We are now just two weeks away from the 2012 NFL Draft and the excitement and speculation is growing daily. Sportsmasher.com has been listening to the rumors and predictions since the first snap of the 2011 college football season and we are ready to unleash an updated 2012 Mock Draft (Version 4.0). This will probably be our second to last mock draft with a final edition dropping right before draft day.
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Let’s get into it:
01) Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford - Peyton Manning is now in Denver and the future of the Colts belongs to the best pure quarterback prospect we have seen in over a decade, Andrew Luck, who will be selected with the first pick in the draft. The Colts will start fresh with Luck, but he will need a lot of help, as the only receiving threat they are really retaining from last season’s roster is Reggie Wayne and many longtime Colts have left town this offseason during the rebuilding effort. Luck is unquestionably the right pick for the Colts, but they will need to have a few excellent drafts in a row to land Luck a great supporting cast, like Manning once had in Indianapolis early in his career.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
02) Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III, QB – Baylor - The Redskins were able to beat the Cleveland Browns offer and trade up to secure the second best quarterback prospect in the draft and ridiculous all around athlete Robert Griffin III, in an aggressive move that will cost the Redskins their first and second round draft picks in 2012 and their first round picks in 2013 and 2014. The Redskins are one of the most aggressive organizations in the league and they paid a huge price to have the right to select RGIII, then quickly added weapons for him in receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan by way of the free agent market. This team still has some issues, especially along the offensive line and in the secondary, but if RGIII is as good as advertised this move will be a home run for Washington.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
03) Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT – USC - Not the most exciting pick of all time, however it is a cause of Best-Player-Available meets a huge 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. Most draft analysts have had this pick penciled in since day one, it’s value meets need. NOTE: Pro Football Talk has been reporting that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman really likes LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne as well, and if he’s leaking word out, he is likely trying to drum up trade interest in the pick (possibly in a swap with the Browns who are set at left tackle with Pro Bowler Joe Thomas and like Claiborne, so SMOKESCREEN ALERT). UPDATE: The Vikings have grabbed cornerbacks Chris Carr and Zack Bowman in free agency, making the selection of Claiborne more unlikely. I’m saying 90% Kalil is the pick with two weeks to go (Blackmon or Floyd both outside shots), the Vikings are just trying to drum up trade interest, thinking if they trade down a few spots they can add additional assets and still grab Kalil.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
04) Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama - Earlier in the draft process, I expected that Richardson would slide a bit, just based on the fact that running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL and you can find good ones in the later rounds, but Richardson has proved that he is different. He is the best running back prospect to enter the league since Adrian Peterson in 2007, who is a powerful back in the running game and a threat in the passing game. The Browns offense is stagnant, and they have the luxury of two first round draft picks, and they can afford to lock up a surefire star in the running game fourth overall. If not, Richardson will not have to wait long, as Tampa Bay will gladly grab him with the fifth pick.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU)
05) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU - I am getting the feeling that the Bucs and new head coach Greg Schiano really want to grab Trent Richardson, after addressing some huge needs in free agency by signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson, offensive guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright. The team could really use Richardson’s all around skill in the running game and excellent pass catching ability to help quarterback Josh Freeman, however in this situation he is gone. If Richardson is gone, the Bucs grab LSU corner Morris Claiborne, the best player available in this situation. When you look at the Bucs depth chart, you see plenty of corners at first glance, but Ronde Barber is 37 years old and had to be talked out of retirement, and Aquib Tailb has major character concerns and could again be facing jail time or league discipline. Drafting Claiborne will give the Bucs depth at the position in 2012 as he develops and a future star at cornerback going forward. NOTE: The signing of Wright still makes this an odd selection though, and I could see the Buccaneers surprising everyone if Richardson is gone. I would not rule out a player such as Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, Iowa right tackle Riley Reiff, or one of the defensive linemen (although Tampa has invested many first round picks on the defensive line in the past).
Mock 3.0 Pick (Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama)
06) St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma State - Early rumors have Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis brain trust evaluating defensive tackles at this selection and people claim that Fisher is enamored with LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who may remind him of a young Albert Haynesworth with his combination of size and athleticism. I’m not buying it. The Rams have desperately needed a true number one wide receiver for quite some time and have a gaping hole at the position on their roster (the only names – Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis, Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola). Sam Bradford needs a target that can open up this stagnant offense, and I think they look at Blackmon, who is as tough as they come and reminds me of a more explosive Anquan Boldin. UPDATE: I cannot go in a different direction just yet with this pick, but I am hearing a few rumors that give me pause, and I am starting to think Blackmon far from a sure thing. The first rumor I am hearing is that Fisher is very focused on the defensive line prospects, and seems intrigued by Brockers, Dontari Poe, Quentin Coples and Mark Ingram. The other rumor I am hearing is that several teams have Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd ranked ahead of Blackmon on their big boards. I have no idea if the Rams are one of these teams. I think Blackmon, with quarterback Sam Bradford in place, on the St Louis turf is a natural fit so I’m sticking with it for now.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
07) Jacksonville Jaguars – Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame - Even after signing wide receiver Laurent Robinson in free agency, the position is still a need for the Jags, whose passing game as abysmal in 2011. The Jags could really use a sure thing, such as Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro, since they have missed on so many draft picks in recent years. I would also consider the Jaguars a candidate to trade out of this spot and gain additional picks, because many teams are interested in Floyd (Bills, Cardinals, Jets) and Tannehill (Chiefs, Eagles) and may want to trade up to make sure the Dolphins do not grab one of these players at eighth. The Jaguars could use DeCastro or a pass rusher who could help the defense right away, and could benefit from the extra draft picks they gain. In this scenario, they take Floyd, who would make things easier and open up the offense for quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Mock 3.0 Pick (David DeCastro, OG – Stanford)
08) Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB – Texas A&M - I think this would be a horrible move for the Miami Dolphins. Listen, I think Ryan Tannehill has a shot to be a solid NFL quarterback down the road, but he needs to be developed. Tannehill is an athletic kid with a good arm (I have said a thousand times, he reminds me of Jake Plummer), he has the intangibles that all coaches love, but I would not touch him until the second round of the draft. If Miami drafts Tannehill, they will go with Matt Moore or David Garrard under center for at least half of this year, and they will likely struggle. They could find themselves with one of the first picks of the 2013 draft, which will feature a loaded quarterback class, and Tannehill on the roster along with other weaknesses. If I am Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, I look to upgrade wide receiver (Blackmon or Floyd) or offensive line (Reiff or DeCastro) in the first round this year. The Dolphins will be the worst team in the AFC East next season (Bills, Jets, Patriots all better) and will have one of the top picks in the 2013 draft, where they can trade up to secure USC’s Matt Barkley (like the Redskins did with RGIII) or another quarterback if need be. I like Tannehill, I think he has a shot, but Miami is an awful situation for any young quarterback to be going into. They have no weapons in the passing game and need help on the offensive line and defense, fix these areas, go with a veteran quarterback for a year.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame)
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 all the tools to develop into a force in the NFL. Reminds me a little of Giants’ Pro Bowler Justin Tuck when he was coming out of Notre Dame due to his ability to play all over the defensive front. UPDATE: I hear that the Panthers like a few of the defensive linemen here, including Michael Brockers, Dontari Poe and Melvin Ingram, however I still think Coples makes the most sense. If either top receiver (Blackmon or Floyd) falls this far, they could be considered, along with offensive linemen Reiff or DeCastro.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
10) Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff - I have had the Bills selecting a pass rusher here since day one, but they filled that need in a big way during free agency, by making former Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, and adding pass rushing specialist Mark Anderson. I know for a fact that they like Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd as a big target opposite Stevie Johnson, in this scenario the Bills grab Reiff who is surprisingly still on the board. Buffalo has ignored the offensive line early in the draft for years, and it has cost them, it’s now time to invest on the offensive line of the future. UPDATE: Now that former Bills offensive tackle Demetrious Bell has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, the position is even more of a need. If Reiff is on the board, and Floyd (who I know the Bills love) is gone, this pick should be a lock.
Unchanged from mock 3.0
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 a concern, he could potentially be the next great nose tackle. I commend the Chiefs for going out and signing right tackle Eric Winston, who was unexpectedly cut by the Houston Texans, and will greatly improve the offensive line in Kansas City. The work the Chiefs did during the free agency period eliminated several needs heading into the draft, and although I am not the biggest Poe fan, he fills a remaining need in their defensive scheme. UPDATE: I wanted to change this pick, but it makes too much sense for the Chiefs, who really need an excellent nose tackle to make their defense great. I considered having Kansas City select BC linebacker Luke Kuechly, which would give them an elite unit (teaming with Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston) but the nose tackle is just so much more important for a 3-4 defense, and the Chiefs could always find another inside linebacker later. I also considered Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro, and the team could use him as an upgrade on the interior offensive line, but Poe just seems like a perfect fit in Kansas City.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
12) Seattle Seahawks – Michael Brockers, DT – LSU - I have been mocking Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly here for months now, but Seattle signed veteran Barrett Ruud, lessening the need for an MLB (although it is still an option). Head coach Pete Carroll has done an excellent job at finding young talent since he has taken over in Seattle, and I love the teams young core of players, plus they made a huge upgrade at the most important position on the field when they signed Green Bay backup quarterback Matt Flynn. I still think that Brockers should have gone back to LSU, he has all the talent in the world, but is raw and needs to get stronger. I could make the case that, based on pure natural ability, Brockers is a top five prospect in this draft. Carroll sees that, and adds Brockers to a defensive line where he will not have to start right away, and can play as part of a rotation behind Brandon Mebane and Jason Jones. Brockers is also versatile and can line up at end in certain situations as a rookie, and with the right coaching and an NFL strength and conditioning program, he could become a monster quickly.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Luke Kuechly, MLB – Boston College)
13) Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro, OG – Stanford - Arizona has to start protecting their quarterbacks, they added G/T Adam Snyder in free agency, but need to do more. I have been mocking Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin here in the past, but in this situation, the Cardinals grab his teammate David DeCastro. I am a huge fan of DeCastro, he is one of the surest things in the draft, and would be a huge upgrade to the Arizona offensive line. I know that the Cardinals are also interested in a wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, but unless they trade up both Blackmon and Floyd will be gone. DeCastro brings a toughness and nasty streak to the table that the Cardinals have been lacking for the past few years and is ready to start right away.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford)
14) Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S – Alabama - I have been hearing in recent weeks that this pick is down to two players, Barron or Stanford guard David DeCastro, who they miss by one pick in this situation. I still find it hard to believe that if the draft shakes out like this, and surprisingly Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw are on the board, that Dallas passes over them for Barron. I like Barron, and I understand that a complete revamp of the secondary was necessary for Dallas, but I still think of Barron as a late first round or early second round talent. The ideal situation for Dallas would be grabbing DeCastro here and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith in the second round. If I am Jerry Jones, I take Ingram here, which gives you flexibility down the road opposite Demarcus Ware. As I said in mock draft 3.0, I have never been an Anthony Spencer fan and was surprised when Dallas franchised him, a player like Ingram could be much more productive. In this case, they go with Barron, who has experience behind a great 3-4 defense and continues to get better every year.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE – South Carolina)
15) Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox, DT/DE – Mississippi State - There is no doubt that the Eagles need to get stronger up the middle of their defense, and after they traded for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans, the focus will be on defensive tackle. Cox is blessed with an incredible first step and a non-stop motor, which will be an excellent fit on the Eagles defensive front and should give their horrific run defense a boost. NOTE: Other directions Philly could look include Safety Mark Barron or linebacker Luke Kuechly. We also know Andy Reid loves drafting offensive linemen, and DeCastro could be the pick here if he slides this far. The Eagles will look to strengthen the offensive line during this draft, but the signing of free agent tackle Demetrious Bell will not force them to do so in round one.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Michael Brockers, DT – LSU)
16) New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE – South Carolina - Dream scenario for Rex Ryan’s Jets here, as one of the best players in the draft who is a perfect fit in their system, falls to them at pick sixteen. Ingram is exactly what the Jets lack on defense, an explosive pass rusher, who is also a emotional leader on the field, and plays hard on every snap. I am hearing rumors that the Jets have their sights set on two players, Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd and Ingram and they may be willing to trade up to get one of them. In this scenario, Ingram falls into their laps, and the Jets get lucky. NOTE: The two players that I keep bringing up, because I just cannot see them being around this long on draft day, are Ingram and Luke Kuechly, since both are potential top ten picks and could be gone as early as fifth overall, somebody has to slide though.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE – Alabama)
17) Cincinnati Bengals – Luke Kuechly, LB – Boston College - In this scenario, the Bengals simply cannot pass up on one of the top prospects in the draft, who became the victim of an unexpected slide. Kuechly is simply a tackling machine who would be an upgrade in the middle of Cincinnati’s sturdy defense, and putting him next to Rey Maualunga when Cincinnati is in their 3-4 look would be a major upgrade. The Bengals have the luxury of two first round selections, and since they already have one of the best young rosters in the NFL, they can afford to take a player that is clearly the best available here. NOTE: I cannot see Kuchley being on the board this late, however he is in this scenario, and stranger things have happened. NOTE: The Bengals traded former first round pick linebacker Keith Rivers to the Giants for a fifth round draft pick, so in the unlikely scenario Kuechly falls this far, he is even more of a possibility.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Fletcher Cox, DT/DE – Mississippi State)
18) San Diego Chargers – Cordy Glen, OG/OT – Georgia - The Chargers were very active this offseason, gone are WR Vincent Jackson and RB Mike Tolbert, along with longtime starters on the offensive line OT Marcus McNeil and OG Chris Dielman. It is tough for the Chargers to pass on one of the athletic pass rushers here (Upshaw, Jones, Mercilus, Perry) but they know they must protect quarterback Philip River and open holes for running back Ryan Matthews if they want to relive their past success as an offense. Cordy Glenn is one of my favorite prospects in the 2012 draft, he is massive and versatile, and capable of playing right tackle or either guard spot from day one. NOTE: The Chargers had needs at wide receiver, but signed plenty on the free agent market including Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish and Eddie Royal to go with the returning Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown. None of these players will be the gamebreaker that Vincent Jackson has been for the Chargers, so I will not rule out another weapon for Philip Rivers here, but offensive line is the more immediate need.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Stephen Hill, WR – Georgia Tech)
19) Chicago Bears – Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford - Chicago did a great job this offseason, finding wide receivers for quarterback Jay Cutler, especially by trading for Brandon Marshall whose mere presence will make Sundays easier for everyone. They topped this off by adding receivers Devin Thomas and Eric Weems in free agency in addition to their stable which already includes Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox. While the Bears could use help on defense, they have good players on every level and can find players later in the draft. A pass rusher opposite Julius Peppers is an option, and Whitney Mercilus (who went to Illinois) is a fit. However it’s pretty clear the Bears number one priority is getting the offense going and keeping Cutler upright. Martin is the best offensive lineman still available and could allow 2011 first round pick, tackle Gabe Carimi, to stay on the right side where he is a better fit.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Cordy Glenn, OG/OT – Georgia)
20) Tennessee Titans – Stephen Hill, WR – Georgia Tech - Most of the draft talk right now revolves around the Titans selecting a cornerback with this pick, however I am not buying it. Although they lost Cortland Finnegan in free agency, the Titans have their starters entrenched and can add some developmental corners in the later rounds. The Titans Kenny Britt at wide receiver, and he is a true number one when he is playing, but he cannot seem to stay out of trouble or on the field due to injuries. Britt cannot be relied on, and young quarterback Jake Locker needs more weapons in the passing game going forward. Steven Hill is a big target (6’4 215lbs) who turned heads at the combine, and although he did not show it at Georgia Tech all of the time, he may develop into a true game breaking target for Tennessee down the road.
Mock 3.0 Pick – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – Alabama
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. Wright was unable to rebound at his Pro Day, but 40 times don’t mean everything, and scouts know how fast he plays. He would be a great addition to the Bengals offense, as his ability to stretch the field would open things up for quarterback Andy Dalton and star wide receiver AJ Green, and Wright is also an asset in the return game. NOTE: This is one of those picks that I just think happens. Seems like the right fit, right player for their needs plus right range.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
22) Cleveland Browns – Mike Adams, OT – Ohio State - The Browns already drafted Trent Richardson in this scenario, but their offensive line is not great and needs other pieces around left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack to open holes for the former Alabama tailback. Adams is a massive (6’7 323lbs) offensive tackle who fits the best on the right side in the NFL and would give the Browns one of the best tackles tandems in the NFL for years to come. As I said in an article I wrote yesterday, instead of reaching for Tannehill, the Browns should build around Colt McCoy for one more year. If it works, great, if it doesn’t 2013 will be a great year to find a quarterback in a loaded class headlined by USC’s Matt Barkley. A receiver is also a huge need, and the Browns could grab one (Hill, Wright, Alshon Jeffery) if they are still available.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Ryan Tannehill, QB – Texas A&M)
23) Detroit Lions – Stephon Gilmore, CB – South Carolina - I have had the Lions selecting Northern Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins here for months, however, I think his many character concerns are causing him to slide. Gilmore is bigger and just as athletic as Jenkins, but comes without the character concerns, and Detroit desperately needs help in their secondary. Jenkins is slightly more polished and better in coverage right now, but I think Detroit shies away due to his off field concerns. Gilmore would be a great fit. NOTE: In this mock I considered giving the Lions one of the available pass rushers, because Jim Schawrtz wants to have the best defensive line in the league, however the secondary is a huge need if they want to be considered a contender.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE – Alabama - I have had Upshaw’s teammate Don’t’a Hightower mocked here for a while, but Pittsburgh cannot pass up on Upshaw, an outside linebacker they never expected would slide this far. Upshaw is a much better player than some of the pass rushers who were drafted ahead of him and is excellent on tape, but he is not as fluid of an athlete, which is why he slips this far. The Steelers know a great football player who fits their system when they see him, and in this scenario they draft Upshaw to be James Harrison’s (who is 33 years old) replacement down the road.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Dont’a Hightower – ILB – Alabama)
25) Denver Broncos – Alshon Jeffery, WR – South Carolina - The Broncos are in “Win Now” mode following their trade for three time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning, and while I have mocked them a defensive tackle here recently, they just signed Justin Bannan and can now afford to wait on that position. For Manning to once again become the Peyton Manning of old, he needs weapons, and Alshon Jeffery would be a great fit. While Eric Decker is a great possession receiver and Demaryius Thomas is an excellent downfield threat, after them the roster is thin. Jeffery is a big receiver who would become a weapon for Manning in the red zone immediately.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan State)
26) Houston Texans – Chandler Jones, OLB/DE – Syracuse - Following the loss of former first overall pick Mario Williams in free agency, the Texans have no depth behind their current projected starting edge rushers. Everyone is projecting the Texans to grab another wide receiver here, but following a recent run on receivers, some great pass rushers who can contribute right away are still on the board. Jones is the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Johnny “Bones” Jones, so he has an excellent athletic pedigree, and is a freak athlete. The Texans can add depth at wide receiver later as they grab an impact pass rusher here.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Alshon Jeffery, WR – South Carolina)
27) New England Patriots – Nick Perry, OLB/DE – USC - When Bill Belichick looks at Perry, he will see a young Willie McGinest, a similar player out of USC, who was a longtime fixture of the Patriots defense. 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. NOTE: I did not change this pick, because I again think Perry will remind Belichick of Willie McGinest and will draft him for this reason.
Unchanged from Mock 3.0
28) Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus – OLB/DE – Illinois - The Packers have lacked any pass rush opposite Clay Matthews, and it really hurt them last season, so helping him out is a priority. 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 Packers pass rush. He reminds me of a poor man’s Aldon Smith, who had 14.0 sacks as a rookie for the 49ers last season.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Janoris Jenkins, CB – North Alabama)
29) Baltimore Ravens – Don’t’a Hightower, ILB – Alabama - The once dominant Ravens defense keeps getting another year older and sooner or later it will be time to add some new blood to the once elite unit. Hightower is an excellent middle linebacker who performed better than expected at the NFL combine and is experienced in the 3-4 scheme. Who better for Hightower to learn from, play alongside, and eventually replace as the leader of the Ravens defense than Ray Lewis? I expect the Ravens to select a lot of young depth for their defense in this draft.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE – Illinois)
30) San Francisco 49ers – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – Alabama - The 49ers seem to be loaded across the board (other than at quarterback) and have the luxury of picking the best player available. Talented cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is clearly the best player available in this scenario, and we have seen him projected much earlier in other mock drafts. He slides due to minor character concerns and the fact that he does not fit perfectly in every scheme, however he is an tough, big (6’2 186lbs) corner who is excellent in run support and can match up against big receivers in the red zone. Kirkpatrick can start out as cornerback depth and as a special teamer for San Fran and will develop into a starting corner quickly.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Devon Still, DT/DE – Penn State)
31) New England Patriots – Harrison Smith, S – Notre Dame - The Patriots really need help at safety, and Smith would help them right away in the back end of the defense. The Patriots need defensive players that can play right away, and Smith is a heady well rounded safety who should be able to step in right away and help the Patriots secondary. Let’s be honest, this is a two safety draft, with Mark Barron being the top prospect. It has become apparent over the past week that Barron will be gone long before the Patriots pick, and Smith is the only other safety worth a pick until the third round. If the Pats do not grab him here, Smith won’t last long, too many teams need help at safety. NOTE: Safety has suddenly become one of the most difficult positions to fill in the NFL, seems like there has been a dropoff of college prospects at the position.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Mark Barron, S – Alabama)
32) New York Giants – Colby Fleener, TE – Stanford - At 6’5 245lbs, Fleener ran a ridiculous 4.45 40 yard dash at his Pro Day. In a weak tight end class, I would not be surprised to see a team pressed for help at the position to select Fleener in the first round. I considered sending him to San Fran at pick #30, even though they already have Vernon Davis, because head coach Jim Harbaugh recruited and coached Fleener at Stanford. The Giants did sign Martellus Bennett to be their starting tight end in free agency, and he is an excellent blocker, who can be inconsistent in the passing game. Bennett was just signed to a one year deal, and has 2012 to prove himself, or he will not be retained. Last year’s starting tight end Jake Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and needed microfracture surgery (reserve tight end Travis Beckam also tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, but did not need microfracture). Fleener would instantly become a red zone target and would see time split out for Eli Manning and would give the Giants some depth at the position as a rookie as well as a consistent receiving threat to complement Bennett’s excellent blocking and will develop into the starter down the road. NOTE: I had the Giants looking at linebacker Zach Brown or an offensive lineman here, but they traded for linebacker Keith Rivers from the Bengals and signed free agent offensive tackle Sean Locklear, lessening those needs. They need a running back to replace Brandon Jacobs and could look at Lamar Miller (Miami), Doug Martin (Boise State), or David Wilson (Virgina Tech) here or in round 2. It would be very unlike Giants general manager Jerry Reese to draft a running back early, he is outstanding at finding gems at the position later in the draft.
Mock 3.0 Pick (Mike Adams, OT – Ohio State)
Just Missed The Cut:
Zach Brown, OLB – North Carolina - Brown is an outstanding athlete (ran an official 4.50 40 yard dash at 6’1 244lbs) and notched 105 tackles 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions last season at UNC. He is the a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 defense, and I do not see him lasting any longer than the first ten picks of the second round of the draft.
Janoris Jenkins, CB – Northen Alabama - Jenkins is a very talented player who is sliding on draft day due to a slew of personal problems and off the field issues (kicked out of University of Florida, several arrests including once where he needed to be tasered, four kids with three different women.) He is a very talented player, who is a little undersized, but is excellent in coverage. If he did not have so many character issues he would be a lock in the first round.
Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan State - There are some plays when Worthy looks like a Pro Bowlerm with his size, strength and quick first step. There are also games where you find yourself making sure he is even on the field. Consistency is key for Worthy, he could be a great player, but you need to questionif he will stop taking plays (sometimes whole games) off in the NFL.
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.
Alfonzo Dennard, CB – Nebraska - Dennard is a very good player who is somewhat a victim of a very deep cornerback class. He is a solid all around player, who should blossom into an excellent pro. It would not surprise me if he snuck into the bottom half of round one, but if not, he won’t last long on day two.
Devon Still – DT/DE – Penn State - Still is a big (6’5 303lbs) defensive lineman that I think fits best as an end in the 3-4 front. His stock has slid a bit, there was a point where he looked like a top fifteen pick, and if he is used correctly he could be a gem in the second round. I previously had him going to the 49ers in the late first, but now I think he could go as late as mid second round.
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.
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 (he improved at his Pro Day, running in the 4.4′s. 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 has long arms, which is likely the reason for the low bench press reps, and is tough. He could easily hear his name called in the first round as early as the Chicago Bears at #19.
Reuben Randle, WR – LSU - A player that I am not a huge fan of, but whose name keeps coming up, Randle was the former top wide receiver recruit in the country when he decided to attend LSU. He is a big receiver, who always looked a little stiff and bulky to me, and never stepped up and dominated in Baton Rouge. I would avoid him, but you can’t teach size and speed, so someone will grab him in round two. NOTE: I am hearing a rumor that Randle is a lock for round one and that one team thinks he is the best receiver in the draft. Could be his agent causing smoke, but sometimes, when there’s smoke there are flames.
Brandon Weeden, QB – Oklahoma State - I am very interested to see where Weeden is selected on draft day. He is clearly a first round talent, however, he is already 28 years old, following a stint in minor league baseball. He is already older than most of the starting QBs in the NFL by a few years. I think he would be a great fit in the second round for several teams with question marks at quarterback.
Mitchell Schwartz, OT – California - Schwartz has NFL bloodlines, his brother Jeff was a starting offensive lineman for the Panthers, who missed the 2011 season due to an injury.He is a big (6’5 318lbs) player who likely proects at right tackle in the NFL, and I am hearing whispers that he could sneak into the late first round. I still think he is going to be a mid-late second rounder, but he is someone to keep your eyes on,
Honorable Mention: Andre Branch, DE – Clemson, Kendall Reyes, DT – UConn, Kevin Zeiter, OG – Wisconsin, Mychal Kendricks, MLB – Cal, Josh Robinson, CB – UCF, Jayron Hosley, CB – Virginia Tech, Lamar Miller, RB – Miami, Doug Martin, RB – Boise State – Vinny Curry, DE – Marshall, Brandon Boykin, CB – Georgia, Brandon Thompson, DT – Clemson, Zebrie Sanders, OT – Florida State, Kelechi Osemele, OG – Iowa State, Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB – Oklahoma, Dwayne Allen, TE – Clemson, Bobbie Massie, OT – Mississippi, Joe Adams
You can find our mock on various databases as well: