This is the first NFL Mock draft for 2012 from the Sports-Central blog. This year's draft projections will be broken into two articles. Here is the first of the season with some bold predictions.
*A special shout-out must go to Matt Miller of Bleacherreport and Newerascouting for providing in-depth draft grades and rankings. Be sure to follow Matt on twitter @NFLdraftscout
1. Indianapolis Colts select - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford.
It's time to usher in the next era in Indianapolis. This is definitely the silver lining on the Colts' 2011 NFL season. Peyton Manning's injury may be a blessing in disguise in the long-term considering that Luck is rated as the best college prospect since Manning himself by most scouts.
With Luck under center next season, the Colts fortunes will likely take a hit. That shouldn't be a problem however as the Colts dependance on Manning, and his subsequent loss, will force them to rebuild and fully enter a transition period regardless.
2. TRADE!!! Washington Redskins select - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor.
St. Louis Rams acquire the sixth(first round) and 70th(third round) overall selection in 2012 draft, first round draft choice in 2013 as well as left tackle Trent Williams.
Washington Redskins acquire the second overall selection in the 2012 draft, fourth round selection in 2013 as well as left tackle Roger Saffold.
Mike Shanahan may be willing to let Trent Williams leave in the right situation now that he is suspended for the first four games of the season and just one more mistake away from a season long suspension. Getting Saffold gives Shanahan a potential long-term left tackle with some consistency question-marks.
With Robert Griffin III under center, Kyle Shanahan finally has a quarterback capable of running his offense effectively. The Redskins' have a lot of talent both defensively and ofensively but were handicapped last season by Rex Grossman and John Beck.
Griffin III is seen as a special player and would be expected to lock down the quarterback position in Washington for the next decade.
3. Minnesota Vikings select - Matt Kalil, LT, USC.
Kalil is the clear-cut top ranked left tackle in this year's draft class. Considering he was the reason that Tyron Smith played right tackle in college, Kalil will enter the NFL with huge expectations. Having put their hope for a franchise quarterback in place last season, Kalil would be looked to as his blindside protector for the next decade.
With Kalil at left tackle, hopefully a full fit Adrian Peterson at tailback, Christian Ponder at quarterback, Kyle Rudolph at tight end and Percy Harvin at wide receiver, the Vikings would have a very impressive young base to build around on offense.
4. Cleveland Browns select - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU.
While most mock drafts will have Trent Richardson in this spot, I still can't convince myself that taking a running back in the top five is a good idea. In today's NFL, no team has two true shutdown cornerbacks. The Browns would be the first to make this happen by bringing in Claiborne.
The Browns undoubtedly need more firepower on offense, but with another first round pick in tow, the Browns can afford to take somewhat of an unconventional approach here, despite cornerback not being a major weakness on the roster.
5. Trade!!! Kansas City Chiefs select - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquire 11th overall (first round) selection in the 2012 draft, the 43rd overall (second round) selection in the 2012 draft as well as the second round selection in the 2013 draft.
Kansas City Chiefs receive the fifth overall (first round) selection in the 2012 draft.
The Chiefs are somewhat playing with house money in this situation. After their injury-ravaged 2011 season, the team had a much higher draft pick than their roster actually needs. New head coach Romeo Crennel will want to pair Richardson and Jamaal Charles to bring the Chiefs offense back to the Thomas Jones and Charles style of 2010.
Richardson is considered a game-changer a la Adrian Peterson. Most people, including myself, won't want to touch a running back in the top five or even top 10 of any draft. Richardson is such an impact player though that someone will bight on him.
The Chiefs will be expecting to be a playoff team next season, therefore that second round pick in 2013 shouldn't be a major loss to them. If that fails, and their season is a flop, they can always trade down a high pick to recoup the second round selection.
6. St. Louis Rams select - Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina.
Most mock drafts have Justin Blackmon going to the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, those analysts are concentrating too much on who is the better player opposed to who is the better fit. The Rams are in desperate need of a respectable deep-threat as Brandon Lloyd is unlikely to return.
With Danny Amendola coming back next year, and Danario Alexander not getting the job done, Jeffrey would become the perfect complement in the Rams offense and the big play receiver that Sam Bradford is desperately crying out for.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars select - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State.
If Blackmon is still on the board for the Jaguars at number seven and they do not pick him, Blaine Gabbert should instantly ask for a trade. Blackmon is different to Jeffrey in that he doesn't possess overwhelming deep-ball ability.
His speed and agility, combined with his strength, makes him one of the most difficult receivers to cover or read. Much like a Terrell Owens or Dez Bryant, Blackmon should provide an all-around game for whatever quarterback is throwing him passes.
8. Carolina Panthers select - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU.
Prior to last season, Ron Edwards and a pair of rookies were being looked to to fill the gap inside the Panthers' defensive line. Ideally they would be able to bring in a bulky run stuffer to get the best out of the team's linebackers behind and solidify the front, but Brockers' talent as a pass rusher can't be overlooked.
Brockers, and a healthy group of linebackers with Ron Edwards potentially returning from injury, the Panthers' defense could actually complement the offense enough to be a playoff contender next year.
9. Miami Dolphins select - Nick Perry, DE, USC.
The Dolphins defense is an ambiguous unit right now as the multiple front approach won't be fully appreciated until their off-season acquisitions are made. One thing is for certain, the Dolphins can't rely on Koa Misi to replace the impact of Jason Taylor last year regardless of scheme.
Whether it be as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, Perry could make a huge impact playing across from Cameron Wake next year. The Dolphins may have more needs on offense, but adding pass rushers is never a bad way to build your team.
10. Buffalo Bills - Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama.
The Bills are moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 next season in order to pair Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus inside. With Dareus and Williams inside, Courtney Upshaw would be my early favorite for rookie of the year on the outside.
The Bills front seven has been crying out for a pass rusher, or two, over the past few years. With Dareus, Williams and Upshaw, they would have three fearsome players who will make their secondary look even better than it is.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had many, many, many problems during last season. A problem that has hung around since the previous year was their lack of playmakers on offense. After passing on Trent Richardson earlier, because of LeGarrette Blount, the Bucs bring in Floyd to complement Mike Williams on the outside.
We don't really know what to expect from Greg Schiano as an NFL head coach, but he never lacked playmakers with Boise State on offense, don't expect him to be scared to go after a few in this draft.
12. Seattle Seahawks select - David DeCastro, G, Stanford.
I expect the Seahawks to make a strong play for Matt Flynn. With Flynn, and Marshawn Lynch hopefully returning, the Seahawks will need to protect their young quarterback with a strong running game.
It's too early for the Seahawks to give up on Russell Okung, and James Carpenter appears to be staying at tackle, therefore the Seahawks look to round out their offensive line with the best guard in this draft class and one of the best to come out in years.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford.
Levi Brown was still playing left tackle in the NFL last season. Cardinals fans have suffered enough with Brown, it's time for them to invest in a replacement. Martin is described as a balanced tackle who is talented both as a run and pass blocker.
His versatility perfectly fits the Cardinals offensive identity as they look to run a balanced offense. The Cardinals essentially have no choice but to bring in better pass protection. It's too much of a glaring hole on the roster.
14. Dallas Cowboys - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama.
The Cowboys won't be scared of bringing in a player with off-the-field issues and Jenkins is the only legitimate option for the team at this stage. The highest rated players right now would be running backs and offensive tackles.
The Cowboys need an upgrade of talent at cornerback and Jenkins has the ability to play press coverage which can only complement DeMarcus Ware and company upfront.
15. Trade!!! Chicago Bears select - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa.
Philadelphia Eagles acquire 19th overall (first round) selection in 2012 as well as the 81st overall (third round) selection in 2012.
Chicago Bears acquire 15th overall (first round) selection in 2012.
The Bears see an opportunity to move up ahead of the San Diego Chargers to get an offensive tackle and don't want to wait for the Chargers to have any chance of selecting him. The Eagles are happy to add a third round choice to only move back four positions.
The Bears, without Mike Martz, will need better pass protection on the offensive line next year. J'Marcus Webb simply isn't going to get it done as Jay Cutler's blindside protector. Reiff has the ability to play both left and right tackle.
After bringing in Gabe Carimi to be the team's starting right tackle last year, the Bears will have two dependable tackles in place to allow their offense to function next year.
16. Trade!!! Tennessee Titans select - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina.
New York Jets acquire 20th overall (first round) selection in 2012 draft and the 52nd overall (third round) in 2012 draft.
Tennessee Titans acquire 16th overall (first round) selection in 2012 draft.
The Jets are looking to trade down and pickup extra picks to cover multiple holes on the roster. There are a few options that they could take here, but instead they would be better to pick up an extra choice and still get one of the players they covet later in the round.
The Titans had a top ten defense in 2011, however they ranked second last in sacks. Trading up to draft Melvin Ingram, the team will be hoping to get a Von Miller type of player for their front seven. Ingram is a versatile defensive end who could play upright also.
With Kenny Britt coming back to the offense, and Chris Johnson hopefully returning to his regular form, the Titans offense should be strong next year. Defensively, they still need to add a playmaker or two, especially with Cortland Finnegan hitting free agency.
PART TWO of this draft will be published before the weekend.