With the season ending so unceremoniously yesterday, here's my first official 2012 mock draft.
1.Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck QB, Stanford
I just can't imagine the Colts will take Luck and keep Manning. I don't know who will go or when, but I fully expect them two be on different teams in September. For now, I have no choice but to send Luck to Indi.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil OT, USC
This is somewhat of a tossup between Kalil and Blackmon, but I think with Brandon Lloyd on the roster they can focus on the offensive line and draft Kalil. Kalil is probably the best OT prospect since Joe Thomas.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma State
Minnesota and Christian Ponder are jumping for joy with Blackmon coming to town. He can be as dynamic for them as AJ Green as been for Cincinnati this year. With Blackmon demanding double coverage, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson will have many more opportunities to shine.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson RB, Alabama
The Browns could get caught up in the media hype surrounding RG3 but they really shouldn't. Richardson is a better overall prospect and fills a bigger need since the Browns are parting ways with Peyton Hillis. Colt McCoy hasn't played badly but he has absolutely no help.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne CB, LSU
Tampa has a great situation with need meeting value taking Claiborne here. With Aqib Talib's legal issues and Ronde Barber retiring soon, Claiborne is perfect for the Bucs. He is probably a better pure corner than former teammate Patrick Peterson, though he doesn't have the freakish athleticism and return skills.
6. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor
Let me be clear, Griffin will be a top 3 pick. But since I don't try to predict trades, Griffin falls to the Redskins at 6. No team in the league has a worse QB situation than the Redskins. I expect them to trade into #2 spot and take Griffin, leaving Kalil to the Vikings, and Blackmon to the Browns.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples DE, UNC
The talent after these top 6 really drops off in my opinion, though Coples is potentially worth a top 3 pick but more often plays like a top 20. He lands in the middle for the Jaguars who hope he can provide some pass rush on the back end. Jaguars are in a tough spot since they are likely just out of reach to get Blackmon and too high for Alshon Jeffery.
8. Carolina Panthers: Devon Still DT, Penn State
A little bit of a reach but fills a huge need for the Panthers as they couldn't stop anyone running the ball this year. Devon has been flying up boards this year and with a strong combine could find himself in this range. Another option is Jeffery or maybe Dre Kirkpatrick.
9. Miami Dolphins: Alshon Jeffery WR, South Carolina
I think Miami and Washington are the two frontrunners for RG3 (no way he falls to Cleveland at 4). They will fight over Matt Flynn in free agency, and the loser will be the more desperate and more likely to trade with St. Louis. In this case, I'm assuming the Dolphins sign Flynn and draft Jeffery as another strong weapon opposite Brandon Marshall.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff OT, Iowa
The Bills have to fix their offensive line if they ever hope to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick or run block worth a damn. Reiff, according to Mel Kiper, has the best game tape of any prospect this year. He and Jonathan Martin are 2a and 2b behind Kalil, and it comes down to who they like more.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Martin OT, Stanford
Like I said, 2a and 2b. The Chiefs are in a similar situation to Buffalo and would love to get a top LT so they can shuffle the rest of their line down. With Jamaal Charles back next year and an improved OL (not to mention Cassel, Berry, Moeaki and others), the Chiefs are easily the favorite in the AFCW.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill QB, Texas A&M
A team reaching for a QB at pick #12? Where have we seen that before? Well the Seahawks won't have much choice unless they outbid everyone for Flynn or RG3. Hopefully, they'll learn from the Jaguars mistake and keep Tarvaris Jackson until Tannehill is ready instead of throwing him to the fire like Gabbert.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Luke Kuechly LB, Boston College
Arizona has very few playmakers on defense, and even fewer vocal leaders as far as I can tell. Kuechly is both, and would be a great cornerstone for Wisenhunt to build his defense around. They can't make the mistake of giving up on Kevin Kolb so early, and would be wise to take a lineman if Reiff or Martin were to fall to them.
14. Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro G, Clemson
As much as it pains me to say it, Romo did the best he could behind that terrible offensive line in Dallas. Tryon Smith is a good start, but a strong guy on the interior would be great for this team. DeCastro is one of the best all-around guards to come out in quite a while.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dre Kirkpatrick CB, Alabama
Another CB you say? Well, Asante Samuel trade rumors are already swirling and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be in a contract year in 2012. If Samuel is traded, they'll have only Asomugha at CB in the future, and even he is 31 next year. Plus, Kirkpatrick is BPA at this point, and could go as high as 8 to Carolina.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw OLB, Alabama
Upshaw is the best 3-4 OLB this year and the Jets desperately need a reliable and consistent pass rusher. Hopefully he can become a leader on this defense as well because they need someone to be the voice of reason on this emotional roller coaster they call a team.
The Bengals' best pass rusher this year was DT Geno Atkins with 7.5 sacks. Injuries were a part of that, but it gives you an idea of what kind of talent they have on outside rushers. Branch is on the rise right now and with strong workouts and interviews would be a great pick here.
18. San Diego Chargers: Vontaze Burflict ILB, Arizona State
Picking for the Chargers was hard for me because I just really can't figure out why they're losing games. They have talent at almost every level and can't put it together. Burflict is one of the best available and would fill a need for a playmaker on defense.
19. Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn G/T, Georgia
Chicago lucked out getting Gabe Carimi last year but need to continue working on their OL or else Cutler and Forte can't do much. Glenn will be best moved to G but could play RT if needed, and would provide a lot more room for Forte to run... assuming they pay the man. They could also take Floyd from Notre Dame to try to open things up for Cutler.
20. Tennessee Titans: Michael Floyd WR, Notre Dame
The Titans overachieved this year with Matt Hasselbeck, but they have to start building around Jake Locker. Kenny Britt is injury prone and has legal troubles, and Tennessee needs someone opposite him anyway. Locker would love having the 6'5" Floyd as a security blanket.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: David Wilson RB, Virginia Tech
Expect the Bengals to part ways with Cedric Benson this offseason. He has been effective but never really a feared weapon in this offense and is hitting 30 soon. Cincinnati will add Wilson to the Dalton-Green duo and make a young, fierce trio. They also need a Guard, but with Glenn gone no one else is worth it.
22. Detroit Lions: Alfonzo Dennard CB, Nebraska
If you've seen the Lions this year you know they have one hell of an offense and one terribly bad defense --their secondary in particular. Dennard is the best Corner available and would be rated a lot higher if not for his 5'9" frame. Detroit might also consider Peter Konz, as their OL was atrocious again this year.
23. Cleveland Browns (from Falcons): Melvin Ingram DE, South Carolina
The Browns would love to get a playmaker at WR for Colt McCoy, but with no one worth the pick they look to add to their pass rush with Ingram. Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard were great picks last year but another top DE would really solidify this line.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower ILB, Alabama
Pittsburgh's top needs this year are OG, NT, and ILB in that order. The top Guards are gone and Hightower is clearly better than any NT prospect. He could replace James Farrior almost immediately and be a great complement to Lawrence Timmons on the inside. If Jason Worilds proves to be a reliable replacement for James Harrison, the Steelers have a young and dangerous group of linebackers once again. Other picks could be NT Dontari Poe, C Peter Konz (would move to G), or RB Lamar Miller (the last time they had their starting RB go down late in the year, they suffered a wildcard upset and drafted a replacement in the 1st round). They would certainly investigate trading up for David DeCastro should he fall within range.
25. Denver Broncos: Brandon Thompson DT, Clemson
Denver's defense has to be commended for keeping Tebow alive this season. That offense is going to center around him no matter what, so it doesn't make much sense to add weapons around him since he's just going to do whatever he wants anyway. They could take Lamar Miller since McGahee is old and Moreno is worthless, but Thompson is too good to pass up here. He should be a top 20 pick.
26. New York Giants: Zach Brown OLB, UNC
Aside from the front 4, this defense is pretty bad. They need playmakers on the back end since they can get consistent pressure with their line. Brown has a ton of experience in coverage and has elite speed for a linebacker. He is a great tackler and has the potential to contribute as a pass rusher as well.
27. Houston Texans: Nick Toon WR, Wisconsin
This feels a little too much like the Chiefs last year, but that doesn't mean its wrong. Houston needs someone opposite Andre Johnson and another option for Matt Schaub. Toon will also help take a safety out of the box giving Arian Foster more room.
Belichick, for all his defensive genius, has one terribly bad unit right now. In transitioning back to a 4-3, they have to get more pieces on the line for it to work. Montgomery is the best 4-3 pass rusher on the board right now, which is something they desperately need.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz C, Wisconsin
Not a flashy pick, but with Matt Birk nearing retirement and already offering to help groom his replacement, the time is right to get a Center. They would love one of the top ILBs to fall to them to replace Ray Lewis, but they will probably have to trade up for that. Still, Konz is good value here.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Lamar Miller RB, Miami
Frank Gore has had a phenomenal year but is getting older and has never been a model of good health in the NFL. Miller would provide a more explosive burst, spell Gore to keep him fresh and hopefully prolong his career. They could also look for a WR to replace the already-cut Braylon Edwards or just take BPA on defense. I'm pretty sure they'll take BPA regardless of position unless they trade out of this pick.
31. New England Patriots: Fletcher Cox DT, Mississippi State
Another young lineman to add to the defense. Knowing Belichick, they won't have this pick anyway.
32. Green Bay Packers: Jarvis Jones OLB, Georgia
The Packers will take the best player on defense. In this case, its Jones who should turn into a good threat opposite Clay Matthews in pass rushing situations.
If this is how the draft unfolds, who do you think the Steelers should draft?
ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama (59 votes)
NT Dontari Poe, Memphis (34 votes)
OG Peter Konz, Wisconsin (22 votes)
RB Lamar Miller, Miami (3 votes)
S Mark Barron, Alabama (13 votes)
OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (5 votes)
TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson (2 votes)
138 total votes