By Peter King
April 20, 2012
Peter King's 2012 NFL Mock Draft
1 QB Andrew Luck Stanford Jr. 6-4 235
(Should pick: Andrew Luck). Tough duty ahead for Luck, who'll be fortunate in 2012 to win as many games as the Colts' last No. 1 overall, Peyton Manning, did as a rookie in 1998 (three). Indy has been stripped bare of stars (except for graybeards Reggie Wayne, 33, and Dwight Freeney, 32) and needs to be sure it doesn't overhype Luck's arrival. It'll be a long road back to the playoffs.
KING: Colts draft needs
2 QB Robert Griffin III Baylor Jr. 6-2 220
(Should pick: Robert Griffin III). This way to the backseat, Stephen Strasburg and Alex Ovechkin and John Wall, there's a new sports phenom in Washington. If the electrifying Griffin is even 85% the QB that Cam Newton was as a rookie last year -- and he could well be -- the Skins will be reborn, and the only person in the nation's capital getting more press will be Barack Obama.
KING: Redskins draft needs
3 OT Matt Kalil USC Jr. 6-7 295
(Should pick: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU). I don't get it. I know the Vikes want to protect Christian Ponder from eternal damnation (and a boatload of sacks), but they have six games a year against Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford, who'll throw a combined 100 TD passes each season. Minnesota's secondary is horrible -- even worse than its offensive line. The Vikings don't need a corner. They need two.
KING: Vikings draft needs
4 RB Trent Richardson Alabama Jr. 5-11 224
(Should pick: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State). That's right -- I wouldn't take quarterback Ryan Tannehill here. I'd take the guy who gives Cleveland's offense a chance to shape up for Colt McCoy or whoever the QB of the future is. (See pick No. 27.) Blackmon and Greg Little would give the Browns their first set of top-flight wide receivers since the franchise returned to the league in 1999.
KING: Browns draft needs
5 CB Morris Claiborne LSU Jr. 6-0 185
(Should pick: Morris Claiborne). Ronde Barber is 37, and free agent corner Eric Wright is plenty leaky, so this is Tampa Bay's position of greatest long-term need. The Tigers trusted Claiborne on an island; as a pro he'll have to hold his own against NFC South gunslingers Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan if the Bucs are going to have a chance to be competitive.
KING: Buccaneers draft needs
6 WR Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State Jr. 6-1 215
(Should pick: Justin Blackmon). Consider it a gift for quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams love Trent Richardson (join the club), and the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Blackmon doesn't have the size they prefer: Calvin Johnson has him by four inches and 29 pounds. But St. Louis is woefully deficient at receiver, and Blackmon's ability to get open on quick slants and deep routes is beyond instinctive.
KING: Rams draft needs
7 CB Stephon Gilmore South Carolina Jr. 6-1 193
(Should pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford). Like Tampa, Jacksonville has a major hole at cornerback, and I hear the Jags like Gilmore a ton, which would have to be the case for them to reach for him here. Still, I'd solve a position of need for the next 10 years with the second-best offensive lineman in the draft -- and a guy with the mean streak Jacksonville's O-line needs -- then take the corner in Round 2.
KING: Jaguars draft needs
8 QB Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M Sr. 6-4 222
(Should pick: Ryan Tannehill). If you're going to trust the coach you hired (Joe Philbin) to energize the offense and the coordinator you hired (Mike Sherman, who coached Tannehill in college) to tutor the quarterback, you've got to pick the triggerman they want. But you can't panic by moving up to take Tannehill, because that would most likely cost at least a second-rounder. Not worth it.
KING: Dolphins draft needs
9 DT Fletcher Cox Mississippi State Jr. 6-4 295
(Should pick: Fletcher Cox). Carolina G.M. Marty Hurney doesn't like risky choices this high in the draft, and coach Ron Rivera is desperate for a penetrating defensive tackle. Cox had 19 1/2 combined sacks and tackles for loss last season in the SEC, and I'm betting the Panthers view him as a safer selection, in terms of productivity and reliability, than combine phenom Dontari Poe.
KING: Panthers draft needs
10 WR Michael Floyd Notre Dame Sr. 6-3 224
(Should pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama). Buffalo will break the Cardinals' hearts by stealing Floyd to pair with Stevie Johnson and give quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a true second weapon and bona fide deep threat. But I'd rather have the kind of enforcer in the secondary that so many teams covet. The 6-1, 213-pound Barron is a player whom multiple teams will try to trade up to get.
KING: Bills draft needs
11 LB Luke Kuechly Boston College Jr. 6-3 237
(Should pick: Luke Kuechly). The all-time leading tackler in both school and Atlantic Coast Conference history is the perfect player for Kansas City G.M. Scott Pioli: whistle-clean character, great instincts. Kuechly isn't overwhelmingly physical, though. I'd like Dontari Poe here if I were sure he could consistently deliver on the athletic promise he showed at the combine.
KING: Chiefs draft needs
12 DE/OLB Melvin Ingram South Carolina Sr. 6-2 276
(Should pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama). One note: Seattle will take Ryan Tannehill if he's there at 12. Write it down. If he's not, Ingram is the kind of versatile rush guy Pete Carroll could use both outside and inside; he had 25 tackles behind the line in 2011. Barron? Even with the Seahawks' terrific secondary, his addition would mean Carroll could play three thumping safeties on every down but first.
KING: Seahawks draft needs
13 OG David DeCastro Stanford Sr. 6-5 310
(Should pick: David DeCastro). When offensive line coach Russ Grimm sees DeCastro, he sees a young Russ Grimm: nasty, efficient, mistake-free. And though I'm sure that the Cardinals would love to see Michael Floyd fall to them here, the best guard to come out in several years is a good consolation prize, especially for a team that's had nothing but trouble on the O-line.
KING: Cardinals draft needs
14 S Mark Barron Alabama Sr. 6-2 218
(Should pick: Mark Barron). I wouldn't be surprised to see Dallas trade up to make sure it gets Barron, perhaps with Kansas City at 11. The Cowboys have no identity in the secondary. No big-time players either. Barron would immediately boost a unit that's been beaten down -- and provide the kind of tackler at safety that the 'Boys haven't had since Darren Woodson.
KING: Cowboys draft needs
15 DE Quinton Coples North Carolina Sr. 6-6 285
(Should pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama). One coach used these words to me about Coples: "Gifted. Sporadic." We're getting to the part of the draft -- mid first round -- where beauty's in the eye of the beholder, and teams reach for pass rushers who often don't pan out. Philly D-line coach Jim Washburn is as demanding as they come, and Coples will have a chance to make the Eagles more formidable up front.
KING: Eagles draft needs
16 DT Dontari Poe Memphis Sr. 6-5 350
(Should pick: Dontari Poe). Rex Ryan's gleeful. Deep down he knows Poe has a chance to be another Haloti Ngata, a freakishly talented interior force against the run and pass. But Poe isn't known for being freakishly productive -- five sacks in three years at Memphis -- and Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine will have their work cut out to make him a top NFL starter.
KING: Jets draft needs
17 DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw Alabama Sr. 6-2 265
(Should pick: Courtney Upshaw). Good move by the Bengals -- instead of holding their defensive line together with spare parts, they're giving defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer a true three-down end who not only rushed the passer in college but also dropped into coverage effectively. If he's still on the board when Cincinnati picks, the choice won't be hard.
KING: Bengals draft needs
18 OT Riley Reiff Iowa Jr. 6-6 300
(Should pick: Riley Reiff). Marcus McNeill is gone, and no one in San Diego should believe that Jared Gaither is the long-term answer at left tackle. Reiff is a scrapper and a fighter in the tradition of Hawkeyes linemen, but he may not last this long given the tackle-needy teams drafting ahead of the Chargers, most notably the Bills, Seahawks, Cardinals and Jets.
KING: Chargers draft needs
19 WR Kendall Wright Baylor Sr. 5-10 196
(Should pick: Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford). I'd be stunned if Chicago doesn't fortify its perpetually patchwork offensive line, but I've been stunned before. Coach Lovie Smith had dinner with Wright at Baylor's pro day in March, and I hear he was impressed -- enough so to select Wright to go with Brandon Marshall, creating a suddenly formidable wideout corps for quarterback Jay Cutler.
KING: Bears draft needs
20 DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus Illinois Jr. 6-4 254
(Should pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State). This is a good season: 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles. That was Mercilus' breakout 2011 campaign at Illinois, and that's why he'll be a first-round pick this year. But he's not as versatile as McClellin, whose stock is rising because he has the speed (a 4.6 40 at 260 pounds) to be an edge rusher and is a sure-enough tackler to play inside if needed.
KING: Titans draft needs
21 CB Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama Jr. 6-3 192
(Should pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU). Cincinnati has but one good cover corner, Leon Hall, so Kirkpatrick makes sense here. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bengals follow the advice of trusted front-office aide John Cooper, the former Ohio State coach, and grab a Big Ten offensive lineman here, but the better pick in my view would be another reinforcement for the defensive line.
KING: Bengals draft needs
22 OT Jonathan Martin Stanford Sr. 6-6 304
(Should pick: Jonathan Martin). Love this pick. Right tackle is a trouble spot for Cleveland -- waiver pickup Oniel Cousins is the nominal No. 1 on the depth chart right now -- and Martin, who helped protect Andrew Luck, should be able to win the job in camp. If not, the Browns can take their time and groom him to be Joe Thomas' bookend. Not a sexy choice, but a smart one.
KING: Browns draft needs
23 LB Dont'a Hightower Alabama Jr. 6-4 269
(Trade with Lions; Should pick: Dont'a Hightower). For years Baltimore has wanted a top-shelf playmaking linebacker to be trained by Ray Lewis. Here he is. I see the Ravens swapping first-round spots with Detroit (who'll receive a third-rounder too) to sneak in front of the Steelers, because Hightower is a Dick LeBeau special -- heavy and fast. Another positive: He was a two-year captain for Nick Saban.
KING: Ravens draft needs
24 OG Kevin Zeitler Wisconsin Sr. 6-4 315
(Should pick: Kevin Zeitler). Pittsburgh's got to stop treating its offensive line problems with stopgaps and take a tough guy like Zeitler, whom I've heard compared to Logan Mankins. A 6-4, 315-pound masher, Zeitler will step in on opening day next to Maurkice Pouncey and give the Steelers the stability in front of Ben Roethlisberger that they've lacked for the last several years.
KING: Steelers draft needs
25 DT Michael Brockers LSU Soph. 6-6 306
(Should pick: Michael Brockers). Denver will be stunned that Brockers is still on the board. And delighted. The Broncos lost free agent defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley to the Saints a month ago, and this raw but promising 6-5, 322-pounder could play nose or a more versatile tackle role. "On potential," one coach told me, "Brockers deserves to be a top 10 pick."
KING: Broncos draft needs
26 WR Rueben Randle LSU Jr. 6-4 208
(Should pick: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech). Kendall Wright makes sense if he lasts this long, but Randle is a good fallback. Houston thinks that at 6-4 and 210 pounds he'll be another matchup problem along the lines of Andre Johnson. What team has the corners to cover two wideouts 6-3 or taller? Then again, if that's the logic, I'd take Hill, who's bigger (6-5) and a speed threat.
KING: Texans draft needs
27 QB Brandon Weeden Oklahoma State Sr. 6-4 218
(Trade with Patriots; Should pick: Brandon Weeden). Cleveland sends a third-rounder to New England to move up 10 spots, from 37 to 27, and prevent the other Weeden fans -- Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, Niners -- from grabbing him. I know he'll be 29 in October, but if you think a player can be a good starting quarterback in the league for eight years, and several teams do, he's worth a lot more than the 27th pick.
KING: Browns draft needs
28 DT Jerel Worthy Michigan State Jr. 6-3 310
(Should pick: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State). Worthy would be the long-term replacement for Cullen Jenkins, though I could see G.M. Ted Thompson going for a big-potential outside threat like Nick Perry or Shea McClellin as a bookend pass rusher for Clay Matthews. Martin is the kind of versatile cold-weather back who would fit the Pack perfectly. "He's this draft's Ray Rice," one personnel man told me.
KING: Packers draft needs
29 OG/T Amini Silatolu Midwestern State Sr. 6-3 320
(Trade with Ravens; Should pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State). Upset special of the first round. The Lions loved Silatolu when he visited them, and they probably can't wait until their second-round pick (54th) to get him. Powerfully based and more explosive than he looks at 6-4 and 312 pounds, he could succeed Jeff Backus at left tackle, where Silatolu dominated Division II opponents for two years.
KING: Lions draft needs
30 TE Coby Fleener Stanford Sr. 6-6 244
(Should pick: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech). Jim Harbaugh likes smart, physical, versatile skill players, and because he had Fleener for four years at Stanford (including Fleener's redshirt season of 2007), no coach knows a player in this draft better. Fleener isn't as athletic as Vernon Davis, but he did gain 17.8 yards per reception in his last two seasons for the Cardinal.
KING: 49ers draft needs
31 DE/OLB Nick Perry USC Jr. 6-3 250
(Should pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State). All those who know what the Patriots are going to do with this pick, raise your hands. O.K., anybody besides Mike Mayock? After losing Mark Anderson in free agency and without knowing whether soon-to-be 33-year-old Andre Carter will be back -- those two combined for 20 of the Pats' 40 sacks in 2011 -- New England needs an edge rusher. Perry's my best guess.
KING: Patriots draft needs
32 S Harrison Smith Notre Dame Sr. 6-2 215
(Should pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State). A mature four-year starter for the Irish, Smith has the speed to play free safety and the tackling ability to play strong. The Giants could go in a lot of directions here, with McClellin and Mike Adams both possible because of positional need. But a 47-game college starter and eager special-teamer will be too much for G.M. Jerry Reese to pass up.
KING: Giants draft needs
Needs for teams without a first-round pick: Falcons | Raiders | Saints

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