Welcome to the mock draft of 2012. I took a brief look at last years and while I started strong, I quickly trailed off the track. I did pick it up late in the round but hey that’s mock drafts for you.

I will admit right now that I have never felt so lost about a mock draft. The variables here are staggering this year and it’s all due to Minnesota and Miami. The Vikings are the first swing piece. With Richardson on the board and a couple of teams in love with him, they’re desperately trying to move down. Along with that, they seem to have fallen out of love with Kalil and are moving in a playmaker position with Claiborne and Blackmon. If the pick were kalil, I’d feel confident that Richardson, Claiborne and Blackmon would all follow quickly. If it’s Claiborne, Tampa becomes a wild card…. and well you get the idea.

Meanwhile the Dolphins are the team supposedly set on Tannehill, but how much so? Are they worried about losing him to a quick move by KC? Or maybe it’s a smokescreen for a pass rusher they like? It’s hard to tell with them denying everything even remotely mentioned about them. My guess is Tannehill is the guy here, but it would not completely shock me if they go for a pass rusher at 8 instead. Tannehill is all potential right now and they’re looking for something more immediate with ticket sales declining.

Anyway, Lets get Part 1 out, and here we go.

1. Indianapolis Colts Select Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford

This is one of those rare years where the front-runner last year ended up as the guy this year. Luck has achieved all expectations and looks like a future pro bowl quarterback. The Colts still have a lot of work to do to get him the required weapons, but Luck will set the franchise back on the right path after last years disaster.

2. St. Louis Rams trade the 2nd pick: Washington Redskins Select Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor

This one also looks to be a lock. The Redskins gave up a king’s ransom (and the Rams were very fortunate to find themselves in such a powerful position) to get their guy and RG3 looks like it. He’s got huge upside and great character so it looks like a smart move (for once) by the Redskins here.

3. Minnesota Vikings select Morris Claiborne, Corner Back, Louisiana State University

Here’s where the draft really starts. The Vikings are rumored to be picking between Claiborne, Justin Blackmon, and Matt Kalil (some reports have them down to Blackmon and Claiborne). Of those three prospects, Claiborne is the best. Of those three prospects, Claiborne fills the greatest need. And I think the Vikings have to be fed up with selecting corners and watching them fail. Also they face Calvin Johnson twice, Greg Jennings twice, Aaron Rodgers twice, Matt Stafford twice, Brandon Marshall twice, Jay Cutler twice… you get the idea.

4. Cleveland Browns select Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama

This looks to be a set pick for most people. Richardson has been called the best player in this draft, and the best running back since Adrian Peterson. He’s physical, fast, reliable and explosive. And it helps that Cleveland wants to run the ball more and has a decent line to do so. This should pay huge dividends early and often.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Stephon Gilmore, Corner Back, South Carolina

The Bucs would love to get Claiborne, and will be all over him if the Vikings go with Blackmon or Kalil. With him off the board they have to chose between the next best corner (and one that Greg Cosell calls the best in this draft), the top tackle in Matt Kalil, or a power safety in Mark Barron. While the other two will be intriguing, the frustration with Aqib Talib and the age of Ronde Barber should push them towards Gilmore.

6. St. Louis Rams select Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

The Rams are reportedly between Blackmon, Floyd and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. While Fischer would love to land such a player as Cox, this draft’s strength is on the defensive line. They’ll be able to find a nice defensive piece with their 2nd round selection. Meanwhile it is not a terribly deep receiver class, and Blackmon is elite. I suspect the Rams also have loved Blackmon from the start and are thrilled he’s still available.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars select Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

This is an uncharacteristic selection for Jacksonville. As Mike Mayock has pointed out the Jags tend to be “risk averse,” but with new ownership and a desire to start building a franchise (finally) they need to get their passing game to a realistic level. Floyd isn’t a big speed guy, but his ability to go and get the ball in the air is best in this draft.

8. Miami Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M

I’m going to believe this is not a smokescreen and that owner Stephen Ross has given marching orders to take a quarterback. It doesn’t hurt that Tannehill is familiar with Joe Philbin and his offense. This team is probably not going anywhere this year so they can sit Tannehill for a year, groom him and build this team for next season. If they bring him in late this year it should build momentum for those season ticket sales that have been floundering of late.

9. Carolina Panthers select Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State

The Panthers are thrilled here to find Cox still around, and don’t rule out a Philadelphia move up to select him. They’d have to get to 7 or 8 and both teams would be willing to drop a few spots I suspect. Since Mayock and I agree, I’ll defer the rest of my time to him. ” Love this pick. It’s been an offensive draft so far, so they get one of the top-ranked defensive players. Can play inside, can play outside. Boy, will he help Carolina. ”

10. Buffalo Bills select Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

I’m not completely sold this is the selection. Matt Kalil is still on the board, I know, but the Bills are setting the agenda by taking on the team at the top – New England. The Patriots run a very tough scheme with duel tight ends, and the Ravens showed that you can hold them down with strong safety coverage. Barron is a decent answer for the likes of Gronkowski (but would be burned by Hernandez) and remember this is a fairly deep offensive line draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs select Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College

Kansas City is building an All Star linebacker group. Justin Houston, Kuechly, Derrick Johnson, and Tamba Hali look phenomenal. Kuechly is an elite coverage linebacker and a trash cleanup guy. Johnson is the ground game specialist and they have two dynamic pass rushers on the outside. A good recipe for success.

12. Seattle Seahawks select Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, University of Southern California

The fall could stop before here easily. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tampa Bay select Kalil, or Buffalo certainly, but as Kalil is not quite as good as Joe Thomas or Jake Long, this feels about right for him. I still consider him a blue chip player, and a long-term answer at left tackle, but his run blocking certainly could use some work.

13. Arizona Cardinals select Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/ Outside Linebacker, South Carolina

The Cardinals would absolutely sprint to the podium if Michael Floyd or Matt Kalil hang around here, but with both off the board, the Cardinals will look towards their pedestrian pass rush.

14. Dallas Cowboys select Michael Brockers, Defensive End / Defensive Tackle, Louisiana State University

The Cowboys may think long and hard about moving up to get a hold of Mark Barron, but only if he gets past Buffalo. I think it would be too costly to get any farther than that for Jerry Jones. Reportedly they’ve liked Dontari Poe, and his boom or bust potential is a possibility here, but I think another high potential player like Brockers will intrigue them more, particularly for his pass rush ability. He has a chance to be another Richard Seymour.

15. Philadelphia Eagles select Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford

The Eagles would love to get a hold of Fletcher Cox, and Michael Brockers is probably a strong candidate for 2nd. Beyond him they’d love Luke Kuechly if he lingers. Unfortunately for them, all three are gone. Corner is a possibility if they like Dre Kirkpatrick, but he doesn’t fit their scheme very well. On the other hand, they just lost their right tackle to a serious injury. Some people aren’t has high on Martin as I am, but he’s a better fit for Philadelphia than Rieff. He can play left or right and is a very balanced tackle.

16. New York Jets select Chandler Jones, Defensive End / Outside Linebacker, Syracuse

Jones is flying up draft charts, but I’m sure Rex Ryan has had his eye on him for his tall frame and pass rushing potential. The Jets would love Trent Richardson or Mark Barron or Michael Floyd here, but all three are gone. Of the three, they might consider a move for Richardson if he gets a little lower (and without much need past Tampa Bay there’s a possibility of it occurring). Without that happening, Rex will look for a pass rusher because his team simply cannot get to the quarterback. The Dark Horse pick here is Dontari Poe, who might remind Ryan enough of Haloti Ngata to take him.

17. Cincinnati Bengals select Dre Kirkpatrick, Corner Back, Alabama

The Bengals miss their dynamic duo of Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. Nate Clements is okay, but Kirkpatrick has a chance to be an elite corner back. They also won’t get a shot at another one this round, unless they like Janoris Jenkins.

18. San Diego Chargers select Quentin Coples, Defensive End / Outside Linebacker, North Carolina

At some point in the first I suspect someone will like Coples enough to overlook some massive character concerns and take him. I’m guessing San Diego. They need a dynamic pass rusher to put with Antwan Barnes and Coples has the skill set. They just have to hope Norv Turner can get the most out of him.

19. Chicago Bears select Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois

I am a bit biased here because for some reason this just seems right. Mercilus opposite Julius Peppers scares the crap out of me and it should scare the NFC North. Offensive line is a strong option if they like Jonathan Martin or Rieff enough.

20.Tennessee Titans selectCourtney Upshaw, Defensive End / Linebacker, Alabama

The Titans would love either of the two options in front of them, but as both are gone quickly, they’ll try Upshaw out. He’s a bit of a tough fit in both schemes, but plays hard and is tenacious. He also has a history of attacking the passer so moving to defensive end instead of forcing him to be a 3-4 linebacker should work better for him.

21. Cincinnati Bengals select David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford

With the board as it is, I’m torn between Rieff and DeCastro. The former provides insurance for Andre Smith and can play guard this year I think. The latter is the best guard in this draft and one of the better ones to come out in the last few years. I’m figuring they’ll take a safer options in DeCastro here.

22. Cleveland Browns select Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor

The Browns got a big time runner in Richardson. There’s some speculation that this pick could be Branden Weeden, but I think that he’ll hang around until the 2nd round where they can go get him if they feel the need. Wright will provide a deep option to pair with Greg Little and if they can get decent production out of both, this unit will start to look pretty good.

23. Detroit Lions select Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

The Lions would love a secondary upgrade here, but the first round corners are all gone. Therefore they’ll look towards their offensive line. Reiff will push Backus or Cherlius for a starting job week one, and is an upgrade at guard if he can’t beat them both out.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers select Cordy Glenn, Guard / Tackle, Georgia

This is a tough pick for Pittsburgh. Hightower is available but a bigger need is on their offensive line. If their oft injured line goes down like it did last year (when they barely had enough linemen on the roster to play appropriately), they’ll be in serious trouble. Glenn is a mauler guard, and has experience at tackle if they need him to slide out.

25. Denver Broncos select Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis

Another prospect who could find a home much earlier, or later, he slips because of lack of production. The potential is nearly limitless however, as he’s in the mold of another dominate defensive tackle – Haloti Ngata. Poe will fill a massive void in the Broncos defense and has the power to plug a massive 350 pound hole. The other option, which is incredibly tempting, is at receiver, where Peyton might like a player like Stephen Hill.

26. Houston Texans select Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech

An unpolished project receiver, the possibility for Hill is very high. He could easily develop into Calvin Johnson, and with Andre Johnson there to show him the ropes, he shouldn’t want for coaching. This should help out Schuab and really make this team elite… not that it already isn’t.

27. New England selects Shea McClellin, Defensive End / Linebacker, Boise State

The Patriots snag a pass rusher to put in their hybrid scheme. McClellin is versatile and instinctive. He also constantly make plays. Don’t get Mike Mayock started on him because he loves this kid.

28. Green Bay Packers select Nick Perry, Defensive End / Linebacker, University of Southern California

The Packers need to address this defense which quickly went from elite to pitiful. They need a safety due to the unfortunate loss of Nick Collins. They need a defensive end to replace Cullen Jenkins. And they need a pass rusher to pair with Clay Mathews, At this point, Perry’s the best fit of those needs.

29. Baltimore Ravens select Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama

The heir of Ray Lewis finally arrives. Hightower could easily go higher than this, and Baltimore will be thrilled if he’s available. The Steelers will seriously think about him, and I suspect the Texans, Patriots, and Packers will consider him. If he is gone, the Ravens will debate Mike Adams or Reuben Randle here.

30. San Francisco 49ers select Coby Fleener, Tight End Stanford

He knows Jim Harbaugh and Harbaugh knows him. They’ll try to duplicate New England’s duel set with two very fast tight ends.

31. New England selects Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame

Reports have the Patriots trading one of their two 1st round selections and most suggest the 31st as the pick to move. I think they might hang on to both this year (unless they can get a future 1st rounder) and the reason being that this draft is not particularly deep. Snagging a player like Smith, who is a big need and one of the better safeties in this class. They could also move up if they covet a particular player earlier.

32. New York Giants select Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State

We finish the first round with the Giants selecting a running back to pair with Ahmad Bradshaw and continue their running back by committee.

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