2012 NFL Mock Draft: Rise Of The Pass Rushers

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17: Quarterback Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies is tackled by defensive end Quinton Coples #90 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

Pass rushers are rising up draft boards fast with the 2012 NFL Draft just days away. How does that change the outcome in the first round?

Is your head spinning from all the mock drafts? Do you feel as though you've come full circle on prospect opinions? Have you mapped out, in 140-character increments, every single possible draft scenario to the point a punter showed up in your latest water cooler mock draft? I feel you. It's the end of April. The 2012 NFL Draft starts, mercifully, Thursday.

The inundation of information -- some of it viable, much of it noise -- makes predictions tough this late in the game. For my latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft, I tried to wade through the whispers, curating what I believe a reasonable stab at predicting what might happen on Thursday night in NYC. Myself and others from SB Nation will be on the scene this week, so keep checking back as the offseason reaches its crescendo.

1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Done. Any conspiracy theorists left out there? Probably. It will be nice when the season begins so we can finally get a look at Luck on the field and start thinking of him as football player instead of draft pick.

Related Video: Andrew Luck Scouting Report

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

As if you needed another reminder of just how absurd things get this time of year, some team or pundit decided to leak out some horrendous character concerns about RG3. Jason Kirk thoroughly debunked the foolishness.

Related Video: Robert Griffin III Scouting Report

3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Things start getting confusing here. A few are holding forth that the Vikings will pick Claiborne, a very realistic scenario. I still think they should go with Kalil. Don't over-think it.

Related Video: Matt Kalil Scouting Report

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

Call me cynical, but at the very least Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur could buy themselves another year in Cleveland if they draft a quarterback. At least they can say they're trying. No need to rush Tannehill; let Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace work another year.

Related Video: Ryan Tannehill Scouting Report

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

This certainly looks like the dream scenario for Tampa. If Claiborne and Richardson are gone, they could certainly justify Kalil here, moving Donald Penn over to the right side.

Related Video: Morris Claiborne Scouting Report

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

There has been plenty of talk about Fletcher Cox in this spot recently, and that is a viable piece of conventional wisdom. If Richardson does make it this far, the Rams will draft him.

Related Video: Trent Richardson Scouting Report

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

You can never have too many pass rushers, and Ingram looks like the best in the class. He pairs nicely with Jeremy Mincey on the other side. Jacksonville would love to trade out of this spot, and some team might be willing to move up for Ingram or other players.

Related Video: Melvin Ingram Scouting Report

8. Miami Dolphins, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Brandon Marshall is gone. Miami needs a No. 1 receiver to replace him, and they'll pick Floyd over Blackmon with both on the board.

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

Carolina has been looking at defensive tackles throughout the spring. Cox is a stout man for the middle and will add pressure from the inside.

Related Video: Fletcher Cox Scouting Report

10. Buffalo Bills, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Giving Ryan Fitzpatrick another receiver to work with, in addition to Stevie Johnson, gives the Bills some needed firepower on offense. Blackmon and Johnson could make for a nice complementary pair of receivers.

Related Video: Justin Blackmon Scouting Report

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

Some are skeptical about whether Poe will realize his full potential. Kansas City should be willing to take that chance and bet on their ability to help him live up to those Haloti Ngata comparisons.

Related Video: Dontari Poe Scouting Report

12. Seattle Seahawks, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Coples is like Poe in that some are questioning his ability to reach his potential, just like teams were with Robert Quinn last year. Seattle will gladly take a chance on him to add an outside threat.

Related Video: Quinton Coples Scouting Report

13. Arizona Cardinals, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

Arizona's line needs help all over. DeCastro is far better than any offensive tackle prospect on the board after Kalil.

Related Video: David DeCastro Scouting Report

14. Dallas Cowboys, Mark Barron, S, Alabama

The Cowboys secondary needs help in the middle. Talk of Dallas' infatuation with Mark Barron has been made abundantly clear lately ... or it's a really involved ruse.

Related Video: Mark Barron Scouting Report

15. Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Philadelphia defensive line coach Jim Washburn has been connected to Cox in recent weeks. Trading up is an option, so is waiting for Brockers to fall to them in this spot.

16. New York Jets, Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Mercilus may be a one-year wonder in college, but he has real ability to get to the quarterback. The Jets desperately need another pass rusher to make their defense a real threat again.

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

Gilmore's getting some talk right now as the likely second cornerback to go in the first round. I'll buy it. Does he fall this far?

Related Video: Stephon Gilmore Scouting Report

18. San Diego Chargers, Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State

Late entrant in the mix of first-round pass rushers, McClellin could find a home on teams in need of pass rushing help.

19. Chicago Bears, Nick Perry, DE, USC

Put another pass rusher on the other side of Julius Peppers and it might help Chicago keep up with the quarterbacks in the division.

20. Tennessee Titans, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Kirkpatrick may be the third corner off the board, but he has first-round talent. He, obviously, replaces Cortland Finnegan.

Related Video: Dre Kirkpatrick Scouting Report

21. Cincinnati Bengals, Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

Kind of an unexciting pick these days. The Bengals could be smart to add another offensive skill player here, a receiver or even a running back like Doug Martin. A lineman of Glenn's ability helps the offense too.

Related Video: Cordy Glenn Scouting Report

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons), Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Randle has a load of talent that may take refining. He would appeal to Cleveland as a guy who has plenty of upside but who can still contribute early with his ability to beat coverage.

23. Detroit Lions, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Lions are willing to take character risks and they do here with Jenkins, who has top 10 talent.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

I have a hard time placing Kuechly, first-round linebacker bias. He could be picked in the first 15 spots; he could fall to the end of the round. Pittsburgh would be fortunate to find him here. Needing youth in their linebacker group, Kuechly would be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

Related Video: Luke Kuechly Scouting Report

25. Denver Broncos, Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

This could be really interesting pairing with Peyton Manning in town. There was a minor stink over Wright's 40 time earlier in the spring. It was overblown.

26. Houston Texans, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Houston lost Eric Winston, by their own hand oddly enough. Martin gives them a capable replacement with his best years still in front of him. They hit on a solid left tackle with Duane Brown in 2008. Martin could be a similar value here.

Related Video: Jonathan Martin Scouting Report

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Another late riser among the pass rushers, Jones has been kicked around plenty lately as a likely first-round pick. Pass rushers are still at a premium, so don't be surprised to see others ending up in the bottom of the third round who were not in the discussion in March.

28. Green Bay Packers, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

It's a big fall for Upshaw, who once was considered the best pass rusher in the draft. He lacks the fluid motions of a natural athlete, but he seems to find a way to make it work.

Related Video: Courtney Upshaw Scouting Report

29. Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

Baltimore needs a center, meaning Konz could be the pick here. Zeitler is a ready-made run blocker that can replace Ben Grubbs. They will be giving Ray Rice a lot of money soon, and will appreciate the value.

30. San Francisco 49ers, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

The two-tight end attack is going west, though I doubt Fleener has the bro-ness to turn it into the kind of knuckle-bumping road trip, a la Gronk. He is not as imposing as Gronkowski. Still he catches the ball well and makes matchup headaches for defenses.

31. Patriots, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

People are down on Worthy, but I really think he has the potential to be a very good player. New England will be a good fit for those questioning his willingness to be a consistent player.

32. New York Giants, Dont'a Hightower, OLB, Alabama

The Giants had him in for a visit. No surprise. Hightower can add another rushing threat on the strong side. That keeps on the field for third down.

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