GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys catches a 43-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The NFL Combine results could change some things, but SB Nation Minnesota's Christopher Gates took a look at how a good 2012 NFL mock draft should look before things get all jumbled up again.
Before the workouts in Indianapolis truly get underway, it seemed to make sense for SB Nation Minnesota to take a stab at a 2012 NFL mock draft before the NFL Combine went and changed everything around. Trades aren't going to be projected in this version, however, so this doesn't necessarily follow exactly what your's truly feels is going to happen in April.
In fact, if were to guess, it seems that the two big-name quarterbacks in this draft -- Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III -- are going to go one and two in this year's selection process. However, since we're not projecting trades and the teams with the second and third picks don't need quarterbacks, one of them is going to fall a little bit.
Having explained ourselves, here is SB Nation Minnesota's Pre-Combine 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Enjoy!
1) Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - Luck has been the consensus #1 pick since he failed to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft and, with the Colts likely jettisoning Peyton Manning, the torch will get passed in short order.
2) St. Louis Rams - Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California - As I've already stated, I think the Rams will trade out of this pick to a team that wants Robert Griffin III, but if they don't, Kalil is likely their pick here, as Jason Smith has been a bust thus far.
3) Minnesota Vikings - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State - Believe me, as a Vikings fan, I'm not in love with the concept of taking a wide receiver this high in the draft. But if Kalil isn't there, Blackmon really is the most talented player left on the board in this scenario, and rather than reach for Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin at offensive tackle, the Vikings would go with the best player available. Morris Claiborne is a possibility at this spot, too.
4) Cleveland Browns - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - RGIII might end up in Cleveland, but he won't end up in Cleveland at #4 overall. If he winds up with the Browns, it's because Mike Holmgren and company moved up a spot or two to get him.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State - Tampa's biggest need is at cornerback, with Aqib Talib facing a trial in the near future and Ronde Barber looking at free agency and/or retirement. Claiborne would immediately upgrade the Tampa secondary.
6) Washington Redskins - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - The Redskins could be one of the major players in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, but if they can't move up, they'll look to bolster the offensive line. Reiff would make a nice bookend to Trent Williams.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - The Jags' wide receiver situation is pretty bad, and Wright has actually surpassed Justin Blackmon on the draft boards of some teams. If he lights it up at the Combine, it's not a stretch to think he could find himself at this pick.
8) Miami Dolphins* - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford - Another team that could find themselves looking to move up for a quarterback, although they are strongly connected to Matt Flynn now that former Packers' OC Joe Philbun is their new head coach. Whoever their quarterback is, Andrew Luck's blindside protector will help keep them upright.
9) Carolina Panthers* - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama - The Panthers' pass defense was awful in 2011, and with all charges having been dropped against him for an off-field incident, Kirkpatrick could find himself in the top 10. At 6'2", he has the size to help the Carolina secondary immediately.
10) Buffalo Bills - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina - Based on talent, Coples should be a top five selection. However, questions about his work ethic will drop him a bit, and the Bills will gladly snatch him up at this point in the draft if he's available.
11) Seattle Seahawks** - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - I'm relatively sure that nobody thinks that Tarvaris Jackson is the long-term answer for the Seahawks at quarterback. Tannehill gets the benefit of being the third quarterback in a draft full of teams that need him. If the chips fall right, he might go even higher than this.
12) Kansas City Chiefs** - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - With Jamaal Charles coming off of a serious injury (and likely working better in a tandem with a power back in any event), the Chiefs could pair him with the bruising Richardson and give their offense a tremendous boost.
13) Arizona Cardinals - David DeCastro, G, Stanford - The Cardinals have seemingly had offensive line struggles for the last decade, and DeCastro would go a long way towards protecting their expensive quarterback investment. . .whether that be Kevin Kolb or Peyton Manning.
14) Dallas Cowboys - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - The former Florida Gator had to transfer after geting in some trouble, but if the Cowboys are satisfied with his character, he would definitely be the best pick for them at this spot.
15) Philadelphia Eagles - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - DeSean Jackson could potentially be leaving in free agency, though the team says they'll franchise him, and Jeremy Maclin has been inconsistent. Floyd would give the Eagles' offense a bigger body for Michael Vick to target.
16) New York Jets - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina - The Jets' defense really fell off in 2011, and despite all the talent in the secondary in New York, even they can't cover forever. Rex Ryan's team needs someone that can get to the quarterback, and Ingram fits that bill.
17) Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders) - Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State - While defensive tackle might not be the most pressing of needs for the Bengals, Brockers' talent is too good to pass up here. He could step in and upgrade the Bengals' front seven immediately.
19) Chicago Bears - Devon Still, DT, Penn State - While the Bears would love for a quality receiver to fall here, there aren't any worthy of this pick in this scenario. So, they'll go with Still, who will upgrade the interior of the defensive line and help keep people away from Brian Urlacher.
20) Tennessee Titans - Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama - The Titans really need to do something to bolster the pass rush, as they don't have anybody that can get to the quarterback with any consistency. Upshaw could change that in short order.
21) Cincinnati Bengals - Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL) - Cedric Benson is a free agent that likely won't be back, and the Bengals could use an upgrade from him anyway. Miller is the second-best back in this year's class, and would be the immediate starter in Cincinnati.
22) Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons) - Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia - Regardless of who Cleveland's quarterback is in 2012, they need to do a better job of keeping him upright. Glenn is a monster of a man that would upgrade the interior for the Browns.
23) Detroit Lions - Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois - It might seem strange for the Lions to take another first-round defensive lineman, but with Cliff Avril's situation and Kyle Van Den Bosch not getting any younger, Detroit needs to take steps to solidify themselves on the edges.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - The Steelers get a real find here, as Kuechly is considered by far the best interior linebacker in this year's class. He's the kind of tough, hard-nosed player that the Steelers are known for, and would fit in well with Mike Tomlin and company.
25) Denver Broncos - Mark Barron, S, Alabama - Barron comes with some injury concerns, having just had hernia surgery. But he is the consensus best safety prospect in this year's class, and should be a huge boon to the Denver secondary if he can get past those injury problems.
26) Houston Texans - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - Poe is, to put it mildly, huge. . .he tips the scales at around 350 pounds. The Texans did well in last year's draft to get J.J. Watt on the outside of their defensive line, and now they can get a real space-eater for the interior of Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme.
27) New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints) - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina - The Patriots' pass defense allowed more yards than almost any other team in National Football League history. They need some help in the secondary in a big way, and Gilmore can provide it.
28) Green Bay Packers - Nick Perry, DE, Southern California - The Packers' pass defense was awful in 2011, largely due to their inability to get to the quarterback. Perry would make a fine outside pass rusher and could help Green Bay out immensely.
29) Baltimore Ravens - Don'ta Hightower, LB, Alabama - Ray Lewis isn't getting any younger, and will soon need to be replaced in the middle of the Baltimore defense. Hightower has the attitude and the skills to be able to do that after carrying Lewis' bags for a year. (Don't be surprised if the Ravens use this pick to attempt to sign restricted free agent receiver Mike Wallace away from the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
30) San Francisco 49ers - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina - Jeffery has rumors swirling about him that he's gotten really out of shape since the college season finished. When he's in shape, however, he's the kind of dynamic playmaker the Niners offense needs after watching their wide receivers (hello, Michael Crabtree) completely disappear in the NFC Championship Game.
31) New England Patriots - Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi State - While the Patriots upgraded their secondary with their first first-round selection, their front seven was no great shakes either. Cox would be a nice pick-up for them. . .although we all know that the Patriots are just going to deal this pick to somebody else so they can have two first-rounders in the 2013 Draft. I mean, that's what they do, right?
32) New York Giants - Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford - When you're the world champions, you don't have a whole lot of needs. However, after watching both Jake Ballard and and Travis Beckum depart the Super Bowl with torn ACLs, it makes a lot of sense for them to go tight end here. Fleener is one of the new breed of tight ends, and he'll create a lot of mismatches for the New York offense.
Last five players out (in no particular order)