NFL Draft Preview 2012

The last time the Lions picked 23 or lower they
drafted Robert Porcher at No. 26 in 1992 (AP).

It's an odd year for the NFL Draft here in Detroit. For the first time since 2000, the Lions will be picking in the 20s (barring any sort of trade, of course). With the 23rd pick, it's the lowest first-round selection for Detroit since 1992 when it used the No. 26 pick on then-South Carolina State DE Robert Porcher. (*Detroit did trade away its 1993 first round pick making the first selection at No. 33 in the second round).

That said, the consensus seems to be this: There are about 10 can't-miss players who should go in the Top 10 and, after that, the next 15-25 guys are pretty interchangeable. That'll make this a very interesting three days from New York.

The one thing I didn't do that I've done in the past with Mock Drafts is project trades. However, I do see three things more than likely to happen: Dallas trading up, possibly just a few slots, to make sure it gets its guy; Detroit getting plenty of calls at No. 23 from other teams wanting to move up; New England trading the 27th pick, likely to Cleveland for its second rounder (No. 37) and third rounder to grab Brandon Weeden if he's still available.

(*Cleveland is picking 3rd here, taking Richardson,
while Minnesota is taking Clairborne 4th.)

The following is a list of current first-round selection positions with two players (sometimes, it might be the same player): Who the team WILL pick, and who I think the team SHOULD pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts
Will pick: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Should pick: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Analysis: I don't necessarily buy that Luck is the next coming of Peyton Manning, but what I do love about him is his worth ethic. The fact he ran a very complex offense at Stanford -- he would come to the line with three different plays and then, after reading the defense, would select the best one -- and did so very well. The Colts need more help, but Luck gives them the cornerstone player to help replace Peyton.

There will be no surprises with Luck and RGIII going 1-2 (AP).

2. Washington Redskins
Will pick: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Should pick: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Analysis: It isn't that RGIII is worse than Luck -- though, I do think Luck's track record is substantially more impressive -- it's that Luck fits the Colts while RGIII fits the 'Skins. 

3. Cleveland Browns
Will pick: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Should pick: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Analysis: The trade to move up one spots seals the deal: Cleveland is taking Richardson. I think the Browns would have gotten him anyway, but I guess giving up a 4th, 5th and 7th was worth it.

If Richardson doesn't go in the Top 5, he  might slip a lot (AP).

4. Minnesota Vikings

Will pick: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Should pick: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Analysis: Many mocks have USC OT Matt Kalil going here and he could. The Vikings need so much help and I don't see Kalil as the game-changing LT that Joe Thomas was years ago. This isn't to say Kalil will be like Baylor's Jason Smith (read: bust), but I think teams need to realize the best LT in a draft class isn't necessarily a game-changing LT. This has to be a can't-miss player and Claiborne is a can't-miss corner.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Will pick: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Should pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Analysis: With Richardson and Claiborne gone, the Bucs have their worst nightmare. I don't see them grabbing Blackmon with so many defensive needs. Here's a reach for Ingram.

6. St. Louis Rams

Will pick: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Should pick: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Analysis: If the Rams really feel Sam Bradford is the guy, which I believe they do, they should find a way to protect him. It's the reason why, even if Blackmon falls this far I don't think the Rams would pull the trigger; they have too many other needs.  

7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Will pick: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Should pick: David DeCastro, OL, Stanford
Analysis: Keeping MJD happy would mean going for O-line help (DeCastro or others) but with Blackmon available it'll help out Gabbert's development. Don't be shocked, if Blackmon's available, that the Jags field numerous calls to trade down.

8. Miami Dolphins
Will pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Should pick: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Analysis: It is probably the worst-kept secret that Tannehill is going to be reunited with his college coach Mike Sherman. Outside of Luck and RGIII, the group of QBs is all pretty similar. It would make more sense to get better value at QB in Round 2 and get a defensive playmaker here. However, I understand reuniting Tannehill with his former college coach and Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I just don't believe Tannehill will be a long-term NFL QB, which is why I'd go with another impact player.

9. Carolina Panthers
Will pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Should pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Analysis: In reality, either Gilmore or Quinton Coples would be a hometown hit here and both would be instant impact defenders.

10. Buffalo Bills
Will pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Should pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Analysis: While there have been rumors that Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd might go here, Cox falling into Buffalo's lap is great. Now, grabbing an OT in Round 2 is a must.

11. Kansas City Chiefs

Will pick: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Should pick: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Analysis: Kansas City has so many holes (remember that 48-3 beatdown at Detroit?) but defense is the biggest. My guess is, with Mark Barron available here, Kansas City will field plenty of offers and end up moving down. Kuechly is the guy, however, if picking here or within five spots lower.
Dallas might have to trade up to get the guy its wants: Mark Barron (AP).

12. Seattle Seahawks
Will pick: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Should pick: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Analysis: Seattle's two biggest needs are LB and DE so the 'Hawks will also look at Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw but they'll go with the high-upside Coples. Don't be surprised if Dont'a Hightower goes here either, however, as some believe he's better than Kuechly.

13. Arizona Cardinals
Will pick: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Should pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Analysis: If the Cardinals brass believes Floyd opposite of Fitzgerald is a dynamic 1-2 punch, it won't pass him up. There are more pressing needs on defense though. Problem is, without a second rounder, Arizona would need to trade out of this spot to get back into the second round. It's highly possible teams wanting Alabama SS Mark Barron, if he's still here, (who will go no later than No. 14 to Dallas) will move up here. (*I would not be shocked if Dallas moves up a handful of spots to make sure it can get Barron. Look for it to be discussed on draft day).

14. Dallas Cowboys
Will pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Should pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Analysis: Dallas wants Mark Barron as he's very similar to Roy Williams II. The 'Boys likely will have to trade up to get him and the price might be too much. However, that has never stopped Jerry Jones in the past; Dallas has traded its first-round pick 75 percent of the time under Jones. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles
Will pick: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Should pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Analysis: Jones is the kind of player that'll be a star in Philly and he'll have a year to develop as he plays sparingly. Keeping Vick upright, however, should be the main goal and passing on Reiff could be a huge mistake if he's available.

16. New York Jets
Will pick: David DeCastro, OL, Stanford
Should pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
Analysis: The Jets have a bunch of needs. If Ingram falls to this spot the Jets will snatch him up. That, however, is very unlikely. Upshaw would be the No. 2 DE, but I'm guessing there will be some player that falls from the Top 10 and the Jets will grab him as the best player available. In this mock it's DeCastro.

17. Cincinnati Bengals
Will pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Should pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Analysis: The questions surrounding Kirkpatrick's off-field issues might scare the Bengals away with their first pick and grabbing Upshaw isn't a bad choice. Kirkpatrick will be the better pro, however, and that's why I can't see Cincinnati passing him up.

Kirkpatrick is a game-changing corner and the draft's best (AP).

18. San Diego Chargers
Will pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Should pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Analysis: If Reiff is available he's the guy here. If not, look for Georgia's OT/G Cordy Glenn to go because of his versatility (San Diego has holes at both guard and tackle and Glenn plays both).

19. Chicago Bears
Will pick: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Should pick: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Analysis: Now that Jay Cutler has Brandon Marshall again, give him another second to stand in the pocket. Martin does just that.

20. Tennessee Titans
Will pick: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Should pick: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Analysis: We know this is going to be a defensive pick and grabbing a great edge rusher makes the most sense.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Will pick: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Should pick: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Analysis: It's clear the Bengals haven't been scared by off-field issues before and Jenkins' baggage is there. It doesn't erase the fact he's a stud corner though. It's a coin flip between Jenkins and Wright here.

22. Cleveland Browns
Will pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Should pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Analysis: After getting Colt McCoy (or the Round 2 QB of the future) a major weapon early, getting a starting RT to put opposite of Joe Thomas solidifies the exterior O-line.

23. Detroit Lions
Will pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
Should pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
Analysis: Most Detroiters want the Lions to take a corner here or possibly a left tackle. If Riley Reiff falls that would be a dream scenario for the Lions, but it's unlikely. A trade down is a major possibility. With Cliff Avril's contract situation and the fact the D-line dramatically underperformed last year, getting Upshaw helps make the D-line a big strength once again. 
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw could very well fall to Detroit at
No. 23. There is a good chance the Lions also trade down (AP).

24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Will pick: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Should pick: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Analysis: The LB corps is getting older and Hightower just feels like a Steeler.

If Baltimore doesn't move ahead of Pittsburgh to take Hightower
it isn't likely he'll fall past the Steelers (AP).
25. Denver Broncos
Will pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Should pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Analysis: Some have MSU's Jerel Worthy going here, but Brockers has more upside in the minds of NFL scouts. He's been said to be the next Kris Jenkins.

26. Houston Texans
Will pick: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Should pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Analysis: It is pretty clear the Texans would like a legit No. 2 WR to pair opposite of Andre Johnson. I like Jeffery's size more than Hill's ceiling. But, in reality, we're nitpicking here.

27. New England Patriots
Will pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State 
Should pick: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
Analysis: I've never pegged a New England first rounder, so I don't expect to this year. Honestly, it would be a shock if the Patriots held on to this pick. Some "stud" will be falling and teams will trade up to grab him. New England is okay with that since it also has the 31st pick. I think they'll grab McClellin at 31 if he's there. (*My gut tells me Cleveland trades New England the 37th pick and a third rounder to move up 10 spots to take Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden here).

28. Green Bay Packers
Will pick: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Should pick: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Analysis: The Packers could go DT, DE or LB here. I think Worthy would fit more than some of the linebackers available.

Worthy's fire, which I witnessed first hand by watching all
MSU games throughout his career, will make him one of the
NFL's best defensive tackles within a few years (AP).

29. Baltimore Ravens
Will pick: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
Should pick: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
Analysis: Branch feels like a Raven and reminds me of Terrell Suggs. Seems like a perfect fit.

30. San Francisco 49ers
Will pick: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Should pick: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Analysis: O-line is the biggest need here and Glenn's versatility makes him a great catch.

31. New England Patriots
Will pick: Harrison Smith, SS, Notre Dame
Should pick: Harrison Smith, SS, Notre Dame
Analysis: New England usually gets such a big lead that it plays nickle coverage more than any other team. Smith is a 4-year starter who will play from Day 1 and helps the Patriots immensely.

32. New York Giants
Will pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Should pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Analysis: Poe will force double teams making life even easier for New York's plethora of DEs, however Jeffery would be a great insurance policy in case Victor Cruz wants big-time money. Plus, a pair of 6-foot-4 WRs on the outside would be heaven for Eli Manning. I could also see Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith coming off the board here as well.

BEST PLAYERS STILL AVAILABLE (in alphabetical order):
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
Jared Crick DE, Nebraska
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (Fla.)
Nick Perry, DE, USC
Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State