Selections and player projections are all subject to change. What you will read is updated including recent NFL Combine evaluations and keep in mind, the following mock is primarily what I believe will happen on draft day. So without further adieu, lets get started:
1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
-Whether the situation is perfect for Luck to walk into or not simply is irrelevant when you’re discussing a once-in-a-decade quarterback prospect. New general manager, new head coach, new organizational philosophy from top to bottom. Owner Jim Irsay is hoping that with a little Luck, the Colts can transition as smoothly as possible into the post-Peyton era. You don’t think twice about making this pick. A no brainer.
*trade* – Redskins move up to 2nd overall.
2. Washington Redskins (f/STL): QB Robert Griffin, Baylor
–Mike Shanahan proved in ’06 that he has no qualms with moving up the board for what he believes is a franchise caliber quarterback. Six years later, I believe he does the same thing. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is an athletic passer and a very nice fit for the ‘Skins’ offense. Tough to imagine Cleveland will give up more than anyone else in order to move up less spots.
3. Minnesota Vikings: OT Matt Kalil, USC
–Charlie Johnson is not a cornerstone LT, but Matt Kalil is. The Vikings would like to trade out of this pick, but with RG3 off the board, they opt to solidify Christian Ponder’s blindside. The team parted with long-time left tackle Bryant McKinnie last year and appear ready to do the same with left guard Steve Hutchinson – time to move on and get young.
4. Cleveland Browns: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
-GM Tom Heckert has a notable track record of looking defense with first round picks. Although running back Trent Richardson or wide receiver Justin Blackmon would certainly fill needs at skill spots, the positional value isn’t very good at this point. The organization likes young cornerback Buster Skrine, but the possibility of plugging in another supremely talented youngster opposite of Joe Haden proves too difficult to pass up.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
-LeGarrette Blount regressed noticeably in 2011 and the Buccaneers ground game as a whole was one of the league’s worst. In addition, the organization’s franchise quarterback Josh Freeman suffered regression this past season and there would be no more immediate help for him personally than a legitimate workhorse running back such as Trent Richardson.
*trade* – Rams move down to 6th overall.
6. St. Louis Rams (f/WAS): WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
-The St. Louis offense as a whole last year was stagnant. Although the Rams have a pair of young receivers they selected with high hopes last year in Greg Salas and Austin Pettis, the team still lacks a legitimate vertical threat to help aid Sam Bradford and the passing game. Blackmon becomes the third wide receiver Jeff Fisher has selected in the first round.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Quinton Coples, UNC
-The Jags’ defense really showed flashes in 2011 and should only get better with continuity and familiarity. Still, a pass rushing boost can never hurt. The team’s best pass rusher Jeremy Mincey will test the market and with injury plagued Aaron Kampman set to make nearly $5 million next season it’s fair to wonder whether he is brought back. Coples would certainly provide a nice athletic rusher to an improved and still-building defense.
8. Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
-Not hard to connect the dots between Tannehill and the Dolphins, as Miami’s new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman coached the passer closely at Texas A&M. The team has an indefinite long-term need at quarterback and while they may opt to address it in free agency, Tannehill is a logical choice if they do not have their man by late April. A good fit for Joe Philbin’s offense, Tannehill has the natural skill-set to become a very good NFL quarterback, but beware the raw prospects.
9. Carolina Panthers: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
-For a position lacking great value at the top end of the draft, you need to be a disruptive player in order to garner early consideration as a defensive tackle. Fletcher Cox brings fire in that aspect and he displayed excellent overall quickness and rare movement skills at the Combine – he’s steady-rising. Although the Panthers like Sione Fua & Terrell McClain / may prefer a corner here, Fletcher Cox has all the makings of a deadly pass-rushing 3-technique type that Carolina is lacking. This is by no means a reach.
10. Buffalo Bills: DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
-It’s kind of hard to really classify what the Bills’ defense is at the moment. Although Dave Wannstedt is transitioning back to a 4-3 front, it’s a safe bet that Buffalo will remain multiple with some 3-4 looks. However you cut it, they lack a true pass rushing presence, and none may have the blend of versatility and disruptive presence off the edge than Ingram. A nice fit, and another nice piece to add to the Buffalo defense.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
–Despite some being split on whether Dontari Poe is a true space eating nose tackle or a more of a mover in the 5-technique 3-4 defensive end mold, he remains a legitimate big-bodied pass rusher. A big boy with “plus” movement skills and first step, Poe will need development time, but if he reaches his potential, landing him at No. 11 would be a steal for the Chiefs.
12. Seattle Seahawks: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
-It’s all about the “LEO” position for Seattle, and finding a pass rusher with the versatility and skill-set to play the unique position. The fit is most certainly there with Upshaw, who possesses the bulk and ideal thickness of a defensive end, but the quickness and movement of a linebacker. The polished, well coached defender should be a plug & play selection who contributes as a rookie for the Seahawks.
13. Arizona Cardinals: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
-The Cardinals have a definite need along the offense line, regardless of who their quarterback is in 2012. While Riley Reiff isn’t the epitome of what an NFL left tackle looks like, he certainly has the technique and competitiveness for the position. Frankly, Arizona could stand to improve both tackle spots, so the help up front would be much appreciated. Reiff is a polished player who should help from day one.
14. Dallas Cowboys: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
-Tough situation as the most logical pick would certainly seem to be Bama corner Dre Kirkpatrick, but following poor interviews at the Combine and questions regarding whether or not he may have to play safety make things a bit hazy at No. 14. When it comes down to it, protection for Tony Romo is paramount, and the organization picked a winner last year with Tyron Smith. Not the “flashy” pick, but Dallas is in a position to potentially set the left side of their offensive line for ten years with its 2011 & 2012 first picks.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
-Supreme value selection, as Philly has a gem fall into its lap at No. 15. Michael Brockers is a talent who may fall on a technicality come late April. Most believe a linebacker like Luke Kuchley is the set-in-stone selection for the Eagles, but potentially adding more size and athleticism in the middle of the Wide-9 should prove to be an intriguing possibility. The Eagles have long been a proponent of quick, smaller penetrating defensive tackles, but Brockers offers a true blend of both bulk and movement skills.
16. New York Jets: S Mark Barron, Alabama
-A tireless film-room guy, Barron is the type of lead-by-example presence that Gang Green may be missing defensively right now. A double threat safety who is capable of running and covering, but can step up and hit ball carriers in the box. New York dealt with the loss of Jim Leonhard due to injury and there’s questions as to whether or not he will be healthy by 2012 opening day, plus fellow starting safety Eric Smith is one of the more easily upgradable players at his position in the NFL.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (f/OAK): CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
-Minor slide ends at No. 17, as the Bengals, seeking a long-term answer at cornerback opposite of Leon Hall to replace Johnathan Joseph who bolted a year ago, pull the trigger. Although there was the recent arrest and reportedly poor interviews at the Combine, Kirkpatrick remains an obvious talent with strong value at this portion of the round. Possessing a pair of picks in the first, Cincy rolls the dice.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
-A nice Combine and even better pro day workout later and Whitney Mercilus is a hot-topic again. After leading the NCAA in sacks this past season with no prior production, Mercilus quickly made evaluators study his tape. I saw a rusher with good burst off the snap, some pop at the point of attack, and variety in his rushing move repertoire. “Fluid” in linebacker drills during pro day, he may have convinced some teams, namely the Chargers — who took a notably close look at him on pro day — that he can be a double-digit sack artist in the NFL as an edge rushing linebacker in a base 3-4.
19. Chicago Bears: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
-Big value at this stage of the draft. Floyd really impressed at Combine workouts, but left interviews leaving a bit of a bad taste in some teams’ mouths. It’s long past due that Chicago added a big, long target at the receiver position like Michael Floyd. A fluid route runner who can get vertical and go get the ball. Just the type of big target that quarterback Jay Cutler has missed since Brandon Marshall.
20. Tennessee Titans: DE Nick Perry, USC
-It’s no secret that the Titans will be seeking help at the defensive end position this offseason. Potentially adding a very dynamic speed rusher like Nick Perry would instantly bolster the team’s defensive efficiency. Although Perry is raw, he possesses the skills and natural ability to become a prominent and disruptive edge player in the league with time. His superior speed and first step should help him contribute in Tennessee early on, even if it’s in rotation.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: OG Cordy Glenn, Goergia
-Having addressed the secondary need earlier, the Bengals opt to solidify the interior offensive line with a massive size + movement prospect in Cordy Glenn. Nice lateral footwork and go-go gadget arms, Glenn has the potential to contribute early on.
22. Cleveland Browns (f/ATL): WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
-A very dynamic and shifty compliment to the bigger bodied Greg Little, who Cleveland hopes will break out big in 2012. Wright is a do-it-all receiver who can stretch the field vertically, as well as catch and run. He can run all the routes and could be the Percy Harvin-type that is a reliable asset to any passing game. When the tape says someone is fast, you can look past a poor 40-yard dash – although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting a much better time at his pro day.
23. Detroit Lions: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
-Talent dictates the very all-around, balanced Kuechly would go much higher, but lack of need at his position in the mid-first results in the Detroit Lions getting a gift. With Stephen Tulloch set to hit the free agent market, a big gaping hole in the middle of Jim Schwartz’s defense just opened up. At the Combine, Kuechly put to rest all notions that he’s a limited athlete, and it was already very evident that he was a uniquely instinctive linebacker with unparalleled football IQ.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
-A strong value selection, Martin has top 15 selection potential and barring a run on tackles resulting in trade up(s), this is a lucky slide. Pittsburgh, a team desperate to bolster the pass protection and keep Big Ben safe, must find help along the offensive line this offseason. Having plucked Maurkice Pouncey a couple years ago, we may soon see the Steelers begin to consider offensive linemen a little more strongly moving forward as opposed to simply investing picks in youth on defense.
25. Denver Broncos: DT Devon Still, Penn State
-Although there really is no justification to Devon Still potentially falling on draft day, other interior linemen really did themself favors at the Combine. Albeit on a formality, the Broncos could score huge with a big, physically put together run stopper like Devon Still, who possesses strong penetrating abilities. A natural mover who developed his game strongly over time in Happy Valley, he’s one of the safer prospects that will be selected in round 1. The Broncos have a long-term need at defensive tackle, and while Brodrick Bunkley was a savvy addition, sticking Still in the mix only adds another nice piece to Denver’s front 7 in consecutive years.
26. Houston Texans: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
-The Texans currently possess a strong, big bodied vertical threat. Why not add another? Houston certainly has a need for a complimentary receiver to help take the microscope off Andre Johnson, and adding another strong handed playmaking-type only makes Matt Schaub’s return to the starting role all the more welcoming. Stephen Hill has the eye-popping natural skills and ability to go earlier than late round 1.
27. New England Patriots (f/NO): LB Zach Brown, UNC
-Another east/west linebacker, similar in ways to Jerod Mayo, who can run and cover at a high level. A nice fit in the Patriots current defensive scheme, Brown is a naturally gifted mover with solid instincts. Always difficult to predict what Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will do; you can assure they’ll keep the phone lines open for any team interested in trading up, however.
28. Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Andre Branch, Clemson
-One player who really impressed me at the Combine was Andre Branch. Flashed very strong fluidity and overall speed during drills. A natural pass rusher who doesn’t appear to get uncomfortable in space, Branch is one of the final remaining conversion players that could potentially be around in this range for the Packers.
29. Baltimore Ravens: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
-There’s three sure things in life: death, taxes, and Wisconsin producing quality NFL offensive linemen. With an aged Matt Birk ready to hit free agency, soon to be 36 years old, and on bad knees, help at center long-term is needed. With some guard versatility, Konz has the ability to step in and help along the line should Ben Grubbs be signed away from Baltimore as well. Not flashy by any means, but a definite need selection.
30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
-After cutting weight, Jeffery re-inserted himself into first round consideration to more than a few individuals. The player once thought to be a top ten lock has some overall concerns after a questionable junior season, but the long-length, ball skills, and leaping ability remain in tact. Alshon Jeffery gives the 49ers passing game some more size and presence in the redzone.
31. New England Patriots: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama / Florida
-The Patriots have been known to invest early choices in cornerbacks of late. With that being said, it could most certainly happen again, as Rasi-I Dowling dealt with more injuries during his rookie season and Devin McCourty’s play in 2011 dropped off heavily from his excellent rookie campaign
32. New York Giants: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State
-A very nice value at this point, the Giants aren’t likely to return free agent right tackle Kareem McKenzie. Although William Beatty is not a bad left tackle, Mike Adams has high potential and with some time, can develop into a really good NFL pass protector on the blind-side. The selection protects the organization’s primary asset in Eli Manning, as well as give the team flexibility up front along the offensive line.
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