It’s about that time. A little over nine months ago, I produced my first 2012 NFL Draft-related post: a look at “under the radar offensive prospects.” There have been a googolplex of mock drafts written since then. Hell, I’ve done three myself. The first one came back on November 9th, 2011, when I though that Landry Jones, Manti Te’o, and Johnthan Banks might make themselves eligible for selection. I wrote my second mock while on Christmas vacation, before Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict sabotaged his own draft stock. My last stab in the darkness happened just before the free agency floodgates opened. There, I predicted (incorrectly) where Peyton Manning and Mario Williams would sign as free agents. The “nut” to my “blind squirrel” arrived a couple of days later, when my prediction of a Redskins/Rams trade for the number two overall pick (and, in effect, RG3) came true. These mocks are a lot of guesswork. It’s educated guesswork, but guesswork nonetheless. It almost feels futile, knowing that there will be five or six impossible-to-predict trades that will muck everything up. Along with the wheeling and dealing, there are always a few surprise choices; like Christian Ponder and James Carpenter a year ago, and Tyson Alualu and Tim Tebow the year before that. Trades are tough, and I don’t want to get into all that. Trying to sift through the smoke that teams like the Vikings and the Jaguars are putting out is too much to process. But surprise picks? That’s what makes these things fun. Even the most “accurate” mock drafts only get ten or so player/team or player/pick matches right, so why not try to throw some spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks?…
2. Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III* QB Baylor – Safe to say, we know this pick too.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil* OT USC – GM Rick Spielman insists that trade talks for the third overall pick are “heating up“; and it is possible that some team may covet Trent Richardson or Morris Claiborne. Still, it seems doubtful that anyone is itching to move up unless the cost is minimal. The Vikings can’t afford to pass on Kalil for a bargain-basement trade offer.
4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson* RB Alabama – The Browns know that drafting a running back this high is not ideal. But they need players who can score touchdowns without much help. Richardson is a multi-dimensional back, whose receiving ability and pass blocking will help bolster the teams’ air attack as well.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne* CB LSU – The Buccaneers are one team that might be tempted to move up to three. Might be. Then again, with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton in the division, why not just sit tight and get the best cover corner in the draft?
6. St. Louis Rams – Dontari Poe* DT Memphis – Most folks seem to think that the Rams have to go with Justin Blackmon in this spot. However, Blackmon just doesn’t appear to possess the physical skills of previous top ten receivers like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, or Julio Jones. Fletcher Cox is another popular choice here, but Poe’s unique size/speed combo make him the first real surprise choice of the draft.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Stephon Gilmore* CB South Carolina – The Jaguars are reportedly sending out signals that the Dolphins will draft Ryan Tannehill, and that the road to leapfrogging Miami runs through Jacksonville. If they don’t find any takers, the Jags will opt for the fast-rising Gilmore, who has drawn comparisons to Charles Woodson.
8. Miami Dolphins – Quinton Coples DE North Carolina – Ryan Tannehill may seem like the obvious choice for a team that has been striking out on quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired. But Miami already employs Matt Moore and David Garrard. Not exactly the cream of the signal-calling crop, but the Dolphins have too many holes to fill to add a third QB first. One of those holes is along the defensive line, where Coples will become an immediate starter.
9. Carolina Panthers – Stephen Hill* WR Georgia Tech – This is probably wishful thinking (though Hill did have a visit with the Panthers), but as I explained in my last mock draft, adding Hill to Carolina’s vertical passing game is fun to imagine.
10. Buffalo Bills – Mark Barron S Alabama – Apparently this year’s shortage of safety prospects has sent Barron’s stock soaring. He’s even been mentioned as a target for trade-ups, with the Cowboys, Chargers and Jets as possible suitors.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – David DeCastro* G Stanford – Could Tannehill land here? Possibly. But drafting him here would invite an immediate quarterback controversy and make life difficult for Head Coach Romeo Crennel. Instead the Chiefs should go with the anti-controversy pick. DeCastro is viewed as a plug-and-play, ten-year starter.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Fletcher Cox* DT Mississippi State – Some think Tannehill could land here, but it seems unlikely that the team would add a third quarterback before filling other holes. Cox can play all along the defensive line and is probably rated higher on most draft boards than Tannehill is.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Brockers* DT LSU – Barron is off the board, and taking an offensive lineman for a second year in a row just doesn’t seem like Jerry Jones’s style. Brockers would add beef to the front of Rob Ryan’s defense.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Melvin Ingram DE/LB South Carolina – Andy Reid will find a way to use the versatile Ingram, whether at defensive end or linebacker.
16. New York Jets – Dont’a Hightower* LB Alabama – Having just missed out on Ingram, Rex Ryan may view Hightower as the next best solution. While he didn’t always “wow” in college, there is a lot of untapped potential in his game.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State – Like the Stephen Hill to Carolina pick, maybe this is just something I’d like to see. Blackmon is a very good player who can make defenses miserable. But his best opportunity to shine would be to line up opposite of a dynamic number one receiver like A.J. Green.
18. San Diego Chargers – Whitney Mercilus* LB Illinois – The Chargers are always looking for pass-rushers and Mercilus has shown to be athletic enough to play OLB in the Chargers’ 3-4 defense.
19. Chicago Bears – Chandler Jones* DE Syracuse – Jones is a late riser who may be the Bears “Plan B” with Mercilus off the board. There’s a chance that the last two picks could be flip-flopped, with Jones going to the Chargers and Mercilus to the Bears.
20. Tennessee Titans – Dre Kirkpatrick* CB Alabama – With Courtland Finnegan gone, the Titans need help in the defensive backfield. Kirkpatrick isn’t a ballhawk but he’s a tough, physical corner.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Nick Perry* DE USC – Having, in effect, sacrificed Kirkpatrick for Blackmon, the Bengals would be wise to fill a hole along the defensive line with the gifted-but-raw Perry.
22. Cleveland Browns – Ryan Tannehill QB Texas A&M – The Browns are apparently prepared to take a receiver here, but if Tannehill does experience a freefall, they probably won’t be able to resist this pick. For what it’s worth, this is the first time I’ve left Tannehill out of the top 12 of a mock draft all year.
23. Detroit Lions – Riley Reiff* OT Iowa – The Lions need a long term replacement at left tackle and Reiff would be hard to pass up. I’ve wanted to put Janoris Jenkins here for a while; and if Reiff is off the board, that’s still in play.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Luke Kuechly* LB Boston College – Pittsburgh would probably prefer Hightower in this spot, but Kuechly is viewed as a safe pick and would be a Day One starter.
25. Denver Broncos – Jerel Worthy* DT Michigan State – The Broncos need help at defensive tackle, so Worthy or Penn State’s Devon Still are logical picks here.
26. Houston Texans – Coby Fleener TE Stanford – Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle are possibilities here, depending on how the dominoes fall. Fleener is the best tight end in the class and a legitimate red zone threat.
27. New England Patriots – Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB Alabama – The Pats need a pass rusher and Upshaw or Shea McClellin appear to be the best available in this case. Call it a toss-up.
28. Green Bay Packers – Shea McClellin OLB Boise State – McClellin has been compared to Clay Matthews III, so why not pair the two up here?
29. Baltimore Ravens – Peter Konz* Wisconsin – The Ravens could go in any number of directions, but finding a long term replacement for Matt Birk makes a lot of sense.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Cordy Glenn G Georgia – This is probably viewed as a possible trade-up spot for a team that’s high on Brandon Weeden. But I don’t think the NFL views Weeden as favorably as some of the public and media do. If Glenn is there at 30, he’s a no-brainer for the ‘Niners.
31. New England Patriots – Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama – Jenkins is viewed as a risk, and he’s certainly no “choir boy”, but the Pats have been known to roll the dice before. Last year they drafted Ryan Mallett despite rumors that he had used drugs. The year before that, they took Aaron Hernandez, who had a history of puffing the ganja. Granted, those were not 1st round risks, but Jenkins’ talent may outweigh his prior missteps.
32. New York Giants – Rueben Randle* WR LSU – Yes they have Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but they also lost Mario Manningham. Wide receiver may not be the most pressing need, but there’s a good chance that Rabndle would be the best player available on their board.