The 2012 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with defensive talent, and that will become really apparent as we progress through the second half of the first round.
Whereas the first 15 picks are basically guaranteed to feature the customary quarterback, running back and talented wide receiver selections, 16 and up is generally where squads pick up the not-so-flashy pieces that make your team function right. The lone exception to this rule in picks Nos. 16-20 will ultimately be the Chicago Bears, but we’ll get to that below. Aside from that one pick, though, look for these next five selections to really take advantage of the defensive depth available while shoring up some of the teams’ involved biggest weaknesses.
16. New York Jets – Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Even though there is a really strong case to be made for the Jets using this pick to bolster their offensive line, there’s just no player available that fits the need and deserves to be taken at this point in the draft. With championship shine currently making any and all Alabama players look better than they actually are, Barron looks to be a very realistic prospect for New York. Frankly, I’m not in love with the guy and he hasn’t showcased anywhere close to enough smarts to be a bigtime safety in the NFL, but this appears to be the direction the Jets are leaning in anyway. If the squad is lucky, their Jim Leonhard-related shock and Barron’s Alabama championship shine will dissipate in time for them to make a smarter pick.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Janoris Jenkins, CB, UNA (Note: This previously said Florida. Thanks, Jim Henry). The Bengals are in desperate need of an upgrade at cornerback and Jenkins is the classic bad boy super talent. Fortunately for the Florida star, the Bengals don’t discriminate based on off-field-field problems and probably won’t do it this time around when the opportunity to improve their biggest weakness presents itself. This will be a perfect match for all parties involved right up until the point Jenkins inevitably does something really stupid during a bye week.
18. San Diego Chargers – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois. Even though it didn’t look like it throughout much of this past season, San Diego is good enough offensively to compete with anyone in the league. This team’s major concern is undoubtedly defense-related, and Mercilus would be a perfect fit here. For whatever reason, despite the fact that he was a stud for much of this past season, there are some doubts about how his skill set will translate to the next level. Nevertheless, expect the Chargers to do what’s right and plug one of their biggest holes with the nation’s leader in sacks and forced fumbles from the year that was.
19. Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Despite Notre Dame’s somewhat bad rep when it comes to NFL-level talent, Floyd is an ideal pick for a Chicago squad in desperate need of quality receivers. This guy has all of the physical tools necessary for success in the big leagues, and the prospect of finally potentially having a legitimate No. 1 to throw to may actually make Jay Cutler forget that he has no offensive line.
20. Tennessee Titans – Nick Perry, DE, USC. The Titans could really use some improvement along their offensive line, but a lack of available talent in that department makes it unlikely that they’ll find someone they like here. Because of this, the team with the least amount of sacks in the NFL last year will probably aim to find someone who can get them a few – something Perry proved he could do consistently during his college days.