PFW correspondents' mock draft

Posted April 23, 2012 @ 3:46 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

For our latest first-round mock for the 2012 NFL draft, we turned to PFW's correspondents to make the picks for their respective teams. With the Browns, Bengals and Patriots holding two picks in the first round, Browns correspondent Tony Grossi, Bengals correspondent Joe Reedy and Patriots correspondent Jeff Howe selected twice. And with the Falcons, Raiders and Saints without a first-round pick, those correspondents did not participate in this exercise.

The picks were made in succession according to the selection order of the first round of the draft. Trades were not an option but could be mentioned as part of the explanation for the pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts Tom James, The Tribune Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)
Andrew Luck | QB | Stanford
The Colts cut their ties to four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning in March and now stand ready to select his replacement. Luck is viewed as being "Peyton-esque" in every sense of the word.

2. Washington  Redskins John Keim, Washington Examiner
Robert Griffin III | QB | Baylor
The Redskins went all in to get a franchise QB, moving up four spots in the draft. They're confident Griffin will end a quest that has lasted more than 25 years and that his mobility and downfield accuracy make him a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's system.

3. Minnesota  Vikings Tom Pelissero, 1500ESPN.com
Matt Kalil | OLT | USC
Unless GM Rick Spielman gets a trade offer he can't refuse, snaring the draft's best blind-side protector is the right move for a franchise that hopes to rebuild around QB Christian Ponder and a young nucleus on offense.

4. Cleveland Browns Tony Grossi, ESPNCleveland.com
Trent Richardson | RB | Alabama
Best offensive player available also fills a need. What's not to like?

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Roy Cummings, Tampa Tribune
Morris Claiborne | CB | LSU
Ronde Barber isn’t getting any younger and Aqib Talib continues to run into trouble off the field. This should solidify the CB spot for the next 8-10 years, no matter what.

6. St. Louis Rams Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Justin Blackmon | WR | Oklahoma State
Under this scenario, it shouldn't take long for the Rams to make their pick. In an offense that scored only 12.1 points per game and had only nine receiving TDs as a team, the Rams need playmakers and touchdown-makers, and desperately need a starting wide receiver.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union
Fletcher Cox | DT | Mississippi State
This is the nightmare scenario for the Jaguars. The first six players went off the board as expected and there is no consensus seventh player. The Jaguars will be desperately trying to trade down with a team that wants QB Ryan Tannehill to get more picks. If they can't trade down they are in a quandary. Their biggest needs are at the DE and WR spots. But Melvin Ingram is a tweener who is better suited for a 3-4. WR Michael Floyd has character issues. So does DE Quinton Coples. Cordy Glenn is a good prospect but he's a guard. Do you take a guard at seven? DT Dontari Poe was a workout wonder but is he a gamble at seven? CB Stephon Gilmore is moving up the charts but is this too high? So it's strictly a guess that if they can't trade down, they take Cox. He fills a need now that Terrance Knighton will miss the offseason after suffering an eye injury in a nightclub incident.

8. Miami Dolphins Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Ryan Tannehill | QB | Texas A&M
The Dolphins haven't selected a quarterback in the first round since 1983 when Dan Marino was taken, and it's about time the drought ends. Tannehill's accuracy and footwork makes him ideal for the West Coast offense, and his history with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman should ease the transition. If he's groomed properly, the rebuilding Dolphins could be looking at a starter for the rest of this decade.

9. Carolina Panthers Dan Parr, Pro Football Weekly
Michael Brockers | DT | LSU
The Panthers would no doubt be happy to see Fletcher Cox available when they are on the clock, but with Cox off the board, look for Carolina to stay focused on finding Ron Rivera the potential defensive centerpiece he needs. LB Luke Kuechly will be an intriguing option who gets serious consideration, but the need for a hammer in the trenches is too glaring to ignore.

10. Buffalo Bills Chuck Pollock, Olean (NY) Times Herald
Luke Kuechly | LB | Boston College
GM Buddy Nix warns not to "connect the dots" based on need … which would be left offensive tackle, speed wide receiver and cornerback. The Bills love Kelvin Sheppard in the middle but there's nobody behind him. Kuechly's value increases because he also can play outside where the Bills might also have a need. He's the highly productive, high-character type of player new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt would love to anchor his defense.

11. Kansas City Chiefs Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
David DeCastro | OG | Stanford
For the first time in years, the Chiefs won't be committed to filling a gaping hole on either offense or defense. Instead, they'll attempt to fill a future hole by selecting DeCastro, who has been called one of the most NFL-ready interior-line prospects in years. With OLG Ryan Lilja showing signs of aging last year, DeCastro would allow the Chiefs to continue building their line instead of watching a key player's skills deteriorate. It also would give QB Matt Cassel yet another protective piece.

12. Seattle Seahawks Clare Farnsworth, Seahawks.com
Melvin Ingram | DE-OLB | South Carolina
The Seahawks can go several ways with this pick because of what they've been able to accomplish in free agency. But the one "need" item left on Pete Carroll's list is improving the edge pass rush and adding depth at linebacker. Ingram could scratch both itches, complementing sack leader Chris Clemons in the nickel and eventually replacing him at the "Leo" spot in Carroll's defense.

13. Arizona Cardinals Kent Somers, Arizona Republic
Michael Floyd | WR | Notre Dame
Offensive line is the Cardinals' greatest need but the guess here is they won't pass on a playmaker like Floyd. Pairing him with Larry Fitzgerald is a nice combo that could help alleviate some of the team's QB problems. They don't have a second-round pick so they will have to wait until at least the third round to find help on the offensive line or on defense (outside linebacker or defensive end).

14. Dallas Cowboys Mickey Spagnola, DallasCowboys.com
Dontari Poe | NT | Memphis
The Cowboys need to come out of the draft with an impact front-seven defender. However, in lieu of what’s on the board, I think the Cowboys will trade down a few spots and try to pick up another third-round selection. Down closer to picks 19-20, I think they could feel qualified to take Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower. Poe scares them a bit but, if they stay put, Jerry Jones will find it hard to bypass Poe's upside based on his stunning workouts, even if the tape and production don't match up to what he did in shorts at the Combine. Poe can play the nose, allowing Jay Ratliff to move to left end, where Kenyon Coleman struggled last season.

15. Philadelphia Eagles Dave Weinberg, The Press of Atlantic City
Quinton Coples | DE | North Carolina
With the top three DT prospects gone, the Eagles take Coples. Alabama S Mark Barron is tempting, but the Eagles still have high hopes for their young safeties. If anyone can get Coples to play up to his potential, it's Eagles D-line coach Jim Washburn.

16. New York Jets Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential
Mark Barron | S | Alabama
Dont'a Hightower was tempting, but the Jets need to improve their TE coverage and Barron can help them do that. Week-after-week the last couple of years, opposing tight ends, with Rob Gronkowski leading the list, have hurt the Jets. Barron can help them cover tight ends a lot better. Barron also comes out of an NFL system at Alabama, so his transition to the pro game shouldn't take long.

17. Cincinnati Bengals Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer
Dre Kirkpatrick | CB | Alabama
With Johnathan Joseph's departure last year to Houston, the Bengals are looking for a young, shutdown corner. Kirkpatrick has a lot of athleticism and also gives them insurance in case Leon Hall can't come back from an Achilles injury.

18. San Diego Chargers Scott Bair, North County Times
Nick Perry | DE-OLB | USC
Perry is the pass rusher the Chargers have been waiting for. The Chargers love Perry's versatility, with the ability to play standing up or with his hand in the dirt. He'll be used as a roving pass rusher in the nickel and occasionally in the base defense while learning how to be a full-time outside 'backer on the strong side behind current starter Jarret Johnson.

19. Chicago Bears Bob LeGere, Daily Herald
Riley Reiff | OT | Iowa
Bears really want a pass rusher, and Whitney Mercilus and Chandler Jones are possibilities but both seem like reaches at No. 19. The Bears' biggest need is an upgrade over J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. It isn't a guarantee that Reiff will be able to play OLT in the NFL, but he started 29 games there in the Big Ten, which should make him a better option than Webb. Georgia OG Cordy Glenn is a possibility, but the Bears have an abundance of interior linemen, so Reiff has the chance to make a bigger impact. Baylor WR Kendall Wright is another possibility, but with the addition of Brandon Marshall, QB Jay Cutler needs blind-side protection more than he needs another target in the pass game. 

20. Tennessee Titans Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean
Stephon Gilmore | CB | South Carolina
The Titans need a defensive end but the top guys at the position are off the board. Gilmore could step in and fill the void left behind when Cortland Finnegan departed for St. Louis.

21. Cincinnati Bengals Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer
Doug Martin | RB | Boise State
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bengals trade down from this spot, which, considering they have made five trades since the lockout ended, would be par for the course. Considering who has been taken so far though, Martin is the best on their board and adds to the backfield-by-committee approach that Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden want.

22. Cleveland Browns Tony Grossi, ESPNCleveland.com
Kendall Wright | WR | Baylor
Browns need to keep stocking up on offensive playmakers.

23. Detroit Lions Chris McCosky, Detroit News
Whitney Mercilus | DE | Illinois
Strongly tempted to select CB Janoris Jenkins here, because I think the Lions like him more than they are letting on, despite the obvious risks. But, with Barron, Kirkpatrick and Gilmore all gone, selecting the best pass rusher on their board is the safe pick. They have shown interest in both Mercilus and Chandler Jones from Syracuse. I am tossing a coin here, and Mercilus won.  

24. Pittsburgh Steelers Jim Wexell, SteelCityInsider.net
Dont'a Hightower | ILB | Alabama
Knowing Mike Tomlin, he just might prefer a smaller run-and-hit type such as Lavonte David. But I'll go with the flow here in spite of Hightower's change-of-direction problems, because I'm pretty sure Dick LeBeau desires the leadership, flexibility, intelligence and downhill presence that Hightower can bring to a team.

25. Denver Broncos Lindsay Jones, Denver Post
Jerel Worthy | DT | Michigan State
The Broncos are in a far different position now than they were a year ago, when they had their pick of the defensive players on the draft board. Still, the front seven remains a priority, and picking Worthy here would both allow the Broncos to take the best defensive player available while also filling a major need. Worthy didn't test as well at the Combine as other top defensive tackles, but his college tape shows a very productive player, and the Broncos will value the game tape over the spring numbers. The Broncos figure to also look for a cornerback and running back in the first two days of the draft.

26. Houston Texans John McClain, Houston Chronicle
Cordy Glenn | OG-OT | Georgia
The Texans have new starters at the ORT and ORG spots and both were hurt last season. No backup on the roster has started a game. In fact, no backup has even played in a meaningful game. Glenn can play tackle or guard.

27. New England Patriots Jeff Howe, NESN
Courtney Upshaw | OLB | Alabama
There's some question about Upshaw's true position on the edge in the NFL, but that's fine, because no one truly knows if the Patriots are going with a 3-4 or 4-3 next season anyway. At minimum, it will be a hybrid defense, and Bill Belichick should have a clear understanding of how to employ Upshaw, who starred for Belichick's good friend, Nick Saban.

28. Green Bay Packers Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Peter Konz | C | Wisconsin
The Packers proved how much they value a smart center by putting aside their aversion to free agency and signing Jeff Saturday to replace the departed Scott Wells. But Saturday, who turns 37 in June, is a one-year rental only. Ted Thompson can draft defense with his 11 other selection. Here, he takes care of Aaron Rodgers with the best and smartest center in the draft.

29. Baltimore Ravens Jeff Zriebec, Baltimore Sun
Stephen Hill | WR | Georgia Tech
Ideally, the Ravens would immediately address their biggest need, which is the offensive line. But with Konz off the board, the bet here is this pick will come down to Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler and Hill, and Hill's upside and dynamic physical tools will win out. With Anquan Boldin slowing down a little, the Ravens are intent on giving Joe Flacco another downfield weapon and pairing speedster Torrey Smith with another big and physical receiver. They have had Hill in for a pre-draft visit and are extremely intrigued by his potential.   

30. San Francisco 49ers Dan Arkush, Pro Football Weekly
Amini Silatolu | OG | Midwestern State (Texas)
The one real hole the Niners appear to have entering the draft is at right guard, and Silatolu is considered a small-school riser with big-time potential. He met with the Niners’ offensive-line coaches last week and has excellent quickness and the kind of chip on his shoulder that Jim Harbaugh loves in his linemen. The Niners might have had a hard time bypassing intriguing WR Stephen Hill if the Ravens hadn’t snatched him up the previous pick.

31. New England Patriots Jeff Howe, NESN
Janoris Jenkins | CB | North Alabama
There's too much potential here for the Patriots to let Jenkins slide. If they determine he's an immature kid who has made some stupid decisions but can be reined in by the strict regimen in New England, Jenkins should be a no-brainer. But if they think Jenkins is an entitled person who parties because of his football celebrity, they'll stay away. If that's the case, I can see them going with Nebraska OLB Lavonte David, Syracuse DE Chandler Jones or Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes.

32. New York Giants Paul Schwartz, New York Post
Coby Fleener | TE | Stanford
The need arose for one or two more tight ends when, during Super Bowl XLVI, both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum went down with torn ACLs. Ballard might miss the entire 2012 season and Beckum might miss up to half the season. The Giants signed Cowboys TE Martellus Bennett but he’s unproven as a receiver and they can’t pass on Fleener, who has been described as a more athletic Dallas Clark. So what if Fleener can’t block? With Mario Manningham gone (signed with the 49ers) the offense could use another pass-catching threat and Fleener unquestionably fits that description.