NFL Dream Draft 2012

This is a fun idea I saw in other places on the internet, a dream draft. The point is, to give myself the 16.5th pick (right in the middle of the round) in every round, and take the best available player on my board, not paying any attention to team need, and knowing who would be available in the next round. Let’s see some results.

1. DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois)

I think in 3 years time we’ll see Whitney Mercilus as the top pass rusher out of this draft class. He led college football with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles, and was 2nd with 22.5 tackles for loss, but fell to the Texans at 26 because he was only a one year starter. Mercilus had only recorded 2 sacks in his first 2 years at Illinois, but this was because he rarely saw playing time as a small time recruit.

He worked his way up the depth charts and proved everyone wrong by dominating each and every offensive lineman he faced once he got a chance, including Ohio State’s Mike Adams (a 2012 2nd round pick), and Wisconsin’s Ricky Wagner (a potential 2013 1st round pick). He’s got underrated athleticism and is already a very natural pass rusher. He comes from humble beginnings, has high character, and a fantastic motor and with good coaching (which he’ll get in Houston from Wade Phillips) as well as more experience, he should become one of the league’s premier pass rushers.

He compares favorably to Aldon Smith and should dominate as a rookie in a situational role before becoming an every down player in his 2nd year. He’s not great against the run, but he has solid size (6-4 261) and weight room strength (27 reps of 225) and can develop into a better player against the run. I’d much rather have him than someone like Chandler Jones (can play the run right now, but a project as a pass rusher), Quinton Coples (can play the run and rush the passer, but questionable motor), Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw (tweeners), Bruce Irvin (undersized, one trick pony) and Shea McClellin (undersized and an average athlete).

2. OLB Zach Brown (North Carolina)

Zach Brown is a rare athlete at the linebacker position at 6-1 244 with 4.44 speed and came into his own this season with 105 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, 4 deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. He needs to become more physical and fight through blockers, but his ability to drop in coverage, his ability to rush off the edge or up the middle, and his natural speed and athleticism will make him an asset in today’s pass heavy NFL.

3. WR Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers)

Mohamed Sanu is a very one dimensional player, but he’s very good at what he does and he’ll thrive in a possession role opposite a feared deep threat in the NFL, much like the one he’ll serve in with the Bengals opposite AJ Green. Mohamed Sanu has 4.6 speed and only caught 4 passes longer than 20 yards in 3 years at Rutgers, but he’s got good size (6-2 211), excellent hands, and is a great route runner. Despite playing with 3 different freshman rookie in his time at Rutgers, Sanu managed 210 catches in 3 years, including 115 for 1206 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2011.

He accounted for almost half (115/256) of his team’s completions this season and is one of the most physical wide receivers you’ll ever see. He has no fear going over the middle and can snatch the ball in traffic. He’s a very willing and very able run blocker and tough to take down in the open field. In his earlier years at Rutgers, he even rushed for 655 yards on 121 carries. He won’t get a lot of separation, but he has such good hands and body control that he doesn’t need a lot of separation and if defenses are afraid of the deep strike on the other side of the field, it’ll open things up underneath for Sanu. He fits in very well in Cincinnati and might even become TJ Houshmanzadeh 2.0 for them.

4. OT Bobby Massie (Mississippi)

Several players slipped on draft day, but Massie might have been the most surprising and perplexing. Some guys slipped for injury reasons, but Massie did not. Adam Schefter tweeted that he texted a high ranked official in the NFL asking why Massie was failing, to which the official replied “no idea.” Massie was just a right tackle at Mississippi, but has good enough feet to play the left side in the NFL like Tyron Smith, a right tackle at USC who will play on the left side in his 2nd season in Dallas in 2012. He doesn’t have Smith’s power or athleticism obviously, but he has good size (6-6 316), long arms (35 inches), and adequate athletic ability.

He’s a good run blocker who can hold his own in pass protection and will immediately upgrade the right side at Arizona and may end up at left tackle long term if Levi Brown continues to struggle. In a weak year for offensive tackles, Massie was not expected to get out of the 2nd round. Instead, he went in the 4th round.

5. WR Juron Criner (Arizona)

Criner is not dissimilar to Mohamed Sanu. He has 4.6 speed, but great size at 6-3 224 and was very productive at Arizona, often bailing out quarterback Nick Foles, who went in the 3rd round. The differences are that Criner did have a better quarterback throwing to him, and was slightly less productive with 209 catches in 4 years. There are also undisclosed psychological issues that he has that might have been behind his fall to the 5thround, but he’s definitely worth a shot there.

6. DT Billy Winn (Boise State)

I’m not entirely sure what was behind Winn’s fall to the 6th round as he was almost universally projected to go in the 3rd or 4th round. He’s undersized at 6-4 294 and only put up 24 reps of 225. He struggles some against the run, but he’s an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He’s the ideal height and weight and is a great one gap penetrator who is better as a pass rusher than run stuffer.

He’s a well coached, high motor, 3 year starter at Boise State with 133 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, and 17 sacks in his career. He’ll be a fine nickel rusher in Cleveland at defensive tackle in a 4-3 and should be a better player long term than John Hughes, who was so big of a reach in the 3rd round that he didn’t even plan on having his draft party until day 3 (rounds 4-7). He was reportedly very caught off guard by going that high.

7. C David Molk (Michigan)

Molk fell because of his height (6-1) and short arms (32 inches), but he plays center so that’s not a huge issue. He’s a tremendous run blocker for a center and Michigan’s run heavy offense almost always went through him. He was a very valuable “point of attack” man with great weight room strength (41 reps), who had a phenomenal motor and great intangibles. He’s intelligent and a leader on the offensive line.

He’s only an average athlete, but his position makes that not such a big deal and he has everything you want out of a starting center. I believe Molk will be a starter in this league someday, a statement Adam Schefter agreed with when he took time out of his normal reporting to tweet that the Chargers would be very satisfied and with Molk as a 7th round pick.

Undrafted: RB Chris Polk (Washington)

Not really a surprise here, Polk seems to be the consensus top undrafted free agent available. He was snatched up by the Eagles after draft day, a team that reportedly had a 4th round grade on him. There were concerns about his weight at the Senior Bowl (222 pounds) and he was out of shape, but he got back into shape at The Combine, where he ran in the 4.4s at 215 pounds. There were also some durability concerns after 799 career carries at Washington.

However, he was one of the Pac-12’s best backs for 3 years, amassing 4016 yards in 3 years behind below average offensive line. He is an incredibly physical back who rarely goes down on first contact and rarely gets tackled for a loss. He doesn’t have a lot of breakaway speed or athleticism, but he ran in the 4.4s and he has adequate speed and pass catching ability.

He should be a solid part of a tandem in the NFL and can carry the load if needed and be a good volume yardage back. Even though he went undrafted, many are expecting he will make the Eagles roster. In fact, I’d be surprised if he didn’t make it as their #3 back behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. He’s bigger than both of those backs so he could see carries right away in short yardage situations.

Undrafted: WR Gerell Robinson (Arizona State)

Gerell Robinson was a heavily recruited player who did absolutely nothing for 3 and a half years at Arizona State, but a light clicked midseason this year and he caught 58 passes for 1095 yards and 4 touchdowns in his last 8 games, including 13 catches for 241 yards and a touchdown in their bowl game against Boise State. In that game, he resembled Anquan Boldin because of his physicality as a blocker and his fearlessness going over the middle and ability to catch contested balls. He was also very tough to tackle in the open field, as you would expect out of a 6-4 227 pound receiver.

He was definitely worth a pick to see if he could continue his hot streak into the pros, like Denarius Moore did for Oakland last year. Those two have very similar stories. He goes into a good situation in Denver as they have a great quarterback, but a lack of depth at the receiver position. He could definitely make the roster and make an impact at some point.

Undrafted: WR Dwight Jones (North Carolina)

Jones fell because of character issues. He struggled at the Senior Bowl and coaches frequently yelled at him for various reasons. He has attitude issues and was suspended for North Carolina’ bowl game before being reinstated. He’s also been knocked for being out of shape and overweight at 6-3 230, though he ran well at The Combine (4.55).

However, on the field, Jones fought through inconsistent quarterback play to catch 147 balls for 2142 yards and 16 touchdowns in the last two seasons. He was very consistent, catching at least 4 balls for 72 yards in every game except one this past season and he has natural athleticism and pass catching abilities. He deserved to be drafted and still has a lot of upside. He was picked up by Houston and could make their roster after they cut Jacoby Jones (though they drafted 2 other receivers).

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