2012 NFL First Round Mock Draft

Though the NFL draft is still two months away, I took it upon myself to put together an early first round mock draft. This mock is a combination of my research of the talent and popular opinion among other analysts, as well as my assessment of team needs and individual players.

Please note that I have put this mock together without simulating trades. I am anticipating that either the Redskins or the Browns will trade down with the Rams to select RG3 with the second pick and in turn, the Rams will have a chance to select several guys in first round, likely an offensive tackle and a wide receiver. However, to simulate that here would be far too complicated so for now let’s assume that the Browns keep their 4th pick and 22nd pick, (which they earned from their trade last year with Atlanta).

I did have RG3 going to the Redskins at one point but in this mock, but I’m operating under the assumption the Skins get someone via free agency. Schneider has a propensity towards flashy accquistions, and I’m thinking Peyton Manning. Call me crazy but let’s just go with that for now, shall we?

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion as of right now. I can see a lot of things going a variety of different ways and with the combine approaching, player evaluations will change.

1.Indanapolis Colts Andrew Luck, QB – We can sit here and debate Luck vs. RG3 all we’d like, and in all honestly, any argument you’d make would be valid. I’m a huge RG3 fan myself, but I understand why Luck is the clear number #1 in the eyes of many. Pretty hard to imagine Colts don’t take him with the 1st pick.

2. St.Louis Rams  Riley Reiff, OT - The Rams have the QB for the future, now they need to keep him upright. Many think Kalil has dropped a bit, giving Reiff the nod here. As I mentioned above, sincerely doubt Rams actually end up with 2nd pick and will probably have several opportunities to grab an OT and a wide receiver in the first rounds. They need both.

3. Minnesota Vikings Matt Kalil, OT – Vikings need to improve their offensive line and the secondary, but Khalil is too good of a prospect to let go (in fact, many have Kalil ranked ahead of Reiff and it may come down to the teams individual evaluations of these two players). He also helps to protect last year’s #1 pick, QB Christian Ponder.

4. Cleveland Browns Robert Griffin III, QB – The Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Mary Cay Cabot considers it “pretty likely” that the Browns will attempt to trade up to No. 2 pick to grab RG3. For the sake of this mock, we will just let them have him go at 4.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Morris Claiborne, CB – The Bucs need help in the secondary and Claiborne is, by far, the best cornerback prospect in the draft. Many mocks have Richardson going here, which makes sense, but the Bucs have a ton of other needs they also must address.

6. Washington Redskins Justin Blackmon, WR – Redskins need a WR to go along with their star QB (to be determined).

7. Jacksonville Jaguars Quinton Coples, DE - Coples would be a really nice addition to a Jags defensive line that is already quite good, but registered a low number of sacks last season.

8. Carolina Panthers Michael Brockers, DT – The Panthers must focus on defense in this draft – especially the run defense, which has been dreadful for a few years now – and Brockmon is on the rise as a prospect and offers a ton of upside.

9. Miami Dolphins Jonathan Martin, OT - Martin can play right tackle for the Dolphins, who are in need of some help on that side of the line. Many consider Martin to be the most talented pass blocker in the draft (which would mean great things for Miami’s new QB that might be named Matt Flynn).

10. Buffalo Bills Courtney Upshaw, OLB – The Bills need a rusher on the outside to compliment Marcell Dareus (last years #3 pick). Upshaw, who is  frequently compared to Terrell Suggs, is pro-ready and would have an immediate impact.

11. Kansas City Chiefs Trent Richardson, RB - The Chiefs have several needs and could go many ways here (OT is most popular opinion). In all reality, it’s very unlikely Richardson is still available at 11 (even though the idea of picking a RB in top half of draft is becoming less popular), but in this case he is available and I like him here as a guy for now and as the future guy to replace Jamaal Charles (who is coming off of an injury).

12. Seattle Seahawks Devon Still, DT - Seahawks could go a variety of ways here, but I have them fortifying their defensive line. Still has a lot of versatility as a player and is an extremely solid prospect overall.

13. Arizona Cardinals David DeCastro, OG - The Cardinals have failed to properly address this need in the past few drafts. They finally do it here.

14. Dallas Cowboys Dre Kirkpatrick, CB - Cowboys need help with their secondary . Kirkpatrick has some “character issues,” but he also has a load of talent and would be a huge help from the get-go. Oh, and Jerry Jones has never been one to shy away from questionable character.

15. Philadelphia Eagles Luke Kuechly, ILB – Ask an Eagles fan what they think they need and you will get a description of this guy.

16. New York Jets Melvin Ingram, DE/LB – The Jets must address the pass rush this off-season and I don’t mean concocting more complicated blitz schemes. They need a true pass rusher and Ingram is a great option. He is a bit smaller than Upshaw, but has more agility and versatility.

Former NFL Commish Peter Rozelle, back in the day.

17. Cincinnati Bengals Kendall Wright, WR – Bengals could help out QB Andy Dalton by adding another top notch receiver to compliment A.J. Green. On the other hand, they could just go with a defensive back here, as many others have suggested.

18. San Diego Chargers Peter Konz, C – The Chargers are in need of a new center and help with their offensive line in general. Konz is listed as a center, but he can also play right guard.other receiver to playopposite A.J. Greene. It’s highly possibly they target a CB instead and we will learn more about their plans for the draft once we hit free agency.

19. Chicago Bears Michael Floyd, WR – The Bears could go several ways with this pick. I happen to believe they need a lot of help at the wide receiver position. On flip side, they could look to bolster the offensive line with their first pack and try to acquire a receiver via free agency.

20. Tennessee Titans Janoris Jenkins, CB – Titans will need to replace Cortland Finnegan and Jenkins would be a great replacement, as he is one of the top prospects at the position. Unfortunately, the overwhelming theme with these top corners is their “character issues,” and so it is hard to predict where they will fall and how they will be valued.

21. Cincinnati Bengals  David Wilson, RB - Bengals need a new featured back and Wilson is top prospect after Richardson. He has the perfect mix of size, speed and proven work ethic.

22. Cleveland Browns Alshon Jeffery, WR – Browns need a real-deal #1 wide receiver. And then some.

23. Detroit Lions Whitney Mercilus, DE - While many mocks have the Lions selecting a cornerback here (and they could use one), I feel that Mercilus, who was a national leader in sacks in 2011, would be the perfect addition to the Lions front line.   Lions can get better value by waiting until second round for a corner.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers  Mike Adams, OT – The Steelers have been dealing with crippling injuries to their offensive line the past few seasons and I have a feeling they will looking for young, fresh reinforcements that have versatility.

25. Denver Broncos Dontari Poe, NT – Poe would be a great add to compliment the pass rushers and linebackers the Broncos already have.

26. Houston Texans Fletcher Cox, DT - Texans could go a variety of ways here but I believe that Fletcher, who has a ton of upside and potential that has hardly been reached, would be a tremendous, versatile addition to their defense. Just imagine how nasty the Texans would be another high-impact player who can also help to make J.J. Watt (last year’s pick) even better.

27. New England Patriots Chase Minnifield, CB - Obviously, the Patriots need to work on their defense, specifically the back half. I can’t pretend to know what Belichick will do but I’ll just assume, for now, he takes the best available corner. It’s highly possible he drafts a versatile defensive lineman here instead but I’ll today, I’ll just go with Minifield.

28. Green Bay Packers Nick Perry, OLB - The Packers could use a guy on the opposite side of Matthews to help Matthews be the best he can be.  A lot of mocks have Fletcher Cox going here, and I cannot argue with that.

29. Baltimore Ravens Dont’a Hightower, LB –  Ravens need to start planning ahead and prepare a someone to replace Ray Lewis. Hightower fits the bill.

30. San Francisco 49ers Mohamed Sanu, WR (or next best WR according to 49ers evaluation)- The Niners need a wide receiver (or two) and I have them taking the best available. Would probably be in their best interest to try and move up to get a higher prospect in this scenario, because so many other teams have taken receivers. They have other needs they could target here but wide receiver is the overwhelming top need.

31. New England Patriots Mark Barron, SS –  Barron is one of the best players in the draft and if were it not for his injury, he would likely go much earlier (some believe he still will). Patriots need help with their secondary (understatement!) and Barron is a total steal for them here.

Or, the Patriots could trade away this pick and add it to the collection.

32. New York Giants Dwayne Allen, TE – Giants usually take best player available, but tight end became a need for them in when both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum suffered injuries in the Super Bowl.

I will update this mock as we approach draft day and free agency is complete.

Kristine Reese is the lead Jets writer for Aerys Sports and a regular contributor to Aerys Offsides and The Pulse. You can follow her on Twitter @KristineReese. 

Joe Tufaro is a regular contributor to Aerys Offsides. You can follow him on Twitter @Tufdan.

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