It’s NFL Draft Day and for draft geeks like yours truly it’s one of year’s top sports days…

I realize that only the 1st round will be held tonight but that’s the best round anyway. It’s where all of the excitement is. Well, for the past 15 or so years I’ve done my own mock draft for on-air purposes and this year is no different.

Here are a couple of quick rules I set up for myself, just so you know how I’m playing this game:

— I never forecast trades because it’s just too unpredictable

— I’m not making predictions of what the teams will do, I’m simply offering up what I would do if I were making the picks myself (a scary thought for some, I know)

As is the case with most NFL teams, my opinions on players wind up as a mixed bag of great picks and  stunningly awful ones. I thought guys like DE Andre Wadsworth (3rd overall ’98), Chris Claiborne (9th overall ’99), Lavar Arrington (2nd overall in ’00) and David Terrell (8th overall ’01) were going to be superstars. So, yeah. That happened.

I’ve also had some great calls. Here are the ones I’m most proud of over the years:

— I called Lawrence Phillips (6th overall ’96) a bust on draft day, thought he was a product of Huskers’ system

— From the word “go” I had Akili Smith (3rd overall in ’99) down in the “he’s gonna bomb” category

— Also accurately predicted that Edgerrin James (4th overall ’99) would be a far better pro than Heisman winner Ricky Williams (5th overall in ’99)

—  2001 was my best call ever and I took a lot of heat for it – I said that Drew Brees would be a much better NFL quarterback than Michael Vick and that Atlanta should have used the #1 overall pick on LaDanian Tomlinson so they could take Brees at the top of the 2nd round. I said it both before and after the draft and I got absolutely hammered for it. But I was right.

— I had Vince Young (3rd overall in ’06) down as a bust before Tennessee took him.

Anyway, without any further adieu, here’s my mock for 2012. Enjoy the fun tonight!

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford)

No brainer. New franchise QB to pick up where Peyton Manning left off.

2. Washington Redskins (from STL)  – Robert Griffin III, QB (Baylor)

They didn’t mortgage the farm to move up for anyone else and the pick makes all the sense in the world.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Khalil, OT (USC)

They like Christian Ponder and they need to protect him above all else.

4. Cleveland Browns  – Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama)

Another no-brainer. When you don’t know what you have at QB, building a ground game is paramount.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  – Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)

I’d trade down 4-5 spots and take LB Luke Kuechly but if stuck here Claiborne is the best fit.

6. St. Louis Rams (from WAS)  – Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma State)

Here’s another spot I’d trade out of. If they keep the pick Blackmon is a good call but not a franchise guy.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars  – Melvin Ingram, DE (South Carolina)

By all accounts the Jags need help with the pass rush. Ingram was the best rusher I saw in college.

8. Miami Dolphins – Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame)

I would NOT take Ryan Tannehill here. Too high. Floyd replaces the traded Brandon Marshall.

9. Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, DT (Mississippi State)

Offense already growing around Cam Newton, need an anchor for the defense.

10. Buffalo Bills  – Jonathan Martin, OT (Stanford)

Lots of ways they could go but I think Martin is the safest, best choice for this draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – David DeCastro, OG (Stanford)

Other needs could be addressed but I like DeCastro’s game and they need help here.

12. Seattle Seahawks – Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)

Again, several ways they could go here. Protecting Matt Flynn is biggest need in my book.

13. Arizona Cardinals  – Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor)

A field-stretcher opposite Larry Fitzgerald is just what the doctor ordered.

14. Dallas Cowboys  – Mark Barron, S (Alabama)

Maybe the easiest pick in the draft – Barron will be one of the most consistent performers in this class.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Dontari Poe, DT (Memphis)

They need a disruptor on the defensive line and Poe can be that, if he wants to.

16. New York Jets – Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB (Illinois)

They’re seeking pass rush help and after Ingram I thought Mercilus was best at getting after the QB.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK) – Cordy Glenn, OT (Georgia)

I know this is high for him but I love this guy and he fits a need.

18. San Diego Chargers – Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina)

I know he’ll come off the board before this tonight but he’s a no-brainer for SD if he’s there.

19. Chicago Bears – Quinton Coples, DE (North Carolina)

They need a bookend for Julius Peppers and Coples has a good all-around game.

20. Tennessee Titans – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama)

Loosing Cortland Finnegan to the Rams left a hole. Kirkpatrick fills it. Good player.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Michael Brockers, DT (LSU)

Building up the lines so their skill players have a chance to do their thing a necessity in AFC North.

22. Cleveland Browns (from ATL) – Ryan Tannehill, QB (Texas A&M)

Too inconsistent in college to go higher. If not CLE here, maybe someone else trades up to get him.

23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB (North Alabama)

They’re too desperate for corner help to pass because off off-field problems.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, LB (Alabama)

They have other needs but this guy just screams “Steelers” coming out of Bama.

25. Denver Broncos – Luke Kuechly, LB (Boston College)

He’ll go before this, I know, but I’m not as high on him as others. D.J. Williams faces 6-game suspension.

26. Houston Texans – Reuben Randle, WR (LSU)

Nice, big WR to play opposite of Andre Johnson.

27. New England (from NO) – Nick Perry, DE/LB (USC)

They’re looking for front seven help and Perry is a really good pass rusher.

28. Green Bay – Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB (Alabama)

Like Chicago, looking for a pass rush bookend. This one for Clay Matthews. Love Upshaw, he’s a stud.

29. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Adams, OT (Ohio State)

Again, they have other needs but getting a big guy for the OL is a good bet here.

30. San Francisco – Kevin Zeitler, OG (Wisconsin)

They lost OG Adam Snyder in free agency and Zeitler, from run-first WIS, is a great fit for a contender.

31. New England – Shea McClellin, DE/LB (Boise State)

I’m betting NE doesn’t make both of these picks. They’ll trade down. But one will be for versatile rusher.

32. New York Giants – Bobby Massie, OT (Mississippi)

Another team I don’t think makes their pick. I’m thinking 31 or 32 goes to a team wanting Brandon Weedon.


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