The 2012 ESPN.com blog network mock draft is in the books. It was actually a lot of fun, and I hope you got a chance to jump into the fray for at least a few moments. If not, here is the chat transcript.
I learned a few things. First, I'm much more conservative than I thought I was. I tried to drum up trade interest in the Minnesota Vikings' No. 3 overall pick, but for the most part I was content to let everyone else wheel and deal and then sit tight for targeted players to drop in a way that I thought would only happen in my dreams.
Second, every draft has some unexpected trades and some unconventional picks. Having eight people participate helped lend a sense of that dynamic, even if the trades we made and the picks that resulted don't happen this week. You got a more realistic sense of how it could go, I think, than in a conventional mock draft.
We faced decisions at each stop, which I'll detail below for those interested:
3. Minnesota Vikings
My pick: USC left tackle Matt Kalil
Final decision: Kalil or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
Process and reasoning: I felt obligated to solicit trade offers for anyone who might be interested in Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I pressured AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley, who is convinced the Cleveland Browns do not want to trade up from No. 4. I leaned on AFC West blogger Bill Williamson, suggesting Tannehill would be a nice target for the Kansas City Chiefs. "I'm good," Williamson said. And I tried to entice AFC East blogger James Walker, letting him and the Miami Dolphins know I was talking to the Hensley/Browns and Williamson/Chiefs.
Walker sat tight. With my time (almost up), I was left to the decision we've been discussing in recent days. I can't see the Vikings taking Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, so it was down to Kalil or Claiborne.
In the end, I took Kalil because my top goal in this exercise was to avoid overthinking. Left tackle is one of the most difficult jobs to fill in the NFL. The Vikings don't have a left tackle, not since they released Bryant McKinnie last summer, and their quarterbacks were pummeled in 2011. Kalil is one of the draft's best prospects and certainly the top left tackle available.
It's true that the Vikings are short on cornerbacks as well, but I would feel more comfortable finding a cornerback at the top of the second or third round than a left tackle. Claiborne and Kalil are both excellent prospects. So Kalil it was. We'll soon see if the Vikings agree.
19. Chicago Bears
My pick: Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus
Final decision: Mercilus or Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones
Process and reasoning: If the real thing goes anything like our mock draft, it appears the Bears will have their pick of defensive ends to fill an important but untouched roster hole. I was holding out hope for North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who slipped as far as No. 17 before Hensley grabbed him for the Cincinnati Bengals. But ultimately I was left to choose between Mercilus, Jones, USC's Nick Perry and Alabama's Courtney Upshaw.
Why Mercilus? The Bears have spent a good bit of time visiting and researching Mercilus during the past few months, and while there are questions about the best positions for some of the other defensive end prospects, Mercilus is a clear and obvious 4-3 defensive end. I liked him more than any of the receivers on the board at the time, and I didn't think the Bears would chose an offensive tackle -- even Stanford's Jonathan Martin -- in this spot.
Ultimately, Martin went at No. 22 to the Browns, where he will presumably play right tackle.
23. Detroit Lions
My pick: Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick
Final decision: Kirkpatrick or trade down
Process and reasoning: Frankly, I was surprised that Kirkpatrick fell that far. I can see a team jumping first for South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, as Paul Kuharsky did for the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 15. But having Kirkpatrick available at No. 23 for a team whose secondary collapsed in 2011 was a pretty good situation.
I had previously discussed a trade with Hensley and the Baltimore Ravens at No. 29, something that could arise Thursday night. But I was more than happy to sit with Kirkpatrick at that point.
Why Kirkpatrick over North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins? Frankly, for the obvious and previously-stated conservative reasons. The Lions had three members of their 2011 draft class run into marijuana-related issues. Jenkins has a long history dating back to his removal from the University of Florida team two years ago.
I realize Kirkpatrick was cited in January for marijuana possession, but ultimately he was not prosecuted.
My pick: Boise state outside linebacker Shea McClellin
Final decision: McClellin or Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw
Process and reasoning: I had targeted McClellin as someone I would hope to draft for the Packers and was caught off guard when Upshaw was still available. I got some tweets and live suggestions for both players, but chose McClellin because I think he's a better fit for the Packers' 3-4 and that he'll be ready to start in Week 1 for a team that is a Super Bowl contender in 2012.
There is enough concern about Upshaw's fit as a 3-4 linebacker, as opposed to a 4-3 defensive end, that I felt more comfortable with McClellin here.
I would be willing to discuss this further in the blog, probably Tuesday. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.