Robert Griffin III from Baylor greets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after Griffin was selected #2 overall by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.
(April 25, 2012 – Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America)
2012 NFL Draft
The Huddle provided analysis of each first-round pick on the first night of the 2012 NFL draft. Be sure to come back for more of the same Friday and Saturday as the draft marches on for Rounds 2-7.
1. Colts — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: In a move that had been predicted for months and known for a week, the Colts enlist Peyton Manning’s successor. Some regard Luck as the best quarterback prospect since Manning in 1998, others go back to John Elway in 1983. Indianapolis fans can only hope Luck comes within a horseshoe’s throw of the standard Manning set during his 14-year tenure, one that produced four MVPs, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship. The big question now is, who will new Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson draft to support Luck after the team’s offseason roster purge?
2. Redskins (from Rams) — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: RGIII is the first franchise quarterback in the nation’s capital since Joe Theismann in the 1980s, maybe even since Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen was in his prime in the ’60s. The ‘Skins took pride in winning three Super Bowls with three different signal callers in the first Joe Gibbs era. But that’s clearly not a championship formula now. Seven of the past 11 Super Bowls have been won by QBs who own multiple rings (Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger); Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers accounted for three other Lombardi Trophies. The lone outlier: Brad Johnson — ironically a former Redskin — who often rode shotgun to the Buccaneers defense in 2002.
3. Browns (from Vikings) — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Cleveland paid handsomely (four picks, including the No. 4 selection) an hour ago to move up one spot for the assurance they’d get Richardson, regarded by many experts as the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft. Going this high is a huge endorsement of his ability — he set a school record with 21 TDs last season — given the relative devaluation of workhorse tailbacks at the NFL level in recent years; no back has been drafted this early since Reggie Bush went second overall to the Saints in 2006. Richardson will be counted on to grind out yards when the Lake Erie winds blow in December while immediately becoming the guy who takes pressure off third-year QB Colt McCoy. He also fills a need after Cleveland let Peyton Hillis leave in free agency.
4. Vikings (from Browns) — Matt Kalil, T, USC: Minnesota picked up three extra selections and still gets the guy many draftniks thought they would take all along. Kalil will be expected to immediately become second-year QB Christian Ponder’s blind side sentinel, a good thing given Ponder’s injury-pocked history. Last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson, should shift to guard, clearly a better fit for his skill set. Kalil will be tested early and often in the NFC North as he tries to fend off Grade A pass rushers like Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews III, Cliff Avril and Ndamukong Suh.
5. Jaguars (from Buccaneers) — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: This draft was said to have six blue-chip prospects in many quarters, and Jacksonville trades up two spots (surrendering a fourth-rounder) to get one. The Jags take Blackmon, the reigning Biletnikoff winner, who’s caught 232 passes over the past two seasons. Mike Thomas was Jacksonville’s leading wideout in 2011 with a mere 44 receptions. Second-year QB Blaine Gabbert suddenly has a much more formidable set of targets that also includes free agent pickups Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans.
6. Cowboys (from Redskins via Rams) — Morris Claiborne, CB LSU: Many experts thought Alabama S Mark Barron was the apple of Dallas’ eye. Instead they send St. Louis a second-round pick to jump up eight spots to get Claiborne, widely rated as this draft’s top defensive player. A converted wideout, Claiborne has topshelf ball skills and gives the Cowboys a suddenly stout set of corners after Brandon Carr was signed to a huge free agent deal with former Pro Bowler Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick in reserve. In a division full of teams that can field potent three-receiver sets, this looks like a savvy move by Jerry Jones and Co.
7. Buccaneers (from Jaguars) — Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron’s been rising up draft boards for weeks despite coming off hernia surgery. He solidifies a defense that allowed the most points in the NFL in 2011, a big reason Tampa Bay ended the season on a 10-game skid. He enters a division that will test his coverage skills with Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan sure to try him out deep. However no one questions Barron’s instincts or ability to move into the box and shut down opposing run games.
8. Dolphins — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: The former Aggies wideout becomes Miami’s first Round 1 quarterback selection since Dan Marino in 1983. Though some question Tannehill’s NFL-readiness after he made just 19 starts in college, he may be going to the ideal spot for a developmental prospect. Veterans Matt Moore and/or David Garrard can start for the Fish in 2011 while teaching the rookie. New head coach Joe Philbin helped turn Aaron Rodgers into an MVP and Matt Flynn into an NFL-caliber starter while in Green Bay. And heck, maybe Tannehill can even catch a few balls after WR Brandon Marshall was shipped out last month.
9. Panthers — Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College: Carolina begins bolstering a defense that was ravaged by injuries last year. Kuechly is a middle linebacker by trade but could play the weak side assuming incumbent Panthers MLB Jon Beason returns after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the 2011 regular-season opener. Kuechly boasts 4.5 speed in the 40 and thrives in pass coverage, a good trait to have in the NFC South.
10. Bills — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: Some scouts like Gilmore, who has 40 SEC starts to his credit and has also steadily been rising throughout the predraft process, as much as Claiborne. He joins an aging group of Buffalo corners, though they should get more support in 2012 from a front four that now ranks among the league’s best with the free agent additions of DEs Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
11. Chiefs — Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis: Poe fills a gaping hole in the middle of the K.C. defense with his athletic, 346-pound frame. Despite playing against lesser competition at Memphis, Poe has a chance to harness his vast potential under the tutelage of Romeo Crennel. Poe likely takes over for aging vet Kelly Gregg and improves the talent core of what may be one of the league’s most underrated rosters.
12. Eagles (from Seahawks) — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Cox is athletic, relentless and just what the doctor ordered for Philadelphia’s preferred Wide-9 defensive set, which was often gashed up the middle last season with DEs Trent Cole and Jason Babin set wide before they launched themselves at quarterbacks. Cox has the look of an every-down player who can not only help plug running lanes but also has the motor to bag some sacks, too. Philadelphia gives up a fourth- and sixth-rounder to move up the three spots for Cox.
13. Cardinals — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Arizona bypasses the chance to improve an O-line that allowed 54 sacks in 2011 to pair Floyd with Larry Fitzgerald. The last time Fitzgerald had a wingman this good (Anquan Boldin), the Cards were perched atop the NFC West … though it certainly helped to have QB Kurt Warner, too. Regardless, Floyd should take some heat off Fitzgerald and provide a nice fallback target to QB Kevin Kolb (or John Skelton). Bonus: Floyd’s downfield blocking prowess is good news for RBs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Floyd did have some alcohol-related problems in South Bend, but the Cardinals are rarely deterred by such off-field questions when it comes to draft day, and Floyd may be just as good as Blackmon in the final analysis.
14. Rams (from Cowboys) — Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: After trading down twice (St. Louis originally owned the No. 2 choice), St. Louis beefs up its defensive interior with the raw but hugely promising Brockers. At 6-6, 322 pounds, Brockers is a formidable presence who should disrupt the pocket and/or draw double teams away from pass rushing DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn. The Rams now have three choices in the second round and perhaps that’s when they’ll start enlisting offensive support for QB Sam Bradford and RB Steven Jackson.
15. Seahawks (from Eagles) — Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia: The first real shocker of the night, Irvin is a bona fide pass rusher and clearly fills a sore spot for Seattle GM John Schneider, who’s never afraid to defy “conventional draft wisdom” … remember he surprised many by tabbing RT James Carpenter in Round 1 a year ago. Irvin had legal run-ins at West Virginia and even prior to his arrival in Morgantown, so Schneider is banking that coach Pete Carroll can get Irvin on the straight narrow … and also on the shortest path to opposing quarterbacks; DE Chris Clemons had 11 sacks for Seattle last year while the remainder of the D-line had just 10 sacks.
16. Jets — Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: He may be the most physically gifted pass rusher in the draft and offers an athletically imposing 6-6, 284-pound frame that offers easy comparisons to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers. However scouts say Coples was much better playing inside in 2010 than he was at end in 2011, and he admits to performing poorly in his senior year. If Rex Ryan can extract the most from Coples’ vast abilities, the next question is where to play him. Does he play end on the team’s three-man front — DE Muhammad Wilkerson was the top choice in 2011 — or can he be effective enough in occasional zone pass coverage to play outside linebacker where New York seems to need more help? Whatever the answer, the Jets seem to have landed a needed edge rusher … but the same was said when they took flameout Vernon Gholston four years ago.
17. Bengals (from Raiders) — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: This is the pick Cincinnati obtained from Oakland for QB Carson Palmer last year, and the choice makes sense. The Bengals had an excellent corner tandem for years with Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. But Joseph went on to flourish in Houston last season while Hall was felled by an Achilles’ tear last November. Kirkpatrick should start from Day 1 alongside Hall (assuming he’s recovered), allowing graybeards Terence Newman and Nate Clements to play selective snaps along with presumed nickel man Pacman Jones.
18. Chargers — Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina: San Diego has been trying to improve its pass rush ever since Shawne Merriman’s decline began in 2008. Ingram has a non-stop motor, though his smallish size (6-2, 264 pounds) and short arms were red flags to some. Now he joins a trio of pass rushers that got 11 unexpected sacks from Antwan Barnes in 2011, but little from aging Shaun Phillips (3.5) or rarely healthy Larry English (2). Very possibly a pick made with the knowledge that the Bolts must bury Peyton Manning to reclaim the AFC West this season.
19. Bears — Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State: Interesting choice since McClellin was presumed to best fit teams like the Packers, Patriots and Jets who favor 3-4 defensive alignments. An instinctive hustler with good speed, Chicago must decide whether to rush the 6-3, 260-pounder from the line opposite Julius Peppers or use him as a SAM linebacker alongside MLB Brian Urlacher and WLB Lance Briggs. (Note: Outside of the three quarterbacks, only four offensive players have come off the board so far while 11 defenders have been chosen.)
20. Titans — Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Robert Griffin III’s main target in Waco may one day be Jake Locker’s security blanket in Nashville. Wright had 108 catches for 1,663 yards and 14 TDs last year while snaring passes from RGIII. At 5-10 and 196 pounds, he may be destined early on for a slot role with Kenny Britt and Nate Washington lining up outside. A selection who should help Matt Hasselbeck and/or Locker while also making defenses pay for stacking the line against RB Chris Johnson.
21. Patriots (from Bengals) — Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: New England gave up a third rounder to move up six spots for Jones, who has one brother (Arthur) who plays for the Ravens and another (Jon “Bones” Jones) who’s a UFC light heavyweight champ. Chandler Jones may need some time to reach his full potential, but he’ll also likely be counted on early for a defensive line that lost 20 sacks this offseason as DEs Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are no longer on the roster.
22. Browns (from Falcons) — Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Clearly Cleveland wasn’t scared by his age (28) after he played minor league baseball in the Yankees system but may have been more concerned Weeden wouldn’t last until they select next at pick No. 37. Given his advanced years, no reason to believe Weeden won’t immediately battle Colt McCoy for the starting job in a city that hasn’t had a love affair with its quarterback since Bernie Kosar left. Weeden passed for more than 9,000 yards and 71 TDs his final two years in Stillwater, and his strong right arm might well cut through the lakeside wind better than McCoy’s.
23. Lions — Riley Reiff, T, Iowa: The knock on Reiff has been his 33-inch arms, short for a tackle, though they’re longer than Browns all-pro Joe Thomas’. Reiff could immediately push Detroit RT Gosder Cherilus for snaps and could eventually succeed Jeff Backus on QB Matthew Stafford’s blind side. A former tight end, Reiff has good feet and should keep Stafford upright for years to come.
24. Steelers — David DeCastro, G, Stanford: Folks in the Steel City will love DeCastro. Not only does he solidify an often suspect O-line, he plays with a nasty demeanor and should elicit memories of longtime all-pro Alan Faneca. Even though RB Rashard Mendenhall is coming off an ACL tear, Pittsburgh’s running game just got better. DeCastro and C Maurkice Pouncey should be a formidable interior duo for the next decade and receive a lot of thank-you dinners from QB Ben Roethlisbeger along the way.
25. Patriots (from Broncos) — Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: The fourth Crimson Tide player picked tonight, Hightower’s versatility is a perfect fit in New England, which gave up a fourth rounder to Denver to move up six spots for him. Hightower has some pass rush skills, but the 265-pounder really shines with the thunderous hits he delivers from his standard inside linebacker spot. He’ll keep the Patriots scheme-versatile, so expect an ongoing mixture of 4-3 and 3-4 looks from a defense that was suspect in 2011 but has gotten much better in the last hour.
26. Texans — Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: Mario Who? Mercilus steps into the void left by Mario Williams’ free agent departure and should join OLBs Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed in chasing down quarterbacks. Mercilus had 16 sacks and forced nine fumbles in 2011, though he’ll have to shake whispers that he could be a one-year wonder after failing to do much prior to his junior year.
27. Bengals (from Saints via Patriots) — Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin: Cincinnati plugs a gap after losing G Nate Livings in free agency and likely bidding adieu to veteran G Bobbie Williams. Good news for new RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, though QB Andy Dalton might’ve cast his vote for another outside receiver to pair with A.J. Green … though with the Round 3 pick the Bengals added tonight, that concern may be addressed tomorrow. Zeitler comes from a long line of Badgers blockers and should step into a starting job immediately.
28. Packers — Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: No surprise that Green Bay goes for the edge presence to line up opposite OLB Clay Matthews III, who garnered plenty of double teams on his way to a career-low six sacks in 2011. Perry should either lighten the attention on Matthews or collect a lot of sacks against one-on-one blocking for a unit that struggled mightily in 2011 while surrendering the most yards in the NFL.
29. Vikings (from Ravens) — Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: The Vikings were burned for a league-worst 34 TD passes in 2011. Enter Smith, who may have just become the best safety on the roster, as a back line defender who should be able to prevent some of those bombs, though they’ll continue to rain down in a division loaded with masterful quarterbacks. Baltimore picks up Round 2 and Round 4 picks from Minnesota while backing out of the first round.
30. 49ers — A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: With no obvious need, we have to assume Jenkins was atop San Francisco’s board even though he’s a player who could seemingly have been obtained later in the draft with Rueben Randle, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and other more highly rated wideout prospects still available. But far be it from us to question the recent sterling draft record of Niners GM Trent Baalke. With Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss likely to get most of the snaps in 2012, Jenkins should have the luxury of developing at his own pace in Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
31. Buccaneers (from Patriots via Broncos) — Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: The Bucs missed out on Trent Richardson at the top of the round, but they may have still procured a player who could supplant one-dimensional LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Martin runs with burst, catches the ball well and blocks while Blount struggles noticeably in all of those categories. Martin, who’s drawn comparisons to Ray Rice — a man whom new Bucs coach Greg Schiano had at Rutgers — may well be the multi-faceted complement QB Josh Freeman needs while Blount assumes a sledgehammer/change-of-pace role. Given Schiano’s penchant to keep the ball on the ground, Martin and Blount should both get plenty of touches anyway. Denver gets Tampa’s second-round pick and a fourth on its way out of Round 1 after doing two deals tonight.
32. Giants — David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech: GM Jerry Reese opts to bolster his backfield ahead of his transitioning O-line or battered tight end group. Wilson could find himself in a prominent role for the champs right off the bat given the offseason departure of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw’s ongoing issues with his foot. Wilson ran for 1,709 yards in 2011 and caught 22 passes, so he’s capable of being a three-down player, good news if Bradshaw continues to miss significant chunks of time.
Pick by Pick
Pick Team Player Position
1 Colts Andrew Luck QB
2 Redskins Robert Griffin III QB
3 Browns Trent Richardson RB
4 Vikings Matt Kalil OT
5 Jaguars Justin Blackmon WR
6 Cowboys Morris Claiborne CB
7 Buccaneers Mark Barron S
8 Dolphins Ryan Tannehill QB
9 Panthers Luke Kuechly LB
10 Bills Stephon Gilmore CB
11 Chiefs Dontari Poe DT
12 Eagles Fletcher Cox DT
13 Cardinals Michael Floyd WR
14 Rams Michael Brockers DT
15 Seahawks Bruce Irvin DE/OLB
16 Jets Quinton Coples DE
17 Bengals Dre Kirkpatrick CB
18 Chargers Melvin Ingram DE/OLB
19 Bears Shea McClellin DE/OLB
20 Titans Kendall Wright WR
21 Patriots Chandler Jones DE/OLB
22 Browns Brandon Weeden QB
23 Lions Riley Reiff OT
24 Steelers David DeCastro OG
25 Patriots Dont’a Hightower LB
26 Texans Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB
27 Bengals Kevin Zeitler OG
28 Packers Nick Perry DE/OLB
29 Vikings Harrison Smith S
30 49ers A.J. Jenkins WR
31 Buccaneers Doug Martin RB
32 Giants David Wilson RB