2012 Mock:  An Early Look at Next Year's NFL Draft

By Eric Caldwell

1. Miami Dolphins: Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford

- We all know about the "Andrew Luck Sweepstakes" and chances are anyone who ends up selecting at the top of the board is going to make this pick. The Dolphins have gone through quarterbacks like toilet-paper in a dorm room since the failed Daunte Culpepper experiment of '06. Luck's near-perfect fundamental play and untouchable skillset place him firmly atop this draft class and make him more valuable than the stadium he'll end up playing in.

2. Indianapolis Colts: Landry Jones, QB – Oklahoma

-The time to pick a predecessor to the most statistically accomplished quarterback of the decade, Peyton Manning, is upon us. Jones established a rouged demeanor while approaching 10,000 yards passing in only his 2nd season as a full-time starter. Manning still has plenty of time on his clock to provide a valuable mentoring experience to the fiery youngster.

3. Cincinnati Benglas: Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford

- Given the Bengals decide to stand beside Andy Dalton as their franchise quarterback, they're going to want a premier LT to protect his blind-side. At 6'6" and 305lbs, Martin is a physically imposing prospect with the big-man's athleticism to control the line of scrimmage at the NFL level. In 2010, Martin commandeered an offensive line that led the nation in passing efficiency.

4. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma St.

- The consensus best-player-available, Justin Blackmon has consistently dominated the collegiate competition at a level comparable to Calvin Johnson's production at Georgia Tech. His after-the-catch jurisdiction will make him highly sought-after for a team with a questionable, but not hopeless, quarterback situation. The 6'1" wideout recorded 111 catches in 2010, going for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.

5. Seattle Seahawks: Matt Barkley, QB – USC

- A fundamentally sound former Pete Carroll recruit makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks, who are currently turning heads between Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Southern Cal. QBs haven't had a great track record throughout the decade, but Barkley has held solid numbers on a team decimated by NCAA sanctions. His 2011 completion percentage currently sits slightly above 70%, which should be tested adequately by December, as conference play is just beginning to heat up.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – Alabama

- The Jags just can't seem to find a working combination in the secondary. We're talking about a team that hasn't ranked higher than 24th in the league in pass defense since 2007. The 6'3" versatile DB can start at either cornerback or safety in a puddle-shallow Jacksonville defensive backfield. In 2010, Kirkpatrick paired 7 pass breakups with 3 interceptions to earn a reputation as one of the country's top defensive players.

7. Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Kalil, OT – USC

- Without Charlie Weis, this offense has been left to figure out this scoring thing for themselves – so far, it hasn't gone so well. Matt Kalil will be a major upgrade to an otherwise dreadful line, providing much-needed size and experience while keeping Matt Cassel's nose out of the dirt long enough for him to utilize his weapons. The naturally developed footwork possessed by Kalil is a rarity nowadays in college athletics, and an asset that will be highly coveted come

8. Carolina Panthers: Alshon Jeffery, WR – South Carolina

- You've got your quarterback, now it's time to supply him with an arsenal. Steve Smith is seeing a remarkable spike in production since the acquisition of Cam Newton, but he's getting up there in years. Rob Chudzinski, is going to want a lethal QB-WR combination to center this sprouting offense around for years to come. The 6'4" Jeffery has reliable hands and deceptive speed, and after breaking out in 2010 with 88 receptions for over 1,500 yards, sits amongst the top tier of skill players in the 2011 class.

9. St. Louis Rams: Casey Hayward, CB – Vanderbilt

- Although undersized at 5'11 and 188lbs, Hayward's scrappy style of play has drawn comparisons to Cortland Finnegan. Statistically, the 3-year letterman has been an absolute beast, recording 70 tackles, 17 pass breakups, and 6 picks during his 2010 Junior season. Through the first 4 games of 2011, St. Louis has allowed 225 passing yards per game and are in desperate need of a playmaking cornerback.

10. Denver Broncos: Marcus Forston, DT – Miami

- This 300lb middle-man may finally give Denver the body they need to build a solid run-defense. The Broncos have struggled mightily to assemble a playoff caliber defense, and with Champ Bailey's age showing more and more every year, their time to do so may be running out. Forston anchored a Hurricanes' run-defense that ranked 2nd in the nation in 2010. His superior size and strength make him a standout in an otherwise weak defensive tackle class.

11. Chicago Bears: Riley Reiff, OT – Iowa

- They obtained Gabe Carimi, who will be a dominant RT for years to come, in the 2011 Draft. In 2012, they'll need to invest in a guy who can protect Cutler's blindside. Riley Reiff has been a brilliant pass-blocker at Iowa, showcasing methodical footwork while demonstrating superior leverage in one-on-one situations. At 6'6" and 300lbs, Reiff has more than enough body to anchor an imposing offensive line at the next level.

12. Dallas Cowboys: Vontaze Burfict, ILB – Arizona St.

- Burfict has earned both praise and animosity for his aggressive, head-hunting, style of play. As ASU's first All-American since Terrell Suggs in 2002, Burfict recorded 90 tackles (8.5 for loss) and slung his 6'3", 250lb frame around violently, displaying unheralded closing speed. Also named "The Meanest Man in College Football" by Sporting News's Matt Hayes, Burfict proved his athleticism while earning the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Award following his Sophomore campaign.

13. Cleveland Browns: Quinton Coples, DE/OLB – North Carolina

- In such a talented class of pass-rushers, it's a shame that the first one is being taken so late due to a lack of need. Coples has the skillset to be a perennial Pro-Bowler and the body-type reminiscent of former Tar Heel, Julius Peppers.

14. San Francisco 49ers: Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU

- Stepping in for the departed Patrick Peterson, Claiborne has exceeded expectations so far in 2011. After recording 11 passes defended and five interceptions during his Sophomore season, Claiborne has made a name for himself as the emotional leader of this stagnant LSU defense and would be an immediate upgrade to any cornerback on the 49ers current roster.

15. Tennessee Titans: Manti Te'o, ILB/OLB – Notre Dame

- The Titans desperately need to work on improving their linebacking core if they have any hopes of assembling a championship caliber defense. Te'o has been the heart of the Irish since arriving on campus in 2009, recording 196 total tackles (133 in 2010 alone). His unique speed and versatility should translate well to the NFL.

16. Washington Redskins: Levy Adcock, OT – Oklahoma St.

- The only misfortune associated with Washington's upstart season is that they won't be selecting high enough to nab a franchise quarterback. Levy Adcock will improve this offense as a whole; perhaps helping Rex Grossman revive his career if that's the direction that Mike Shanahan chooses to go. The 6'6", 320lb, monster of an offensive tackle is a First Team All-Big 12 selection and should be a coveted big man come draft time.

17. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Mark Barron, S – Alabama

- One of the most battle-tested safeties in the NCAA, Mark Barron is a destructive force while patrolling the middle of the field. The 6'2", 218-pounder is a reigning 1st Team All-American and 2-time All-SEC honoree. His physical gifts will make him a key addition to an ailing Cleveland secondary.

18. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB – Alabama

- The Jets missed on Vernon Gholston, lost Shaun Ellis to free agency, and devoted Muhammad Wilkerson to the interior all over the course of one league year. This defense is in desperate need of an elite 3-4 pass-rusher if they have any hope of contending with New England for the division. Courtney Upshaw lacks ideal height, but brings a down-and-dirty style of push-play at the line of scrimmage that will be a troubling change of pace at the next level. Upshaw has recorded 18.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles over the course of his short career.

19. Oakland Raiders: Andrew Datko, OT – FSU

- Andrew Datko caps off the top tier of a very talented OT class. His unique size and strength will bring a long-awaited factor to the Raiders' offense, necessary to taking the next step towards playoff football. Janoris Jenkins may also be selected here if Al Davis is still living come April (wrote this part on Thursday, that theorem didn't hold up too well).

20. Detroit Lions: Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama

- Richardson will provide power to the running game that the Lions had hoped now-injured rookie Mikel Leshoure would bring. Richardson is the most complete running back in this class, and is on pace for an 1,800-yard rushing campaign if he completes the 2011 season in good health.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: David DeCastro, G – Stanford

- Three Stanford players coming off the board in the first round has to be some kind of record. The Eagles' offensive line is in shambles, spelling trouble for the fragile Michael Vick. DeCastro started every game as a Sophomore and Junior and will bring much-needed durability to an otherwise shaky Philadelphia front.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, G/OT – Georgia

- The Steeler's really don't have any other choice but to spend a high pick on an offensive lineman, seeing as how they haven't been able to keep Big Ben upright since their 2008 Superbowl run (if you consider 46 sacks "upright"). Cordy Glenn brings exceptional size and a physical, scrappy attitude to an organization that prides itself in such attributes.

23. Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame

- Floyd is the picture of what you expect of a #1 receiver at the next level – standing tall at 6'3" while hoisting a 223lb frame, the Irish standout will be an immediate contributor to an otherwise depthless Bills receiving core. Floyd's production is unrivaled by any other receiver in the nation during his tenure, recording 218 receptions for just over 3,000 yards and 31 scores.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Donte Paige-Moss, DE/OLB – North Carolina

- The other half of UNC's feared pass-rushing tandem, Donte Paige-Moss, should fit nicely into an Arizona defense in great need of a weak-side linebacker. Paige-Moss recorded 13.5 tackles for loss opposite Quinton Coples in 2010, and is continuing his strong play thus far in 2011. These UNC pass-rushers bring a rare speed to the field that is highly unusual coming from college D-linemen.

25. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Janoris Jenkins, CB – North Alabama

- Although arguably the most talented defensive player in the class of 2011, a series of personal problems have severely dampened Jenkins's draft stock. Nevertheless, New England is always looking to upgrade where upgrading isn't necessary and Jenkins has all the talent in the world for the Hoodie to mold into a fine multi-purpose corner.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Ray Ray Armstrong, S – Miami

- With Ed Reed hinting at retirement, the Ravens need to start thinking about a successor to the future Hall of Famer. Armstrong, much like Reed, is a pure play-maker with superb closing speed and expert ball-hawking ability. Armstrong recorded 79 tackles, 3 picks, and a defensive touchdown as a Junior in 2010.

27. Houston Texans: Mohamed Sanu, WR – Rutgers

- Houston's offense without Andre Johnson is like a mousetrap without cheese – it just doesn't work. They need to add another weapon to open up the passing attack and set up play-action. Mohamed Sanu's athleticism has got scouts grinning ear-to-ear, as he's proven that he can score whenever he touches the rock. Whether he's taking a snap directly, taking the ball on a reverse, or streaking down the sideline, Sanu is just plain dangerous.

28. New York Giants: Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan St.

- New York has built an extremely solid football roster, leaving very few positions unattended. They also have a long-standing history of using their earlier picks on standout defensive players. Jerel Worthy is in the conversation for the best interior lineman in the country, weighing in at a plausible 310lbs and was a Pre-Season All-American Selection by Playboy Magazine.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T.J. McDonald, S – USC

- With Ahmad Black unable to make it through training camp and Tanard Jackson battling injuries, safety is a natural direction for the Bucs to head going into 2012. The soft-spoken Junior led the Trojans in tackles in 2010 with 89.

30. New England Patriots: Brandon Jenkins, DE – FSU

- Bill Belichick has a tendency to neglect all sense of "team need" and just work on upgrading his talent pool. Brandon Jenkins is one of the most athletically gifted players in this class, using his 6'3", 265lb frame to record 63 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks in 2010 alone.

31. San Diego Chargers: Ryan Broyles, WR – Oklahoma

- The youthful Sooner wideout should start immediately across from Vincent Jackson and finally give Philip Rivers a reliable weapon to check the ball to underneath. Broyles runs routes more definitively than any receiver in this class and is always a threat to make it to the endzone after the catch. Beware of his mind-blowing agility; this kid is an ankle-breaker.

32. Green Bay Packers: Jared Crick, DT/DE – Nebraska

- The one gleaming weak spot on an otherwise ironclad Packer's depth chart is the defensive front. Crick is exactly the kind of player Ted Thompson was hoping to land to help keep the rings coming – smart, sizeable, and experienced. Crick should fit in easily as a defensive tackle in Dom Capers's 3-4 scheme.

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