Kiper's 'Grade A' draft: NFC

Who are the best picks in Rounds 1-3 of the 2012 NFL draft for every team, according to Mel Kiper? ESPN.com Illustration

When I do mock drafts, I'm not simply giving my opinion on where players will go. In fact, I disagree with some of the picks I'm putting down. But the mocks are based on a combination of where players are being valued across the league, how I feel those players are valued by individual teams, what the top needs for each team are, whether they value need over the best player available and so on. It's not an editorial. For this, I was asked, "What would you do if you were picking?" So I gave it a shot. I've listed what I see as the top needs for each team, and I've made the picks that fill needs based on where I have players ranked. A few ground rules:

1. At each spot, I'm making the best pick for that team at that spot. I won't pass on an ideal pick for the Bills at No. 10 just because that player would be a great fit at No. 11.
2. There are no duplicates.
3. I will suggest good spots to trade down, but I won't rearrange the board.
4. This is for fun! One pick can derail a whole draft, so in no way do I think this is how it might look.

With that in mind, let's go through it. I'll discuss motives for each team in the analysis.

More Kiper NFL draft content:

'Grade A' AFC Draft | 'Grade A' NFC Draft | Mock 4.0 | Latest Big Board
Regrading the 2011 NFL draft

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Top needs: G/C, CB, OLB, SS, DE, TE

Rd. 1 (14) S Mark Barron, Alabama
Rd. 2 (45) OLB Andre Branch, Clemson
Rd. 3 (81) CB Justin Bethel, Presbyterian

Analysis: The Cowboys need to shore up their coverage and get a lot of help here in the secondary and with an added piece in the pass rush. Barron makes too much sense. He has a good chance to be there at No. 14, and in this simulation he was. He provides an immediate upgrade. Branch is a guy scouts disagree on, but only on whether he's got the talent of a late-first-round grade. Midway through Round 2, Dallas can't go wrong, and he'll provide depth on the edge. You can't have too many pass-rushers. Bethel could be one of the sleepers of the draft. A star at Presbyterian, he has plenty of physical talent, and Dallas isn't out of the woods in the secondary because of the addition of Brandon Carr.

New York Giants