Now the dust is finally settling on the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl 46, it’s time to move on and start forgetting about the 2011 season – which you can bet your bottom dollar that Bill¬†Belichick¬†and the team’s coaching staff will be already doing.
I find huge comfort after such a deflating defeat in scouting out the NFL’s future talent and have spent the last few days going back over my rankings and other team’s draft needs in order to¬†compile¬†my first mock draft.
Over the course of the off season leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, I will update my mocks and write about prospects I feel will fit the Patriots’ system in 2012. Now to start things off, do not buy the mediot hype; the Patriots do not run a sole 4-3 or 3-4 defense. They never did this season and they likely never will in the near future. It’s a hybrid, typically a 3-3 personnel, and it is becoming favoured more and more in today’s modern game due to it’s versatility, a versatility I believe will¬†reflect¬†in the players that Belichick¬†chooses¬†to draft this season. In the off season I will be writing about the hybrid and what it does for you but, in short, it allows you to play a number of looks without having to really substitiute your players on the field…it’s an ideal formation to counter the spread offenses which are being used predominantly in High School and College, and that are now filtering through to the NFL. It produced mixed results in the team’s first real year of using it and I think that, with the right acquisitions, we will see this defense come along leaps and bounds.
However, enough talk of that, that’s for another time. Here is my 2012 Mock Darft V1 to start off the New England Patriots’ off season:
1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Andrew¬†Luck, QB, Stanford
This is a no brainer pick. The Colts have revamped their Front Office and their coaching staff and, with a new offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians who did a tremendous job with¬†Ben¬†Roethlisberger, they’ll look to give him a new developmental challenge. Considered to be the most NFL ready Quarterback to enter the draft since their very own Peyton Manning, it makes sense to look past their future Hall of Fame QB and move on with a new era. The free cap space will help them rebuild, as there are more areas of need than just this position.
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Sam Bradford has yet to be given a true play maker to help with his development after a strong rookie campaign which saw the traditional sophomore¬†slump¬†undermine it. With the loss of McDaniels and likely Brandon Lloyd to Fee Agency, he will need a down field threat to play with and help free up some of the pressure on Steven Jackson in the ground game. They could also seek some Offensive Line help at Tackle if they wish to keep their franchise healthy; the WR position is deep and they could seek to tackle this area elsewhere in the draft. Look for the Rams to¬†trade¬†out of this spot also…teams courting Robert Griffin III may wish to trade up into a higher position and the team may have an opportunity to cement further picks to rebuild their team with.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings saw nice¬†potential¬†in 2011 second round pick Christian Ponder when they put the rookie Quarterback in in place¬†of¬†Donovan McNabb almost midway through the NFL season. However, when pressured (wich turned out to be quite often) he looked like a deer in the headlights, finishing the season with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He found himself injured also which leads me to believe that Matt Kalil of USC would be the perfect pick to help protect their future franchise QB. The team may also look at a WR at this stage in the draft to give their young prospect some weapons and may also seek to trade out of this spot to teams interested in bringing in a QB for themselves.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson is a much more complete Running Back then his predecessor out of Alabama, Mark Ingram, who was drafted in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. With questions over whether or not Peyton Hillis will be returning, RB has become a need for a team which really lacks weapons on offense. Don’t be surprised to see a WR drafted in this spot either. Some may link RG3 to this team however I feel that McCoy needs to be given one more season with some weapons at his disposal. If Peyton Hillis does return, then you could see a two back approach implemented here…the same two back approach which can make the Giants running¬†attack¬†so prolific at times.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
LSU appears to be a prime source for NFL caliber Corners right now and Claiborne makes the perfect sense for a team who could very well lose Ronde Barber this off season; a free agent who is 36 and has put his best year behind him. Claiborne would really help solidify a secondary and would compliment Aqib Talib over on the other side quite nicely. Another team picking high with a young QB in Freeman, you may see them seek to add to his arsenal of weapons which already boasts promising WR Mike Williams. If Trent Richardson falls to them, you’d be hard pushed to imagine them passing him over, complimenting LeGarrette Blount nicely in a two back¬†approach¬†discussed above (if you¬†haven’t¬†guessed already, I’m a massive fan of it).
6. Washington Redskins (5-11)
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Mike Shanahan spent much of the 2011 season juggling the Quarterback position between John Beck and Rex Grossman. With Grossman also due to be an unrestricted free agent, Quarterback is a glaring need for the the American Capital’s team. If they are unable to get the guy they want at QB, you could expect them to take a corner such as Kirkpatrick, or even help shore up their offensive line with someone such as Reiff. I feel they have seen enough at RB to warrant not wasting a high pick on someone like Richardson if he fell. ¬†Tannehill is a guy I like, with an NFL caliber arm and, if both Luck and RG3 are off the board, they could reach for this guy high up.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Yet another team with a young QB in Blaine Gabbert. The second year Quarterback needs a good supporting cast around him and it starts with the Offensive Line. Iowa and Kirk Ferentz are¬†renowned for producing solid NFL caliber players on the line and Reiff would be perfect to protect Gabbert and make him more comfortable in the pocket.¬†¬†Whilst they could certainly do with a DE and play maker on defense, it really wasn’t their biggest issue. Look for the Jags to also entertain the idea of a WR in order to help out their second year QB and take some pressure off of Jones-Drew.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Panthers were forced to start two rookie Defensive Tackles during last season to due injuries and you can’t argue¬†against¬†a move to draft in a DE/DT to beef up their line however, the Panthers got themselves caught playing¬†catch-up¬†more often than not and a shut down corner is what they need to help keep the score down and¬†make¬†things easier for¬†second¬†year QB Cam Newton. Kirkpatrick is their man. If the team were to go down the DL route, Quinton Coples would be perfect to rush off of the edge and wreak havoc on that Carolina defense….something they have lacked since Julius Peppers parted ways with¬†them. However, with his elite height and good size and length, Kirkpatrick¬†has¬†the ability to be that shut down corner in man so many teams desire.
9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Dolphins are another team in need of a potential QB, but not so much so that it warrants this high a pick. I expect them to re-sign Chad Henne and keep Matt Moore in the system, who performed pretty well in Henne’s absence. They need to shore up both the tackle and guard position as well as find themselves a DE who can disrupt the oppositions passing attack. They are rumoured to be making the switch from 3-4 to 4-3 therefore need someone who can go opposite to Cameron Wake. Coples’ style suits this perfectly and a strong showing at the Senior Bowl only helped his stock further.
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
This sees the 3rd Alabama player come off of the board. The Bills registered a lowly 29 sacks in the 2011 season and are in dire need of someone who can come in and make an immediate impact. The explosiveness and¬†versatility¬†that¬†Upshaw¬†brings is perfect. He is able to play as an OLB in the 3-4 or play with his hand down in sub packages. The Bills moved away a little from the 3-4 and mixed in a little more 4-3 and sub, however I expect them to revert back with this pick.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
With both Barry Richardson and Ryan O’Callaghan, their 1-2 tandem at tackle, both becoming free agents in 2012, OT becomes a glaring need and one which they must address quickly. Jonathan Martin helped protect Andrew Luck’s blind side whilst at Stanford which could be a positive or work against him…great QBs often make their linemen look better. Most scouts project Martin to be best suited on the right size and believe he has the strength and brain to do so. RB is also a glaring need for this team so don’t be amazed to see one picked up, especially if Trent Richardson is still available; Thomas Jones isn’t getting any younger and Jamaal Charles is coming off of major knee surgery…there is a huge question mark over the running game of the Chiefs.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU
The¬†Seahawks¬†have free agent concerns on the Defensive Line (primarily DE) and will look to bolster it high in the draft. Brockers is raw in some areas when it comes to rushing the passer but his elite size, frame and¬†strength¬†will bring him up the draft board and his versatility to play inside and outside of the defensive line will attract teams. The Seahawks are not set at QB, but Tannehill will be a reach this high after his foot injury and, after¬†reasonable¬†success in the regular season, need to make moves which can make them get better right now. A QB could be a target in free agency.
13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
With Deuce Lutui being a free agent, David DeCastro could come right in and start at guard and would also be an immediate upgrade over Rex Hadnot. The Cardinals’ rushing attack was a mediocre 24th in the NFL and they¬†will¬†look to potentially resign Chester Taylor and have him and Beanie Wells run behind their brand new Guard. They could also do with a WR to compliment Fitzgerald on the opposite side and Kendall Wright would be the perfect fit.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The¬†secondary¬†of Dallas was a glaring weak spot in the 2011 season and they need a corner who they can trust whilst Rob Ryan gets creative with his blitzes. Jenkins makes up for what he lacks in¬†height¬†with his aggressiveness and quickness and is ideal to prevent those big plays that killed the team so often. They have other needs along the Offensive Line and could be in the market for a guard like DeCastro if he fell to them. DE could also be a potential need to help pave the way for Ware.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Eagles struggled to stop the run immensely in the 2011 season and Kuechly should land to them on a plate with them licking their lips. Whilst not the most athletic LB to come out into the draft, he is a tackle machine and has more tackles than any college Linebacker in the country…he’s coming out as a Junior I should add. He has won every award you can think of and is touted as one of the most productive and NFL ready Linebackers to come into the draft in a long time. He can come in and have an impact right away. No brainer pick. With question marks hanging over DeSean Jackson, they may be in the¬†market¬†for a WR like Kendall Wright, but their need on defense takes over anything else.
16. New York Jets (8-8)
Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
The Jets have serious question marks hanging over Offensive Guard and with David DeCastro already off of the board, Cordy Glenn gets taken slightly sooner than anticipated. He has excellent size, long arms and a good anchor which enables him to take on pass blockers extremely well. He surprisingly athletic for his size which can enable him to pull effectively and get into the second level. The Jets run game declined heavily last season however Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight will be adequate enough behind a better offensive line which should also give Sanchez the extra time he needs to be an adequate NFL Quarterback.
I haven’t included any trades in the first half of my mock draft and nor will I in the second. The Rams and Vikings¬†will¬†certainly entertain trade offers from teams searching for a QB however, unless Miami feel a decisive need, I don’t see it. I expect the Browns to stick with McCoy and that will allow the Redskins to pick up Robert Griffin III. Tannehill will fall most likely to the second round after his foot injury, although a team may reach into the late first round if needs must.
Check out the second half of my mock draft, and feel free to comment and debate my choices!
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