Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Mock Draft: First Edition

Here’s the first edition of the official Pewter Plank mock draft.

It’s early, we don’t even have the exact order down to a science, but everyone loves a mock draft and it’s never too early to make your first predictions. Consider this “The Early Read” edition of the draft, before Pro Days or the Combine, barely after the Senior Bowl and Shrine Game, this is our first guess at how things might go.

A few quick things to preface with. The order isn’t indicative of my Super Bowl prediction, it’s just the order we decided to go with for now. A lot of this rankings are going to go up and down on players and as free agency comes and goes team needs will also change as well. A lot of teams will opt to address their offensive lines in free agency for instance so the early run on offensive linemen may not actually be the way things go down.

But, everyone loves a mock draft so this is our early edition. There’s a few splashy picks, a few players that won’t actually end up in the first round and there may even be a few good ones mixed in there. Enjoy, and welcome to the draft season.

I promise this will change quite a bit before it’s all said and done.

 

1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB
Stanford

The Pick: The Colts need a guy who can bring them in to the next generation. Even if Peyton Manning were healthy, it would be hard to pass on Luck with this pick. Though incidentally, given the problems the Colts ran into the last time they tried to spend the first pick of a draft on a Stanford passer (see John Elway), I wouldn’t blame them for being a bit gun-shy here.

2. St. Louis Rams
Matt Kalil, OT
USC

The Pick: I was surprised by the number of people who turned on Sam Bradford this year. Unfortunately, regardless of their feelings on the young QB, the Rams have too much invested to go another direction, so their focus in the draft will be to support Bradford. That starts up front where the Rams gave up more sacks than anyone. Matt Kalil will be able to play from day one, and hopefully will follow in the vein of Joe Thomas and Jake Long as franchise left tackles.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Trent Richardson, RB
Alabama

The Pick: Surprised? Yeah, this isn’t what all the experts are going to say but think about it for a second. The Vikings needs to support Christian Ponder and that may mean a receiver or a lineman, but with Adrian Peterson on the shelf after a horrid end-of-the-season injury they now need to make sure they can run the ball too. AP is unlikely to suit up for the Vikings next year, even if he does it typically takes a full two years to regain form. There’s no guarantee that AP ever comes back completely. Asking a second year quarterback to succeed without the benefit of a good run game is a tall order. Without AP, and with questions about Toby Gerhardt as an every down back, the Vikings may want to grab the best back in the draft and solidify their ground game.

4. Cleveland Browns
Robert Griffin III, QB
Baylor

The Pick: It’s not that Colt McCoy hasn’t been decent as a starter in Cleveland, it’s more that a player like RGIII doesn’t come along often. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Browns trade the pick to a QB-hungry team like Washington, but if not they’ll likely take him themselves. Either way I don’t see Griffin making it past the fourth overall pick. Whether he ends up in Cleveland or somewhere else remains to be seen though.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, CB
LSU

The Pick: The optimal situation for the Bucs is to have RGIII fall to five, and then hold a bit of an auction for the pick. Tampa doesn’t need a QB, but they could benefit from trading back to a team that does. Unfortunately, that won’t happen and the Bucs will likely have to use their pick to address a need. In that case, Morris Claiborne is perfect. The LSU corner is considered by many to be a better corner than Patrick Peterson, his predecessor, even if he lacks Peterson’s high-end athleticism. The Bucs need help in the secondary desperately, where Ronde Barber is getting older and Aqib Talib is potentially facing jail time.

6. Washington Redskins
Justin Blackmon, WR
Oklahoma State

The Pick: The Redskins are the true odd men out in the QB race. A few months ago, when Matt Barkley and Landry Jones were considering jumping pro the Skins looked like they were sitting pretty. Now, with only two first round grade QB’s, the Redskins will either need to trade up to get Griffin or be satisfied addressing the need in free agency. At six, the Skins will look to add a playmaker to their offense and grab Blackmon, the draft’s top receiver.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Quinton Coples, DE
North Carolina

The Pick: The Jaguars have many issues facing them, but one of the biggest is their lack of a pass rush. To address this Jacksonville grabs Quinton Coples, who recently raised his stock at the Senior Bowl, and hope he becomes an immediate impact off the edge.

8. Carolina Panthers
Devon Still, DT
Penn State

The Pick: Carolina found plenty of offense this past season behind Cam Newton and a revitalized Steve Smith. The problem was their defense couldn’t hold back opposing offenses. In Devon Still the Panthers get the drafts top-rated defensive tackle and a player that should clog the middle of their line for the foreseeable future.

9. Miami Dolphins
Riley Reiff, OT
Iowa

The Pick: Just a week ago the Dolphins seemed a likely trade possibility in the RGIII sweepstakes, but the hirings of Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman make them more likely to sign Matt Flynn or pick Ryan Tanehill later on. The Fins could move back here like they did two years ago, but if they pick here they will likely address needs on the right side of their offensive line. Jake Long, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey are all solid, but Vernon Carey is a free agent and Marc Colombo is past prime. Reiff, a big athletic tackle out of Iowa would make a nice book-end opposite Jake Long.

10. Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw, LB
Alabama

The Pick: Originally I liked Dre Kirkpatrick here, but his recent indiscretions are likely to cause him to slide down the first round. Upshaw is an extremely gifted outside linebacker and made a major impact on Alabama’s national championship defense. New defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt should be able to find plenty of ways to use the young ‘backer.

11. Kansas City Chiefs
Jonathan Martin, OT
Stanford

The Pick: A lot of Chiefs fans have cited QB as a need, but there’s a lot of money tied up in Cassel and he hasn’t been the biggest issue facing the Chiefs. With that in mind, the Chiefs will likely look to support Cassel by shoring up their offensive line. Martin is a very smart, talented tackle who played in a pro-style system in college. He should hit the ground running.

12. Seattle Seahawks
Luke Kuechly, MLB
Boston College

The Pick: I had the pleasure of watching Kuechly in person up in Boston this year and was very impressed. He is an extremely instinctual, intelligent linebacker that makes gobs and gobs of tackles. In my opinion he is the most NFL-ready of any of the linebackers in his class. Kuechly is great at maintaining his own responsibilities and then cleaning up after the rest of his defense. It wasn’t uncommon at BC to see him forcing a run outside at the point of attack and then making the tackle down the sideline. He’s a tackling machine and will be a great addition in Seattle, where he’ll raise the football IQ of the entire defense just by walking on the field.

13. Arizona Cardinals
David DeCastro, OG
Stanford

The Pick: The Cardinals have plenty of issues, but I think they’ll look to address the line first and try to protect the investment they made in Kevin Kolb. DeCastro is the best guard in the draft and like Martin, played in a pro-style offense in college. He should make the transition to the pros nicely.

14. Dallas Cowboys
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
Alabama

The Pick: Kirkpatrick was recently arrested on a pot charge, he’ll have to answer for that all draft season but he also has a lot going for him too. Say what you want about Nick Saban but the man can flat out coach and DB’s are his forte. Kirkpatrick has that pedigree, plus he’s as talented as any corner in this year’s class. If he can behave, Dallas will be happy to have him.

15. Philadelphia Eagles
Mark Barron, S
Alabama

The Pick: Case in point, another Saban DB comes off the board. The Eagles could use a lineman, but with the run on them, they’ll probably avoid the temptation to reach by addressing their need at safety. They still haven’t been able to replace Brian Dawkins in Philly, but the Eagles will hope Mark Barron will finally be the man for the job.

16. New York Jets
Nick Perry, DE
USC

The Pick: On paper the Jets should have been a lot better than they played in 2011. Maybe their biggest need is just to shut up and worry about football more. With the pick though, I look for them to address the pass rush. Nick Perry is a very good prospect at end and should flourish in the Jets defensive system.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)
Alfonzo Dennard, CB
Nebraska

The Pick: This is the Carson Palmer pick. The Bengals have a few places they could go, but it’s likely they’ll want to address their needs in the secondary. Dennard is a very talented corner with a ton of confidence. He’s tough, having overcome a number of injuries at Nebraska, and he leaves his nastiness on the field where it belongs.

18. San Diego Chargers
Melvin Ingram, OLB
South Carolina

The Pick: The Chargers need a talented outside linebacker and Ingram could be just the guy. The former defensive end has all the athleticism to make the conversion, and he’s already a proven commodity as a pass rusher. He’s not NFL-ready quite yet, he’s going to have some growing pains. But if allowed to develop he should be solid for the Chargers.

19. Chicago Bears
Michael Floyd, WR
Notre Dame

The Pick: The Bears desperately need a receiver. Right now all they have is Devin Hester, a kick-returner impersonating a receiver, and a lot of hype and unmet potential in their receiving corps. A lot of people have Kendall Wright from Baylor rated a little higher, but Floyd is a proven commodity that, coming from South Bend, has proven he can play well in cold weather.

20. Tennessee Titans
Michael Brockers, DT
LSU

The Pick: The Titans would be ecstatic to have Brockers, the top tackle in the draft, fall to them at 20. The Titans have yet to effectively replace Albert Haynesworth, who shares more than a few similarities with Brockers. Both are highly-talented SEC defensive tackles with big futures, but unlike Haynesworth, Brockers is comfortable in a 3-4. That should make him much more adaptable than Haynesworth was coming out.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Kendall Wright, WR
Baylor

The Pick: Chalk this up to a luxury pick. It’s too early to reach on a lineman or a tailback so the Bengals will add a potential playmaker at receiver. Even though Lamar Miller would be a fantastic addition to this offense, I think they go get Wright out of Baylor. Andy Dalton should enjoy being able to pair Wright with AJ Green and opposing defenses should hate it.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)
Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB
Illinois

The Pick: The Browns pick up a dynamic pass rusher, adding the NCAA’s sack leader from 2011. Mercilus has the size and frame to potentially play outside linebacker in a 3-4, though he’s never been asked to. Regardless, that versatility should benefit Cleveland who gets a dynamic pass rusher with a chance to develop into a whole lot more.

23. Detroit Lions
Janoris Jenkins, CB
North Alabama (UF)

The Pick: If Janoris Jenkins has matured since getting booted out of Florida then this will be a steal for Detroit. The former Gator is as talented and skillful as any corner in the draft, but questions about his character linger. But if Detroit gets a motivated player, he will be an asset in a division that is dominated by the pass-happy Packers.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jerel Worthy, DT
Michigan State

The Pick: I actually like Fletcher Cox a little bit more because of his ceiling, but Worthy is a Steeler-type player. He could add a little more mass to his frame, but he got the chance to cut his teeth in the Big 10, a conference filled with NFL-caliber offensive linemen. Worthy should develop into a very solid nose tackle, though with his skill set he may never be truly elite.

25. Denver Broncos
Fletcher Cox, DT
Mississippi State

The Pick: Denver could probably use a competent passer, though I doubt they’re in a position to make that move right now. I think they’ll add to their defense. Cox has arguably the most potential of any defensive tackle in the draft. The 6’4, 295-pounder is still growing into his frame and coming off his best year in college. He looks poised to make a good transition to the NFL.

26. Houston Texans
Cordy Glenn, OG
Georgia

The Pick: Considering the fact the Texans had a playoff run more or less wiped out by their inability to keep a quarterback on his feet, the line is a pretty obvious place for Houston to go with this pick. Peter Konz could be good here, but Chris Myers has been solid at center so I look for the Texans to infuse some young talent into their line at guard with Cordy Glenn.

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)
Peter Konz, C
Wisconsin

The Pick: The Patriots need some help on defense, but there’s not much value they’ll find at this pick when it comes to their defensive needs. That’s why they go with the best player available. I look for them to take a very athletic, blue-collar offensive lineman. Konz fits the Patriot MO, he’s a smart, physical mauler who could develop into a very good starter for them.

28. Green Bay Packers
Zach Brown, OLB
North Carolina

The Pick: For as good at the Packers were this year, they need some help on defense. Brown is one of the most athletic players in the 2012 class and his Senior Bowl performance just helped raise his draft stock. While it will be up to the Packers to develop Brown, he has all the skills to make an impact in Green Bay.

29. Baltimore Ravens
Dont’a Hightower, ILB
Alabama

The Pick: Like it or not Ray Lewis isn’t going to play forever. The Ravens patriarch is coming to the end of his career and would likely be an amazing tutor to Hightower, his eventual successor. This pick would help set the Ravens up for down the road, in addition to giving them a very good defensive player in the interim too.

30. San Francisco 49ers
Zebrie Sanders, OT
Florida State

The Pick: The 49ers need a right tackle and Zebrie Sanders would be a good fit for them. Sanders could do to add a little mass because he played in a blocking scheme at Florida State that featured smaller, more mobile linemen. But beyond adding some size and strength, Sanders has the instincts and athleticism to play both tackle positions. That versatility will make him attractive to San Francisco.

31. New York Giants
Lamar Miller, RB
Miami (FL)

The Pick: The Giants decide to address their need at tailback by adding one of the most underrated players in the draft. Lamar Miller is the best back Miami has had since Frank Gore and despite being just a sophomore on a scandel-ridden Hurricanes team, drew comparisons to some of the great Hurricane backs of the past (Gore, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James). Miller is going to have a very good NFL career, and New York is a team that would certainly give him the touches.

32. New England Patriots
Andre Branch, DE
Clemson

The Pick: With their second pick in the first round, the Patriots go defense and pick up the best pass-rusher available. Branch is a very talented end, but is at times inconsistent. He occasionally disappears in big games, though he also shows flashes of elite potential at times too. The Patriots will get his best though, as they seem to with most their picks.

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