Draft eve is upon us! I've been fortunate enough to attend some memorable sporting events in my life, but one that is on my bucket list is the NFL Draft. For some, it is the chance to start a new chapter in their organization's history. For others, it's a chance to find that missing piece of the puzzle that leads to a Super Bowl. Anyway you slice it, the Draft is one of the best sporting events there is. So, without further adieu, here is my last mock before the Draft. You'll notice some BIG changes in the first round highlighted by the Jets trading up. Enjoy!
1) Indianpolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
- One of the most frustrating aspects of the Draft is how long some of the picks take. Fortunately, it appears as though the Colts won’t have to take the full 5 minutes allotted to them to make their choice. Luck, who has been called by many the best QB prospect since John Elway, will take over the reigns of the Colts franchise. His first task? Replacing Peyton Manning… should be simple enough.
2) Washington Redskins (Trade with St. Louis Rams) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
- The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is now in line to become the Redskins’ first legitimate franchise quarterback since (gulp) Jason Campbell was picked in the first round back in 2004. In short, Griffin is explosive and might have a higher ceiling than Luck. The Michael Vick comparisons are decent, but I’m not that big a fan of them. Coming into the NFL, RG3 is a much more polished passer than Vick and should be able to help out a Redskin passing attack that ranked second to last in the NFL in interceptions thrown with 24.
3) Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC
- There’s been some smoke as to what the Vikings plan on doing with this pick. Ideally they’d like to move down as they are a team with a lot of holes. In addition, Morris Claiborne’s name has been picking up steam of late. Consider that the Vikings are in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford. Claiborne makes sense and fills a need, but I still think Kalil is the pick. The Vikings used a first round pick on Christian Ponder last year, and I think they will look to protect their investment.
4) Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
- No matter what the Vikings decide to do, I think the Browns have zeroed in on Richardson. I’m not a fan of spending a top 5 or even a top 10 pick on a running back, but Richardson would be the exception. He is a workhorse, and in a division with the Ravens and Steelers, the Browns have to run the ball to help Colt McCoy out.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
- The Bucs want Richardson and there’s been talk of them moving up to three to get him. In the end, I think the Bucs stay put and select Claiborne. As we’ve seen, running backs come from all rounds of the draft. Arian Foster was undrafted and is a perennial ProBowler. I think the Bucs take Claiborne in hopes that he’ll develop into Ronder Barber 2.0.
6) St. Louis Rams (Trade with Washington Redskins) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
- Jeff Fisher reportedly loves Trent Richardson, but he’s not going to last till 6. The Rams have lacked a true go to receiver since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. With Blackmon sitting on the board, the Rams should have no trouble making their selection.
Blackmon is the #1 receiver in this year’s class and with good reason. The two-time defending Bilennitkoff winner has totaled over 100 catches and over 1500 yards in the past two seasons. He will immediately become a weapon for Bradford and a spark for what has been a dreadful offense the past couple of years.
7) New York Jets (Trade with Jacksonville Jaguars) – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
- If Blackmon is on the board, the Jags will not trade this pick. That said, they are DEFINITELY interested in trading out of the seven spot to a team targeting a guy like Ingram, Tannehill or Barron.
The Jets are going to take a pass rusher with their first round pick and Rex Ryan reportedly loves Ingram. Jets fans may be apprehensive about taking a guy like Ingram due to the debacle that happened in 2008 with Vernon Gholston. But, as the Giants proved last year, you can never have enough pass rushers and the Jets are going to get arguably the best one in the class.
8) Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
- Boy oh boy, where to start. The Dolphins, once considered front-runners for Peyton Manning by some, whiffed on both him and Matt Flynn. The Dolphins then responded by trading their best playmaker Brandon Marshall to Chicago for two third round picks.
Enter Ryan Tannehill who two short years ago was playing wide receiver for the Aggies. After one year of starting under center in College Station, draft scouts have become fascinated with Tannehill’s skill set and athleticism shooting him up draft boards. I for one am skeptical and would not take him with a first round pick. But, the elite teams in this league all have one thing in common, an elite quarter back.
9) Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
- The Panthers were tied for 25th in the league in sacks last year with 31 and desperately need to improve on that number being in the same division as Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Cox is another name that has been moving up draft boards and is considered by many to be the most NFL-ready of the defensive tackles this year. Coples and Ingram are tempting, but with Charles Johnson already locked in to a big contract, the Panthers look to stuff the middle with Cox.
10) Buffalo Bills – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
- Perhaps no team has upgraded as much as Buffalo has this offseason. They went out and signed sack artist Mario Williams to the tune of $105 million. In addition they also signed former Bears defensive end Mark Anderson. Combine those two with last year’s first round pick Marcel Dareus, and the Bills suddenly have a potent defensive front.
Because the Bills spent a good amount of dough on the defense & the fact they signed Ryan Fizpatrick to an extension last offseason, I think they’ll look to give him a weapon to use. Floyd has some red flags from his time at Notre Dame, but he also has upside through the roof. He and Steve Johnson will create a dynamic receiving duo for the Bills.
11) Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
- The Chiefs have one of the league’s most dynamic pass rushers in Tamba Hali and another pro bowler in Derrick Johnson. Kuechly is a tackling machine. He led the NCAA in tackles in back-to-back years and is the top ranked linebacker in the draft. Peyton Manning just joined the AFC West, and as a result each team in the division will have to be even better come 2012.
12) Seattle Seahawks – Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
- There’s perhaps no player in the draft with a ceiling as high as Coples. Sure there are questions about his motor and tendency to take plays off, but when Coples is going all out, he’s the top pass rusher in the class. Again, Coples gets to the quarterback and because of that, he won’t fall very far. If Coples plays up to his ability, the Seahawks could get the steal of the draft.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OL, Iowa
- The Cardinals could go a couple of different ways in the upcoming draft but I’m giving them Reiff, the latest Iowa offensive lineman to come through the woodworks. The 49ers took the division by storm this past year in large part do to their defense and specifically their pass rush. Another option would be Michael Floyd who could take some pressure off Larry Fitzgerald, but there are good options at wide receiver that figure to still be available in the later rounds.
14) Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
- The Cowboys were one win away from the playoffs this past season but ultimately fell short losing to the eventual champions on the final week of the regular season. The Cowboys secondary was abysmal and the weakness of an otherwise solid defensive unit. Dallas already upgraded their secondary by snagging the top free agent cornerback, Brandon Carr. Barron, the top rated safety in the class, fills a need and would be an immediate starter who can play both the pass and run effectively.
15) Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
- The Eagles reportedly love Cox and are one of the teams that could trade up (presumably to 7) to get him. For now though, they settle for Brockers who has been ranked all over the board. There’s no question that the Eagles want to plug up the middle and stop the run. They brought in DeMeco Ryans from Houston, and now I think they turn to Brockers to try to solidify the middle of the defense.
16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Trade with New York Jets) – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
- The Jags get their wish and trade back while picking up a third and fourth round pick from the Jets. The Jags have a lot of holes they could fill with this pick, but I think Gilmore gets the nod. Peter King has said that the Jaguars reportedly love Gilmore, and he has seen his stock rise in the past several weeks, so much so that a couple of scouts have him rated higher than Claiborne. I wouldn’t go that far, but there’s no question that Gilmore is solid corner who will provide an upgrade for the Jags secondary.
17) Cincinnati Bengals – David DeCastro, G, Stanford
- The Bengals surprised many when they made the playoffs behind the rookie arm of Andy Dalton and the rookie hands of A.J. Green. There are rumors that the Bengals, with two first round picks, could potentially make a move for Trent Richardson. While that scenario could very well pan out, I think the Bengals stay put and grab two solid players that can contribute right away.
As mentioned, the Bengals appear to have their quarterback of the future in Dalton. So, it’s only natural that you protect your investment. Enter DeCastro who is one of the best offensive guard prospects of the past decade. He’s drawn comparisons to Steve Hutchison and according to sources, if DeCastro is available when the Bengals select at 17, he will be the pick.
18) San Diego Chargers – Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
- The Chargers ranked tied for 23rd in the league in sacks, and for that reason I believe they look to upgrade their pass rush in the draft. Jones name has been on the rise in the past two weeks and some think there's a chance he could sneak into the top 15. Larry English hasn't been what the Chargers had hoped, and with Peyton Manning coming to the AFC West, they must upgrade their pass rush.
19) Chicago Bears – Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
- By now, you know the story with the Bears. Good quarterback, great running back & defense and decent receivers. The weakness, as has been the case for several years, has been the offensive line. Last year, the Bears jumped on Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round. Carimi missed several games last year due to injury, but I still think he’ll make a good pro. The same however, cannot be said for J’Marcus Webb. He has been the weak link in the unit since the Bears drafted him in 2010. Glenn is a very underrated prospect and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was gone before the Bears pick. He can play guard or tackle at the next level.
20) Tennessee Titans – Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
- The Titans brought in free agent Kamerion Wimberly to improve the defensive end position but I don't think they're done at the position. McClellin is another guy who is seeing his stock rise because of his pass rushing ability, versatility and athleticism. Again, teams value guys who can rush the passer and McClellin has shown the ability to do just that.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
- If the Bengals don't go with a corner at 17, they will definitely do so with this pick. Nate Clements isn't getting any younger and Leon Hall won't be ready to play by the time the season rolls around.
Enter Dre Kirkpatrick, who up until a month ago, was considered a top 10 pick in the same league as Morris Claiborne. However after racking up a marijuana possession charge, Kirkpatrick’s stock has taken a bit of a hit. Still though, there’s no denying his talent. Kirkpatrick is big for a cornerback (6’2”) but can still blanket half of the field. I like "Dre Kirk" to step in and provide an immediate impact for the Bengals who have stockpiled some really good talent the past couple of years.
22) Cleveland Browns – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
- The Browns could opt for Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with this pick but in the end I think they hold fast on a quarterback and wait to see what Colt McCoy can do with some actual weapons. Hill is the prototypical combine wonder. Nobody knew his name before the combine, but everybody knew it afterward. Hill dazzled scouts at the combine by running a 4.36 forty while recording a 39.5” vertical jump.
The questions with Hill are obvious. Coming from a triple option attack at Georgia Tech, Hill never got the ball much, as evidence by his 28 catches for all of 2011. I think Hill gets the nod over Kendall Wright here simply because Hill is the big, fast, possession receiver that Colt McCoy needs. Wright is similar to Josh Cribbs in that he is more of a vertical threat and can help out in the return game. Hill’s ceiling is too tempting for the Browns to pass up.
23) Detroit Lions – Aminu Silatolu, OT, Midwestern State
- The Lions will pick either an offensive lineman or a corner with this pick. Seeing as Gilmore and Kirkpatrick are gone, the Lions turn to a great consolation prize in Silatolu who will very likely see his name called in the first round. The Lions nab Silatolu in an effort to protect Matthew Stafford.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
- With the Steelers recently cutting ties with James Farrior, they will be looking to find a replacement for the veteran and find a steal in Hightower. Out of all the Alabama prospects in the draft this year, I like Hightower the most. He is a run-stuffing linebacker who seems like he was made to play for the Steelers. By plugging in Hightower to replace Farrior, the Steelers defense won’t miss a beat.
25) Denver Broncos – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
- The Broncos upgraded their offense this offseason by signing Peyton Manning and now I think they turn to upgrade the defense with their first round pick. Poe was a combine wonder, wowing scouts with his athleticism and quickness. But after the combine, scouts went back and watched tape of the big fella and saw a guy who failed to take over games at the C-USA level. If Coples has the most upside in this class, Poe isn’t far behind him. He can be Haloti Ngata. The Broncos are void of players at the DT position so whoever the pick is will get to play early and often.
26) Houston Texans – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
- Before Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury, the Texans looked like a dark horse to win the Super Bowl. Before Schaub’s injury, the Texans had to play half the season without one of the best receivers in football, Andre Johnson. While Johnson was away, the Texans’ passing game struggled, as Schaub and T.J. Yates simply had nobody to throw to outside of Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Because of this void, the Texans will look to bolster their receiving corps in the form of Wright. While Johnson is the prototypical possession receiver, Wright is the explosive receiver that can stretch the field and open up things for Arian Foster and the running game.
27) Kansas City Chiefs – (Projected trade w/ New England Patriots) Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State)
- The Patriots have two first round picks this year and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Patriots over the years, it’s that there’s about a .01% chance they will actually use both those picks. Belichick will undoubtedly unload one for future picks, and I think the Chiefs are going to target a quarterback this draft, just not Tannehill. I like Weeden more than I do Tannehill. He’s got great size, a good arm and has a greater knowledge of the position than Tannehill who has just one year as a starter under his belt.
28) Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
- I get the feeling that the Packers are going to go one of two ways with this pick. If all the higher rated defensive ends are gone, I could see them going with a running back. That being said, I think they go with Mercilus who burst onto the college football scene last year by leading the nation in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with nine. The Packers MUST improve their pass rush and find someone who can take some pressure off of Clay Mathews.
29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Trade w/ Baltimore Ravens – Doug Martin, RB, Boise State)
- Martin is picking up steam as the draft nears with scouts loving his all-around game. He runs with great pad level and catches the ball out of the backfield making him even more valuable. The Bucs were big spenders in the offseason, and with the season-long suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton, I think the Bucs view this as an opportunity to win now.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
- As I mentioned before, the NFL is a copycat league. The latest trend to copy is that of the two tight end sets that the Patriots terrorized the league with last year. The 49ers upgraded at the receiver position by signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and I see them adding Fleener to give Alex Smith another weapon on offense. When you add Fleener to the mix with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Moss, Manningham and Frank Gore, all of a sudden what was a weakness for the 49ers, now looks like a strength.
31) New England Patriots – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
- Upshaw’s stock has dropped in the past several weeks mainly because he lacks a true position. Many feel that plays too stiff to be a 3-4 OLB at the next level while lacking the size to be a 4-3 DE. Either way, Upshaw has a special ability to rush the passer, a skill which all teams value.
32) New York Giants – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
- For the Giants, Martin would fill a huge need and represent tremendous value. Gone is Kareem McKenzie, and the Giants must protect Eli Manning in a division with DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo and Jason Babin. Martin, once considered a top 10-15 pick has seen his stock drop in the past month. Still, at 32, the Giants are getting great value for a guy that should be able to come in and start immediately.
33) St. Louis Rams – Jerel Worth, DT, Michigan State
34) Indianapolis Colts – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
35) Minnesota Vikings – Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
37) Baltimore Ravens (Trade w/ Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
37) Cleveland Browns – Nick Perry, DE, USC
38) Jacksonville Jaguars – Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
39) St. Louis Rams – Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
40) Carolina Panthers – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
41) Buffalo Bills – Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
42) Miami Dolphins – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
43) Seattle Seahawks – Devon Still, DT, Penn State
44) New England Patriots (Trade with Kansas City) – Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
45) Dallas Cowboys – Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
46) Philadelphia Eagles – Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska
47) New York Jets – Muhamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
48) New England Patriots – Kendall Reyes, DE/DT, UCONN
49) San Diego Chargers – Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
50) Chicago Bears – Zach Brown, OLB, UNC
51) Philadelphia Eagles – Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
52) Tennessee Titans – Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
53) Cincinnati Bengals – David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
54) Detroit Lions – Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson
55) Atlanta Falcons – Mitchell Swartz, OT, California
56) Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
57) Denver Broncos – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
58) Houston Texans – Ronnie Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
59) Green Bay Packers – LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
60) Baltimore Ravens – Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
61) San Francisco 49ers – Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
62) New England Patriots – Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
63) New York Giants – Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati