With the Super Bowl one week away, what better time for a Chicago Bears fan to start thinking about next season and the upcoming NFL Draft. After all, under the "leadership" of Jerry Angelo, we couldn't look forward to the Super Bowl OR the Draft, so let's take a few baby steps.
Here is our first attempt at a mock draft for this spring's festival. Will many of these picks be right? Other than Andrew Luck to Indy, not likely. But it's fun to talk about. I look forward to the dialogue that follows. Thanks for reading!
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Every day it looks more and more like Peyton Manning's days in Indianapolis are over. On Friday afternoon, in an effort to calm down the city hosting the Super Bowl next weekend, Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay released a joint statement (not to be confused with the joint statement made by Sam Hurd in court last week). But without any guarantee that Manning will be 100 percent this coming season, it's hard to imagine the Colts paying him $28M. Luck's their guy without question. So far, I'm one for one.
2. St. Louis Rams
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon's a physical freak who might be the best receiver to enter the draft since Calvin Johnson. St. Louis has a defensive-minded head coach now in Jeff Fisher, but that doesn't mean they'll leave Sam Bradford without any weapons in the passing game for another year. They have plenty of needs, but you just cannot pass on a guy like Blackmon if you're truly committed to your young, well-paid, former top overall pick quarterback.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Vikings have a lot of needs (obviously, they're drafting third overall). But something they cannot ignore is their need to defend the pass in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. Antoine Winfield is officially ancient, and the Vikings are in desperate need of help in their secondary. Claiborne is the best corner in the draft, and would fill a big need in Minnesota.
4. Cleveland Browns
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
This is an interesting spot. Last year, the Browns used their first two picks on defensive linemen before taking a wide receiver. In 2010, they drafted two secondary players before selecting Montario Hardesty at running back and Colt McCoy at quarterback. So far, what they've been doing has shown modest dividends on the field, but McCoy continues to get his butt kicked every week. I feel almost as confident saying the fourth pick will be made by another organization as I do saying the Browns will do the right thing and take a stud tackle to protect their quarterback. There will be pressure to take Robert Griffin III here, but having a legit tackle to play opposite Joe Thomas and protect McCoy this year (and, if they continue trending the wrong direction, Kalil's USC quarterback next year) would be huge for their offense.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Their last couple drafts have been really defensive-heavy, and their offense has been a problem. With new head coach Greg Schiano coming in from Rutgers, it will be interesting to see if the organization is still committed to Josh Freeman after a bad year, or if they bite on the temptation of RGIII. They also only have one year left on LaGarrette Blount's deal, and he was a disappointment in 2011 as well. When they hand in their card in New York, it will probably have the running back's name on it and not a quarterback. Again, teams like Tampa and Cleveland can risk another bad season on a young quarterback because of the talented group expected to be available in next year's class.
6. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
This is the absolute best-case-scenario for the Redskins, who might trade up to get the guy they think can be their franchise quarterback (again). The Heisman Trophy-winner is big, strong, fast and tempting for any team with even the slightest question about their quarterback position. But when you give starts to Rex Grossman, clearly there's an enormous need at the position. Part of the reason the Vikings, Browns and Bucs might move out of their spots is because everyone knows the Redskins desperately need a quarterback, and anyone that wants RGIII will need to pick before Washington.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Another team with a new head coach, the Jags rolled the dice on Blaine Gabbert at quarterback last year. They really need a receiver for him to throw to, but can probably get one early in the second round and add better value to their team by protecting their would-be franchise quarterback with the number two tackle in the draft.
8. Carolina Panthers
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
This wouldn't be the first time the Panthers use a top-ten pick on a defensive end from the nearby Tar Heels (see Peppers, Julius). They lost Peppers to free agency and haven't replaced him yet. Coples is not only a guy that could step into that role, but he's arguably the best player available for the Panthers at this slot. If Reiff is off the board, they'll think defense for Ron Rivera.
9. Miami Dolphins
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Here's where we leave the conventional draft board behind and start thinking outside the box. The Dolphins just hired offensive-minded Joe Philbin away from Green Bay as their new head coach, but certainly won't consider a taking a quarterback at nine. But with rumors continuing to indicate that Brandon Marshall might be on his way out of Miami for another pick in the draft, replacing him with a talented receiver might be on Philbin's agenda. Jeffrey is just the kind of guy that makes an enormous impression at the combine and skyrockets up the board.
10. Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Upshaw is not only the best pass rushing 3-4 outside linebacker available, but he's also 15 months removed from playing next to the Bills' 2011 first round pick, Marcel Dareus. The Bills couldn't rush the quarterback to save their lives last year, and Upshaw would fill a huge need.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
The Chiefs need someone to stabilize their defensive line, and Thompson is another guy that could really help himself a lot at the combine. He's an honor roll student who's got a great motor, and he plays the run especially well; in the AFC West with Denver and Oakland, stopping the run is critical for the Chiefs moving forward. They're getting Eric Berry back in the secondary and Jamaal Charles at running back, both of whom should improve the roster instantly as well.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Seahawks gave up on Aaron Curry last year, and could really use someone to strengthen their linebacking group. Keuchly is the best inside linebacker in this year's draft and has a great nose for the ball. While they might look to bolster their pass rush as well, in a division with Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and Beanie wells, a good inside linebacker is a good thing to have.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Here's your big-time wild card team of the draft. If all indications are indeed true, and Peyton Manning is released in Indianapolis, the path that took Kurt Warner back to the Super Bowl might be tempting for Manning as well. But with good receivers and a decent running back in the fold, the question is whether or not the Cardinals use this pick to protect whomever is taking snaps next year or on the best available player. They traded their best corner to Philly for Kevin Kolb last year, so we think the Cardinals will replace him with a great value pick of Kirkpatrick here.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Where do we begin? Their defense is talented and expensive and mediocre, and their big-play offense can't finish games. What's an owner/GM to do? How about start addressing a bad secondary with a big hitting safety. Barron is good value here and addresses a need better than they could do later on.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Dream Team has a few holes to fill, and selecting immediately after division rival Dallas isn't an easy thing to do. Thankfully for the Eagles, there should be a couple guys on the board here that can help them immediately. Michael Vick wound up on his backside far too often last year, so improving the line in front of him should be a priority. The best tackle on the board is smart (from Stanford), and should be headed to Philly if he's available here.
16. New York Jets
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jets are a M-E-S-S MESS MESS MESS right now and the off season began with teammates calling each other out. One player that was called out by teammates and the media (other than Mark Sanchez) was Santonio Holmes. If the Jets aren't sold on Holmes' future in green, or simply want another option outside for their should-be franchise quarterback, taking the best receiver available here makes a lot of sense.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Some analysts think Still could go as high as the top 10-12 after an impressive season despite the distractions in Happy Valley. He's an absolute beast (6-5, 310) and could be a monster interior linemen to help the Bengals stop the run and rush opposing quarterbacks. The Bengals have a second pick in the first round, and can find good value to fill other holes later in the round.
18. San Diego Chargers
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Chargers had a lot of injury issues last year, and might opt for offensive line help here. But Antonio Garay, 32, is old but the defensive tackle position is critical if a 3-4 scheme is going to work. Poe is the biggest tackle in this year's class (6-4, 345) and, while he might be a stretch at 18, would be an adequate replacement for Garay. The Chargers might opt to move down out of this spot as well.
19. Chicago Bears
Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina
The Bears might be on the phones trying to get out of the first round completely if Jeffery and Floyd are off the board, but a new general manager will more likely look to make an impact pick in his first draft. Allen (6-2, 202) is a big safety who's another guy to keep an eye on at the combine. He's got good instincts and size, and the Bears secondary clearly needs help. Another name to keep an eye on here is Miami (FL) running back Lamar Miller, especially if the organization's relationship with Matt Forte goes south.
20. Tennessee Titans
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Tennessee was 24th against the run last year and has never fully recovered from losing Albert Haynesworth. Brockers comes out of a great program in LSU and even bigger than Still (6-6, 306). The Titans might look to add to their offensive line, but finding guys with the size of Brockers isn't possible every day.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Glenn is the first guard to come off the board here, but Glenn's a versatile lineman who can play anywhere on the line. When you're trying to protect a young quarterback and improve a running game that struggled last year, having a young guy that can play anywhere on the line is a great asset. If the Bengals can grab a quality interior lineman on both sides of the ball in the first round, it's another huge win this year.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Browns might wind up with at least one offensive weapon from Baylor after all. Taking a second bookend tackle earlier should help whomever is under center have time to throw, but the follow-up of that equation is having weapons to throw the ball to with that time. Wright had a huge season at Baylor last year and has the tools to be a dangerous target in the NFL.
23. Detroit Lions
David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Lions suddenly have a lot of young talent all over their roster and are the third team from the NFC North to pick. If DeCastro slides this far, he would be an absolute steal for the Lions. Detroit saw how good Matthew Stafford can be this year, but they need to keep him on his feet and in the game. Starting to rebuild the heart of the offensive line, especially if there's a great value pick available, makes sense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
The Steelers would love to find a big defensive tackle to potentially replace Casey Hampton, who had knee surgery earlier this week, but if that isn't possible there will be a lot of talent still available at linebacker. Pittsburgh's old at linebacker, and David is the kind of guy that Dick LeBeau could turn into an all-pro. He isn't the biggest linebacker in the draft, but he's got a motor and a nose for the ball.
25. Denver Broncos
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL)
The Broncos are what they are: a running team that had a good defense last year. But if they're going to be a running team, heading into a season with a stable of running backs with questionable health histories is a terrible gamble. Miller, like Willis McGahee, had a good career at Miami and would bring an explosive element to the Broncos offense.
26. Houston Texans
Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
Brown is a big (6-2, 225) outside linebacker that can work well in a 4-3 of 3-4 defense, a key to this selection if Houston decides to keep Mario Williams as a linebacker moving forward. He's good in pass coverage, plays the run well and can get to the quarterback. If he lasts to 26, the Texans would be thrilled to have a guy like Brown.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
If you've been watching the playoffs, you may have noticed that wide receiver Julian Edelman, who played quarterback in college, has been getting reps as the nickle back for the Pats. To his credit, the fact that he's been playing both ways hasn't been exposed yet, but clearly the fact that he's even considered on defense indicates that the Pats have issues with their secondary depth. Dennard's a good corner that could at least fill the nickle role, if not more.
28. Green Bay Packers
Andre Branch, DE/LB, Clemson
The Packers actually had a terrible time getting to opposing quarterbacks last year, and that exposed an aging secondary. The Packers should look to add depth to their defense, and Branch is a big kid (6-5, 265) who can play either defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Burfict is a beast of an inside linebacker who reminds many of Ray Lewis. While selecting an heir apparent is never popular with the current superstar, Lewis has never been shy about bringing younger players into the fold if they can perform. Burfict next to Lewis would be a scary proposition for any opposing offense.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
At 6-2, 215, Sanu is a big receiver that would give the Niners the third weapon on offense that Braylon Edwards never did. Michael Crabtree has been underwhelming as well, so adding a big wideout makes a lot of sense for a team that might have been a punt returner away from the Super Bowl.
31. New England Patriots*
Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina
Ingram is a big kid (6-2, 276) who could make noise coming off the edge for the Pats. With two picks in the first round, it's a nice luxury for a Super Bowl team... but anyone who's watched the draft in recent years knows there's little/no chance that New England uses both of their picks in the first round. They're all about value, and moving back to get a solid player like Ingram and add more picks is the way the Pats do business.
32. New York Giants*
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Wilson is a big, powerful runner who fits perfectly in the mold of a guy like Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants' offense. What's more, he's effective as a receiver as well, and was remarkably durable at Virginia Tech (290 carries last year). Of course, whomever has the final pick of the first round will also have a nice hangover from early February to deal with, and picking someone to add to a championship puzzle is a luxury.