Today I am publishing my first projection for the 2012 NFL draft. Regulars will know how it works – the concept of the mock drafts on Seahawks Draft Blog are to create discussion and look at many different possibilities over the coming months. The draft isn’t an exact science, unexpected things happen and we’ll be looking at many different scenarios between now and April. You can see the mock draft below, scroll down for further analysis on why I left out certain individuals and why I chose a linebacker for the Seahawks.
Don’t forget to check out Kip Earlywine’s excellent piece from yesterday – it’s a great read and highly recommended. I also compiled a tape review on Matt Barkley vs Oregon this week which you can see by clicking here.
First round mock draft
|#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts will need to make a decision on the future of Peyton Manning, but if they keep this pick then Luck will be the choice.
|#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
Jeff Otah is on IR for the second successive year. Kalil’s a luxury, but the success of his brother Ryan in Carolina could influence this choice.
|#3 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Steve Jackson’s contract includes a clause that could make him a free agent after this season. Richardson is a much needed elite playmaker.
|#4 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
With Kalil off the board, Minnesota could look to draft a dynamic receiver. A reach, but perhaps a necessary gamble.
|#5 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Elite potential and pro-ready, Barkley would start immediately for the desperate Redskins.
|#6 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver and a necessary target if Blaine Gabbert is going to succeed in Jacksonville.
|#7 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Drafting a left tackle should be Arizona’s priority and although this is a reach, Martin is the clear #2 blind side blocker after Kalil.
|#8 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Miami needs a quarterback and they need to inject some life back into the franchise. Griffin III will sell tickets.
|#9 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
More of a right tackle prospect than a blind side blocker. Philly needs better line play to compliment their playmakers.
|#10 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Brown has the potential to become a star at the next level. Cleveland is building a talented defense.
|#11 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Consistent tackling machine with character to boot. He looks like a Scott Pioli type of player.
|#12 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
USC transfer with an explosive skill set. He has 12.5 sacks in the SEC this year but need to prove neck injury is behind him.
|#13 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He’s made big improvements this year, but needs to keep improving to become a premier cornerback at the next level.
|#14 David De Castro (OG, Stanford)
Tampa Bay need to improve their interior offensive line and the hype around De Castro could push him into this range.
|#15 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
The Bills need a pass rusher. Mercilus needs to play in space at his size, but will need to prove he can adapt to the 3-4.
|#16 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
What is his role in the NFL? With limited options at the DE position, Tennessee may take a chance, but he’s probably best in a 3-4.
|#17 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s enjoyed a strong season and put himself in the first round bracket. A lack of pass rush options could push NY in this direction.
|#18 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Tebow situation is an odd one, but if Denver keeps winning I expect they’ll draft a quarterback in the mid-rounds.
|#19 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Explosive playmaker with elite speed, the type that Cleveland lacks. Could be as good as DeSean Jackson.
|#20 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Tall, physical cornerback who will appeal to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Specialises in run support, coverage skills need work.
|#21 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite talent with limitless potential who only falls this far due to substantial character concerns.
|#22 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Talented linebacker who will bring some attitude back to the Giants’ defense.
|#23 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker, would be a nice compliment to Cincinnati’s defense.
|#24 Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.
|#25 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
The Bears need to add a big, consistent receiver to their offense. Sanu will surprise people with early production.
|#26 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia three times in the last two seasons and Aboushi looks like a future pro. Could he rise to this level?
|#27 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about inside linebackers in Baltimore? Te’o is the best left on the board here.
|#28 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
Big nose tackle prospect. Houston switched to the 3-4 this year but could still use Ta’amu’s size up front to anchor their defensive line.
|#29 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
He’s made a lot of mistakes off the field, but despite inconsistent quarterback play he’s maintained solid production.
|#30 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
|#31 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
Looks every bit a future NFL guard. Perhaps a little under rated and closer to David De Castro than most think.
|#32 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
He’s having a good year, but looks like a five-technique convert to me and that could hamper his stock.
There’s no Landry Jones?
As I discussed in earlier in the week. I can’t grade Jones in the first round. I also appreciate that I didn’t see Christian Ponder as a first round pick last year and he went 12th overall. There are several teams who need to invest in a young quarterback and others will argue – quite fairly – that someone will likely take the gamble on Jones. I accept that point of view and embrace that it’s a distinct possibility. However, he has a universal grade in the top half of round one that I think is generally undeserved. Is it possible that NFL teams who need a quarterback will also see things like that? Of course.
He’s an unlikely option for the Seahawks given his skill set contradicts the criteria Pete Carroll has settled on for the position (explained in several interviews). Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson and Josh Portis – the three quarterbacks currently on the roster and all signed by this regime – all have plus mobility and the ability to extend plays, something Jones struggles with in a big way. Last April, we understand Seattle’s draft board went #1 Gabbert, #2 Kaepernick, #3 Dalton, #4 Newton. Ryan Mallett, a player who had below average mobility in the pocket, was not included on the team’s board. There’s clear evidence here as to how Seattle is grading quarterbacks and I don’t expect Jones to be the exception.
It’s also important to remember how the league is adapting with a similar thought process. Players without above average arm strength or mobility are dropping (Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett) and players who can move around and extend plays are being graded much higher (Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Tim Tebow). Jones could be the latest example of a player who drops down the board because he’s a pure pocket passer, playing within a system that doesn’t demand any improvisation.
The one team I really considered was Denver. The Broncos fans appear to be turning on John Elway because he’s not so keen on a quarterback he didn’t draft and who can’t throw a football in a passing league. While the Broncos are winning, he’s struggling to compete with fan pressure for Tebow to get his chance. I suspect we could see a situation where Tebow is given the opportunity to fail next year now that it looks like Denver could end up picking in the lower half of round one. That creates a no-lose situation for Elway, who can say he had his chance if he fails, but if Tebow keeps winning (somehow) the Broncos will be successful anyway. They recently sent a large contingent to watch Nick Foles lay an egg against Colorado, so they could be considering options beyond round one.
I do believe there’s a chance Jones suffers a draft day fall and he may even have second thoughts about declaring if he gets a negative review from the draft committee. This year hasn’t gone according to plan for Oklahoma, and there could be a feeling of ‘unfinished business’ for Landry Jones especially if he’s only considered the 4th or 5th best quarterback prospect.
Other big names not making the cut: Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina), Brandon Thompson (DT, Clemson)
Seahawks take a linebacker?
I don’t include trades in my mock drafts, but clearly there’s an opening for Seattle if they wish to move up. Carolina, St. Louis and Minnesota are no threat for Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III. Trading up 7-8 places in the draft wouldn’t cost the earth and is a logical move for a team that simply must find a long term solution at quarterback. I’m sure we’ll discuss possible trades many times between now and April, but with none allowed in this mock let’s talk about the pick instead.
Jarvis Jones is a player I’ve kept quiet about for a few weeks now with this mock draft in mind. I wanted to create a talking point in my first mock draft, anticipating that the Seahawks might not be picking within the top five to get that quarterback. The first time I saw Jones play was against Boise State, where he showed flashes of quality as an under size edge rusher. Yet it was a four-sack performance against Florida that really sparked my interest. Since then he’s gone on to record 12.5 sacks for Georgia playing in the role vacated by Justin Houston (a third round pick last year). Only Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus (13.5 sacks) has more.
Despite playing predominantly as part of a four man front for the Bulldogs, he isn’t a LEO candidate. He’s playing at around 6-3 / 240lbs and clearly that’s going to be an issue at the next level if you’re asking him to play defensive end. In Seattle’s scheme he’d work as the WILL linebacker – the role currently taken by Leroy Hill. This would afford you the opportunity to use Jones a lot as a pass rusher because he’s not getting caught fighting tight ends and he’s got the athleticism to sit in coverage and not be a liability. On third down passing plays you can move him up to the LOS and let him rush the passer. Essentially, he could be the player Carroll was hoping Aaron Curry could develop into. When you watch the way Jones moves, his quick burst and ability to explode there’s every chance he could be a 7-10 sack player at the next level.
The Seahawks defense needs more of a pass rush threat, but they’re not going to find an elite defensive end who can fit into this scheme in round one. There’s no stud three-technique as we’ve seen in previous years, a position the Seahawks would surely love to fill. Adding a linebacker like Jones could be the answer to creating more pressure and finding another big time playmaker for this defense. You simply can’t argue with 12.5 sacks in your first year in the SEC.
There are two other things worth mentioning. Firstly, Jones was recruited by Pete Carroll at USC and he spent a year with the Trojans before suffering a serious neck injury. The doctors in SoCal wouldn’t clear him once he’d recovered, so he transferred to Georgia. He had to sit out a year in Athens because of that, offering further time for the injury to heal. Will there be any lasting problems due to that injury? And did Carroll see enough potential in that one year to consider working together again in the NFL?
Secondly, this week Jones reiterated his desire to stay at Georgia for at least another year. He’s only a redshirt sophomore, but he’s starting to get a lot of attention due to his production. He was interviewed immediately after a big win over Kentucky which secured a place in the SEC Championship game. With advice and careful consideration, he may well declare (he wouldn’t be the first to change his mind). However, I feel the need to point out that Jones is saying he won’t enter the draft.