2012 NFL Mock Draft

Written by Aaron Aloysius on August 25, 2011


1. Cincinnati Bengals 



Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford*


After struggling badly in the first two preseason games, Andy Dalton played dramatically better against Carolina, completing 11 of 17 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. While a positive development, it’s important to note that the same Panthers defense was picked apart by Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, who’s anything but a franchise QB.


Hopefully, Dalton will continue to improve, but he’s still battling the prospect of the team drafting Andrew Luck. To keep Luck out of Cinci, he’ll have to excel against the AFC North’s tough defenses. Also, his arm strength will be tested as the Ohio weather gets increasingly awful.
If the team’s season’s wrecked by poor QB play, the Bengals won’t be able to pass on Luck. The Stanford quarterback possesses the ideal attributes for an NFL quarterback, especially when it comes to leadership and poise. He adeptly maneuvers within the pocket and has the strong arm to cut through cold December winds. For proof, check out the long ball Luck torqued while being dragged down by an Arizona State d-lineman.
He’s the type of quarterback who can turn around a moribund franchise. So if Dalton reverts to his early preseason form, the front office and fans alike will be happy to receive the ultimate consolation prize.


2. Seattle Seahawks 



Matt Barkley – QB – USC*


Pete Carroll flirted with the idea of adding a rookie quarterback but instead decided to go the veteran QB route. Unfortunately, that vet turned out to be Tarvaris Jackson. The Seahawks won’t go far with the maddeningly inconsistent quarterback; I won’t be surprised if Jesus doppelganger Charlie Whitehurst supplants him as the starter.


If neither proves to be the solution at quarterback, Carroll won’t mind reuniting with Matt Barkley. The five-start recruit chose USC over a number of top-flight programs and showed a lot of promise as a freshman starter. He only continued to improve after Carroll’s departure and could solidify his top five draft status with another impressive season.


There’s been some speculation that the true junior will stay in school so that he can lead the Trojans to a 2012 bowl game victory. But Barkley’s already been there, done that against Boston College in ’09: he may enjoy himself even more playing behind the Seahawks’ talent-laden offensive line and chucking the ball to Sidney Rice.


3. Miami Dolphins 



Matt Kalil – OT – USC*


If the Dolphins are picking this high, Tony Sparano’s staff will no longer coach the team, and GM Jeff Ireland may be stripped of the ability to badger draft prospects with inappropriate questions.


As a result, it’s difficult to project which players the Dolphins would be interested in. Most likely, they’ll seek to maintain their already solid 3-4 defense and work to improve their sputtering O. Though a franchise quarterback would be ideal, the team may not be sold on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, who seems poised to be a very divisive prospect.


Instead, the team could go with Matt Kalil. An exceptionally talented offensive tackle, Kalil has been so effective on the blindside that top ten pick Tyron Smith ended up lining up at right tackle. And if all goes well, Kalil will grade out as a better prospect.


The Dolphins already have an elite left tackle in Jake Long, so Kalil would be something of a luxury pick. However, the new rookie wage scale makes having a second excellent tackle much more affordable. Just like Jerry Jones has done in Dallas, Miami’s front office could make sure the team has a a pair of guys who will dominate in what’s increasingly become a passing league.


4. Carolina Panthers 



Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina


An argument could be made that the Panthers would be better off addressing other positions: they’ve yet to find a capable complement to Steve Smith, who very well could gone after this season, and their secondary still needs work. However, there are some players who are just too good to pass up on: “Q”, as Coples’ teammates call him, almost certainly is one of ’em.


The Panthers would be extremely fortunate if the teams picking ahead of them selected QBs and offensive tackles, position’s the team’s set at. That would afford them the opportunity to draft a dominant all-around defensive end in Coples.


Like Panthers end Charles Johnson, Coples possesses the run-stuffing ability of a base end and the pass rush skill to embarrass very good left tackles. But Coples is much more of a physical freak with tantalizing upside.


While not a finished product, Coples lacks the weaknesses of recent UNC d-linemen. Unlike Robert Quinn, Coples consistently is one of the first guys off the snap, thereby maximizing his explosiveness off the edge. And unlike Marvin Austin, the 6’6″ d-lineman plays with good leverage, which allows him to more than holding his own against the run.


If the of Greg Hardy, Eric Norwood, and Everette Brown can’t combine to lock up on end spot, the Panthers would be wise to get someone who could become a top five player at that spot. Q could be that guy.


5. San Francisco 49ers 



Alfonzo Dennard – CB – Nebraska


The Niners have begun to remodel their secondary: GM Trent Baalke & new coach Jim Harbaugh got rid of expensive vet Nate Clements and tight-hipped young’un Taylor Mays. They went to the draft to bring in raw but talented corner Chris Culliver and added veterans Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers.


Drafting Dennard would be a tremendous step forward in that process. The Nebraska corner possesses shut-down ability: opposing quarterback were more comfortable going after first round Prince Amukamara.


And in many ways, Alfonzo is a natural complement to Culliver: while the South Carolina product brings plenty of speed, Dennard is a more physical corner who excels at jamming receivers at the line. Those two could develop together and provide extra time for Aldon Smith to go say hello to quarterbacks.


6. Buffalo Bills 



Riley Reiff – OT – Iowa*


If the Bills end up picking this high, drafting a quarterback will be a big topic of conversation in the Bills’ war room. The team could go with Landry Jones, but addressing their turnstile offensive lineman may be the better option, especially when the not exceptionally mobile Jones isn’t an ideal fit for Gailey’s system


The best LT left on the board, Reiff could immediately step in and bolster the underwhelming unit. The Iowa lineman’s progressively improved during his time playing under Coach Ferentz. The Bills had Bryan Bulaga high on the 2010 draft board; Reiff should be ranked even higher.


Also, Reiff’s feisty lunch-pail mentality will be a good fit for a city that loves Fitzy’s unkempt lumberjack beard and gritty play. If Gailey does want to add a young quarterback, Fitzpatrick’s would serve as an effective player-coach and mentor. Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill could be a very good option for the Bills in Round 2. Reiff certainly is a great option for the team in the first frame.


7. Tennessee Titans 



Alshon Jeffery – WR – South Carolina*


Unfortunately, Kenny Britt’s behavior off the field has become more and reckless. The nightmare he gives defensive coordinators are offset by the headaches he’s managed to give the Titans’ coaching staff.


If the team looks elsewhere for new #1 wideout, they’ll likely head straight to Alshon Jeffery. The thickly-built receiver is a top-five talent; while his game is much different than AJ Green’s, the Gamecock offers similar upside.


To cement his elite draft status, Jeffery will need to convince scouts that he won’t get any bigger. The 6’4″, 230-pound wideout can’t let any added weight hamper his explosiveness. But if he keeps his weight down, Jeffery would become Jake Locker’s best firend. His sticky hands and wide catch radius would allow him to make plays even when Locker misses the strike zone. For that reason, he’d most likely be worth the risk that comes with his exceptional potential.


8. Washington Redskins 



Landry Jones – QB – Oklahoma*


Of the 2012 prospects, no quarterback fosters more disagreement than Jones. Many draft analysts believe he possesses all the traits of an elite NFL quarterback. Some have even suggested that Jones could prove to be a better prospect than Andrew Luck.


Other draft observers are concerned about the rough edges in Landry’s game, most notably his bouts of inaccuracy and unimpressive poise while facing pressure. Those issues are quite similar to the ones that made some uncomfortable with Blaine Gabbert. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they make QB-needy teams like Miami and Buffalo pass on the Sooner.


But the prospect of moving from John Beck to an immensely talented quarterback may be too enticing for Mike Shanahan. Shanny’s supposedly staked his reputation on Beck being a successful NFL quarterback, but he won’t put his job on the line if the 30-year old QB can’t lead a winning team.


9. Denver Broncos 



Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama*


The McDaniels regime reportedly soured on Knowshon Moreno soon after they drafted him. If he continues to disappoint, John Fox & co. won’t have much of a reason to move forward with him as the team’s feature back.


Even if Moreno improves, Fox may want to have a pair of excellent runners at his disposal, much like he did in Carolina. Trent Richardson is a talent on the same level as those Carolina backs. The Bama running back possesses the agility to sidestep defenders and the lower body strength to plow through tackles. He’s an angry runner who also makes an impact on specials.


If he becomes better at reading his blocks, Richardson will establish himself as a better prospect than his old running mate Mark Ingram. Getting picked in the top ten, perhaps even in the top five, seems well within the realm of possibility.


10. Oakland Raiders 



Zach Brown – LB – North Carolina


Some picks are self-explanatory: freakish athlete Zach Brown to tha Raiduhs is one of ’em. The 230-pound linebacker reported once ran a 4.28 40. If he even comes close to replicating that performance in Indy, Al Davis will have no choice but to select Brown.


Brown’s speed does translate to the field. The linebacker plays sideline-to-sideline and flashes the ability to be a dynamic blitzer. That versatility could lead the Raiders to explore using him at a variety of spots.


Brown does need to play with more aggression, a deficiency that could hamper his draft stock. But the Raiders won’t be afraid to go all-out to make sure he ends up in Oakland.


11. Cleveland Browns 


Brandon Jenkins – DE – Florida State*


Thus far this preseason, the Browns have struggled to generate pressure with their front four. While rookies Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard have shown some promise, the team still is a couple pieces away from fielding a solid 4-3 defense.


Brandon Jenkins would alleviate the team’s pass rush deficiency. The 266-pound pass rusher has a great first step, which has allowed him to wreak havoc against NFL-caliber offensive linemen: early rounders Anthony Castonzo and Orlando Franklin struggled to handle the Florida State pass rusher.


Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has said the team place supreme value in speed off the edge. Jenkins certainly could provide that explosive pass rush ability, and the underrated run defender could be effective on all downs. He’d immediately become the team’s top pass rusher, allowing Jabaal Sheard to assume his ideal complementary role.


12. Jacksonville Jaguars 


Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma State*


In the last couple years, the Jaguars have brought in several rookie wideouts; unfortunately, most of them have struggled to produce and/or stay healthy. Small school rookie Cecil Shorts has shown some promise and Mike Thomas looks like a keeper, but Blaine Gabbert needs some more talented targets to thrive in the high-scoring AFC South.


Justin Blackmon would provide the Jags’ offense with quite a boost. He was exceptionally productive last year, gaining close to 1,800 receiving yards and 20 TDs. And Blackmon’s skillset will translate well from the spread offense to the NFL game. His physicality and burst off the line will allow him to be an Anquan Boldin-like big play receiver.


It’s possible that Jaguars GM Gene Smith won’t be interested in Blackmon — the character-conscious general manager may be turned off by the wideout’s DUI arrest. But if Blackmon stays out of trouble this year, his great work ethic and toughness on the field could cast away those concerns.


13. Kansas City Chiefs 


Donte Paige-Moss – DE/OLB – North Carolina


Quite impressively, Tamba Hali has managed to wreak havoc without having a dynamic pass rusher opposite him. But to take the next step defensively, the Chiefs need to add a bookend pass rusher who can make quarterbacks even more fidgety in the pocket.


The team’s hoping that Justin Houston will be able to become that complementary outside backer. While he’s flashed plenty of potential in the preseason, his attitude and work ethic concerns necessitate the team bring in an additional option.


Paige-Moss is a hard-charging pass rusher who can run the arc around offensive tackles. His motor makes him more of a “Patriot Way” type than Houston, and he possesses comparable upside. With both guys in the fold, the Chiefs can rest assured that they’ll be able to bring a lot of heat on passing downs.


14. Arizona Cardinals 


Jonathan Martin – OT – Stanford


The Cardinals have acquired a promising young quarterback in Kevin Kolb, but he very well could get killed behind their mediocre offensive line. By not putting some excellent big uglies in front of him, the team now risks having their 6 year, $65 M QB become gun-shy.


Left tackle Jonathan Martin would be up to the task of keeping Kolb clean. Andrew Luck’s blindside protector at Stanford, Martin possesses the quick feet to mirror speed rushers, and he can be effective both as a mauler and a second level blocker.


To become a top-end OT, Martin will need to become more consistent landing his punch and get better at adjusting to speed-to-power moves. If he manages to do so, Martin could move up to the top ten. The skills already evident on his 2010 tape make him a decent value here.


15. Dallas Cowboys 


Stephon Gilmore – CB – South Carolina*

Expected to attack their mediocre secondary on draft weekend, the Cowboy instead waited until the 5th round to take a cornerback. While they have signed Orlando Scandrick to a long-term contract, a true #1 corner would be a boon to the Cowboys’ D.


While still raw, Stephon Gilmore could be that top cornerback for the Cowboys. A very physical corner at the line and a hard-hitter in the run game, Gilmore’s attitude matches that of Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. And the aggressive corner could become a bigtime playmaker in Ryan’s complex defense.


16. Chicago Bears 


Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame


The Bears brought in Roy Williams to be the big wideout in their receiver corps, but the early indications are that the addition wasn’t a smart one. To replace him, Chicago could add a wideout with similar tools in Michael Floyd.


After showing a lot of promise in ’09, Floyd had a productive but not quite as impressive junior season. The big wideout looked bulkier and less explosive, which, along with poor QB play, made him less of a big play threat. He made matters worse by getting into off the field trouble after the season, which put him at risk of being suspended by the university and the coaching staff.


Fortunately, Floyd didn’t lose his spot on the squad and now appears poised for a big season. If he continues to mature and sport a newly svelte figure, he’ll earn himself a spot in the top twenty picks.



17. Minnesota Vikings 


Jerel Worthy – DT – Michigan State*


It’s not often that one hopes a player will get back to playing like he did as a 19 year-old freshman, but that happens to be the case with Jerel Worthy. The big, explosive d-tackle muddled through an injury-marred rSoph season: he looked less agile and didn’t help himself by using sloppy technique.


But even with his ups & downs, Worthy has the look of a first round pick. He can be effective either as a plugger or a penetrator — that makes him an ideal fit for the Vikings, who need young’uns at both one- and three-technique. Indeed, with some time and good coaching, Worthy could be the next dominant Vikings d-tackle.


18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 


Cordy Glenn – OG/OT – Georgia


Despite throwing big money at Davin Joseph, the Bucs still field a below average offensive line. Left guard Jeremy Zuttah isn’t a world-beater, and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has been mediocre the last two seasons. With a tough schedule this year, the team’s deficiencies on the line could be exposed.


A versatile mauler like Cordy Glenn is exactly what their o-line needs. Glenn’s the type of big bruiser OL Coach Pat Morris prefers, and he has experience playing both guard and tackle. He’s better suited playing inside but could kick outside if Trueblood gets hurt or continue to disappoint. He’d be a better option than backup tackle James Lee, whose play this preseason has been absolutely brutal.


19. Detroit Lions 


Luke Kuechly – LB – Boston College*


The Lions have adopted a BPA strategy, often failing to fill what draft analysts consider their most critical needs. As the consummate football player, Luke Kuechly is as strong candidate to become Detroit’s next surprise pick. The inside linebacker is an underrated athlete with truly special on-field smarts: coaches have compared his instincts to Ed Reed’s.


The Lions did bolster their LB corps in free agency, but new inside linebacker Stephen Tulloch only signed a one year deal, and starting weakside LB DeAndre Levy is a restricted free agent after this season. Next fall, Kuechly could assume the starting job inside patrol the middle of the field behind behind Suh & Fairley.


20. Houston Texans 


Alameda Ta’amu – NT – Washington


No 3-4 defense is complete without a dominant nose tackle, something the newly odd front Texans D lacks. While Earl Mitchell could have some success in Wade Phillips’ one gap scheme, the team could use a fat man who possesses ideal strength against the run and the quicks to make plays in the backfield.


Husky defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu is a great fit for that nose tackle role. With a good motor and underrated athleticism, Ta’amu can be effective in a variety of ways. The 330-pounder’s in good enough conditioning to stay on the field for all but a few snaps a game, and he even can make a small but significant impact pushing the pocket on passing downs.


Wade Phillips may see a little Jamal Williams in Ta’amu. Both he and the Texans’ front office would be elated to get that kind of player in Houston.


21. St. Louis Rams 


Brandon Thompson – DT – Clemson


Robert Quinn should do a tremendous job harassing quarterbacks, but his impact could be blunted if the Rams don’t get a d-tackle who’l stop QBs from stepping up in the pocket.


Brandon Thompson would be up to that task. With his explosive first step and impressive strength, Thompson easily pushes offensive linemen into the backfield. Despite his meager sack numbers, he’s more than capable of dominating on passing downs. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves up to the 5-7 sack territory this fall. Combined with Quinn & Long’s strong play at defensive, Thompson could help the Rams field a dominant defensive line.


22. New York Giants 


Manti Te’o – LB – Notre Dame*


Ever since Antonio Pierce retired, the Giants have lacked an impact player inside. Enter Manti Te’o, who’d be a significant upgrade over current starter Jonathan Goff.


An instinctive player who can stay on the field for all three downs, Te’o would assume a starting role the moment training camp opens. He’s also a high character guy who wouldn’t give strict disciplinarian Tom Coughlin any trouble. Along with Jason Pierre-Paul and other recent draft picks, Te’o would lead a youth movement in the Giants’ front seven that could set up the team for long-term success.


23. New York Jets 


Devin Taylor – DE/OLB – South Carolina*


The Jets’ defense features a great combo of corners and a stout defensive line, but Rex Ryan’s been forced to scheme pressure due to a rather unimpressive outside linebacker group.


Taylor would give Rex a pass rusher with good explosiveness off the line and impressive length. The South Carolina end’s already shown some ability as a standup rusher, so the transition to playing 3-4 OLB shouldn’t be a difficult one.


His ability to contribute immediately would be a big plus for a team on the brink of reaching the Super Bowl. If he can use those long arms to reach Tom Brady, Big Ben, and possibly Aaron Rodgers, the team may find a Lombardi trophy within its grasp.


24. San Diego Chargers 


Dre Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama*


With Quentin Jammer 32 and progressively declining, the Chargers could use a young cornerback capable of starting opposite Antoine Cason. The team could turn to Dre Kirkpatrick, a supreme talent still plagued with bouts of inconsistency.


Many draft analysts have Kirkpatrick projected as a top ten pick, but he still has some edges to his game. Most notably, Kirpatrick will struggle in press coverage, often getting beat down by physical wideout. He needs to use his length more effectively to win those matchups; otherwise, teams won’t see him as a guy who can be effective right away, or at least incapable of being effective in all forms of coverage.


25. Philadelphia Eagles 


Andrew Datko – OT – Florida State


Andy Reid’s never been hesitant to use a first round picks on a linemen, which probably won’t change in 2012. And with right tackle Ryan Harris playing on a one year deal, OT could be a big need area next April.


FSU offensive tackle Datko would be a an ideal fit for the Eagles, whose new blocking scheme places an emphasis on smarts and athleticism. Datko’s always been a good athlete and smooth in pass protection. Now, he’s paired that ability with a bulked up 320-pound frame. If he’s also improved his power at the point of attack, Datko easily could go this high, perhaps even move up to the top half of the round.


26. Cleveland Browns 


Chase Minnifield – CB – Virginia


Browns fans were disappointed when former Brown Clay Matthews’ son ended up in Green Bay instead of Cleveland. Ultimately, that semi-homer angst proved to be justified.


Perhaps the Browns will redeem themselves by selecting the next Browns legacy prospect in Chase Minnifield. Frank’s son possesses good length and ball skills: in the Miami game, he managed to bring in two Jacory Harris arm punts.


With Sheldon Brown’s play rapidly declining, the Browns need to grab a replacement soon. Minnifield could be the solution and form an impressive crew with Joe Haden and nickel corner Buster Skrine.


27. Baltimore Ravens 


Ben Jones – C – Georgia


With Matt Birk now on the wrong side of 35, the Ravens will be looking for a replacement for the Harvard man. The 6’3″, 316-pound Ben Jones could be a solid replacement. With good athleticism for the position, the Georgia product is a little more strength-building in the weight room room away from being a very good pivot.


The Ravens will have other solid option in Michael Brewster, but Jones appears to be the best prospect for snapping the pigskin to Joe Flacco.


28. New England Patriots 


Greg Childs – WR – Arkansas


It’s unclear whether Ochocinco will manage to keep his head on straight in New England; his respect for Belichick may wane if he doesn’t get the ball as often as he’d like.


With that in mind, the Pats would be wise to add a starting-caliber rookie receiver. Greg Childs would be a very good option for the squad. A jam-defeater since ’09 (just ask Kareem Jackson), Childs’ skill set should allow him to step right into an NFL offense.


While he may be slowed a bit by the remaining ill-effects from last year’s season-ending injury, Childs already has a strong bromance with new starting quarterback Tyler Wilson. He should be very productive later this fall, and with better than expected workout numbers, the wideout could catapult into the first round.


29. New England Patriots 


David DeCastro – OG – Stanford*


Many draft analysts, including yours truly, were critical of the Pats’ latest first round selection Nate Solder. Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick knew better than the rest of us, as the rookie left tackle has been impressive in early preseason action.


The Patriots could continue the youth movement on their offensive line by adding David DeCastro. An mauler with a wonderful mean streak, DeCastro could open up big holes for Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, as well as prolong Tom Brady’s career by keeping his jersey clean.


30. Indianapolis Colts 


Courtney Upshaw – DE – Alabama


With Jerry Hughes looking more and more like a first round disappointment, the Colts need to develop another pass rusher behind thirty-somethings Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.


While many draft analysts project Upshaw to play 3-4 outside linebacker — some even have him lining up inside — he possesses the tools to be effective as an end in Indy’s system. When healthy, he displays a very good first step and the strong hands to jolt linemen on inside moves.


In addition, he’s a strong enough run defender to fit in their pass rush-first defense. Indeed, Upshaw could prove to have immediate value as an early down sub for Freeney and/or Mathis.


31. Pittsburgh Steelers 


LaMichael James – RB – Oregon*


Unfortunately, promising rookie running back Baron Batch went down with an ACL tear, leaving the Steelers without a quick running back who could provided a change of pace and be used in the passing game.


To fill that role, the Steelers could take speedster LaMichael James. The dynamic back ran for over 1,700 yards last year. He’s a constant threat to take it to house, something that would make him a great complement to power back Rashard Mendenhall.


While something of a luxury pick, the team that came just a touchdown away from a Super Bowl would be wise to add a homerun threat.


32. Green Bay Packers 


Jared Crick – DE – Nebraska


The Super Bowl champs lost Cullen Jenkins in free agency, and second year 3-4 end Mike Neal has struggled to stay healthy. That has left the Packers in need of more talent at the postion, which Mr. Crick would provide.


The tall, long-armed Crick possesses the ideal frame for the position. He’s versatile enough to two gap or penetrate upfield. And he can make plays on passing downs by either knocking down passes or quarterbacks. He’d be a great fit for the Pack and help them once again compete to win the SB.


Aaron Aloysius

Aaron began closely following the draft in 2005. Since then, he’s overcome an Al Davis-like obsession with workout numbers, instead focusing more (but not exclusively) on the traits visible on prospects’ tape.

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