2012 NFL Mock Draft: Giants, Jets Go Different Routes

At No. 16, the New York Jets are in prime position to select linebacker Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

One goes with a linebacker, the other addresses the offensive line.

Though the New York Giants and New York Jets have spent all offseason retooling and evaluating their roster, the most critical opportunity for improvement comes next week.

Beginning with Round 1 on Thursday night, the 77th NFL Draft kicks off at Radio City Music Hall. Below is a mock draft of the first round, based upon the wisest decisions for each team given their respective situations. For another mock draft, you an check out Peter King's latest right here.

1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck | Quarterback | Stanford: Luck probably would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and his junior season did nothing to dissuade the hype. Widely considered to be one of the most NFL-ready quarterback prospects ever, Luck will take over for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis an open a new era for the Colts.
2. Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III | Quarterback | Baylor: There is a contingent of scouting minds that see RGIII as a more valuable selection over Luck, citing his remarkable upside as the primary reason. While the Colts have reportedly already told Luck he'll be their pick at No. 1, the Redskins will be thrilled to bring Griffin into the fold -- especially considering the fortune they surrendered to move up into the No. 2 pick (three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder).
3. Minnesota Vikings

Matt Kalil | Offensive Tackle | USC: Minnesota desperately needs to protect Christian Ponder as he attempts to become the franchise quarterback the Vikings hope he'll be. Otherwise, they could go for a cornerback such as Morris Claiborne. Minnesota could also trade back into the first round or dangle next year's first rounder to grab a corner later.

4. Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson | Running Back | Alabama: The best player available here, Richardson would greatly improve the Browns' ability to move the chains and help Colt McCoy grow. Cleveland could also go for Ryan Tannehill here -- the Browns absolutely must commit to a franchise quarterback.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne | Cornerback | Louisiana State: Tampa Bay needs to upgrade its secondary, especially if Aqib Talib is traded or out for a while following his trial for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Bucs' other defensive needs can wait until Rounds 2 and 3.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)
Justin Blackmon | Wide Receiver | Oklahoma State: Blackmon is a perfect fit at No. 6 as the best player available for a team that has a glaring need for a wide receiver.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Michael Floyd | Wide Receiver | Notre Dame: The Jaguars do need pass rusher, but they must get the most out of Blaine Gabbert as soon as possible. Floyd might be the best overall receiver in the draft, even though it appears Blackmon will go first. Pass rushers will also be available in later rounds. As long as Jacksonville is comfortable with Floyd's character issues (3 alcohol arrests at Notre Dame), this should be their pick.
8. Miami Dolphins
NFL TEAM
Ryan Tannehill | Quarterback | Texas A&M: Miami absolutely must get a franchise quarterback in this draft. Much like the Browns, the Dolphins need to get their guy and stick to him. All other concerns are secondary when Miami still hasn't found a viable signal caller since Dan Marino.
9. Carolina Panthers
Dontari Poe | Defensive Tackle | Memphis: The Panthers must shore up the interior of their defensive line, and Poe is the most ready to stand alone of this year's tackle prospects. With some refining, he can become a force in the mold of Haloti Ngata.
10. Buffalo Bills
Riley Reiff | Offensive Tackle | Iowa: Buffalo must protect Ryan Fitzpatrick's blindside to truly capitalize on the momentum this offseason brought with the signing of Mario Williams and the contract extension given to Stevie Johnson. Doing so would nicely position the Bills to pounce on the No. 2 spot in the AFC East as the Jets and Dolphins continue to mix and match.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Luke Kuechly | Linebacker | Boston College: Kansas City needs someone to pair with Derrick Johnson, and Kuechly is an extraordinarily accomplished middle linebacker coming out of college. A three-time All-American, Kuechly will be able to contribute immediately and dramatically shore up the center of Romeo Crennel's 3-4 scheme.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Melvin Ingram | Defensive End | South Carolina: Ingram can rush the quarterback from multiple positions, and Seattle desperately needs a legitimate pass-rushing threat opposite Chris Clemons.
13. Arizona Cardinals
NFL TEAM
David DeCastro | Guard | Stanford: One of the safest picks in the draft, especially along the offensive line. The Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman earlier than the fifth round since 2007, and Kevin Kolb desperately needs a greater sense of comfort in order to adequately lead this offense. DeCastro is a well-rounded interior lineman who can step in immediately and anchor Arizona's line for years to come.
14. Dallas Cowboys
NFL TEAM
Fletcher Cox | Defensive End | Mississippi State: At this pick, the Cowboys are likely to mix the best-player-available approach with a focus on the defensive line. Cox would be a nice addition alongside nose tackle Jay Ratliff and would be an improvement from Marcus Spears. Dallas signed cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency and could afford to pay more attention to the secondary by drafting safety Mark Barron, but Cox is a better value pick at No. 14.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Jonathan Martin | Offensive Tackle | Stanford: With Jason Peters possibly out for the season after tearing his Achilles in late March, the Eagles' draft priorities are dramatically altered. Michael Vick has proven himself unable to hold up for a full season, so he must be kept upright as much as possible. The team did sign free-agent T Demetress Bell to a five-year contract earlier this month, but he seems unlikely to play out the duration of that contract. Martin is a smart offensive lineman who should be able to adjust to however the Eagles use him.
16. New York Jets
Courtney Upshaw | Linebacker | Alabama: The Jets could definitely use an outside linebacker capable of rushing the passer, and that's exactly what Upshaw will bring. A two-year starter at Alabama, Upshaw's primary responsibility was as a pass-rusher. He recorded 9.5 sacks this past season and 18 overall in his time with the Crimson Tide. Upshaw is a blitzing linebacker, though he's also adept at playing the run. He's drawn early comparisons to LaMarr Woodley, but on a more rational level, Upshaw can be expected to contribute as an immediate three-down linebacker.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders)
Michael Brockers | Defensive Tackle | Louisiana State: Here, the Bengals would be making one of the biggest upside picks of the first round. Brockers is a freakishly athletic tackle who can play a few different positions along the line and excels at making plays in the backfield. Much of his production comes from his sheer size (6-foot-5, 322 pounds - nearly 15 pounds up from his playing weight at LSU) and burst off the line, but Brockers is also a smart player who locates the ball quickly and is adept at diagnosing plays. At this point, Brockers is better against the run than the pass, though he only started one year at LSU. He is a somewhat raw prospect that the Bengals could develop into an elite defensive tackle.
18. San Diego Chargers
Cordy Glenn | Guard | Georgia: At 6-foot-5, 345 pounds, Glenn is a huge prospect with great raw skill. With longtime guard Kris Dielman being forced into retirement, the Chargers need a replacement along the interior offensive line. Along with his size, Glenn is a fundamentally sound prospect who excels at pass protection. San Diego would likely prefer David DeCastro here, but with him already off the board, Glenn would be a solid alternative.
19. Chicago Bears
Quinton Coples | Defensive End | North Carolina: The Bears seem to believe their biggest need is a pass rusher, and Coples excels in that area as a larger defensive end (6-foot-6, 285 pounds). Coples frequently overpowers opposing linemen in both the run game and with the bull rush in the pass game. As a result, he's probably better suited playing on the inside due to his lack of speed and athleticism on the edge..
20. Tennessee Titans
Stephon Gilmore | Cornerback | South Carolina: After losing Cortland Finnegan in free agency, the Titans need to add a top-flight corner immediately. Gilmore is a big DB (6-foot, 190 pounds) who didn't play much man coverage, though his long arms suggest he'd be able to adjust to press-man if asked in the NFL. South Carolina employed many zone coverages, so Gilmore should enter the league with advanced knowledge in that regard.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Janoris Jenkins | Cornerback | North Alabama: Can the Bengals afford to take in another prospect with a long list of character concerns? For a player as talented as Jenkins, Cincinnati's history of looking the other way from the issues of troublemakers and miscreants could win out. Jenkins was widely considered to be a first-round prospect prior to last year's draft, when he was an All-SEC cornerback at Florida. But after two drug-related arrests in three months, Jenkins was kicked off the Gators last April and transferred to North Alabama for his final year of eligibility. If the Bengals do want to go defensive back here, the pick figures to be either Jenkins or Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick.
22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons)
Brandon Weeden | Quarterback | Oklahoma State: How often do teams get the opportunity to completely makeover their offense in one round of the draft? If the Browns do indeed take Trent Richardson at No. 4, selecting Weeden here would achieve exactly that. Though he'll turn 29 years old this season, Weeden is a proven leader who as all the tools to be an outstanding NFL quarterback. His baseball background shows in his arm strength, and his deep ball is impressive. Colt McCoy continues to underwhelm in Cleveland and his leash figures to be short moving forward.
23. Detroit Lions
Dre Kirkpatrick | Cornerback | Alabama: Here, the Lions can continue their steady makeover into a legitimate contender by shoring up the back end of their defense. Eric Wright left in free agency, and Kirkpatrick can step in as a tall, physical corner (6-foot-2, 186 pounds) that manhandles opposing receivers at the line. Kirkpatrick has only average ball skills, but his game is more suited to tight coverage and excellent tackling.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dont'a Hightower | Linebacker | Alabama: After his time leading the stout Crimson Tide defense, especially in the past two seasons, Hightower seems like a natural fit in Pittsburgh. A bigger linebacker at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Hightower is one of the top tacklers in this year's draft. Hightower excels at stopping the run, and his football I.Q. is also a strong point. After parting ways with 37-year-old James Farrior, the Steelers have a need for an inside linebacker. Hightower could likely step in and be an instant contributor.
25. Denver Broncos
Jerel Worthy | Defensive Tackle | Michigan State: As John Elway continues to transform the Denver Broncos, hitting on first-round picks at this spot is critical. Denver still needs to upgrade the interior of its defensive line, especially after losing Brodrick Bunkley in free agency. Worthy's maximum effort isn't always present, but when it is he can be a dominant pass-rusher and run-stopper.
26. Houston Texans
Kendall Wright | Wide Receiver | Baylor: RGIII's top receiving option at Baylor, Wright could be a perfect fit opposite Andre Johnson in Houston. The Texans would benefit greatly from shifting defenders' attention away from Johnson -- the receiver could also use the relief -- and Wright would warrant it with his ability to get separation. Wright is small by today's pro receiver standards (5-foot-10, 190 pounds), but his prowess at getting open and general playmaking ability allow him to compensate.
27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints)
NFL TEAM
Andre Branch | Defensive End | Clemson: Looking to shore up a mostly disappointing pass rush (14th in sacks during the regular season) and compensate for the loss of Mark Anderson, the Patriots could absolutely use a talented edge rusher like Branch. Andre Carter is also still rehabbing from a serious quad tear and currently unsigned, magnifying the pass-rushing need. Branch is a versatile player (he played both DE and OLB at Clemson), which also bodes well for his inclusion in whatever schemes Bill Belichick concocts.
28. Green Bay Packers
Nick Perry | Defensive End | Southern California: A scheme-versatile end, Perry is arguably the best sheer pass-rusher in the draft. He explodes off the line and is quick to the edge, using that athleticism to compensate for his lack of size for the position (6-foot-3, 250 pounds). Perry might normally be undersized for a 4-3, but for Dom Capers' 3-4, he should fit well. The Packers' pass rush was non-existent for much of 2011, as Green Bay ranked 27th with just 29 sacks in the regular season.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Peter Konz | Center | Wisconsin: Matt Birk signed a three-year contract last month, but considering he'll turn 36 in July, 2012 could be his last season. Konz is the top center in this draft class, and he's the total package with a well-rounded combination of physical skill, fundamentals and intangibles. He wouldn't need to in Baltimore, but Konz could likely step in and contribute immediately.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Zeitler | Guard | Wisconsin: Though the 49ers made several splashy offseason moves, most notably signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, right guard is a more under-the-radar need they must address. Zeitler isn't the most naturally athletic lineman, but he is fundamentally sound in every aspect and will work to become the best player possible.
31. New England Patriots
NFL TEAM

Devon Still | Defensive Tackle | Penn State: Even if the Patriots do select a pass-rusher with their first pick, defensive line is still in play at No. 31. Assuming the Patriots hold on to this pick -- never a safe bet with Belichick -- Still would be a tremendous upgrade to a line that really only has Vince Wilfork as a standout contributor. Still is a strong (6-foot-4, 303 pounds) lineman who can play a few different spots on the line and in different schemes.
32. New York Giants
Amini Silatolu | Offensive Tackle | Midwestern State: The great luxury of picking last, aside from most likely being the Super Bowl champs, lies in the fact that the best player available is quite often the natural pick. The Giants traditionally stick to the best-player-available approach anyway, but right here Silatolu makes sense given New York's thinning depth along the offensive line. Will Beatty figures to start at left tackle, with David Diehl to his right and David Baas at center again. Chris Snee has the right guard spot on lockdown, but right tackle is up for grabs between second-year James Brewer and the recently signed Sean Locklear. Silatolu played left tackle in college, but his size (6-foot-3, 311 pounds) seems to translate him to guard. Silatolu is nimble and adept at getting in good position, and he plays with a nasty streak that should endear him to coaches and fans. He did play against inferior Division II talent, though the Giants have shown a willingness in the past to patiently develop young linemen (e.g. Brewer).

DC Pro Sports Report Mock Draft Database

SB Nation Podcast, 2012 NFL Draft Preview (via sbnation)

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