The 2012 NFL scouting combine kicks off today in Indianapolis with players arriving over the next two days to begin checking in. This is the opportunity for some players to increase their draft stock and an opportunity for others to show that the scouts have been correct about them. This is my pre-combine mock draft, that being said this board will probably not look the same by this time next week. I will get another one together after we see what type of movers and shakers we have during this weekend’s interviews and drills. So please feel free to let me know what you think about who your team took and what else you would do.
1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This pick has pretty much been a lock for a few months now and for good reason. Luck has shown the ability to run a pro-style offense, make multiple checks at the line and make all the throws with good anticipation.
2. **Trade** Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
This trade would work out for both the Rams and the Redskins. The Redskins get the possible franchise quarterback they have been looking for and the Rams get multiple picks to help Jeff Fisher build the team around Sam Bradford and a young talented defensive front.
3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil, OT, USC
With the Rams trading in front of them and moving back the Vikings get Christmas in April and pick their blindside tackle for the next decade. Kalil has the ability to protect Christian Ponder as well as open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson, when he returns from his injury.
4. Cleveland Browns- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I am in the minority that thinks the Browns would be better suited keeping their picks and adding talent to their roster, instead of trading up and getting Robert Griffin III at number 2. Whoever the quarterback ends up being in 2012, they will need some weapons to get the ball to.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
With Ronde Barber entering his 16th season in the NFL and an unrestricted free agent and Aqib Talib a personal conduct question mark that could get in trouble at any time, grabbing Claiborne here for the Bucs makes too much sense. This would give them the opportunity to bring Barber back for a year to help tutor Claiborne who could turn out to be a lockdown corner for the next few years. Adding Claiborne to this young and talented defense could be dangerous for years to come.
6. **Trade** St Louis Rams- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
While the trade with the Redskins at the number two spot causes them to lose out on Matt Kalil, who is said to be the highest rated player on their board. St Louis makes up for it by getting Reiff who has been a dominant lineman in the Big Ten for the last two seasons, oh and a plethora of picks to stock talent around Bradford.
7. Carolina Panthers- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Michael Brockers was known as a young talent on the LSU defensive line before he declared for the NFL draft. Since that time myself as well as other scouts have obviously been impressed enough with his tape to warrant a top ten pick in this year’s NFL draft. While he is a little raw and could use some coaching on fundamentals, he routinely controls the line of scrimmage at the point of attack, often taking on multiple blockers and still winning. If he continues to work and learn the game he could be as disruptive inside as Warren Sapp once was.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples has faced a lot of questions during this season about his motor and drive on and off the field, but make no mistake when he turns it on, like in this year’s Senior Bowl he can be unstoppable. By picking Coples here the Jaguars give themselves a player who has the ability to control an entire side of the line of scrimmage. If Jacksonville can keep Coples motivated they could possibly land the next Julius Peppers.
9. Miami Dolphins- Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford
After selecting center Mike Pouncey in the first round of the 2011 draft and left tackle Jake Long first overall in the 2008 draft, selecting Jonathon Martin the offensive tackle from Stanford with this pick would give the Dolphins bookends at the offensive tackle position for the next five to seven years. Miami has informed Chad Henne that they will not be bringing him back next season, all but guaranteeing the Dolphins will look to add a quarterback through free agency or the draft. Most people are predicting them as the favorites to land Matt Flynn the free agent quarterback from Green Bay and this would make the most sense, as Joe Philbin Miami’s new head coach was Flynn’s offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
10. Buffalo Bills- Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills started the 2011 season as hot as any team in the league, but faded down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the thirteenth straight season. The Bills selected former Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in the first round of the 2011 draft and they go back to Tuscaloosa for their first rounder in 2012 by selecting Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw can provide the outside rush that Buffalo has been looking for, for a long time and didn’t find in guys like Aaron Maybin.
11. Kansas City Chiefs-Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi St.
While Kansas City would love for Riley Reiff or Jonathon Martin to fall to them in this spot, in this mock at least, I have them taking Fletcher Cox the defensive tackle from Mississippi State. The Chiefs have a lot of young and talented playmakers on their defense with cornerback Brandon Flowers, safety Eric Berry and linebacker Tamba Hali. The addition of Cox would add another piece to new head coach Romeo Crennel’s already impressive collection of talent on that side of the ball.
12. Seattle Seahawks-Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
I don’t think the Seahawks will be a player in the RGIII sweepstakes at the number two position because it would cost them too much to move up. However head Coach Pete Carroll has added a lot of new pieces since his arrival two years ago and by picking up a player like Melvin Ingram in this year’s slot he adds another dynamic weapon to Seattle’s defense. Depending upon how this week’s scouting combine works out they could also use an upgrade at the wide receiver position and Baylor’s Kendall Wright could be a real possibility.
13. Arizona Cardinals-David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
There has been a lot of talk about how the Arizona Cardinals have not drafted a offensive lineman before the fifth round since the 2007 draft when they took Levi Brown with the 5th overall pick that year. Well what a good time to buck that trend, DeCastro is widely considered the most NFL ready guard to come out in the draft in a long time. If you watch tape on DeCastro you will see a guy who plays with high intensity until the whistle. He has the ability to come in a start from day one for the Cardinals and has the look of a future pro bowler.
14. Dallas Cowboys-Mark Barron, S, Alabama
What it must be like to be a Dallas Cowboy player or fan? Every year you enter the season with the highest of expectations, but all it takes is one bump in the road and those expectations coming crashing down with the national media. Everyone knows the talent that the Cowboys have on the offensive side of the ball (Witten, Bryant, Murray, Austin, Romo, etc.). Their problem the last few seasons has been there inability to shut down teams defensively in the passing game. By picking up Mark Barron the consensus number one safety in this draft they bring in a guy who can come up and support the run as well as hang in coverage with the tight ends in this league because of his size (6-2, 218lbs.).
15. Philadelphia Eagles-Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I will refrain from making any dream team jokes here, mainly because everyone has already beat that proverbial dead horse. Needless to say the Eagles were a huge disappointment in 2011 missing the playoffs after having one of the most active and high profile free agency periods in the last decade. The secondary has playmakers and the defensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL, but the one thing that the Eagles have been missing for the last couple of years has been a stud linebacker like Kuechly to flow to the ball.
16. New York Jets-Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
While they would like to get some outside rush help via this pick, Glenn is too good a prospect to pass on at this point. Rex Ryan loves to control the clock on the ground and play stout defense and this pick would allow him to put together one of the most dominant o-lines in the NFL. Pairing Glenn with OT D’brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold should make Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene happy and would make their lives a lot easier as well.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK)-Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson would be a great value here for the Bengals who are in desperate need of an upgrade over Cedric Benson. While there are teams that could snatch Richardson before he gets to 17, most of them have greater needs at other positions. Add the fact that the running back position has been devalued as a first round commodity thanks to the Arian Fosters of the world and this pick becomes a very likely possibility come April.
18. San Diego Chargers-Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
With Marcus McNeill most likely not coming back the Chargers will look at upgrading the tackle position by drafting Adams here. I could also see them going with some outside rush help, but the chance to grab Adams who really shined during the Senior Bowl against top competition is too much to pass up. This pick will help ensure that Philip Rivers has some time to throw the ball downfield. Who he will be throwing to is going to be the bigger question.
19. Chicago Bears-Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler was having one of, if not his best season when he broke his finger trying to make a tackle on an interception. The crazy part about this fact is that, other than running back Matt Forte, Cutler had no true receiving threat to get the ball to. Drafting Floyd would change all of that, he’s a big threat (6-3, 224lbs) who would be able to stretch the field and cause match-up problems in the redzone for opposing defenses, a la Vincent Jackson for San Diego.
20. Tennessee Titans-Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Tennessee Titans were one of the worst teams in the league when it came to getting to the opposing teams quarterback in 2011, recording only 28 sacks as team. Compare that number with Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings who recorded 22 sacks all by himself and you see the need for improvement from a pass rush perspective. Tennessee is another team that’s roster is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and after narrowly missing the playoffs last season adding Mercilus to the defense will only cause opposing coordinators to lose more sleep in 2012.
21. Cincinnati Bengals-Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
There are a few teams that need cornerback help in this year’s draft, but none as bad as the Cincinnati Bengals. With the loss last offseason of Jonathan Joseph to the Texans and the Achilles injury to Leon Hall during the season, Cincinnati finished with Adam “Pacman” Jones, Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings as the only serviceable corners on the roster. With the exception of Clements or possibly Jones coming back in a nickel roll for next season the Bengals could use a serious upgrade at the corner position. Kirkpatrick would give them a big physical corner to pair opposite Leon Hall when he returns from his injury.
22. Cleveland Browns (from ATL)-Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
This might be a bit of a reach at this point for Cleveland, but Curry is one of those prospects that could significantly improve his draft stock at this week’s scouting combine and push himself into the first round range. The Browns have many needs on both sides of the ball, and after getting Justin Blackmon with the fourth pick, adding another talented rusher to pair opposite Jabaal Sheard would make life for opposing offensive tackles in the AFC North difficult. Don’t be surprised to see Mike Holmgren trade this pick to a quarterback needy team who wants to get back into the first and grab Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden.
23. Detroit Lions-Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
After making the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons the Detroit Lions are in unfamiliar territory. They are going to be returning most of their players as well as getting some high draft picks back (Jahvid Best and Mike LeShoure) that could make the Lions an even more dangerous team in 2012. The one area that Detroit needs to improve upon is on the defensive side of the ball, mainly secondary and the pass rush. I chose to address the secondary with Janoris Jenkins, and while Jenkins does come with baggage issues, some of the things that he has in those bags are the tools to be a top corner in this league. Now it’s going to be up to the Lions to keep him in line a help him take care of the rest.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers-Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
With Casey Hampton entering his 12th season and back-up Chris Hoke entering his 11th season, Pittsburgh needs to look at finding their replacement sometime soon. Dontari Poe fits what the Steelers are looking for in their nose tackles, he’s big bodied (6-5, 350lbs) and shows the ability to control the line of scrimmage at the point of attack. Poe reminds me a little bit of Phil Taylor who the Browns drafted in the first round last year.
25. Denver Broncos-Devon Still, DT, Penn State
With the addition of Von Miller last year with the 3rd overall pick the Broncos added an integral part to their defense. Adding a player like Still here would only increase the effectiveness of players like Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Like many of the defensive tackles in this year’s draft Still has the ability to take on multiple blocks and control the line at the point of attack, which will free up the linebackers to try to get to the ball.
26. Houston Texans-DT, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan St.
With a healthy Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson coming back next year many have picked the Texans as an early 2012 Super Bowl favorite. Looking at their roster it’s easy to see why everyone thinks a Super Bowl run is possible. Houston is stacked with young talent on both sides of the ball and have drafted extremely well the last few years in the later rounds to add pieces to their team. They don’t have many glaring needs but one thing Wade Philips would love to add to the defensive line would be a defensive tackle like Worthy who battled and often dominated against the always strong Big Ten offensive lineman for the last two years.
27. New England Patriots (From NO)- Nick Perry, DE, USC
While the Patriots are always a threat to trade this pick, they need to address their pass rush before next season. Depending upon what happens in free agency this pick could also be a wide receiver, but for now I am going with Perry. Bill Belichick loves players that he can use in multiple looks on his defense and Nick Perry would give him just that. Perry could stand up and play some outside backer as well as put his hand in the dirt and rush from an end position, this versatility will make him attractive to a team like New England who loves to move players around.
28. Green Bay Packers-Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
The Packers need to upgrade their defense in 2012 if they want to have any chance to repeat the type of success they had during the 2011 regular season. While they face the possibility of losing TE Jermichael Finley, Green Bay’s offense should continue to run smoothly with the majority of their pieces returning. The defensive side of the ball is a whole different story where the Packers ranked last in the league in total defense in 2011. While Green Bay would like to add some speed on the edge, they would also do well to add some secondary help making Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith an interesting possibility here as well.
*UPDATE* TE Jermichael Finley agreed to a two year contract extension with Green Bay Feb. 22, 2012
29. Baltimore Ravens-Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
This pick was the one that I wavered on the most. By now everyone knows of Burfict’s reputation as a highly talented player with a questionable motor and bad temper. While some teams actually like players with a bad temper, almost none want to waste a high pick on a player with a questionable motor. This pick will shore up more after the scouting combine interviews, where Burfict could change the way teams look at him. We could see South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore with this pick to help with the secondary.
30. San Francisco 49ers-Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Sanu would give San Francisco the big outside receiver they thought they were getting last year with Braylon Edwards. Sanu’s pairing with Vernon Davis would be an instant matchup nightmare in the redzone for opposing defenses.
31. **Trade**Seattle Seahawks-Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
With their extra pick Bill Belichick will try to do what else? Gain more picks to either leverage for future draft picks or to move around. Of course this pick could be given to the Pittsburgh Steelers in compensation for WR Mike Wallace should the Patriots decide to go that route.
32. New York Giants-Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
After watching the Giants in the Super Bowl and seeing their young talented tight ends dropping like flies, Dwayne Allen is almost a no-brainer at this spot. While he has not been as dominant in college as some of the more notable tight ends over the last few years (Gresham, Hernandez and Gronkowski). With his athletic ability and versatility he could become that match-up problem for opposing teams and you don’t necessarily need to be a known big name coming out in the draft to make an impact in this league (see Graham, Jimmy and Gates, Antonio).
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