2012 NFL Mock Draft: Projected Picks 6-10 – Blackmon, Reiff, Ingram, Kuechly and DeCastro: The back half of the top 10 always tends to be when the surprises begin in the NFL draft. Teams no longer have access to the handful of elite, supposedly can’t-miss prospects, and different agendas come into play. General managers begin making trades to move up or down the draft, as teams have specific players in mind to meet their biggest needs. When trades can’t be made, some teams reach for a particular player anyway, while others decide to pick based on talent, rather than their biggest need. Either way, the top 10 usually contains a pick or two that shakes things up.

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2012 NFL Mock Draft – Predictions and Projections for the Players to be Drafted 6 thru 10

6.      St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State

This dream scenario for St. Louis has a good chance of coming true. The trade with Washington netted them a ton of early round picks, but it also signaled the team’s commitment to quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams are in desperate need of a No. 1 wide receiver, and Blackmon just happens to be the top prospect at the position in this draft class. He was next to unstoppable in college, and his big play ability should provide Bradford and the St. Louis offense with the deep threat it desperately needs. Drafting Blackmon is the first step toward surround Bradford with the firepower he needs to become a franchise quarterback.

7.      Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

After ranking dead last in the NFL in passing last season at 136.2 yards per game, it’s no secret that Jacksonville needs a wide receiver. Blaine Gabbert showed nothing in the way of pocket presence as a rookie last season, and having a horrible group of receivers to work with didn’t help. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Blackmon will likely be off the board, and players like Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Baylor’s Kendall Wright are just too much of a stretch with the No. 7 pick. Look for Jacksonville to try to move down from this spot and trade with a team that wants one of the highly-touted QB prospects no named Luck or Griffin.

If the Jaguars can’t find a partner, Reiff seems like the logical pick. Providing Gabbert with better protection certainly can’t hurt, and bolstering the offensive line helps running back Maurice Jones-Drew, as well. With as many needs as Jacksonville has, the team can’t afford to miss with this pick. Reiff is a safe bet to be a productive tackle in the NFL for a long time, and the Jaguars need all the talent they can get.

8.      Miami Dolphins: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina

With Jason Taylor retiring after last year, the Dolphins need a versatile pass rusher that can play in both 4-3 and 3-4 bases. Ingram is the perfect fit, having the size to rush the passer on the defensive line and the speed to hold his own in pass coverage as an outside linebacker. He flashed his athleticism and agility at the combine and his pro day, solidifying his status as the top defensive lineman in the draft. How fortunate are the Dolphins to lose a player as versatile as Taylor and have the chance to draft a replacement with an identical skill set?

There is another option. Miami is still without a franchise quarterback after Peyton Manning landed in Denver, Matt Flynn signed with Seattle, and Chad Henne left in free agency. However, the idea that the Dolphins will make former Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill a top-10 pick seems hard to believe. After all, the guy played receiver at the start of his college career and had just one full year under center for the Aggies. He might have an NFL body and an NFL arm, but he is a project. Not to mention that the Dolphins fully committed to the ground game in the offseason by shipping star receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago. Matt Moore put up respectable numbers last season anyway, and instead of developing Tannehill, Miami will opt for the immediate impact of Ingram.

9.      Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College

Leading up to the combine, Kuechly’s incredible statistics were being dismissed because he was thought to be too slow and stiff to play linebacker in the NFL. After displaying unexpected athleticism and speed, there is now no reason for teams to pass on one of the most productive tacklers in college football history. For a Carolina defense that was gashed by the run throughout last season, Kuechly can step in and become an instant anchor for the middle of the defensive front.

Penn State nose tackle Dontari Poe could fill a similar role, and while he may have more upside than Kuechly, he also has serious question marks surrounding his work ethic. Meanwhile, Kuechly has a motor that doesn’t stop, and when he gets his hands on runners, they go down. He will be a productive starter from the day he is drafted and make sure that opposing running backs don’t have a free pass through the middle of the Panthers’ defense.

10.  Buffalo Bills, David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford Cardinal

Heading into the offseason, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples seemed like the pick. However, Buffalo added former No. 1 pick Mario Williams to bolster its anemic pass rush during free agency, filling the void at defensive end. As a result, the Bills can shift focus to protecting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo gave Fitzpatrick a ton of money last season, and the front office isn’t going to want him getting sacked on a repeated basis. DeCastro is one of the highest-rated players at his position in quite a while, and he should instantly solidify the interior of the Buffalo offensive line.

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