As we get closer to the draft I start to get a better feel for some unexpected picks that might occur in the draft. This 2012 NFL Mock draft has a few surprises, like all mocks should, because it is impossible to predict the boards of other teams and there are always some unexpected picks. One of those players who might go higher than expected is TE Coby Fleener. After an impressive Proday in which Fleener ran a 40 yard dash better than most Wide receivers at 6’6 and the success of Gronk, Hernandez, Graham and other Tight ends some team might fall in love with Fleener and draft him much earlier than anticipated.
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1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Cardinal
What are the chances that Griffin III is picked ahead of Luck, A question I’ve been asked many times on twitter @NFLmocks. I would say about 30 percent. When you set your sights on a guy since mid October and all he does is continue to impress him, it’s hard to go elsewhere. I think if there was no rookie salary system then it would be possible negotations could break down and the Colts would just move forward with RGIII, but that seems highly unlikely under the new structure.
2. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins get the consolation prize in the draft, but had to pay a hefty price. The pick will be Griffin III or Luck if the Colts decide to make a last minute move.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
There is speculation that the Vikings will go with cornerback Morris Claiborne here, but I find that difficult to believe. The Vikings need to protect their Christian Ponder investment and the system the Vikings have run under Frazier-a tampa two heavy system a coverage cornerback as good as Claiborne is not a necessity.
4. Cleveland Browns
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I think the Browns will end up drafting Trent Richardson in the draft, but right now I’ll go with Blackmon. I think the Browns should draft Richardson or Claiborne, but the Cleveland beat writers say the front office really wants to improve the offense. I also think with the nice rookie season Greg Little had last year the Browns don’t perceive WR to be as big of a need as the media does, which is why I think on draft day the pick is Richardson…or Tannehill if he makes them fall in love with him.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
I think this is the first place where a real surprise pick could come about. The Buccaneers have had trouble keeping Gerald McCoy healthy and despite the presence of the young Adrian Claiborne and Da’quan Bowers if the Buccaneers fall in love with a pass rusher they could take Coples or Dontari Poe. However, I think those are long shots and I’ll stick with Morris Claiborne here. Claiborne is the best defensive player in the draft and also fills a need.
6. St. Louis Rams
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
This is not a really surprising pick. Steven Jackson is on his last legs and the Rams need to improve their offense. In this mock Justin Blackmon is already gone and there are a lot of questions about the offensive tackles. Richardson is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson, which is repeated often, but it’s true-he’s terrific. Richardson can not only make an instant impact, but also prolong Steven Jackson’s career. With the haul they got from the Redskins for the rights to the number two pick, the Rams can afford to take a running back in the top 10.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
David DeCastro, G, Stanford Cardinal
My first pick that differs from others. I enjoy trying to highlight unexpected picks and here is one. Though Jacksonville doesn’t get the credit for this-they are a team that usually religiously sticks to the board-so much so that they took Tyson Alaualu at 10 when many believed he would have fallen to them in the second round. Now the difference is Jacksonville’s board is much different than everyone else’s. DeCastro seems like a Gene Smith type player and could be the highest player on their board.
8. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A and M
From what I’m hearing the Dolphins like Tannehill. Is that a smoke screen? Perhaps, but I don’t know what effect that would really have. Are they trying to entice some team to move ahead of them and hope that a player they like drops to them? That’s possible but seems unlikely. I think they believe they can take Tannehill this year and let Moore start in 2012 and develop Tannehill. This pick is a reach, but QB is really the only position where making a big reach can be worth it.
9. Carolina Panthers
Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
I don’t know if this is a vogue pick, but the Panthers were one of the worst defenses in the league last year in all areas. Coples is a versatile Defensive linemen who can play the 43 DE, 34 DE, or 43 defensive tackle. I’m not sure if the Panthers will stick with the 43 forever with Ron Rivera’s background, so perhaps they want to grab a player who can fit whatever defensive system they want to run moving forward.
10. Buffalo Bills
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
My first truly surprising pick. The Bills want to find a deep threat to replace what they lost with Lee Evans. During the season it was reported that there were a number of area scouts who preferred Wright to Blackmon and that he was the best WR on many boards. If one of those teams was the Bills they could consider taking what they perceive to be the best WR in the draft here at #10 to complement Steve Johnson. This is contingent on the Bills getting Demetrius Bell back in the end.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford Cardinal
I’m not predicting that the Chiefs will draft Coby Fleener. What I’m suggesting is that he’s a player who might go much higher than people expect on draft day. Could he have a team like the Chiefs fall in love with him and move up to take him. The Chiefs are confident in their young talented defense, but don’t believe in QB Matt Casell to do it without weapons (that’s not inside info that’s my educated guess). Pioli has to be watching how well the Patriots TE made their offense in New England last year and be thinking about finding someone to pair with Moeaki, or take over for Moeaki if he isn’t ready for the season or back to full speed. Fleener is also an upstanding guy and the Chiefs like those kind of players.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
This seems to be a pick that Seahawks fans want. I personally prefer Upshaw to Ingram, but Ingram’s extreme versatility might really appeal to Carrol. Whatever the Seahawks end up doing one thing is for sure is that they have to improve their front seven while adding a pass rusher.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama Crimson Tide
The Cardinals brought back Levi Brown so LT might not be a position they address early-even though I think they should. Upshaw is suffering from paralysis by over-analysis. During the season he was a lock for the top 1o it seemed now he falls down to the mid-late 20’s routinely. Upshaw doesn’t have a specific position, but he’s so strong and tough and plays with great leverage that he’ll be able to transition to the NFL at some position.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The Cowboys should target the DL in the first round and let a good CB fall to them in the second round. In this mock draft they address the position of Nose tackle so they can move Jay Ratliff off of the Nose tackle position where he might be able to provide even more of a rush. Ratliff is terrific, but the other two regular down linemen and the depth is nothing great.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi
This pick makes so much sense to me. The Eagles love to draft defensive linemen and Cox seems like a perfect fit in their system.
16. New York Jets
Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
This is the pick the Jets should make if he’s available, but I don’t know if they will. The idea that they are moving forward with Wayne Hunter or Vladimir Ducasse has to be a smoke-screen right? Right? What is Reiff’s best position in the N.F.L? That’s up for debate, but he’ll be able to start instantly on the Jets. Reiff is better than former Iowa prospect Bryan Baluaga though he’s often compared to him.