2012 NFL Mock Draft: Part 1

The NFL Draft is this Thursday, and that means one thing: mock drafts. It’s been stated several times on this blog before, but the primary reason I started this thing was to let loose some mockery. I’ve been doing an awful lot of digging on this draft, so it would irresponsible of me to pass up the opportunity to throw yet another mocker draft onto the internet pile.

This year’s draft should be a lot of fun to mock since the top 10-12 picks can seemingly go in only a few directions, barring a trade or catastrophe. The way I see it, the 13th through 32nd picks are going to be more unpredictable than usual because the quality of players takes a drop and stays there for about the second tier of 30 players.

Having said that, it’s also important to note that this mock draft will come in two parts: 1-16 and 17-31. The part you’re about to read will contain mostly uninspiring picks that you’ve seen somewhere else. It will end on a high note and hopefully you’ll be teased into coming back tomorrow for the second part, which I assure you is worth the wait.

It’s my assumption that every pick in any draft ends up boiling down to a team choosing one player over another as the two best left. For the first team to pick, the field is entirely full, but still the pick ends up being between two players. For this draft, I’m going to make each pick for each team in the first round and also give the last player out, as a little bit extra in terms of my thought process for that pick.

Here it is:

2012 NFL Mock Draft Part 1:

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, Quarterback (Stanford)

Andrew Luck

This pick has already been made. It was made a couple of months ago. I like Andrew Luck a lot. The Colts do too. Typically my rule with drafting quarterbacks in the first round is to stay away from them unless the team in question already has the pieces in place and is just that quarterback away from being a complete team. In this case the Colts need an awful lot, but they’re a unique case because more than any players, they need a personality to display and the fans need a quarterback. Unfortunately, last year’s team may have thrown games to get to this spot for Andrew Luck, so the chips were already in, he’s the pick and he’s a good one. While I don’t think any quarterback prospect has more than a 60-65% chance of NFL success, Luck is the ceiling for that range.

Alternate Pick: Robert Griffin III

2. Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III, Quarterback (Baylor)

It’s too bad for RG3 that Andrew Luck was in this class, because he’s an animal. He throws a phenomenal deep ball and he’s going to be one of the fastest players in the League on Day 1. He’s still a quarterback, so I have doubts, but I watched him pretty closely last year and it’s just exciting. Washington had to see something they liked because they gave up an awful lot for him. RG3 is dynamic, intelligent and brings a unique still set to the game. The only knock on him is that he may get into trouble running the ball too frequently and taking too many NFL hits.

Alternate Pick: None, they traded here to get a QB and they’ll get one

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle (USC)

Although the Vikings would love to hear a trade offer for a team that wants to jump up, they’ll take Kalil. He’s the best player left at a position of need for them and O-linemen are generally great picks in the early rounds. Kalil is big and quick, just like most top-of-the-first-round linemen. I watched almost every USC game this year, and this guy is legit. With an stud running back and A young quarterback who needs all the help he can get, this is the correct pick.

Alternate Pick: Morris Claiborne, this division has Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler (now with Brandon Marshall), you need as much pass help as possible

4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, Running Back (Alabama)

While foolish people will tell you that Ryan Tannehill is a realistic option here, he just isn’t good enough. Richardson is the best running back prospect in a few years and should be ready to step into the hole in the offense left by Hillis’ departure. Honestly, can you tell me who the best player is on the 2012 Browns team? Exactly. Richardson will give the offense plenty of stability and can be that workhorse back to take pressure off Coly McCoy or whoever they start at quarterback.

Alternate Pick: Justin Blackmon, It’s hard to knock McCoy for last year when you look at the receiving corps

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, Cornerback (LSU)

The Bucs have to be celebrating if Claiborne falls to them at this pick. This division saw All-time NFL passing records for total yards and yards by a rookie last year and the Bucs needs secondary players to combat Brees, Newton and Ryan.  There are plenty of other holes left, but it’s nearly unanimous that Claiborne is the best defensive player in this draft class and will start instantly for Tampa. If I’m the GM for this team, I’m waiting near the stage and running out to take Claiborne if he’s there. He may be the top player on the draft board for this team and getting him to fall to 5 would be a dream come true

Alternate Pick: Justin Blackmon, He’s the only other player who will grade high enough to be taken this early

6. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver (Oklahoma State)

Justin Blackmon

There are six players who are better then the rest in this draft class, and Blackmon is the final one to go. For some reason, I have unreasonably high faith in Sam Bradford, and a target like Blackmon could make an enormous difference for the STL offense. He’s a possession type of guy who can create space and reach for balls that he shouldn’t be able to catch, which should fit the Rams well because they have to o many guys to make downfield plays as it is.

Alternate Pick: Riley Reiff, It’s impossible to have too many O-linemen around a young QB

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, Defensive Everything (South Carolina)

This is when the first half of the draft gets interesting. The absolute best players are off the board and Jacksonville literally needs everything. I think I’m personally higher on Mevin Ingram than most people are. He’s a freak athlete (can do a standing backflip) and plays every position on the field. In high school, he even played quarterback. Ingram is just a gamer and for a team with as many holes as Jacksonville, his versatility should let them go after the best player available in the next few rounds. In this round, Ingram IS the best player left. If there’s one guys I’m way too excited about this year, it’s Melvin Ingram, and I think he’ll go to the Jags.

Alternate Pick: Could be anything, but they might throw Blaine Gabbert a bone and draft Michael Floyd

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback (Texas A&M)

People have been talking about this pick. Miami needs a quarterback badly and for no reason, Tannehill has been jumping up draft boards lately. All of that is very surprising when you actually think about how good he is. I watched a lot of Big 12 football this year and there’s just no way this guy has first round talent. He may be a better pro prospect that the QBs on the board, but positional scarcity isn’t a reason to draft a player. The dropoff from Tannehill to the best QB available in the next round is marginal, but I have a feeling this team is going to reach here. The smart pick is probably an offensive lineman, but the fans want a sexy quarterback, and you have to give the people what they want sometimes, even when they don’t know anything.

Alternate Pick: Riley Reiff, no team looking for a QB in the draft thinks to draft the O-line first and the QB second and it blows my mind

9. Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle (Mississippi State)

Fletcher Cox is the best fit for the Panthers. He’s huge and he’s great and he plays a primary area of need for Carolina. If I were the GM of this team, I’d take Cox here. In reality, the Panthers will screw this up. If they end up in this situation, they’ll probably take Dontari Poe, who is the same thing as Cox, but about 75% as good. Since this is an imaginary draft, the Panthers take Cox. Again, this division has too many good offenses to be thinking of non-defense in the first round.

Alternate pick: Luke Keuchly or Michael Floyd

10. Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle (Iowa)

I typically don’t like to pretend that I know much about the personalities of draft prospects, but I’ve read the same thing about Reiff so frequently that it cannot be false: the dude is just MEAN. He’s one of the biggest and strongest O-linemen in the class too, but you cannot coach mean. Some players have it and some don’t. Like it or not, this is something you need on the offensive line. Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown some glimpses of being the answer at quarterback for this team and some protection can only help.

Alternate Pick: Michael Floyd, can name the second receiver on this team?

11. Kansas City Chiefs – David DeCastro, Offensive Guard (Stanford)

I seem to remember looking back at the last few drafts for the Chiefs and being super impressed. The take good players and then fit the schemes to those players, which is the correct way to approach drafts and personnel. In this case, the Chiefs can get the best player in the class at maybe the safest position to draft. DeCastro is a pick this year with almost no downside. If Miami passes on Tannehill, we might see the Chiefs reach for him here. Assuming the Dolphins do take Tannehill, I’d imagine the Chiefs will still want a quarterback but will realize they can still get a solid guy like Kirk Cousins in the 3rd or 4th round and pick the protection first.

Alternate Pick: Luke Keuchly

12. Seattle Seahawks – Luke Keuchly, Linebacker (Boston College)

If the real draft happens like my mock to this point, good for the Seahawks. Linebacker is probably their biggest position of need and Keuchly is probably alone in the first class of talent there. If Keuchly is off the board at this point, the Seahawks have plenty of needs to fill here, but we’re starting to get into that nebulus group of players in the third tier.

Alternate Pick: Quinton Coples, his flexibility should benefit teams with linebacker questions

13. Arizona Cardinals – Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver (Notre Dame)

There’s only so long I can keep congratulating teams at having the right guys fall into their laps, because I am operating this entire mock draft, but this is another case. Arizona needs a wide receiver and you can see from my alternate pick listings that Floyd has been almost picked a few times at by now. The average mock draft is going to be higher on him than I am, but he’s a good prospect and shouldn’t fall much farther,

Alternate Pick: Cordy Glenn, when you don’t know who the quarterback is, know that he’ll be orotected

14. Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, Safety (Alabama)

Mark Barron

Look, It happened again. The Cowboys have a huge need at safety and the only guaranteed first-round safety is still available. Looking at the Cowboys roster, I’d imagine that Barron is probably one of the first players on their draft board and most of the researching I’ve done has indicated that team needs might push Barron down this far. Get ready for an avalanche of Alabama defenders.

Alternate Pick: Quinton Coples, can play OLB in the 3-4 really effectively

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Quinton Coples, Defensive End (North Carolina)

Coples is an interesting player with some serious versatility. He can play in a lot of places on the defensive front and the Eagles need that. At this point, he’s probably one of the best players left, but may have a more realistic bust potential than the rest of the players in this tier. He has fantastic measurables, but there’s more to the game than that and I’ve seen a number of sources reporting on his lack of attitude and mental abilities to play at the pro level.

Alternate pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, he’s expressed interest in moving to play safety in the pros and the Eagles might be the right place to try

16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End/ OLB (Alabama)

More Alabama defenders. it turns out that unit was unbelievably good last year. Upshaw is an interesting pro prospect because he can play a lot of position based on what a scheme calls for. He can fit on almost any team and play effectively and I feel like he is a great personality fit for the Jets.

Alternate pick: Dont’a Hightower

If you want to know how the rest of this first round mock shakes out, you can find it here.