The NFL Combine has concluded in Indianapolis and we are less than two months away from the 2012 NFL Draft. With the combine completed, the draft stock of many of the players has changed, so it was time to update the SPORTSMASHER MOCK DRAFT, so here is version 2.0:
Note: w/rumors included (this needed its own section): I have been issuing mock drafts for quite a while and I have never mocked a trade that has not happened yet, but 2012 is different than any previous year. The St. Louis Rams hold the second pick in the draft, and they have publicly stated that they will hold an auction and sell the pick to the highest bidder. The second pick in the draft will be Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the Rams drafted a quarterback first overall just two drafts ago, and need help in other areas. The most serious trading partners for the prized second pick in the draft are the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins, however we have heard rumors that the Dolphins, Seahawks, Chiefs, and even Patriots (who would flip the pick in an effort to acquire future picks in typical Belichick fashion) could be involved. The Browns hold two first round picks in this draft, nine overall picks, and hold a better pick than the Redskins so they should be able to trump any offer the Redskins can make for the second pick (you can read my article on why the Browns MUST land RGIII here). However, the Redskins are a notoriously aggressive organization who have no problem mortgaging their future for a player that they love, such as RGIII and a rumor has started making the round today that the Redskins might trade THREE first round picks (2012-2014) to move into the second spot. The conservative Browns will likely balk at matching this offer, but you never know. Another rumor making the rounds is the Rams will make a trade sooner rather than later, because RGIII’s value is extremely high right now following his 4.41 40 yard dash at the combine, and they think they are best suited to make a move right away. We are not sure who will pick second in April as of now, but I’m mocking a trade for the first time ever, and giving the #2 pick to the Cleveland Browns, and the Rams picks #4 and #22. They have the firepower to trump any Redskins offer, and it is the right move for the franchise going forward. Now let’s mock.
NOTE: Be sure you check the rumors paragraphs scattered throughout this mock draft. Look for your teams name. I got a little carried away.
01) Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford – With all the hype around the second pick in the draft and RGIII right now, people tend to forget that the Colts will be drafting the best pure quarterback prospect we have seen in over a decade, Andrew Luck, with the first pick in the draft. The Colts will cut ties with longtime quarterback and face of the franchise Peyton Manning and start fresh with Luck, which is the right move, and the only move. NOTE: Luck is a ridiculous athlete in his own right, at 6’4 234 lbs he ran a 4.67 40 yard dash. He is a stud and the Colts will be contending again in no time.
–Colts/Seahawks Rumor: Stop it Colts fans, you are not trading Peyton Manning before March 8th, because nobody is picking up his $28 million dollar bonus (if a team were to trade for Manning before March 8th, they would be on the hook for the $28 million bonus). The rest of the league knows you are not paying the bonus, you are releasing Manning, so no trade offers are going to come in. You have no leverage, because there is no chance you pay the bonus, so just release Manning and get it over with. He will be able to sign anywhere, and as I have said before, I think he should sign with the Seattle Seahawks. They have an excellent young defense and offensive line, a nice receiving core, they play in a winnable division with soft defenses (except for the 49ers). Peyton wants another shot to win, why not play for a solid team with a gaping hole at quarterback being their one weakness?
02) Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III, QB – Baylor – We touched on this above, the Browns need to make a trade and be sure they land RGIII. If you read my previous article, I listed the starting quarterbacks the Browns have used since they returned to the NFL in 1999, and it is ugly. The Browns need a face of the franchise, the city of Cleveland needs a face of the city. Trading up and selecting Griffin makes the Browns relevant again, puts eyeballs on the team, sells jerseys. They have to make a move and secure Griffin, and if they don’t and I’m a Browns fan, I think I move and follow a different team.
03) Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Kalil, OT – USC – Not the most exciting pick of all time, however it is a cause of Best-Player-Available meets Need. Kalil is a prototype bookend left tackle who should quickly solidify Minnesota’s offensive line and become a Pro Bowl caliber player. The Vikings need to do a better job of protecting quarterback Christian Ponder, and Kalil instantly brings that to the table. NOTE: Minnesota also has needs at both corner and wide receiver here, so do not rule out Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon, however left tackle is a more valuable position and I think selecting Kalil is a no brainer.
04) St Louis Rams – Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU – Most draft analysts have the Rams selecting Justin Blackmon here, as quarterback Sam Bradford desperately needs weapons, however, new head coach Jeff Fisher knows the importance of a great secondary in what has become a passing league. He also knows that wide receivers (like running backs) tend to fall on draft day, and that he will have no problem drafting a wideout later on in a draft that is not top heavy, but fairly deep at the position. Morris Claiborne is an elite cornerback prospect who can shut down opposing receivers in St Louis for years to come.
–Rams/Cowboys Rumors: New Head Coach Jeff Fisher is attempting to bring many unrestricted free agents from the Tennessee Titans, where he previously coached, to join him with the Rams. One of these players is cornerback Cortland Finnegan, which would lessen (but not eliminate) the need for a cornerback and allow the Rams to look elsewhere with this pick. The two teams who figure to be most aggressive in the Finnegan sweepstakes are the Rams and the Dallas Cowboys (Jerry Jones loves how he plays the run, which Dallas corners did NOT do last season) and his signing will have a great impact on the draft.
05) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama – If the draft shakes out like this, I have no idea what the Bucs and new head coach Greg Schiano will do, so I went with the best player available and gave them Trent Richardson. Schiano is a throwback football coach who loves to run the ball, and Richardson will be a top tier running back in the pros, but I am just not convinced he picks a back here. Running backs are a dime a dozen in this league, and this team does have other needs, but there was just not a lot of value there. I considered giving the Bucs defensive end Quentin Coples, however they have invested a lot of high draft picks in the defensive line over the last few years and I’m not sure they go in that direction again. Running backs also tend to slide on draft day (heck, even Adrian Peterson slid to #7 behind players like Jamarcus Russell, Gaines Adams, Levi Brown and LaRon Landry) so stay tuned. I have also heard that the Buccaneers are very open to trading out of this spot to acquire more picks.
–Buccaneers Rumors: The Bucs are far under the salary cap and the speculation is that they will be one of the most aggressive teams in the league during the free agency period. I have heard rumors that Tampa Bay will make an offer to Saints guard Carl Nicks and will target a free agent wide receiver from a group that includes Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Mario Manningham. If this team can add Nicks, Richardson and a top tier wideout they will be scary in the 2012 season.
06) Washington Redskins – David DeCastro, G – Stanford – We all know that the Redskins desperately covet Robert Griffin III, at this point more than any franchise in the NFL, but in this scenario they are unable to trade for him. I am not buying recent reports that, if the Redskins cannot trade up for RGIII they will select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill here. He is an athletic, Mike Shanahan type quarterback and his numbers should have been better with 64 dropped passes last season, however he is an astronomical reach at #6 overall. Offensive guard is a huge hole for the Skins, as the only guards on their roster right now are Will Montgomery and Chris Chester. I understand DeCastro is a mauler and not the typical Mike Shanahan offensive lineman, however, I believe he is a twelve year starter and future multiple time Pro Bowler. The addition of DeCastro, who is ready to start from day one, would benefit any organization.
07) Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma State – Talk about a team who needs a lot of work. The Jags have one of the best tailbacks in the NFL, a decent offensive line when healthy, and a serviceable defense. New head Mike Mularkey coach will need to figure out if Blaine Gabbart is capable of becoming a winning quarterback in the NFL, and to do this, he needs to provide Gabbart with some weapons. The Jaguars top receiver was Mike Thomas (44 catches, 415 yards, 1 touchdown) last season. They have to get Gabbart a threat on the outside, which opens up the game for everyone else, and in this case that man is Justin Blackmon.
–Jaguars/Mario Williams Rumors: The Jaguars have a new owner and will be very active and aggressive on the 2012 free agent market. The team has invested a lot of draft picks in their pass rush over the past few years, most of which have not panned out, and it is the a major issue for an otherwise sturdy defense. The rumor is that the Jaguars are preparing a huge offer for soon to be free agent defensive end Mario Williams, which would quickly address their lack of a pass rush. Will Mario Williams want to join a rebuilding organization with so many question marks? The Jags will face stiff competition from many organizations, as the Texans (who will not place the franchise tag on Williams, their defense was great without him last season and the cost is too much) still hope to retain him and the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos and Raiders among other have all expressed interest in signing Williams.
08) Miami Dolphins – Riley Reiff, OT – Iowa – The Dolphins are the most complete out of any teams picking in the top ten, with a solid defense, but I am not confident they will start winning until they find a quarterback. Matt Moore is a competent NFL quarterback, but would clearly be better served as a backup, and I would not be surprised if they make a move for Green Bay’s Matt Flynn this offseason. New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was Flynn’s offensive coordinator in Green Bay, so this move makes almost too much sense. When you sign a quarterback, you need to protect him, and Reiff would be an excellent addition to the Dolphins at right tackle. I have heard the rumor that some teams at the NFL combine were scared off by Reiff’s arm length and thought he was better suited as a guard, but I blame Seattle’s Robert Gallery for this (both were excellent tackles at Iowa, both early draft picks, Gallery was a bust at tackle in the NFL but became an excellent guard). The addition of Reiff would really sure up the right side of the Dolphins offensive line going forward.
09) Carolina Panthers – Quentin Coples, DE – UNC – The Panthers found their franchise quarterback in the 2011 draft by selecting Cam Newton first overall, and they instantly became a feared offensive unit, although they could really use another playmaker at wideout opposite Steve Smith. Carolina’s problem was their defense, which was atrocious last season and turned every game into a shootout, and I expect them to focus heavily on this unit during the 2012 draft. Carolina has needs everywhere on defense and Quentin Coples is a local prospect coming out of North Carolina, who is as physically impressive as you’ll see, but was disappointing on the field in 2011. Coples is a huge lineman (6’6 285lbs) who can play outside on rushing downs and inside on passing downs, and while it worries me that he never consistently dominated or became an elite pass rusher, but he has the tools to develop into a force in the NFL.
10) Buffalo Bills – Courtney Upshaw, OLB – Alabama – The Bills had the worst pass rush in the NFL last season, and it was embarrassing to watch opposing quarterbacks sit in the pocket and pick them apart all day. Ingram is exactly what the Bills need, a versatile outside linebacker coming out of the best defense in the country, who can pressure the quarterback coming off the edge as an outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt at defensive end. He will also be reunited with fellow Crimson Tide defender Marcel Dareus, who was drafted by the Bills in the first round of 2011, and we know Alabama knows how to recruit defenders. Given the Bills track record, they will again pass on the offensive line, sorry Buffalo fans.
–Bills Rumors – I am hearing that free agent wide receiver Stevie Johnson is not going anywhere. They are negotiating with him, and if they cannot come to an agreement on a long term deal, they will franchsie him.
11) Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, NT – Memphis – Scott Pioli and Romeo Crenell know the value of a big, space eating nose tackle in the center of the 3-4 defense, and while they have tried multiple players in this position over the past several seasons, none have ever held the job down. Poe can quickly fix this problem. He is arguably the most athletic big man I have ever seen at the combine (6’3 348lbs, 44 reps of 225lbs on the bench, 4.98 40 yard dash) and while his lack of production on the field is very questionable, he could potentially be the next great nose tackle. I am already wondering if his tape will eventually catch up with him as it is scrutinized closer to draft day.
12) Seattle Seahawks – Luke Kuelchy, MLB – Boston College – I really like Seattle’s young core of players, they are solid defensively, have a great young offensive line and a nice collection of weapons on offense. If they could only land a halfway competent quarterback, I really think they could contend for a division title or a wild card spot (Please see my Peyton Manning rumors under the first pick of this mock draft). The Colts may lose middle linebacker David Hawthorne in free agency, and he is not a standout to begin with, why not grab a tackling machine like Kuelchy to replace him in the first round of the draft. I need to apologize to Kuelchy, I have been saying throughout the draft process that he was not athletic enough and would slide into the second round of the draft, and he totally shoved that in my face at the combine. This kid is the total package, he proved he is athletic at the combine, and there is no doubt that he jumps off the tape. He would be a great addition to the Seahawks young defense.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford – I felt awful for the Cardinals quarterbacks last season, as it seemed the pass rush had them flustered the second they received the snap and forced bad throws on nearly every release. The offensive line needs a full overhaul, and a good place to start is Martin, who will be at worst a solid starting tackle in the NFL. I have my doubts that Martin will ever be a Pro Bowler, but he is a huge upgrade for a team that needs major help along the offensive line. Martin does not really stand out in any single area, but he is good at everything, and being well rounded and consistent is sometimes better in the NFL than being strong in one area and having to work on other areas.
14) Dallas Cowboys – Stephon Gilmore, CB – South Carolina – Anyone who saw the Dallas secondary play last season knows that Terrence Newman has nothing left in the tank. Watch his performance against the Giants in the season finale, if Dallas wins that game they and not the Giants are in the playoffs, and maybe they are making a similar run. Newman was abused in the passing game, could not tackle in the run game, and possibly cost Dallas a playoff berth. We all know what happened next, the Giants won the game and ended up winning the Super Bowl. The Cowboys need top flight corners. I expect both Janoris Jenkins and to a lesser extent Dre Kirkpatrick to fall in the draft due to character concerns, and while they are both talented, Gilmore is right there with them minus any red flags. I have always liked Gilmore and always had him pegged as a first rounder, he proved me right at the combine measuring 6′ 190lbs and running a 4.44 40 yard dash. I also think he is a better fit for what Dallas does than Kirkpatrick, who is more of a cover-2 corner.
–Cowboys Rumors – The Cowboys will also sign a corner in the free agent market, they will release Terrence Newman, who should retire after his performance last year. As I said in the Rams section, Jerry Jones loves Cortland Finnegan and desperately wants him in Dallas next season, however he would also be okay with adding Kansas City free agent Brandon Carr. Either player would be a fine addition. If I am the Cowboys, there is no way I place the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, as they are planning on doing. He plays opposite Demarcus Ware, one of the best pass rushers alive, and is solid but nothing more. If I’m Dallas, I let Spencer walk, and draft a pass rusher here to take his place. Then I fill my cornerback void on the free agent market, with one starter (Finnegan or Carr) and add some depth later in the draft. I should run a football team, if any owners agree, email me.
15) Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox, DT – Mississippi State – I hate to give the Eagles one of my favorite players in the draft (I hate the Eagles), but he is exactly what Andy Reid looks for in a defensive lineman. Cox is an explosive one gap defensive tackle who I am confident will be an impact player in the NFL. He stands out on film and backed it up with an excellent combine. The Eagles were extremely soft up the middle this season, and adding Cox would bulk up the defensive front and allow Jason Babin and Trent Cole to make even more plays outside. The player the Eagles could really use is middle linebacker Luke Kuelchy, but he is off the board in this scenario. (Joke: how many times will you hear “This Cox can really penetrate” during this draft process? Listen for it.)
–Eagles Rumors – I am, unfortunately, friends with a lot of Eagles fans. They have the most ridiculous media in the NFL, which was proven again, because Andy Reid had a meeting with Robert Griffin III at the combine. I instantly received calls, texts and emails because some idiot in the Philadelphia media decided that the Eagles were trying to trade up for RGIII, and was wondering if packaging their first round pick with Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson would get it done. Philly fans, you are married to Michael Vick after that monster contract extension he received, and there is a zero percent chance you are going in another direction at quarterback in the foreseeable future.
16) New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB – South Carolina – If the draft shakes out this way, this would be an incredible break for the Jets, who get a player I think is worthy of a top ten pick. The Jets desperately need an edge rusher who can get pressure on the outside of their defense, and that is just what Melvin Ingram was born to do. He is a ridiculous athlete, but also a fiery leader, who brings the type of attitude to the team that Rex Ryan would love. Not only was he excellent in the testing at the combine, but he was incredible in position drills, and I have little doubt he’ll make an impact in the NFL. He is one another of my favorite players in this draft, and he is exactly what the Jets defense is missing.
–Jets Rumors – I live in New York, and although I am not a Jets fan (I root for the Super Bowl Champs, the good New York team) I am pretty plugged in to Jets off season rumors. It sounds like the Jets are preparing offers for a free agent wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes, and have their eyes set on the likes of Laurent Robinson, Robert Meachem or Pierre Garcon. They do not have the cap space to compete for players like Vincent Jackson, Marcus Colston or Dwayne Bowe, so they are looking to the next tier of players. The team has also discussed a reunion with Braylon Edwards, however it would have to be on a cheap incentive laden deal, following his basically non-existent season with the 49ers after signing a big contract and leaving the Jets in the dust. He is more of a fall back option for the Jets.
17) Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – Alabama – I really like what the Bengals are building through the draft over the last few seasons, they have built a scary young team on both sides of the ball, and with the Steelers and Ravens both aging there is a solid chance they will be contending soon. Starting cornerbacks Nate Clements and Leon Hall are both coming off of injuries, and they could use some depth at the position. Kirkpatrick is a very talented player and backed that up with an excellent combine workout. He was recently arrested, but the Bengals do not care about character concerns as much as other teams, and the overall consensus is that the incident was overblown and Kirkpatrick is a good kid who made a mistake. He would be a great addition to the Bengals excellent young core.
–Bengals Rumors – We have learned that the Bengals covet running back Trent Richardson and think that adding him to their young offensive core of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green could turn them into the top young offensive unit in the league. The Bengals own two first round picks and are willing to surrender one of them (not both, don’t worry Bengals fans) plus some mid-round picks to get within striking distance of the Alabama tailback, if he starts to slide. In this scenario I had Richardson going fifth overall, and the Bengals would be better off grabbing a tailback or two in the middle rounds than trading all the way up to five, which would cost them both first rounders, not an option in my opinion. However, if Richardson begins to slide, as running backs tend to do on draft day, look for the Bengals to aggressively move up the board in order to secure the stud running back. We know that the Bengals have already had conversations with the Cardinals about swapping one of their first picks and some later draft picks for the Cardinals #13 pick, putting them closer to Richardson’s range.
18) San Diego Chargers – Cody Glenn, OG – Georgia – This is absolutely a need pick for the Chargers, who have lost Pro Bowl guard Chris Dielman to retirement and are not expected to retain starting tackle Marcus McNeil. I am a big fan of Cody Glenn, the massive lineman is versatile and capable of playing multiple positions along the offensive line. The Chargers need to have an excellent draft, they have drafted very poorly over the last few years and it is really starting to catch up to them. They are in danger of losing several key players from their core due to free agency and could be at a crossroads as a franchise unless they can pull of an excellent off season.
19) Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame – This would be best case scenario for the Bears, who need a big target and true number one wide receiver more than anything, and Floyd is just that. The 6’3 220lb Floyd is fast and has excellent hands, and adding him to the offense makes the Bears secondary targets, which struggled last year much better. Quarterback Jay Cutler has been begging the Bears to draft or acquire a receiver like Floyd, and in this scenario he gets his wish.
20) Tennessee Titans – Michael Brockers, DT – LSU – The Titans pass rush was nonexistent last season, and landing the freakishly talented Brockers with the 20th pick would be an absolute dream come true. Brockers has as much potential as anybody in this draft class, he is huge (6’5 322lbs) and has freakish athleticism for his size. Throughout the draft process I maintained that I did not think Brockers was ready for the NFL yet and would be better served returning to LSU, and he struggled at the combine (only 19 reps on the bench, 5.36 in the 40 yard dash), and was surpassed by Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox on many draft boards. He is very young, but the sky is the limit for Brockers if he develops like he should, and if Tennessee is willing to wait a year or two they could have a total monster on their hands. The Titans have some nice young defensive linemen, however they lack that one player that opponents are scared of and need to gameplan for. Brockers can be that guy.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Kendall Wright, WR – Baylor – Following his disappointing performance at the NFL combine (looked doughy, ran a 4.67 40 yard dash) I had a feeling that Wright would fall into the second round, but scouts do not seem to be putting as much stock in his workout as I thought. If Wright can rebound with a solid Pro Day, he would be a great addition to the Bengals offense, as his ability to stretch the field would open things up for the rest of the Bengals offense. It’s no secret that the Bengals want a young running back for their offensive core, but Miami’s Lamar Miller would be a reach here, and they can find a back in the later rounds.
22) St Louis Rams – Mike Adams, OT – Ohio State – Sam Bradford has been getting whacked snap after snap behind a leaky Rams offensive line, and it is hurting his development. Adams is raw and needs work on his technique, but he is huge (6’7 323lbs) and there is a chance he develops into a Pro Bowl caliber tackle down the road if he can refine his natural abilities. New head coach Jeff Fisher will make keeping Sam Bradford upright a priorit, and Adams is a step in the right direction to retooling the Rams offensive line.
23) Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB – Northern Alabama – It only takes one team to bite on a player with character concerns like Jenkins, who at times looked like the best cornerback available at the combine in Indy, he has all the talent in the world. The problem with Jenkins lies, of course, off of the field. Jenkins has been arrested three times, has fathered four children with three different women, and was dismissed from the University of Florida. I have heard that some teams have pulled Jenkins off of their draft board entirely, however, the Lions secondary is awful and they desperately need a player with Jenkins’ talent. Will they bite if Jenkins slides all the way down to #23?
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Devon Still, DE/DT – Penn State – This has become a need pick for the Steelers, as they are likely parting ways with old veterans nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive end Aaron Smith due to cap concerns. The Steelers need to get younger up front, the only young prospect they have on the line is Ziggy Hood, and the versatile Still (6’5 303lbs) could be a nice fit as a defensive end of the future for the Steelers.
25) Denver Broncos – Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan State – The Broncos did not get consistent enough play on the defensive front last season, and Jerel Worthy could help fill the void in the middle of the Broncos defense. Worth was one of the best players in the country last season in spurts, and he is a beast when motivated, however he is notorious for taking plays off and has a questionable motor. Head Coach John Fox and quarterback/religious superhero Tim Tebow will help keep Worthy on track.
26) Houston Texans – Alshton Jeffery, WR – South Carolina – I was tempted to give the Texans wide receiver Steven Hill (Georgia Tech) here, and while they are both big receivers (around 6’4 220lbs) and Hill tested much faster at the combine, when you study the tape Jeffery is the better receiver. I am fairly convinced the Texans will take a receiver here, Andre Johnson has been doing the job with little to no help for a few seasons now and it’s time to get quarterback Matt Schaub another serious target in the passing game.
27) New England Patriots – Nick Perry, OLB/DE – USC – When Bill Belichick looks at Perry, he will see a young Willie McGinest, another similar player out of USC. Perry was once one of the top recruits in the country and is an absolute physical freak (6’3 271lbs 4.52 40 yard dash 38.5 inch vertical jump) who was a good player at USC, but never consistently produced as expected. The Patriots really need to upgrade their pass rush, and adding a physical freak like Perry could really help the cause.
–New England Patriots Rumors – We know that the Patriots will retain outstanding slot receiver Wes Welker. We also know that Bill Belichick will absolutely upgrade Tom Brady’s wide receivers, and will get him some dangerous weapons on the outside of thee field. The Patriots have been linked to many pending free agent wide receivers (such as Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd or Marcus Colston) and we know they are preparing a large offer for these players. Here is a scenario that I was thinking about today, and unlike the other rumors I am spreading, these ones are not based on any whispers that I am hearing from various sources. We have learned that the Pittsburgh Steelers will not use their franchise tag on wide receiver Mike Wallace, and will instead will slap a first round tender on the star wide receiver. Wouldn’t it be the ultimate “Typical Belichick Move” to sign Wallace to a large contract, that the Steelers would not match, which would basically only cost the Patriots one of their first round picks? Not only would Belichick weaken one of his biggest rivals, but he would also get the type of player that his team sorely needs, in lightning fast wideout Mike Wallace. In the Patriots offensive scheme, Wallace would be an absolute monster, and could have a season similar to Randy Moss’ record breaking 2006. Again, this is not based on fact, just brainstorming on my part. Back to the draft.
28) Green Bay Packers – Alfonzo Dennard, CB – Nebraska – A prospect that is flying under the radar right now, although he had an excellent showing at the NFL combine, I consider Dennard underrated at this point. Green Bay’s pass defense was terrible last season, in fact their entire defense was terrible, as they fought through many injuries. Dennard would instantly upgrade Green Bay’s secondary and will give them some flexability if they want to move Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson to free safety full time, as has been suggested.
29) Baltimore Ravens – Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE – Illinois – The Ravens could use another excellent pass rusher opposite Terrell Suggs, and they would be very lucky if Mercilus falls this far, as he could be getting looks as early as #12 by Seattle. Mercilus is a 6’3 260lb pass rusher who had 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss last season, he was able to run a 4.68 40 yard dash at the combine, fourth among defensive ends. I am a big fan of Mercilus and think he is long gone by this point in reality, however in this scenario, he is a huge upgrade for the Ravens pass rush.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Steven Hill, WR – Georgia Tech – Nobody improved their stock more at the combine than Steven Hill, the 6’4 215lb wide receiver, who ran a ridiculous 4.36 40 yard dash and leapt into first round consideration. Equally as impressive was Hill’s performance in positional drills, where he displayed excellent body control, and caught seemingly every pass thrown to him. The 49ers need a consistent deep threat in the passing game, and while Hill is a boom-or-bust type player, he could develop into a serious weapon.
31) New England Patriots – Chase Minnifield, CB – Virginia – Bill Belichick is very familiar with Minnifield, as he coached his father, four time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL 1980’s All-Decade team, cornerback Frank Minnifield. Belichick desperately needs to upgrade the secondary in New England and, while everyone projects Minnifield to end up in more of a Cover-2 scheme, he can really play. In this scenario Belichick passes over Alabama safety Mark Barron, because he knows he can find a safety in the second round, and grabs Minnifield.
32) New York Giants – Zach Brown, OLB – North Carolina – The Super Bowl Champs (and my favorite team) could really use a tight end, since their top two players at the position each tore an ACL in the Super Bowl and will not be ready to start the 2012 season. The Giants may fall in love with Stanford tight end Colby Fleener, but he is a reach here, and I think they will address the position in Free Agency (Joel Dresseen, maybe). The Giants have spent a lot of recent draft picks on linebackers, and look like they’ve found a potential diamond in the rough with Jaquain Williams in the 6th round of last year’s draft, but Brown has too much talent to pass up on. Brown is an outstanding athlete (ran an official 4.5o 40 yard dash at 6’1 244lbs) and notched 105 tackles 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions last season at UNC. He would be an excellent fit for, and an welcomed addition to, Perry Fewell’s defense.
Just Missed The Cut:
Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback – Texas A&M – A hot name right now that is being mentioned as early as 6th overall to the Redskins (if they are unable to trade up for RGIII) Tannehill is a former wide receiver, so he is very athletic, and his solid numbers would have been better last season if not for an astounding 64 drops. Tannehill broke his foot during offseason training, and has been unable to work out for scouts. He has the look of a Mike Shanahan style quartback, due to his mobility, and has a live arm. I know he will be drafted somewhere in the first round, he could be the Christian Ponder of this draft, it’s just that I don’t (normally, RGIII was an exception, we know the Rams are trading that pick) do trades in mock drafts. In this scenario Tannehill falls into the second round.
Dont’a Hightower, MLB – Alabama – Hightower was a standout at Alabama, although he looked a little stiff and clunky at times, and I thought he would struggle at the combine. I was very wrong, as Hightower measured 6’2 265lbs and ran a 4.68 40 yard dash, and showed that he can play inside linebacker in either the 3-4 or the 4-3 front (although I still think he fits best in 3-4 scheme). He has an excellent shot at being drafted in the first round, and if not, he won’t last long on day two.
Mark Barron, S – Alabama – We had no safeties come off the board during the first round of this mock draft, and while it is a weak class, Barron is clearly at the top of it. Barron was injured and did not participate in the combine, however, he is a big safety who can play the pass and make the big hit. Much like his teammate Hightower, if Barron is not drafted in round one, he won’t last long in the second.
Mike Martin, DT – Michigan – A player who is having one of the best post seasons in the entire draft pool, Mike Martin (6’1 306bs) first dominated senior bowl week, then followed that up with an excellent combine. Martin was in the top four defensive tackles in every event at the combine (including a 4.88 40 yard dash and 36 reps on the bench press) and will not need to wait long to hear his name called in April.
Lavonte David, OLB – Nebraska – If you have been watching college football over the last few years, you know the name Lavonte David, who was a tackling machine at Nebraska. The problem is, everyone thought he was too small to play linebacker in the pros, as he played in college at around 220lbs. David then showed up at the combine at 233lbs, did not lose any speed (4.56 40 yard dash), and once scouts study his tape you will start hearing his name a lot more.
Mohamed Sanu, WR – Rutgers – Most of the early mock drafts had Sanu penciled in as first round pick, however, Sanu struggled at the combine with a 4.67 40 yard dash. Sanu has always been a big bodied wideout (6’2 215lbs) is more quick than fast, and has excellent hands. He is a second rounder in my book, but should be a good number two wideout in the pros.
Pete Konz, C – Wisconsin – The highest rated center in the class really disapointed me at the combine, with just 19 bench press reps, which is nothing for a 6’5 314lb monster offensive lineman. He still could sneak into the first round depending on need and where Packers center Scott Wells ends up in free agency.