Authored by Jeff Risdon - 16th April, 2012 - 12:01 pm
We are at 10 days and counting until the 2012 NFL Draft. That means it is the peak of mock draft season, but a mock draft can only tell so many stories. Here are 32 bold, fearless, crazy, insomnia-fueled predictions for the upcoming draft. Some do have actual basis in reality from exchanges I've had with various NFL personnel and a couple of agents. Some are fairly educated guesses where I'm reading between some lines I've read or heard. Some are the product of sleep deprivation and an overwhelming volume of draft stuff in my brain. This is meant to be as much about fun as it is informative; I'll be pleasantly surprised if more than three of these actually happen. You can tally up last year's total by clicking here:
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1. All three teams that have two first round picks (Cincinnati, Cleveland, New England) will trade the second of their two picks and all will drop at least four spots from the #21, #22, and #31 spots respectively. One of the players who will be drafted in the traded slots: Alabama LB
2. After some truly crazy swings in general consensus, Arizona State Brock Osweiler ultimately usurps Brandon Weeden as the 4th quarterback to come off the board. He will be picked in the 30-40 range by a team not currently holding the slot in which he goes.
3. There will not be any tight ends taken in the first round, but the Colts quickly remedy that by selecting Andrew Luck's Stanford teammate Colby Fleener with the 2nd pick of the 2nd round. You will hear the tired cliché "A young quarterback's best friend is a tight end" at least 20 times during the draft coverage.
4. One of the surprise draft-day risers will be Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie. Even though most pundits/draftniks have him currently going no earlier than the middle of the 3rd round, Massie will wind up being a top 40 pick. He will be drafted before the more heralded Jonathan Martin, who (deservedly) slides out of the top 40. Massie has much greater potential even if Martin is probably the better player today.
5. The first player drafted that was not at the Combine will be Miami OH guard Brandon Brooks. He will be drafted in the 50-64 overall range and will prove worthy of that lofty a draft slot pretty quickly. After Brooks, there will not be another non-Combine invitee drafted before the compensatory picks at the end of the 4th round.
6. Off-field issues will keep North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins out of the top 40 picks even though on pure athletic talent the Florida transfer is definitely in the top 10 overall in this draft. Between his multiple failed drug tests and basketball team of children with different mothers, no team will take that big of a risk on him. I know of at least four teams that have him completely removed from their draft boards.
7. The Oakland Raiders currently don't have any picks before #97 overall, a compensatory pick that cannot be dealt, but they will engineer a trade and wind up drafting in the 30-45 overall range. They will take a pass rushing defensive end with the pick, perhaps Marshall's Vinny Curry.
8. Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict was a top 20 fixture in every mock draft before last October. But poor play, sloppy weight gain, lousy instincts, and myriad poor decision on the field will relegate Burfict to undrafted status. According to a scouting friend of mine, that makes him the winner of the Jevan Snead honorary trophy of failed hype.
9. The New York Jets are going to be aggressive and trade up to select South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram inside the top 10, swapping first rounders this year and sacrificing their 2013 first round pick to move up. This is a make-or-break year for both coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannebaum, so the future 1st is easy to give. Most likely trading partner: Cleveland at #4.
10. Speaking of the Browns, they will be involved in three trades in the first round. They will deal #4 and fall back, then deal up from where they fell back to by adding one of their 3rd round picks to select either Michael Floyd or Justin Blackmon. And as stated above, #22 will be dealt as well as the Browns comfortably fall backwards and still get Brandon Weeden as their QB with their 2nd round pick.
11. One of the surprise fallers will be North Carolina DE Quentin Coples. In the top 10 of nearly every mock draft as recently as a month ago, Coples' perceived lack of passion and lethargic 2011 will drop him out of the top 15. He will follow a similar draft trajectory as Cam Jordan a year ago but probably not fall all the way to #24 like Jordan did.
12. Three specialists will be drafted, two of them from the University of Georgia. Kicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler will both get selected in the 6th round, while Texas A&M kicker Randy Butler will come off the board in the 7th. There is always the variable of the Patriots' strange propensity for drafting either a long snapper or a special teams ace with no real position...
13. Much will be made about Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill, a freakish athlete coming from a 1970's era triple option offense which threw the ball about 10 times per game. This will somehow be listed as a great asset for him, whereas receivers like Rueben Randle and Devier Posey that are more polished but come from offenses with lousy QB play will get docked for that. Hill will be favorably compared to former Yellow Jacket Demaryius Thomas at least 17 times during draft coverage. He might be, but it's near impossible to ascertain that from his limited tape.
14. The first FCS player (that's I-AA for you) drafted will be Montana DB Trumaine Johnson. He has great size and is a willing hitter but is a bit of a corner/safety tweener. Johnson will be drafted in the first 45 picks, though I do not rate him that highly. I prefer Coastal Carolina corner Josh Norman.
15. A lot of pundits will forecast a flurry of trades at the top of the 2nd round, but I think the real action will be at the end of the 3rd round. Teams will get anxious as Friday night winds down and don't want to miss out on desirable players still on the board, preferring to go into Saturday will less to think about. Teams like Green Bay, New England, and San Francisco that hold some of the final picks of the round will be happy to oblige and trade out.
16. One of the topics you will hear bandied about as the first round progresses is next year's crop of quarterbacks, and why a team shouldn't "reach" for a player like Tannehill or Weeden with so many great choices available next year. Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Logan Thomas, Tyler Wilson, and even Geno Smith are all going to be talked up as if they are on par with Andrew Luck by pundits who are anti-Tannehill. Two things here: if you've spent time legitimately breaking down 2013 prospects already you have too much free time, and none of them appear any better than Ryan Tannehill heading into the season. Although Logan Thomas sure looks like he can become something special...
17. Two current NFL players will be traded on draft weekend, both on the third day of the draft. The Lions will deal one of their superfluous defensive linemen (they currently have 11, seven of whom are legit NFL starters) and the Cowboys will auction off RB Felix Jones. What's interesting here is that these two teams make natural trading partners. Why not just trade Jones for Andre Fluellen straight up?
18. The Arizona Cardinals will make a big move, trading up into the bottom of the first round after already selecting an offensive lineman with their pick at #13 overall. They will use that extra pick on a pass rushing OLB/DE type, either Andre Branch or Nick Perry. It will require them jumping in front of the Packers.
19. Chicago will raise the heat on disgruntled franchise RB Matt Forte. They've already signed Michael Bush, but they will add fuel to the fire by using their 2nd round pick on Miami RB Lamar Miller. New GMs like to make their mark.
20. This year's winner of the Mike Mitchell Head-Scratching Reach of the Year will be Toledo CB Desmond Marrow. Mitchell was a late-round prospect who the Raiders surprisingly took in the 2nd round in 2009 after a tremendous workout season. Marrow is my #23 cornerback with a 6th round grade and I'm probably higher on him than most, but his incredible size (6'3.5", 210) and speed (he's run a 4.45) will lure some team to take him as high as the middle of the 3rd round.
21. Three later-round matches made in heaven: Tulsa QB GJ Kinne to the Packers, Utah State RB Michael Smith to the Lions, and Oklahoma State OL Levy Adcock to the Steelers. As long as none of those come before the 5th round I wholeheartedly endorse them.
22. Last year Detroit stunned everyone by using their 1st round pick on Nick Fairly, a player at their position of least perceived need. This year the team that pulls that stunt will be the Patriots. Last year New England drafted two running backs, Shane Vereen in the 2nd and Stevan Ridley in the 3rd. They still have Danny Woodhead. They have two solid fullbacks in Tony Fiametta and Spencer Larsen. That will not stop them from using a 1st round pick on Boise State RB Doug Martin. It also won't stop them from using a late-round pick on yet another hybrid fullback/H-back/tight end. When you have more draft picks than job openings every year, stuff like this happens...
23. You will see Nike ads promoting their "new" NFL uniforms approximately 472 times over the three days of draft coverage, not including the "Path to the Draft" and ESPN lead-up shows on those days. Call me crazy but I really don't see the difference from Reebok.
24. The last player remaining in the Green Room at the draft will be Boise State LB Shea McClellin. He and Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill will be the only invitees not selected on Thursday. I know the NFL goes through great pains to spare prospects the Brady Quinn draft experience, but I have polled several teams and have not found any that consider McClellin a first-round pick. Their ignominy is spared by the fact that over 25 players will be there, which helps break the fall.
25. Every team will select at least one wide receiver in this incredibly deep class. As many as 12 wideouts will be taken in the 50-100 overall range. The irony is that while the class is deep, it's not deep with impact players; most of the guys project as secondary wideouts or sub-package contributors. Two that will go at least a round later than they should: Fresno State's Devon Wylie and Arizona's Juron Criner.
26. As few as 10 tight ends will be drafted, and they will be drafted in the following order: Colby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Orson Charles, Michael Egnew, David Paulson, Deangelo Peterson, George Bryan, Rhett Ellison, and Chase Ford. I'm not including hybrid FB/H-back guys. I'm also not including SMU defensive end Taylor Thompson, who is converting to tight end and will be drafted between picks 90-110 despite the fact he never played an offensive snap in college. And you thought Ryan Tannehill in the top 10 was a stretch...
27. When Boston College LB Luke Kuechly starts to drop--and he will--many analysts will shake their heads in disbelief and disgust. But the truth is that linebackers that are not pass rushing threats don't carry the kind of value that merits a top 15 overall pick. AJ Hawk, Aaron Curry, and Rolando McClain--all of whom were more widely highly regarded than Kuechly--have proven the folly of using a top 10 pick on that type of player. Kuechly may very well be one of the 5 highest-graded players in this draft, but draft grade does not always correlate to draft position. I think he goes to Chicago at #19 but he could fall to Pittsburgh at #24.
28. Jacksonville will trade back from the #7 pick, finding a taker with a team looking to secure Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox. The Jaguars will happily fall back a few spots and get Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd or Stanford G David Decastro. The trade partner? Kansas City at #11.
29. At least twice during the coverage, one of the main network talking heads will confuse Oklahoma linebackers Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis. It's not as bad as when Stephen A. Smith had no idea NBA lottery pick Robert Swift was the redheaded white guy in the highlights, but it shows the appalling lack of preparation by some so-called "experts". Ronnell Lewis is an early 2nd round 3-4 outside backer with great explosiveness and good lateral quickness. Travis Lewis is a 4-3 outside backer that can't get off a block to save his life and will be drafted in the 5th round. Ronnell is #56 in the highlights, Travis #28.
30. Atlanta will trade it's 2nd round pick to add two additional third round picks. The Falcons traded away their 1st round pick already (to get Julio Jones) and GM Tom Dimitroff will be looking for more value to build depth on the team. At least one of the acquired picks will be used to address the offensive line.
31. The Carolina Panthers will spend their entire draft on defense except for a middle round pick they will use on an offensive lineman. They will come away with two immediate starters in the first two rounds, one a defensive lineman and one a cornerback. On the Panthers front, you won't hear boo from any of the myriad critics of Cam Newton from a year ago.
32. This year's pick for Mr. Irrelevant is Old Dominion DT Ronnie Cameron. Last year's pick, Isa Abdul-Quddus, wound up going undrafted but made the Saints and played a key role on special teams while getting some live action at safety. Cameron getting drafted would be a nice feather in the cap for the relatively new football program at Old Dominion, a school best known for women's basketball.
Jeff.Risdon@Realgm.com or Twitter @JeffRisdon