Just because the 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, that does not mean that NFL teams are done trying to find rookie players. Immediately following the draft we saw storylines emerge about Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray signing with the Chiefs and Cris Carter’s son Duron Carter going to the Vikings. The best NFL teams not only find exceptional value in the draft but the best also find value outside of it. Recently Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received a 6 year $108 million extension from the Dallas Cowboys. He was an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois University. The New York Giants hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 2012 thanks largely to the efforts of undrafted Victor Cruz out of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Who knows what future superstar teams may discover in the coming days but it has prompted me to throw together my all-time undrafted NFL team.
Below you will find my all-time undrafted offense. Defense and Special Teams will be released later this week.
Kurt Warner, University of Northern Iowa
St. Louis Rams (1998 – 2003); New York Giants (2004); Arizona Cardinals (2005 – 2009)
Super Bowl XXXIV Champion; Super Bowl XXXIV MVP; 2x NFL MVP; 2x All-Pro; 4x Pro-Bowl Fun Fact: Holds the record for the most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XXXIV), 2nd most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XLIII), and you guessed it – third most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XXXVI)
Runner-Up: Warren Moon, Washington
Houston Oilers (1984-1993); Minnesota Vikings (1994-1996); Seattle Seahawks (1997-1998); Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2000)
Joe Perry, Compton College
San Francisco 49ers (1948 – 1960; 1963); Baltimore Colts (1961 – 1962)
3x Pro-Bowl Selection; 2x First Team All-Pro; 2x Rushing Champion; NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team; San Francisco 49ers #34 retired; Pro Football Hall of Fame Fun Fact: In 1954 Joe Perry rushed for over 1,000 yards becoming the first NFL player to every rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons
Priest Holmes, Texas
Baltimore Ravens (1997 – 2000); Priest Holmes (2001 – 2007)
Super Bowl XXXV Champion; 3x Pro Bowl; 3x All-Pro; 2001 Rushing Title; 2002 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Fun Fact: In 2001, Priest Holmes became the first undrafted player to ever win a rushing title. Arian Foster duplicated this feat 2010.
Runner-Up: Arian Foster, Tennessee
Houston Texans (2009 – Present)
Marion Motley, Nevada
Cleveland Browns (1946 – 1953); Pittsburgh Steelers (1955)V
4x AAFC Champion; 1948 AAFC Rushing Champion; 1950 NFL Rushing Champion; 1950 Pro-Bowl Selection; 1950 NFL Champion; NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team; NFL 75th Anniversary Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame Fun Fact: Motley holds the best career average for yard per rushing attempt at 5.7. He was also the Browns starting linebacker when he played.
Runner-Up: Vonta Leach, ECU
Green Bay Packers (2004 – 2006); New Orleans Saints (2006); Houston Texans (2006 – 2010); Baltimore Ravens (2011 – Present)
Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman
San Diego Chargers (1967 – 1968); Miami Dolphins (1969 – 1980)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 5x Pro Bowl selection; 5x First team All-Pro; Pro Football Hall of Fame Fun Fact: In 1969, Little was upset with a trade that sent him from the Chargers to the Dolphins because he wanted to go somewhere he could win a championship. Little went on to win two Super Bowls including being an integral part of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins team.
Brian Waters, North Texas
Kansas City Chiefs (2000 – 2010); New England Patriots (2011 – 2012)
6x Pro Bowl Selection; 2x All-Pro Fun Fact: Waters played tight end and defensive end at North Texas before the Chiefs converted him into an offensive lineman.
Runner-Up: Kris Dielman, Indiana
San Diego Chargers (2003 – 2011)
Jim Langer, South Dakota State
Miami Dolphins (1970 – 1979); Minnesota Vikings (1980 – 1981)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 6x Pro Bowl Selection; 6x All-Pro; NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame Fun Fact: The award for the top offensive lineman in Division II is the Jim Langer Award. Interestingly, he was a middle linebacker in college and became a lineman once he joined the Dolphins.
Runner-Up: Jeff Saturday, North Carolina
Indianapolis Colts (1999 – 2011); Green Bay Packers (2012)
Lou Groza, Ohio State
Cleveland Browns (1946 – 1959; 1961 – 1967)
4x AAFC Champion; 4x NFL Champion; 9x Pro Bowl Selection; 4x All-Pro; NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team; Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor; Cleveland Browns #76 retired; Pro Football Hall of Fame Fun Fact: Nicknamed “The Toe”, Lou Groza was also the placekicker for the Browns, leading the league in field goals on five occasions and retired as the all-time points leader in the NFL.
Nate Newton, Florida A&M
Dallas Cowboys (1986 – 1998); Carolina Panthers (1999)
3x Super Bowl Champion; 6x Pro Bowl Selection; 2x All-Pro Fun Fact: While in Dallas he was nicknamed “The Kitchen”, the reason being he was larger than the Bears’ William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
Runner-Up: Jason Peters, Arkansas
Buffalo Bills (2004 – 2008); Philadelphia Eagles (2009 – Present)
Rod Smith, Missouri Southern State University
Denver Broncos (1994 – 2006)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 3x Pro Bowl; 2x All-Pro Fun Fact: Rod Smith is the only undrafted player to ever eclipse the 10,000 career receiving yards mark.
Wes Welker, Texas Tech
San Diego Chargers (2004); Miami Dolphins (2004 – 2006); New England Patriots (2007 – 2012); Denver Broncos (2013 – Present)
5x Pro Bowl; 2x First Team All-Pro; 2x Second Team All-Pro; 3x NFL Receptions Leader Fun Fact: Wes Welker was widely considered “too small” to be successful at the college level. Only 1 Division I school offered him a scholarship (Texas Tech) and it was only offered to him after another recruit backed out of the offer right before Welker’s freshman year. That same disrespect apparently followed him to the NFL Draft.
Drew Pearson, Tulsa
Dallas Cowboys (1973 – 1983)
Super Bowl XII Champion; 3x First Team All-Pro; 1x Second Team All-Pro; 3x Pro Bowl Selection; Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor; Pearson’s #88 reserved for Best Cowboy’s Receivers (worn by Michael Irvin & Dez Bryant) Fun Fact: In the 1975 Playoffs in a game against the Minnesota Vikings, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a 50 yard game winning touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with seconds left on the clock. Afterwards he said of the pass, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary” and the Hail Mary pass was born.
Wayne Chrebet, Hofstra
New York Jets (1995 – 2005)
New York Jets #80 Discontinued Fun Fact: In 1995, Wayne Chrebet became the first player from Hofstra University to make an NFL roster since 1964
Runner-Up: Victor Cruz, University of Massachusetts
New York Giants (2010 – Present)
Antonio Gates, Kent State
San Diego Chargers (2003 – Present)
8x Pro Bowl Selection; 5x All-Pro; NFL 2000s All-Decade Team; San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team Fun Fact: Antonio Gates played basketball at Kent State but after his agent told him he wouldn’t make the NBA he arranged private NFL workouts with as many as 19 NFL teams. His first was with the Chargers, they signed him on the spot.
Zeke Mowatt, Florida State
New York Giants (1983 – 1989; 1991); New England Patriots (1990)
Super Bowl XXI Champion Fun Fact: Upon his retirement, Zeke Mowatt founded Mowatt, Inc. – a janitorial service in the New Jersey area.
Well there you have it, my all-time great NFL undrafted offense. For some positions the options available is astounding (quarterback), while there are other locations where there is a surprising lack of choices (tight end and offensive tackle) but that does not change the fact that in hindsight every one of these players deserved to be drafted (and would’ve been high draft picks) but have succeeded in spite of it. We often hear about the first round guys that don’t pan out but these are the undrafted guys who did.
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Earlier today, Ray Lewis announced that this postseason will be his “last ride” and regardless of the result of his push for a second ring, this postseason will be the last time that we see one of the most electric players in NFL history take the field. Ray Lewis is an all-time great and five years from now will likely be enshrined in Canton. More than that, he is the identity of the Baltimore Ravens and his #52 will likely be the first number the Baltimore Ravens retire. You can debate the all-time greatest 49er or greatest Packer or Cowboy but when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens there is no debate, Ray Lewis is the greatest Raven to ever play the game.
As with any great player who retires, the media feels the need to reflect on that player’s career and more than anything, the recency-bias of the sports media comes out because we have a media that tends to forget there were sports prior to the existence of ESPN. So of course today the debate was not whether or not Ray Lewis was a Hall of Famer (because that’s a given) but whether or not he is the greatest middle linebacker of all time. ESPN writer Jamison Hensley took it a step further and called Ray Lewis, the “greatest defensive player in NFL history”.
With all due respect Mr. Hensley, how can you call a player the best defensive player ever when it’s arguable whether they weren’t the best at their position when they played? (You can read his asinine article here) For more than a decade all eyes have been on Baltimore but only 32 miles away there’s a linebacker with similar stats who has been just as good, if not better.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley had the audacity to call Ray Lewis the greatest defensive player ever when another player on the beltway could very well challenge him for the title of greatest middle linebacker of his era.
Just two years after Ray Lewis was drafted, London Fletcher signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent where he was named the Rams Rookie of the Year in 1998. In his second year (and first year as a starter), Fletcher anchored the Rams defense that went on to win the Super Bowl and was a key piece in the Rams returning to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season. While Ray Lewis will always be “Mr. Raven” so to speak, Fletcher left the Rams after the 2001 season to join the Buffalo Bills and in his first year, set the Bills franchise record for tackles with 209. He led the Bills in tackles every year that he was with the team and continued that tradition when he joined the Redskins in 2007.
Not only has Fletcher led his respective teams in tackles year in and year out, he has led the NFL. Nobody has more tackles this millennium than London Fletcher.
But the fact is that when London Fletcher does retire he will probably go quietly into the night. While five years from now Ray Lewis will bring his evangelical stylings to the podium at Canton, London Fletcher will likely have to fight for years and years to get in the Hall if he ever does get in and my question is why?
I have compiled the following to show the similarity in the careers of London Fletcher & Ray Lewis:
As you can see in two fewer seasons, Fletcher has posted similar numbers to those of Hensley’s “greatest defensive player ever” and he has done so in a number of different schemes for different teams that did not have nearly the defensive personnel that Ray Lewis has surrounding him. These are both great sets of numbers but forget arguing for the best defensive player ever the question really is – who is the best middle linebacker on the Beltway?
While the stats will be cited (and it is impressive to note that Ray Lewis is the founding and lone member of the 40 sack/30 interception club) the big thing people keep talking about is the leadership and longevity of Ray Lewis.
But if we’re going to talk about leadership then we have to talk about the quiet, reserved leadership of a man who has won the Bart Starr Award and never had issues with the law. A man who seems ageless and has set the single season tackles record for 2 different franchises; a man who has led his respective team in tackles for nine straight seasons; and a man whose leadership propelled an ailing Redskins defense into the playoffs this season; and that man is London Fletcher.
If we’re going to praise the longevity of Ray Lewis at a physical position, then we should be reminded that London Fletcher has never missed a game playing in 240 games over 15 seasons. His 195 consecutive starts are second most among active players behind Ronde Barber.
If we’re going to praise Ray Lewis for his longevity then maybe we should take the time to ask ourselves whether longevity should be judged by playing for a long time or the level you play at over that time? The fact is that Ray Lewis’s legendary career peaked in the middle of last decade while London Fletcher continues to play at a high level having led the league in tackles in 2011. While Ray Lewis has 9 more Pro Bowl appearances than Fletcher, it is due to the folly of the voters; not to the fact that Ray Lewis was better than Fletcher for more seasons.
If we want to talk about true longevity then we need to remember that Ray Lewis has not topped 139 tackles in a season since 2004. In that same span, Fletcher equaled or topped that mark 5 times. Fletcher had more sacks in the month of December than Ray Lewis had all season. London Fletcher’s interceptions (5) in 2012 were more than Ray Lewis has had in the last 4 years combined (3). London Fletcher has 1 more forced fumble over the past four seasons (with 8) than Ray Lewis. This is not to discount the career of Ray Lewis but in what is supposed to be the twilight of his career, London Fletcher is still playing at an incredibly high level and shouldn’t that be a true measure of a player’s longevity.
Today many are asking if Ray Lewis is the greatest middle linebacker of all time and those clouded with Baltimore or recency bias (or maybe a shred of both) are asking if Ray Lewis is the greatest defensive player of all time. There’s no doubt he’s had a Hall of Fame career and while this is an acceptable conversation to have the better question is:
Was Ray Lewis the best linebacker/defensive player of his era?
Because while Lewis was dancing in front of the cameras in Baltimore, Fletcher was grinding away in St. Louis, Buffalo, and D.C. getting the same results. While Ray Lewis was not much more than an emotional cheerleader the last two seasons, Fletcher was busy leading his team and the league in tackles. While Ray Lewis dazzled the sports media and was voted into Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl, Fletcher put up the same (and better) seasons as Lewis and was ignored.
And while Ray Lewis will get a call from Canton within the first two years of eligibility; Fletcher will likely wait and wait on a call that may never come. And it’s not because Ray Lewis was that much better but it’s because the story the sports media told us was a lie.
The media would’ve told us that Ray Lewis was the greatest defensive player ever when he wasn’t even the best active player at his position.
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The 2012 season picture is not as clear as 2011 was but I think I can make some sense out of it. Last season I correctly foresaw the Patriots losing the Super Bowl after beating the Ravens. I correctly predicted the NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the Executive of the Year. I correctly predicted 8 out of 12 playoff teams including the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans. As I look into the crystal ball I see some divisions with a clear cut winner and many situations like the AFC West last year where the division will be highly contested top to bottom. I see a team with a 12 year playoff drought finally getting back in and I see a future Hall of Famer winning his first playoff game of his career. I will include below my regular season rankings, playoff projections, and the worst five teams in the NFL this season. Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting things this season and so without much further ado, let me tell you what to expect.
Alright, well we’ve made it through the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. With the third round comes the first time that the Saints are on the board and due to the departure of Asomugha after the 2010 season, the Raiders sneak in right at the end of the 3rd round, with a compensatory pick. Without further ado, I round out my top 100 of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Colts talked Reggie Wayne into returning but the rebuilding process has to involve surrounding Andrew Luck with some weapons. Criner is a big, physical receiver who has large hands that seemingly swallow up every ball thrown his way.
The Rams would like to get some depth at the running back position as well as find an heir to Stephen Jackson’s position. Wilson is a fierce runner and an absolute steal at the top of the 3rd round.
The Vikings have been trying to find an answer for the safety position ever since Darren Sharper went to the Saints. Tyler is one of the best safeties in the draft and a great value for Minnesota here.
Trumaine Johnson is one of the more underrated players in this draft. He’s a very physical cover corner who has a great ability to make a play on the ball.
The Buccaneers are in desperate need of running back help. In the 3rd round, they land one of the top running backs in the draft. Lamar Miller can be a threat for Tampa both on the ground and in the passing game.
The Redskins need some help at the tackle position and now that they have their QB of the future they must protect him. Schwartz is a tough tackle who is excellent in the run game and shows promise as a pass protector.
The Jaguars have a number of needs but solidifying the offensive line is a big one. Jacksonville lands one of the draft’s best centers here.
The Buffalo Bills have got to get someone opposite of Stevie Johnson and Marvin McNutt is their man. He’s a large target who has great separation skills and shovels for hands. Definitely a much needed addition to this receiving corps.
The best receiver left on the board at this point, Jenkins has good separation skills, great hands, and is unbelievably humble which may be a nice change of pace for the Dolphins who just traded away Brandon Marshall.
The Dolphins are back on the board again and with this pick they select Jared Crick. A player who can play the defensive end or tackle position, I believe if Crick has success in the NFL, it will be on the interior defensive line.
And so far the Kansas City Chiefs are having an excellent draft. Here in the 3rd round, they select the 3rd best pure nose tackle in the draft at a great value. This fills the one remaining void in a very young and potent defense.
Even though Seattle was able to extend Marshawn Lynch, they are still looking for depth at the position. Landing one of the top 5 running backs in the draft in the third round is a no-brainer for the Seahawks.
There are a lot of things I love about Zebrie Sanders and I believe he’s a steal in the third round. He’s a tough athletic tackle who excellent a pass protection. While his run blocking is lacking, this is a great addition to the Texans’ line
The Jets land Zach Brown in the 3rd round which allows them to commit Upshaw to the defensive end position. A superb tackler who is great against the run, Brown’s a perfect fit for Rex Ryan’s defense.
The Chargers definitely need some help in their secondary and Bentley is the best corner left on the board at this point. Bentley is a potential “ballhawk” type corner who could be a huge part of San Diego’s rebuilding efforts on the defensive side of things.
The Bears made a must-needed move in the offseason by trading for Jay Cutler’s all-time favorite target in Brandon Marshall but the Bears’ receiving corps still needs a lot of work. In Keshawn Martin, the Bears select a very athletic and skilled, but very raw wide receiver with a high ceiling.
The Cardinals were able to re-sign Early Doucet but they still have to bolster their wide receiving corps. Ryan Broyles was originally projected to be a late 1st round/early 2nd round pick. He has fallen due to injury but Arizona will take a chance on him here.
The Cowboys continue the much needed project of building up their offensive line by selecting Ben Jones here. Jones is a very instinctive and aware tackle who is a solid blocker in both the passing and running game. He is the best center left on the board and a necessary pick for Dallas here.
The Titans really need some help in their receiving corps. There are some good young weapons there in Kenny Britt and Jared Cook but this corps is lacking. Projected by many early on to be an early to mid second round pick, Toon is an excellent route runner with a great ability to make a play on the ball.
The Bengals are a young team on the rise who have some major concerns in their secondary. They have already addressed the cornerback position and here they find one of the top 5 safeties in the draft in Martin. He’s a great value this late in the 3rd round and the right pick for Cincy.
There are a lot of things I love about Brandon Boykin and I feel that he is vastly underrated. A lights out cornerback at Georgia, Boykin is great against the run, has the ability to make a play on the ball, and has phenomenal coverage skils. While many have questions about Boykin’s instincts and recognition skills, he represents a great value for the Falcons here and I believe he can be a successful corner in the NFL.
Most seasons, Chase Minnifield and Brandon Boykin would be top 40 draft picks but where they fall shows you how deep this cornerback class really is. Chase Minnifield is a cornerback with phenomenal ball skills and a very rare sense of awareness. He reads defenses well and plays exceptionally well against the run. Most of the questions surround Minnifield are in regards to his size and a knee injury that required surgery in January, 2012.
The Steelers need some help on the offensive line and Stephenson is best offensive tackle left on the board. In college, Stephenson was excellent in pass protection and pretty solid at opening up lanes for Oklahoma’s backs. The issue with Stephenson is his inconsistency and his lack of hustle. Doesn’t always block until the whistle but he has the tools to be a good lineman for Pittsburgh.
Many will be shocked that I have Nick Foles falling this far but after the run on quarterbacks in the 1st and 2nd rounds, there are a number of teams with much bigger needs. Now that Elway has shipped out Tebow and taken out a 3-5 year lease on Peyton Manning, the Broncos need depth at the quarterback position and somebody to develop behind Peyton. Foles is a large quarterback with a big arm who is a proven leader. While his pocket presence leaves much to be desired, he is an accurate quarterback with great athleticism who has a pass first mentality but can gain yards on the ground. Something tells me Elway will see a little bit of himself in Foles.
The Eagles have not had a safety since the departure of Brian Dawkins and any thought that the Eagles might move Asante Samuel to the safety position is out the window now that he’s been traded to Atlanta. Antonio Allen is the best safety on the board and fills a huge need for Philadelphia.
And for the first time all draft, we see the New Orleans Saints make a draft pick. The Saints largest need is overwhelmingly the outside linebacker position and Terrell Manning represents a good value at this point. He’s a solid tackler with good instincts who could help New Orleans’ defense.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you have to respect how well Green Bay drafts. The Packers are in need of some help in their backfield and Pead is the best available rusher. He’s a competitive runner with good vision who is solid between the tackles and adds much needed depth behind Starks.
It’s no secret that Baltimore needs to bolster their wide receiver corps and Joe Adams is a speedy dynamic receiver who could be dangerous in the slot. As an added bonus, Adams can be a threat in the return game and adds one more dimension to a very talented and dangerous Baltimore team.
The Miami of Ohio product is the best interior lineman available at this point and could go a long way to help solidify San Francisco’s offensive line. He’s excellent at pass protection and pretty good at run blocking as well. Most questions that surround Brooks are in regards to a shoulder injury he suffered in 2010.
The Patriots also have a number of needs on their interior offensive line and Joe Looney is the best available option. Bellichick knows the value of a strong offensive line and he must address that need here. He’s a big guard who blocks extremely well and has good instincts. Looney could’ve gone much higher but drops because a left foot injury held him out of 2012 workouts.
Josh Norman is an exceptional athlete with superb coverage skills who is great against the run and has Darren Sharper type potential as far as being a “ballhawk-type” corner are concerned. There are questions about his instincts and character but the Giants need help at the position and Norman is the best possible pick here.
The Raiders finally get to make a pick! Thanks to the departure of Nnamdi Asomugha last offseason Oakland receives the highest possible compensatory pick. While the team has a number of needs the overwhelming need is outside linebacker. Spence is a fierce outside linebacker who was great on 3rd down for Miami and is a solid tackler. He has excellent instincts and reads plays well. There are questions about his size and durability but he’s likely the pick Oakland makes here. But you never know – Oakland could feel the need to take yet another quarterback…
THE 4TH ROUND
And now, as an added bonus to round out the top 100 picks, the first five picks of the 4th round. A nice little bonus for all of you whose teams had just an awful season.
For all the St. Louis Rams fans who complained about a lack of receivers after having a tradition that boasted Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, you are welcome to rejoice. Tommy Streeter is my biggest sleeper at the wide receiver position and someone who I believe, in the right situation, could be a #1 wide receiver in this league. He is the perfect complement to Justin Blackmon. He is 6’5″ and has the big play ability to stretch the filed. While he has issues with separation, he is the type of guy you can throw a jump ball to and have confidence he’ll come down with it. He has great hands and long arms and is a great addition to this St. Louis team.
The Colts have always loved the tight end position and I don’t see that changing under Pagano. Orson Charles is the 3rd best tight end in the draft and a necessary weapon for the Colts to add if Luck’s going to win any games.
The Vikings have to be excited to be getting Chris Cook back after some legal trouble but Cedric Griffin is gone and Antoine Winfield is getting older. Casey Hayward is a great value in the 4th round and fills a necessary need for Minnesota.
I don’t know how Brandon Thompson falls this far but he does and the Texans are here to snatch him up as a result of the DeMeco Ryans trade. Thompson is a violent player who is a perfect fit for Wade Phillips’ defense.
The Browns have a need at the inside linebacker position and will be thrilled to find Wagner available at the 100th overall pick. A superb tackler who plays well against the run, he’s an excellent pick for Cleveland at this point in the draft.
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Well on Friday we saw how the first 32 picks played out and now we’re on to the next 31 (the Saints second round pick was forfeited as part of “Bountygate”). The last 37 picks of my mock draft top 100 will come out on Wednesday. The second round means the Atlanta Falcons fans finally get to see their team make a pick and teams such as the Rams, Eagles, and Patriots have the opportunity to build up their team with multiple picks. Who has slipped into the second round and how will your favorite team follow up their first round draft selection(s)?
Without further ado, let’s find out!
PREVIOUS PICK: LaMichael James, RB – Oregon
Jeff Fisher recognizes that his new team has two franchise players – Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford – and the best thing he can possibly do is provide Bradford some pass protection and find an offensive lineman that can open up running lanes for Jackson. At the 33rd overall pick of the draft, Massie is the best offensive tackle on the board. He is a good pass blocker and was great at run blocking for the Rebels. While I see him being a better fit as a right tackle in the pros, he will significantly upgrade the Rams’ offensive line. He is a large-bodied, hard nosed tackle, with great strength and long arms.
PREVIOUS PICK: Nick Perry, DE/OLB – USC
The Colts have a plethora of needs and at this point they are just selecting the best player on the board. I believe that if Coby Fleener falls this far (which could easily happen) the Colts will elect to pair Andrew Luck with his favorite college target. However since he is off the board, the Colts will address their pass rush by taking Nick Perry. My personal opinion is that outside of Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones, there is not a better pure pass rusher on the board than Perry. Putting pressure on opposing QBs is a big need for the Colts and Perry is an excellent value at 34 overall.
PREVIOUS PICK: Stephon Gilmore, CB – South Carolina
The Vikings’ two primary concerns after selecting Kalil are their secondary and receiving corps. GM Rick Spielman loves to draft Notre Dame players and if Harrison Smith falls to Minnesota here, I believe that he’s the pick. Another tendency that the Vikings have though is using top 40 draft picks on South Carolina wide receivers. They selected Troy Williamson and Sidney Rice. They even offered Green Bay practice squad member Tori Gurley a contract last season. Now the Vikings love affair with South Carolina wideouts continues with the selection of Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a physical possession receiver who does have the ability to pick up large amounts of yards after the catch. He also has the size, hands, and speed to be a legitimate deep threat for the Vikings. He is the kind of receiver who can use his size to win jump ball battles down the field.
PREVIOUS PICK: Andre Branch, DE/OLB – Clemson
The Buccaneers probably go running back here but when Andre Branch falls to them, I don’t think the Bucs pass him up. Andre Branch has the versatility to be either utilized as a defensive end or an outside linebacker. After drafting Claiborne and Bowers last year, the Buccaneers will probably elect to use Branch as an outside linebacker. He is a ferocious pass rusher and the addition of Claiborne and then Branch could go a long way to restoring the reputation of the Buccaneers’ defense.
PREVIOUS PICK: Lamar Miller, RB – Miami
I absolutely love Brandon Weeden. He’s a smart QB with great accuracy and a big arm. There’s only one problem – he’s 29. If Weeden were 5-7 years younger, I am pretty confident he would be the 3rd overall pick of this year’s draft. He’s a mentally tough leader with a quick release and the best part is, I really believe that Weeden could start Week 1. It’s risky to take a 29 year old rookie but Weeden will push Colt McCoy from Day 1 and whoever wins the QB battle, Cleveland will be better off for it.
PREVIOUS PICK: Alshon Jeffrey, WR – South Carolina
If you can name two or more wide receivers that were on Jacksonville’s roster last season, you are probably a Jaguars fan. The Jaguars have signed Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans in the offseason to bolster their receiving corps but they need to find a possession type receiver for Blaine Gabbert to throw to. Sanu fits the mold of being a big receiver with good hands who can go up and catch a ball down the field. The Jaguars moved up last year to select Blaine Gabbert and now they must give him some weapons.
PREVIOUS PICK: Kendall Reyes, DT – Connecticut
I’m pretty confident the Rams are going to use this pick to focus on their defensive line or to address their pass rush. The Rams have shown a lot of interest in Jerel Worthy but when Reyes falls to this spot, I don’t believe St. Louis will hesitate to grab him.
PREVIOUS PICK: Mohammed Sanu, WR – Rutgers
Minus the off-the-field issues; I love Janorris Jenkins. Unfortunately off-the-field issues have been the difference between playing in the SEC and losing in the Division II playoffs. They’ve been the difference between being a top 10 to 15 pick and sliding to pick #40. Regardless, the Panthers get an absolute steal by picking up one of the best cover corners in the draft in the second round. The selections of Dontari Poe and now Jenkins gives this defense an entirely new feel for 2012.
PREVIOUS PICK: Jared Crick, DT/DE – Nebraska
There’s no doubt that Josh Robinson is raw but he has good ball skills and excellent instincts. He is a hard worker and a natural leader. And with a 4.33 40, he is the fastest player in the draft and I believe someone will take a chance on him in the 2nd round.
PREVIOUS PICK: Terrell Manning, OLB – NC State
Last season, we saw three NFL quarterbacks throw for over 5,000 yards (when only two quarterbacks had ever hit that mark). One of those was of course, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. As the league becomes more pass-happy and with an elite QB like Brady in their division, the Dolphins are in desperate need of pass-rush help. As his name suggests, Mercilus is a violent and explosive player who can get to the quarterback. He is a first round caliber player who the Dolphins are happy to find in the 2nd round.
PREVIOUS PICK: Vinny Curry, DE – Marshall
The Seahawks already had a glaring need in their interior offensive line and now with the departure of Robert Gallery, guard becomes an even greater need. Zeiter is the 3rd best available guard in the draft and Seattle will select him hoping he can provide the stability to their line that future Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson once did.
PREVIOUS PICK: Alameda Ta’amu, NT – Washington
The nose tackle position remains a primary need for the Chiefs but there is no one on the board worth taking at this pick (but I would not be surprised if the Chiefs decided to reach for Alameda Ta’amu). However, the Chiefs do need to find an answer at quarterback and have already hosted Osweiler at their facility. They will be thrilled to find him available here. He’s a big quarterback (6’6″) who has surprising mobility and tremendous arm strength. He’s incredibly raw but definitely someone that could be developed into an NFL starting quarterback.
PREVIOUS PICK: Ben Jones, C – Georgia
Last year in the draft, the Cowboys resisted their usual temptation to pick up a flashy playmaker and instead addressed their offensive line with the selection of Tyron Smith – and it paid dividends for them. Now the Cowboys continue to address the interior offensive line, which is awful, with the selection of Silatolu. He’s a raw talent that has the potential to be a dominant guard in this league.
PREVIOUS PICK: Ronnell Lewis, OLB – Oklahoma
I am really shocked to find Lavonte David still on the board at this point and the Eagles will be too. Though Philadelphia probably has their sights set on Lewis or Manning here, with a first round caliber talent like David still on the board – they won’t hesitate to take him. David is a great tackler with top end speed who goes 100% and plays sideline to sideline on every single down.
PREVIOUS PICK: Zebrie Sanders, OT – Florida State
The Jets decided to pass on Michael Floyd in the first round and instead opted to address their pass rush but they must bolster their wide receiving corps here. Whether Sanchez or Tebow plan to line up behind center, they must have someone else to throw the ball to besides Holmes. Little-known Brian Quick has great size and an ability to separate from defenders that makes him a potential deep threat for the Jets.
PREVIOUS PICK: Jayron Hosley, CB – Virginia Tech
The Patriots have 5 picks in the first three rounds of the draft and they must use the majority of those to address their defensive woes. Lucky for New England there is unbelievable depth at the cornerback position in this draft and at 48th overall they find a ballhawk like Hosley who runs a 4.4 40 and can also be dangerous in the return game.
PREVIOUS PICK: Alfonzo Dennard, CB – Nebraska
Due to durability issues, the change to being a pass-first game, and the recent success of late round/undrafted runners, the running back position has been highly devalued. As a result the Chargers find the 2nd best running back in the draft at the 49th overall pick. James is a runner with great vision who can also catch balls out of the backfield. He fits San Diego’s offensive style perfectly.
PREVIOUS PICK: Bobby Massie, OT – Ole Miss
The Bears have some major needs on their offensive line. They have a dangerous two-headed monster in Matt Forte and Michael Bush and a quarterback with a big arm in Jay Cutler. Now the Bears will select local talent Jeff Allen to come solidify their line. Allen is an excellent pass blocker who leaves something to be desired in the run game but he’s a tough player who can read the defense and the best pick for Chicago at this juncture.
PREVIOUS PICK: Brock Osweiler, QB – Arizona State
This pick should not surprise anyone. The Eagles have been rumored to have interest in potentially trading up with Minnesota or Cleveland to draft Ryan Tannehill. This is the team that drafted Kevin Kolb with a 2nd round pick and signed Michael Vick when Donovan McNabb was still going to Pro Bowls. The Eagles will use this pick to grab Kirk Cousins, who they believe, to be the best available quarterback on the board.
PREVIOUS PICK: Mike Brewster, C – Ohio State
Kelechi Osemele was great for Iowa State at the left tackle position but like many, when I look at him, I see someone who can be an ok right tackle or someone with the tools to be a phenomenal guard. The Titans will draft him for that reason with their second round pick. They are in desperate need of some help on their interior line and Osemele is someone that is really good at pass protection and at opening up the run game. He reads defenses very well and is a good addition to the Titans line with this pick.
PREVIOUS PICK: David Wilson, RB – Virginia Tech
Dennard is a little shorter than you would traditionally want a cornerback to be but the same people who have that hesitation with Dennard probably felt the same way about Antoine Winfield. The Bengals are in need of secondary help and Dennard is a great locker room guy with good instincts with terrific coverage skills and body control. There remains much to be desired in his ability to make a play on a ball but overall a good cover corner who can defend the run and the pass.
PREVIOUS PICK: Chandler Jones, DE – Syracuse
Early on, there were many (myself included) that thought Curry would be an early second round pick and could potentially sneak up into the end of the first round. There’s no doubt that the Lions need help with their pass rush. Curry is a great locker room guy and a ferocious pass rusher with excellent instincts and hustle. He’s a great fit for this Detroit team.
PREVIOUS PICK: Dwayne Allen, TE – Clemson
This is one pick that I have not budged from. While the Falcons have defensive issues that need to be addressed, the fact is that in Matt Ryan’s 0-4 playoff start to his career, the Falcons have struggled to score points. The Falcons currently have the greatest tight end of all time on their roster but Tony Gonzalez is getting up there in year and when Dwayne Allen falls here the Falcons are not going to pass up the chance to give this Falcons offense yet another weapon and to develop Gonzalez’s heir.
PREVIOUS PICK: Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan State
Please explain to me how Jerel Worthy falls this far. Many have him projected to go late in the first round or in the top 10 picks of the second round but I believe he falls to Pittsburgh here. The Steelers are trying to get younger on both sides of the line of scrimmage and when you have a physical tackle like Jerel Worthy who is great at stopping the run and can put pressure on the QB, he’s a great value this late in the draft.
PREVIOUS PICK: Chris Givens, WR – Wake Forest
John Elway got his dream quarterback and shipped Tebow out of Denver but now he must surround Peyton Manning with some weapons because as we all know, the window is incredibly small. Chris Givens is a small, speedy receiver with great hands who is a perfect replacement for the recently departed Eddie Royal.
PREVIOUS PICK: Kelechi Osemele, OT/OG – Iowa State
The Texans traded DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles because they didn’t feel that, even though he’s a great player, he fit their defensive scheme. While the Texans could go nose tackle here, with Kendricks on the board they will address this new need. Kendricks is a middle linebacker who is a phenomenal tackler with great instincts and awareness. He is excellent against the run but has shown that he can be effective on passing plays as well.
PREVIOUS PICK: Mitchell Schwartz, OT – California
And with the 59th overall pick of the draft, the Green Bay Packers continue to do what they do best – find value in the draft. Devon Still is a defensive tackle who I originally projected to go in the top 12 picks of the draft. In recent weeks Still has fallen, but not because his stock has dropped but more so, because the stock of other tackles has risen. Regardless, Devon Still is one of the best run-stopping tackles in the draft and with a division that includes Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Michael Bush, Still is exactly what the Packers need.
PREVIOUS PICK: Mychal Kendricks, ILB – California
If Mychal Kendricks is available here, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the pick. However since he is not the Ravens will be excited to address their pass rush by selecting Ronnell Lewis with this pick. Ronnell Lewis has pro-typical size, is one of the best tacklers in the draft, and is a great 3rd down outside linebacker who is an absolute steal at this point in the draft.
PREVIOUS PICK: Josh Chapman, NT – Alabama
The 49ers biggest need at this point is nose tackle as they have not yet recovered from the departure of Aubrayo Franklin after the 2010-11 season. Ta’amu is the 2nd best pure nose tackle in the draft after Poe. He is a big physical tackle who can plug up the middle of the offensive line and is outstanding versus the run. He is pure hustle and while his pass rush skills leave much to be desired he is the perfect pick for San Francisco.
PREVIOUS PICK: Devon Still, DT – Penn State
I agree with Mel Kiper that Derek Wolfe is incredibly underrated and also agree with Kiper that the Patriots will select him; I just happen to have it happening a whole round later than Mel does. As the Patriots continue their defensive overhaul they must find someone to put next to Wilfork. Wolfe is the best defensive lineman left on the board at this point and a pick that makes a lot of sense for New England.
PREVIOUS PICK: Doug Martin, RB – Boise State
The days of Earth, Wind, and Fire are long gone for the New York Giants. The Giants are still a team with a run-first mentality but they lack any running back depth. Martin is a top 5 running back in this class who many believe will go early in the 2nd round. Thanks to the recent devaluation of the position, Doug Martin falls to the champs here. He is a hard nosed runner with a never-say-die attitude who has great acceleration and can be extremely effective in the passing and screen game. The Giants are not going to hesitate to draft him when he falls all the way to 63. Don’t be surprised to see the Giants try to trade up to make sure they land the Boise State back.
Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ‘em! As always, please follow me @can_of_corn
As the NFL Draft approaches, a lot of things come into focus and the crystal ball becomes more clear. The NFL Combine, pro days, and individual workouts have given us a better idea of the expected talent and impact of these young rookies and how teams will rank them. As teams invite players for private workouts we get a better idea of who teams might have interest in. The stock of some players continues to rise while others continue to fall as we approach Draft Night. And of course a large factor in any mock draft, the order has been finalized and compensatory picks have been awarded.
Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Mario Williams, Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and the other high profile free agents have signed which has allowed a number of teams to address needs they otherwise would have in the draft. In some cases the signing of one or two players has entirely transformed a team’s draft priorities (As is the case with the Broncos, Bills, and Buccaneers).
The top 20 picks of this final mock draft are pretty consistent with what we saw in my previous post. Throughout this week leading up to the draft I will be publishing who I believe will be the first 100 picks with Round 1 coming today, Round 2 coming Monday, and Round 3 and the first five picks of the fourth round coming on Wednesday. You will notice that this time around I have included my previous pick and for the first round, I have also included other possible picks the team might take at their given position.
NOTE: In a lot of cases where I list a position as an area of need it may just be depth and not a starter. This is very true of positions like quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and line positions for a number of teams.
As always, feedback is much appreciated so please comment below or tweet us @can_of_corn
PREVIOUS PICK: Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford
UPDATE: As I type this, multiple sources are reporting that the Indianapolis Colts have informed Andrew Luck he will be the #1 overall pick
This has been my #1 overall draft pick for the past year (regardless of team) and there is nothing I have seen yet to make me feel otherwise. He is an intelligent young quarterback with a strong arm and as we saw in his pro day, underrated athleticism. He is a mobile quarterback who can extend plays and a natural-born leader. He is ready to run a pro-style offense now and has the pro-typical size that NFL execs and coaches love. In college he was a winner, he was prolific, and more importantly, he was an efficient quarterback throwing 37 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in his senior campaign. I stated early last season that teams should only consider doing three things with the first overall pick – draft Andrew Luck, draft Andrew Luck and trade him (or your current quarterback depending on the team), or trade the pick to somebody who will draft Andrew Luck.
If I were to rank Andrew Luck against other quarterback prospects of the last 30 years he would rank in the top 3 alongside John Elway and Peyton Manning. One thing all three will soon have in common is they were drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts – talk about your incredibly lucky franchises.
Other Possibilities: None
PREVIOUS PICK: Robert Griffin III, QB – Baylor
The Washington Redskins came out and promised their fans that this would be the year that they addressed their quarterback situation. It was clear last season that John Beck and Rex Grossman were not the answer. Knowing that they were unlikely to be players in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, the Redskins pulled the trigger and swapped first round picks with the St. Louis Rams and sent St. Louis their 2012 2nd round pick, their 2013 first round pick, and their 2014 first round pick. The only other quarterback in the draft beyond Andrew Luck that might be considered worthy of that type of an investment is RGIII.
I believe that Robert Griffin’s stock has been helped by the success of Cam Newton with the Panthers this past year but there is no denying that last season RGIII was the consensus best player in all of college football. Griffin can throw the deep ball and throws it with accuracy. He has blazing speed (ran a 4.4 40 at the combine) but is definitely a throw-first type quarterback. He fits Shanahan’s offense and he’s a high character guy who has the intangibles you want in the future leader of your franchise.
Other Possibilities: None
PREVIOUS PICK: Matt Kalil, OT – USC
With it being presumed that Luck and RG3 go 1 and 2, the Vikings are essentially on the clock. I have been very high on Matt Kalil from the start and I believe that he is in the same class as Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and Miami’s Jake Long as far as offensive line prospects go. The Vikings shocked everyone last year when in the quarterback frenzy they selected Florida State’s Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick setting up the most intriguing young quarterback competition in the NFL between Ponder and Joe Webb. Presuming that Ponder will be the starter, the Vikings must protect their investment and as Matt Kalil told the Vikings, if they were to select him they, “won’t have to worry about finding a left tackle for the next decade.” I could not agree more.
How good is Matt Kalil? He is the reason that Dallas’s Tyron Smith (who just had a great rookie year) played on the right side at USC. He is the most athletic offensive line prospect I’ve seen in a long time and has quick feet and great strength that will make him an elite pass blocker. The great thing about Matt Kalil is that with this one draft pick the Viking’s all of a sudden take an abysmal offensive line from 2011 and make it one of their strengths. The Kalil pick allows them to move Charlie Johnson from tackle to guard, Loadholt is solid at right tackle, and the Vikings have added depth in free agency to compete with second year player Brandon Fusco. This line could be elite with Matt Kalil next to center John Sullivan (quietly one of the best centers in the NFC last year). Imagine how effective the three headed monster of Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, and Percy Harvin could be at running the ball if the Vikings offensive line wasn’t awful?
This is definitely the pick the Vikings make. Any team that does not need a quarterback and passes on Matt Kalil is making a HUGE mistake. He is the 2nd best player (after Luck) available in this draft.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Vikings trade the pick; the Vikings have been sending out flyers about interest in other players which I believe is a diversion to get a team who wants Trent Richardson, Matt Kalil, or Ryan Tannehill to move up. Ultimately I believe Minnesota wants to move down within the top 10-12 picks.
2. The Vikings give their secondary a huge boost by selecting LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
3. The Vikings give Christian Ponder another weapon by selecting WR Justin Blackmon
PREVIOUS PICK: Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU
Trent Richardson is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson in my opinion. He is an intelligent player and a very complete running back who can be a threat in the running and passing games. A few months ago I believed that Richardson could slip to the middle of the first round because the pass-happy tendencies that teams are leaning towards combined with the success of running backs such as Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, and Fred Jackson has greatly devalued the running back position. Trent Richardson is leaps and bounds ahead of any other running back in this draft and so this devaluation won’t affect him one bit and I’d be shocked if he fell past the 6th overall pick. If he did fall past the Rams, there is a chance he could fall all the way to the Bengals as I originally projected.
Richardson is a talented running back with the vision, speed, and strength to come into the league and be a top five running back in the league immediately if he’s used correctly. The Browns need some help on the offensive side of the ball and since Holmgren won’t find a quarterback worth building around here and he does not believe in using early picks on wide receivers, he will take Richardson. While there are league-wide concerns about his knee injury, the Browns were one of the teams that passed on Adrian Peterson due to injury concerns in 2007 and likely won’t make that same mistake again.
Other Possibilities: 1. If Mike Holmgren decides that Ryan Tannehill could be his quarterback of the future he will not hesitate to select him here and may even swap picks with the Vikings before someone else can move up.
2. The Browns could take Morris Claiborne here and pair him with Joe Haden giving them the best young CB tandem in the NFL.
3. The Browns could trade down with a team interested in Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins, Chiefs, or Eagles) or Trent Richardson.
PREVIOUS PICK: Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama
In spite of the Eric Wright signing, the Buccaneers still have a glaring need at the cornerback position. The Buccaneers need to find an heir to Ronde Barber who is only getting older and someone to take the place of Aqib Talib (off-field issues). When you play Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton twice a year, finding potential shut down corners has to be a priority and Morris Claiborne is the best defensive prospect in the entire draft. While there are some concerns surrounding his rumored Wonderlic score of a 4 (8%), I don’t believe that will affect his draft stock.
Claiborne is a quick cornerback with excellent instincts and great ball skills. As he showed at LSU, he has the skills to be a true shut-down cornerback. He has the speed and athleticism to be elite in the NFL. Like his former teammate Patrick Peterson (who went 5th overall to the Cardinals last season) the young cornerback can also be very dangerous in the return game. If Morris Claiborne is still on the board here, he’s the pick.
Other Possibilities: 1. If Trent Richardson is available here the Buccaneers may go Richardson over Claiborne.
2. The Buccaneers could elect to use the pick to give Josh Freeman another deep threat alongside Vincent Jackson by drafting Justin Blackmon.
PREVIOUS PICK: Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma State
The Rams made a wise move in trading down out of the #2 spot and in the process gave themselves the draft picks necessary to potentially rebuild this once great franchise that has been the joke of the NFL in recent years. The Rams had a pressing need at wide receiver the past couple of years and with Brandon Lloyd signing with New England, the receiving situation is even more dire. I believe that with this pick the Rams will select the best wide receiver prospect in the draft in Justin Blackmon. While this was a pick some thought the Rams might take at the #2 overall position, I don’t believe the Rams are entirely sold on Blackmon but at this point he’s probably the best pick for St. Louis.
The Rams really wanted Julio Jones last season and now with Blackmon they’ll finally give Bradford the big play weapon he needs. Blackmon is an athletic and speedy receiver who has the ability to make contested catches in the middle of the field but can also stretch defenses vertically. He was consistent throughout his college career and caught 111 catches for 20 touchdowns and over 1700 yards last year with the Cowboys and did so against double and triple coverage packages. The Rams haven’t had a #1 wideout since Torry Holt and Blackmon could fill that void for St. Louis.
Other Possibilities: 1. If Trent Richardson or Matt Kalil are available here, that’s the pick for St. Louis.
2. If Morris Claiborne is available here along with Blackmon, the Rams will have a difficult choice to make
3. The Rams could choose to address their defensive line issues here by selecting Fletcher Cox or Dontari Poe or address their offensive line by selecting Riley Reiff
4. The Rams may once again trade down, given all of their needs, with a team interested in Riley Reiff, Justin Blackmon, or Ryan Tannehill.
PREVIOUS PICK: Quinton Coples, DE – North Carolina
When it comes to the NFL Draft, there are trends that can’t be ignored. One glaring trend as a fan is that it seems like the Jacksonville Jaguars are consistently selecting defensive ends in the top 10. First it was Derrick Harvey, then it was Tyson Alualu, and now Gene Smith is going to hope that the third time is indeed the charm when he selects South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram.
Melvin Ingram is not the most talented defensive end prospect in this class (that distinction belongs to Quinton Coples) but Ingram is probably the best all-around. He is a fast and agile defensive end who has a nose for finding the ball. He is a very mobile defensive end who is extremely effective in open space and could also have success as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He isn’t the most explosive defensive end but still would significantly boost the pass rushing efforts of the Jaguars. One thing that makes Ingram the more desirable defensive end (over Coples) for Jacksonville is there is no doubt about his work ethic – he is pure hustle. The same cannot be said of Quinton Coples.
Other Possibilities: 1. If Justin Blackmon falls to the Jaguars here, there is no doubt he’s the pick. The Jaguars may also consider taking Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd here.
2. The Jaguars trade back with a team that is interested in Riley Reiff or Ryan Tannehill
3. The Jaguars select Riley Reiff to shore up their offensive line.
4. Jaguars GM Gene Smith goes against his usual mantra of wanting “safe players” and takes a risk on Quinton Coples
PREVIOUS PICK: Ryan Tannehill, QB – Texas A&M
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I have seen of Ryan Tannehill and believe that he can be a franchise QB and someone that a team builds around. I am such a big believer in Ryan Tannehill that I believe the Cleveland Browns should pull the trigger and select him in the first round …. with the 22nd overall pick. He is a young quarterback with a very high ceiling and loads of potential but at the 8th overall pick, I believe he’s a reach. After last year’s draft though where we saw Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder all off the board by the 12th pick; I am not going to be shocked when Tannehill’s name is called in the top 10.
The Dolphins must address their QB situation and even though Tannehill needs to be developed, he is a quarterback that can make plays with his feet and has an incredibly strong arm. The downside on Tannehill is that he’s inconsistent and fumbling could be a concern with him. He also played one full season at quarterback in college. There’s no question that he’s a talented, intelligent quarterback with a short learning curve and a great grasp on fundamentals with firm mechanics. And considering that Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was his head coach at A&M last year, his knowledge of the offense definitely helps his draft stock here.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Dolphins address their offensive line issues by selecting Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff.
2. The Dolphins fill the void left by the Brandon Marshall trade with the selection of Michael Floyd
3. The Dolphins address their defense by selecting Melvin Ingram/Quinton Coples or Fletcher Cox/Dontari Poe
PREVIOUS PICK: Dontari Poe, NT/DT – Memphis
I don’t think anyone was as impressive at the NFL Combine as Dontari Poe. Dontari Poe showed up at the NFL Combine at 6’4″, 346 pounds and impressed scouts with an unofficial sub 4.9 40 and 44 reps on the bench press (the most at the combine). The one negative on Poe is that many are worried because his combine workout does not match his game tape which is why many believe Fletcher Cox out of Mississippi State will be taken ahead of him but I remain confident that Poe is the pick here.
When it comes down to it, I believe the comparisons to Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata are merited. Poe is a phenomenal athlete that can immediately help to remedy Carolina’s biggest defensive woe – stopping the run. While he is traditionally a 3-4 nose tackle, Poe is a great athlete and will fit the Panther’s 4-3 scheme nicely. I believe his measurables and athleticism will be too much for Carolina to pass up.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Panthers go defensive end (Coples or Ingram) as opposed to defensive tackle
2. The Panthers elect to take the top player of their board regardless of position. That could be Boston College’s Luke Kuechly. The second best wide receiver (Floyd), cornerback (Gilmore/Kirkpatrick depending on who you ask), and offensive tackle (Reiff) will also all be available here and all represent big needs for the Panthers.
PREVIOUS PICK: Riley Reiff, OT – Iowa
The Bills could go a number of different directions with this pick but they will be thrilled when the second best offensive tackle on the board falls to them at #10 overall. It has been ten years since the Bills have selected an offensive tackle in the first round but given the fact that they just extended Ryan Fitzpatrick, it’s now essential that they give Fitzpatrick time to throw the ball.
In the tradition of University of Iowa offensive lineman, Reiff is a large tackle (6’5″, 315 lbs.) who plays a hard-nosed style of football. He is incredibly effective in the run game. Fundamentally he is a very sound player that is ready to contribute immediately and would fill a huge void in Buffalo’s roster. Not the sexiest pick but the best pick for Buffalo here.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Bills decide to give Ryan Fitzpatrick a weapon to line up opposite of WR Steve Johnson and select Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.
2. The Bills continue to bolster the defense by adding either Quinton Coples/Melvin Ingram or with ILB Luke Kuechly
PREVIOUS PICK: Luke Kuechly, ILB – Boston College
If he’s available, Dontari Poe would make the most sense for the Kansas City Chiefs who have a gaping need at the nose tackle position. However, given GM Scott Pioli’s hesitance towards “unproven players” there’s a chance that if Poe were available, the Chiefs still might pass on him. However I believe that if Poe is available here, he’s the pick. Since Dontari Poe is off the board – Luke Kuechly becomes the pick for Kansas City.
The Chiefs are in a unique position where they have a relatively high draft pick but have a pretty complete team with few needs. Many consider Luke Kuechly to be one of the safest picks in the entire draft. At 6’3″ and 240 lbs, Kuechly had a great combine workout. He is a great athlete with excellent instincts and a short learning curve. He has the ability to read defenses quickly and adapt his style of play accordingly. He led the nation in tackles the last two years (by a wide margin). This is a guy who makes plays from sideline to sideline who Chiefs fans will fall in love with. There is no doubt that he’s the best linebacker in this year’s draft class. Kuechly’s style of play fits Romeo Crennel’s defense perfectly and would be a perfect complement to Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson. Kuechly is exactly what Kansas City needs: a run-stopping linebacker who plays aggressively and with great instincts.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Chiefs decide to address their interior offensive line and select Stanford’s David DeCastro
2. Pay attention to trends, the Chiefs could surprise everyone and select LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers who many consider a better talent and safer pick than Dontari Poe. The Chiefs have used a first round pick on an LSU player three times since 2007 and Brockers would the be the third LSU defensive lineman (Dorsey and Jackson) that Pioli has selected in the first round since 2008.
3. The Chiefs trade up and draft Ryan Tannehill.PREVIOUS PICK: Luke Kuechly, ILB – Boston College
PREVIOUS PICK: David DeCastro, OG – Stanford
If Luke Kuechly is still on the board, he might be the pick here but I don’t expect him to last this long. The Seahawks need to address their pass rush and failed to land their biggest free agent target in Mario Williams. Quinton Coples is the most athletic defensive end/outside linebacker in the draft with the only major concerns being his work ethic and attitude. At UNC, Coples showed a great ability to defend against the run and find the quarterback. There are some who believe that Coples’ attitude will have him fall out of the first round but I don’t believe that at all – I believe his athleticism will be too much for the Seahawks to pass up. He spent a majority of his collegiate career being double blocked and still managed to have success, his performance at the Senior Bowl showed what teams can expect when they make the mistake of single blocking him. Quinton Coples could be the final piece in a young defense that’s on the rise.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Seahawks may choose to focus on the interior offensive line and select David DeCastro out of Stanford. Being the franchise that selected Steve Hutchinson, they know the value of a good guard.
2. Select either Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, or Janorris Jenkins and bolster their secondary
PREVIOUS PICK: Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford
The popular pick for Arizona seems to be Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd but the $64M they invested in Kevin Kolb last season and the issues on the offensive line have me 100% certain that the Cardinals will be selecting an offensive lineman, out of Stanford to be more exact. Given the gaping hole at left tackle I believe they will opt for Jonathan Martin over guard David DeCastro. Martin is not the talent that Kalil or even Reiff are but he is the consensus third best offensive tackle in the draft and there is a significant drop off in offensive line talent after Martin.
Jonathan Martin is a big, physical, athletic tackle who is a great run blocker and has the tools necessary to be an elite pass protector. He is very adept at setting the edge in screen situations and given the Cardinals two-headed rushing attack of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, Martin could be the perfect fit for this Cardinals offense.
Other Possibilities: 1. Draft Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd to take pressure off of Larry Fitzgerald similar to what the Falcons did with the Julio Jones last year.
2. Draft David DeCastro and address the interior offensive line.
3. Address the pass rush with the best available defensive end or outside linebacker
PREVIOUS PICK: Mark Barron, SS – USC
There are a number of ways that the Cowboys could go with this pick but I think at this point the Cowboys go with the best available player that fits a need which makes it a choice between David DeCastro and Mark Barron. I think they choose Barron. Even though they signed Brodney Pool, safety remains an area of need for the Cowboys. Their secondary was awful last season and in a division that includes the matchup nightmares of Cruz and Nicks or Jackson and Maclin, a good safety is essential. Barron is, without a doubt, the most NFL-ready safety in the draft. Barron is a hard-hitting safety who has a tendency to find himself wherever the ball is on the field. He has the potential to be an impact defensive player and an eventual Pro Bowler for Dallas.
Other Possibilities: 1. Build up their interior offensive line by selecting David DeCastro
2. Address the defensive line by selecting either Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers
PREVIOUS PICK: Michael Brockers, DT – LSU
If Mark Barron is available here, I believe he’s the pick. Fletcher Cox has been really moving up the draft boards as of late and could go as early as #6 overall to the St. Louis Rams. But if he falls to this point (which I believe he will) then Philadelphia will not hesitate to take him. Fletcher Cox was a disruptive force for the Bulldogs and considered by many to be a pretty safe pick. He is the kind of defensive tackle that can fit almost any role or scheme and selecting him would go a long way toward solving the Eagles’ rush defense woes.
Other Possibilities: 1. TRADE ALERT – Don’t be shocked if the Eagles try and trade up. Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson, Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, or Melvin Ingram might all be reasons they move up.
2. If Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin are available the Eagles may try to address their offensive line.
3. They could also address their pass rush with Courtney Upshaw or Chandler Jones.
PREVIOUS PICK: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB – Alabama
The New York Jets find themselves in a tough spot because they have a number of glaring needs here but it’s difficult to choose which one to address or which prospect best fits their team. At the end of the day thought, the Jets have trouble getting to the quarterback and when you’re a defensive minded head coach that has to play Tom Brady twice a year, that’s definitely a problem. Originally projected to be a top 10 draft pick, Upshaw is the best choice for the Jets here. He is the highest rated defensive end/outside linebacker prospect on the board at this point. The one drawback on Upshaw is that many consider him a “player without a position”. There are some consider him too small to be an every down defensive end but too large to be an every down outside linebacker. Regardless, he is a great physical talent that could really help Rex Ryan’s pass rush.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Jets could give Mark Sanchez another weapon and select Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.
2. The Jets address their offensive line and select the best available offensive tackle (Ohio State’s Mike Adams)
3. Trade up to select Melvin Ingram or Quinton Coples
4. Trade back and select the best available player at that point.
PREVIOUS PICK: Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame
Every year’s draft has two stories: the reach and the drop. Well I believe that in spite of the fact that some teams have Michael Floyd as the top receiver on their draft boards he drops to the Bengals here. It is likely that the Bengals will address their offensive line or secondary with this pick but when Michael Floyd falls, the Bengals will not hesitate to pull the trigger.
The Bengals are a very talented young team but they definitely took a step back last year without A.J. Green on the field. Michael Floyd is very comparable to Justin Blackmon and most consider him the 2nd best receiver on the board. He has unbelievable hands, good speed, and is an excellent route runner. He is a big target who has the ability to break open the big play. He also has the leaping ability and body control necessary to fight for a ball in the endzone. There may be some hesitance in regards to his alcohol-related problems but the Bengals tend to overlook those things. The rare opportunity to take a quarterback that wasn’t even playing for you and turn him into the best young wide receiver tandem in the league is not one that Mike Brown should pass up.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Bengals could select David DeCastro, the best guard in the draft. He’s an excellent value here!
2. The Bengals could elect to address their secondary concerns with Janorris Jenkins or Dre Kirkpatrick.
PREVIOUS PICKS: Mike Adams, OT – Ohio State
If I had a big board, David DeCastro would easily fall into my top 10 overall prospects and the San Diego Chargers would be thrilled if he fell all the way to 18 (he could be gone as early as 11). He is by far the best guard prospect we have seen in a long, long time. He is an excellent run blocker who is great at pulling and setting the edge on screen plays. He’s an intelligent player who is pure hustle. He is incredibly athletic and my favorite thing about watching him play for Stanford was that DeCastro tends to knock down the first defender and then lay another block on a linebacker or corner. He plays from whistle to whistle and would greatly satisfy the Chargers need on their interior offensive line. With DeCastro the Chargers could be set at guard for the next decade.
1. The Chargers could address their pass rush with Chandler Jones or Nick Perry
2. Though they have greater needs, the Chargers may draft Kendall Wright to replace Vincent Jackson.
3. The Chargers could reach a little bit and draft the top running back on their board.
PREVIOUS PICK: Cordy Glenn, OG – Georgia
I really thought that Stephon Gilmore would be an early second round pick but in recent weeks, because of his measurables, he has moved ahead of Dre Kirkpatrick and Janorris Jenkins on most boards. I have always been very high on Stephon Gilmore and think he is a very special athlete but at South Carolina he proved inconsistent. I think he is clearly one of the top four cornerbacks in the draft and he might have the highest ceiling of any cornerback available. However, I do believe that his performance will largely be based on the system he’s in and the coaching staff that gets to develop him. I consider Gilmore an elite physical talent with amazing speed and great instincts but he still has much to learn. Regardless he would fit Chicago’s defense well and they need all the secondary help they can get if they hope to take the division from Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
1. The Bears address their pass rush with Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin, or Nick Perry
2. They could address their wide receiving corps by selecting Kendall Wright to line up opposite Brandon Marshall.
3. The Bears could also choose to go with Dre Kirkpatrick or Janorris Jenkins over Stephon Gilmore here.
PREVIOUS PICK: Melvin Ingram, DE – South Carolina
The Tennessee Titans have a number of needs but their secondary is a huge concern and the chance to get a cornerback from the top tier of this class is one the Titans should not pass up. As far as talent goes, Kirkpatrick is the 2nd best cornerback available at this point. In my opinion, Janorris Jenkins is a much better cover corner and fits Tennessee’s defense better BUT there are the off the field issue concerns with Jenkins and the last thing the Titans want is Pacman Jones: The Sequel. There are questions surrounding Kirkpatrick as well (marijuana charges that were later dropped) but he is a big physical corner with great leaping ability who has the potential to be a ballhawk for the Titnas. He is a violent tackler and smart player with great speed that could really help Tennessee on defense.
1. They could select either Mike Adams or Cordy Glenn to shore up their offensive line
2. The team does have a need at inside linebacker and could select Dont’a Hightower out of Alabama.
3. They may consider selecting Baylor’s Kendall Wright or Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill to give Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker a receiving threat opposite of Kenny Britt
PREVIOUS PICK: Janorris Jenkins, CB – North Alabama
In this draft, the Bengals could have opted to select David DeCastro with their 17th overall pick and taken Kendall Wright here. However when Floyd falls to them they will select the 2nd best wide receiver in the draft and now they get the good fortune to also select the 2nd best guard. Glenn is a large (6’5”, 345 pounds) guard who is an excellent run blocker. While he played the tackle position in college, he could be a truly dominant guard in the NFL. He is incredibly mobile for someone his size, has great strength, and long arms. He would be the perfect addition to this young Bengals’ offense.
1. The Bengals have huge holes in their secondary and could address it by selecting Janorris Jenkins. Unlike other teams, the Bengals won’t have the same concerns with his off-field issues.
2. Trade back and use a later pick on either Jenkins, Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, or a running back.
PREVIOUS PICK: Kendall Wright, WR – Baylor
The Cleveland Browns made a great choice in passing on Justin Blackmon and now at the 22nd overall pick they still land the 3rd best wide receiver in the draft in Kendall Wright. Wright is an explosive receiver with great speed who can challenge defenses deep down the field but is also the type of player who catch a ball on a slant pattern underneath coverage and gain yards after the catch. In college, Wright was RG3’s favorite target and had similar production to Justin Blackmon last season. He played for four years at Baylor, never missing a game and never held to under 2 catches in all four years of play. This is the perfect pick for Cleveland because all of a sudden if defenses load the box up for Richardson, Wright will make them pay and vice versa. Mike Holmgren still gets McCoy a deep threat and in true Holmgren fashion, does it without using a top 10 pick on a receiver.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Browns could reach for a quarterback here but I don’t see it, if Ryan Tannehill somehow fell past the Dolphins, Chiefs, Cardinals, and Eagles – he’s the pick here.
2. The Browns could address their offensive line and select Mike Adams.
3. The Browns could opt to address their pass rush with Shea McClellin, Chandler Jones, or Nick Perry
PREVIOUS PICK: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – Alabama
The Lions have needed to find an heir to Jeff Backus for years and this is the year they finally do that. Mike Adams is a physical offensive tackle who is very athletic and has great size (6’7”, 320 lbs). He is an excellent run blocker which should be of great benefit to Leshoure, Best, and Smith. While Adams is a great run blocker, he still does need to be developed in terms of his pass blocking ability and needs to become better at picking up the speed rush. However, in a division that includes Jared Allen and Julius Peppers, this is a pick the Lions have to make if they hope to stay on top in the NFC North.
1. The Lions could address their secondary and select either CB Janorris Jenkins or S Harrison Smith
2. The Lions could select Chandler Jones to help with their pass rush
PREVIOUS PICK: Dont’a Hightower, ILB – Alabama
Due to salary cap restrictions, the Steelers had to let James Farrior go. The Steelers are in desperate need of an inside linebacker who can play right away. In college, Hightower called the defense for Alabama and had success against top SEC teams as a blitzer. What he really brings to the game is tackling. He’s an excellent tackler who plays well against the run. He is a large, physical linebacker with good speed given his size. This deadly combination made him a dangerous blitzer for the Crimson Tide and should make him one in the NFL. He fits the mold of a Dick LeBeau player which makes this a perfect match.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Steelers may address their defensive line and select Michael Brockers
2. The Steelers may address their offensive line and select Bobby Massie
PREVIOUS PICK: Fletcher Cox, DT – Mississippi State
Last season the Broncos surprised everyone by not only winning the AFC West but then by knocking off the defending AFC Champions in the first round of the playoffs. The Broncos started rebuilding last season by selecting Von Miller 2nd overall. At times the Broncos D looked elite but overall the front four struggled and had trouble stopping the run. Michael Brockers is a great athlete with a great ability to penetrate the offensive line. His ability to break through and force quarterbacks to the edge plays right into the strength of Denver’s defense – Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. He’s a big player with long arms and is an absolute monster in the trenches. Brockers is an excellent fit for Denver’s defense and a great value at 25th overall.
Other Possibilities: 1. The Broncos could grab LaMichael James or Lamar Miller here to help with their run game
2. With Claiborne, Gilmore, and Kirkpatrick off the board; the Broncos may try and trade back in order to grab a quarterback, running back, or wide receiver.
PREVIOUS PICK: Stephen Hill, WR – Georgia Tech
Before the injury to Matt Schaub last season, I thought the Texans were the best team in the AFC. Even without Schaub the Texans were formidable but when Andre Johnson got hurt was when Houston took a step back. Houston has two desperate needs – a disruptive nose tackle and a receiving threat to line up opposite Johnson. 26th overall is a little high for a prospect as raw as Hill but with all the potential based on the skills he showed at the combine he has the tools to be an elite receiver in this league. Hill had an amazing combine showing very reminiscent of two Georgia Tech wideouts who had big playoff performances last season (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas). He is a 6’4″ wide receiver who ran a 4.36 40 and has an unbelievably high ceiling. He has amazing speed, great hands, amazing leaping ability, and unmatched athleticism and body control. He’s raw but if he develops into the kind of receiver he has the potential to be (an Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald type of threat), this pick will be an absolute steal.
1. If Dontari Poe somehow falls this far, there is no doubt in my mind that he’s the pick. (I don’t see Poe falling past Dallas)
2. The Texans would also consider Hightower, Martin, or Adams if they were available.
The New England Patriots were just a few minutes away from their 4th Super Bowl trophy but in the end, it was their defense who failed them. The Patriots made it no secret that they were pursuing Mario Williams in free agency – New England has some gaping voids in their secondary and a non-existent pass rush. The Patriots had trouble putting pressure on Eli Manning and were incapable of covering Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz in the Super Bowl. Chandler Jones is the perfect pick for Bellichick and a great value at #27 overall. Chandler Jones is a great talent who has the athleticism to also be moved to the OLB position in a 3-4 defense. He could be the perfect start to the rebuilding process for the Patriots’ defense.
1. The Patriots could choose to address their offensive line and select Wisconsin center Peter Konz
2. If the Patriots are not concerned about Janorris Jenkins’ off the field issues, they could address their secondary here.
PREVIOUS PICK: Lavonte David, OLB – Nebraska
Last season, Green Bay’s defense was absolutely awful and posted the worst sack rate in the NFL. An inability to create pressure and sack opposing quarterbacks is the main reason Green Bay was sent packing three weeks earlier than most expected. While their very explosive offense overshadowed their defensive woes, they need some help creating pressure. There is some debate about who the Packers will select with this pick but there’s no doubt in my mind it will be a defensive end or outside linebacker.
I originally had Shea McClellin going to the Packers… in the second round. In the last few weeks though he has surged up draft boards. The Packers are apparently in love with this kid and if they want him, they are going to have to take him here (if he’s still available). It’s easy to see why they like him so much. He’s a defensive player that can tackle well in the open field. He has excellent instincts that allows him to recognize plays and adapt accordingly. His unusual combination of size, strength, and speed make him a natural pass rusher. He’s a very disciplined, hard nosed player with great work ethic that fits the personality of the Packers perfectly. Ted Thompson is going to be extremely pleased to get his man at #28 overall.
1. They could opt to draft Andre Branch, Whitney Mercilus, or Lavonte David instead
PREVIOUS PICK: Peter Konz, C – Wisconsin
If Dont’a Hightower falls to the Ravens here, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s the pick. But he’s not so let’s move on. In spite of the fact that the Ravens just re-signed All-Pro center Matt Birk to a 3 year contract, I am fairly certain this will be his last year in the NFL. The Ravens must find an heir to Matt Birk and Konz is by far the best center in the draft. Peter Konz is a strong, athletic, intelligent center that could be the cornerstone of any NFL offensive line for the next 10 years. The beauty of drafting him now is that he has a year to learn from one of the best centers the NFL has ever seen. And since Konz is ready to play now, the Ravens could use him immediately to fill the void at the offensive guard position while they wait for Matt Birk to retire.
Other Possibilities: 1. They could select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith as replacing Ed Reed should also be a priority
2. They could select Rueben Randle or Alshon Jeffrey – whichever receiver is higher on their board
3. They may also trade up for Hightower or Hill or trade back to find better value. The Ravens have been pretty consistent at finding great value in the draft and it’s very rare that they reach for players on the first day.
PREVIOUS PICK: Rueben Randle, WR – LSU
Even with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the 49ers receiving corps still needs some help. The 49ers came within two muffed punts of making the Super Bowl last year and they did so with a receiving corps that did not catch a pass before the 4th quarter. San Francisco lacked any ability to convert on 3rd down and relied heavily on tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to provide any kind of pass offense. With no nose tackles on the board worthy of this pick, San Francisco will take the top receiver on the board which will likely be Rueben Randle. Randle is a large, physical redzone threat that could be a boost to the 49ers passing attack.
1. I really believe the 49ers will try and trade back and then select either the best available nose tackle or wide receiver at that point.
2. They could continue to work on defense and take the top defensive player on their board
PREVIOUS PICK: Harrison Smith, SS – Notre Dame
TRADE ALERT! I fully expect the New England Patriots to trade out of this pick. There are about three or four teams I could speculate on that may want to move here but I would be shocked if the Patriots actually make both of their first round selections. If the Patriots do pick here though, they’re going to continue to address defense and I believe that Harrison Smith is the pick. The safety out of Notre Dame is the second best safety in the draft and after Smith there is a significant drop off at the position. Smith is a safety with incredible instincts, top-end speed, and great ball skills. He is a physical, aggressive player who can close running lanes quickly and can compete with receivers for jump balls. His personality and playing style are exactly what Bill Bellichick looks for on defense.
1. They really need help on the defensive line and could select UConn’s Kendall Reyes here
2. Once again, if they are sold on Janorris Jenkins, he could be the pick here
3. Most likely the Patriots will trade back into the top half of the 2nd round and gain additional draft picks.
PREVIOUS PICK: Coby Fleener, TE – Stanford
The Super Bowl Champs do have some needs and if Peter Konz is available he fills one of their biggest needs. But the Giants are really in a position where they should just be drafting the best player available and at the 32nd overall pick, Coby Fleener is an absolute steal. He is one of the best players in the draft. He has great size, absolutely blazing speed, is a terrific route runner, and could be deadly in the red zone. He has amazing hands and great awareness and body control. He has Rob Gronkowski type potential. If you really want to know how good Coby Fleener is, just think about this – at Stanford’s Pro Day (which featured Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, and Jonathan Martin among others) it was Fleener who stole the show and was the talk of the Pro Day. The Giants need some tight end help and while Fleener’s stock has been helped by players like Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, there is no doubt he’s the right pick for the Giants.
1. The Giants could address their offensive line and select OT Bobby Massie
2. They could address their pass rush and take Andre Branch or Whitney Mercilus here
3. They may select a running back with this pick
4. Once again, this is another team that could trade back if another team is looking to move up
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Since last month when I looked into the NFL crystal ball to give us an idea of what will happen at the end of April, the picture has begun to come more into focus. Now with the NFL combine we have a better idea of how rookies will rank. Some players’ stock rose and others fell. As free agency begins, some teams have already addressed the needs they would’ve in the draft. Others have at least signed free agents that will change their draft priorities. You may notice that there are some drastic changes between this mock draft and my original publication. I do not see the changes between this and my final mock draft being nearly as drastic. Similar to my original mock draft I will provide the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft in order to give all fans a chance to see at least one draft pick their teams will make. Unless your team is the wreckless Oakland Raiders, you will find at least one draft pick for your team.
My final mock draft will come out right before the NFL Draft a the end of April. As an added bonus, the final mock draft will include three rounds – sorry Raiders fans, you still won’t get to see any picks.
NOTE: In a lot of cases where I list a position as an area of need it may just be depth and not a starter. This is very true of positions like quarterback and running back for a number of teams.
THE 1ST ROUND
Well the Colts pulled the trigger as anticipated and released future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. If it wasn’t obvious enough before, the Colts will be drafting a quarterback with the #1 overall draft pick in April. While Robert Griffin III’s stock has risen dramatically as of late, he has established himself as a top 2 quarterback. Andrew Luck is still by far the best QB prospect of this draft. And he’s the best QB prospect of the last 8 years and one of the best prospects of the last 30. The 1980’s had John Elway (drafted 1st overall by the Colts), the 1990’s had Peyton Manning (drafted 1st overall by the Colts), the 2000’s had Eli Manning (drafted #1 overall by the Chargers), and the 2010’s have Andrew Luck. He has a rare combination of arm strength, precision, and poise and is the best overall prospect on the board. There’s no reason to believe the Colts won’t make this pick.
Last month I saw that, given Dan Snyder’s statements, the Redskins would make the necessary moves to trade up for RG3. I just did not see the Rams being smart enough to trade down and who could’ve seen the Rams getting the king’s ransom they did for Robert Griffin III. In the past month, Robert Griffin III has established himself as the clear cut #2. It’s clear that the Redskins made the sacrifice they did to take whichever QB the Colts don’t and I fully believe the quarterback left on the board will be RG3.
The Vikings have their quarterback of the future. They are still trying to decide if it’s Christian Ponder or Joe Webb but whatever they do they need to build around their QB and the Vikings have a lot of work to do. The most glaring need for this run first team is a left tackle. Matt Kalil is the best offensive lineman prospect we have seen since Jake Long and in my opinion any team that passes on Kalil with Luck and RG3 is foolish. Regardless of need Kalil might be the top overall player in this year’s draft. He is big, physical, fast, and a perfect young fit for that rushing game and those 2 tight end sets the Vikings like to employ. The Vikings could target Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon here but Blackmon does not merit this high of pick and I believe, with such a deep CB class, the Vikings will also pass on Claiborne.
The Cleveland Browns have a lot of needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Earlier I had the Browns taking WR Justin Blackmon with this pick because this team does need to provide weapons to Colt McCoy but I just cannot see Mike Holmgren taking a wide receiver this high. Maybe a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald type prospect would be taken this high but I do not see Holmgren taking Blackmon. I don’t see the Browns overreaching for Ryan Tannehill nor do I see them taking a running back as high as #4. Morris Claiborne is far and away the best cornerback in the draft class and when you have to play Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton twice a year, you need to have a strong secondary. Claiborne gives the Browns, paired with Joe Haden, perhaps the best young CB tandem in the league. Claiborne can contribute right away and Holmgren won’t hesitate to take the best defensive player in the draft.
Despite the Eric Wright signing, if Morris Claiborne is still on the board here there is no doubt in my mind that the Buccaneers pull the trigger and take him. However he’s gone and with the signing of Vincent Jackson, the Buccaneers can afford to wait at least a round before addressing their wide receiver concerns. While I believe that the running back position has been highly devalued and it’s really not the best idea to draft one in the top 5, Richardson is the best running back prospect we have seen since Adrian Peterson. Richardson is a great ball carrier with excellent instincts, great speed, and brutal strength. He would fit perfectly in the Bucs’ offense and complement Blount quite nicely. There have been some concerns about his knee injury but the Buccaneers passed on Peterson due to injury concerns back in 2007 and will not be looking to make the same mistake twice. If Richardson were to fall past the Bucs and Rams, there is no doubt in my mind that he will fall all the way to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Rams traded down giving themselves the necessary ammunition to rebuild the once great franchise and they still get their man in Justin Blackmon. The Rams already had a pressing need at wide receiver and with Brandon Lloyd signing with the Patriots that need just became more dire. The Rams could potentially draft OT Riley Reiff out of Iowa here and if Blackmon’s off the board they could consider Richardson or Claiborne but I believe in this instance they take Blackmon. They have not had a true #1 receiver since the departure of Torry Holt and their young QB Sam Bradford needs a target. Blackmon has the speed and catching ability to open up the passing game for the Rams and at 6th overall is a great pick for the Rams.
If Justin Blackmon is somehow still on the board here this is who the Jaguars will pick. However Blackmon is off the board and so they will look to address the pass rush with Quinton Coples. There seem to be a few trends in the NFL Draft and one of them is that it seems like the Jaguars draft a defensive end every year with their top pick. Coples has the size, speed, and instincts to be an elite pass rusher in this league and the Jaguars are said to have interest in him. Jacksonville will take Coples 7th overall and hope that the 3rd time is the charm on defensive ends.
The Dolphins won the coin flip with Carolina at the NFL Combine and have moved into the 8th overall spot. Ryan Tannehill was definitely helped by quarterbacks like Matt Barkley and Landry Jones who chose to stay in college another year. And at this point Ryan Tannehill is probably an early 2nd round quarterback grade but he has a very high ceiling and a lot of potential. He has a strong arm and very good instincts. Yes, Tannehill is a reach here and a guy who is going to need at least a year of developmental time but with the Dolphins out on Manning and on Flynn, this is a move that has to be made. And with the new Dolphins offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, having been Tannehill’s college coach at Texas A&M, he understands what Tannehill is capable of and can continue developing him. The Dolphins could take Reiff here but I believe they will reach and take the consensus 3rd best quarterback in the draft. If the Dolphins don’t take him here, I think he could fall to the Browns later in the round.
Did anyone else impress as much at the NFL Combine as Dontari Poe. Sure Poe makes more sense as a Nose Tackle but he can also be very effective in a 4 man front. The Panthers could not stop the run and in a division that includes the Saints, Buccaneers, and Falcons – this is essential. He has already drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata in his technique and his combine numbers. He is the best defensive lineman in the draft and while I had him falling to the end of the 1st in my last mock draft, I do not see him lasting past the 12th overall pick. He is the closest thing to “can’t miss” I’ve seen for a defensive line prospect in a long time.
The Bills have signed Mario Williams but nonetheless pass rush help remains a big priority. I believe that given the opportunity the Bills would draft Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram and double up on the pass rush as they try to become relevant in the AFC East again. However, the Bills also have some offensive line woes and with an NFL-ready tackle like Reiff slipping to the 10th overall pick, the Bills won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. With the exception of Upshaw and Ingram the only other player I could see Buffalo taking here is Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.
If Dontari Poe is still on the board here that becomes the most obvious pick for the Chiefs here. With the recent signing of Eric Winston, the Chiefs will look at more pressing needs as opposed to signing Jonathan Martin here. The Chiefs have a very talented young defense but need some linebacker help alongside Pro-Bowler Derrick Johnson. Kuechly is far and away the best inside linebacker in this year’s draft and would fit right into Crennel’s defense. Kuechly is exactly what the Chiefs need, a run-stopping linebacker who plays aggressively and with great instincts. He performed amazingly well at the combine and is the right pick for KC.
The Seahawks hope they have found their quarterback in free agent Matt Flynn. Signing the back-up to an All-Pro Packers quarterback worked for the Seahawks once before. The Seahawks could address their defense here with Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw but the interior offensive line is a pressing concern for the Seahawks who will need to give Flynn time to throw and help Marshawn Lynch in the run game. A month ago DeCastro was not expected to come off the board before his Stanford counterpart Jonathan Martin but now that could very well happen.
The Arizona Cardinals have pressing needs at the Quarterback position, in their receiving corps, and their secondary but with Jonathan Martin available the Cardinals get a great opportunity to improve their offensive line. Due to illness Martin did not get a chance to work out at the combine but he is the consensus 3rd best OT in the draft. Martin dominated the Pac-12 during his college career. He is a great run blocker who can be very effective in the screen game. He can do a lot to help with the Cardinals’ rushing attack of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams and is a smart move with this pick.
The Cowboys would’ve probably made the playoffs last season over the Super Bowl Champion Giants if not for concerns in their secondary. Even with the signing of Brodney Pool this is a pick that makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys. He is considered the most NFL-ready safety in the draft. Barron is a hard-hitting safety who has a tendency to be wherever the ball is and has the potential to be a big-play safety and an eventual Pro Bowler for the Cowboys.
The Eagles have a tendency to draft linemen on both sides of the ball in the first round and they really need some help stopping the run. Michael Brockers is a disruptive force that can cause chaos along the line of scrimmage. He is a large physical tackle that can stop the run and be a leader for the Eagles defensive line going forward.
The Jets really need some help rushing the pass and are going to be thrilled that Courtney Upshaw is sitting here for them at the 16th pick. The negative on Upshaw is that many consider him too small to be an every down defensive end but too large to be an every down outside linebacker. Regardless he is a great physical talent that could really help with Rex Ryan’s pass rush.
There is a chance that the Jaguars take Floyd in the top 10 or that the Cardinals could pick him up but I see Floyd being available for the Bengals at the 17th overall pick and the Bengals will not hesitate to draft him. The Bengals are a great young team but they took a significant step back last year when A.J. Green got injured and they need someone to complement Green. The opportunity to take a quarterback that was doing nothing for the Bengals and turn that into the best young wide receiver tandem in the NFL is one that Mike Brown should not pass up.
Even with the re-signing of Jared Gaither, the Chargers need to build up their offensive line and find a way to better protect Phillip Rivers and open up the run game if San Diego is going to compete in the AFC West anytime soon. He is a very agile athlete with the size and long arms you look for in a tackle. The Chargers need to re-establish the run game and open up the pass game and picking Adams here could go a long way to help San Diego.
The Bears addressed their wide receiver concerns by trading for Brandon Marshall and signing Eric Weems. Interior offensive line is a huge concern for the Bears and Cordy Glenn would fit well with the Bears offense. He was a very physical tackle at LSU but fits the NFL better as a guard and has the tools to be one of the best interior linemen in the game. With Melvin Ingram still on the board the Bears could also go that route but Glenn makes the most sense for the Bears here.
Melvin Ingram might be the best defensive end in the draft and I like him better than the more highly rated Quinton Coples. He has explosive speed and is very physical off the edge. He impressed scouts at the NFL Combine and has shown that while he will make a great NFL defensive end, he has the ability to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme. The Titans largest need is a better pass rush and they will be thrilled to find Melvin Ingram waiting for them at #20 overall.
The questions about Janorris Jenkins have never been about his talent or physicality but instead about his off-field issues. He is a Division II player whose character had him dismissed at the University of Florida. While there are teams that would be scared away by Jenkins character issues, the Bengals are not one of those organizations. The Bengals need some help in their secondary and Jenkins is a perfect pick for them here. After running a 4.44 40 yd dash, posting a 33.5 inch vertical jump, and showing fluidity in a number of drills- Jenkins has moved ahead of Kirkpatrick according to several scouts. Leon Hall should be great if he’s recovered from injury but Nate Clements is not getting any younger and Adam Jones is just not working out for the Bengals. Jenkins could be the cornerstone of the Bengals youth movement in their secondary.
Holmgren does not tend to draft wide receivers early but I believe this is a pick the Browns make. Cleveland needs to find someone for Colt McCoy to throw the ball to if they are ever going to compete in the AFC North. Kendall Wright is a speedy receiver with great hands who was largely overlooked in the Big 12 in college because of the success of Justin Blackmon. He’s a quick receiver with breakaway speed that is very reminiscent of Percy Harvin. This would provide the Brown’s offense a much needed receiving threat.
I could still see the Lions addressing their offensive line with this pick because they need an heir apparent to Jeff Backus but with the top 4 offensive tackles off the board, the Lions need to address their secondary. The defense was formidable up front but had issues in the secondary and with the Packers passing attack and now Brandon Marshall in the division, the Lions need a physical corner to lead their secondary. Kirkpatrick is in the very top tier of this deep cornerback class. He’s a big, physical corner who should be very good inside the redzone and will provide the Lions a much needed presence in their woeful secondary.
Due to salary cap restrictions, the Steelers had to let James Farrior go. The Steelers are in desperate need of an inside linebacker who can contribute immediately. Hightower is 6’2″ 265 lb linebacker who ran a 4.6 40. His combination of size and speed made him a dangerous blitzer for the Crimson Tide and should make him one in the NFL. He fits the mold of what Dick LeBeau looks like in a defensive player which makes this a perfect match.
The Denver Broncos had a very solid year in using a late season surge to win the weak AFC West. The offense showed there are some definite weapons there and the run game showed promise. The defense at times looked elite but had trouble in the front four and stopping the run. Fletcher Cox is a very strong, physical, versatile defensive lineman that can play on position among the front four and is a perfect fit for Denver’s defensive scheme.
Before the injury to Matt Schaub last season, I thought the Texans were the best team in the AFC. Even without Schaub the Texans were formidable but when Andre Johnson got hurt was when Houston took a step back. Houston has two desperate needs – a disruptive nose tackle and a receiving threat to line up opposite Johnson. 26th overall is a little high for a prospect as raw as Hill but with all the potential based on the skills he showed at the combine he has the tools to be an elite receiver in this league. Hill had an amazing combine showing very reminiscent of two Georgia Tech wideouts who had big playoff performances last season (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas). He is a 6’4″ wide receiver who ran a 4.36 40 and has an unbelievably high ceiling. If he develops into the kind of receiver he has the potential to be, this pick will be an absolute steal.
The Patriots are in need of some defensive help. They were a couple minutes away from their 4th Super Bowl trophy this century but had no way to match up against the Giants wide receiver corps or to put pressure on Manning. Mercilus is a linebacker that lives up to his name. While he played defensive end in college, many see him being an outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s an explosive player who knows how to get to the quarterback and that could serve the Patriots very well in trying to rebuild their defense.
Last season the Packers defense was absolutely awful and posted the worst sack rate in the NFL. An inability to create pressure and sack opposing quarterbacks is the reason the Packers were sent home 3 weeks earlier than anyone expected them to be. Their very dynamic offense overshadowed the Packers defensive woes but they need some help creating pressure. LaVonte David has surged up the draft boards as of late with his speed and tackling ability. Despite concerns about his size, he is a talented open field talented who is 100% hustle and plays sideline to sideline.
All-Pro Center Matt Birk was expected to retire. Though he just signed a three year deal with the Ravens last week, I fully expect that this will be his last season. The Ravens must find an heir apparent to Matt Birk and Konz is the best center in the draft. Konz is a very strong, athletic center that could be the cornerstone of their line for the next 10 years and Baltimore should not hesitate to grab him here.
The 49ers came within two muffed punts of making the Super Bowl last year and they did so with a receiving corps that did not catch a pass before the 4th quarter. San Francisco had no ability to convert on 3rd down and leaned heavily on tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to provide any kind of offense. Even with the recent additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the 49ers could use some help in their receiving corps. Considering there are no nose tackles worthy of taking with this pick, San Francisco will address the receiving corps. Randle is a large physical redzone threat and represents the best wide receiver left on the board when this pick rolls around.
The Patriots have four picks in the first 63 and will most likely use them to rebuild their ailing defense. This may be considered a bit of a reach but New England needs help at the safety position and after Smith there is a dropoff at this position. Smith will not be available when the Patriots pick again. Smith had a great showing at the NFL Combine and shows extreme athleticism and versatility that could make him a force in the secondary. He is an excellent open field tackler with the potential to create big turnovers.
Coby Fleener has established himself as the best tight end in this year’s draft class that’s pretty thin at the position. The Giants are in desperate need of a playmaking tight end. The Giants lost both of their tight ends to injury last year and even though they signed Martellus Bennett, taking the best tight end in the draft makes sense for New York here. Fleener is a tight end with great hands and surprising speed. He could be a great red zone threat for Eli and is a tight end who can battle defenders for the pass and will come down with the ball.
THE 2ND ROUND
After Melvin Ingram, I don’t believe there is a better pass rusher out there than Nick Perry. He has dropped some on the draft board due to concerns in his size but the Colts have a number of needs and one of them is putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The other three teams in the division have their franchise QBs and the Colts must put pressure on them. Nick Perry is a great value at the beginning of the 2nd round.
The Rams have a number of needs on their roster greater than running back but Steven Jackson is starting to near the end of his career and the Rams must balance his workload. Thanks to the recent devaluation of running backs, the 2nd best running back in the draft is available at the beginning of the 2nd round. With so many needs the best thing the Rams can do is draft the best player available for them and that’s LaMichael James. I could also see the Rams taking Clemson’s Andre Branch with this pick.
For the Vikings they will be deciding between two South Carolina players at this pick – Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffrey. The Vikings got some very good news when last week CB Chris Cook was acquitted of domestic violence charges. Nonetheless, the Vikings need secondary help and Stephon Gilmore is the last of the top tier of cornerbacks. When the Vikings have an opportunity to take a top-20 talent at 35th overall the Vikings won’t hesitate. The wide receiver class is deep enough that the Vikings can still find good talent in later rounds.
The Browns really need a quarterback but there are no prospects worth taking here. Running back is also a need for the Browns and Lamar Miller is the best on the board. He has the tools to be an all-purpose running back and a smart pick for Cleveland.
The Bucs made some big splashes in free agency but still need help on the defensive side of the ball. Andre Branch is a great athlete who can play either defensive end or outside linebacker.
Defensive tackle is a big need for the Rams and in recent weeks Kendall Reyes has shot up the boards. He is a strong tackle who should solidify the Rams’ defensive line.
If you can name two or more Jacksonville receivers, you are probably a Jaguars fan. The Jaguars gave up a lot to get their franchise QB last year and now they need someone for him to throw to. Jeffrey is a big, physical first round talent who drops some because of concerns about his ability to separate from defenders. Nonetheless who is a large, physical receiver with great hands. He’s the kind of guy you can lob a ball into the endzone and he will be the one who comes down with it. He will make a perfect complement for Laurent Robinson.
The Dolphins could target a wide receiver with this pick given the Brandon Marshall trade but Terrell Manning gives them an opportunity to put more pressure on Tom Brady.
Think of how good Cam Newton was last year. Now imagine what he could do if he had 2 wide receivers instead of 1…
They already got Mario Williams in free agency and now they get to bookend him with one of the best defensive ends in the draft.
The Chiefs are a young team ready to win and their biggest need is clearly nose tackle. This pick is a bit of a reach but given the scarcity of quality at this position it’s the right pick for Kansas City.
Since the Seahawks didn’t address their pass rush in the first round, they must address it here. Especially if Peyton Manning joins the division…
The Eagles have shown interest in Ronnell Lewis. They continue to use this draft to rebuild their defense.
The Cowboys have some holes on their interior offensive line and get the opportunity to pick up the 2nd best center in the draft with the 46th overall pick.
The Eagles taking a quarterback in the 2nd round when they have an established starter? Here we go again…
The Jets need to solidify their offensive line and a strong, physical tackle like Sanders in the 2nd round is a perfect find for the Jets.
The depth at the cornerback position in this draft is unreal. Hosley has the potential to be an elite corner and tighten up the Patriots’ secondary.
Alfonzo Dennard’s draft stock has dropped in recent weeks but he is still a great option for the Chargers in the 2nd round.
The Bears makeover of their offensive line isn’t done yet. Bobby Massie is a physical athlete whose stock has risen lately and could potentially be a first round talent.
The Titans have a glaring weakness at the middle of their offensive line and will be looking to add a center or a guard in the 2nd round.
Regardless of whether or not they add a running back via free agency, the Bengals need depth at the position. David Wilson is a top 5 running back that can help Cincy immediately.
The Falcons have the greatest tight end of all-time on their roster but Tony G. is getting up there in years and the 2nd best tight end on the board gives them a perfect opportunity to develop Gonzalez’s heir and provides Matt Ryan with yet another weapon as they try to finally win a playoff game.
The Lions franchised Cliff Avril but they still need to find a long term answer at the position and the Lions are hoping that Jones can be it.
The Steelers are trying to get younger on both sides of the line of scrimmage and with the 56th overall pick, Worthy is a steal.
Whether it’s Tim Tebow or Peyton Manning throwing the ball, he’s going to need some weapons. Chris Givens is a perfect replacement for the departed Eddie Royal.
Osemele was a great offensive tackle in college who will most likely be a guard in the NFL. He has the talent to go about 25 picks earlier and would be a great find for the Texans here.
The biggest need for the Saints this offseason is obviously outside linebacker. With no first round pick and very little cap room the Saints must address that need here. Zach Brown was once projected to be a late first/early second rounder but has recently dropped as other prospects have leapfrogged him. He’s still the best possible pick for the Saints here.
Aaron Rodgers spends a lot more time on his back than he should. When your division has Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, and Cliff Avril the Packers need to really address their offensive line issues.
The Ravens are a pretty complete team that are just getting older at key positions. The Ravens hope that Mychal Kendricks can one day take Ray Lewis’ place.
The 49ers biggest need at this point is nose tackle as they have not yet recovered from the departure of Aubrayo Franklin. Josh Chapman is the 3rd best pure nose tackle in the draft and a great pick up for San Fran here.
The defensive overhaul continues for the Patriots. Once Still was projected to be a top 15 pick, his stock has fallen in recent weeks but he’s still the best defensive lineman left on the board at this point and fills a need for the Patriots.
With the release of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants (who are a run-first team) must find a complement to Ahmad Bradshaw and Doug Martin is a top 5 running back in this class and the best running back left on the board at this point.
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