“This is the time you’ve all been waiting for”
1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
-Widely regarded to be the top pick of the draft for two consecutive years now, Andrew Luck is the real deal. Not much explanation needed, as the Colts begin the post-Peyton era with a player some compare to No. 18.
2. Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (f/STL)
-A very nice fit for Mike Shanahan’s offense, and although the ‘Skins gave up a king’s ransom for the right to select him, RG3 represents both the present and future of this organization. If he turns out to be what he is expected to be, the assets given up to acquire him will become an afterthought.
3. Minnesota Vikings: OT Matt Kalil, Southern California
-Vikes could certainly stand to add a top-shelf talent at cornerback in such a high-powered passing division. That being said, Morris Claiborne doesn’t directly help make 2011 1st round pick, quarterback Christian Ponder, a better player. Drastically improving last year’s left tackle Charlie Johnson on the other hand, does.
4. Cleveland Browns: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
-A big bodied physical receiver who adds more size out wide for whomever the quarterback may be, both in 2012, and on. Although Blackmon lacks the elite timed speed, he plays fast, has excellent work ethic, and is one of the most productive players available.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
-After adding more size and beef up front on the offensive line, the Bucs are in a nice position to plug-in Trent Richardson and reap the benefits of his skill-set immediately as a rookie. The Crimson Tide star rusher also helps take pressure off quarterback Josh Freeman. Tampa Bay as an organization isn’t vested to LeGarrette Blount, either.
6. St. Louis Rams: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU (f/WAS)
-The last remaining ‘elite’ talent available on the board, and luckily for Les Snead, Jeff Fisher, and co. it is at a position of need. The organization needed a big boost to its secondary this offseason — more specifically at cornerback — and has done a great job doing so by adding Cortland Finnegan, and now Claiborne.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
-Talents like cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Michael Floyd are intriguing possibilities, but the team’s passing defense was top 10 last season, statistically, and they’ve also added some help at receiver — and can still benefit from a deep class at the position later. Jacksonville, as a team, accumulated 31 total sacks, which tied them for 25th-best in the league last season. Improvements in that category are needed, and an athletic + disruptive Melvin Ingram, who can rush from many spots, will certainly add to a growing defense. Still, look for Jacksonville to try and move out of this pick.
8. Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
-Although Michael Floyd’s availability here for Miami — the league’s worst wide receiver core heading into the draft — is worth a look, it’s hard to justify passing on the quarterback. Tough to envision the team being willing to move up for him, but the situation works out as is. Matt Moore is the consummate “stop-gap” who’s failed to take hold of a starting job in the past, and there’s no telling how an aged David Garrard will pan out (health-permitting). This could also be Philadelphia’s last chance to move up for DT Fletcher Cox, so keep an eye there as well.
9. Carolina Panthers: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
-Tied with the Jaguars for the 25th rank in sacks this past season, the Panthers are a team who could benefit from adding some more fire on the defensive line. The best value available in that regard is Mississippi State defender Fletcher Cox — a versatile athlete who can rush from a multitude of spots, and compliment nose-tackle types Sione Fua and Terrell McClain…a pair of good young run stoppers selected last year.
10. Buffalo Bills: SS Mark Barron, Alabama
-One of the hottest names available with the draft upon us is the prized Alabama safety Mark Barron. A smart, hard working, well-coached defender at a position with growing draft-day value. A tireless film-room guy who adds more reliability and balance to the back-end of the Buffalo defense. Barron is also strong (and big enough) in man-coverage, an appealing quality to have against a divisonal opponent like the Patriots The team has made improvements on defense all offseason, and continue to do so at No. 10 overall.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
-A borderline-elite caliber prospect in my view, Kuechly is a rangy tackling machine whose athleticism has been highly underestimate by many. He is cover-savvy and still developing. Locates and plays the ball very well. Although the position doesn’t have great value at this spot, Chiefs GM Scott Pioli very much likes intelligent football players. Pioli proved in 2010 that he’ll sacrifice some positional value early on in the draft for an intellectual, plug & play defender with football IQ, as he chose safety Eric Berry with a high selection.
12. Seattle Seahawks: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
-Coples is a true talent who, if motivated, can certainly outplay his draft position. More of a power-defender, he adds to the already big + strong front in Seattle. Head coach Pete Carroll is the consummate “rah-rah” coach, and when both the fit & need match, I think you have yourself a nice pick here.
13. Arizona Cardinals: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
-The organization has Larry Fitzgerald, who can take on double coverage and still be one of the most effective players at his position in the league. That being said, the Cards really have a significant hole opposite of Fitz, as the team has lacked a true No. 2 following the departure of Steve Breaston last season. Also, you must protect an investment in quarterback Kevin Kolb — adding another big, long limbed butterfly net out wide adds a new dimension to the passing game. UGA OG/RT Cordy Glenn is a strong possibility, as is Iowa OT Riley Reiff, but I simply think Floyd is too good to pass up here.
14. Dallas Cowboys: DL Dontari Poe, Memphis
-The big-man is not your prototype space eating 3-4 nose tackle, so don’t view him as Jay Ratliff’s replacement or excuse to reshuffle. Poe has the size of a 0-player who can line up on the center, but plays like a potential 5-technique defender in a base 3-4. Adds more beef up front on the Cowboys’ front 7, and a physical specimen who could intrigue Jerry Jones. OG David DeCastro is a nice possibility as well, but I can’t imagine the team would give a 5-year deal, and guaranteeing over $6 million to Nate Livings to be a platoon player.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
-Philly has reportedly been coveting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. That’s unlikely barring a trade up into the top 10, but the sizable, athletic LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers adds a new dynamic to the Eagles’ front. Despite measuring at 6’5″ 322 lbs., Brockers entered Baton Rouge as a thick, strong-side defensive end recruit with nice movement skills. He carries his weight well and can become a highly disruptive player a the next level. On talent and potential, Brockers could certainly go top 10, so this is nice value in the middle of round 1.
16. New York Jets: DE/OLB Chandler Jones, Syracuse
-The home-state product is a quality athlete with a notable first-step and physical stature. Good bloodlines and potential, Chandler Jones may be more of a natural 3-4 rush linebacker, but is getting looks for that role. The Jets finished in the middle of the pack in sacks last season and although Aaron Maybin is beginning to look like a decent contributor off the edge, help is still needed. Jones was on pace to have the most productive season of his career this past season, but missed 5 games due to injury.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (f/OAK)
-A top 10 talent in this class, Gilmore truly has the potential to be one of the best players from this class if he develops more consistency. Man-coverage capable, plays with physicality, will make tackles, blitz’s, and does it all at 6’1″, while hovering just under 200 lbs. He is the total package and a very nice value at this point.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
-Chargers were tied for 23rd in the league in sacks last season and can really benefit from adding more player capable of getting pressure on the quarterback. An intelligent leader who can line up in a couple of spots, Upshaw is a player who many believe San Diego likes a lot. For him to fall into their lap is nice value here and an intriguing possibility. Compliments Shaun Phillips off the opposite edge rather nicely.
19. Chicago Bears: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
-The hometown defender fills a significant need here for the Bears, who’ve been seeking an imporvement at defensive end opposite Julius Peppers all offseason. Adding an explosive player like Mercilus, who led the NCAA in sacks with 16.0 in 2011, who’s just scratched the surface of his potential really bolsters the pass rush. In a pass-happy division, you have to get to the quarterback. Nice pick, nice value.
20. Tennessee Titans: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
-Another true talent at the cornerback position available to team who will be assessing its options at the position. Kirkpatrick is a long limbed ‘matchup’ corner who possesses nice physical skills and the physicality to be an effective man or zone corner at the next level. With the loss of Cortland Finnegan to free agency, the team must add a new long term fixture out on the boundary.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
-Very nice addition and value in the early 20’s. David DeCastro falls a little on a technicality, as his talent warrants an earlier selection. Although the Bengals added Travelle Wharton, DeCastro is one of the safest prospects available and can be plugged in at either guard spot from day one. Too much to pass up at this point.
22. Cleveland Browns: RB Doug Martin, Boise State (f/ATL)
-Martin is a thick, strong runner who’s got 3-down capability at the next level. Drawing some comparisons to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, he can run hard between the tackles and would be a reliable bruiser who could take the focus off whoever is playing quarterback.
23. Detroit Lions: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
-A tough, scrappy blocker who comes from a good background at Iowa, Reiff is more of a right tackle-only but at this stage of round 1, he’s prime value. Well coached, pro-ready offensive tackle who can be plugged in from day one.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
-Heavy, downhill linebacker who compliments the rangy Lawrence Timmons at the inside of the Steelers’ 3-4 linebacker core. Hightower is a well-coached, experienced leader on a Nick Saban defense who is just a picture perfect fit for Pittsburgh at this point. 3-down player who has nice rushing skills on passing downs. The defensive turnover continues in Steel-city.
25. Denver Broncos: DL Kendall Reyes, UConn
-Interesting selection here, as despite the fact that both Devon Still and Jerel Worthy are available, the quiet riser Kendall Reyes wins out because he peaks the team’s interest the most here. A power player who understand leverage, Reyes’ blend of strength and movement skills make him an intriguing piece to add tot he Denver front 7. The team lost Brodrick Bunkley to free agency, and Reyes is a similar player stylistically.
26. Houston Texans: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
-In a zone-blocking scheme you need the proper fit, and the fleet-footed Martin would be a nice example of that. Value is right at this point, and after suffering the loss of right tackle Eric Winston to the Chiefs in free agency, the tentative starter Rashad Butler is no guarantee to be the long-term answer.
27. New England Patriots: DE/OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State (f/NO)
-A versatile rusher who can line up in a number of spots. Productive, experienced, smart, he represents a lot of the characteristics the Patriots typically appreciate in draft prospects. A prime value at this point, McClellin would be a great-get in the late 20s.
28. Green Bay Packers: DL Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
-The Pack really need to find a long-term answer at their remaining vacancy along the 3-4 defensive line. Mike Neal has not panned out, and adding a disruptive talent like Jerel Worthy will address a need, help bolster the pressure off the edge from the 5-technique spot. With Shea McClellin going a pick earlier, the OLB spot may need to be addressed a little later.
29. Baltimore Ravens: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
-The Ravens offensive line is typically built through the draft, and I expect them to continue that trend. Peter Konz is the draft’s top center, and given that Matt Birk is turning 36, on bad knees, and considering retirement on an annual basis from here on out, the need is there to find a long-term answer. Konz in the meantime can contribute at guard, as the team is dealing with the loss of Ben Grubbs. to free agency.
30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
-Although the 9ers have made a plethora of offensive additions, Randy Moss is a question mark, and he is not a long-term answer. The Baylor star is an electrifying catch+run receiver who can get vertical and gain separation. Adding more speed overall, Wright also would pose a threat to defenses as a ‘move’ receiver who can line up everywhere: in the backfield, slot, in-motion, out wide, etc.
31. New England Patriots: S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
-The team is seeking help at safety for the long haul, and a smart, physical player like Harrison Smith who plays with intelligence is a nice fit here. Experienced and productive, Smith can be used in a multitude of ways in New England’s secondary, and is capable of stepping up into the box and making tackles.
32. New York Giants: OT Bobby Massie, Ole Miss
-A riser who’s athleticism and size are an intriguing blend. Would have likely been selected higher had he come out a year later, but Massie’s displayed the movement and nice technique to be taken in this range. Has some similarities to 2011 Cowboys 1st round pick Tyron Smith, and truthfully, he could follow a similar career path: right tackle in his rookie season, and a kick to the blindside in year two. A high-potential prospect.
Follow me on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate