The 2012 NFL draft is now only hours away. Technically speaking, it has been hours away since the beginning of time, but now it's far fewer hours away. I don't know what time I'm going to post this yet, so I don't know how many hours, but it's far less than 24. Basically, the draft is almost here.
I have spent the last eight hours or so flying on planes to Los Angeles from New York. I unfortunately was not there to cover the draft, but I did get to meet with a bunch of SBNation NFL writers and get some more perspective on what they're expecting for the respective teams at the draft. I am going to use that perspective (and their blogs) to write up my final mock draft and I think I have a few bold selections coming up.
It's stupid to try and predict what's going to happen because there are going to be surprises that nobody knew were going to happen but we can always guess and argue. I've spent the last few hours pre-writing this article in my head and now it's time to see how much of that I can remember and put down in this article. I've been going back and forth on several picks and as of right now I still don't know who I'll put for a few teams but that's okay because that's exactly how a draft works - as it moves, it changes.
I am getting more and more certain on what I think the Seahawks will do though and I don't think that it's surprising exactly, but it is interesting and I think that the hints the front office have given out have given a clear view on what they want to do today. Whether or not they do depends on a number of factors but I think it's their goal unless something happens that surprises them and throws them off-guard and then their plan changes too. That's what makes the draft so interesting and exciting... only the Colts and Redskins probably know for sure who they are drafting.
Months of lead-up and it's finally almost over and once all seven rounds and UDFA are done we can start obsessing about the next thing. Oh NFL, you are a cruel bitch that consumes me.
Here is my final mock draft with a complete first round for the first time. I'm going to do my best to make this quick and concise and less rambling than I usually do. Wish me... LUCK!
1. Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The mystery, if there ever was any, is gone. The Colts are taking Andrew Luck. There is nothing to say about the pick but I will say a couple of things about the Colts. First of all, they weren't the worst team in the NFL last year, in my opinion. The Rams were probably worse. The Bucs were worse by the end of the year. The Browns might have been worse. The Colts had an opportunity to win maybe 5 or 6 games and probably should have won at least four but they blew those games (which does make them a terrible team) but I don't think that they were the worst. Either way, they get the San Antonio Spurs-like fortune of going from a Hall of Famer at a critical position to a Hall of Famer at a critical position after the previous Hall of Famer got injured and missed the season.
Congratulations Indianapolis and LUCK YOU for your convenient timing again. 2012 Prediction: Indianapolis goes 4-12 and Luck isn't great but the potential is clear and they're close in a few games while drafting him help at the top of next years draft.
2. Washington Redskins select Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins traded up to get RG3 and SBNation's Dan Rubenstein interviewed Griffin recently and he seems like the nice and personable guy that I thought that he was. I just want to give him a hug and I think the Redskins did the right thing in moving up to get the franchise player. I think the Browns did the wrong thing again.
I think Griffin will have a very exciting (and statistically poor and inconsistent) rookie season and eventually turn into a star. The nation's capital just got a new black president.
3. Minnesota Vikings select Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
When I did my last mock I had Matt Kalil here and noted that it was nearly as solid of a lock as Griffin and Luck. That's how hard it is to make any "locks" in the draft. Over the last day or so it seems that this pick is changing for everyone else too. Why Claiborne and not Kalil? I just kept thinking that it makes a lot more sense in the NFC North to have an elite corner than most divisions (Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler) and the Vikings will be getting a very solid defensive player if they take Claiborne. I see him more as a Charles Woodson type than a true shutdown type (he's not even rated as the top corner in the draft by many anymore) but in some years I could see Claiborne garnering "Defensive MVP" talk because of his big play ability.
The Vikings don't even really want to be at 3 but will they find a trade partner? Clairborne is a better fit for the Bucs but are they willing to move up to get him? That's what the Daily Norseman wants to do but I don't think that Tampa Bay will panic and spend extra picks to move up and take Clairborne - they might not even have him as the top corner on their board either.
4. Cleveland Browns select Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
It's not the pick that I would do but I would never draft a running back in the top five. Their is only one situation in which I would take a RB in the top 5: If I was a good team that had a top five pick because of an earlier trade and there was an elite running back and it was a position of need. Richardson is an elite running back prospect but the Browns aren't going to be a playoff team in that division by drafting a running back. Why not?
Who are the best running backs of the last twenty years, arguably? Barry Sanders and Ladanian Tomlinson. Combined Super Bowl appearances? Zero. How about Adrian Peterson? Zero. Marshall Faulk had two appearances, a championship, a Hall of Fame career, and was the number two pick - for the Colts.
The Browns could take Ryan Tannehill but I have just decided to believe people when they say that the Browns aren't interested in Tannehill at four. And I have a small suspicion that he could actually fall to them at 22 if the Dolphins pass on him. No, really.
Richardson might be a great player, but I just don't think that any running back is a good pick this early. Many of the best running backs in the league today were taken after the first round.
Best Players Available Update: Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Ryan Tannehill, Fletcher Cox, Stephon Gilmore, Mark Barron, David DeCastro, Luke Kuechly, Michael Floyd, Quentin Coples, Melvin Ingram. (Not in order)
5. Arizona Cardinals (from Tampa Bay) select Matt Kalil, LT, USC
I told you this was a bold mock draft. Why does Arizona trade the #13 pick and a 2013 1st round pick (and change, probably) to move up to five and take Kalil?
- They could really use the USC big man and give serious protection to whoever the QB is.
- They move up one spot ahead of the Rams, the team that definitely wouldn't pass on Kalil, and not only get their guy but keep him from a division rival.
It's a win-win situation for Arizona, even if I might be giving them too much credit. Sometimes Arizona does the right thing on draft day and trading up to pick a Kalil that slipped past three would definitely be the right thing for them to do.
6. St Louis Rams select Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
And cry because they almost moved down from two and still got the elite left tackle that they needed but they just missed out. Blackmon isn't my highest rated receiver and I think that there are some very good receivers available after the top two, but Blackmon is a very good prospect.
With the extra pick that they got from Washington I could actually see the Rams take two receivers with their top three picks. And they should. Because they were absolutely terrible passing the ball last season and Sam Bradford is still a very good quarterback, he just needs some help. Blackmon will contribute right away.
I think that the Jaguars want to trade back and take Stephen Hill. They have met with him twice and they haven't shown that kind of interest in Michael Floyd.
Gilmore has shot up draft boards recently and now it appears that some like him more than Claiborne and believe he will be a top 10 pick. The Jaguars are one of those teams that always do the thing that I least predict and I guess trading down is usually one of those things that I least predict. The Cowboys are in the market for a cornerback and though I believe that they also love safety Mark Barron, I think they shoot a bit higher and take Gilmore instead.
Reading Blogging the Boys, it's pretty clear that Cowboys fans would probably hate me for taking Gilmore over Barron but I am not afraid of Cowboys fans or taking chances. (Cowboys trade the #14 pick, a third round pick and the 2013 first round pick.)
8. Miami Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I really want to not put Tannehill here. It would maybe be my boldest move to have him slide all the way down to 22 and I do see it as possible however I can't get past all of the people that insist that this is the pick. The Dolphins could obviously surprise all of us and go a completely different direction but screw it. This is easy to mock. I don't think it's a good situation for Tannehill but it's probably going to be his situation.
Best Players Available Update: Barron, Cox, Ingram, Coples, DeCastro, Kuechly, Floyd, Riley Reiff, Dre Kirkpatrick, Donta Hightower, Jonathan Martin, Courtney Upshaw. (Others)
9. Carolina Panthers select Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Coples just feels like the "Oh, it's Julius Peppers!" pick that everyone is assuming. Cox is a safer pick and probably fills a bigger need. That's all I have to say about this pick. And that I think the Panthers go 10-6 next year and make the playoffs.
10. Buffalo Bills select Mark Barron, S, Alabama
For a long time I've been pushing Coby Fleener to the Bills but I have turned soft on that idea and instead turned to Barron as the safety that the Bills need behind Mario Williams and the rest of the defense. Fleener is my sleeper pick but Barron has become my more realistic pick for Buffalo. (I also think that the Bills are a sleeper team to go 9-7 next season)
11. Kansas City Chiefs select David DeCastro, G, Stanford
I have heard it mentioned that some teams rate DeCastro as one of the best tackles in the draft. I could see that kind of versatility, if true, making DeCastro very intriguing to Pete Carroll and Seattle if he fell that far but it's part of the reason that he probably won't fall that far. He might go past the Chiefs and the Hawks but I see him going in the top eleven, maybe higher than this, but this is a perfectly sensible pick.
KC could go a lot of ways but this is one of them and maybe it makes the most sense. Even if he's not an LSU defensive lineman like Michael Brockers.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (from Seattle) select Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
See what I did there? Worried that a CB wouldn't be available at 17, the Bengals trade that pick and the #53 pick to move up to 12. No, it's not going to cost the Bengals the 17 and the 21 to move up five spots. Fair value would probably be a 1st and a 2nd and maybe change like a 7th. And the Bengals take a corner, blah blah blah - that's not what you care about right now. Why did Seattle trade back? How have they been hinting towards this move?
WHY WILL SEATTLE TRADE DOWN?
I think a few things are very interesting. Like John Schneider building up how good it is to be picking 12th. Like the rumors that Seattle was actually interested in Mark Barron and moving a Pro Bowl safety to linebacker or deathbacker or deathwisher or something. Barron, the highest-rising player in the draft as soon as those rumors came out. The kind of rumor that seems like Seattle saying "Hey, we'll take this guy! Better come and get him!"
There have been a lot of different players mocked to the Seahawks at a lot of different positions and looking at the best players available it makes a lot of sense - Seattle has one glaring need (pass rusher) and there are a lot of players at this juncture of equal-ish talent at a number of different positions. If Seattle moves down five spots, they'll probably get a player of near equal value to the one that they could take at 12. Except that they'll also pick up a second round pick.
It depends on the Bengals getting desperate for a player or another team getting desperate, but I feel convinced that the Hawks will trade down unless something weird happens like an elite player sliding down the board. And then they still might take advantage and trade down.
Seattle wants picks and it won't hurt them to move down five spots.
I know I'm getting even bolder now but I only go bold, baby. The Bucs biggest needs are CB and S. They have now missed out on all of the first round-rated (possibly, it seems like Janoris Jenkins is slippin') corners and the safety. Philly spies the Jags picking at 14 and decides to move up ahead of Jacksonville and take Floyd. The Bucs didn't have a glaring need that was going to be filled and they pick up an extra pick or two to move down only two spots.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Cowboys) select Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Like I was saying before, its Hill that the Jags want anyway.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Eagles) select Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
According to Bucs Nation, Tampa is historically unlikely to take a linebacker high, but the situation just calls for it although they might feel that Dont'a Hightower fits their defense better. Kuechly fills a need and has already been mocked by some to Tampa at the fifth pick, while I'm doing them the favor of giving them Kuechly at 15.
It's a need and Kuechly is a good player that could be a great middle linebacker. Maybe not of the Ray Lewis mold, but maybe of the Zach Thomas variety. Lots and lots of tackles, but not as much in terms of all-around amazingness.
16. New York Jets select Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Rex Ryan is going to want to go with a player that has a high ceiling on defense and some think that Coples could fall even further than this but I'll hypothesize that he won't get past the Jets. He seems like a "New York" fit that Ryan could motivate. A lot of people have mocked Melvin Ingram here but with Coples having slipped (though Walter Football insists that he won't get past Carolina) I think that the Jets take the guy that's a better physical specimen that just needs to get his motor started.
Now back to the Seahawks.
Best Players Available Update: Ingram, Reiff, Martin, Hightower, Upshaw, Cordy Glenn, Dontari Poe, Kendall Wright, Janoris Jenkins, Kendall Wright, Shea McClellin, Michael Brockers, Coby Fleener, Whitney Mercilus.
Do you see what I mean when I say that the Seahawks lose almost no value when they trade down? Hell, at this point they could trade down again. But I won't go that far. I will pick one.
17. Seattle Seahawks (from Bengals) select Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Would he fit better in a 3-4? I think he'll do just fine as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 and Seattle has a need there in the long and short-term. It's sort of been forgotten (to me) that they signed LeRoy Hill but it's only a one year deal and Hightower gives them depth, versatility, and a good linebacker rotation for 2012.
I was mocking Ingram to Seattle at 12 and now I've passed on him at 17. What gives? I just don't see any defensive ends as elite, though he'd be a good pick at 17 for sure, it's not quite as good a value as getting a potential pass-rushing LB and Seattle has capable players on the defensive line that we just forget about. The bigger need is in the middle of the defense.
This could be a few picks higher than Hightower is expected to go (trade down! trade down!) but it's not crazy-high and Evan Silva mocked him to the Chiefs at 11.
This is my story and I'm sticking to it until later this evening when Seattle does something completely different.
18. San Diego Chargers select Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Chargers could trade down because of their needs for safety and the depth at pass rushers right now and their needs at offensive line and the availability of two tackles that are slipping but they take the best pass-rusher available at the moment.
19. Chicago Bears select Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Obvious need, a major fall for Reiff out of the top 15, Jonathan Martin is still around too.
20. Tennessee Titans select Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Titans really wanted Jason Jones back but he made the right decision and came to the Northwest. They could also go with Dontari Poe, I just went with Brockers.
21. Cincinnati Bengals select Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
If the Bengals want to stay in the playoff race they have to get better on defense. Going 1-2 in the first round on that side of the ball (and two players that are familiar with each other and holy shit will we ever truly appreciate how good Alabama was last year) gets Cincy closer to staying in the race with the Ravens and Steelers.
22. Cleveland Browns select Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Browns offense was really bad and really hard to watch last season. I don't think that Colt McCoy is a starting QB in the NFL but next year he will probably technically be a starting quarterback in the NFL. I also don't think that Richardson is a good pick at four but this is for sure: By giving McCoy a stud running back and a solid receiving option (for once) the Browns won't look so terrible. They drafted really well last year and their defense is actually okay. Now their offense (maybe pick another offensive player at the top of the second too) won't be as hard to watch.
23. Detroit Lions select Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
I know that it makes zero sense for the Lions to ever draft an offensive lineman but their drafting has been awesome (to me) in the last few years. The right move - get better on that offensive line. Just do it. Finally.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers select Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Steelers actually didn't look very good on defense last season. They might feel that they can harness the physical freak known as Poe and turn him into a top player on the line and damn it I should have mocked Poe to the Ravens.
25. Denver Broncos select Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Broncos have a need and this fills it. Devon Still on the board. Sleeper: Fleener.
26, Houston Texans select Shea McClellin, DE/LB, Boise State
By the way, now would be a good time for the Seahawks to trade up and draft Chandler Jones.
27. New England Patriots select Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
I am not entirely sure that the Pats give a shit if they stop anybody in the passing game but they're the team that is willing to take a shot on a player like Jenkins. They could also be a Seahawks trade partner.
28. Green Bay Packers select Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
He's shot up boards a lot higher than this but this is where I have him ending up unless Seattle(!) moves up and takes him or something. The Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011 with a high powered offense and then spent five of their first picks on offense. They could draft offense again: they love wide receivers and offensive lineman and there are talented ones available. How about Coby Fleener as a possible replacement (or compliment to) Jermichael Finley? Cordy Glenn and Peter Konz are available and doesn't Peter Konz sound like someone that is already a Packer?
I just went with the highest player on my board and the Packers could take just about any position on defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens select Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
If a dynamic defensive player is available then that's always what the Ravens will do but they have glaring needs on the offensive line. Glenn is big and versatile enough to move around to where the Ravens end up needing him the most.
30. San Francisco 49ers select Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
The 49ers are in a position to take the best player available, almost regardless of need. They didn't replace Alex Smith so they will have to instead do things to make things better around him. They signed Randy Moss but that won't be enough. Fleener gives the 49ers the two-TE formations that other teams have ridden to victory in recent years by teaming up with Vernon Davis. They could move up and take Glenn.
31. New England Patriots select Nick Perry, DE, USC
Call it a hunch.
32. New York Giants select Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
It's just a match at this point with Fleener off the board and not a huge "Must draft" offensive lineman.
That's it. That's my mock draft. There are still a lot of good players left on the board in positions of need for Seattle and they are pretty close to picking again with an additional second round pick. So, what do you think?
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