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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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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Ever since the Colts landed the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, there has been speculation about if and where Peyton Manning would play again. Yesterday, something I could’ve never imagined a year ago happened when the Colts decided to go into rebuilding mode and forgo paying Manning the bonus that was due to him today thus making him a free agent for the first time in his career. And this is not just any free agent. Peyton Manning has become the most coveted free agent in NFL history as the franchise he has been the face of for 14 years moves forward without him. We are now aware that no Colts player will ever again wear #18 but the question is of course: which team will have a new #18 on their roster next season?
Multiple sources have mentioned that around 12 teams have been in contact with Manning’s representation and we know who some of those teams are, who some aren’t, and which teams remain a mystery. We know that the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs have contacted Manning’s representation. We know that the Dallas Cowboys are not interested and neither are, clearly, the Indianapolis Colts. It is also safe to assume that the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m also fairly confident that the St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, and Chicago Bears will not go after Manning. I also like to believe, that though there has been speculation, that the Texans will work to extend Schaub and develop Yates as opposed to cutting Schaub to bring in Manning. So I do not believe the Texans are part of the twelve (but if they create the cap space and release Schaub they become a frontrunner). However we can’t rule anyone out. In my opinion, outside of a few, select teams that have elite NFL QBs, any team that does not at least ask itself the Peyton Manning question is doing themselves a great disservice.
So using what we know and what we don’t know I’ve broken down who I believe to be Manning’s dozen and their respective odds of landing the future Hall of Famer in descending order.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
ODDS – 1:100
The Jacksonville Jaguars would love to sign their former rival for the next three years and develop the young Blaine Gabbert behind him. I have no doubts about that. It’s clear however that Peyton wants to win now because he only has somewhere between three and five years to win another ring. The Jaguars definitely have the cap room and it could be attractive for Manning to play in Florida but the Jaguars have no personnel to put around Manning where he believes he could win right away. A few years ago when the Vikings signed Brett Favre a lot of people referred to that team as a “ferrari without a driver” and I believe that’s exactly what Peyton is looking for. The Jaguars can offer the contract but not much else.
11. Cleveland Browns
ODDS – 1:50
I give the Browns slightly higher odds than the Jaguars of landing Manning. Once again this is a team in disarray but once that can afford Manning. The reason I give them any kind of odds is because the Browns could potentially land one of Peyton’s former receivers in free agency (Garcon or Wayne), they have a stout and young offensive line and they have the draft picks to add playmakers to their roster now. This is an AFC team in a smaller market which many say that Manning would prefer but I just do not see this happening.
10. Buffalo Bills
ODDS – 3:100
The Buffalo Bills are an interesting prospect. This would put Peyton in the AFC in a small market with a passionate fan base and he would get the chance to play Tom Brady twice a year. However, the Bills have made a huge commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a team that could make the playoffs with consistent quarterback play but I do not see the Bills making this happen nor do I see Manning wanting to play 7 home games a year in Buffalo and 1 every season in Toronto after 14 years of playing his home games in a dome. They have the cap room, they have some playmakers, but I am pretty confident we will not see Manning in Buffalo.
9. Tennessee Titans
ODDS – 1:20
If the Titans have already called, I’m certain that Peyton Manning has listened. He considers Tennessee a second home having played his college ball there. He can look at Tennessee and see playmakers like Chris Johnson, Jared Cook, and Kenny Britt. They have a very athletic offensive line that Peyton would love. This is a team that has some definite potential but once again I just do not see it. Matt Hasselbeck had a really good year last year and I believe that the Titans are happy to play him another year and then move forward with Jake Locker who showed a lot of promise as a rookie. I also do not know what Peyton’s feelings would be on playing the Colts twice a year after his ceremonious exit from the Colts but either way, I give the Titans a 5% chance but not much more than that.
8. New York Jets
ODDS – 1:19
The New York Jets have been linked to Peyton Manning for months and this is a team that is definitely talented and made it to back to back AFC Championships in spite of subpar quarterback play. Manning is familiar with the Rex Ryan defense and would surely love to have that on his side. He would play the Patriots twice a year and he would get to share a stadium with his brother. He would have playmakers all around him but at the same time, there are a lot of issues with the New York Jets locker room. New York is a large market and it’s his brother’s territory. I personally think the Jets would be a great fit but I don’t see Peyton going to such an unstable situation or imposing on his brother’s turf. Another big factor here is that the Jets would have to make some major moves to be able to even afford Manning. They can’t afford him, it’s unstable, and I just don’t see it.
7. Washington Redskins
ODDS – 1:13
Alright, now we’re into the teams that I actually think have a shot. A lot of people have the Redskins as an odds-on favorite to land Peyton Manning. They like to cite that great offensive line the Redskins have and the presence of Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, and Jabar Gaffney. It’s clear though that Washington will have to add a true #2 wide receiver to attract Peyton. Washington does have the necessary cap room and they have an owner in Dan Snyder who loves to spend money. However, Peyton’s preference is the AFC and I really don’t think he wants to play Eli twice a year. Washington loves to bring in five star free agents and has the cap room to reunite Manning and Wayne as well as a high enough draft pick to bring in some young playmakers immediately. While I believe the Redskins will be one of the most aggressive suitors for Manning but I don’t believe Peyton will bite. This is a team that definitely has everything necessary to attract Manning with the largest drawbacks being the fact that they are a large market NFC team that would play the Giants twice a year. Many don’t believe that Manning is interested in playing for Washington but on paper they have a pretty solid chance.
6. Arizona Cardinals
ODDS – 1:8
Everyone that follows Can of Corn on Twitter knows that for months I have been lobbying for Peyton Manning to team up with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. This is a team that went .500 last season in spite of Kolb’s terrible play under center. Manning has mentioned he would love to play on natural grass again but he does appreciate the advantages of a dome. Good news – Arizona is the only place that can offer both. Manning has never played with a wide receiver as talented as Larry Fitzgerald and if the Cardinals can re-sign Early Doucet or bring in another wideout (especially Wayne) then this could be a real possibility. Combine that with tight end Todd Heap and Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams in the backfield and this becomes a very attractive offense. Manning and Whisenhunt have long had a mutual respect and admiration for one another and so this relationship could definitely work.
The problem is that right now the Cardinals are projected to have, at most, $10.2 M in cap room. Even if they release Levi Brown and free up $16M , move forward without Kolb and free up the necessary cap room, the Cardinals are left with an even more questionable offensive line. I love this fit for Manning and like the idea of him throwing to Fitzgerald. I think the Cardinals will be major players and they are a team that can compete right away with Manning but at the end of the day – I really don’t see Arizona being able to do what’s necessary to attract Manning. If the Cardinals had the cap room to afford Manning, they would be in the top 3 without a doubt. There’s a strong mutual interest here between Manning and the Cardinals. Now it comes down to money.
5. San Francisco 49ers
ODDS – 2:9
What NFL fan does not want to see Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne keep playing together? The 49ers offer the opportunity to do that. This is a team that has the cap room necessary to sign Peyton Manning and then also tighten up their WR corps and with a deep WR draft could use their first round draft pick on a rookie wideout or exchange that pick for Mike Wallace. This is a team that was a few muffed punts from going to the Super Bowl last season and if they were to bring in receivers they could easily attract Peyton there and on the flip side, the presence of Peyton Manning would attract free agent receivers. This is a dynamic team and Peyton would only be required to put up 20 – 24 points a game with that stout defense. Jim Harbaugh says he believes in Alex Smith and is trying to extend him but you have to believe the 49ers have at least reached out to Manning and that he would be interested in heading to the West Coast. Both the 49ers and Peyton are well aware of what each could accomplish together and I think this will be a very attractive option. I just do not know how hard Harbaugh will pursue this one. Thus far the 49ers have denied interest in Manning but it’s hard to believe that giving Alex Smith a three year $27M contract is that much better of an option than giving Manning a 3 year $42M deal.
4. Denver Broncos
ODDS – 2:7
If John Elway really wants to move on from “Tebowmania” this is the only possible escape. If Elway really wants a quarterback that reminds him of himself, then there’s nobody better. After all, a number one overall draft pick by the Colts going on to lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl is not unheard of. The Broncos have some great young receivers on offense with Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royals, and Eric Decker and the necessary cap room to sign Manning. They are a playoff team with the necessary cap room to sign Manning and this is something that could really happen. The Broncos have reached out to Manning’s people and with the Broncos being the reigning champion of a wide-open division I think they are an attractive option to Manning.
3. Seattle Seahawks
ODDS – 1:3
I really do not know why more people aren’t talking about the possibility of Manning landing in Seattle. This is a team that could be very good with a great quarterback. Manning would have a dynamic receiving corps with Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, and Golden Tate as well as Jon Carlson and Zach Miller at tight end. The Seahawks just recently extended running back Marshawn Lynch after a career year. This is a team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and with Manning could challenge the 49ers right away. The Seahawks are considered a frontrunner to land Mario Williams but they could instead direct their focus to Manning especially considering their draft position would allow them a chance to land Melvin Ingram or another top tier rookie outside linebacker or defensive end. There are some question marks on the offensive line but given the division they play in and the amount of playmakers, Seattle has to be considered a serious contender to land Peyton Manning.
2. Miami Dolphins
ODDS – 2:5
We’ve heard it all, the Dolphins have the cap room to sign Manning and bring in another wide receiver. Reggie Wayne wants to play in Miami and this could give Manning a 1-2 punch of Wayne and Brandon Marshall with Davone Bess in the slot. Reggie Bush just had the best year of his career and is one of the best pass-catching backs in the game. Peyton Manning has a home in Miami and the team has an owner that wants a star to latch his team onto. This is a warm weather AFC team that would give Peyton the chance to play in the stadium where he twice appeared in a Super Bowl. The Dolphins seem to be a really attractive option for Manning but the biggest question has to be the offensive line. Outside of Jake Long, this offensive line is suspect. Of course the 9th overall draft pick could allow the Dolphins to draft Iowa’s Riley Reiff or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin who could bolster this line immediately. I think that Miami has a lot of attractive options. I think Manning’s admiration of and friendship with Dan Marino plays a role. While Miami has a great combination of playmakers, salary cap, and overall fit, there’s one team that has an even better combination of these things.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
ODDS – 3:7
There are a lot of commentators who have begun to mention the Kansas City Chiefs as an underdog or a dark horse candidate to land Manning. The Seahawks are a dark horse, the Titans and Jets are underdogs, the Chiefs should be considered the favorite. Anyone who has the Chiefs ranked lower than two is only kidding themselves. There are a number of factors that make the Chiefs the odds-on favorite to land Manning in spite of the fact that they are “committed to Matt Cassel”.
The Chiefs have been projected to have as much as $50M in cap room next season which would be the 2nd highest in the NFL so they definitely have the financial flexibility to sign Peyton Manning and then to bring in anotherfree agent such as Carl Nicks or Jeff Saturday to solidify their offensive line. The Chiefs have the necessary weapons on the offensive side of the ball with running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki, and receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jonathan Baldwin. Then there’s always the threat of the very dynamic Dexter McCluster who can play in the backfield or line up in the slot. They have a good young defense as well with playmakers like Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson, and Eric Berry. Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are both extremely familiar with Peyton Manning and with the restructuring of the coaching staff, this is a team that would be very open to letting Peyton Manning bring in his own offense. This is a talented AFC team in a small market with a very passionate fan base and distinct home field advantage. They play in the most wide-open division in the NFL. This is a team that came within a game of the playoffs despite multiple injuries and inconsistent QB play. Joe Montana finished his career in KC and got his team to the AFC Championship maybe Peyton can do one better. If Manning really wants to be on an AFC team and become the first QB to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl win, this is a team that definitely fits that mold and can actually afford him.
Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
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? Let me hear ’em!