2012 NFL Postseason Award Predictions

Yesterday evening prior to kickoff I laid out where I believed each team would finish for the 2012-13 NFL Season.   Dallas impressed last night and only verified where I believe they are as a team and that they will move ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.  Today we look at individual players and see what the postseason award picture will look like.  While I knew all of these picks on Tuesday, this is my first chance to write them down.  Last night’s game solidified my belief in one of my picks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – 

Doug Martin, RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More often than not, the offensive rookie of the year has been a running back.  While we’ve had a few young quarterbacks receive the award in recent years, I foresee a return to the running back trend.   The Boise State product has great vision and is a threat running the ball as well as catching out of the backfield.  He has already secured a starting position on a talented roster that considers itself a playoff team this year.  While I don’t see Tampa making their playoff return quite yet, I’m expecting great things from Martin.

Others that will be considered: Andrew Luck, QB – Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin III, QB – Washington Redskins, Trent Richardson, RB – Cleveland Browns, Kendall Wright, WR – Tennessee Titans, Alshon Jeffrey, WR – Chicago Bears, Coby Fleener, TE – Indianapolis Colts, & Matt Kalil, OT – Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Rookie of the Year –

Luke Kuechly, LB – Carolina Panthers

Going into this year’s draft, I thought that – outside of Vikings OT Matt Kalil – Kuechly was the rookie most prepared for the NFL.  The young star from Boston College has great vision and leadership qualities and he has been thrust into a talented defense that fits his talents perfectly.  I am a big believer that linebacker is the easiest defensive position for a rookie to have success in and I believe that given his talent, situation, and position that Kuechly will be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this season.
Others that will be considered: Morris Claiborne, CB – Dallas Cowboys; Harrison Smith, S – Minnesota Vikings; Stephon Gilmore, CB – Buffalo Bills;  Janorris Jenkins, CB – St. Louis Rams; Mychal Kendricks, LB – Philadelphia Eagles; Dont’a Hightower, LB – Houston Texans; & Fletcher Cox, DT – Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive Player of the Year –

Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans

There is a very good reason that most fantasy football experts listed Foster at the top of their draft boards this season.   It is because, in my opinion, the Houston Texans are the most talented and most complete team in the NFL.  On a team that I expect to have the NFL’s best regular season record in 2012, Foster is the best player.   He is a threat on the ground and in the receiving game.  If he can stay healthy, I fully expect Foster to eclipse the 2,000 all-purpose yards mark.

Others that will be considered: Calvin Johnson, WR – Detroit Lions; Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens; Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; & Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Player of the Year –

DeMarcus Ware, LB – Dallas Cowboys

Last year I mentioned on multiple occasions that I believed 2011 would finally be the year that Jared Allen broke through and won his 1st NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after being such a force for so many years in the League (and let’s face it – not giving the award to Allen was a travesty).  Well this year I believe that Ware will finally get his due.  I see Ware getting a minimum of 15.5 sacks this year (and last night’s 2 sack performance making him the 2nd fastest player ever to record 100 sacks) doesn’t hurt matters.  I believe that Dallas wins the East this year and Ware is going to be a big part of that.
Others that will be considered: Jared Allen, DE – Minnesota Vikings;  Aldon Smith, OLB – San Francisco 49ers; Von Miller, LB – Denver Broncos; J.J. Watt, DL – Houston Texans; Patrick Willis, LB – San Francisco 49ers; Patrick Peterson, CB – Arizona Cardinals; & Mario Williams, OLB – Buffalo Bills

 NFL MVP –

Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers

Only two quarterbacks have ever won back-to-back MVP awards, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, but there is no reason to believe that Rodgers can’t duplicate this feat.   The Packers were far and away the best offense in the NFL last season but at the same time, if something were to happen to Rodgers, the Packers would fall off pretty drastically.  I really believe the Packers without Rodgers would be close to the 2011 Colts without Manning.  The Packers figure to be in the thick of things this year and it’s Aaron Rodgers who is going to get them there.

Others that will be considered: Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans; Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons; Tony Romo, QB – Dallas Cowboys; & Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens

Comeback Player of the Year –

Peyton Manning, QB – Denver Broncos

I’m more than aware that this is an extremely popular pick for this award and while I gave it a lot of thought I came to the conclusion (that like Brett Favre when he went to the Vikings) you can never count Peyton Manning out.   I find it so hard to pick against Peyton Manning that I chose the Broncos to get into the postseason over the Steelers, Bengals, Jets, Chargers, Titans, & Raiders.  There are concerns now but Peyton Manning is going to make Demaryius Thomas & Eric Decker into household names.  After everything he has gone through if he can get the Broncos to the playoffs there is no doubt this award will belong to him.

Others that will be considered: Randy Moss, WR – San Francisco 49ers; Eric Berry, S – Kansas City Chiefs; Jamaal Charles, RB – Kansas City Chiefs; Adrian Peterson, RB – Minnesota Vikings; & Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans

Coach of the Year –

Romeo Crennel – Kansas City Chiefs

Now if the carousel of New Orleans Saints coaches can get that team to the playoffs they may be considered but let’s look at the facts: the NFL loves to give this award to rookie head coaches who have success.  Secondly, a team either has to be extremely dominant or go from worst to first (a la a San Francisco 49ers transformation) for a coach to get this award.  While this is Crennel’s 2nd go-around as a head coach, I believe that he will win.  His team finished in last place in the AFC West last year (though they only finished a game behind champion Denver) and the roster is much improved.  On top of that this team is getting Matt Cassel, Tony Moeak, Jamaal Charles, and Eric Berry all back from injury.  I believe that the Chiefs can make some noise in the AFC this year and when they do, Romeo will receive his first Coach of the Year award.

Others that will be considered: Gary Kubiak – Houston Texans; Chan Gailey – Buffalo Bills; Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks; Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys; Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers; & Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons

Executive of the Year –

John Elway, Executive VP of Football Operations – Denver Broncos

Let’s look at everything this guy has done in the last two years.  He took a team that had the #2 overall pick in last year’s draft and got them to the playoffs by playing a running back at QB.   That player started a media blitz that could fill the hole in ESPN programming left behind by Brett Favre’s 17th retirement.  In the process that running back turned QB became the most popular athlete in the Mile High City since well… John Elway.  And then Elway was actually cheered for shipping that QB off to New York (ask the Nuggets how hard it is to ship a beloved Denver athlete to New York) because he brought in the man who in my estimation will one day be, statistically, the best QB of all-time.   He had another great draft and surrounded Manning with young and veteran talent alike.  If the Broncos get back to the playoffs, there is no doubt that Elway should be the Executive of the Year.

Others that will be considered: Ryan Grigson, GM – Indianapolis Colts; John Schneider, GM – Seattle Seahawks; & Les Snead, GM – St. Louis Rams

The Know-It-All Fantasy Football News & Notes

Fantasy Football News & Notes

 

Kyle Stafford – @Kstafford32

Rounds 2 – 4

Player on the Rise:

Hakeem Nicks, NYG–  Averaged 2.14 fantasy points per catch the previous 3 seasons. Should see Redzone targets increase.

Player on the Decline:

Adrian Peterson, MIN–  I am still seeing his ADP in the mid to late 2nd round. To me that is insane. Recent news has shown he may not even be fully ready till week 3. He is safe in the 6th round or later.

The Conservative Pick:

Roddy White, ATL  He is going to get you 1,300 yards and double digit TDs.

High Risk, High Reward:

Reggie Bush, MIA  Finished 2011 with 6 of 7 quality starts. Seems to be comfortable in Miami and is the main option. Injuries are always the big risk. The bigger gamble is that he doesn’t have a consistent track record of production.

The Steal:

Miles Austin, DAL–  A healthy Austin should be back to receiving 170+ targets and being a huge playmaker for Romo this year.

The Rookie:

Doug Martin, TB  Has the skills to be a PPR league beast. I am thinking Matt Forte 2.0

Questions? Comments? Follow Me on Twitter @Kstafford32

2012 NFL Final Mock Draft – Round 2

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


2012 NFL Mock Rough Draft with Edits

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.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
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2012 NFL Mock Rough Draft

I think everybody knows what this so I do not see the need for a lot of build-up.  Now that we are officially in the offseason and the draft order has been set, I can look into the future and see how I believe the NFL Draft will play out at this time.  This is my rough draft, the sports landscape can change and so I will likely adjust what I see happening as the draft nears.  There are always injuries, trades, and free agent moves that could affect these things but as the NFL Landscape stands now, this is how I believe the draft will play out.  Unlike most mock drafts, I plan to also give you the 2nd round of the draft as well (with minimal commentary on those picks for the sake of article length).  This will give every NFL fan a chance, unless your team is the ultra-foolish Raiders that don’t have a pick until Round 5, to see at least one pick that your team will make in this year’s draft.

*While I understand teams have multiple needs I identified (in most cases) what I saw as the 3-4 biggest needs for each team.  Also note that when I say a team is in need of a position I could be referring to depth at a position and not a starter – with a lot of teams this is the case at positions like running back and quarterback.

THE 1ST ROUND

It has become pretty obvious to me that Peyton Manning will not be with the Colts next season (unless he retires and is a member of the coaching staff) and I believe that he will eventually land with either the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, or San Francisco 49ers.  That being said, the Colts find themselves in good fortune.  In the 1980′s they had the #1 overall pick to be able to take John Elway, in the 90′s it was the can’t-miss Peyton Manning #1 overall and now in the 2010′s the Colts will take Andrew Luck, the best rookie QB prospect that we have probably seen since Manning.  Since I do not see the Colts dealing this pick or maintaining Manning when they have the chance to take Andrew Luck here – this is what I see happening with this pick.

There are a lot of people who see the Rams trading this pick, which would not be a bad move considering the number of needs this team has.  There are some who have the Rams taking WR Justin Blackmon but in my humble opinion, he is a receiver, that while talented, is not worthy of being selected in a Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald-type position.  I believe that Jeff Fisher understands that his new team is about two major pieces – Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson.  He understands he needs to create wider running lanes for Jackson and protect Sam Bradford.  Kalil is an OT that like Jake Long and Joe Thomas is can’t-miss and with Andrew Luck off the board, ANY team that passes on Kalil (regardless of need) is foolish.  The addition of Kalil and placing him at Left Tackle could make the Rams woeful offensive line a very formidable unit.

TRADE ALERT! The Washington Redskins have already made it clear that they will find a quarterback for the team this season.  It’s clear that Beck and Grossman are not the answer.  I do not believe the Redskins have a shot at Manning nor do I believe they will be very active in the Matt Flynn sweepstakes which means taking the 2nd best QB in the draft before he falls to the Browns at #4 overall.  The Vikings have 3 or 4 players they are interested but with Kalil off the board will be looking to trade down within the top 10.  So when the Redskins offer a 1st, 2nd, and 4th to move up 3 spots to take RG3, the Vikings will not hesitate to pull the trigger.

The Browns are in a very good draft position given their needs.  They know Andrew Luck and Matt Kalil are not options but know that out of Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon, and Robert Griffin III – at least one of these three players will be waiting for them.  While the smartest pick for the Browns here would probably be Morris Claiborne, the Browns will not hesitate to take the best WR in the class.  The Browns have never had a true #1 receiver since the departure of Braylon Edwards and really need someone for Colt McCoy to throw to to see what they have in the kid.  The Browns really were hoping to get A.J. Green out of last year’s draft and this year will be excited when the best WR in the draft falls to them.

For the 2nd year in a row, a cornerback out of LSU that might be the best overall athlete in the draft, will go #5 overall.  Tampa Bay is a team desperately in need of some help in their secondary and Claiborne is an unbelievable prospect who can step in for the Bucs and start from Day 1.  With Justin Blackmon off the board, this becomes a very easy decision for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last season the Minnesota Vikings lost 13 games, 9 of these were by a margin of less then 7.  They led at halftime in each of their first 4 losses.  This is a team that is very talented but has a few gaping voids in their roster.  The Vikings have one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions in the NFL with Christian Ponder and Joe Webb.  The key to the Vikings now is to protect their young quarterback (whichever one they choose).  There are no worthwhile wide receivers here (plus the wide receiver position is one of the deepest in the draft and free agency)  and with this being a deep cornerback draft, the Vikings will make the pick here they may have made anyway with the #3 overall pick.  Reiff is a tough, physical tackle who should fill the void left by Bryant McKinnie quite nicely.

There seems to be a few trends in the NFL Draft and I would swear that every year the Jacksonville Jaguars use a top 10 draft pick on a defensive end.  This year shouldn’t be any different.  While the Jaguars have obvious needs at wide receiver and cornerback, this is a deep draft for both positions and the Jaguars could easily find #1 caliber at both of these positions in the 2nd round.  However, they have a chance to get an elite pass rusher here in Coples and won’t pass on that chance.   The Jaguars will cross their fingers, hope the 3rd time really is the charm and take Coples.

The Panthers have a very young and talented roster that could use some depth at many positions.  The Panthers really could use some help on their defensive line but with Dre Kirkpatrick still on the board will not pass on the opportunity to take the cornerback out of Alabama.  While there are character concerns with Kirkpatrick, Rivera will be excited to get a big corner opposite Chris Gamble who can not only tackle well but should match up well with the big time receiving targets that the Saints and Falcons have.

Philbin has already said that he plans to convert the Dolphins to a 4-3 defense which makes a defensive lineman the popular choice here and while there are doubts about a number of positions the best option here for the Dolphins is to take Jonathan Martin out of Stanford and give themselves one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.  While there will be 4 teams in play for Green Bay’s Matt Flynn (Jets, Dolphins, Browns, and Seahawks) I think the Dolphins will be the winner of those sweepstakes and with Reggie Bush coming off the best year of his career the best thing the Dolphins will be able to do for Flynn and Bush is protect them.  Martin represents a good value pick for the Dolphins at 9 and could be the difference maker in their offense.

The Buffalo Bills have some interesting plans for 2012.  They plan to go back to a 4-3 defense, but with their personnel there is also a lot of potential for the Bills to throw some 3-4 looks out there.  The Bills have a huge need for someone who can rush the passer.  While Upshaw was mostly a linebacker at Alabama, he does have experience at the defensive end position and has a knack for finding the ball in the backfield.  He would be a great and necessary addition to what has the potential to be a very potent Buffalo defense.

The future is very bright for the Kansas City Chiefs as they boast one of the youngest, most talented rosters in the NFL.  With injuries to 5 of their top 6 players last season, the Chiefs still managed to fall just one game shy of making the playoffs for the second consecutive year.  There have been many who have cried for a new quarterback in Kansas City but the right pick for KC in the first round is clearly some help on the offensive or defensive line.  With Kalil, Reiff, and Martin off the board, Devon Still out of Penn State makes the most sense for the Chiefs.  I believe that Still is not only the most NFL ready defensive lineman in the draft, but he also the best all-around defensive lineman in the draft and should be taken ahead of the highly touted Michael Brockers.  Still also is the best player on the board to plug up the middle of the line in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.

The biggest need the Seattle Seahawks have is quarterback.  Tarvaris Jackson does not appear to be the answer and I know that the answer is definitely not Charlie Whitehurst.  However, the Seahawks are not going to find the solution to their problem here.  The second biggest need the Seahawks have is a pass rusher and while Upshaw and Coples figure to go higher, I believe Melvin Ingram is the best defensive end in the draft.  Carroll needs a player who can get to the quarterback and Ingram is not only a great defensive end but an athlete who is flexible enough to excel at the outside linebacker position.  Plan on seeing Seattle take Ingram with this pick.

WAIT JUST A SECOND – Alabama Running Back Trent Richardson is still on the board?

Every year on the first night of the draft there are the big stories in regards to “the reach” and “the slide”.  This year the slide will be Trent Richardson.  Richardson is the best running back prospect I’ve seen since Darren McFadden but McFadden’s draft is the reason that Richardson will slip.  McFadden is a good running back but keep in mind he was taken #4 overall in 2008.  Then keep in mind that Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall were taken #24 and #25 overall respectively in the same draft.  Matt Forte and Ray Rice were #44 and #55 overall.  Arian Foster went undrafted in 2009.  The running back position has been highly devalued.  Many experts have him going to Cleveland or Tampa but I expect him to slide based on the devaluation and the fact that the top half of the draft has much more pressing needs than running back.

In the eyes of many, the Arizona Cardinals are a step back from where they were a year ago.  They needed a quarterback and broke up the best pair of young cornerbacks in the league when they sent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia in exchange for Kevin Kolb.  So far that appears to have been a very bad move.  The answer to the Cardinals quarterback problem is not here but North Alabama’s Janorris Jenkins could give the Cardinals a highly touted corner opposite Patrick Peterson.  It’s not every day that you see a Division II player go in the first round but keep in mind that there are character issues with Jenkins that landed him at N. Alabama in the 1st place.  Either way, this kid can flat out play and would complement Peterson nicely.

In Dallas the mindset still exists that anything short of a Super Bowl is a failure, in spite of the fact that Dallas has only won one playoff game this century.   The Cowboys made the right pick with OT Tyron Smith last season and if they are smart will take DeCastro this year to give their super powered offense one of the best young offensive lines in the league.  They clearly need some help in their secondary but this is a deep draft for cornerbacks and there is no one on the board worthy of this pick.  It may not be a flashy pick but DeCastro is the right pick for the Cowboys.

If DeSean Jackson does leave via free agency, wide receiver becomes a top need for this team but with the Eagles still having Jeremy Maclin, I still believe their middle linebacker situation is much more dire (plus the wide receiver position can be addressed in the 2nd round where the team has 2 picks or via free agency).  Casey Matthews was not the answer for the Eagles last season.  Luke Kuechly is by far the best middle linebacker in this year’s draft.  Kuechly has great instincts, is a phenomenal open field tackler, and could be the solution to a number of Philadelphia’s defensive woes.

Rex Ryan loves his pass rushers and at this point in the draft there’s none better on the board than Nick Perry.  Perry is a natural pass rusher who could probably use some bulking up but nonetheless he could be a great asset to that Jets’ defense.  The Jets could also take Mark Barron here but I see Rex Ryan really liking what Perry has to offer him.

And the slide of Trent Richardson has finally stopped! The Bengals were excited to turn a quarterback that wasn’t even playing into a 1st and 2nd round pick but now they get to convert their pick from the Palmer deal this year into the best running back in the draft and a great athletic talent.  Combining Trent Richardson with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could give the Bengals their own version of “The Triplets” going forward and allows the Bengals an impressive start to this year’s draft.

The Chargers secondary was a big concern for them in a much-improved AFC West.  Phillip Rivers is no longer the only quarterback in this division and while the team has bigger needs, an opportunity to take the best safety in the draft is one that San Diego will not pass on.  Barron is strong, quick, and has great instincts. He has the potential to be a Pro Bowl safety going forward for the Chargers.

A few years ago the Bears gave up two first round picks to bring in Jay Cutler but since they got themselves a quarterback they’ve had no one for Cutler to throw the ball to.  The Bears will not hesitate to take a wide receiver with their first round pick and I believe the Bears will choose Michael Floyd over Alshon Jeffrey.

The Titans have committed to Jake Locker as their quarterback of the future and Matt Hasselbeck is clearly the QB of the present.  While there are a number of needs for this team, the most glaring one is the interior offensive line.  For the Titans this will mean a choice between Glenn and Peter Konz, the center out of Wisconsin.  Glenn is a very strong guard who also has experience on the edge of the offensive line.  He is believed to be maybe the safest offensive line pick on the board aside from Kalil and should fit the Titans scheme nicely.

A year ago, the Bengals were worried about their offense but after taking Andy Dalton and A.J. Green last year and already getting Trent Richardson in this draft, the Bengals can turn their focus back to defense.  They would’ve loved to see Cordy Glenn still on the board here but with him gone, Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback is a pretty obvious choice.  The Bengals could use some help in their secondary and Nate Clements is getting up there in years.  Dennard is a physical cover corner who can help some in his rookie year as they develop him behind Clements and makes sense for this young Bengals team.

The Browns had the opportunity to take Julio Jones last season and their reward was Justin Blackmon this season and now the chance to take the second best running back in the draft in Lamar Miller.  Lamar Miller is a running back that has big run potential and can catch passes out of the backfield.  With all the questions surrounding Peyton Hillis and the lack of production from Montario Hardesty, this pick makes perfect sense for the Browns and represents a good value for Cleveland.

The past few years the Lions have drafted really well and found good value in the draft but have neglected to address their offensive line issues.  Jeff Backus has had a great career but he’s getting older and in order for the Lions to continue to compete they are going to need a young left tackle.   There are a number of picks that make sense here for the Lions but with Mike Adams sitting here and the depth at other positions, the Lions will probably act and grab Adams here.

The Steelers have a lot of needs along their offensive and defensive lines because they are getting much older along the lines.  With Dontari Poe, a nose tackle who would fit Dick LeBeau’s scheme perfectly just sitting here, the Steelers will not hesitate to draft him, especially with Mike Adams off the board.   Poe would be an obvious heir apparent to Casey Hampton and a much more physical presence at that who can plug up the middle of the line.

The Broncos have a number of needs that are bigger than wide receiver but they are going to see Alshon Jeffrey as someone that could be great opposite Demaryius Thomas.  Jeffrey is a big, physical receiver who took a step back in his final year at South Carolina but he attacks the ball and could be a big help for Tim Tebow and help alleviate some of the coverages that Thomas can expect to see after a breakout year.  Jeffrey is the type of receiver who can go up for a jump ball in the endzone over several defenders and will come down with it.  This isn’t necessarily the best pick for Denver but it’s a good one and one I believe they will make.

The Texans are really in need of a wide receiver to place opposite of Andre Johnson.  This is a team that is poised to make a Super Bowl run and with Matt Schaub, I believe they were far and away the best team in the AFC but they need another target besides Johnson.  Kendall Wright is a smaller, speedier receiver that was overlooked because of the season that Justin Blackmon had in the Big 12, he has breakaway speed very reminiscent of Percy Harvin of the Vikings.  He would provide the perfect complement to Andre Johnson.

The Patriots really need some help with their pass rush and must get younger along the defensive line.  Michael Brockers is a top-10 caliber talent that will likely fall to the Patriots at 27 and Bellichick will not hesitate to take the young defensive lineman.  Brockers is a very versatile athlete that could potentially be a defensive end or outside linebacker but as a defensive tackle he is a force to be reckoned with on the interior and could spell trouble for the run games of the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills.

The Green Bay Packers defense was absolutely abysmal last season and had the lowest sack rate in the NFL.  Few realized this because of how explosive the offense was.  The Packers could not create any pressure on opposing passers without sending blitzers which forced the offense to have to put up 30 + a game to win.  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 Packers very well in trying to re-vamp this defense.

Ray Lewis is not getting any younger.  At some point, the Ravens have to think about Lewis’s heir to the most sacred position in Baltimore Ravens history.  He is a perfect replacement to be mentored by Ray Lewis.  He is explosive, a proven leader, and has a bit of a mean streak.  To some he’s a dirty player but there’s no doubt he is an aggressive competitor who has a natural awareness of where the ball is.  This pick would be a slam dunk for Baltimore.

Anyone who watched the NFC Championship knows that receiving corps for the 49ers is very weak.  The team only converted one third down and Alex Smith didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until the 4th quarter.  The 49ers were hoping Wright or Jeffrey would fall to them here but with both off the board they will grab the speedy receiver out of Rutgers.

The Patriots would like to find a young wide receiver or a young safety here to help out their team but they could definitely use some help on the pass rush and would be excited to get AndreBranch.   Branch is an absolute beast.  He’s around 6-5, 260 lbs and is pure athlete.  He is a pure pass rusher who can find the quarterback but while he’s ready for the NFL now, it seems that he has potential to grow into an even greater player.

Last year the Giants overspent on David Baas to alleviate their center woes and while the Giants won the Super Bowl, they could really use some help along the interior line.  The Giants are going to be excited to see a strong, athletic center like Peter Konz available to them at the 32nd pick and won’t hesitate to grab him here.

THE 2ND ROUND

The Colts have a gaping need in their secondary, especially when their division now has the likes of Matt Schaub, Jake Locker/Matt Hasselbeck, and Blaine Gabbert. Minnifield is a 1st round caliber player that the Colts can’t pass up here.

The Rams were probably thinking wide receiver with this pick but with Zach Brown somehow still on the board and the ability to grab a solid receiver early in the 3rd round, they won’t hesitate to make this pick.

The Vikings definitely need to upgrade their cornerback position.  Antoine Winfield is getting old, Cedric Griffin is injury prone, and Chris Cook’s future is uncertain. Gilmore is a great value at #35 overall.

The Browns will be in on the Matt Flynn sweepstakes but won’t get him and they need someone to compete with Colt McCoy.  They saw the top WR in the draft and a young 2nd round QB from Texas pay dividends for their cross-state rivals last season.  They are hoping for the same success with their picks.

Morris Claiborne solidified the secondary.  Now Hightower, a 1st round caliber talent will give them the middle linebacker presence they sorely need.

The Vikings were fortunate to net the Redskins 1st and 2nd round pick in the move up for RG3. Criner is a big target with speed who should complement Harvin and that pair of tight ends Minnesota has nicely.

The Jaguars are in desperate need of somebody for Blaine Gabbert to throw the ball to and Toon is the best receiver left on the board at this point.

Most believe that Fletcher Cox could go in the top 15 but I think he slides to the Panthers here and they won’t hesitate to strengthen their front four.

Bruce Irvin can play as a defensive end in Philbin’s new 4-3 scheme or as an Outside Linebacker in a 3-4 and would be a great pick-up for Miami.

Having taken Upshaw the Bills have other needs in the 2nd round but Curry is too good for them to pass on and gives the Bills a very nice pair of defensive ends if they choose to use Upshaw that way.

The depth at offensive tackle is unreal.  The Chiefs need to solidify a questionable offensive line and a physical tackle like Zebrie Sanders is a perfect find in the 2nd round.

There are questions surrounding whether or not Marshawn Lynch will be back.  The fall of Richardson allows David Wilson to fall to the 2nd round where Seattle will be most fortunate to draft him.

The Eagles were supposed to be a dream team but they were more of a dream and less of a team.  Jerel Worthy is a perfect fit for Philly’s defense.

The Cowboys could really use some help in their secondary and Hosley is the man for the job.

2nd round quarterback when they have an established starter?  Here the Eagles go again…

Attention Mark Sanchez, you are officially on the hot seat.

The Patriots have to find a solution to their strong safety need, Harrison Smith makes perfect sense.

Phillip Rivers needs to be better protected and to find a tackle like Osemele (who will likely play guard) at the 50th pick is a steal.

The Bears need help in their secondary and on the O-Line but Thompson is one of the best defensive tackles available and could really help the Bears put pressure on Rodgers and Stafford.

The Titans continue the rebuilding of their interior offensive line by following up the selection of the 2nd best guard in the draft with the 2nd best center.

The Bengals are doing it again – finding exceptional value in the 1st and 2nd rounds. They now have a receiver with much promise to pair with A.J. Green.

The Falcons have the greatest tight end of all-time on their roster but Tony G. is getting up there in years and the best tight end on the board gives them a perfect opportunity to develop Gonzalez’s heir.

Cliff Avril had a big year but is going to demand a huge contract.  The Lions need somebody to pair up with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Chandler Jones is the best DE left on the board.

The Steelers are getting old along the offensive line and Andrew Datko appears to be the perfect fit for Pittsburgh here.

For now the Broncos are invested in Tim Tebow and want to give him more options on offense.  The 2nd best tight end in the draft with their 2nd round pick does not seem to be a bad way to go.

Wade Phillips’ defense was a force to be reckoned with last season but they are in need of a big nose tackle who can plug up the middle.  Ta’amu is going to be that man for Houston.

Marques Colston and Robert Meachem are both unrestricted free agents which could leave the Saints vaunted receiving corps quite depleted.  Jarius Wright is a fast physical receiver who could play Week 1 for NOLA.

Ted Thompson has been successful because he takes the best player available regardless of position. Looks like LaMichael James will still be wearing Green and Yellow for at least a little while longer.

The Ravens had a great offensive line this year but All-Pro Jeff Birk is likely retiring meaning Baltimore must find a centerpiece for their offensive line NOW.

The 49ers have some needs along the interior of their offensive line and Zeiter is a good value at 62 overall.

Whether or not Wes Welker returns (which I believe he will), the Patriots are still in need of receivers that don’t drop the ball. The speedster from Arkansas is a bit of a reach but a good fit for Bellichick’s offense.

The Giants are a great team without a true #1 running back.  Brandon Jacobs is on the decline and a team as complete as the Giants need a better #1 option than Bradshaw.  New York will be excited to find Martin waiting for them here.

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? SNIDE REMARKS?
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Courtesy of Devan Dignan+