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NFL Quick-Hits: 2013 Scouting Combine News & Notes

Manti Te'o handled the media horde at the combine with maturity and grace. He answered every question, was concise and direct with most of his answers, and took the moment seriously. He no doubt was coached on what to say and he'll continued to be grilled leading up to April's draft, but he past his first test with flying colors. Now, is he a top 10 pick? I don't know if he ever was. Teams will be attracted to his lateral movements, his ability to quickly attack down hill, and his good change of direction skills. He can also cover, is comfortable in space, and is fairly component when it comes to play recognition. But linebackers that aren't elite pass rushers don't hold the same value in the NFL as they did 10 years ago. Some of the best inside or strong-side linebackers (which is where Te'o projects to play at the next level) weren't first-round picks. Patrick Willis was, but Bobby Wagner was a second-rounder, as was Daryl Washington. NaVorro Bowman was a third-round pick and Dannell Ellerbe of the Super Bowl-winning Ravens wasn't even drafted. Is Te'o a first-rounder? No question. Is he a top-10 pick like many have wondered? I highly doubt it. The more likely projection for him is picks 15 through 25.

LSU DE Sam Montgomery wins the award at this year's combine for what not to tell the media. In his combine interview, the pass rusher admitted to betting in college and taking games (not just plays, but entire games) off when the Tigers faced lesser opponents. "Some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed. But when he had the big boys come in, the 'Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out." Montgomery also admitted to betting with teammate Barkevious Mingo, including one for $5,000 on which LSU defender would be drafted higher. Based on his talent, Montgomery is a late first, early-second round prospect. He's strong at the point of attack, can be a power or finesse player, and is very good in pursuit. He also played with a lot of energy, although I only watched him against the likes of Alabama, South Carolina, Washington and Auburn. I guess I should have flipped on the film of him playing against the Little Sister's of the Poor because apparently I would have seen a different player.

This is an impressive crop of defensive linemen, both at end and tackle. Despite a poor effort on the bench press, Texas A&M DE/OLB Damontre Moore really stands out on film. He's difficult to block one-on-one, displays good lateral quickness and does a pretty good job bending the arc when pass rushing. He doesn't always use his hands well and doesn't have a full compliment of pass-rushing moves, but he should attract teams that use hybrid fronts in the NFL. The same can be said for Oregon's Dion Jordan, who ran a blazing 4.53 and a 4.63 forty at the combine. The former Duck will have surgery to repair a torn labrum but that should deter teams from taking him in the first round. He played drop end at Oregon, flashing a combination of speed, athleticism and length. He plays well in space, is violent on contact and is also scheme versatile. He's not as polished as top-10 prospect Bjoern Werner from a pass-rushing standpoint, but he can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up. Former track star Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah also ran well at the combine (he's a former track star, after all) and is likely to be selected in the first 11 picks. He's powerful, holds up well at the point of attack and doesn't have a lot of wasted movement. He's not as explosive off the line as Moore or Jordan, but he's scheme versatile after playing in 43 and 34 fronts at BYU. At defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei is drawing comparisons to Haloti Ngata (although recent reports about his heart condition is concerning), while Florida's Sharrif Floyd is receiving top-1o attention as well. Floyd is built like an ox but is quick, agile and strong. He isn't as explosive as fellow top prospect Sheldon Richardson of Missouri, but he's the perfect fit for a 3-technique in a 4-3 and could wind up being a double-digit sack guy down the road. (The same could be said for Richardson, really.)

SI.com's Peter King believes that Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could be a top-five pick, although that's hard to envision. Jones suffers from spinal stenosis, which is why he transferred from USC to Georgia in 2010. And while Chris Mortensen reports that Jones got a "favorable review" of his neck at the combine, his medical history could cause him to drop a la Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers in 2011. Bowers was widely regarded as a top 5 pick before the draft but offseason knee surgery caused him to drop into the second round. Granted, we're not exactly comparing apples to apples, but the main takeaway is that Jones is a potential red flag for NFL teams. That said, he's one of the better pass-rushers in this year's class thanks to his athleticism and has decent cover skills. He's seemingly a perfect fit as an OLB in a 3-4 but again, it's hard to envision a scenario where he's a top 5 selection.

One of the more polarizing prospects in this year's draft class is USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who was once considered to be a candidate to be taken first overall. Scouts are reportedly worried about his arm strength and his ability to stretch a defense vertically. But he's not without skill. He gets the ball out of his hand quickly, displays good touch and is a tough kid. He also throws the ball better outside the numbers and between defenders than people give him credit for but again, he won't survive in a vertical-based offense. Considering he worked the short-to-intermediate game while at USC, he would be a good fit for a team running the West Coast Offense. But because of his arm, teams will have to figure out whether or not he's worth taking before the third round.

Pre-NFL Scouting Combine Observations

Had 49ers not taken Jenkins at No. 30, Rams may have selected him at No. 33

2012 NFL Draft: Team-by-Team Evaluations

2012 NFL Draft: Impressions from the second and third rounds

- The story of the second day wasn’t Janoris Jenkins coming off the board or even Ruben Randle slipping to the bottom of the second round. No, the headliner was the Jaguars taking a freaking punter in the third round. might wind up being the greatest punter in the history of the NFL but you don’t take a punter in the third round…. If I squint hard enough I can envision a team taking a highly skilled specialist in the fourth, but the first three rounds are where teams have to find starters on offense and defense. Much of the good press the Jaguars received for leapfrogging the Rams to land Justin Blackmon in the first round was erased the moment Anger’s name was announced in the third. (No offense, Bryan.)

- One of the more underrated storylines from Day 2 was the Bengals selection of Rutgers’ receiver in the third round. Sanu was the victim of a cruel prank the night before, when someone acting like the Bengals called to tell him that he had been drafted by Cincinnati. Sanu had to wait until the third round, but the real Bengals finally did call to give him the great news. It was a nice ending to a screwed up story.

- is a perfect fit for the Giants. Mario Manningham was excellent at pressuring defenses by running the seam in New York’s offense the past few seasons. I envision Randle fitting into a similar role as Manningham and thus, serving as Eli Manning’s new vertical threat in the slot. Hopefully falling all the way to the bottom of the second round will motivate the former Tiger to prove teams wrong for passing on him.

- The Packers are having an excellent draft but what else is new for Ted Thompson? Landing an explosive pass rusher like Nick Perry in the first was huge, but I liked Thompson’s strategy in the second round even more. He traded up for Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who was inconsistent in college but who also has first-round talent, and for Vanderbilt cornerback , who was an instinctive, productive player in college. Teams have to find potential starters in the first three rounds and once again, Thompson has done that.

- The risk could be well worth the reward for the Rams when it comes to . Everyone knows about his off-field issues so there’s no use going into them again. The bottom line is that if he flies right off the field, he could be a hell of a playmaker for a team that has been in desperate need for playmakers the past few years. I also liked the team’s selection of Brian Quick at No. 33 and Trumaine Johnson is another player with first-round talent that slipped. The questionable pick was running back Isaiah Pead in the second. The Rams had an opportunity to snag an outside linebacker at that slot and decided to draft Steven Jackson’s compliment instead. Nothing against Pead, but the running back position could have been addressed later in the draft.

- Ozzie Newsome once again did well on draft day. Trading back and still landing a first-round talent in Alabama outside linebacker was excellent. Upshaw fits extremely well into Baltimore’s defensive system and he’ll look great playing alongside Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed in that defense.

- The Bills got great value in Georgia offensive lineman , who is projected as a guard at the next level but who also has experience as a tackle. Many thought Glenn would go in the first round so for him to slip all the way to No. 41 was surprising. Buffalo did well.

- He’s raw and it may take him a couple of years to develop but is an intriguing football player. He’ll kick inside to guard after playing tackle at Midwestern State and while he’s raw, he’s got the size and power to dominate at the next level. Well done, Ron Rivera.

- is a project but he wound up in a great situation. Who better to show him the ropes for a few years than Peyton Manning, who is also a tall, lengthy quarterback with a laser-rocket arm.

- The most questionable pick in the second round was Detroit’s selection of Oklahoma receiver . He tore his ACL late in the season at Oklahoma and projects as a slot player at the next level. So why the Lions felt the need to take him with the No. 54 overall pick is beyond me. Not only would Broyles likely be there in the third or even the fourth, the Lions could have found safer slot options, such as Arkansas’ Jarius Wright.

- At first glance I questioned why the Colts would go back-to-back tight ends in and with their selections in the second and third rounds. But Fleener isn’t a very good blocker and you can definitely get both players on the field at the same time. Plus, the Colts are just looking for weapons at this point to give to Andrew Luck, so the selections make sense.

- The more I see of Arkansas defensive end the more I like. He’s got great size and quickness, has excellent pass-rushing tools and is a “high motor guy.” Bill Belichick continues to find gems.

- Count me among those that like Georgia Tech receiver . The Jets will get him up to speed on their route tree - I’m not worried about the fact that he played in the Wishbone while in college. He has great size and speed, he can catch the ball and he can block. That’s all I need to know.

2012 NFL Draft First Round Recap

Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft

After putting the finishing touches on my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft, I sat back, looked it over and become extremely disappointed.

When does the NFL draft ever play out the way everyone expects? The answer is never. The NFL draft never goes as planned and yet my mock had zero trades, very few surprises and not enough risks. It was boring, which is the one thing the NFL draft isn’t.

The NFL draft is a study in failure, from the prospects that don’t pan out, to the teams that misjudged players’ talent, to clowns in the media who think we have it all figured out. And that’s exactly why I decided to scrap my mock and start over.

Mock drafts are supposed to be fun and creative and yet, everyone gets so caught up in trying not to look foolish that they don’t make bold predictions.

Lucky for you I don’t mind looking foolish so without further adu, here is my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Colts will have an opportunity to rebuild the way all teams in their situation would want to: By drafting a franchise quarterback to usher in a new era. Luck certainly has some big shoes to fill but he has all the tools to become successful.

It’s great that the Redskins have found their franchise signal caller but they better protect their investment by building Griffin a quality offensive line and by continuing to add playmakers that will help shoulder the load. If they don’t, they’ll look awfully foolish for giving up so much to trade up to No. 2.

GM Rick Spielman has been a godsend for Roger Goodell and the NFL because he’s brought intrigue to the top of a draft that will offer no conspiracy at No. 1 or No. 2. Seeing as how Charlie Johnson is penciled in at left tackle and the Vikings invested a first round pick in Christian Ponder last season, Matt Kalil makes the most sense at this pick. But considering nearly half of Minnesota’s schedule is against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, watch Spielman surprise and take the best cornerback in the draft.

There’s a chance that someone will jump ahead of the Browns and nab Richardson at No. 3 but which team has the resources to do that? The Bucs may pull a fast one but it’s doubtful – Richardson falls to the Browns as projected.

Rumors have started circulating that the Bills want to move up to No. 3 in order to secure Kalil. But if the Vikings want what the Rams got in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick, then the Bills will likely baulk. That said, with Claiborne off the board, there isn’t a clear choice for the Bucs at No. 5. Thus, they trade back with the Bills, who land the left tackle they so desperately need.

The Rams need a receiver that can make plays outside the numbers, which is why Justin Blackmon is the most logical fit at this spot. But Jeff Fisher is a defensive-minded coach and a throw back, so look for him to build from the inside out. In a division that features Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Beanie Wells, the Rams beef up the interior of their defensive line with the best DT in the draft. Seeing as how deep the draft is at receiver, the Rams could always trade back into the first round for Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright by using one or some of the selections they acquired from the Redskins for the No. 2 pick.

The Jaguars could go a number of different routes with this pick, including selecting a receiver or trading out of this spot entirely. But Jeremy Mincey emerged as the Jaguars’ only legitimate pass rusher last season and you can’t win in the NFL if you can’t get after the quarterback.

Thirty-one teams may grade Tannehill as a second round prospect but it only takes one team to view him as a franchise quarterback in order for him to be selected in the first round. The moment the Dolphins hired Mike Sherman to be their offensive coordinator Tannehill was the most logical choice at this pick.

Blackmon could come off the board at No. 6 to the Rams and if that happens, Fletcher Cox will likely fall into the Panthers’ laps at No. 9. But if team’s draft boards get dirty and Blackmon falls to the Panthers here, they take the best player available and give Cam Newton another weapon opposite Steve Smith.

If Claiborne comes off the board at No. 3, the Bucs could do much worse than to trade back, acquire more picks and still wind up with one of the top cornerbacks in the draft.

Inside linebacker and defensive tackle are definite needs for the Chiefs, who may even surprise and trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But if I were a GM, DeCastro is a much better player than Luke Kuechly (the top inside linebacker) and Dontari Poe (who is arguably the best DT left on the board, although I think Michael Brockers is a better prospect). DeCastro played in a pro style system at Stanford and could start right away. Guards aren’t typically top 15 picks but DeCastro is a as close to a guarantee as you can get in my eyes.

The strong safety position has been a revolving door in San Diego since Rodney Harrison left in 2002. The Chargers could wait and hope that Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith falls to them in the second round but why? They might as well trade up ahead of Dallas (which could also use Barron) and land the best safety in the draft.

I could see the Cardinals taking DeCastro or even Floyd if he were to fall this far. But given what’s available in this mock, Glenn is arguably the best fit. Most assume he’ll kick back inside to guard after playing one year at left tackle at Georgia (his senior season), but he had a strong showing as a tackle in the Senior Bowl and would upgrade Arizona’s situation at RT.

The Cowboys need help at safety and guard, but with Barron and DeCastro off the board they decide to take the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in the draft in Brockers.

I was a little surprised that the Eagles didn’t pursue middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency, but maybe they figured they could address their need at MLB without having to spend over $6 million a year on a veteran. Kuechly could go earlier than this but I doubt it. Teams just don’t put a premium on inside linebackers anymore, but he’s certainly a great fit for Philadelphia.

The Jets have been missing that outside pass-rushing threat since Rex Ryan arrived to New York in 2009. Upshaw is a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker who has the ability to battle offensive linemen in run defense but also rush the passer when the situation calls for it.

There’s a good chance that Floyd won’t fall this far but considering his issues with alcohol-related arrests, don’t rule out the possibility. No offense to Brandon Tate or Jordan Shipley but after A.J. Green the Bengals’ depth at receiver is thin. Getting younger at cornerback is also a priority for Cincinnati but receiver is arguably a much bigger need and if Floyd were to fall this far, he’d be a solid selection.

Coples has top-10 talent but he’s a risk to fall because teams reportedly question is motor, which runs “hot and cold.” He would be a value at this spot, however, and would fill Seattle's massive need for a pass rusher.

Reiff could be long off the board by the time the Bears are on the clock and if he is, then I fully expect Chicago to address its needs along the defensive line. But if Reiff does fall, look for the Bears to upgrade over left tackle J’Marcus Webb, who is constantly battling injury issues and inconsistent play.

Stephon Gilmore will be an option at this pick if he falls but if he doesn’t, Kirkpatrick would be a nice consolation gift for a Tennessee team that was burned repeatedly through the air last season.

The Bengals could take a defensive end or a cornerback at this spot but Poe is arguably the best player on the board (albeit a very controversial player).

Offensive tackle is also a need for the Browns but Wright is a better much prospect than Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin, who are the two best OTs available. Wright had an underwhelming performance at this year’s combine but watch the film – the kid can play.

Cornerback is the Lions’ top need but with Claiborne, Gilmore and Kirkpatrick all off the board, they’ll select a versatile Glenn and groom him as Jeff Backus’ replacement. They can address their need at corner and running back in the middle rounds.

The Steelers could zero in on their offensive line and therefore move up for somebody like Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin. But Hightower has experience playing in the 3-4 and could help fill the void left by the release of James Farrior.

Once Brodrick Bunkley left via free agency the Broncos had an immediate need to fill at defensive tackle. Ty Warren is 31 and Justin Bannan is 33, so Worthy would inject much-needed youth along the interior of Denver’s defensive line. As a potential wildcard, don’t rule out the Broncos selecting running back Doug Martin.

Some may view Randle as a slight reach at this pick but the Texans need a No.2 receiver that can make plays outside the numbers. Randle is a legitimate vertical threat that would look great opposite Andre Johnson in Houston’s passing attack.

The Patriots have a massive need for a pass rusher and Perry fits the bill. He's a highly disruptive edge rusher that could flourish in Bill Belichick's defensive scheme.

The Packers’ pass rush regressed last season so adding a player in McClellin who racked up 19.5 sacks for Boise State last season makes sense. He could be a solid addition opposite Clay Matthews in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.

Silatolu is projected to go in the second round but the Ravens have a need at guard with the departure of Ben Grubbs in free agency. Silatolu might be a little raw coming out of a small school but he could turn out to be one of the gems of this year’s draft.

Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal both left via free agency, leaving the Niners thin at guard. Zeitler is a powerful run blocker who helped Wisconsin become the eighth best rushing team in the nation last season. He appears to be NFL-ready and could be a starter in his rookie year.

Jenkins could easily slip into the second round with the amount of baggage he carries into the draft, but Bill Belichick is rarely scared off by players with character concerns (see Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Albert Hanyesworth). Maybe landing in New England and playing for Belichick will help Jenkins fly straight off the field.

There’s a chance that Martin will slip into the second round but I’m basing this pick mostly on need. Like all teams picking at the bottom of the first round, the Giants could go in multiple directions with this selection.

NFL Draft Rumors: Fletcher Cox, Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson & More

2012 NFL Draft: Five prospects that the experts can’t seem to agree on

No matter which NFL draft analysts you follow, the consensus pretty much agrees on which prospects in this year's class belong in the top 5.

But which players are the so-called experts having a hard time agreeing on?

Analysts unanimously concede that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kalil, Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson comprise the top 5 in this year’s draft. Some may rank the prospects in a different order, but those are the five names that you see listed atop the media’s version of a big board. (Justin Blackmon is generally listed as the sixth-best prospect for those scoring at home.)

But the names below are some of the prospects that, for one reason or another, the analysts just can’t seem to agree on.

Depending on the analyst, Tannehill lies somewhere between and whatever JaMarcus Russell ate this morning for breakfast. The overall consensus is that Tannehill is the third best quarterback prospect behind Luck and Griffin, but the majority of analysts can’t agree on whether or not he’s worthy of a top-10 selection. And seeing as how the Dolphins (who own the No. 8 pick) have been the team most linked to Tannehill, his situation has made for an interesting debate over the past few weeks. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post suggested that Tannehill at the NFL level because he only played 19 games at quarterback for A&M. NFL Network’s Charley Casserly also said in early April that most teams view Tannehill as a at best. But former Colts GM Bill Polian called Tannehill a who “merits a high pick,” and there have been others who claim he has the skill set to succeed at the next level. We’ll see.

Poe is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. Some analysts view him as a top 15 prospect while others don’t even rank him among their first 32 picks. In fact, SI.com’s Peter King recently reported that Poe is drawing the among first-round prospects. He has drawn comparisons to both Haloti Ngata (good) and Ryan Sims (bad), with most of the positive comparisons coming after his dazzling combine workout. Analysts can agree that he’s extremely athletic, has excellent size and strength, and has plenty of upside. But he’s not a very good interior pass rusher, he wasn’t productive in college and he may be this year’s poster child for “workout warriors.” The media just can’t get an accurate gauge on where Poe will be selected and at this point, nobody should be surprised if he goes somewhere in the first 15 picks or drops into the second round.

Hill was largely considered a second-round prospect when he announced that he would forgo his senior season at Georgia Tech back in January. But after he ran an average of 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at this year’s scouting combine, analysts started to suggest he would be taken in the first round. When you consider he’s 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, , it’s hard to argue with that line of thinking. The problem, of course, is that Hill played in the tripe option offense under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech and thus, he'll be behind when he enters the NFL because he's limited as a route runner. Some believe that Hill isn’t NFL-ready and his rising draft stock is based on his combine workout alone. What’s interesting is that if a team selects Hill in the bottom of the first round, they may get scrutinized but if someone takes him in the second, they would likely be viewed as a team that found value. (Just one more example of why all the pre-draft talk is rather silly. Fun as hell, but silly.)

There’s no question that Coples is a first-round prospect but where in the first round he’ll be selected is certainly up for debate. Many analysts view him as the best defensive end in the draft but there are questions about his motor. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, people are enamored with his size but he isn’t viewed as an elite pass rusher so you almost have to buy the rumors that he’ll fall into the teens come Thursday night. But yet you look around and some analysts can’t help but put him in the top 10 of their mock drafts.

In the case of Jenkins, the disagreements have been whether or not he’ll be too much of a risk to take in the first round – not whether or not he’s talented. From a talent standpoint, there’s no question that he’s a first-round prospect. But he was kicked off the team at Florida because of multiple drug arrests and an assault charge, and also has four children born to three different women. There was a report that came out a few weeks ago that stated Jenkins admitted at the scouting combine that he continued to smoke pot last year while playing at North Alabama. But he has since denied that claim so it’s hard to know what to believe at this point. What we do know is that it only takes one team to fall in love with Jenkins to make him a first round pick. But given his off-field transgressions, it’ll be interesting to see if some analysts are correct when they think he’ll drop into the second round.

NFL Scout: Stanford's Coby Fleener "might be most overrated guy in the draft"

Is Brandon Weeden a first-round prospect?

Outside of whether or not the Vikings and/or Browns will pull off a surprise in the top 5 and seeing if any team will touch Janoris Jenkins in the first 32 picks, one of the biggest questions heading into the 2012 NFL Draft is whether or not Brandon Weeden is worth a first-round selection.

The Oklahoma State quarterback completed 766 of his 1,102 pass attempts for 9,260 yards and 75 touchdowns in 30 games while in college. He’s currently viewed as a second-round prospect but the recent buzz is that in next week’s draft.

But is he worthy of first-round consideration?

What impresses me most about Weeden is his ability to throw the deep out. That’s the one throw that separates the college quarterback from the NFL arm. If a prospect can’t make that throw, then he’s looking at a mid-round grade or there’s a very good chance that he won’t be selected at all.

Weeden also does a nice job of surveying the field, working through his progressions, and recognizing when he needs to either deliver a fastball or take a little off in order to get the proper touch. While some have criticized his pocket presence, I actually think he moves around a little better than given credit for. He’s no RGIII but he’s not a stature either.

When it comes to his measurables, Weeden checks out there, too. At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, he’s got average size for a NFL quarterback and his forty time of 4.89 is slightly above average for a pro signal caller.

But there are three very distinct reasons why I wouldn’t take him in the first round. The first two are legitimate issues while the third I would be willing to look past if I were an NFL general manager, but it’s still worth noting.

For starters, Weeden was in the shotgun his entire collegiate career. That doesn’t mean that he can’t learn to play from under center but when he’s never done it then how confident can a team be that he’ll be successful? It may take Weeden two years before he’s comfortable in a pro-style offense.

Which brings me to Weeden’s age. There are some benefits to him being 28, such as his maturity level and leadership abilities. But if he needs one or two years before he’s ready to start (which is a possibility given the fact he played in a spread system at Oklahoma State), he might be 30 by the time he sees the field.

Then again, his age is the thing that bothers me the least. If he winds up playing at the same level as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who cares if he’s 28 or 38?

No, the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that he didn’t face a ton of pressure while playing in the ultra-soft Big 12. And when opponents did get defenders in his face, he didn’t perform very well. He would rush his throws, display poor footwork, or throw into coverage to avoid sacks. Those aren’t the best qualities to have in quarterback, especially considering defenses are light years better in the NFL than in the Big 12.

Thus, would I draft Brandon Weeden at No. 22 overall? No, but I think he’s an intriguing second-round prospect that is definitely worth a look at No. 37 if I’m the Browns. While his age is a knock against him, Weeden is a better quarterback prospect than Colt McCoy was coming out of Texas based on his arm strength alone.

It would be interesting to see the former Big 12 quarterbacks battle it out in Cleveland for the next few years, but if I’m a Browns fan I’m hoping that the key piece in the Julio Jones trade (i.e. the 22nd overall pick) isn’t invested in Weeden.

Browns’ Heckert disputes King’s report about Justin Blackmon

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

Here's my second crack at predicting the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. You can also check out my to see what changes I made from my first projections.

There’s not much intrigue at the top of the draft, at least not compared to previous years. Barring a massive upset, Luck will be taken No. 1 and Griffin will be selected No. 2.

See above.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter insists that Kalil isn’t a lock for this pick and I believe him. But at the end of the day, can the Vikings really go with Charlie Johnson again at left tackle? They invested a first-round pick in Christian Ponder last year and now they need to protect him. Kalil could anchor their line for years to come.

Running backs are becoming increasingly less valuable in today’s pass-happy NFL. But the Browns need to replace Peyton Hillis and the Browns aren’t going to win if Colt McCoy has to throw the ball 50-plus times a game. The comparisons to Adrian Peterson might be slightly off but if Richardson comes anywhere close to AP’s production in his first couple of years, Cleveland will be thrilled.

Upgrading at cornerback isn’t an absolute necessity at this point but it might be depending on how Aqib Talib’s June 25th felony assault trial plays out. The team did sign Eric Wright and re-signed Ronde Barber but Wright is inconsistent and Barber is nearing retirement. Claiborne is a stud and a bona fide top 5 pick.

I wouldn’t rule out the Rams trading back for defensive help but the reality is that this team needs to give Sam Bradford more weapons. Both Blackmon and Floyd are very talented but to me, Blackmon is the safer choice based on injury history and offensive fit.

The Jaguars’ two biggest needs are receiver and defensive end. And even though they signed Laurent Robinson in the offseason, he’s had a history of injury problems and Blaine Gabbert will need more than one guy on the outside. Floyd could be a difference maker if he stays healthy and out of trouble.

The Dolphins’ biggest need is a component front office but the NFL doesn’t make those available in the draft. Truth be told I’m not completely convinced that the Dolphins will take Tannehill, but what else are they going to do at quarterback? Find another John Beck in the second round? They might as well take their shot with Tannehill at No. 8 (even if he’s a small reach), instead of hoping that Brandon Weeden falls to them in the second round.

The Panthers could go in a variety of different ways here, including cornerback, defensive tackle, and linebacker. But the Panthers also need more pass rushers and Ingram is a safer choice than North Carolina’s Quinton Coples.

Tackle was a need for the Bills before Demetress Bell signed with the Eagles. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn are also options here but Reiff is rumored to be their top choice.

Inside linebacker and defensive tackle are definite needs for the Chiefs, who may even surprise and trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But if I were a GM, DeCastro is a much better player than Luke Kuechly (the top inside linebacker) and Dontari Poe (who is arguably the best DT, although I think Michael Brockers is a better prospect). DeCastro played in a pro style system at Stanford and could start right away. Guards aren’t typically top 15 picks but DeCastro is a as close to a guarantee as you can get in my eyes.

Middle linebackers don’t have the same value as they once did in the NFL because it’s a passing league now, but Kuechly is arguably one of the safest picks in the first round. He reminds me a little of Rams’ MIKE James Laurinaitis in that he just flat out makes plays and racks up tackles. Seattle did sign Barrett Ruud in the offseason but he’s been highly ineffective the past few seasons. Kuechly could be a legitimate answer to the Hawks’ MLB need.

I could see the Cardinals taking DeCastro or even Floyd if he were to fall this far. But given what’s available in this mock, Glenn is arguably the best fit. Most assume he’ll kick back inside to guard after playing one year at left tackle at Georgia (his senior season), but he had a strong showing as a tackle in the Senior Bowl and would upgrade Arizona’s situation at RT.

The Cowboys signed Brodney Pool in free agency but he made just six starts for the Jets in 2011. Both he and Gerald Sensabaugh could start, but neither will give Jerry Jones the confidence to pass on a talent like Barron. Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers would be fits here as well.

There’s a very good chance that Cox will be gone by this pick and the Eagles may have to trade up to land him if he is in their sights. But in this mock, it just happened to work out that Philly didn’t have to budge and still landed a player in Cox who is a very good fit for defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s system.

This is the point in the draft where multiple names start to look good slotted next to the team’s name. The Jets need to groom somebody to eventually take over for OLB Bryan Thomas, but Michael Floyd, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn, Mark Barron and Michael Brockers would all make sense as well.

There’s a good chance that Coples won’t fall this far but given his supposed lack of work ethic, don’t rule the possibility out. If he were to fall this far, the Bengals would be getting a steal based on talent alone.

A.J. Smith whiffed on Larry English three years ago and while Antwan Barnes is an underrated player of sorts, Perry is seemingly a solid fit for a team that needs OLB help.

If Brockers were a better pass-rushing prospect, he would be long gone by the time the Bears are on the clock at No. 19. He’s the best run-stuffer in the draft and while he isn’t known for his ability to rush the passer, I actually think the potential is there. I believe Chicago will address the defensive line first and then move on to offensive line and receiver later in the draft.

There’s a strong chance that Poe turns out to be a “workout warrior” after he tore up the scouting combine, but the Titans don’t have a ton of glaring needs and he’d be a value at this point in the draft.

Leon Hall is coming off an ACL injury and while the team did sign Jason Allen this offseason, the Bengals could still stand to upgrade their secondary. Apparently Kirkpatrick didn’t interview well at the combine but that won’t scare away a team like the Bengals from drafting him.

Adams has great size and long arms, which is key for offensive tackle prospects. But he doesn’t look like a left tackle to me. That’s fine for Cleveland, which has Joe Thomas already locked in at left tackle. After landing Richardson with the No. 4 pick, the Browns can target a player like Adams to help pave the way for their new back.

Janoris Jenkins is arguably a better overall prospect than Gilmore but after the Lions were just burned by Nick Fairely (their first round pick in 2011), they may choose to stay away from a prospect with character concerns. Either way, cornerback is a top need for Detroit and either Jenkins or Gilmore would make sense here.

The Steelers could zero in on their offensive line and therefore move up for somebody like Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin. But with all the top offensive linemen off the board, Hightower would be a nice parting gift. He has experience playing in the 3-4 and could help fill the void left by the release of James Farrior.

Worthy might need a season to become a full-time starter but he could be worth the wait in the end.

The Texans could use an upgrade opposite Andre Johnson to take help pressure off AJ in the passing game. Wright isn’t very big but with Johnson on the other side commanding double teams, his size (or lack thereof) wouldn’t matter. Wright is a solid first-round prospect.

Mercilus only produced one year at Illinois, so the question becomes: Will he turn out to be Jason Pierre-Paul or Jamaal Anderson? I trust Bill Belichick will know what to do with a raw but talented Mercilus.

Lose Scott Wells in free agency? No problem – just replace him with the top center in the draft. Things always seem to work out for the mastermind Ted Thompson.

With Knoz going one pick before the Ravens at No. 28, I could see Baltimore trading this pick instead of reaching for a safety like Harrison Smith. But they also need help at outside linebacker and/or defensive end, which is why I went with Irvin here. That said, I’m not enamored with the pick and if someone like Courtney Upshaw were to fall this far, I think he would be a solid selection as well.

This was a tough selection because the only position that the Niners absolutely need to fill is at guard. And with so many solid guards available in the middle rounds, I’m willing to bet San Fran will wait to address that need. Hill is a second round talent in my eyes, but he won’t be there when the Niners pick in Round 2.

Jenkins has character concerns that could cause him to fall out of the first round but a player that has some off-field question marks won’t intimate Belichick. Jenkins has loads of talent and as long as he buys into the “Patriots way,” he could be a steal this late in the first round.

Fleener could be long gone by this pick but if he’s still available, what a coup he’d be for a Giants team that needs tight end help. He has to develop into a better blocker but he could essentially be the seam-buster that Mario Manningham has been for the Giants the last two years. Fleener would be an excellent fit in New York.

Vikings have need at receiver but Kalil remains logical choice at No. 3

Breaking down the cornerback class in the 2012 NFL Draft

Despite reportedly scoring a 4 on the Wonderlic Test at this year’s scouting combine, Claiborne is a shoe-in to be selected in the top 10, if not the top 5. He was college football’s top cover corner coming out of LSU and won the Thorpe Award with a six-interception season in 2011. He also averaged 26.3 yards per kickoff return and is viewed as a better prospect than former No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson, who is also an LSU alum.

Unlike Kirkpatrick, there’s no questioning Gilmore’s speed. He ran a 4.44 and a 4.47 at the scouting combine and has excellent size at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He’s gained a ton of media attention over these past few weeks and is now predicted to go somewhere in the top 15 picks thanks to his combination of size, speed and athleticism…At 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick is more known for his run support than his cover skills and Mike Mayock even said that the former ‘Bama defender may have to convert to safety “down the road.” But he ran in the 4.40s at the combine and may have put to rest the idea that he’s a 4.6 guy. He may fall into the 20s, but he will be selected at some point in the first round.

Jenkins might be the most polarizing figure in this year’s NFL draft. He has the talent and cover skills to be the second best cornerback prospect behind Claiborne, but he’s been arrested multiple times for drug use, was booted from the team at Florida, and has four children born to three different women. Obviously teams are justified for being a little skeptical that Jenkins can stay out of trouble once he signs his first contract. But if can fly straight off the field, then he could be a tremendous value for teams picking in the bottom of the first round (or at the top of the second if he falls that far). He played plenty of press man while at North Alabama and while he isn’t the best tackler, receivers will have a hard time separating from him in coverage thanks to his speed and change-of-direction skills. But again, nobody is questioning his talent – it’s his inability to stay out of trouble that is cause for concern.

Hayward would likely get exposed even he was asked to primarily play in man coverage at the next level. But considering most teams stick to Cover 2 or zone schemes, Hayward shouldn’t have any problems sticking on a NFL roster. His best attributes are that he’s instinctive, locates the ball well in coverage, and is a smart player overall. While at Vanderbilt he was also highly productive, racking up 15 interceptions in his four-year career, as well as 198 tackles and 31 pass breakups. Considering he may fall into the third round, he could be a solid value for a team that primarily plays Cover 2.

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