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The final kick begins


There, not far in the distance . . .

What is it? Is it? Yes.

It's the finish line of the 2012 reader mock draft, and with a two-a-day pace now firmly established – and with the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers selecting on Tuesday at Nos. 23 and 24 – we can say for sure we're approaching the end of the mock draft.

We're not sprinting to the tape, exactly, but we're starting the final kick on the final lap, and if we're judging by the results for the Lions and the Steelers, we're going to have a strong finish.

The readers are, anyway.

That's because for different reasons each selection we offered for the teams on the clock on this day just didn't quite work. Our selection for the Lions was a difficult need-value scenario and the selection for the Steelers? Well, that was just a miss.

But first things first, and the first thing on this day is to deal with the mess the moderator made of the Lions' selection at No. 23:

That was Josh Robinson, a cornerback from Central Florida.

We offered Robinson as the selection for a couple of reasons, each of which revolved around the Lions' apparent need for cornerback. Reason One was that very need and Reason Two was that all of the top-rated cornerbacks are off our board. That includes Janoris Jenkins, a player who is rapidly falling and who it now appears the Lions won't take here even if he is available.

With Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore also gone, Robinson is getting some play from national analysts as a possibility.

Suffice to say there were reader/mockers who disagreed.

"The Lions would love to get cornerback, but taking one here (even Robinson) would be a huge reach," J-School Corby wrote.

Matt wrote that the offering of Robinson blew his mind.

"If he goes in the first round I'll gladly eat my shoe," Matt wrote.

While we obviously hope that Robinson will go in the first round just so we could see that, it is worth noting that not everyone was so adamant.

"Lions desperately need a CB to be the missing piece to the puzzle, and will select Josh Robinson from Central Florida here," Ryan Nearhood wrote.

While most believe Robinson a reach here, many also believed that the Lions might use this selection to find a receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. There was a good amount of support for Stephen Hill – like Johnson, a Georgia Tech product – but there was a bit more for Kendall Wright.

Wright, a receiver from Baylor, disappointed many with a slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but he turned in a significantly faster time at his Pro Day.

That made Wright make sense to a lot of readers, Fred Barnes being one of them.

"With Megatron (Johnson), the Lions don't need to take a flyer on a developmental speedster," Barnes wrote. "They're in a perfect situation for a guy like Kendall Wright to dominate should they opt to go WR."

That moved us to the Steelers at No. 24, where we offered up Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy because it makes sense that the Steelers would focus on re-stocking their defensive front.

The readers immediately pointed out the flaw in this pick:

The presence of Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who is still on the board.

Poe has slipped in this mock draft, as he very possibly could in the real draft. Despite a dazzling combine, his tape from college doesn't match his results without pads, and that usually means a bit of a slide on draft day.

Still, as several readers noted, he's only going to slide so far.

"The Steelers turn their pick in immediately," Fred Barnes wrote. "It's a no brainer in my book with Dontari Poe. This is truly a case of the overall BAP, and a monumental steal to boot, meeting their most critical need."

Matt offered a complement to the moderator before agreeing with Barnes.

"I like your thinking when it comes to position, but not the player you offered up," Matt wrote. "Worthy is a great player and on draft day will probably go somewhere around this time in the draft.  However, I think people have forgotten about Dontari Poe; he's been offered up a few times and considered, but ultimately lost out to some other guy.

"There is just no way Poe does not come off the board by now when the draft rolls around so we have to do him some justice and pick the guy already!"

Which is exactly what we'll do and which means after 24 selections, the 2012, reader mock looks like:

1.Indianapolis | Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2.Washington | Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3.Minnesota | Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California

4.Cleveland | Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5.Tampa Bay | Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

6.St. Louis | Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

7.Jacksonville | Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

8.Miami | Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

9.Carolina | Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

10.Buffalo | David DeCastro, G, Stanford

11.Kansas City | Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

12.Seattle | Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

13.Arizona | Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

14.Dallas | Janoris Jenkins,  CB, North Alabama

15.Philadelphia | Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

16.New York Jets | Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

17.Cincinnati | Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

18.San Diego | Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

19.Chicago | Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

20.Tennessee | Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

21.Cincinnati | Chad Barron, SS, Alabama

22.Cleveland | Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama

23.Detroit | Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

24.Pittsburgh | Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

That brings us to Nos. 25 and 26, and ever closer to the finish. We'll offer up Hill to the Denver Broncos at No. 25, though we'll caution Hill that he'll need to be ready to work to be a rookie working with Peyton Manning. At No. 26 for the Texans, let's go with wide receiver Rueben Randle of LSU.

Keep it up. Run hard. The final lap isn't easy, but think how good you'll feel about yourself as you're cooling off.  Have at it.

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