With Super Bowl XLVI gradually becoming a distant memory for many and the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine just around the corner, it's time to put together a new 2012 NFL Mock Draft for the entire first round.
Analogous to the rematch between the Pats and Giants on the big stage, Lucas Oil Stadium hosts the annual NFL Scouting Combine, which is designed for the league to scout future stars up close and personal in both physical and mental tests.
Contrary to picks 8 and 9 (Carolina and Miami) and 11 and 12 (Seattle and Kansas City), which will be decided by a coin toss, the upcoming events and evaluation are a difficult process but can make all the difference in uncovering the next superstar from the inevitable infamous bust.
Anything can happen from now and late April, but here's how I expect things to unfold at the moment.
NFL Mock Draft Version 2
The 6-4, 235-pound product will have his hands full taking over operations for one of the greatest players in NFL history. At least luck will be on his side.
2. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor 6' 2 219 lbs (Trade Via Rams )
The conversation is heating up in D.C. with Peyton Manning. Bleacher Report NFL Lead Writer Josh Zerkleisn’t buying it and neither is the always accurate analyst from NFL Network—Jason La Canfora—and both of them used to work for the Washington Post. Instead, the Redskins pursue the long-term option and the future of their franchise.
Matt Kalil OT, USC 6' 6 297 lbs
One of the best offensive tackle prospects to come along in years, Matt Kalil will protect Ponder’s blindside and help the incandescent decision-maker avoid any type of sophomore slump after taking his lumps as a rookie.
Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma ST. 6 ' 1 208 lbs
When you couple need with talent, Justin Blackmon is the best player available and Cleveland is in some serious need of offensive weapons. He also has a tremendous ability to stretch the field, which will make life easier for Colt McCoy or whoever is under center next year.
Trent Richardson RB, Alabama 5' 11 225 lbs
Featuring an unmatched combination of size, drive, speed and strength, Richardson racked up 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground with 29 receptions for 338 yards and 3 TDs through the air in 2011. T-Rich is a complete back that will not only alleviate Josh Freeman and the Bucs bounce back to relevancy, but also have the benefit of facing defenses within the division that are already weak against the run.
6. St. Louis Rams
Morris Claiborne CB, LSU 6' 0 177 ( Trade via Redskins)
Sam Bradford requires stronger protection and more weapons to reach his full potential, but with Blackmon and Kalil off the board, the Rams look to restore their secondary which saw injuries right and left and was relentlessly torched last season.
Quinton Coples DE 6' 5 276 lbs
Jacksonville needs a corner and a receiver, but its front four also has to generate more pressure. Coples was a winner, winner, chicken dinner at the Senior Bowl. If the team can retain Jeremy Mincey, Coples and Mincey will provide a rock-solid one-two punch at defensive end.
Riley Reliff OT 6' 5 303 lbs.
Regardless of who lines up under center, getting Jake Long back healthy and pairing him with a bookend tackle in the versatile Riley Reiff will go a long way towards repairing the offensive issues and enhancing the aerial attack and ground game.
Michael Brockers DT, LSU 6' 6 306 lbs (coin flip )
The Panthers took two defensive tackles in the third round last year, but both Sione Fua and Terrell McClainflopped when they were on the field. Improving the interior of the defensive line with the top defensive tackle in the draft should be Carolina’s top priority.
Courtney Upshaw OLB 6 ' 2 263 lbs
A destructive wrecking ball and the best clear-cut 3-4 rush linebacker in this class, Upshaw will not only have instant chemistry with Dareus and co., but also provides the relentless pressure and power that was never found in Aaron Maybin.
David DeCastro G, Stanford 6' 5 310 lbs
Kansas City needs all the help it can get on the offensive line. DeCastro is an immediate starter and looks to do wonders for whoever starts under center along with a formidable ground game.
Ryan Tannehill QB 6' 4 222 lbs
If the ‘Hawks are unable to reel in Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn, this could be the best option and would be a seamless transition from Tarvaris Jackson. Ryan Tannehill completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns to 15 interceptions with 306 yards and four scores on the ground in 2011. He’s the only player to accumulate over 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 receiving yards in NCAA history.
After making some strong strides last season, the Cardinals must restore the offensive line in order to become a serious contender under the direction of Skelton, Kolb or someone else.
Janoris Jenkins CB, Northern Alabama 5' 11 184 lbs
After being asked to leave at Florida after three drug-related arrests, Janoris Jenkins landed on his feet at North Alabama, stayed out of harm’s way and dominated lesser competition. The talented corner has now returned to the limelight after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and seems destined for Dallas, where help and stability is needed everywhere in the back-end of the defense.
The Eagles’ group of LBs don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of offensive coordinators. This is an extremely common projection, and Philly’s not known for taking linebackers in the first round, but it’s the most sensible selection. An old-school, hard-nosed run-stuffer, Kuechly is an intelligent linebacker and instinctive playmaker that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.
The Jets are a defensive-minded team, so don’t expect them to shy away from that pattern in the first round, especially considering their top need going into the offseason may very well be outside linebacker. Ingram is very versatile and his stock could be starting to soar.
Mark Barron S, Alabama 6' 2 220 lbs
The top safety in this year’s draft class will miss the NFL Combine recovering from double hernia surgery, but “I can’t see it having any real impact on his stock,” a high-ranking team official said.
Nick Perry DE, USC 6' 3 250 lbs
Perry, a local product out of USC with mid-first round talent, collected 21 sacks in three seasons and 9.5 as a junior. While his role was a defensive end with the Trojans, he should be able to adapt to the Chargers’ 3-4 scheme and provide an immediate impact.
Ahlon Jeffery WR South Carolina
Albeit local product Michael Floyd is a favorite to end up with Chicago, Jeffery is seen in some circles as the top receiver in this draft class and most project him to be No. 2 behind Blackmon. Without the burden of coming with any character concerns, Jeffery is practically a can’t miss pick up and big-threat No. 1 receiver for Jay Cutler.
Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame 6' 3 225 lbs
The Titans will need to make way for Jake Locker in the near future and Tennessee endured a titanic collapse on offense when Kenny Britt went down with a season-ending injury and CJ2K couldn’t get going at the same time. Michael Floyd chalked up 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine scores in his senior season. His mild character concerns could be ignored here.
Lamar Miller RB Miami
Cincinnati’s backfield doesn’t possess nearly as much glitz and glamour as the air attack, so with its second first-rounder, the Bengals need to grab a running back, especially considering Cedric Benson, 29, is a free agent. Lamar Miller is a fairly complete back, coming off his redshirt sophomore season and has drawn comparisons to the elite Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
Mike Adams OT Ohio State 6' 8 320 lbs
Cleveland enters April needing to address quarterback, running back, receiver and the offensive line. Local standout Mike Adams was dominant during the Senior Bowl, which propelled him into the first round and will prevent the Browns QB from sustaining a concussion every week.
Peter Konz C, Wisconsin 6' 5 330 lbs
The Lions are quickly becoming a dangerous up-and-coming club. If they can bolster the interior of their offensive line early, Matthew Stafford won’t have to suffer so many nightmares and intense pressure and the running backs will remain in one piece.
Vontaze Burfict ILB Arizona St. 6' 2 243 lbs
Pittsburgh’s linebackers core is one of the best in the NFL, but the Steelers could use an upgrade at middle linebacker. Burfict is the perfect type of physical player they need to cultivate in their system.
Devon Still DT, Penn State 6' 5 310 lbs
Marcus Thomas is a free agent and the idea of Brodrick Bunkley and Ryan McBean starting together next year, should give Broncos fans nightmares. Fletcher Cox could be the best player on the board and is a big-time upgrade for Denver’s defense.
Kendall Wright WR, Baylor 5' 10 191 lbs
Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter combined for 70 catches for 986 yards and five scores in 2011. That’s not going to cut it, especially considering ailing Andre Johnson had just 33 catches for 492 yards and 2 TDs. In order to keep pace with the fellow AFC heavyweights, Houston has to find a legit No. 2 threat at wide out. Wright is a weapon of mass destruction in the slot and on the outside and may also be just as dangerous in the kicking game, another area the Texans need to upgrade.
Alfonzo Dennard CB Nebraska 5' 10 195 lbs
Alfonzo Dennard is a team leader equipped with strong work ethic. Bill Belichick has made slight reaches on cornerbacks in the past in the draft (i.e. Devin McCourty). He does it again here, picking up a tough-as-nails cornerback that played opposite Prince Amukamara at Nebraska.
Whitney Mercilus DE, Illinois 6' 4 265 lbs
An immediate starter opposite Matthews, Mercilus looks to become merciless for opposing offenses. The Packers will methodically improve their roster through the draft (and free agency) with prospects with excellent value, big potential and address a team need.
Dont'a Hightower ILB Alabama 6' 3 258 lbs
Similar to the Steelers’ situation, the Ravens aren’t getting any younger on defense. Baltimore needs a better blend of veteran leadership and young talent and Hightower is a terrific fit for the 3-4 front.
Zach Brown OLB, North Carolina 6' 2 224 lbs
Alex Smith needs a premier playmaker in the passing game other than Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Sanu combined for 100 receptions for 1,057 yards and five touchdowns through the air with 655 yards and nine scores on 121 carries on the ground in 2009 and 2010. While he had no impact out of the backfield in his junior campaign, Sanu collected 115 receptions for 1,206 yards and seven scores and will join Ray Rice and two other first round picks Kenny Britt and Anthony Davis (also with San Francisco) as the only players of theGreg Schiano era to leave early for the NFL
Belichick craves versatility. Cordy Glenn is one of the most versatile first-round prospects in this draft class. Belichick also likes a good bargain. Glenn could be considered a sure-fire steal with the 31st overall pick.
Orson Charles TE, Georgia 6'3 241 lbs
Orson Charles‘ stock is on the rise and he’s now being considered the top prospect at his position. Take into account the Giants grabbed Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara in the last two years in the first round of the draft. Neither player addressed a serious need, but both were thought to be the best prospect on the board. Similar scenario here with Charles.