ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Baylor Bears runs with the ball against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Cowboys Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The NFL regular season is over, and attention now shifts to the 2012 NFL Draft. With the draft order all set for the non-playoff teams, our latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft takes a look at how things might shake out come April.
The 2011 NFL season is over. I'm honestly not sure whether to be excited or relieved; that depends on which team you root for, I guess. For the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs, talk now shifts toward two favorite offseason activities, free agency and the draft. Now that the draft order is ironed out on top, it's time for another 2012 NFL mock draft.
Update: NFL playoffs schedule is here.
The 2012 NFL Draft will be among the more interesting in recent years. It's not particularly loaded with talent, but a pair of quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, if the latter opts to enter, will make for some interesting horse trading. Don't expect the swapping to end there. The union and owners mutually agreed to winnow down the high cost of rookie contracts, and it should make for the most swapping New York City has seen since Plato's Retreat opened.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This pick should be fairly obvious by now. Andrew Luck is the first quarterback since Peyton Manning, the man he will eventually replace, that has the status as an unqualified, once-in-a-lifetime first overall pick in the draft. The kid is about as sure of a thing as can be found in the NFL Draft. The real drama here will be what the Colts do with Peyton Manning, who earns a $28 million bonus as of March 8.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney are gone, reportedly. Those two drafted Jason Smith with the second overall pick in 2009, but Smith has been a bust, with many questioning whether or not he has the passion required for an offensive lineman in the NFL. Kalil has passion and the skills to match. This pick could be an attractive trading chip to quarterback needy teams like Cleveland, Miami and Washington. The Rams could certainly use additional draft picks to plug big holes in their roster.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The second or third picks in the draft will be valuable real estate, depending on what decision Robert Griffin III makes. If the Vikings do keep this pick, they have several options. They could sure use an offensive tackle, but Claiborne is a better player than the two top tackles behind Kalil on the draft board. He also fills a big need for the Vikes.
4. Cleveland Browns, Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I used to wonder if Mike Holmgren's junta in Cleveland might try to take a skill player to pair with Colt McCoy, a guy like Justin Blackmon, with this pick. Colt McCoy just isn't the guy though. It would be a shock to see RG3 drafted this low.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Who knows what this team will do in the draft. Some think Trent Richardson could be the pick here. They could stand some defensive improvements, and addressing the cornerback spot with a player of Kirkpatrick's ability is the best can they can do.
6. Washington Redskins, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Many assume that Washington will be active in seeking a trade up to get their hands on a quarterback. It's possible, but they could pursue other routes (hello Matt Flynn). Adding a receiver of Blackmon's caliber makes life easier for whoever that quarterback is. It's clear they need more than a declining Santana Moss.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
When a team tries to breath new life into Mike Sims-Walker, after coming to the realization they couldn't the year before, it should be obvious that they need a receiver. Floyd gives Gabbert a reliable player to work with and takes some pressure of Maurice Jones-Drew as the team's only playmaker.
8. Carolina Panthers, Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Almost any player worthy of a pick in this range of the draft could help the Panthers' defense. Still improves the middle of the Panthers defensive line and make Charles Johnson a more effective pass rusher.
9. Miami Dolphins, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Miami could use help on their offensive line. In the middle, Vernon Carey and Richie Incognito struggled with injuries as well as something called blocking. DeCastro has the makings of a truly elite guard, the kind that get $50 million contracts. With DeCastro, the Phins would even be on the hook for a lot less than that thanks to a budget-friendly new rookie salary schedule. Trading up, perhaps?
10. Buffalo Bills, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Bills need help on defense. Upshaw improves their play at linebacker with the versatility to be a pass rusher and a reliable player in coverage.
11. Seattle Seahawks, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Seattle quietly assembled one the league's best up and coming defenses. Coples adds a pass rushing presence to the edge. He also has the versatility to play inside in a defense that likes to switch its looks.
12. Kansas City Chiefs, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel or a player to be named later, none of them would find ideal working conditions behind the Chiefs' current offensive line. Reiff can play either tackle spot, and he will help Jamaal Charles in the run game.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Arizona came into their own in the season's second half. Their quarterback questions (again) aside, they could use help on the line. Martin is a big improvement, who helps in pass protection and run blocking. They need an upgrade over Levi Brown who is scheduled to make around $18 million in 2012, including a $9.6 million bonus, the last year of his contract.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Did anyone else see Terence Newman play on Sunday night?
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Blame Wide 9 from outer space, blame the high cost of free agent chemistry, blame the converted offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator, all of it deserves some scorn. The Eagles still need some help at linebacker, and Kuechly is the kind of middle linebacker that potential future defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had in St. Louis with James Laurinaitis.
16. New York Jets, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Jets may well surprise people are trade up for one of the top tier receivers in the draft, what will all the hub bub around Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez and the woeful offense. Richardson is the best offensive player on the board, a Steven Jackson clone that would pair nicely with Shonn Greene in an offense committed to running the football.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
In hindsight, letting Jonathan Joseph get away was a real loss. The Bengals' defense surprised people this year, though not as much as their offense, but they desperately need help at corner. Some questions Jenkins' character, but Cincinnati is the Boys Town of the league.
18. San Diego Chargers, Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Remember a time when the Chargers pass rush was feared? The defense needs to recapture some of that. In a draft where no pass rushers stand out, Perry is a solid pick in this spot. They really need help at offensive tackle, but this pick is probably a little soon for Zebrie Sanders out of Florida State.
19. Chicago Bears, Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Bears recovered their playoffs aspirations just in time to lose Jay Cutler for the season thanks in part to an offensive line that allowed way too much pressure. Konz is the second best interior lineman in the draft, after DeCastro. He could even play guard if need be.
20. Tennessee Titans, Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Mike Munchak is a former Pro Bowl offensive lineman that has publicly criticized his current group. Glenn helps both Jake Locker and Chris Johnson next season in a division that suddenly looks more attainable.
21. Denver Broncos, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Denver legitmately sounds committed to Tim Tebow in 2012. If that's the case, then they need to add some speed. Miller is a nice compliment to Tebow's style and could burn defenses in Denver's system.
22. Cincinnati Bengals, Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Brown could start instantly as the Bengals' weakside linebacker. If Cincinnati did get a starting corner and an athletic linebacker like Brown, that defense could make ripples in the AFC North, a division where defense comes first.
23. Detroit Lions, Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Now that the Lions have an elite offense, they need to start thinking about getting a more permanent solution to their offensive line. Adams gives them an anchor player for outside, either side, of the unit. He also beefs up the running game.
24. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta), Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Now this would be...quirky. Cleveland hopes to capture some of the magic that RG3 and Wright brought to the Baylor offense. Some might see Wright as a reach here, but he has the speed to stretch the field and the versatility to play anywhere on the line. He could even make trick plays interesting.
25. New York Giants, Kelechi Osemele, OL, Iowa State
It's hard to get a handle on the Giants needs with all the injuries they've had this season. They could sure stand to replenish the offensive line they way the defensive line seems to have an endless well of talent. Osemele can play inside at guard or in the right tackle spot.
26. Houston Texans, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
You have to hand it to Wade Phillips for converting Houston's 3-4 into a formidable force in just one year. Poe would give this unit the anchor it needs at the nose tackle position.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers, Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
Ben Roethlisberger was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL this year. Pittsburgh did a fine job repairing the outside of their line with patches. Sanders gives them a big upgrade along the edge of the line.
28. Baltimore Ravens, Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Ray Lewis might very well play for a few more years. Despite that, the Ravens need to starting thinking about his eventual replacement. Drafting Hightower, who can play in the middle or on the outside, keeps the Ravens committed to the present and the future.
29. San Francisco 49ers, Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
30. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
You can almost guarantee that this pick, and probably the next one, will be traded before the shooting stops on the first night of the draft. For the sake of mocking, let's put Worthy here because he gives the Pats a much needed shot of youth along their defensive line.
31. New England Patriots, Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State
Andre Carter is currently the Patriots' best pass rusher. He's 32 and stuck on the injured reserve list. They need to add another player who can get the quarterback. Jenkins puts his head down and plays football, a trait Bill Belichick loves.
32. Green Bay Packers, Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
After using first-round picks to address their offensive line, the Packers could use some help on their defensive line. Crick gives them a rock at the five technique spot. It's hard to think of the Packers getting better, but a few of the right moves on defense could make a 16-0 season realistic possibility, again.