2012 NFL Mock Draft: Stephon Gilmore and Sleepers Climbing Draft Boards

Matt FaulconerFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 14:  Brandon James #25 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball away from Stephon Gilmore #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's finally here.

The 2012 NFL draft is just hours away, and for fans of every team other than the New York Giants, this has been a long time coming.

We watched our favorite teams crash and burn in 2012, but now it's time for them to land that superstar player that will put them over the top.

There are plenty of players climbing draft boards in recent weeks, including Stephon Gilmore, Mark Barron, Fletcher Cox and Chandler Jones. Which ones will end up on your favorite team? No one will know until these player's names are called, but we will continue speculating until the Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)

It's been a no-brainer for the past year that Andrew Luck would be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, and while some speculated that Robert Griffin III is the better prospect, there was never any real doubt that Luck would be the first pick in this year's draft.

The Colts land themselves the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning to replace Manning; it doesn't get any better than that for Colts fans.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)

The Washington Redskins didn't trade up to the No. 2 overall pick to land themselves a stud cornerback. This team was stuck with Rex Grossman and John Beck last season at QB and haven't had a franchise QB since Joe Theismann.

The 'Skins finally have a guy they can lean on to get them back to the playoffs. Mike and Kyle Shanahan will love tutoring RGIII into one of the best QBs in the league.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)

For months, everyone expected the Vikings to pull the trigger on Matt Kalil, but that no longer seems to be the case. Claiborne is the best defensive player in this class and is an absolute stud in the secondary.

The Vikings play in a pass-happy division that features QBs Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, they have had an abysmal secondary for years, and it's about time they cleaned it up. Claiborne makes sense here despite the public backlash they might receive for passing on an elite left tackle.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)

If you're following the best player available strategy, then this is an easy pick for the Cleveland Browns. Trent Richardson could easily make the biggest impact as a rookie this year and could be an immediate star.

He has the strength, power and quickness to be an elite RB in the NFL and is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Kalil (OT, USC)

On the bright side the Buccaneers land a premier OT, but on the downside they miss out on Morris Claiborne, who seemed to make perfect sense for them at No. 5.

The Bucs don't have a huge need at OT, but they could certainly use an upgrade for Jeremy Trueblood, who is a liability in pass protection at times. Kalil would certainly serve as a huge upgrade and makes sense considering he is the best player on the board at this point in the draft.

The only question that arises here is what to do with Donald Penn. Will the Bucs move Penn to the right side or Kalil to the right side? Either way, they will be loaded at the tackle position for years to come.

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon (WR, St. Louis Rams)

Things couldn't have gone better for the Rams, who desperately need a playmaker for Sam Bradford. The Rams lost Brandon Lloyd in free agency to the New England Patriots and will be looking to find someone who can stretch the field for them offensively.

Blackmon fits the mold of what this team needs and happens to be the best player left on the board. That's a win-win for St. Louis.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)

Before the season, this didn't sound like too much of a stretch, but Gilmore slid down draft boards throughout the season.

Gilmore has the most upside of any corner in this draft (yes, that includes Claiborne), but he has a lot of work to do to improve his man coverage. He's extremely raw in this area but possesses all the physical assets you look for in an elite corner. Add to the fact that he's the best run-stopping corner in the draft, and he makes sense for the Jags at No. 7.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)

I'm not buying the Dolphins and their silly smoke screens. There's absolutely no chance the Dolphins pass on Tannehill, and if they do, that says a lot about his game.

His former head coach, Mike Sherman, will surely believe in him as the future for the Dolphins, and he should. It's hard to get excited about Matt Moore and David Garrard, and chances are Mike Sherman isn't very excited about those guys.

9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)

The Panthers are going to find it difficult to pass on Michael Floyd, as he would be a terrific weapon for Cam Newton, but Cox fits a need and is the best player on the board.

Cox has the potential to be a dominating pass-rusher from the DT position, which is an extremely rare talent. There's no chance the Panthers pass on Cox if he is available at No. 9.

10. Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly (OLB, Boston College)

This pick is tough. The Bills desperately need an OT, but they shouldn't reach for Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin here. They definitely have a need at LB, as they could use a third LB to pair with Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard.

Kuechly should be an immediate star in this league and makes complete sense for Buffalo at No. 10.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro (G, Stanford)

Dontari Poe is quickly becoming a popular pick here for the Kansas City Chiefs, but it just doesn't seem like a Scott Pioli pick. Poe is far from a proven prospect, while DeCastro might be one of the safest picks in the entire draft.

DeCastro made Andrew Luck's job easy last year, and he should be able to do the same thing for whoever steps under center for the Chiefs this season.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)

It's no secret that the Seahawks are looking for a pass-rusher in this year's draft. While Luke Kuechly could have been a possibility as well, with him off the board this pick comes down to Coples and Melvin Ingram.

Coples has the higher upside, and while he comes with some character issues, Pete Carroll doesn't seem to be the type of coach that is going to sacrifice elite talent because of character issues.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)

Riley Reiff has been the popular pick her for quite some time, but Larry Fitzgerald opened his mouth and chimed in. The star WR has a way of getting what he wants in Arizona, thus the Cardinals pull the trigger on the second-best WR in this year's draft class.

If you can't land a top QB, you might as well surround a subpar QB with tons of weapons.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron (S, Dallas Cowboys)

If Barron is on the board, this pick is going to be a no-brainer for Jerry Jones. Barron is an elite safety who has the ability to cover and stop the run.

He isn't as physically gifted as Eric Berry, who was drafted in the top 10 two seasons ago, but he has a high football IQ and fills a significant need for the Cowboys.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)

The Philadelphia Eagles could use some help on the interior of their defensive line and will likely use this pick on Brockers if Fletcher Cox is off the board.

Brockers doesn't have the upside of Dontari Poe, but he's certainly the safer pick, as his floor is much, much higher.

16. New York Jets: Melvin Ingram (DE/OLB, South Carolina)

The Jets desperately want to trade up for Trent Richardson, but that's not going to be easy, as they're likely going to have to move to No. 3 to pull that off. They'd also love to see Michael Floyd fall to them at No. 16, but that's not happening either.

At this point, the Jets will likely look to trade down and target Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle or Alshon Jeffery. However, if they stay at No. 16, they should look to take the best player available, which is Melvin Ingram. The Jets struggled to rush the passer at times last season, so they could certainly use a player with Ingram's talents.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)

Have the Bengals ever shied away from a player with character concerns? I didn't think so. They won't pass on Kirkpatrick, either, who was at one time considered a top-10 prospect.

He shined on an Alabama defense that ranked No. 1 in the country and consistently shut down the No. 1 receiver for the opposing team, including Rueben Randle, who is projected as a late-first-round pick.

18. San Diego Chargers: Chandler Jones (OLB, Syracuse)

The New England Patriots really want Chandler Jones, so much so that they sound like they're willing to trade up for him. If they are unable to complete a trade to move up for him, he won't be on the board after the Chargers pick.

San Diego struggled to rush the passer from the OLB spot last season, and Chandler Jones is the perfect pick for them here. He should be able to come in and immediately get pressure on Peyton Manning and other opposing quarterbacks.

19. Chicago Bears: Courtney Upshaw (DE/OLB, Alabama)

Upshaw showed during his last season at Alabama that he can get a ton of pressure on the QB. They need someone opposite Julius Peppers to rush the passer; thus, Upshaw makes sense.

I'm not completely convinced the Bears won't consider Kendall Wright with this pick, though, so be on the lookout for them shocking everyone with the selection of Wright to complement Brandon Marshall.

20. Tennessee TitansWhitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)

The Titans are pretty thin at the defensive end position and will look to upgrade it in the first round. Mercilus could immediately step into the starting rotation opposite Kamerion Wimbley.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn (G, Georgia)

The Bengals were hoping that Courtney Upshaw would still be available with this pick; unfortunately, he is off the board. They should now look to improve the interior of their offensive line, as they won't want Otis Hudson starting this early in his career.

Glenn is the second-best guard prospect in the draft and should shore up an already solid offensive line.

22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State)

The Browns seem to be infatuated with Weeden, who could come in and compete with Colt McCoy from day one. If it wasn't for Weeden's age, he would likely hear his name called in the top 10 and would be the third-best QB in this draft.

If the Browns opt to pass on Weeden, hoping he's there in the second round, they'll target Kendall Wright, who would provide a nice complement to Greg Little.

23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff (OT, Detroit Lions)

The Lions never thought Reiff would fall to them, but he has. They were likely targeting Jonathan Martin and Cordy Glenn, but with Reiff on the board, this pick is easy for the Lions front office.

Reiff should slide in nicely at LT for the Lions and will protect Matt Stafford's blind side for years to come.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower (ILB, Alabama)

If you're keeping track, that's the fourth player from the Crimson Tide selected in the first round. Hightower is a solid inside linebacker that will fit in nicely where James Farrior left off.

He has a tough, gritty attitude and is willing to do whatever he's asked. He isn't the most physically gifted player in the draft, but he knows how to play his position and should be a nice asset on the Steelers' stingy defense.

25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State)

If you haven't noticed, I really don't like Dontari Poe.

The interior of the Denver Broncos offensive line is terrible, so bad that you probably can't name one of their starters right now.

Worthy isn't as physically gifted as Poe, but he looks 10 times better on tape. That's enough for me.

26. Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)

The Texans left themselves with a huge hole on the right side after they parted ways with Eric Winston. No worries, though, as they fill that hole with Jonathan Martin, who protected Andrew Luck's blind side the past two seasons at Stanford.

The Texans offensive line should have no problem dominating in the run game again next season with Martin at RT.

27. New England Patriots: Shea McClellin (OLB, Boise State)

The Patriots still need pass-rushers, especially with Andre Carter and Mark Anderson no longer on the team. McClellin is one of those players who finds his draft stock rising late and should fit in well with Bill Belichick's system.

He plays with a ton of heart and puts the team before himself. If McClellin is available, there won't be much hesitation from the Patriots.

28. Green Bay Packers: Devon Still (DT, Penn State)

The Packers could desperately use some help on their defensive line. The line struggled at times last season after losing Cullen Jenkins to the Eagles, so they'll be looking to upgrade the line in this year's draft.

They obviously need a lot of help in the secondary as well, but there aren't any safeties or corners worth taking with the No. 28 pick.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)

Personally, I like Kendall Wright more than Hill, but the Ravens will use the pick on another ACC WR. Torrey Smith is a bit too similar to Wright, so the Ravens will look to add a bit more size with the 6'5" Stephen Hill. 

They've tried desperately to upgrade their receivers in recent years but have struck out on nearly every acquisition. Anquan Boldin isn't getting any younger, and Torrey Smith would thrive in the slot with Hill in the game.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Coby Fleener (TE, Stanford)

The New England Patriots made the two-TE set deadly last season with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, so the 49ers will look to replicate that success.

They already upgraded their WR corps, which will feature Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree next season, so why not upgrade the TE position?

Alex Smith is going to have a field day with all of these weapons around him next year.

31. New England Patriots: Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)

At this point, the Patriots will pull the trigger on the combine's workout warrior. Bill Belichick hasn't been the kind of guy to pass on guys that don't always give their all (see Albert Haynesworth), so Poe makes sense here.

He has a ton of upside, if he ever decides to put forth his best effort.

32. New York Giants: Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)

The Giants let Brandon Jacobs walk this season and need to find another RB to complement Ahmad Bradshaw. Doug Martin makes perfect sense for the Giants at No. 32. He's a versatile runner and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

He doesn't present the upside of Lamar Miller, but he's without a doubt the second-best RB in this draft at this point.


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