These mock drafts are fun to chew on but I can almost guarantee the real draft will look far different past the first 5 to 8 picks. Recall last season, Da’Quon Bowers of Clemson was the #1 overall pick.
He went in the second round due to concerns over his knee.
Unless Andrew Luck pulls a Kellen Winslow, Jr. and drives a motorcycle into a curb at 35 mph, he’ll be Indy’s pick at the top of the draft despite what RG3 showed at the combine. Luck showed near-Cam athleticism at the combine with a 4.67 40…that’s hardly a burner and Cam is so fluid and agile when he runs, the Stanford product is a rung or two below Cam as a pure athlete. His arm is strong but not nearly as powerful as Newton’s. However, according to a man I have a lot of respect for, Herm Edwards, noted that Luck looked like “he’s carrying POTATOES out there – VERY VERY strong lower body.” I checked the tape and he’s right – Luck’s lower-body strength is apparent in the underwear the Combine rookies are forced to wear. Irsay has said he’s taking him first, and for now that’s good enough for me.
One last thing – I tossed in a couple of trades to reflect the likely trade activity in the first round, although I’ll be completely shocked if any particular trade unfolds as I’ve forecast here. Mock drafts are fun, and I just tried to add a couple of wrinkles – again, to better reflect the fluidity and inherent unpredictable nature of the April draft. So here goes:
1) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford – I think most people know the reasons here by now. I won’t insult your intelligence.
2) ***TRADE*** (surprise?) Washington (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – it’s almost a given that the Rams will trade down. The rookie wage scale has made teams willing to trade up into the top of the draft once again, adding even more excitement to the NFL fans in late April. I think there are really only 2 teams that, as of this moment, are seriously willing to pay up to trade up to get this ultra-talented athletic, bright, and football-savvy young man. The other team is Cleveland, but the Rams can get more from Washington than from the Browns. In fact, with Dan Snyder’s history (JJ Arrington, Albert Haynesworth for example), he’ll have no issues out-bidding the Browns if it comes to a bidding war. Snyder’s been there, done that numerous times. Griffin is also the only QB in the draft (4.41 40-yard dash) that might actually be able to live for a while behind Washington’s sieve-like offensive line. It will be at least a first and second and probably a 5th this season PLUS Washington’s first-rounder next season along with another 6th or so in 2013. Mark my words – the Rams will be getting a #1 pick haul, plus a little, for the premium on RG3. They can thank Cam Newton for that.
3) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC – It’s a no-brainer. Ponder’s upside is limited, but he can develop into a competent starting QB, if probably never a star player. Adrian Peterson tore his MCL and his ACL at the end of last season and most likely won’t be 100% come September, putting more pressure on the passing game early. The Vikings need help at WR and CB as well, but protecting their 1st-rounder from last year will be at the top of this team’s list. Kalil’s ceiling is quite high, and he is very polished in pass-protection already. He has the size, agility, and technique to defeat smaller, lightning-fast edge-rushers in the NFL and can latch the defender’s inside shoulder and ride him on the outside and behind the QB just like a good LT is supposed to. Day one starter, possible pro-bowler as a rookie. He’ll be that 12-year anchor.
4) Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama – having missed out on the RG3 sweepstakes, the Browns help themselves with a franchise RB. RBs have tended to slide out of the top-10 in the last few years as most teams today use the RB-by-committee approach. Cleveland was no different last year with Madden Cover-cursed Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. The problem was neither one could stay healthy, and Hardesty especially was ineffective. Since the Browns will still be using Colt McCoy, They’ll give Justin Blackmon a look here, but Richardson is slightly higher rated. Add to that the fact he’s bigger, stronger, AND faster than ex-teammate Mark Ingram, he will likely be in the Adrian Peterson/MJD mold of the 6 or so “feature backs” in the NFL. What’s scary is he can catch the ball when asked, as well. His running should help Colt McCoy as Richardson will prove to be a threat early in his career and defenses will have to adjust. If McCoy still doesn’t improve, the Browns will most certainly target a QB in 2013 in the draft or in Free Agency then.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU – The Bucs have several holes to fill and places to upgrade. With Richardson gone, they’ll look to the defensive side of the ball once again. 2 years ago, they drafted DTs. Last year it was ends. This year, it’ll be the pass defense, and Claiborne is reported to be a more polished corner than teammate Patrick Peterson was last year. Morris has been cemented for some time as the head and shoulders (hat tip to Troy Polamalu) top CB in the draft this year with no real weaknesses. Quentin Coples reminds me too much of one Vernon Gholston and should be this year’s draft-slider (remember Nick Fairley?). Then there’s the Aqib Talib soap opera, and the Bucs also face Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton twice a year each as divisional opponent QBs. YEE-OUCH!!!!
6) St. Louis Rams: (from Washington) Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU – Blackmon _might_ go to the Bucs, but TB’s division has scary-good passers and the only time-tested way to disrupt such QBs is to pressure them, but having a top-flight CB doesn’t hurt either. St. Louis has needs all over the field, and more than half the teams need help at CB anyway and won’t reach for one here. So, they take Washington’s higher offer in the trade, thinking they might be able to land one of the two guys they covet – Kalil and Blackmon – knowing Kalil will probably be gone by now. Blackmon’s “okay” showing at the Combine won’t help him, as he didn’t run the 40, but otherwise he didn’t hurt himself much. His pro day will make or break his top-ten status, as his deep speed is his only real question mark. He did show well above-average change of direction skills and route-running at the Combine and coaches have all taken note of it. Blackmon is similar to Dez Bryant but smarter and without the character issues Dez brought to Dallas. The Rams get Bradford a big target with baby-soft hands and a receiver who is accustomed to shielding the ball and catching it away from his body. So what if he might run in the mid 4.5-range if he can run polished routes and catch nearly everything that comes his way?
7) ***TRADE*** Philadelphia Eagles (from Jacksonville Jaguars): Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina – Ingram improved his stock at the Combine, going from a mid-late first-rounder to a likely to-10 pick. While he’s still a bit raw and needs to develop counter-moves, his quickness and initial burst should be able to defeat the average to lesser Tackles in the NFL. He needs work on his technique, but then again most college players picked as pass-rushers do with few exceptions every season (exceptions in 2011: Von Miller, JJ Watt). Ingram is a good deal larger than Miller at 276 pounds and Philadelphia certainly can use a DE/OLB in Andy Reids 3-4 scheme. If the Jags stay put, they could draft him as a 4-3 DE, but also have thoughts about Stephen Hill being this year’s Julio Jones thanks to the combine.
8 ) Miami Dolphins: Reilly Reiff, OT, Iowa – This pick fits this team in so many ways. He’s a RT, which the Dolphins need with perennial Pro-bowler Jake Long at LT. However, the ‘Fins need an RT anyway as former RT Vernon Carey slid inside last year to guard and Marc Columbo is a barely-average NFL RT on his best day. Jake Long is entering a contract year, and Reiff is able to play LT from day one, which will give the Dolphins some leverage in negotiations with Long this coming off-season. The Dolphins brass feels they are _this_ close offensively, and my own feeling is that the new Joe Philbin regime will go after Matt Flynn in Free Agency. The coaches know him better than any other coaches in the NFL since Philbin was the Packer’s Offensive Coordinator during Flynn’s time as “AR-12′s” backup. For the same reason, South Florida is probably Flynn’s top choice, knowing the coaches and the system already, and could come into camp and have complete command of the offense from day one. The ‘Fins need a pass rusher to complement Cameron Wake since Jason Taylor retired, but owner Bobby Ross wants to win now. The Dolphins’ defense was top-ten again last season so they’ll most likely try to finish creating their offense to take a little pressure off their defensive unit indirectly with this pick. Reiff seems almost destined to go here. Look for Miami to pick up a pass-rusher and/or TE in rds 2 and 3 depending on how the board looks when they choose later.
9) Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis The Panthers are another team that could trade back a bit if they can get a 2nd or 3rd rounder in addition to a lower 1st since they lack a 3rd this draft and have many needs. He would make a great pick as a 3-technique guy if he’s here for the Panthers at 9, which he likely will be. He’s a monster athlete with outstanding size at 6’4″ 330 lbs and would be an instant upgrade at either DT spot. Has the size and strength to help collapse the pocket but not an explosive gap penetrator. Compared to current Ravens star Haloti Ngata as a massive man with excellent agility. Fletcher Cox from MSU is another possibility here as a more polished DT but the thought is Poe has a higher ceiling. Other possibilities: Stephen Hill, WR, GT; Quentin Coples, DE, UNC; Michael Floyd, WR, ND. My thinking is the Panthers could look to trade back into the middle of round one if they can pick up the 3rd-rounder they are missing, and still be able to get at least one of the 3 guys listed as possibilities. Chase Minnefield may well be on their radar for a CB in early round 2.
10) Buffalo Bills: Luke Keuchly, ILB, BC – Another team drafting in the top-ten all the time. Why? They keep drafting players that don’t produce. C.J. Spiller hasn’t done anything and Marcell Dareus, the 3rd overall pick last year, was injured and they need to plug the middle. They also need 2 pass-rushing OLBS/DEs, a WR2, and someone to replace Jason Peters, whom they inexplicably got rid of 2 years ago and never replaced. The feeling here is Keuchly along with a healthy Marcell Dareus will vastly improve their run defense, but the Bills are still at least a year away from making a sustained playoff run in the AFC East. They can put some points up, however, so this should be a defense-heavy draft overall for the Bills. They also have a history of sometimes questionable picks, but Luke should be a safe pick for the Bills here as the draft’s premier ILB. The Pats took Jerod Mayo here. Keuchly doesn’t have 4.55 speed, he has 4.58 speed! He also has a good nose for the ball, having led Boston College in tackles his last three seasons there.
11) Kansas City Chiefs: Cordy Glenn, G/T, UGA – KC will be glad to draft this guy who can play pretty much anywhere but Center. The Chiefs will be looking to use him at Tackle to help keep their QBs healthy with the knowledge they can move the most versatile OL in the draft around in case of injuries to others on the line. It may seem a tad high for Glenn, but his versatility is exactly what KC can use. In 2011, Chief QBs were on a first-name basis with paramedics, and that’s never a good thing. Eventually, they may draft another tackle and move Glenn inside, where he’d likely develop into a Pro-Bowl talent down the road if he doesn’t at Tackle.
12) Seattle Seahawks: Quentin Coples, DE, UNC – Yep, he slides but not horribly far. His ability is never questioned, it’s his motor. The Seahawks decide to look into round 2 for a 2nd-tier QB instead of buying into the Tannehill hype this high up. At best, Tannehill would probably have to sit for at least half a season, and the Waterfowl have other needs, DE being one of them, so they pull the trigger on what may turn out to be the best value pick of the draft. Coples may be the highest risk/reward guy in the draft.
13) Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame – Difficult team to predict. On the one hand, they seem to want to be a power-running team, but there is no OT here worthy of a #13. At 6-3 230 with speed, Floyd will help open up the defense for Kevin Kolb and give him 2 big targets to get the ball to with Larry Fitzgerald on the other side. This duo could evolve into the most dangerous tandem of WRs in the game, which should in turn open the inside for the power running game. Like the Dolphins, the Cardinal offense is only 2 or 3 players away from being really explosive. Since Floyd is very probably a game-breaker with Fitz on the other side, he gets the nod over DeCastro – barely.
14) Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro, G, Stanford – Many have the Cowboys taking a CB here to replace Orlando Scandrick opposite Terrence Newman, but they’ve already made noise about obtaining one via Free Agency. I’m assuming they get the corner they need in FA, so the next worry is keeping Tony Romo’s collarbone literally in one piece. Their line is in the bottom-third of the NFL, and DeCastro was the anchor for Andrew Luck’s power running offense and would be an instant upgrade at either guard spot for the Cowboys and a starter from day one. This guy is for real, and the with the rookie wage scale in place, interior OL are creeping up the board a bit. Last year, the Dolphins took C Mike Pouncey at 15, so this fits right in.
15) ***TRADE*** Jacksonville Jaguars (from Philadelphia): Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama – Upshaw is one of those “tweener” types, but can play DE in a 4-3 scheme. In trading back 8 spots, the Jags feel more comfortable taking a DE here and will look for help at WR later. And probably 2, at that. Gabbert needs all the help he can get as he looked lost last season so look for the Jags to do just that – but not in round one.
16) New York Jets: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson – Their team is in disarray after a disappointing season all around. Buffalo Bill reject Aaron Maybin led them in sacks, and that just won’t do for the introverted (ha!) Rex Ryan. They reach a bit and take Branch here, although it’s not all that much of a reach because of his combine showing.
17) Cincinatti Bengals (from Oakland): Mark Barron, S, Alabama – This is a need for the Bengals, and Barron is the best safety in the draft and at 223 pounds, he has the size to play in the box to support the run, if needed. Judging by the gashing they took on the ground late in the season, Barron could fill multiple roles.
18) San Diego Chargers: Mike Adams, OT, OSU – It’s unclear if V-Jax will stay in San Diego. I think he wants out, but several teams are franchising WRs this offseason, which could limit his options. It’s 50-50 right now and seems to be moving in the direction of him staying in San Diego at least for 2012 at this moment. It could change tomorrow, but right now their biggest need is at RT to give Rivers, who had a ‘down’ season last year, that little bit of extra time to make his reads.
19) ***TRADE*** New England Patriots (from Chicago): Stephen Hill, WR, GT – The first semi-surprise in the first round, the REAL surprise being the Pats actually trading up for a change. Stephen Hill showed sub 4.4-40 speed at the Combine and the Pats haven’t had a certified deep threat since Randy Moss. While GT ran an option offense and rarely threw the ball to him, Hill is a big, fast WR with comparisons to Megatron, and that’s good enough to catapult him to a WR-needy team in the first round. BB should be able to work this young man into Brady’s offense and we need to watch how Hill performs especially after the halfway point.
20) Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – Janoris Jenkins has better physical tools, but his off-field baggage hurts him especially with the team that had the misfortune of drafting Pac-Man Jones 5 or 6 years ago. Kirkpatrick is 6′ 2-1/2″ and can match up against the every-growing bunch of larger, more physical WRs in the NFL. While he doesn’t have the bulk to match up in press coverage at 197 pounds, he can be taught enough technique to at least challenge heavier guys at the line. Even with his short arms, he can be coached to make it difficult for larger WRs to get a clean release if he can learn to use his tall frame as leverage to kick WRs to the shoulder they don’t want to release to. He reminds me of the Dolphins’ Sean Smith, but with a bit more overall talent.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin – With Benson out, they’ll pick up an RB in round 2 or 3. Right now, they go with the talent that best fits their needs, and the guy with the name that would suggest he should be forced to play in Chicago and nowhere else, he’s allowed to go to Cincy and should be a solid starter from day one. I foresee many gifts and buffets paid for by his soon-to-be new best friend, Andy Dalton. Whether Peter likes it or not.
22) Cleveland (from Atlanta): Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M – With a very limited body of work from college since he switched from WR to QB his junior season, and with an injury forcing him to sit out the combine, if Seattle doesn’t grab him at 12, he could well fall here or even beyond. While he seems to have a huge upside, he’s still got too many question marks around him to go in the top 12 otherwise. If he goes here, Colt McCoy will most likely still be the starter in Cleveland for the season opener, but a healthy Tannehill could push him the second half of the season and the training camp battle should make both QBs better. Since they lost the RG3 sweepstakes, this is the Browns’ “plan B.” After all, if this were 2005, Aaron Rodgers would still be available so I think #22 overall is a bit high for Tannehill but not so much of a reach that the Browns can pass him up here.
23) Detroit Lions: Harrison Smith, S, ND – Janoris Jenkins would be far and away their top choice here if not for his off-field issues. Goodness knows, the Lions have enough ON-field issues with Suh stomping around, but they have other needs as well. Louis Delmas is pretty good but not exactly a ball-hawk. Smith would give them a very solid safety tandem and has the higher ceiling. They’ll look for a CB in rd 2 while shoring up the deep middle with Smith. Their pass rush can do the corners’ covering for them to a point. Talk about a Fearsome Foursome, Detroit has that, plus 2 reserves that can do damage and keep guys fresh. They have the most relentless DL pass-rush in the NFL, but can use someone off the edge from the Will. If Detroit ran a 3-4, the pick would be Chandler Jones.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford – The Steelers need help just about anywhere on the OL aside from Maurkice Pouncey for Big Ben’s overall health. Roethlisberger got banged up during the season and was far from 100% by the time they lost at Denver in the playoffs. Martin may not be quite as good as a Kalil, who should anchor the left side for 12 years probably for the Vikings, but he’ll learn the “Steeler Way” and should be starting at RT on opening day with the possibility of sliding to the left side once he’s gotten acclimated to the NFL. Farrior was cut, and ILB is another need area for the Steel Curtain, but Martin is the better fit at 24 overall.
25) Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, MSU – One thing the Broncos have is a pass rush, drafting Von Miller in 2011 2nd overall while getting the 2009 NFL sack leader, Elvis Dumervill, back off IR. Cox has overtaken LSU’s Brockers because Cox seems to do everything pretty well. He’s stout in the middle in the 3-technique against the run and in a 4-3, he’ll get some chances as a penetrator. While Cox lacks great lateral movement, so do most NFL guards and he’ll power-rush his way into the opposing team’s backfield at times, giving the Broncos a very solid DL.
26) Houston Texans: Chandler Jones, OLB/DE, Syracuse – It looks as if Mario Williams may hit the FA market, and Houston needs to fill his massive shoes. Jones had an incredible Combine, projecting as a 3-4 DE. He lacks great coverage skills, but then again Mario Williams was no Darrell Revis, either. A second-rounder before the Combine, this year it’s Chandler, not Julio (no relation I’m aware of), Jones that helped himself there this year.
27) ***TRADE*** Chicago Bears (from New England through New Orleans): Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - Da Bearssss had designs on Hill themselves, but decided to trade down to get a first, second, and sixth-rounder from the Pats. They need bodies and lots of them, so it makes sense for both teams. With needs on the interior OL, at CB, WR, and at OLB, they knew they’d get more help trading down and adding that 2nd rounder especially. Lovie Smith has been an NFL Head Coach for some time now, and should be able to handle Jenkins as well as anyone can. Jenkins has the physical tools to be a top-15 talent but this is what bad behavior does. It costs a rookie millions of dollars. The 5’9″ Jenkins will have trouble covering the 6-3, 6-4 WRs but with teams in the nickel package 60% of the time, chances are he’ll match up quite well with the slot receiver and the Bears will bring him along slowly unless his on-field play demands otherwise, which is quite possible, given this young man’s natural talent. Jenkins has by far the highest upside of any corner in the draft.
28) Green Bay Packers: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech – Another case where the Combine made a difference. Coaches and GMs don’t like to admit it, but it happens sometimes. Lamar Miller is the other choice here, and ran a 4.4-40 as opposed to Wilson’s 4.49-40, but here’s a news flash for you: THE FORTY TIME AIN’T EVERYTHING! Perhaps I wasn’t clear, so let me reiterate: THE FORTY TIME AIN’T EVERYTHING! Got it? Good. Wilson showed more all-around athleticism with his agility drills and his ability to catch the ball. While the Packers need to get some help for Clay Matthews, they also need to bring their own offense more into balance. Yes, The Aaron Rodgers offensive machine will overpower most teams either way, but Wilson gives them a complete back that has the strength to grind it out in the 4th quarter and shorten games for the Packers, and as a credible receiver out of the backfield, he’s yet another weapon for the Nuclear-armed Packers offense. The one strike against him is 5 fumbles last year, but ball security is something relatively easily coached. The Pack looks for a guard or pass rusher in rds 2 and 3.
29) Baltimore Ravens: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama – NOOOO, I’m NOT referring to the late, great Bubba Smith from the Police Academy movies, if that’s what you were thinking! Surprisingly, the Ravens can use a LT. Mr. “Blind side” is only that if Flacco goes ambidextrous or gets injured and they have a left-handed QB to back him up. With Adams and Martin off the board, they turn to the heir apparent to Ray Lewis: a player very much in his mold, even 12 pounds heavier and more mobile than the aging HOF MLB.
30) San Francisco 49′ers: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor – Kendall had a very poor 4.61-40 at the Combine, which will hurt his stock. However, he seemed to play faster than that at Baylor and organizations go more on game tape than they do snapshots of 40-times (Remember- the 40 time ain’t everything!) on a particular day especially if the time is slower than a player looks like in games. Wright has a lot of other skills that he brings to the table and if he can improve his 40 time at his pro day to the 4.5 range or thereabouts, it’ll only help. If he doesn’t, he will probably fall completely out of the first round. He’s not big, but he seems to get open and is a playmaker and that’s all that matters in the end.
31) New England Patriots: Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn – I can easily see the Pats trading back into the 2nd round here, especially since they just traded one of their second-rounders to move up. If they don’t, Reyes should be in the top 3 best available on BB’s best available list, and considering the Albert Haynesworth fiasco prior to last season, they could shore up their DL with this pick – he can play inside in a 4-3 and outside in a 3-4, and BB loves guys who can mix it up, as he’s been known to play entire games using the 4-3. Reyes is a great fit for the Patriots’ scheme, and although not the accomplished pass-rusher the Pats need, he will make them that much more versatile and that much more difficult for opposing teams to game-plan. This is where the “cerebral” factor enters the Pats’ draft board. Yes, they love Vince Wilfork but Reyes adds to the mix, and the Pats rarely draft directly on need, as we saw last season.
32) New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford – Eli Manning is going to absolutely adore this guy. He can work tight like a normal TE or split out wide for a mismatch. He’s got quick feet and is able to run the pivot route against zone coverage and has the explosiveness to YAC (Yards After Catch/Contact, take your pick here) things up some. At almost 6’6″ and 250 pounds, he has the size to body-shield the ball against smaller defenders or go up and get it high. He’ll be the TE Eli hasn’t had since Jeremy Shockey and comparisons to Jimmy Graham are murmuring around the league already.
CAVEAT! All draftees’ position subject to change without notice, except for the top 3 spots. Luck, RG3, and Kalil regardless of which team drafts in the top 3 spots. I’ve got Michael Brockers falling into the early 2nd-round because of limited game tape and only 19 reps at the Combine. He needs to improve his upper-body strength. However, the limited amount of game tape on him shows the kid can play and very well could go in the first half of the first round. I just feel there are other DTs out there that are as good, maybe with a bit less upside but more polished (Dontari Poe, Cox, Reyes) perhaps. It’s hard to whiff your first-round pick and Brockers has a few question marks. High risk/reward guy. But as always, things can and do change.
In any case, once Free Agency ends, the draft board will change quite a bit, and this mock is by no means definitive. It’s simply something to look at and see what your favorite team(s) may be considering in the first round.
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft Andrew Luck Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Cam Newton Carolina Panthers Dontari Poe Featured Matt Kalil Minnesota Vikings New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL NFL Draft Philadelphia Eagles Robert Griffin III Tampa Bay Buccaneers