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The first weekend of the 2012 NFL playoffs is in the books. Four teams were sent home to start planning their return march to the postseason next year. If those teams, or any others, are going to get there, they’ll need a little help culled from the next wave of prospects available in the 2012 NFL Draft. Here we attempt to predict which players will be helping teams reach the next level. (Note: This mock draft assumes there are no trades.)
Not much prediction required since Colts owner Jim Irsay said that the team would draft Luck with the first pick. There should never have been any doubts. Peyton Manning's future looks iffy. Luck gives Indianapolis a quarterback capable of dominating their division for another decade the way Manning did. Whoever ends up in the GM job here still has big task to replenish the roster, but this is a great start.
Consensus says that Baylor's Robert Griffin III gets drafted here. He might, and the Rams would be more than happy to trade the pick for a heaping helping of draft picks to fill in the talent gaps throughout their roster. If they don't trade down, there will be a debate between Blackmon and Kalil. Sam Bradford could use both, but a third season with Danny Amendola as his best receiver would be a tragedy.
Minnesota wins the Matt Kalil prize, getting the best tackle prospect since Jake Long to protect their investment in Christian Ponder ... or Joe Webb. They signed Charlie Johnson from the Colts to be their starting left tackle prior to the 2011 season, and he quickly reminded everyone how Peyton Manning makes linemen look better than they are. Kalil gives them a cornerstone on the line.
At this point, I would more shocked if Cleveland kept Colt McCoy than if they traded up in the draft to secure RG3. Washington and Miami (and maybe others), will be circling RG3, so trading up is the only sure way they can nab him. They need some talent to pair with him, but this is a big upgrade for Cleveland.
Aqib Talib may not go to prison, against all odds. If he doesn't, the Buccaneers still need to find a more consistent corner to replace him. They could even get the double shocker if Ronde Barber rides off into the sunset. Claiborne is that rare cornerback worthy of a top-five pick. The new coach, whoever that may be, will love to have a talented guy like this anchoring the back of his defence for what he'll hope is more successful tenure than Raheem Morris' was.
It's becoming popular in mock drafts to put Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill here. But unless they're able to get RG3 somehow, I see Washington trying to nab a non-Draft QB solution--Matt Flynn perhaps? -- and give that person some talent to work with at wide receiver, an area the Skins desperately need help. Floyd fits the bill.
Jeffery's stock is going to rise between now and the draft. That process started with his 148-yard performance in the Capitol One Bowl. Jeffery has the tools to be elite, and last year most had him pegged as the top receiver in this draft. Jacksonville's current group of receivers would be reserves on most teams, and they need to get Blaine Gabbert someone to throw the ball to this season.
Carolina could go any number of directions here, though defence is a big priority. The Panthers were soft in the middle of their line. Still bolsters the middle and makes Charles Johnson a more effective rusher off the edge. Dre Kirkpatrick is another option here, as their pass defence had trouble covering anyone.
DeCastro, to me, is the second best offensive lineman in this draft. Comparisons to Steve Hutchinson are on the money, and he improves the Dolphins interior line instantly. Guards never used to get drafted this high because the old rookie salary schedule made them among the top paid players in the league at their position. Now, the Dolphins can score an interior lineman cheaper than they can in free agency, and also get a better player than any available free agents.
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