1. Buffalo Bills – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Bills lost rather than gained this offseason which will hurt a roster that is already depleted of talent. Andrew Luck is a once in a lifetime prospect that Buffalo will not pass on even though QB is the least of their worries. They need a LT, help in the defensive backfield, and still need front seven impact players. Sorry, Buffalo fans but I’m predicting a miserable finish in 2011 and the first pick in my 2012 NFL mock draft. But the good news is that you are the proud winners of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The marriage of Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck almost came true but Buffalo’s 2-win season ruined it for 49er fans. I think the 49ers stay away from QB with second round pick Colin Kaepernick showing promise unless Luck is there for the taking. The 49ers have some stop gaps at the CB position but not a true shutdown CB. Kirkpatrick has the size, speed, and skills to make his way to the second pick in the 2012 NFL mock draft.
3. Washington Redskins – Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
I know, the Redskin brass all would have taken John Beck with the whatever pick in whatever draft. A 3-4 win season should remind them why they didn’t (or anyone) take Beck that high. The Redskins did a nice job of picking up talent in free agency (albeit overpaid for some but it’s Dan Snyder) but that won’t equal anymore wins for the ‘Skins. Jones has all the physical tools of being a big time QB in the NFL and will tempt the 49ers in the 2 hole but falls to Washington. If Washington passes on QB help in the 2012 NFL Draft it will go down as an epic failure on Mike Shanahan’s “vaunted” resume.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Matt Kalil, T, USC
Cincinnati has one of the most underrated tackles in the NFL with Andrew Whitworth but their line is in need of an overhaul. They will give this season for Andre Smith to get it together and remain healthy. After another season of mediocrity he will be moved to guard. They can move Whitworth to RT or play Kalil at RT to begin with but Kalil has elite skills and will be an immediate upgrade to the Bengals OL.
5. Miami Dolphins – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
I will be the first to admit that I’m not high on Barkley right now. This pick is assuming he takes a leap forward in 2011 to elite collegiate status. Big if. This organization is in flux and needs a new face to give it life. Fans are chanting for Kyle Orton…you know it’s bad. Barkley is athletic, has adequate arm strength but needs to work on accuracy down the field.
6. Tennessee Titans – Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina
Tennessee lost Jason Babin in free agency and are left with unproven Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones as starters. Coples brings the physicality and athleticism to the position to make an immediate impact on a front seven that is deplete of talent. The Titans failure to address the offensive line in the 2011 NFL draft and free agency will have to be taken care of early in the 2012 NFL Draft also.
7. Seattle Seahawks – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
I love the skills Gilmore brings to the field and have him higher ranked than most. I think he’s an elite corner in the NFL and capable of playing day one. Seattle is faced with starting Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant in 2011 and traded Kelly Jennings to the Bengals (no loss there). They have very little depth and need a legitimate #1 corner. Trufant will be more effective as the teams number 2 corner.
8. Oakland Raiders – Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
Jared Veldheer is the only Raider OL that is a capable starter. They re-signed a one-year stop gap in Khalif Barnes but he won’t be around in 2012. Veldheer would be a more effective RT with Martin playing the left side and solidify the tackle position for the next decade.
9. Carolina Panthers – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Steve Smith is quickly fading and the Panthers need to give Cam Newton a chance. Jeffery is a physical freak at 6’4, 230 and has enough speed to separate. Jeffery is not a blazer but has excellent body control and hands. He shields defenders as well as anyone currently in the NFL which will make him an immediate red zone threat in the NFL.
10. Denver Broncos – Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona St.
The Broncos have Joe Mays and drafted Nate Irving high in the 2011 NFL Draft but neither is nearly as talented as Burfict. The trio of Von Miller, Vontaze Burfict, and D.J. Williams is as good as any in the NFL and would give the Broncos a solid corps for years to come. Irving was one of my favorite prospects in the 2011 draft but could move outside once Williams leaves Denver.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Robert Lester, S, Alabama
The Vikings would love for Martin or Kalil to fall to them at 11 as the next tackle off the board could/should come in the late-20’s (Reiff). 12 may be a little high for a safety but Lester is special in my mind. I would compare him to an Earl Thomas type early impact in the NFL. He’s a playmaker that is capable of coming up to stop the run. The Vikings are in dire need in the secondary and particulary at safety with Tyrell Johnson and Husain Abdullah penciled in as starters.
12. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson is the most complete back to come out in many years. I know…I know the Browns will lock up Peyton Hillis long term but this move would give the Browns and Colt McCoy an unbelievable tandem to work with well into the future. Montario Hardesty can’t be counted on with his injury history and Brandon Jackson is a nice third back. Aside from that they have the luxury of two first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft so this is a bonus and they get one of the most talented players in the draft.
13. Dallas Cowboys – Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Cowboys didn’t have the cap room in 2011 to dramatically change their secondary. They will look early and often to find help at these positions. Hosley has been the early buzz prospect after McShay put him in his early mock projection. There is good reason for some of that hype. I’m not buying him as a better prospect than Kirkpatrick or Gilmore but he will be a solid pick in the top 15.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars – Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina
The Jags had one of the better offseason’s south of Philadelphia. They upgraded some porous spots on defense. The one area they left relatively untouched was at DE. They badly need someone that can pressure the QB. Moss will provide that pressure and surprisingly plays the run really well.
15. St. Louis Rams – Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
The Rams are really weak up the middle of that defense and need an impact player on the defensive line. Forston is the ultimate upside guy that when playing up to his talent level can be an impact DT. He is eerily reminiscent of former Cane Warren Sapp in his pass rushing abilities from the DT spot. If Forston puts it all together the sky is the limit. Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan are not the answers inside on this defense and they are in major need of an upgrade. Forston is probably a reach at this point but STL is desperate for DT help.
16. Chicago Bears – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Bears did well to pick up Roy Williams but he isn’t a true number 1 at this point in his career. They have a bevy of #2 and #3 WR on their roster but no #1. Anyone that follows NFL’s Future knows my feelings about Blackmon. I think he could wind up being a bust in the NFL. Another system guy that doesn’t run crisp routes and has inconsistent hands. The need trumps the value and the Bears take Blackmon off the board at 16 in the 2012 NFL mock draft. For the record I would take Jeff Fuller before Blackmon.
17. New York Giants – Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
William Beatty will start the season at LT and it could make for a long season for Eli Manning who has struggled through the preseason. Couple that with the aging Kareem McKenzie and you have a major need area at tackle. Reiff is vastly overrated by many but the lack of tackles after Kalil and Martin force the Giants to reach a little to address this need. 17 is as high as I’m going with Reiff in any of my 2012 NFL Mock drafts.
18. San Diego Chargers – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Chargers will run James Holt and Takeo Spikes out as starting MLB’s in their base 3-4 defense. Te’o is the most athletic LB of the very talented 2012 LB crew. He will be called on early in San Diego to make an impact up the middle.
19. Detroit Lions – Michael Brewster, C, Ohio St.
Protecting Matthew Stafford has to become more of a priority in Detroit. Dominic Raiola will be 33 next season and can’t
be expected to give much more for the Lions (or any NFL team for that matter). They have no depth behind him and need a starting caliber center in free agency or the 2012 NFL Draft. In this case they find the OSU, 4-year starter with the 19th pick in the 2012 NFL mock draft. Brewster has the skills to be an elite level center much like former OSU standout Nick Mangold.
20. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida St.
Baltimore needs to add another pass rusher to the fold. Jenkins is versatile in that he can play in the 4-3 as an end or stand up in the 3-4. He is the 12th best prospect on our 2012 rankings so getting him at 20 would constitute a steal. Jenkins is the best athlete of this year’s crop of DE’s and could make an immediate impact.
21. Houston Texans – Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
The Texans need to add another weapon to their WR corps to take some pressure off Andre Johnson. Fuller is versatile in that he can stretch the field and allow Johnson to work underneath and he is good in traffic catching the ball while Johnson attracts defenders deep. This would be a solid value if the Texans can get Fuller with the 21st pick of the 2012 NFL mock draft.
22. Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Rarely do true guards go this high in the NFL draft but DeCastro is that good. Arizona re-signed Larry Fitzgerald to team with Kevin Kolb but with their offensive line they will be lucky if Kolb makes it through the season. Both Rex Hadnot and Daryn Colledge are better suited as backups in the NFL.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
With Aqib Talib’s off-the-field issues and Ronde Barber’s age the Bucs have to be looking to the future at the CB spot. Dennard fits perfectly in their defense and could play nickel in his first season while learning from Barber. Barber is probably closing in on retirement either next season or in 2013 when Dennard can take over full time.
24. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Jovan Belcher and Derrick Johnson are a nice tandem inside in the KC defense but adding a talent like Luke Kuechly this late in the draft is an absolute steal. Kuechly doesn’t have the flash of Burfict or Te’o but is dominating presence in the middle with his ability to read and react. Getting Kuechly at 24 is the steal of this 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
25. Indianapolis Colts – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan St.
Worthy is a high upside guy that flashes as a dominant presence at times. He will need to prove that he can play at that dominant level consistently this season to remain a top prospect but getting him at 25 presents really good value in the 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
26. New England Patriots (f/N.O.) – Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami
The Pats will try their hand at another UM safety with Armstrong. Brandon Meriweather is wearing out his welcome in New England and I expect them to look early for a SS to pair with Patrick Chung. Armstrong is a raw prospect with a ton of upside that could develop into the next great Miami safety.
27. New York Jets – T.J. McDonald, FS, USC
Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard are solid safeties but T.J. McDonald could be a star at the position. This may be a bit of a luxury pick but the Jets are in position to take a shot on a guy with a ton of potential this late in the 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
28. Cleveland Browns (f/ATL) – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Sheldon Brown is nearing the end of his career and could be moved to safety. The Browns are high on Buster Skrine (and they should be) but Claiborne and Haden would make a really good tandem with Skrine playing in the nickel.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers – Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
James Farrior is still playing relatively well but he is 36 years old. Skov and Lawrence Timmons would be a solid tandem to pair for the future. The Steelers really need help on the offensive line but won’t pass on adding a talent like Skov.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Sean Spence, LB, Miami
The one area of weakness on this team is at OLB. They are one good OLB away from having a good, young corps of LB’s. With Casey Matthews locking down MLB and 2010 7th rounder Jamar Chaney moving outside they are only in need of another OLB prospect. Spence is becoming my 2012 man crush the more I watch of him. He is a small in stature but packs a punch with each collision.
31. New England Patriots – Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
The Pats are going to play a lot in their base 4-3 defense and Taylor gives them a lot of flexibility to change schemes. Taylor is an elite pass rusher that needs work stopping the run but would be a perfect fit in New England. Taylor also presents very good value at 31 in the 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
32. Green Bay Packers – Kheeston Randall, DE, Texas
The Packers lost Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett is in his 11th season and will be 32 next season. Their other end Mike Neal is unproven and Randall is a very good value at 32 in the 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Randall is quietly becoming my top DT prospect in this draft and could see a dramatic rise into the middle of round one come next April.