Check out this Insider post in which ESPN’s Mel Kiper has his first mock draft for 2012.
Kiper has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the No. 5 overall pick. Kiper also cautions that fans shouldn’t assume the Bucs won’t take a running back here because they already have LeGarrette Blount. If anything, the 2011 season showed that Blount probably never will be an every-down back. He simply isn’t a pass-catcher and never could pick up the pass protections well enough for the previous coaching staff to leave him on the field as a pass-blocker. I’m not sure the Bucs are going to be willing to lock up Blount with any sort of long-term deal. Blount still could have a role because he is a good power runner. But drafting Richardson makes plenty of sense because he’s an all-around running back. Also, drafting an offensive skill-position player usually generates a lot of excitement. I’m not saying the Bucs would simply draft a player to generate excitement, but this is a franchise that could use anything that might generate a little positive interest.
Kiper also has another Alabama player going to the only other NFC South team with a first-round pick this year. That’s cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. That move would make plenty of sense because the Panthers are looking to upgrade a defense that wasn’t very good in 2011. Put Kirkpatrick opposite Chris Gamble and Carolina instantly would have a better secondary than it did last season.
At the moment, Atlanta and New Orleans don’t have first-round picks in 2012. The Falcons gave up their pick last year in the trade to get Julio Jones. The Saints did the same thing to acquire Mark Ingram. It’s still possible, but not likely, the Saints and Falcons could trade for first-round picks.