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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

MIKE KAYE

With just a week to go before the NFL Combine, Juiced Sports looks at who is rising and falling in the latest mock draft.

First Round

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

As stated in pretty much every mock draft in the universe, this is the obvious pick. Andrew Luck to the Colts with the first pick is the most predictable pick since Carson Palmer to the Bengals in the 2003 NFL Draft. Like Palmer, Luck comes into a situation where everything is in flux. The only difference is Carson didn’t have to replace a living legend.

2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

I have decided to hold off on trades until right before the draft (gets too convoluted). Kalil will be the pick for the Rams if they stay put (I doubt they will). The former Trojan is the best left tackle prospect since Jake Long and has the ability to surpass the aforementioned in talent. Jason Smith was taken with this same pick a few years ago and has proven to be a bust, who is likely to be cut at some point in the offseason. Jeff Fisher is going to make this team look very different.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.

The Vikings would have preferred to land Kalil to protect Christian Ponder, but Blackmon is more than a great consolation prize. The Oklahoma State product is an unquestioned talent and a number one option for a team with very little outlets on offense. Luckily for Leslie Frazier, this is a very deep draft for offensive linemen so he can pick up a tackle in the second round instead of reaching here.

4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Whether they trade up or not, Robert Griffin III is set to wear a Browns jersey. Griffin is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country and that pushes him into the top of the draft. The Baylor standout is a bigger, fast athlete in the mold of Cam Newton with a better passing pedigree. Colt McCoy will have a tough time fending off Griffin in training camp.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, HB, Alabama

This pick will be one of two players: Richardson or Morris Claiborne. Richardson plays a position that has lost its luster in the first round, but after the way the Bucs struggled last year with the running game, Richardson is an option. Tampa Bay needs an eventual replacement for Ronde Barber at cornerback, but this draft has quite a few in the 2nd round that can start right away. Richardson is a top five talent in this draft and he will go in that range. If not, he’ll fall into the late teens when the Bengals are on the clock.

6. Washington Redskins: Quinton Coples, DE/DT,UNC

As rumors go, the Skins are set to pick-up Peyton Manning after he is released from the Colts. That takes care of the need for a quarterback (if he’s healthy), so the Shanahan’s go defense. Stephen Bowen is a nice player but Washington can definitely upgrade over him. Coples is a tweener but is most likely a 3-4 defensive end due to his lack of burst. That lack of speed has him all over other mock draft boards, but with quarterback taken care of, the Skins go for a guy with great potential.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Rashean Mathis has a big contract, but is still seeking a new one. He is up there in age and his speed has fallen by the wayside. Luckily for the Jags, they have found the perfect replacement. Claiborne is great value here as he could go as early as third overall. Claiborne disappeared from the National Championship game but there is no questioning his talent. With Patrick Peterson’s success last year, Claiborne will likely be compared and benefit from his former teammate. Claiborne is a best cover guy than Peterson and will likely have a better career defensively than Peterson.

8. Miami Dolphins: Reily Reiff, OT, Iowa

The Dolphins would love to have Griffin but unless they get a nice package ready for the Rams, they will likely stay at this spot. Matt Moore proved he can play well when he has time to throw. The merry-go-round at right tackle needs to stop and Reiff can solve that problem. The Iowa big man is exactly that: big. He has athleticism and a mean streak for days, something that the Fins could use on the opposite side of Jake Long.

9. Carolina Panthers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

While he made one of dumbest mistakes for a draft prospect (arrested for marijuana possession, the charges have been dropped), he is still a premiere talent. Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is a former defensive backs coach and he would love nothing more than to pair Chris Gamble with Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick’s rare size and strength at the position sets him apart from most in this draft. Those attributes will allow him to press with the biggest wide receivers in the league and more importantly, compete with them for the ball.

10. Buffalo Bills: Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama

The Bills have failed with Shawn Merriman and they desperately need a pass rush. The rumors are that Buffalo is switching to a 4-3 from a 3-4, but Upshaw can play in both. This move allows him to reunite with last year’s standout, Marcel Dareus. Upshaw is quick and is relentless when going after quarterbacks. His performance in the National Championship game will go down as one of the best in history and it has no question helped in this draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

Derrick Johnson has been phenomenal this season but he could use a running mate in the middle of the Kansas City defense.  Kuechly is a little undersized for the position but is a superb tackler and has fantastic instincts. Putting the Boston College prospect in a 3-4 allows him to hide his size and inability to consistently get off blocks. Kuechly has led the BCS in tackles over the past two seasons.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Nick Perry, DE, USC

Seattle is another rumored team for Peyton and another team that would have loved Griffin, but either way there is no quarterback remaining that can be justified for this pick. Chris Cleamons seems to be the only guy that can get pressure on the quarterback and that needs to change if Pete Carroll wants to make the playoffs again. South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram is better at the position but Perry was originally brought into the college ranks by Carroll. The familiarity will pay dividends for Perry.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Much like Seattle, Arizona needs to get a consistent pass rush if they want to be successful. Ingram is a little raw but he knows how to get off blocks. He will have to convert to linebacker in Arizona’s scheme but could flourish as he is also good against the run.  Ingram may be the best pass rusher in the draft.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Cowboys could be in the market to replace Michael Jenkins who has significantly regressed since his rookie season. Janoris Jenkins is a bit of a knuckle head but so were Pacman Jones, Dez Bryant, and Terrell Owens before Jerry Jones brought them to town. Jenkins might have been the first cornerback taken had he not gotten kicked out of UF but he will still make money in the middle of the first round.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Still, DT, Penn. State

The Eagles look solid on their defensive front on the surface, but under the water their churning their feet a bit. Defensive tackle has some question marks. Mike Patterson has just had brain surgery, Antonio Dixon is coming off an arm injury, Cullen Jenkins is getting up there in age and Trevor Laws and Derek Landri are free agents. Still is a local guy, who the Eagles have no doubt scouted and his impressive size and speed could make him perfect for Jim Washburn’s wide-9 scheme. A lot is made of the Eagles linebackers but having a third rotational guy in the middle of the line could do wonders.

16. New York Jets: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

The Jets have a lot of holes and that was no more evident than their game against the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Mark Sanchez needs a ton of time to throw in order to be effective. DeCastro is a fantastic interior lineman and has the ability to take on multiple defenders, especially in the run game.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Chris Crocker had a pretty terrible stretch of games toward the end of year and the Bengals will likely look for an upgrade. Barron is unquestionably the best at his position in a draft that is pretty weak at safety. With two picks in the first round, look for the Bengals to go need then value in the first round, unless they trade up for Trent Richardson.

18. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Reports say that the Chargers are set to release Marcus McNeil just a season after giving him a huge contract. Martin has a local connection and was no doubt helped by playing next to DeCastro and protecting Luck. Martin should be able to start relatively soon, if not right away. Philip Rivers struggled when McNeil was out with injuries so Martin could fill an important role for the Bolts.

19. Chicago Bears: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

How long have the Bears been looking for a number one WR? Floyd can provide them with reliable hands and size, something Jay Cutler has missed since he parted from Brandon Marshall. Johnny Knox is coming off a serious back injury and Roy Williams (once again) was a bust, so Floyd fills a major need.

20. Tennessee Titans: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Interior offensive line should be the theme for the Titans in this draft. They need to do whatever they can to get the most out of the investment they made in Chris Johnson. Last year, CJ2K looked like CJ55 because of the lack of open lanes. Konz fills the void the Titans have had since Kevin Mawae left two seasons ago. Wisconsin is known for producing major talent on the offensive line, so this is a safe but rewarding pick for Tennessee.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alfonso Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Nate Clements was a nice one-year fix but the Bengals need an upgrade in that area. Dennard isn’t the fastest guy at the position but he has great instincts and can stay with wide receivers. He has had problems turning his hips much like his former teammate Prince Amukamara, but has the ability to be coached up to make up for physical short-comings. He may eventually join Barron at safety.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The best way to get Robert Griffin adjusted to pros is to pair him up with someone he is familiar with. This is about the range that Wright will go. He is an excellent returner and makes big plays at receiver. The Browns have needed a starting-caliber wide receiver for a while and Wright could fill the void.

23. Detroit Lions: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

This is a bit of reach for Adams, but the Lions have avoided upgrading their protection for Matt Stafford since he entered the league. Current left tackle, Jeff Backus, could be moved to right tackle to take over for the ineffective Gosder Cherilus. Adams may need to develop a little like Anthony Costanzo last season, but will end up being a great asset down the line.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

Another year, another early pick for the offensive line in Pittsburgh. Rashad Mendenhall will love this pick because Glenn is massive. He will have room for days. A lot is made of Pittsburgh’s blue-collar mentality and Glenn definitely fits that mold. With Big Ben getting injuries on a yearly basis, more protection would be essential for the Steelers.

25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Miss. State

Broderick Bunkley resurrected his career in Denver this past season, but he will be a free agent this offseason. To avoid paying a hefty salary to an aging veteran, the Broncos go for Cox. He has proven valuable against both the run and pass in the SEC, which is a plus for Denver. For years, John Fox was without a great defensive tackle in Carolina, so he knows how important the position is.

26. Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis

The Texans surprised everyone with their early success in the switch to a 3-4 defense. The only thing the team was lacking was a traditional nose tackle. Poe is a big boy with the ability to take away interior offensive linemen. If Houston can open up the offensive line to rush the passer from the inside, their defense will improve even more.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE, Illinois

A bit early for Mercilus but there is no doubt that he can rush the passer. When Andre Carter went down to injury, very few players stepped up in the sack department. Bill Belichick likes mixing the 3-4 and 4-3 looks and Mercilus can play both. When he puts his hand down, he will be able to get off blocks.

28. Green Bay Packers: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

Jermichael Finley has put the Packers in an awkward position. Do they franchise him or let him walk? Either way, the team has to have tight ends available for Aaron Rodgers. Allen is the best at the position and has the ability to duplicate Finley’s production.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Jerel Worthy, DE/DT, Michigan State

While the Ravens need an eventual replacement for Ray Lewis, they choose to upgrade their defense front. Worthy is another massive lineman in this draft with great feet and even better athleticism. Cory Redding had a nice year with 4.5 sacks at the five-technique but he can be upgraded. Worthy has burst and size that trumps Redding’s so he could be the answer.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

Braylon Edwards couldn’t make it through the season and Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn are better served in reserve roles. That means the 49ers need a target opposite Michael Crabtree. Sanu is an all-purpose threat with the ability to run, play wildcat, and of course, catch the ball. What is so great about Sanu is his ability to fight for the ball and his intelligence. This year’s wide receiver class is loaded but Sanu makes it in to the bottom of the first round.

31. New England Patriots: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

The New England secondary was constantly blamed for the lacking defense, which is weird because Belichick seems to draft defensive backs early almost every year. This draft will be no different. Minnifield is the son of a former NFL player (Frank) and has decent size for the position. He has average speed for the position but he has been a phenomenal cover guy for Virginia.

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

Both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tore their ACLs in the Super Bowl so they are likely to miss next season. Fleener would be an upgrade over both, even if they were healthy. Eli Manning was fantastic this year but he could really use a target that will go across the middle.

Second Round

33. St. Louis Rams: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Alshon Jeffery has great size with speed to match would be a number one receiver for a team desperately needing to stretch the field.

34. Indianapolis Colts: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne are both free agents and Andrew Luck needs someone to throw to. Randle has good size and can make a play or two.

35. Minnesota Vikings: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

The Vikings can’t just settle for Brian Robison across from Jared Allen. Jones is quick and has a great motor.

36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

The Bucs passed on a corner in the first and get good value with Gilmore in the second. Gilmore is a ballhawk and is a first round talent.

37. Cleveland Browns: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

Ben Watson is old and Evan Moore can block, but Orson Charles can make plays.

38. Jacksonville Jaguars: Juron Criner, WR, Arizona

The Jaguars are another team that really needs a starting-caliber pass catcher. Criner had a huge game in the Senior Bowl and will build on his stock at the combine.

39. Washington Redskins: Ryan Tannenhill, QB, Texas A&M

If Peyton comes to town, he’ll only be there for a few years. Tannenhill is coming off an injury and he would be best served learning from Manning for two years.

40. Miami Dolphins: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin

Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are nice players but they aren’t starters. Toon has the ability to get the job done across from Brandon Marshall.

41. Buffalo Bills: David Wilson, HB, Virginia Tech

The Bills want to use C.J. Spiller in the return game and as a wide receiver and Fred Jackson is in the last year of his deal. Wilson has played extremely well at Virginia Tech and could be a good backup to Jackson.

42. Carolina Panthers: Zach Brown, OLB, UNC

Brown is a local guy who can provide healthy legs at position that has been banged up for years. The Tar Heel prospect is a prototypical weakside linebacker.

43. Seattle Seahawks: David Lavonte, OLB, Nebraska

David Hawthorne is likely to leave in free agency, with K.J. Wilson sliding into the MIKE position. Lavonte would serve as the weakside guy and replace Wilson.

44. Kansas City Chiefs: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Dwayne Bowe is a free agent and the Chiefs are light on depth at the receiver position. Hill is big (6’4”) and could be a great compliment or starter for the Chiefs.

45. Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Washington, OG, Miami

The Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their offensive line. Demarco Murray and Felix Jones need more lanes to run through.

46. Philadelphia Eagles: Bobby Wagner, OLB, Utah State

The Eagles have well-publicized issues at linebacker. Wagner would be a good option at strong and weakside linebacker.

47. New York Jets: Doug Martin, HB, Boise State

LT isn’t coming back to New York. Martin is a dynamic runner with the ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

48. New England Patriots (from OAK): Chris Polk, HB, Washington

New England struggled to run against the Giants, Polk can replace BenJarvis Green-Ellis and join Steven Ridley in the backfield for the next few years.

49. San Diego Chargers: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

Takeo Spikes is near the end of his rope and Hightower is significant value at 49. Hightower has problems in coverage but can fill the thumper role in San Diego.

50. Chicago Bears: Zebrie Sanders, OT, FSU

J’Marcus Webb is laughable as left tackle and while Sanders had an awful Senior Bowl week, he is an upgrade.

51. Philadelphia Eagles (from ARI): Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall

Juqua Parker is on the way out and Brandon Graham has proved anything. Curry fits the Washburn mold and can get to the quarterback.

52. Tennessee Titans: Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State

Again, the Titans need serious offensive linemen. Osemele can open up the aforementioned CJ2K lanes.

53. Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

The Bengals got a replacement for Nate Clements in the first and they get their replacement for Pacman (Adam) Jones in the second.

54. Detroit Lions: Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

This is another major need for the now-respectable Lions. Hosley isn’t a household name but a good player, who at the very least can play the nickel role.

55. Atlanta Falcons: Billy Winn, DE, Boise State

Ray Edwards was big free agency bust and John Abraham is at the backend of his career. Winn is a great guy for depth and to eventually start.

56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana

The Steelers secondary showed its age in playoffs and Johnson gives them some much needed youth.

57. Denver Broncos: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

He may be 27, but if Brandon Weeden was 23, he would be a top 20 pick. John Elways still isn’t sold on Tim Tebow and Weeden would be great competition.

58. Houston Texans: Dwight Jones, WR, UNC

Dwight Jones can spread the field and is an upgrade over Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walters. Andre Johnson has had a lot of injuries as of late, so depth is a need regardless.

59. New Orleans Saints: Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia

With Steve Spagnuolo in town, the pass rush just became much more important. Johnson can be added to the ever-growing defensive line in New Orleans.

60.Green Bay Packers: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

Ryan Pickett was inconsistent this season and couldn’t get to the quarterback. Branch can join the Packers defense and give it a bit more push.

61. Baltimore Ravens: Vontze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

Burfict needs to be tamed to be great and who better to tame him than Ray Lewis? Burfict can come off the bench for a year and then be Lewis’ inevitable replacement.

62. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina

Carlos Rodgers was great this season but he is also a free agent and Shawntae Spencer is likely to get cut, so Norman can add depth to an ever-changing position of need in the Bay Area.

63.New England Patriots: Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi

Matt Light is the only other Patriot to have been to all the Super Bowls in Tom Brady era. That means he is getting up there in age and may need to be relieved sooner than later.

64. New York Giants: Isaiah Pead, HB, Cincinnai

Brandon Jacobs is looking for his next contract and it won’t likely come from the Giants. Pead isn’t similar in size to Jacobs but can run in between the tackles and get that extra yardage.

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