2012 NFL Mock Draft featuring the Tar Heel Inside Scoop

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With the 2011-2012 NFL season rapidly coming to a close, the majority of teams have begun setting their focus toward next season. Although the year has just recently ended many fan bases are beginning to look to their respective team’s offseason potential as they aspire for great things next year. Although there is still a great deal of time to critique and speculate each team’s strategy during the upcoming draft, now that the order has been set, the projections can begin. The following Mock Draft (version 1.0) contains predictions for the outcome based on the information that is currently available potential first round prospects.

There has also been an exclusive “Tar Heel Inside Scoop” feature, which has been added to first round prospects from the University of North Carolina. This addition gives more in depth details and analysis about your former Tar Heel players who could potentially become first round picks in the this year’s draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts:            Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
Simply put, the number one pick in the 2012 NFL draft will be Andrew Luck. With all of the hype surrounding the Stanford QB, it would take nothing short of a miracle for Luck to go anywhere other than number one. His combination of accuracy, decision making, and football intelligence, make him the “safest” pick in recent memory. The only real questions at this point in the draft are “Do the Colts trade the pick?” and “How will Indianapolis handle the potential situation with he and Peyton Manning?”

2. St. Louis Rams:                 Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
With the way the draft order is currently situated, the St. Louis Rams look to be eyeing Justin Blackmon. While is do think that there is a very distinct possibility that this pick may be traded before the beginning of the draft, if the Rams decide to keep the pick, Blackmon makes the most sense. The team has been in need of legitimate weapon to assist quarterback Sam Bradford with his development. Alongside of WR Brandon Lloyd, the duo could potentially be one of the best in the league for St. Louis.

3. Minnesota Vikings:             Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
The upcoming NFL draft will go a long way in exposing the Viking’s true opinions of second year quarterback Christian Ponder. Assuming that the team is committed to him long term at this point in his career (which I believe they are), the teams should be strongly looking in the direction of Matt Kalil. This addition would help Ponder stay upright, and also assist running back Adrian Peterson with his on field accolades.

Your Tar Heel Inside Scoop and the rest of the first round up next

4. Cleveland Browns:             Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
After a stellar 2011 NCAA Football season and a Heisman Trophy added to his resume, Robert Griffin has seen his draft stock soar in recent months. If he slides down to the fourth pick, the Browns should scoop him up without any hesitation. While the Colt McCoy experiment has been fairly solid up until this point, the addition of a talent of Griffin’s caliber would reenergize the entire fan base. It would also potentially give the team the franchise quarterback that has long eluded them.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:        Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
This pick will be solely predicated on the team’s choice to replace Raheem Morris as head coach. At this point, I believe that Morris Claiborne will be the selection. However, if the team hires a coach with a more offensive based mindset, the team could select running back Trent Richardson instead.

6. Washington Redskins:            Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
In the event that Trent Richardson falls to the sixth spot, it is all but a lock that the Redskins will jump on him. Richardson could be the back that head coach Mike Shanahan has been missing since Clinton Portis’ departure. While the Redskins are certainly more than one player away from being serious contenders, Richardson would likely give them the workhorse back to power Shanahan’s run heavy offensive game plan.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars:            Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
While the Jaguars do have a number of positions that need to be filled, the most notable is the void at wide receiver. While Mike Thomas proved to be a solid option last year, it is clear that the team still needs a great deal of help at the position. With second year quarterback Blane Gabbert attempting to develop into a franchise player for the Jaguars, adding a solid receiving option would certainly pay dividends.  While it is a bit of a stretch, I believe that the Jaguars will invest their seventh pick on Jeffery.

8. Carolina Panthers:            Devin Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
After their defensive issues and injuries last season, the Carolina Panthers are all but a lock to draft a defensive lineman with their eighth overall pick. When you consider the fact that the Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is a former defensive coordinator, the team should undoubtedly be looking to sure up their defensive unit.  The real question here is whether the Panthers will select Devin Still, or DT Quniton Couples out of UNC. While this pick could easily go either way, I give still the slight edge in this situation. However, the question of whether or not this prediction holds true until the actual draft remains to be seen.

9. Miami Dolphins:                Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
While the Dolphins have spent a great deal of resources in recent years on improving their offensive line, I believe that they will once again make it their target when making their selection. If the draft work out in the manner that I project it will, Riley Reiff will be a significant value pick at this point in the draft. When you combine that fact with the Dolphins recent emphasis on their O-Line, I believe that Reiff will become the ninth selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.