With the Arizona Cardinals almost entirely subsumed in Manning watch 2012, let's take a step away from the rumors and speculation surround Peyton Manning, and focus on the upcoming NFL Draft. On Monday, Adam Schefter reported, as many Cardinals fans had already assumed, that Levi Brown would be getting released prior to the start of free agency. This news, along with the expected departure of UFA Brandon Keith, leaves two gaping holes at the tackle positions, which are expected to be addressed through free agency and/or the draft. Speaking of the draft, this mock draft will feature the entire first round, and teams will be able to trade. Prepare yourselves for an education in the school of hard mocks.
The first selection of the 2012 NFL Draft is...
2. Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Hey, at least I can boast that I, along with countless other individuals, correctly predicted this trade. (Previous Pick: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor)
4. Cleveland Browns - Morris Claibourne, CB, LSU. For all intents and purposes the Cleveland Browns are on the clock for the 2012 NFL Draft, and they can basically stick to their board, because they need help all over the place. (Previous Pick: Morris Claibourne, CB, LSU)
5. Chicago Bears from Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU. Jay Cutler needs a legitimate weapon at the wide receiver position, and after impressing at his Pro Day, Chicago feels that Blackmon could be a special receiver in their offense.
6. St. Louis Rams - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Probably a bit of a reach here, but Floyd has proven he has the elite athleticism to excel as a wide receiver in the NFL. (Previous Pick: Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Contrary to popular belief the Jaguars weren't that bad on defense last season, but need to replace their most productive pass rusher Mincey. (Previous Pick:
8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. My short list free agent prediction: Flynn to Seattle, Manning to Arizona, but who does that leave Miami with? I say they reach, but grab there QB of the future here. (Previous Pick: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina)
9. Carolina Panthers - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. Sometimes a pick just makes too much sense for it not to happen. Rivera should be able to get the most out of this talented youngster. (Previous Pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU)
10. Buffalo Bills - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina. While slightly undersized, Ingram has been moving up draft boards, and find himself on a team desperate for a pass rushing DE. (Previous Pick: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina)
11. Kansas City Chiefs - Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa. Despite being given the cold shoulder by Manning, the Chiefs still manage to score here with Rieff. Look for them to draft a project QB in the second or third round. (Previous Pick: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford)
12. Cincinnati Bengals from Seattle Seahawks - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. Past two mocks I've had them trading with the Cardinals but I thought I'd change it up a bit. If Cincy doesn't move up, I'd expect Richardson to be taken by the Jets at 16. (Seattle Previous Pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M)
13. Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford. Both starting tackles are very likely to be gone, and if Arizona manages to land Manning, which I predict they will, there won't be a whole lot of room to sign a FA tackle or two. Fortunately the Cardinals are able to stand pat at 13 and have the talented Martin fall into their laps. Martin is skilled enough, and smart enough to start from day one, albeit against rather poor competition, and should be able to protect either Manning's frontside or blindside better than we've grown accustomed to with Levi Brown and Brandon Keith as Cardinal fans.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College. There are a few picks that will take something drastic to change my mind about them happening. This is one of those picks. (Previous Pick: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College)
16. New York Jets - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois. Mercilus gets the distinction of being the first defensive end convert to be selected, and after a strong combine and Pro Day, he deserves it. (Previous Pick: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford)
17. Seattle Seahawks - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. With the right coaching, Poe could be an animal in the NFL, and the Seahawks think their guys can convert his athleticism into on field production. (Arizona Previous Pick: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois)
18. San Diego Chargers - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Need meets BPA here, as Kirkpatrick will likely be a starter on day one of San Diego's depleted CB corps. (Previous Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama)
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Chicago Bears - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. Ideally, the Bucs would keep their original pick and grab Claibourne, but Cleveland ruined that for them. Instead the Bucs grab a different, but still highly talented, CB in Gilmore. (Chicago Previous Pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina)
20. Tennessee Titans - Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia. Glenn can play a variety of positions on the Oline for the Titans, and this versatility really helps his stock. (Previous Pick: Nick Perry, DE, USC)
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. In two drafts, the Bengals will have managed to redefine their entire offense with Dalton, Green, Richardson, and now Wright. (Previous Pick: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama)
22. Cleveland Browns - Nick Perry, DE, USC. With the Browns two first round selection, they have grabbed two very intriguing prospects. A BPA strategy has payed dividends for Cleveland. (Previous Pick: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor)
23. Detroit Lions - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama. This is the definition of high risk, high reward. Jenkins has all the tools to be a great CB, but his red flags will keep teams away form picking him. (Previous Pick: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. As any great 3-4 defense does, the Steelers restock their linebacking corps with fresh young talent. Upshaw's coverage abilities drop him a bit, but he should be good for 6-10 sacks a year. (Previous Pick: Devon Still, DT, Penn State)
25. Denver Broncos - Devon Still, DT, Penn State. Amid the whole Penn State scandal, Still managed to maintain his great play for the Nittany Lions. Still should work out great for the Broncos. (Previous Pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina)
26. Houston Texans - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina. The Texans would love to add a #2 receiver across from Andre Johnson, and Alshon, with his great hands, should be able to provide that. (Previous Pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis)
27. New England Patriots - Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson. Teams at the end of the first will tend to reach of bit for need, and the Patriots do just that to grab Branch. (Previous Pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama)
28. Green Bay Packers - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Green Bay's front seven need to help if the Packers want to be a championship calibre team. (Previous Pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State)
29. Baltimore Ravens - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State. As many late first round teams do, the Ravens restock their offensive line with Adams, in hopes that he can improve his work ethic. (Previous Pick: Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall)
31. New England Patriots - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech. Pats have been missing a deep treat since Moss regressed and than left, but Hill's blazing speed gets him picked in the first round. (Previous Pick: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin)
32. New York Giants - Lamaar Miller, RB, Miami. The new flavor of the week for the 32nd selection is a running back, and Miller is the highest running back on my big board. (Previous Pick: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia)
Expect some big changes to this mock draft come next week, as free agents choose their new teams. The first fish has already been caught, with Randy Moss signing with 49ers. Let us know what you think of this mock in the comment section below.