Way back before the Super Bowl, I took a long-shot at projecting the 2012 NFL Draft. Since then, trades have happened, players have been cut and signed, and Peyton Manning has replaced Tim Tebow. With all of that in mind, and now that we're only two weeks away from the opening of the draft, let's take another look at how the first round might look when the dust settles.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is the no-brainer pick in the draft... unless the new regime wants to throw the entire free world a curveball and take RGIII. Most analysts have said that Luck is the highest graded quarterback to enter a draft since another Stanford signal caller, John Elway. There are a lot of other holes that need to be filled in Indy, but taking Luck is the start of their rebuild.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis)
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins traded a king's ransom to get a guy they believe will be a franchise quarterback. The first two picks in the draft can be locked-down, and any intrigue this year begins at pick number three.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, T, USC
It appears that there is someone in Minneapolis with a brain, and there's a good chance the Vikings will trade down out of the number three overall pick in an effort to add more quality pieces around their young quarterback and injured superstar running back. If they stay here, it'll be to take Kalil, who is considered a franchise-caliber left tackle prospect. But Miami might overpay to get the third young quarterback in this draft class, and Minnesota will consider their options.
4. Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
This is a little bit of a wild card pick, both because Cleveland could theoretically use a quarterback and because they have another pick in the first round (22). Scouts are saying Richardson is the highest graded running back since Adrian Peterson, and there's a pretty good chance that a good quarterback will still be on the board later in the round. Cleveland's defense is getting better and they have already invested high picks on offensive linemen in recent drafts. Whether they pick another quarterback later or stick with Colt McCoy, adding an elite running back will make any quarterback's life easier.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne has made more news because of leaked Wonderlic test scores than his fantastic ability to play football. He might have issues taking a test, but he's shown an incredible ability to read a quarterback's eyes and comprehend a route to the end zone. He's a great corner, and the Bucs have a need at the position.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
The Rams are rumored to be looking to move down (again) after receiving a huge payload for RGIII. Moving down from the second overall pick indicates they're sticking with a former top overall pick, Sam Bradford, at quarterback, so it would make sense to give him some weapons and protection. There should be a few solid receiver options available in the second round, so taking the number two tackle on the board here might present better value for the Rams.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St
Blackmon has been compared to Detroit's Calvin Johnson, having him available at the seventh pick could be an incredible win for the Jags. They used a high pick on a quarterback last year, but despite Blaine Gabbert leaving a lot to be desired it wouldn't hurt his chances if they gave him an elite athlete to receive Gabbert's passes.
8. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins didn't get Peyton Manning, and then failed to land another free agent quarterback. They also lost Chad Henne to free agency. There's no question the 'Phins need a quarterback, and Tannehill's stock has been skyrocketing; there are some that believe he won't last past the Browns. One way or another, Miami has to have a new quarterback at the end of the first round, and Tannehill's the guy most people believe can be the third franchise-caliber quarterback in this year's draft.
9. Carolina Panthers
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Carolina showed the ability to move the ball and score points with Cam Newton leading their offense last year, but their defense was awful. They were among the league's worst in most defensive statistical categories, and have a defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera. Taking a beast at defensive tackle to stop the run and improve the pass rush is a good place to start, and Poe's workout at the combine blew scouts away.
10. Buffalo Bills
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Bills have a lot of needs on the offensive side of the ball, and there's enough high-end defensive talent on the board here that trading down isn't out of the question. But taking a big-play receiver who would add size to their group of receivers makes the most sense at this position, so Floyd is the pick.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Chiefs need help on defense, and will have a number of really good prospects to choose from here. But Kuechly is a big, physical linebacker that would adda lot to their entire defensive group better. He's a machine, and they need help. Even with some players that might grade out higher potentially available, Kuechly makes too much sense for the Chiefs.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Seahawks are going to be really, really happy when the commissioner puts them on the clock and all of the top defensive end prospects in this year's draft are still available. Most scouts have graded South Carolina's Melvin Ingram higher, but he's listed at 6-1 and 264 pounds; Coples isn't too far behind Ingram, and he's listed at 6-6 and 284 pounds. Size isn't something a team can teach a kid coming out of college, and Coples is enormous and talented.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
The Cardinals are another team that has a lot of needs and are stuck in the middle of the round, which doesn't help them. But if Ingram, who is rated by many to have top-ten talent, is available, he'd be an outstanding addition to their 3-4 scheme on defense. There isn't an offensive tackle or wide receiver available at this pick that makes more sense than Ingram based on our projections.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys might look to add a guard or depth to their defensive front seven, but their pass defense was pathetic last year (ranked 23rd in the NFL). The best bet is that one of two secondary players from Alabama - either Kirkpatrick or safety Mark Barron - will be headed to Dallas to help in a division that already features Eli Manning and Michael Vick and will be adding RGIII. They did sign corner Brandon Carr this spring already, but waived veteran Terence Newman and could use more size and speed in their defensive backfield.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Eagles fans will watch Barron for three or four snaps and say "Holy s***, it's Brian Dawkins all over again." The Eagles have needs, but there might not be a better fit for a team after the first five picks than Barron in Philly.
16. New York Jets
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Jets might take a leap of faith on a wide receiver, but their defensive front needs help and Mercilus is the type of uber-hyped prospect with huge talent that Rex Ryan loves.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
Cordy Glenn, T/G, Georgia
The Bengals were among the league's top ten in most defensive stats last year, but need to protect their young quarterback better and open holes for the running game. Glenn's listed at 6-5 and 345 pounds, and his ability to play either tackle or guard provides flexibility to help anywhere on the Bengals offensive line.
18. San Diego Chargers
David DeCastro, G, Stanford
They lost Vincent Jackson to free agency, but there are enough holes on their roster that reaching for a wide receiver or offensive lineman might not make the most sense here. DeCastro falling to them might be a best-case scenario for the Chargers, who need to protect Philip Rivers; he is the highest graded guard in this class and could step in right away.
19. Chicago Bears
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Brockers is a large human being (6-5, 322) who could step in and add size at the 3-technique defensive tackle for the Bears in the wake of Anthony Adams being waived. There really isn't a safety available at this spot that would make sense for the Bears to reach on, and Brockers seems to be the perfect player for the Bears' needs on the defensive line.
20. Tennessee Titans
Stephone Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore grades out as well as Kirkpatrick, and either of them could be the second corner to come off the board. The Titans have the secondary circled with a big, bold magic marker heading into the draft, so grabbing the best available corner or safety will happen here; Gilmore would be exceptional value at 20.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian St.
SLEEPER SPECIAL: The Bengals second pick of the first round, they're undoubtedly hoping that Gilmore slides to them here. But if he's off the board, they might look to trade back out of this pick and add value later in the draft. But if they stay here, selecting another offensive lineman isn't out of the question. But picking up a receiver to play opposite last year's phenom, AJ Green, could be an easy pick and adding size in that receiver could be hard to pass up. Quick isn't from a big-time school, but his size (6-5, 220) cannot be ignored.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Their second pick of the first round, the Browns will look to address an issue here they didn't handle with the fourth overall pick. With Richardson being our projection, they might look for a second-tier quarterback here... but a receiver to give whomever is under center makes more sense. If Wright is there, he could be in Cleveland.
23. Detroit Lions
Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
After a fantastic renaissance last year, the offseason hasn't been kind to the Lions. Yes, hey handed Calvin Johnson a contract that's as big as his wingspan, but they've also had two of their top three picks from a year ago (DT Nick Fairley and RB Mikel Leshoure) get picked up by police on marijuana allegations. They need to help their pass rush, and Jones has become a trendy name heading to the draft. He could be gone in the mid-teens, but being here for the Lions should be as far as he falls.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dont'a Hightower, OLB, Alabama
I'll echo what most analysts have said here: he's the perfect fit for Dick LeBeau's defense, and he should still be available at this point.
25. Denver Broncos
Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi St
They've added Peyton Manning and dumped Tim Tebow. They will likely look to address their defensive front here, and Cox rates out as a guy that could push to be a top-ten selection.
26. Houston Texans
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Texans need to replace both Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans somehow. Upshaw projects closer to the ideal 3-4 defensive end that Wade Phillips craves than what Williams was able to be while healthy, and has a great motor. The Texans would be thrilled to add a guy that has been compared to DeMarcus Ware at this slot.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)
Janoris Jenkins, CB
They lined up a wide receiver as their nickel back on defense at times late in the year. Jenkins has a ridiculous amount of talent but has had some off-field concerns drop his stock from probably being a name considered in the top ten. If Bill Belichek is looking for sky-high potential, this might be a name he considers here.
28. Green Bay Packers
Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
They added Jeff Saturday to anchor their offensive line, and could be looking to add some help to their pass rush. Branch figures to be a good fit as a DE/OLB in their 3-4 scheme opposite Clay Matthews.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Mike Adams, T, Ohio St
They're getting older all over their defense, and might look to address the linebacker or secondary needs here. But keeping their quarterback on his feet and opening lanes for franchise tagged-running back Ray Rice should be a consideration. Adams is huge (6-7, 323) and could help right away.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Bobby Massie, G, Mississippi
The Niners have added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to their receivers and locked-up most of their defensive free agents, so picking here might be as much about depth and adding a luxury player to their roster as it could be drafting for need. Or do they add a quarterback after striking out on Peyton Manning? Massie has been climbing draft boards lately and would help the Niners interior line, arguably their biggest need.
31. New England Patriots
Nick Perry, DE, USC
Perry is a tough and a good pass rusher, who would fit well in the Patriots' scheme. After giving up a lot of yards this year, they could address their secondary and pass rush at the end of the first round with a couple talented prospects. But, there's always the chance Belichek trades down, and down, and down...
32. New York Giants
Levonte David, OLB, Nebraska
Just a really good football player who would add more depth to the defending champions. Ranks in the late-teens to mid-20s with most scouts, he would be great value for an organization that has done a lot right in the last few years.