2012 NFL Mock Draft: Top 2 Picks Set As Free Agency Looms

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 26: Quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor meet during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Rams traded their second pick to the Washington Redskins, clarifying things at the top of the 2012 NFL draft. But what happens after the top two picks?

There is no more imagining a trade. The St. Louis Rams traded their second pick to the Washington Redskins last week, firing a shot heard 'round the league and setting the tone for what looks to be a busy offseason. The top two picks in the 2012 NFL draft are set. All signs point to the Colts selecting Andrew Luck and the Redskins following them by picking up Robert Griffin III.

This is the last 2012 NFL mock draft before free agency opens on Tuesday. With players like Mario Williams and Peyton Manning available, next week's mock draft will look vastly different than this one.


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1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

All Andrew Luck has to do is turn around a franchise that got rid of Peyton Manning. Sort of a big deal. The Colts can't miss with this pick. Their other moves are harder as they bring in a supporting cast for the new face of their franchise.

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis), Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Help me understand the world of armchair general management. When news of this trade leaked out on Friday night, roughly 30 percent of the tweets I read about it complained that Washington gave up too much. Are you crazy? Teams without quarterbacks are like cars without engines. All the draft picks in the world cannot save a team forced to rely on runaways like Rex Grossman. Washington has a bright future with Griffin coming to town.

3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC

This has to be the pick, but will it? Leslie Frazier made googly eyes at Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State's pro day event last week. Kalil is the best player in this draft, after the two quarterbacks. He has all the makings of an elite left tackle, and should make a difference the minute he steps on the field.

4. Cleveland Browns, Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Leave it to the Cleveland Browns to find a way to lose in March. After letting Washington woo second pick away from the Rams, the Browns should be a little panicked. Tannehill has the makings of a fine NFL quarterback. A poor substitute for what might have been, but it is a least a step forward. Can he buy the leadership there another year?

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Tampa Bay will be seeing Cam Newton twice a year for a long, long time. Drafting Claiborne would be a good way to make those games a little more competitive. If they sign Cortland Finnegan in free agency, all the better.


SB Nation's 2012 NFL Free Agency Preview

6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington), Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Jeff Fisher and his staff have made no secret that their future rests with getting Sam Bradford's career back on track. The best way to do that is to give him some offensive talent to work with. Richardson is the most talented running back to come along since Adrian Peterson and the top offensive skill player in this draft after the two quarterbacks. They can find a receiver or offensive line help later or in free agency with the cap room saved from Steven Jackson's contract.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Getting a receiver capable of doing most of his damage after the catch would be a tremendous help for Blaine Gabbert. Blackmon may not be on a level with A.J. Green, but he still looks like the top receiver in this draft and a good value at the seventh pick.

8. Miami Dolphins, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Miami was thoroughly embarrassed in the chase for Jeff Fisher, capping off a humiliating season by losing to the Rams in January. I still think that Peyton Manning ends up here, just as soon as he flirts with the other teams long enough to get what he wants from the Dolphins. Whoever ends up quarterbacking here will need help on the right side of the line. Reiff can also move over to the left side in a pinch.

9. Carolina Panthers, Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Cam Newton looks like the best draft pick in the last five years. If only Newton had some help from the Panthers' defense, they might have added a few more wins. Carolina tried and tried to find some combination to plug the holes in their line, but nothing worked. With Cox, they get a powerful inside lineman that also has a knack for getting to the passer.

10. Buffalo Bills, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Buffalo is making the switch to a 4-3 defense. It actually might be a better fit for Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus, who can be a real threat on the inside as a three-technique. Adding the top pass rusher in this draft class could make the Bills' defensive line a real threat in 2012.


Previous Mock Draft: Another Look Before Manning Signs


11. Kansas City Chiefs, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Those Haloti Ngata comparisons are pretty powerful. Romeo Crennel and his staff will believe in their ability to extract that potential, thus taking what might seem like a risk drafting Poe this high.

12. Seattle Seahawks, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

It looks like Seattle will end up being a bridesmaid in the Peyton Manning chase. The Seahawks might think about a quarterback here. However, they were able to bluff their way through with Tarvaris Jackson under center thanks in part to some tough defense. Adding a pass rusher who fits their various defensive packages is the one missing piece in that unit.

13. Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Whether the Cardinals land Peyton Manning or not, they could stand to give their quarterback some protection. Levi Brown is walking away in free agency, allowing another team the privilege of overpaying for his mediocre protection. Fine. Martin should be better on day one, even as a rookie.

14. Dallas Cowboys, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

Children in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area still cry when they think about the Cowboys' secondary. Nobody cries more than Rob Ryan, whose head coaching career hit a speed bump because of that unit. Jerry Jones cares about children and Rob Ryan; ergo, he will spend big bucks on Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan in free agency. Jones has his own reputation staked on Tony Romo. DeCastro gives Romo a little protection and some more help via the running game.

15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

I am contractually obligated to make this pick. Step too far outside the norms of mock drafting and you risk being clubbed with Xbox controllers. Kuechly matches need and talent for the Eagles in this spot. But what do the Eagles do in free agency? Spend big again and they might as well pipe video of Vince Young saying "dream team" into the Linc.

16. New York Jets, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Santonio Holmes' opinion aside, the Jets could certainly use another receiver. Floyd is actually a pretty good complement to the Jets' offense, giving them a big possession receiver with good hands and the ability to pick up yards after the catch. Floyd will also be useful in the red zone.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Hype alert! Gilmore is racing up draft boards after getting talked up by Mel Kiper and some other professional talkers. Of course, Gilmore is very good, and there are questions about Dre Kirkpatrick's ability to play corner in the NFL.

18. San Diego Chargers, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

It may or may not be Norv Turner's last chance in San Diego, after he somehow managed to avoid the ax after the 2011 season. If he has any hope of turning things around, he needs to find a pass rusher. Upshaw may not look like a perfect fit at either defensive end or outside linebacker, but he does have the ability to get to quarterbacks.

19. Chicago Bears, Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Teams still need to do their homework on Hill, though he does look very promising. Hill looks ready to go on the deep routes, but it remains to to be seen whether or not he can run the crossing patterns and adapt to the kind of physical play NFL corners and safeties will use against him.

20. Tennessee Titans, Nick Perry, DE, USC

Tennessee actually had a pretty good season for having little to no pass rush. Finding a player who can get to quarterbacks from the outside is a must. Moving Jason Jones to the outside was a bust, and he is leaving via free agency. Perry lacks the long track record in college, but has more than enough moves to attract the Titans.


Previous Mock Draft: Combine Changes The Projections


21. Cincinnati Bengals, Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

The Bengals could lose both guards in free agency this year. Even if they hang on to one, drafting Glenn would be a big help and a great value with this pick. Glenn has the makings of an elite guard prospect and could even slide over to tackle.

22. Cleveland Browns, Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Quick, find the best long snapper, commit his name to memory and do not be at all surprised if the Browns draft him here. This is the direction their offseason is headed. They could take a receiver here, but Pat Shurmur can find someone like Mohamed Sanu waiting in the second round, a better fit for his West Coast Offense. Having another pass rusher improves an already decent defense.

23. Detroit Lions, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Lions may not have the cap space to sign one of the big names in free agency to address their needs in the secondary. If Kirkpatrick did slip this far, it would be a stroke of luck for the Lions. Even if he does not, they might be able to get Gilmore here instead. His 40 time was less than impressive, but his physical style of play will appeal to Jim Schwartz.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

James Farrior became a cap casualty this year as the Steelers scramble to find cap space and a way to get younger. Hightower has a knack for knowing where the ball is. He can also rush the passer with his brute strength. They still need to find a replacement for Casey Hampton.

25. Denver Broncos, Devon Still, DT, Penn State

Not even Tim Tebow could summon any help for the Broncos' defensive line against the better pass protecting units in the league. Still gives them some strength at the point of attack and some potential as a pass rusher.

26. Houston Texans, Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

Wright's draft stock slipped after a couple disappointing 40 times. Still, you have to work really hard to make a case against him based on what he showed in college. Wright makes a nice complement to Andre Johnson as a slippery, explosive second option in the offense.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Mark Barron, S, Alabama

We all saw the soft underbelly of the Patriots' secondary in the Super Bowl, unless you were too busy being suckered in by the Go Daddy advertisements. Barron gives the Patriots a thumper for the middle of their defense.

28. Green Bay Packers, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

The Packers' defensive front was soft. Adding Worthy gives Dom Capers an immovable object at the five-technique spot, occupying blockers while the outside linebackers attack. Worthy also has the ability to get around blockers himself.


NFL Free Agency: Mario Williams, Matt Flynn Are Top Names On The Market


29. Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin

A surprise entrant to the first round, Zeitler is turning heads for his ability as a run blocker. The Ravens need youth on their interior line, especially if Ben Grubbs gets away in free agency. Peter Konz has been the pick here, but Matt Birk looks likely to stay this year. They can find and groom a late-round replacement at center.

30. San Francisco 49ers, Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

The free agent class of wide receivers dried up fast. Randle gives Alex Smith a big target who has the physical ability to fight for yards after the catch in the Niners' offensive system.

31. New England Patriots, Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut

The Patriots need help along their defensive front, sort of theme with Super Bowl bridesmaids this year. Reyes gives them a stout defender who can push around offensive tackles.

32. New York Giants, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

The only thing the Giants really lack on offense is a tight end capable of doing some damage in the middle of the field. Fleener gives Eli Manning a target on seam routes and someone to create mismatches in the middle of the field.

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