Mock Draft 3.0 (Pre-Combine Edition, 2 Rounds): Steelers Select ILB Dont’a Hightower and OG Kevin Zeitler
44. Kansas City Chiefs: Zebrie Sanders OT (Florida State)
Even though Kansas City might try to resign Barry Richardson, their Right Tackle spot is still in need of an upgrade. If Zebrie Sanders falls this far, I can see the Chiefs selecting Sanders to replace Richardson. At 6’5 307 lbs. and a 4 year starter at Florida State, Sanders has all the experience in the world to transfer to the N.F.L.. His run-blocking is thought to be sound, although he does have some issues in pass protection and could be a Right Tackle only in the professional ranks after a poor performance at the Senior Bowl.
Sanders’ experience playing both Left and Right Tackle spots in college is intriguing, and it should factor in greatly if he is asked to start the 2012 season on the bench and is called upon to be the “Swing Tackle” on game-days. In the event Sanders is available at #44, Kansas City should not hesitate to take him.
45. Dallas Cowboys: Kelechi Osemele OG/OT (Iowa State)
Dallas needs help on the interior of their Offensive Line, there’s no doubt about it. If the Cowboys do go the CB route in Round 1, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they and should be targeting a player like Kelechi Osemele or another one of the Guards like Brandon Washington or Kevin Zeitler in Round 2.
Osemele projects as a Guard at the pro level, but he did display quite a bit of athleticism in college where he played Left Tackle and Guard at Iowa State and started 3.5 seasons in college. His large build 6’5″ 347 lbs. and ability to run block should allow him to kick inside with a team like Dallas looking to upgrade the interior of their Offensive Line.
46. Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Gilmore CB (South Carolina)
If you had told me that Philadelphia would be selecting a CB early in the 2012 Draft last August, I would have thought you were nuts. But with Asante Samuel on his way out and DR-C only proving to be average last season, Philadelphia will need some depth and upgrades in its Secondary this offseason.
Stephon Gilmore is a big Corner (6’1″ 193 lbs.) that does well playing in Zone schemes. His experience and success in the S.E.C. can only help him transitioning to the professional ranks, and he could be asked to play significant time as a Nickel Back this season.
47. New York Jets: Kendall Reyes DT/DE (Connecticut)
The Jets are going to need an upgrade to replace Mike DeVito as early as 2013, and pairing Kendall Reyes with 2nd Year man Muhammad Wilkerson would give New York a solid set of 5-Technique Defensive Ends to build their Line around for years to come. This would be a quality selection for the Jets as they fill a position of need while also getting value in a player of Reyes’ caliber.
An All-Big East performer in 2010 and 2011, Reyes performed well as a Defensive Tackle during his time with the Huskies, and registered 13.5 Tackles For Loss and 4.5 Sacks this past season. Although he played mostly as a 4-3 Tackle, Reyes has the frame (6’4″ 296 lbs.), to fit perfectly into a 3-4 scheme as a 5-Technique Defensive End.
48. New England Patriots: Vinny Curry DE/OLB (Marshall)
Even if New England decides to draft a Whitney Mercilus/Pass Rusher in Round 1, they still should be looking in the direction of a rush/speed OLB in Round 2 where there still could be some terrific prospects available like Marshall’s Vinny Curry. Curry, 6’3″ 263 lbs., was an All-Conference USA 1st team selection in 2011, and put up a ridiculous 11.0 Sacks and notched 21.5 Tackles For Loss to earn those accolades.
New England has a lot of holes to fill on Defense, but getting multiple effective OLB’s should be a high priority. If they wish to compete against the high-powered Offenses of the A.F.C., they had better find ways to get to the QB. Otherwise, they’ll be left in the dust in the Playoffs.
49. San Diego Chargers: Ronnell Lewis OLB (Oklahoma)
In the event that the Chargers go Offensive Line in Round 1, they will likely look to upgrade their Pass Rush in Round 2 by selecting an OLB. At this point, Travis LaBoy is in the twilight of his career, and Larry English has proved himself to be a full-scale bust since being drafted in the 1st Round in 2009. That being said, the Chargers must put another pass-rushing threat across from Antwan Barnes.
Hopefully a “Swiss-Army Knife” player like Ronnell Lewis can help San Diego’s Pass Rush in 2012. At 6’2″ 244 lbs., Lewis made his mark at Oklahoma by playing all over the field as an OLB and a Defensive End, and in 2011 earned 1st Team All-Big XII honors by recording 13 Tackles For Loss and 5.5 Sacks for the Sooners. Extremely quick off the snap, Lewis could step in Day 1 and help the Chargers in passing situations before bulking up a tad and settling in to a starting role.
50. Chicago Bears: Dwayne Allen TE (Clemson)
Jay Cutler needs weapons, and he needs them fast. Chicago can do him a favor by targeting Michael Floyd in Round 1, but Floyd’s services are not enough. Cutler will need a Tight End to throw to, and TE Dwayne Allen could be just the guy to help him.
Dwayne Allen could go earlier than Pick 50 and some teams could trade up into the 1st Round for his services, but at this point I see the teams in front of Chicago in Round 2 with bigger needs to fill than TE. That is not to say that Allen didn’t have a terrific career at Clemson. At 6’4″ 255 lbs., Allen has soft hands and is a very polished route runner and will undoubtedly create matchup problems in the middle of the field. If Chicago want to give Cutler another option to throw to and work the middle, drafting a guy of Allen’s caliber is necessary.
51. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Weeden QB (Oklahoma State)
Philadelphia could be leaning QB in Rounds 2-3 in 2012 because if Michael Vick gets hurt, Mike Kafka might not be a viable option to replace him. If Philadelphia does decide to draft a QB in 2012, they could look at Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden.
In spite of his age (29 this October), Weeden (6’4” 219 lbs.) has a skill set that can transfer well to what the Eagles do on Offense. Equipped with a quick release, a strong arm, and a mature attitude, Weeden has quite a bit going for him as an N.F.L. prospect. Even though it is a bit of a luxury pick, Philadelphia does need to find a viable backup for Vick in case something goes wrong and they aren’t sold on Mike Kafka.
52. Tennessee Titans: Bobby Wagner OLB (Utah State)
Tennessee will be looking to upgrade their Defense this offseason, and will probably be keen on finding some help at the OLB spot. If Bobby Wagner falls to them at #52, the Titans would be hard pressed to say no.
Wagner established himself as a tackling machine during his career at Utah State. He might be short 6′, but he is built like a vending machine at 240 lbs., and put his tackling prowess on display at The Senior Bowl. With a strong workout at The Combine, Wagner could vault himself into the early 2nd Round.
53. Cincinnati Bengals: Trumaine Johnson CB/S (Montana)
Trumaine Johnson is one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire 2012 Draft. The 6’2″ 204 lbs. Johnson dominated at 1-AA Montana, and established himself as a shut-down Corner. Johnson has the size and strength to translate well to the N.F.L., and I liken him to a more polished Ike Taylor with better hands.
If Cincinnati is serious about upgrading its Secondary, they should look to Johnson who has the size and ball skills to be a very successful Free Safety in the N.F.L. as well. I mean, it’s not very often that you can find someone of Johnson’s size with 4.5 speed as a CB or Safety. The upside is there, and I believe that a team like Cincinnati will be willing to gamble on him.
54. Detroit Lions: Leonard Johnson CB (Iowa State)
As I stated during my breakdown of the Lions’ 1st Round selection, Detroit is in desperate need of help in their Secondary if they wish to compete against the juggernaut Offenses in the N.F.C.. If the Lions are smart, it would not surprise me in the least if they decided to double-dip on picks to upgrade their Secondary in Rounds 1 and 2.
Leonard Johnson fits the mold of what the Lions want in a CB. He’s scrappy (5’10 202 lbs.), he’s physical, and he can play zone coverage well. In fact, one of Johnson’s best games last season came against Justin Blackmon in the Cyclone’s upset win over Oklahoma State. A tough specimen, Johnson will fit right in with Detroit’s rough and sometimes overly aggressive Defense.