Clayton Smith's 2012 NFL Mock Draft
The NFL draft, a time of year when pro football fans in destitute outposts like Buffalo & Cleveland feel the eternal optimism of a spring, where everyone is 0-0, and all teams have the Lombardi trophy in their rifle scope. For someone who has been obsessed with Pro Football for nearly 3 decades, I’ve never been a draft nut, not even when the Patriots were leaner than young Hollywood and sports ruled my world, still I’ve always been a sucker for mock drafts.
But as the years have gone by and more and more ‘mocks’ hit the web I’ve become a bit jaded. Don Banks at Sports Illustrated is a master of the mock, but in recent years I’ve come to respect the work of an unabashed Clevelander named Clayton Smith. Over a cold beer in Southern California this past weekend, draft czar Smith unveiled his 2012 mock draft, and now I’m here to share it with you.
1. Indianapolis - Andrew Luck QB Stanford - Colts "luck" out and get the perfect replacement to Peyton Manning.
2. Washington (from St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III QB Baylor - Redskins better hope RG3 is everything he's hyped up to be and more because they mortgaged their next 3 drafts basically for this guy.
3. Minnesota - Matt Kalil OT USC - Consensus #3 overall player in the draft behind the 2 QB's plus plays a position of high value. Christian Ponder will be happy he has Kalil watching his back for the next 10+ years.
4. Cleveland - Trent Richardson RB Alabama At first I was skeptical of taking a RB this high, even one as talented as Richardson, but the more I thought about it the more okay I became with the idea. With the new CBA teams aren't investing as much money into these top 5 players so taking a RB that high isn't going to cost you as much as it did 2 years ago, plus with this pick we absolutely HAVE to nail it and T.R. is one of most complete prospects in this draft and arguably one of the better RB prospects to come out in the past 15 or so years, I think he's right up there with Tomlinson and AP when they came out. He's big, he's fast, he's physical, he can block, he can catch out of the backfield which is huge in our offense and 60% of his rushing yards last season came in the 2nd half of games so he only gets stronger as games go on which is vital for the division we play in. We can build our offense around him similar to how Seattle used to with Shawn Alexander. This team more than anything needs an identity and some playmakers on offense and Richardson will give us both.
5. Tampa Bay - Morris Claiborne CB LSU: With Aquib Talib's future unclear due to run-ins with the law and Ronde Barber nearing retirement the Bucs had to do something at the CB position, they already signed Eric Wright but will be more than happy to add Claiborne to their secondary who is an excellent coverman and although he's not quite the physical specimen of former teammate and top 5 pick last year Patrick Peterson, Claiborne might be the better pure cover guy.
6. St. Louis (from Washington) - Justin Blackmon WR Ok. State - Rams trade down to 6, get a boatload of extra picks and still gets the guy they probably wanted all along. Still think Bradford can be a top 5 QB in this league and finally having a go-to guy in Blackmon and a million first round picks the next couple years I like his chances.
7. Jacksonville - Quentin Coples DE UNC - Every year it seems the Jags are in the market for a pass-rusher and always seem to attempt to address it, yet they keep failing to find guys to stick around so they opt to add the physical monster in Coples to help shore up the D.
8. Miami - Ryan Tannehill QB Texas A&M - A lot of people have this pick locked in for a couple reasons. One, the Dolphins need a QB badly, they even called David Garrard to come back to the league for next season. Two, Tannehill has all the potential in the world to be a successful QB in this league and his former college coach Mike Sherman, who thinks the world of him, is now the Phins OC.
9. Carolina - Dontari Poe DT Memphis - Poe is like a giant dancing athletic bear. Panthers really struggled on D last year and if they add a couple pieces on that side of the ball they could be a team to really look out for in the near future. Poe is a good start to that.
10. Buffalo - Jonathan Martin OT Stanford - Martin, a true lunch-pail kind of player, will fit right in with Buffalo and will help protect the Bills 60 million dollar investment; Ryan Fitzpatrick.
11. Kansas City - Michael Brockers DT LSU - Brockers is a physical specimen and will probably be able to play anywhere along K.C's 3-4 DLine.
12. Seattle - Melvin Ingram DE South Carolina - Very versatile defender and maybe the most dynamic pass-rusher in this draft. Seattle had a lot of problems getting after the QB last year so Ingram should come in right away and contribute.
13. Arizona - Riley Reiff OT Iowa - Whether it's Kolb or Skelton under center next year they are going to need more help along the OL.
14. Dallas - David DeCastro OG Stanford - Rare for a Guard to go this high but DeCastro is one of the better Guard prospects to come out in awhile, a legit top 15 pick.
15. Philadelphia - Luke Kuechly LB Boston College - Complete LB, very instinctive and displayed above average athleticism at the combine. They just traded for Demeco Ryans but still could use another LB and pairing Ryan’s with Kuechly would be a scary duo.
16. NY Jets - Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame - If Jets want Sanchize to succeed (or Tebow for that matter) they gotta get them more weapons. Plaxico is getting up there in age and Holmes thinks he's just another homie back on the block. Floyd has really impressed this off-season running a 4.41 at the combine, a lot faster than most expected. Easily the 2nd best WR in this draft behind Blackmon.
17. Cincinnati (from Oakland) - Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama - Leon Hall is already out for the 2012 season with a torn achilles tendon. Kirkpatrick is a very physical Corner who would fit right into the AFCN. What a joke by the way the Bengals got this pick for Carson Palmer. Raiders really like giving away 1st round picks for old-washed up players (see Richard Seymour 2009, Carson Palmer 2011)
18. San Diego - Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama - Chargers D hasn't been the same since the days of "Lights Out". Upshaw can do it all on defense and will be asked to play the rush backer spot in SD's 34.
19. Chicago - Cody Fleener TE Stanford - Brandon Marshall and Cody Fleener will make Jay Cutler's job a lot easier next year. TE's are expanding in the NFL becoming more and more valuable to offense's just see N.E. Patriots this past year. Fleener is top of the class at his position.
20. Tennessee - Nick Perry DE USC - Have lost a lot of guys the past couple years on their what was once stacked defensive line, signed Kamerion Wimbley this off-season in FA and adding Perry here will give them 2 very good pass-rushers to help out on D.
21. Cincinnati - Stephen Hill WR Ga. Tech - Physical freak at 6'4 215 and a 4.35 could be very scary playing opposite of AJ Green. Gives Andy Dalton another freak of nature to throw to.
22. Cleveland (from Atlanta) - Kendall Wright WR Baylor: Wright screams "Heckert pick" to me. KW is very similar to the last 2 WR's Heckert drafted while in Philly, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. If you go back and look at Maclin and Wright's combine numbers like shuttle and 3 cone drill times they are almost identical, with Wright's slightly better in most categories. He's very quick and elusive and is great at getting up-field after the catch, a trait that would be ideal for a WCO WR. He had a poor 40 time at the combine but redeemed himself at his pro-day running a 4.43 and he plays even faster than that. Wright has drawn many comparisons to Carolina's Steve Smith and Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace. If both Stephen Hill and Wright were available here it would be tough to choose between the two. Hill obviously has more potential given his size and freakish athleticism but Wright is probably more polished as a WR right now. Both would be very good fits in our offense and fantastic picks here in my opinion.
23. Detroit - Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama - lost Eric Wright in FA and sadly he was probably their best CB. Jenkins probably would of went higher had he not gotten kicked out of UF last summer. Still a very talented player and Lions are lucky to land him here.
24. Pittsburgh - Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina - Ike Taylor pretty much single handedly lost the playoff game vs. Denver this past season. Pittsburgh is notorious for never really having big name CB's or spending high draft picks at the position, I think that finally changes this year.
25. Denver - Fletcher Cox DT Miss. State - Broncos have plethora of pass-rushers (Dumervil, Ayers, Von Miller), they need someone on the interior of their defensive line.
26. Houston - Mike Adams OT Ohio State - not sure why they let Eric Winston go but now they have a hole there and have to spend a 1st round pick on Adams to fill it.
27. New England (from New Orleans) - Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB Illinois - Pats really need to revamp their front 7 on Defense, Mercilus is a start, led the nation in sacks this past year.
28. Green Bay - Mark Barron S Alabama - Best safety in the draft, Packers current Safety Nick Collins is coming off a very serious neck injury that could possibly end his career. Barron will fill in nicely for him.
29. Baltimore - Cordy Glenn G/T Georgia - Glenn can play Right Tackle or either Guard spot, Ravens need help at both.
30. San Francisco - Reuben Randle WR LSU - 49ers have been active this off-season especially at WR signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Moss however can't be counted on too heavily considering his age, attitude, and only has a 1 year contract. Manningham is probably better off as a #2 or even #3. 49ers dont have too many needs but Randle is a stud who was under-utlizied during his time at LSU due to a running offense and poor QB play. Alex Smith has no excuses now not to produce or else last year's 2nd rounder Colin Kaepernick will take his job sooner rather than later.
31. New England - Devon Still DL Penn State - Continuing to re-load up front on D. Pats DE's are old, meet their new replacement. Pats D near the bottom of the NFL last year yet they still made it to the S.B., adding Still and Mercilus should really help them out.
32. NY Giants - Lamar Miller RB Miami - G-Men let go of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw can't really be relied on to carry the entire load by himself. Miller has tons of talent and is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. Great fit in Giants offense and Eli Manning gets yet another toy to play with.
33. St. Louis - Kevin Zeitler OG Wisconsin - Rams have to do a better job of protecting Sam Bradford plain and simple. They spent the 2nd overall pick in 2009 on Left Tackle Jason Smith and 2010's 2nd rounder (33rd overall pick) on Right Tackle Roger Saffold so hopefully those guys can start producing and they don't have to draft yet another tackle which is why they opt to go Guard here because they need help there as well.
34. Indianapolis - Alfonso Dennard CB Nebraska - Colts' secondary was awful last year. Dennard has 1st round talent so Colts jump at opportunity to get him here.
35. Minnesota - Alshon Jeffrey WR South Carolina - Will give 2nd year QB Ponder another weapon. Jeffrey is a big boy at WR who needs to do a better job of staying in shape and keeping his weight down. If he can get it it all together he would fit in very nicely as a 1-2 punch with Percy Harvin.
36. Tampa Bay - Donta' Hightower LB Alabama - The leader of Bama's tough defenses the past couple years, Hightower is a load that you can plug into the middle of a defense and have anchor it for years. Should allow Mason Foster to slide back into his more natural position of OLB.
37. Cleveland - Lavonte David OLB Nebraska - David is a bit on the smaller side for a LBer at 6'1 233 but he more than makes up for it with his speed, athleticism, and instincts proven by his 260 tackles the past 2 years at Nebraska. Browns LBers over the years have been notorious for one thing it seems, being slow. Playing behind the mack trucks up front Rubin and Taylor, David should be able to roam free and make plays and help out that poorly ranked Run Defense of last year.