The Super Bowl is won, and the season is officially, finally over. Now, we can devote even more attention to the 2012 NFL draft. Our latest 2012 NFL mock draft gets us focused on April.
That's it. The 2011 NFL season is over. Now, fans of the 31 teams who did not win the Super Bowl can focus on the offseason's main events: free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft.
It's time for another mock draft, this one with the final draft order. Of course, the draft order will change on draft day with trades, and once again this mock draft reflects one of the big trades -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III -- that some expect to happen.
This is going to be a tough draft to get a read on, from a prediction standpoint. With the new rookie salary scale, teams are free to take more risks or do crazy things like draft an interior lineman or other less glamorous positions in the top 10 picks.
No more talk; let's mock.
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Unless you've been living in a Tebow-induced state of semi-rapture, you know the ugly dance going on between the Colts and Peyton Manning. He's leaving town next month, iffy neck and all. Lost in ridiculous cable shouting matches is the fact that the Colts have a new regime. New regimes mean new quarterbacks, especially when the incumbent quarterback is in his mid thirties, coming off major neck surgery and due a gazillion dollars. At the end of the day, the NFL is just a business. Peyton Manning is just another redundancy on the ledger sheet.
2. St. Louis Rams, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Head coach Jeff Fisher and his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer both made it pretty clear that pass protection is a top priority for rejuvenating quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams offense. Drafting Kalil gives them an elite pass blocker ready to go on day one. The Rams could still trade this pick, but with Washington looking like a suitor for Peyton Manning, Miami making eyes at Matt Flynn and Cleveland possibly having second thoughts about giving up draft picks, St. Louis may not have much of a market for their pick.
3. Seattle Seahawks, Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (Projected trade: from Vikings)
This is not necessarily a prediction; I'm just exploring the possibility. With Washington and Miami finding solutions elsewhere, and Cleveland waffling on trading their picks, the next best fit for RGIII would be the Seahawks. Minnesota would be more than willing to trade down. Seattle is a good landing spot for Griffin with a pretty good roster to make the transition easier for a rookie quarterback. Hell, he could even sit for a while behind Tarvaris Jackson.
4. Cleveland Browns, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
If Cleveland does keep this pick and Griffin is off the board, they have some choices to make. Trent Richardson or Justin Blackmon are both viable options here. But Claiborne upgrades what was already a solid defense, which should pay immediate dividends.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
People are really averse to drafting running backs this high anymore. Everyone's a GM. Richardson has rare talent for a running back, and the fifth pick in the draft is much cheaper than it used to be. Richardson plays like Steven Jackson, adding another dimension to the Bucs' offense.
6. Washington Redskins, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington has had three winning seasons since 1999. Three. Their last one was a 9-7 effort in 2007. They'll try to sign Peyton Manning as long as his head is still attached in March. And what better way to welcome Manning than with the top receiver in the draft.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Jacksonville has a long list of needs. Pass rushers are always at a premium, and Coples is a better pick here than Dre Kirkpatrick or a receiver. Fans should be occupying that behemoth of a stadium to demand that the team re-sign Jeremy Mincey, which would make for a fearsome pairing along their defensive front.
8. Miami Dolphins, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Since sane new ownership isn't available in the draft (Washington probably would have picked that first anyway), the Dolphins pick up a stellar right tackle. Just as important, he can work in relief of Jake Long who's been battling injuries and entering the last year of his contract.
9. Carolina Panthers, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Panthers need help in the middle of their defensive line. Leaving college after his redshirt sophomore season, Brockers is raw. Raw or not, he has the talent to thrive, and the Panthers don't have to lean on him for every defensive snap in his rookie season. He improves their pass rush and possesses the strength to beef up their run defense.
10. Buffalo Bills, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Buffalo is going to a 4-3 defense this season. Whatever scheme they use, they still need a pass rusher. Ingram is a bit of a tweener, err, scheme versatile in the parlance of our times. None of his pass rush skills stand out in particular, but he manages to put it all together and get beyond blockers.
11. Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
At some point this team is going to have to find a quarterback. Maybe next year. For now, they need to replace Barry Richardson at right tackle. Adams has the most upside of any tackle beyond Kalil or Reiff, and he's naturally suited to slide right in on the right side for the Chiefs.
12. Minnesota Vikings, Dre Kirkpatrick. CB, Alabama (Projected trade: from Seahawks)
Kirkpatrick's weed arrest is going to get his name bumped down on some draft boards but he is a first rate corner whose legal troubles pale in comparison to Chris Cook.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals mortgaged a chuck on their future for Kevin Kolb. They might have gotten fleeced, but sticking him behind a mound of wet paper towels for protection didn't help. Reports indicate that they plan to let Levi Brown walk. Martin would fill that void ... and then some.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Every time I get to this spot in these mocks, the image of Terrance Newman matched up against the Giants' receivers in Week 17 comes to mind. Jenkins toiled in obscurity after getting the boot from Florida, but he got back on the radar with a solid outing at the Senior Bowl.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
This pick requires no thought. Having an cornerstone player in between the defensive line and the mercenaries in their backfield would solve many of the problems Philly had last year. Kuechly is a good tackler with a nose for the ball. It just might make them live up to "dream team" status, at least getting them much closer.
16. New York Jets, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Jets probably need help on offense more than anything. They also need someone to put the scare into opposing quarterbacks. Upshaw adds an aggressive presence to their attack as a natural pass rusher.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
I would be shocked if DeCastro really did fall this far. I think he's better than any guard since Steve Hutchinson, and just as capable of changing the dynamic of an offensive line. Nate Livings is a free agent, and they shouldn't think twice about letting him walk.
18. San Diego Chargers, Nick Perry, OLB, USC
Since coaches aren't available in the draft either, the Chargers will turn toward fixing the pass rush, possibly admitting their mistake with Larry English. Perry has the speed to make things happen when attacking the quarterback. He did not play linebacker at USC, so it may take some time to get him up to snuff.
19. Chicago Bears, Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Chicago could use help along the offensive line, on the inside and out. They can probably find a way to get by and save their first-round pick for a playmaker. What Wright lacks in size, he makes up for with versatility, good hands and blazing speed. He can be a deep threat or do damage with yards after the catch working out of the slot.
20. Tennessee Titans, Pete Konz, C, Wisconsin
Head coach Mike Munchak spoke pretty harshly about his offensive line, the unit he used to coach before his promotion. Konz is a big upgrade in the middle over Eugene Amano, who moved in from right guard last season. Besides improving the center position, it gives Munchak some flexibility with his remaining linemen.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Panned at the Senior Bowl, Dennard was mostly asked to play outside of his natural skill set. Dennard is a press-man cover corner. His physical play would be a welcome addition to a team that missed Johnathan Joseph last season.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta), Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Will the Browns really go into the 2012 season with Colt McCoy as their quarterback? Maybe not. Then again, maybe they wait a year to find McCoy's replacement, choosing instead to tweak around the edges of the roster in the hopes of being more competitive this season. Floyd would pair nicely with Greg Little, giving the Browns a legitimate top receiver.
23. Detroit Lions, Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
Glenn might be best suited to play inside. At the Senior Bowl, Glenn got moved to the blindside by the NFL coaching staff, and he did not disappoint. He has the natural balance and agility to move with defenders on the outside. Even a little rough around the edges, he would be solid replacement for free agent Jeff Backus.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe is an obvious replacement for the aging Casey Hampton, who also had to have his ACL surgically repaired after their Wild Card loss to the Broncos. A natural nose tackle, Poe also has the kind of pocket-crashing ability of an interior linemen who weigh 50 pounds less.
25. Denver Broncos, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
If the Broncos are committed to Tim Tebow, then they need to get some additional parts for the offense, included a running back with some real speed. Miller has capability to make big plays, with his combination of moves and speed. It would pair well with Tebow in the option offense.
26. Houston Texans, Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Houston clearly needs another receiver to pair with Andre Johnson and their all-world running game. No player seems to elicit more debate than Jeffery. Speed is his biggest weakness, which will keep him from getting picked much higher in the first round. With Arian Foster and Andre Johnson demanding so much attention from defenses, Jeffery could have a nice rookie season in the NFL.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Mark Barron, S, Alabama
New England was one Lee Evans dropped pass away from sending Baltimore to the Super Bowl. Their safeties struggle in coverage, more so than their corners. Barron does a number of things well, and has a natural instinct for the game. He'll fit nicely under Bill Belichick.
28. Green Bay Packers, Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi State
Green Bay needs help along their defensive front. Adding Cox gives them an immovable object on the line that will disrupt opposing runners and crash the pocket.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Ravens are committed to Joe Flacco. What better way to honor that commitment than by finding him some help at wide receiver. Sanu doesn't have the speed of a downfield threat, but the Ravens have that in Torrey Smith. What he does do is catch the ball really well and play a tough style that allows him to get yards after the catch.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Stephon Gilmore, CB South Carolina
Conventional wisdom in most of the recent mocks gives the 49ers a receiver here, but all the first-round worthy guys are off the board. Gilmore would be a nice addition for the 49ers, who run a lot of zone coverage out of the base defense. He also has tremendous ball skills.
31. New England Patriots, Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
2012 is shaping up to be the year of the scheme versatile pass rusher. That probably sets up some teams for disappointment. Mercilus does not look like a prospect who will disappoint. He has the speed and power to get around blockers and get to the passer, something he did with regularity last season. If he had more than one year of starting experience under his belt, he might get picked higher. Tweener or not, he's the kind of player the Patriots will find a way to use.
32. New York Giants, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
It's hard to imagine the Giants offense getting another weapon in the passing game, but adding a sure-handed tight end would add another dimension to their offense.