Selections and player projections are all subject to change. 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.
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.
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. Injury plagued Aaron Kampman is set to make nearly $5 million next season and 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: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
-After signing both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Buffalo Bills almost unquestionably ended the possibility of anyone predicting a pass rusher at this spot. Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd has both the talent and upside to be selected as high as No. 10 overall, but with oft-injured left tackle Demetress (formerly Demetrius) Bell landing in Philadelphia, the position has a rather notable question mark surrounding it for 2012. While Chris Hairston has potential and is tentatively scheduled to start on the blind side, the former 4th round draft pick can be upgraded upon. Chan Gailey’s offense requires a little athleticism from the edge-blockers, and while Reiff isn’t Matt Kalil in that department, he is not a bad fit at all. Good, scrappy blocker who’s been coached well in college.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
– Keep in mind, No. 11 is the primary spot early on I’d put money on seeing a trade up/down. I’d be a little surprised to see Kansas City make this pick given how the board has shaken out. If they do — losing Brandon Carr in free agency hurts on the back end and despite Eric Berry’s return, adding more size and overall ability on the boundary, in a passing league, is always a benefit to any defense. Gilmore has significant upside. He excels in physical aspects of game, blitz + tackles well, and is a good fit for the KC defense should they opt to stay put. Stephon Gilmore is on the rise. Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe isn’t the most natural space-eating 3-4 nose tackle and is evaluated as a 5-technique by most — he’s certainly an option here as well.
12. Seattle Seahawks: DE/LB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
-Two Gamecock defenders in-a-row. 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 is imperative. The fit is most certainly there with Ingram, who possesses a solid pass rushing repertoire and rushes with leverage well. A plug & play selection who contributes as a rookie for the Seahawks.
13. Arizona Cardinals: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
-The Cardinals have a definite need along the offense line. While Arizona added former 40ers lineman Adam Snyder, throwing a fantastic (and safe) talent like Stanford’s David DeCastro is about as good a pick you can make to aid an offensive line needing improvements. DeCastro has the type of potential to become one of the league’s premiere interior blockers, and under the tutelage of Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm, it’d certainly be an interesting fit.
14. Dallas Cowboys: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
-The Dallas Cowboys have done well to address the secondary by adding former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr. While I by no means believe the team is done on the back-end, they can absolutely benefit from bolstering the size and strength up-front. By selecting Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who I personally view as a better 5-technique, the Cowboys are able to fill a need and create flexibility up front in Rob Ryan’s base 3-4. The team has interest in the massive defensive lineman, and if there, he’d be very difficult to pass up.
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 Kuechly 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. With the addition of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, linebacker is even less an option at No. 15. The Eagles have long been a proponent of quick, smaller penetrating defensive tackles, but Brockers offers a true blend of 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. Rex Ryan knows the benefit of having a smart, unique talent at the safety position about as much as anyone.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (f/OAK): WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
-Minor slide ends at No. 17, as the Bengals, who’ve lost outside and inside receivers in Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. The team has the option of addressing the position in different ways with a few different-style pass catchers available at the pick. Baylor’s Kendall Wright doesn’t have the “look” of a No. 1 receiver, he’s a move-target who has reliable hands, runs after the catch well, and can get vertical. Complimenting A.J. Green, who’s already the focal point of the passing offense, is the primary need. Wright does just that.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
-For Upshaw to have success at the next level, playing in a 3-4 defense is his safest bet. He offers San Diego intelligence, the ability to seal the edge, and some added pass rushing ability at the outside linebacker spot. After having addressed other needs through free agency, the team has the flexibility to improve it’s depth at perhaps the most important position in an odd-front defense.
19. Chicago Bears: DE 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 and variety in his rushing move repertoire. The hometown Chicago Bears have made multiple attempts to add a pass rushing compliment off the edge, opposite of Julius Peppers. Adding Mercilus, who amassed 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in just the 2011 season alone, should help aid the middle of the road pass rush in the midway.
20. Tennessee Titans: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
-While the Titans addressed the defensive end need by signing Kamerion Wimbley, the team is still likely to seek help at the position at some point. However, with nice value all over the board, the team could go in a number of directions. After Cortland Finnegan bolted in free agency, the cornerback position became a rather primary need for the team. Tennessee rolls the dice a bit on Dre Kirkpatrick, but the talented Alabama defender is a balanced player who adds size and length to the Titans’ secondary — something that is coming at a premium currently with receivers getting bigger and faster.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
-The Bengals defense allowed the league’s lowest passing yards per game total in 2011, so it’s not as if the team has a sizable need at the cornerback position. With that being said, the team still doesn’t have a long-term answer opposite of Leon Hall to replace Johnathan Joseph, who left for Houston in 2010. Former University of Florida star Janoris Jenkins can excel in multiple coverage schemes and open up the blitzing possibilities for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Leon Hall and Janoris Jenkins are a formidable duo down the road, and in the meantime with Nate Clements still around and contributing, Jenkins has the skill-set to kick inside as well.
22. Cleveland Browns (f/ATL): WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
-A very dynamic receiver with length, size, speed, and tremendous god-given talent. Regardless of who the team’s quarterback is in 2012 and on, two big-bodied targets like Floyd and Greg Little — a 2011 2nd round draft choice — certainly should improve a stagnant passing offense in Cleveland. With No. 1 receiver potential, Floyd has the ability to go in the top 10. This is great value, as he instantly becomes another building block for the Browns offense.
23. Detroit Lions: OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia
-Between the fact that Detroit managed to re-sign linebacker Stephen Tulloch and that there may not be a good fit at cornerbacks available, the two positions take a backseat to the offensive line with multiple values on the board still. Cordy Glenn is a massive blocker with long arms who properly fits offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s philosophy, as the team continues moving to a more man-based blocking scheme. With the versatility at either guard spots and the right tackle position, it won’t be difficult to find a place to plug in the big Bulldog blocker.
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 themselves a favor 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 combined with the loss of Brodrick Bunkley to New Orleans, it becomes necessary that a talent is added at the position. Another impressive piece to add to the developing defensive front-seven.
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): DL Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
-Through free agency the New England Patriots have been persistently involved in a few big-bodied defensive lineman with movement. An oversized defensive end or smallish leverage interior d-lineman, regardless of how you perceive Reyes, he’s a powerful rusher with a quality burst and shedding ability on the inside and a knack for setting the edge on the outside. Another riser who’s sneaking into late 1st-round consideration.
28. Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
-A player quietly rising up boards is Boise State’s Shea McClellin. A solid mover with natural pass rushing ability, who plays with intelligence. A high-school running back, McClellin impressively uses his hands in both run defense and the pass rush. Disciplined, reads + reacts well. Fits the bill as a high-football IQ rush linebacker opposite of Clay Matthews in Green Bay. Looks the part of a solid, above-average NFL starting linebacker.
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: OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
-The 49ers have expressed some interest in adding an interior o-lineman in free agency and recently worked out former Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui — who eventually signed with the Seattle Seahawks. With Adam Snyder now in Arizona as well, and the wide receiver position perhaps no longer a round 1 need, a hole remains at right-guard. The next-safest guard prospect in the 2012 class after David DeCastro is Kevin Zeitler, from O-line U — more commonly known as Wisconsin. A well taught blocker with good footwork and drive blocking ability in the run-game. Fits the 49ers offensive philosophy rather nicely, and the team has previously invested 1st-round picks in three of it’s five starters on the offensive line; make it four.
31. New England Patriots: LB Luke Kuechley, Boston College
-Talent dictates that Luke Kuechly go much, much higher than this spot, but the positional value in a linebacker who doesn’t have tremendous pass rushing ability isn’t what it used to be. Still, if the New England Patriots wind up keeping both 1st-round picks — which I’d by no means anticipate — then the hometown talent would be an intriguing option. A very intelligent and versatile linebacker, Kuechly is a tackling machine with “plus” athleticism.
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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