The 2012 NFL Draft is still a few months away but the staff at Revenge of the Birds is ready to start breaking down all of the different draft possibilities and how they'll affect the 2012 Cardinals organization. While four teams are still hoping for Super Bowl berths, 28 are working their draft boards, scouting, and evaluating the roster to identify which free agents are coming back and which need to be signed to fill in gaps in the team. The rules to the mock draft will be simple, we're going straight through all teams that are currently locked into their draft positions, no epic trades to move up or down. We'll rotate staff members each week to give a different view of the draft and we'll listen to your comments and make changes accordingly. Without further delay, let's draft!
The first pick in the 2012 draft...
2. Rams - Matt Kalil, LOT, USC. The Rams need to protect their star Quarterback Sam Bradford or they're never going get the level of play that they think they can out of their young quarterback. Some drafts have pointed to the Rams trading down or even picking OSU WR Justin Blackmon to give Bradford a nice target, it seems the more prudent decision to get the best left tackle prospect in recent years and leave the WR acquisition to later rounds in the draft and free agency.
3. Vikings - Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU.The Vikings need a threat on the outside and a target for Ponder to throw to. The Vikings have an ideal pick at #3 and could even trade it away, pick up Kalil if the Rams pick up Blackmon against all logic, or pick up Robert Griffin III and use him as trade bait for other players. This will be interesting, but my gut says they'll take the sure thing with Blackmon.
4. Browns - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. The Browns need an upgrade at center who is a leader, an amazing athlete, and can be the face of a franchise that is currently hanging it's hat on Josh Cribbs and Peyton Hillis. RG3 is a franchise type player who could be a turning point for the Browns and a an immediate improvement over Colt McCoy.
5. Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. The Bucs were torched in the secondary in 2011 and there are no stand out CBs on the roster. Ronde Barber is getting old and will more than likely retire, especially following the firing of former HC Raheem Morris. Aqib Talib could turn around, but he's not playing like a 1st rounder, so the Bucs will pick up Morris for his potential as a lockdown corner and as a player to push Talib to play at a higher level.
6. Redskins -Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Floyd is 6'3", 228, is a beast of a WR and has shown the ability to provide run block support. In Shanahan's system anyone who can help the run game is already a star, but putting a franchise WR to help take pressure off of the running game, that sounds like the perfect #1 pick for the Redskins. Shanahan will look to upgrade the QB position through FA since RG3 will already be off the board.
7. Jaguars - Andre Branch, DE, Clemson. The Jaguars were T-25th in sacks in 2011 and will look to upgrade their pass rushing ability with Andre Branch's 6'4" 240lb frame. He has long reach and had 10.5 sacks in his final season. Branch will be an immediate upgrade to an ailing Jaguars pass rush.
8. Panthers* (coin flip) - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. The Panthers begin upgrading their secondary to reduce the number of 20+ yard plays against them. The Panthers were regularly burned through the air in 2011, and they're in a division with Drew Bees and Matt Ryan who lead incredible passing attacks. Dre will be a nice addition to the Panthers' defense.
9. Dolphins* (coin flip) - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford. The Dolphins had a decent good run blocking line in 2011, but they had issues in the middle of the line and allowed pressure to get to the quarterback. Drafting DeCastro is an excellent opportunity to shore up the line and create a pocket that should hopefully raise the Dolphins from 23rd in the league in passing. If the line gets better the Dolphins could hope to bring in a big name QB in FA.
10. Bills - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama. The Bills have a few needs in the 2012 draft, OT being one, WR another, but pass rusher is the most publicized following a lack of pass rush after being 27th in the league with only 29 sacks. The Bills need pressure on the QB to help lower the total points scored against them after being 30th in the league allowing 27.1 points per game. Upshaw's experience with Alabama and their best defense in the nation will provide an immediate impact to the Bills.
11. Chiefs* (coin flip) - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. The Chiefs can upgrade their line with the second best tackle prospect in the draft. Reiff is grade as a 97 on Scount Inc.'s Top 32 and is the #7 overall player. The Chiefs will look to improve their offense, give Castel more time in the pocket and have someone open better holes for the run game.
12. Seahawks* (coin flip) - Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina. The Seahawks traded away former 4th overall pick Aaron Curry and have been lacking consistent pressure on the QB. The Seahawks ranked T-19th with 33 sacks on the season, an upgrade at OLB could increase the level of the defense into a top 5 status.
13. Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, LOT, Stanford. The Arizona Cardinals need both Left and Right tackles and if they can draft Martin who proved his ability to protect Andrew Luck, the Cardinals could focus on resigning Levi Brown to play RT and suddenly have a much better line than they have fielded for the last two years. Many draft boards have the Cardinals focusing on OLB or ILB to play next to Daryl Washington, but after the play of Brown and Keith at the tackle positions the Cardinals need to focus on the offensive line and fill in their other needs with later round gems like they found with Sam Acho in 2011. Drafting Martin improves this line in multiple spots. And potentially allows them to trade up for Levy Adcock at RT with a later round pick.
14. Cowboys - Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska. The Cowboys need an upgrade in the secondary and Dennard is the 3rd best corner in this draft. After the rush on CB's they won't let Dennard slip by especially after the Giants win through the air cost the Cowboys another playoff berth.
15. Eagles - Don'ta Hightower, MLB, Alabama. Don'ta is a natural fit to the Eagles defense that needs a run stopper in the middle of the field. He's a natural at the position, and is physically gifted at 6'4" and 258lbs. Hightower played for Alabama and showed his ability to stop the run and cause disruptions in the middle of the field. In the NFC East where there are multiple marquee RB's the Eagles allows 112.6 rushing yards per game. With Hightower they'll pick up the missing piece to their all-star defense.
16. Jets - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. For all of the talk about the Jets defense it was only middle of the road in sacks in 2011 being T-17th with 35. Coples has incredible size at 6'6" and 278lbs is listed as the #5 talent by Scount Inc's top 32 and is very athletic. While not perfect for the Jets diverse 3-4 scheme, Ryan will pick up this defensive talent and work him in multiple positions similar to what the 49ers did with Aldon Smith last year who at last count had 13 sacks for the season. This is a steal pick at 16.
17. Bengals (Raider's Palmer trade) - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. The Bengals select Richardson due to fear that the Chargers, Bears, or Titans will pick him up before they pick again at 21. The Bengals can use this pick to improve their rushing game, play hard ball with Cedric Benson, and if Benson doesn't come back due to being a free agent Richardson will step in as an upgrade to his aging predecessor. In the smash-mouth AFC North Richardson will be a welcome addition.
18. Chargers - Nick Perry, OLB, USC. With DeCastro taken by the Dolphins the Chargers turn to their second need a LB who can stop the run and blitz the passer. The Chargers pass rushing, or lack thereof, cost the Defensive Coordinator his job after one season. The Chargers were T-23rd in sacks and their lack of a pass rush is their second highest priority if an elite guard or tackle is not available in the draft. Look for them to get OG Kelechi Osemele in the second, or Cordy Glenn.
19. Bears - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina. The Bears see Jeffery as a feature WR who is physical and is a big target at 6'4" and 233lbs. The Bears won't let the best WR available slip through their grasp.
20. Titans - Melvin Ingram, DE, S. Carolina. Ingram had nine sacks in 2011 and is exactly the type of player the Titans need to reclaim their reputation as a feared defense. The Titans ranked 31st in the league in sacks and will use Ingram immediately to improve their numbers.
21. Bengals - Mark Barron, S, Alabama. The Bengals stick to selecting from champions and pick another Alabama player off of the board. Barron, the top rated safety in the draft, adds range to the Bengals secondary that was soft in 2011, and adds a defender who will shoot in quickly for run support which will help the Bengals answer well against the Ravens and Steelers running game
22. Browns (Falcons J. Jones trade) - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. If the Brown's do get this opportunity to pair up their newly acquired franchise QB with his biggest weapon from college it will be an incredible feat, but most importantly it will further increase the likelihood that RG3 will succeed in the NFL, and further bolster the Browns offense and finally catch them up with the NFL QB era.
23. Lions - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama. Jenkins has a bad boy attitude that would fit in well with what is brewing in Detroit. The good news for Detroit is that he also has the game to back up that attitude. Playing in the NFC North against the Packers, and once the Bears get their passing game going, the Lions will need to upgrade at the CB position and they're willing to take a chance on Jenkins character issues for the upside that he can make life hard on Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler.
24. Steelers - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College. Kuechly is a standout athlete who is well decorated. The Steelers have an aging LB corps and will get a steal if Kuechly falls this far in the draft. Kuechly is the type of player that would fit well with the Steelers organization and would receive at least half a season behind the veterans to learn the complicated scheme of Dick LaBeau.
25. Broncos - Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson. Allan is a dynamic TE, and rated as the top TE in 2012. He is dynamic as pass catcher and is a good run blocker. With Tebow listed as the 2012 starter the Broncos will need to continue to build an offense to suit Tebow's strengths and Allen will be an important check down who will be a dangerous weapon in 2012.
26. Texans - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis. The Texans transitioned to a 3-4 defense in 2011, and in the first season they were one of the elite defenses in the league. By adding a true NT to their defense Wade Phillips will have everything in place to compete for a top spot in the league.
27. Saints - Devon Still, DT, Penn State. Following the loss to the 49ers in the playoffs and Aubrayo Franklin being a free agent in 2012 the Saints will look to a very highly rated DT prospect who demonstrated a high motor and the ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage. Drafting Still will still allow the Saints to resign an aging Franklin to help mentor Still and spell Franklin throughout the year with increased playing time. The Saints Defense will get a big boost from a big man in the middle.
28. Packers - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. As shown in the Giants playoff game the Packers are great at a lot of things, but getting pressure on the QB is not one of them. The ROLB is a position that needs additional talent to add to the pass rush and generate more sacks. Jones is the type of player that hits hard and asks questions later.