with accuracy and zip. He's a natural leader with a lot of confidence and a fighting spirit. Where he struggles is once the pocket breaks down and he has pressure barreling down on him. He seems to go into panic mode and make ill advised throws to receivers who aren't open and often throws off balence. With a very good offensive line and run game keeping the defenses from blitzing often Weedon could be a solid starting QB but at some point he's going to have to learn who to pass under pressure.
Detroit desperately needs a cornerback. There secondary was abused time and time again last season and if you're facing Jay Cutler and Aaron Rogers twice a year you need a good secondary. The Lions may need to trade up to get one of the top 3 corners in this draft as I highly doubt they'll take a chance on Janoris Jenkins with his multiple drug arrests when just recently 2 of their own players were arrested for drug possession. Stephen Gilmore would be their best bet as he has a clean record and is in contention to be the 2nd best corner in the draft.
Stephen Gilmore is a physical corner with solid tackling skills and can mirror the receiver consistently. Not a big hitter like Kirkpatrick but Gilmore doesn't shy from contact. He's good as a blitzer and plays smart. Like Kirkpatrick Gilmore lacks ball skills and won't intercept a lot of passes or find the ball a lot in jump balls to knock it away. His game reminds me a lot of Orlando Scandrick of the Dallas Cowboys. He's taller than Scandrick and so he should fare a little bit better against larger receivers but all in all he seems a quality pick but not a player that blows you away by making big plays.
Pittsburgh likes Hightower a lot and it makes sense because he's their type of linebacker. They are aging at linebacker and need to add young talent there soon.
Hightower can move from MLB to OLB in their 3-4 defense because he's exceptional rushing the passer and coming off blocks. He's not that fast but reacts quickly and has great instincts finding the ball. He can be a liability in coverage so you'd want him on the strong side playing in the box. He's a hard hitter and a team leader. He's the blue collar kind of guy the Steelers love to have on their team.
Denver's greatest need is a good run stopping defensive tackle and Mike Brockers is probably the best 4-3 DT at stopping the run in this draft. If one of the top 4 DTs are still on the board when the Broncos pick then it's almost certain they'll draft one.
Michael Brockers looks like the ideal DT physically. He's muscular with long arms and can hold up to 320 lbs on his frame. He plays with strength at around 300 lbs and rarely gets pushed backwards by guards. He fills gaps and stuffs the run consistently and shows some potential as a pass rusher if he can improve his technique. The knock on him is that he rarely took on double teams as he played with a very talented group of defensive linemen around him and yet he didn't cause a lot of havoc in the backfield and wasn't dominating against a lot of the better quality guards who often blocked him without help. Brockers like Poe has a very big upside that a lot of teams will see but also like Poe hasn't dominated in his play yet.
In Houston's transition to a 3-4 defense, they have all but one piece left to fill and that is nose tackle. Defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips loves to use athletic nose tackles who can penetrate and get to the QB. While Poe is a bit of a project he has tremendous upside and at 350+ lbs he's definitely got the size for a NT.
Poe is amazingly athletic for a 350 lb man and you can see some of that in his game film. He does put in effort and has a lot of power pushing offensive linemen back with his bull rush but he lacks greatly in technique skills and awareness and so he seems to get lost in plays and doesn't seem to have as much of an impact as you would like. Some coaches will see this as merely a technique problem and see his upside.
New England's most glaring need last year was their pass rush at both the inside and outside of their defensive line. They have a reputation for finding steals in the draft and with Devon Still they may have gotten the 2nd best defensive tackle in this draft class.
There were questions of Still's consistency and ability to handle the wear of an entire NFL season. A lot of this was unfounded because Still was plagued early in college with injuries. He had a huge year in 2011 but seemed to fall off in his last 3 games. Some of this may be attributed to the turf toe injury he suffered at that time as well as the Sandusky scandal his college (Penn State) was caught up in resulting in his head coach being fired during that period. Still makes plays against both the run and pass and can beat double teams to get to the ball. Out of the top 4 DTs he has the most tackles for a loss and has only a half sack less than the #1 DT Fletcher Cox.
Greenbay desperately needs a pass rusher to pair with Clay Mathews as teams doubled up on Mathews and Greenbay couldn't seem to generate much of a rush because of this.
Shea McClellin has a lot of similarities to Clay Mathews in that he's a smaller highbred type of 3-4 OLB with a lot of versatility which will put him very high on the Packers' draft board
Baltimore lost its 2 back up safeties to free agency and Ed Reed is approaching the end of his career. If Reed gets injured they don't have much talent behind him. Harrison Smith can be that fall back and eventually replace Reed once he retires.
Harrison Smith has a lot of flexibility as a safety. He can play both strong and free safety positions and has a nose for the ball especially when playing centerfield. While he doesn't have the same instinct skills as Mark Barron he does seem to be in on most plays. Like Barron he struggles in man coverage but is a little faster in straight line speed than Barron. I did notice the angles he takes aren't as efficient as Barron's. I liken him to a slower Eric Weddle. While no Ed Reed he can still be a solid if not very good starter in the NFL.
The 49ers are known to like Fleener and it makes sense being a former player of 49ers coach and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's. The 49ers may be looking to run 2 tight end sets like Harbaugh ran at Stanford to help boost their passing attack.
Fleener fits into the trend of a new type of hybrid TE who plays more like a big wide reciever. Fleener is only 244 lbs so this limits his blocking ability although he does well for his size. He has huge hands and is very good catching the ball. He's fast, runs good routes and will be a big matchup nightmare for defensive co-ordinators.
After losing one of their best pass rushers in free agency the Patriots must have an outside rusher high on their list of needs. They'll likely look for a guy that can play both 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB in their new high-bred defense.
Nick Perry bursts off the line like a cannon and has a nice combination of speed and strength. While he's not likely to bowl linemen over he has a good push with his hands and will play at full speed till the whistle. He's dropped into coverage and played well doing it so this makes him a good 3-4 OLB prospect as well as a 4-3 DE. He plays with a lot of effort which coaches always love to see.
After losing Brandon Jacobs to free agency the Giants will be looking for a replacement to pair with Ahmad Bradshaw.
Doug Martin has no major flaws in his game. He excels at blocking, receiving and running the ball in both short yardage and 1st down situations. He may not jump off the screen with his speed although he has good speed or blow you away with his power though he has some power too but it's his ability to do everything well that makes him a 1st round quality running back. Oh and he returns kicks too.
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