Posted: Wednesday April 18, 2012 11:49AM ; Updated: Wednesday April 18, 2012 1:09PM
Don Banks
Don Banks>INSIDE THE NFL
2012 NFL Mock Draft 6.0
We're only a week and a day away from the start of the 2012 NFL draft, and the illusion of movement that unfolds every year at this time is in full swing. I've got prospects like Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore and Baylor's Kendall Wright climbing, and I perceive players like South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Memphis' Dontari Poe supposedly losing ground. This even though no one has actually made a pick yet, so there's nothing to gauge all this movement against.

It's imaginary activity, but it's an exercise we willingly take part in every spring. What's that they say about perception becoming reality? We'll see next Thursday night how much of it comes true. Until then, here's my sixth and penultimate attempt at mocking out the first round... (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)
 
1 QB Andrew Luck Stanford Jr. 6-4 235
Six mocks in and I'm finally out of ways to describe how far down the road Colts owner Jim Irsay is when it comes to selecting Luck first overall. His mind has sounded made up since February. Or was it December?
2 QB Robert Griffin III Baylor Jr. 6-2 220
(Trade with St. Louis). How's this for karma: Griffin and his Baylor teammates beat the University of Washington in that dizzying Alamo Bowl slug-fest, and now the next uniform RG3 wears will be ... wait for it ... Washington's.
3 OT Matt Kalil USC Jr. 6-7 295
Once they pick him, the Vikings, I'm convinced, will tell us Kalil was the player they wanted all along, and no one else was even close. That's the way this little game within the game works.
4 RB Trent Richardson Alabama Jr. 5-11 224
We all know running backs aren't great long-term bets in the NFL, but if you're trying to give your third-year quarterback some weapons to work with to help him over the hump, are you really worried about six or seven seasons down the road? Why not get Colt McCoy the best running back available and roll the dice on him?
5 CB Morris Claiborne LSU Jr. 6-0 185
It's a passing league these days, and that doesn't only mean that you've got to throw the ball to win. It also means you've got to slow down as many opposing quarterbacks as possible, and that's why it's Claiborne over Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd in Tampa Bay.
6 WR Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State Jr. 6-1 215
Like the No. 4 Browns, the Rams have a third-year quarterback in need of some help. I think Blackmon was the player St. Louis had targeted long before it even pulled off that blockbuster deal with the Redskins, and lo and behold, the plan works flawlessly.
7 DT Fletcher Cox Mississippi State Jr. 6-4 295
With starting defensive tackle Terrance Knighton slated to miss almost the entire offseason after suffering an eye injury in a nightclub fight, the Jaguars won't be able to pass on MSU's Cox, the highest-rated defensive tackle in a tackle-heavy draft.
8 QB Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M Sr. 6-4 222
If someone in the top seven wants to take Tannehill, more power to them. That should be the Dolphins' attitude. The price tag is rich enough for him at No. 8. But I still say Miami would have made a stronger move for Matt Flynn if it thought Tannehill wouldn't be available with the eighth pick.
9 CB Stephon Gilmore South Carolina Jr. 6-1 193
With Cox off the board, the Panthers could opt for Michael Floyd and another receiving weapon to pair with Steve Smith. But Gilmore is a rising talent and I was told as far back as before the combine that he would climb into the top half of the draft before it's all said and done.
10 WR Michael Floyd Notre Dame Sr. 6-3 224
The Bills could certainly play it safe and take an offensive tackle like Iowa's Riley Reiff. But if Buffalo wants to compete with the Patriots and Jets, it needs to be more daring and dangerous on offense. There are those who believe Floyd's transition to the NFL will be quicker than any other receiver in the draft, and his game is being compared favorably to Kansas City playmaker Dwayne Bowe.
11 LB Luke Kuechly Boston College Jr. 6-3 237
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli loves productive and instinctive players like Kuechly, and it seems those two will have a little Boston connection going as well. This one makes so much sense it absolutely has to happen, which is usually the kiss of death.
12 DE/OLB Melvin Ingram South Carolina Sr. 6-2 276
The Seahawks need pass rush help and linebackers, and Ingram is versatile enough to handle whatever job Pete Carroll asks him to do. Ingram is slipping a bit on some boards, but he doesn't tumble out of the top 12 on this one.
13 OT Riley Reiff Iowa Jr. 6-6 300
I'm tempted to plug Stanford guard David DeCastro into this slot, but the good news in Arizona is the Cardinals will have their choice of whomever they've rated higher. Reiff doesn't seem to be inspiring much excitement, but he's the consensus second-best tackle in the draft.
14 S Mark Barron Alabama Sr. 6-2 218
I think the Cowboys have been fairly well locked in on the Crimson Tide safety for weeks now. I don't think they'll have to sweat someone coming up to get him at No. 13, but it's at least a possibility, given that Barron makes sense for both the No. 15 Eagles and No. 16 Jets.
15 DE Quinton Coples North Carolina Sr. 6-6 285
Though a defensive tackle like Michael Brockers or Dontari Poe are options here, the Eagles probably wouldn't pass on a prospect with rare pass-rush skills. Coples has critics when it comes to his inconsistent motor, but Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn doesn't take the quiet approach to those sort of issues.
16 DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw Alabama Sr. 6-2 265
When it comes down to it, the Jets need Upshaw's pass-rush potential even more desperately than they do Poe's space-eating, run-stuffing skills. Upshaw is the kind of havoc-creating player Rex Ryan can make good use of as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
17 OG David DeCastro Stanford Sr. 6-5 310
(From Oakland). Once again the board breaks right for the guard-needy Bengals, who are in position to land the top-rated guard in the draft. With the depth at cornerback, DeCastro over Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is the way to go at No. 17.
18 OT/G Cordy Glenn Georgia Sr. 6-6 346
The need to further improve the pass rush could make the Chargers lean toward a Whitney Mercilus, a Chandler Jones or an Andre Branch. But the situation on the offensive line is even more pressing, and the depth of the draft at D-line is greater than it is at O-line.
19 OT Jonathan Martin Stanford Sr. 6-6 304
More than getting Jay Cutler another receiver, I still think the Bears can help him most by getting a potential starting offensive tackle he doesn't have to worry about. Either Martin or Ohio State's Mike Adams should be there for the taking.
20 DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus Illinois Jr. 6-4 254
With cornerback Stephon Gilmore already gone, the Titans would be wise to address their need for more pass rush. The gap between Dre Kirkpatrick and the cornerbacks available in the second round aren't that huge. But pass rushers who are special ard rare, and Mercilus, though raw, has the ability to play in the opponent's backfield.
21 CB Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama Jr. 6-3 192
I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bengals grab a falling Dontari Poe or fellow defensive tackle Michael Brockers in this slot. But for now, I'm going to stick with the Bengals being driven by their needs, and give them the highest-rated available cornerback in Kirkpatrick.
22 WR Kendall Wright Baylor Sr. 5-10 196
(From Atlanta). Picking a starter for the right offensive tackle slot (Ohio State's Mike Adams?) makes the most sense to me, but maybe the Browns want to see how much juice their once-woeful offense can generate with the addition of both a first-round running back and a first-round receiver.
23 OT Mike Adams Ohio State Sr. 6-7 314
I actually love Peter King's scenario in his mock for Sports Illustrated, because he has the Lions trading down and out of this spot, with Baltimore coming up from No. 29 to get Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower. I could definitely see that move happening, especially if all the first-round cornerbacks and first-round offensive tackles are gone by the time 23 rolls around. But for now, Adams remains available and the Lions offensive line needs some youth.
24 DT Dontari Poe Memphis Sr. 6-5 350
The Steelers will have a real decision on their hands in this scenario: The plummeting but freakishly gifted Poe, who could someday soon replace Casey Hampton, or Dont'a Hightower, a pro-ready prospect who could be plugged into an inside linebacker slot tomorrow? I'm giving them Poe based on the greater value of the position, but either way they're getting a player whose first name includes the letters D-o-n-t-a. (How's that for draft season insight?).
25 DT Michael Brockers LSU Soph. 6-6 306
Brockers was once considered a top certain top-15 pick, and the Broncos are starting to feel like they're the NFL's charmed team this offseason. Denver finds its replacement for the departed Brodrick Bunkley, who left for New Orleans via free agency.
26 WR Rueben Randle LSU Jr. 6-4 208
I had Randle to the Texans in my second mock of the year, back in late February, before the combine. Every old becomes new again at some point. Houston could surprise most everyone and not take a receiver in the first round, I suppose, but with Kendall Wright already gone and Stephen Hill short on track record, why not opt for a proven playmaker from a big-time program?
27 DE Chandler Jones Syracuse Sr. 6-5 265
(From New Orleans). The Patriots are always a willing trade-down partner, so anyone getting itchy to move up and take Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden should have Bill Belichick's number handy. But for the moment, I'm giving New England a pass-rushing prospect who can help fill the void created by Mark Anderson's departure and Andre Carter's injury.
28 DT Jerel Worthy Michigan State Jr. 6-3 310
The Packers stay true to the value of their draft grades, and Worthy is likely to be the highest-rated player available at No. 28. He'd bounce outside to defensive end in Green Bay's 3-4, and hopefully make everyone in Titletown forget Cullen Jenkins.
29 LB Dont'a Hightower Alabama Jr. 6-4 269
The Ravens get their wish and have Hightower fall to them. It's partial karmic payback for that Lee Evans mishap in the end zone in New England in late January. You know the one, Ravens fans. If this is all a dream and it doesn't come true, Baltimore would likely go for Wisconsin center Peter Konz, given that Matt Birk is probably playing on borrowed time at this point.
30 TE Coby Fleener Stanford Sr. 6-6 244
I still think Fleener makes plenty of sense for the 49ers, with head coach Jim Harbaugh dreaming up new ways to attack a defense with his former collegiate tight end paired with Vernon Davis. Once upon a time, back in the Kezar Stadium days, the 49ers always raided the Stanford roster for talent.
31 OLB Shea McClellin Boise State Sr. 6-3 258
Again, the Patriots could easily trade out of this slot, but if not, getting a versatile player who can plug into their defensive front seven is a solid selection. If the Patriots don't go defensive end at No. 27, USC DE Nick Perry is a great value at No. 31.
32 DE/OLB Nick Perry USC Jr. 6-3 250
This is a pick that doesn't entirely fit from New York's need perspective, but the Giants don't bypass highly rated players who fall in their laps. The trade for Keith Rivers to play weakside linebacker should allow for Michael Boley to move inside to middle linebacker, but Rivers may just be insurance and depth until Perry takes over and makes the position his.
 

 
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