My All-Time Undrafted NFL Team: Offense

Just because the 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, that does not mean that NFL teams are done trying to find rookie players.  Immediately following the draft we saw storylines emerge about Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray signing with the Chiefs and Cris Carter’s son Duron Carter going to the Vikings.  The best NFL teams not only find exceptional value in the draft but the best also find value outside of it.  Recently Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received a 6 year $108 million extension from the Dallas Cowboys.  He was an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois University.  The New York Giants hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 2012 thanks largely to the efforts of undrafted Victor Cruz out of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.  Who knows what future superstar teams may discover in the coming days but it has prompted me to throw together my all-time undrafted NFL team.

Below you will find my all-time undrafted offense.   Defense and Special Teams will be released later this week.

Quarterback

Kurt Warner, University of Northern Iowa
St. Louis Rams (1998 – 2003); New York Giants (2004); Arizona Cardinals (2005 – 2009)
Super Bowl XXXIV Champion; Super Bowl XXXIV MVP;  2x NFL MVP; 2x All-Pro; 4x Pro-Bowl
Fun Fact: Holds the record for the most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XXXIV), 2nd most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XLIII), and you guessed it – third most yards passing in a Super Bowl (XXXVI)

Runner-Up: Warren Moon, Washington
Houston Oilers (1984-1993); Minnesota Vikings (1994-1996); Seattle Seahawks (1997-1998); Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2000)

Running Backs

Joe Perry, Compton College
San Francisco 49ers (1948 – 1960; 1963); Baltimore Colts (1961 – 1962)
3x Pro-Bowl Selection; 2x First Team All-Pro; 2x Rushing Champion; NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team; San Francisco 49ers #34 retired; Pro Football Hall of Fame
Fun Fact: In 1954 Joe Perry rushed for over 1,000 yards becoming the first NFL player to every rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons

Priest Holmes, Texas
Baltimore Ravens (1997 – 2000); Priest Holmes (2001 – 2007)
Super Bowl XXXV Champion; 3x Pro Bowl; 3x All-Pro; 2001 Rushing Title; 2002 NFL Offensive Player of the Year
Fun Fact: In 2001, Priest Holmes became the first undrafted player to ever win a rushing title.  Arian Foster duplicated this feat 2010.

Runner-Up: Arian Foster, Tennessee
Houston Texans (2009 – Present)

Fullback

Marion Motley, Nevada
Cleveland Browns (1946 – 1953); Pittsburgh Steelers (1955)V
4x AAFC Champion; 1948 AAFC Rushing Champion; 1950 NFL Rushing Champion; 1950 Pro-Bowl Selection; 1950 NFL Champion; NFL 1940’s All-Decade Team; NFL 75th Anniversary Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame
Fun Fact: Motley holds the best career average for yard per rushing attempt at 5.7.  He was also the Browns starting linebacker when he played.

Runner-Up: Vonta Leach, ECU
Green Bay Packers (2004 – 2006); New Orleans Saints (2006); Houston Texans (2006 – 2010); Baltimore Ravens (2011 – Present)

Offensive Guards

Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman
San Diego Chargers (1967 – 1968); Miami Dolphins (1969 – 1980)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 5x Pro Bowl selection; 5x First team All-Pro; Pro Football Hall of Fame
Fun Fact: In 1969, Little was upset with a trade that sent him from the Chargers to the Dolphins because he wanted to go somewhere he could win a championship.  Little went on to win two Super Bowls including being an integral part of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins team.

Brian Waters, North Texas
Kansas City Chiefs (2000 – 2010); New England Patriots (2011 – 2012)
6x Pro Bowl Selection; 2x All-Pro
Fun Fact: Waters played tight end and defensive end at North Texas before the Chiefs converted him into an offensive lineman.

Runner-Up:  Kris Dielman, Indiana
San Diego Chargers (2003 – 2011)

Center

Jim Langer, South Dakota State
Miami Dolphins (1970 – 1979); Minnesota Vikings (1980 – 1981)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 6x Pro Bowl Selection; 6x All-Pro; NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame
Fun Fact: The award for the top offensive lineman in Division II is the Jim Langer Award.  Interestingly, he was a middle linebacker in college and became a lineman once he joined the Dolphins.

Runner-Up: Jeff Saturday, North Carolina
Indianapolis Colts (1999 – 2011); Green Bay Packers (2012)

Offensive Tackles

Lou Groza, Ohio State
Cleveland Browns (1946 – 1959; 1961 – 1967)
4x AAFC Champion; 4x NFL Champion; 9x Pro Bowl Selection; 4x All-Pro; NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team; Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor; Cleveland Browns #76 retired; Pro Football Hall of Fame
Fun Fact: Nicknamed “The Toe”, Lou Groza was also the placekicker for the Browns, leading the league in field goals on five occasions and retired as the all-time points leader in the NFL.

Nate Newton, Florida A&M
Dallas Cowboys (1986 – 1998); Carolina Panthers (1999)
3x Super Bowl Champion; 6x Pro Bowl Selection; 2x All-Pro
Fun Fact: While in Dallas he was nicknamed “The Kitchen”, the reason being he was larger than the Bears’ William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

Runner-Up: Jason Peters, Arkansas
Buffalo Bills (2004 – 2008); Philadelphia Eagles (2009 – Present)

Wide Receivers

Rod Smith, Missouri Southern State University
Denver Broncos (1994 – 2006)
2x Super Bowl Champion; 3x Pro Bowl; 2x All-Pro
Fun Fact: Rod Smith is the only undrafted player to ever eclipse the 10,000 career receiving yards mark.

Wes Welker, Texas Tech
San Diego Chargers (2004); Miami Dolphins (2004 – 2006); New England Patriots (2007 – 2012); Denver Broncos (2013 – Present)
5x Pro Bowl; 2x First Team All-Pro; 2x Second Team All-Pro; 3x NFL Receptions Leader
Fun Fact: Wes Welker was widely considered “too small” to be successful at the college level.  Only 1 Division I school offered him a scholarship (Texas Tech) and it was only offered to him after another recruit backed out of the offer right before Welker’s freshman year.  That same disrespect apparently followed him to the NFL Draft.

Drew Pearson, Tulsa
Dallas Cowboys (1973 – 1983)
Super Bowl XII Champion; 3x First Team All-Pro; 1x Second Team All-Pro; 3x Pro Bowl Selection;  Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor; Pearson’s #88 reserved for Best Cowboy’s Receivers (worn by Michael Irvin & Dez Bryant)
Fun Fact: In the 1975 Playoffs in a game against the Minnesota Vikings, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a 50 yard game winning touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with seconds left on the clock.  Afterwards he said of the pass, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary” and the Hail Mary pass was born.

Wayne Chrebet, Hofstra
New York Jets (1995 – 2005)
New York Jets #80 Discontinued
Fun Fact: In 1995, Wayne Chrebet became the first player from Hofstra University to make an NFL roster since 1964

Runner-Up: Victor Cruz, University of Massachusetts
New York Giants (2010 – Present)

Tight Ends

Antonio Gates, Kent State
San Diego Chargers (2003 – Present)
8x Pro Bowl Selection; 5x All-Pro; NFL 2000s All-Decade Team; San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team
Fun Fact: Antonio Gates played basketball at Kent State but after his agent told him he wouldn’t make the NBA he arranged private NFL workouts with as many as 19 NFL teams.  His first was with the Chargers, they signed him on the spot.

Zeke Mowatt, Florida State
New York Giants (1983 – 1989; 1991); New England Patriots (1990)
Super Bowl XXI Champion
Fun Fact: Upon his retirement, Zeke Mowatt founded Mowatt, Inc. – a janitorial service in the New Jersey area.

Runner-Up: None.

Well there you have it, my all-time great NFL undrafted offense.  For some positions the options available is astounding (quarterback), while there are other locations where there is a surprising lack of choices (tight end and offensive tackle) but that does not change the fact that in hindsight every one of these players deserved to be drafted (and would’ve been high draft picks) but have succeeded in spite of it.   We often hear about the first round guys that don’t pan out but these are the undrafted guys who did.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
Remember to follow us on Twitter @can_of_corn!

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2012 NFL Season Predictions

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.

AFC North –

Baltimore Ravens (2)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC East –

New England Patriots (3)
Buffalo Bills (5)
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins

AFC South –

Houston Texans (1)
Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West –

Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Denver Broncos (6)
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders

AFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
New England (3) vs. Denver (6)
Kansas City (4) vs. Buffalo (5)

Divisional Round
Houston (1) vs. Kansas City (4)
Baltimore (2) vs. New England (3)

AFC Championship
Houston (1) vs. Baltimore (2)

NFC North –

Green Bay Packers (1)
Chicago Bears (5)
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

NFC East –

Dallas Cowboys (4)
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC South –

Atlanta Falcons (2)
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers

NFC West –

San Francisco 49ers (3)
Seattle Seahawks (6)
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

NFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
San Francisco (3) vs. Seattle (6)
Dallas (4) vs. Chicago (5)

Divisional Round
Green Bay (1) vs. Chicago (5)
Atlanta (2) vs. San Francisco (3)

NFC Championship
Green Bay (1) vs. Atlanta (2)

TOP 5 PICKS of 2013 NFL DRAFT

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Indianapolis Colts

SUPER BOWL

Green Bay (1) vs. Houston (1)

CHAMPIONS

Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl MVP

Keep an eye out tomorrow for my postseason award predictions!

 

2012 NFL Final Mock Draft – Round 3 plus a few

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.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em! As always follow me @can_of_corn

Enjoy the Draft! 

2012 NFL Mock Rough Draft with Edits

Since last month when I looked into the NFL crystal ball to give us an idea of what will happen at the end of April, the picture has begun to come more into focus.  Now with the NFL combine we have a better idea of how rookies will rank.  Some players’ stock rose and others fell.  As free agency begins, some teams have already addressed the needs they would’ve in the draft.  Others have at least signed free agents that will change their draft priorities.  You may notice that there are some drastic changes between this mock draft and my original publication.  I do not see the changes between this and my final mock draft being nearly as drastic.  Similar to my original mock draft I will provide the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft in order to give all fans a chance to see at least one draft pick their teams will make.  Unless your team is the wreckless Oakland Raiders, you will find at least one draft pick for your team.

My final mock draft will come out right before the NFL Draft a the end of April.  As an added bonus, the final mock draft will include three rounds – sorry Raiders fans, you still won’t get to see any picks.

NOTE: In a lot of cases where I list a position as an area of need it may just be depth and not a starter.  This is very true of positions like quarterback and running back for a number of teams.

THE 1ST ROUND

Well the Colts pulled the trigger as anticipated and released future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.  If it wasn’t obvious enough before, the Colts will be drafting a quarterback with the #1 overall draft pick in April.  While Robert Griffin III’s stock has risen dramatically as of late, he has established himself as a top 2 quarterback.  Andrew Luck is still by far the best QB prospect of this draft.  And he’s the best QB prospect of the last 8 years and one of the best prospects of the last 30.  The 1980’s had John Elway (drafted 1st overall by the Colts), the 1990’s had Peyton Manning (drafted 1st overall by the Colts), the 2000’s had Eli Manning (drafted #1 overall by the Chargers), and the 2010’s have Andrew Luck.  He has a rare combination of arm strength, precision, and poise and is the best overall prospect on the board.  There’s no reason to believe the Colts won’t make this pick.

Last month I saw that, given Dan Snyder’s statements, the Redskins would make the necessary moves to trade up for RG3.  I just did not see the Rams being smart enough to trade down and who could’ve seen the Rams getting the king’s ransom they did for Robert Griffin III.   In the past month, Robert Griffin III has established himself as the clear cut #2. It’s clear that the Redskins made the sacrifice they did to take whichever QB the Colts don’t and I fully believe the quarterback left on the board will be RG3.

The Vikings have their quarterback of the future.  They are still trying to decide if it’s Christian Ponder or Joe Webb but whatever they do they need to build around their QB and the Vikings have a lot of work to do.  The most glaring need for this run first team is a left tackle.  Matt Kalil is the best offensive lineman prospect we have seen since Jake Long and in my opinion any team that passes on Kalil with Luck and RG3 is foolish.  Regardless of need Kalil might be the top overall player in this year’s draft.  He is big, physical, fast, and a perfect young fit for that rushing game and those 2 tight end sets the Vikings like to employ.  The Vikings could target Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon here but Blackmon does not merit this high of pick and I believe, with such a deep CB class, the Vikings will also pass on Claiborne.

The Cleveland Browns have a lot of needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  Earlier I had the Browns taking WR Justin Blackmon with this pick because this team does need to provide weapons to Colt McCoy but I just cannot see Mike Holmgren taking a wide receiver this high.  Maybe a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald type prospect would be taken this high but I do not see Holmgren taking Blackmon.  I don’t see the Browns overreaching for Ryan Tannehill nor do I see them taking a running back as high as #4. Morris Claiborne is far and away the best cornerback in the draft class and when you have to play Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton twice a year, you need to have a strong secondary.  Claiborne gives the Browns, paired with Joe Haden, perhaps the best young CB tandem in the league.  Claiborne can contribute right away and Holmgren won’t hesitate to take the best defensive player in the draft.

Despite the Eric Wright signing, if Morris Claiborne is still on the board here there is no doubt in my mind that the Buccaneers pull the trigger and take him.  However he’s gone and with the signing of Vincent Jackson, the Buccaneers can afford to wait at least a round before addressing their wide receiver concerns.  While I believe that the running back position has been highly devalued and it’s really not the best idea to draft one in the top 5, Richardson is the best running back prospect we have seen since Adrian Peterson.  Richardson is a great ball carrier with excellent instincts, great speed, and brutal strength.   He would fit perfectly in the Bucs’ offense and complement Blount quite nicely. There have been some concerns about his knee injury but the Buccaneers passed on Peterson due to injury concerns back in 2007 and will not be looking to make the same mistake twice.  If Richardson were to fall past the Bucs and Rams, there is no doubt in my mind that he will fall all the way to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Rams traded down giving themselves the necessary ammunition to rebuild the once great franchise and they still get their man in Justin Blackmon.  The Rams already had a pressing need at wide receiver and with Brandon Lloyd signing with the Patriots that need just became more dire.  The Rams could potentially draft OT Riley Reiff out of Iowa here and if Blackmon’s off the board they could consider Richardson or Claiborne but I believe in this instance they take Blackmon.  They have not had a true #1 receiver since the departure of Torry Holt and their young QB Sam Bradford needs a target.  Blackmon has the speed and catching ability to open up the passing game for the Rams and at 6th overall is a great pick for the Rams.
If Justin Blackmon is somehow still on the board here this is who the Jaguars will pick.  However Blackmon is off the board and so they will look to address the pass rush with Quinton Coples.  There seem to be a few trends in the NFL Draft and one of them is that it seems like the Jaguars draft a defensive end every year with their top pick.   Coples has the size, speed, and instincts to be an elite pass rusher in this league and the Jaguars are said to have interest in him.  Jacksonville will take Coples 7th overall and hope that the 3rd time is the charm on defensive ends.

The Dolphins won the coin flip with Carolina at the NFL Combine and have moved into the 8th overall spot.  Ryan Tannehill was definitely helped by quarterbacks like Matt Barkley and Landry Jones who chose to stay in college another year.  And at this point Ryan Tannehill is probably an early 2nd round quarterback grade but he has a very high ceiling and a lot of potential.  He has a strong arm and very good instincts.   Yes, Tannehill is a reach here and a guy who is going to need at least a year of developmental time but with the Dolphins out on Manning and on Flynn, this is a move that has to be made.  And with the new Dolphins offensive coordinator,  Mike Sherman, having been Tannehill’s college coach at Texas A&M, he understands what Tannehill is capable of and can continue developing him.   The Dolphins could take Reiff here but I believe they will reach and take the consensus 3rd best quarterback in the draft.  If the Dolphins don’t take him here, I think he could fall to the Browns later in the round.

Did anyone else impress as much at the NFL Combine as Dontari Poe.  Sure Poe makes more sense as a Nose Tackle but he can also be very effective in a 4 man front.   The Panthers could not stop the run and in a division that includes the Saints, Buccaneers, and Falcons – this is essential.  He has already drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata in his technique and his combine numbers.  He is the best defensive lineman in the draft and while I had him falling to the end of the 1st in my last mock draft, I do not see him lasting past the 12th overall pick.  He is the closest thing to “can’t miss” I’ve seen for a defensive line prospect in a long time.

The Bills have signed Mario Williams but nonetheless pass rush help remains a big priority.  I believe that given the opportunity the Bills would draft Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram and double up on the pass rush as they try to become relevant in the AFC East again.  However, the Bills also have some offensive line woes and with an NFL-ready tackle like Reiff slipping to the 10th overall pick, the Bills won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.  With the exception of Upshaw and Ingram the only other player I could see Buffalo taking here is Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.

If Dontari Poe is still on the board here that becomes the most obvious pick for the Chiefs here.  With the recent signing of Eric Winston, the Chiefs will look at more pressing needs as opposed to signing Jonathan Martin here.   The Chiefs have a very talented young defense but need some linebacker help alongside Pro-Bowler Derrick Johnson.  Kuechly is far and away the best inside linebacker in this year’s draft and would fit right into Crennel’s defense.  Kuechly is exactly what the Chiefs need, a run-stopping linebacker who plays aggressively and with great instincts.  He performed amazingly well at the combine and is the right pick for KC.

The Seahawks hope they have found their quarterback in free agent Matt Flynn.  Signing the back-up to an All-Pro Packers quarterback worked for the Seahawks once before.  The Seahawks could address their defense here with Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw but the interior offensive line is a pressing concern for the Seahawks who will need to give Flynn time to throw and help Marshawn Lynch in the run game.  A month ago DeCastro was not expected to come off the board before his Stanford counterpart Jonathan Martin but now that could very well happen.
The Arizona Cardinals have pressing needs at the Quarterback position, in their receiving corps, and their secondary but with Jonathan Martin available the Cardinals get a great opportunity to improve their offensive line.  Due to illness Martin did not get a chance to work out at the combine but he is the consensus 3rd best OT in the draft.  Martin dominated the Pac-12 during his college career.  He is a great run blocker who can be very effective in the screen game.  He can do a lot to help with the Cardinals’ rushing attack of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams and is a smart move with this pick.
The Cowboys would’ve probably made the playoffs last season over the Super Bowl Champion Giants if not for concerns in their secondary.  Even with the signing of Brodney Pool this is a pick that makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys.  He is considered the most NFL-ready safety in the draft.  Barron is a hard-hitting safety who has a tendency to be wherever the ball is and has the potential to be a big-play safety and an eventual Pro Bowler for the Cowboys.

The Eagles have a tendency to draft linemen on both sides of the ball in the first round and they really need some help stopping the run.  Michael Brockers is a disruptive force that can cause chaos along the line of scrimmage.  He is a large physical tackle that can stop the run and be a leader for the Eagles defensive line going forward.
The Jets really need some help rushing the pass and are going to be thrilled that Courtney Upshaw is sitting here for them at the 16th pick.  The negative on Upshaw is that many consider him too small to be an every down defensive end but too large to be an every down outside linebacker.  Regardless he is a great physical talent that could really help with Rex Ryan’s pass rush.

There is a chance that the Jaguars take Floyd in the top 10 or that the Cardinals could pick him up but I see Floyd being available for the Bengals at the 17th overall pick and the Bengals will not hesitate to draft him.  The Bengals are a great young team but they took a significant step back last year when A.J. Green got injured and they need someone to complement Green.  The opportunity to take a quarterback that was doing nothing for the Bengals and turn that into the best young wide receiver tandem in the NFL is one that Mike Brown should not pass up.
Even with the re-signing of Jared Gaither, the Chargers need to build up their offensive line and find a way to better protect Phillip Rivers and open up the run game if San Diego is going to compete in the AFC West anytime soon.  He is a very agile athlete with the size and long arms you look for in a tackle.  The Chargers need to re-establish the run game and open up the pass game and picking Adams here could go a long way to help San Diego.

The Bears addressed their wide receiver concerns by trading for Brandon Marshall and signing Eric Weems.  Interior offensive line is a huge concern for the Bears and Cordy Glenn would fit well with the Bears offense.  He was a very physical tackle at LSU but fits the NFL better as a guard and has the tools to be one of the best interior linemen in the game.  With Melvin Ingram still on the board the Bears could also go that route but Glenn makes the most sense for the Bears here.

Melvin Ingram might be the best defensive end in the draft and I like him better than the more highly rated Quinton Coples.  He has explosive speed and is very physical off the edge.  He impressed scouts at the NFL Combine and has shown that while he will make a great NFL defensive end, he has the ability to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme.  The Titans largest need is a better pass rush and they will be thrilled to find Melvin Ingram waiting for them at #20 overall.

The questions about Janorris Jenkins have never been about his talent or physicality but instead about his off-field issues.  He is a Division II player whose character had him dismissed at the University of Florida.  While there are teams that would be scared away by Jenkins character issues, the Bengals are not one of those organizations.  The Bengals need some help in their secondary and Jenkins is a perfect pick for them here.  After running a 4.44 40 yd dash, posting a 33.5 inch vertical jump, and showing fluidity in a number of drills- Jenkins has moved ahead of Kirkpatrick according to several scouts.  Leon Hall should be great if he’s recovered from injury but Nate Clements is not getting any younger and Adam Jones is just not working out for the Bengals.  Jenkins could be the cornerstone of the Bengals youth movement in their secondary.

Holmgren does not tend to draft wide receivers early but I believe this is a pick the Browns make.  Cleveland needs to find someone for Colt McCoy to throw the ball to if they are ever going to compete in the AFC North.  Kendall Wright is a speedy receiver with great hands who was largely overlooked in the Big 12 in college because of the success of Justin Blackmon.  He’s a quick receiver with breakaway speed that is very reminiscent of Percy Harvin.  This would provide the Brown’s offense a much needed receiving threat.

I could still see the Lions addressing their offensive line with this pick because they need an heir apparent to Jeff Backus but with the top 4 offensive tackles off the board, the Lions need to address their secondary.  The defense was formidable up front but had issues in the secondary and with the Packers passing attack and now Brandon Marshall in the division, the Lions need a physical corner to lead their secondary.  Kirkpatrick is in the very top tier of this deep cornerback class. He’s a big, physical corner who should be very good inside the redzone and will provide the Lions a much needed presence in their woeful secondary.

Due to salary cap restrictions, the Steelers had to let James Farrior go.  The Steelers are in desperate need of an inside linebacker who can contribute immediately.  Hightower is 6’2″ 265 lb linebacker who ran a 4.6 40.  His combination of size and speed made him a dangerous blitzer for the Crimson Tide and should make him one in the NFL.  He fits the mold of what Dick LeBeau looks like in a defensive player which makes this a perfect match.

The Denver Broncos had a very solid year in using a late season surge to win the weak AFC West.  The offense showed there are some definite weapons there and the run game showed promise.  The defense at times looked elite but had trouble in the front four and stopping the run.  Fletcher Cox is a very strong, physical, versatile defensive lineman that can play on position among the front four and is a perfect fit for Denver’s defensive scheme.

Before the injury to Matt Schaub last season, I thought the Texans were the best team in the AFC.  Even without Schaub the Texans were formidable but when Andre Johnson got hurt was when Houston took a step back.  Houston has two desperate needs – a disruptive nose tackle and a receiving threat to line up opposite Johnson.  26th overall is a little high for a prospect as raw as Hill but with all the potential based on the skills he showed at the combine he has the tools to be an elite receiver in this league.  Hill had an amazing combine showing very reminiscent of two Georgia Tech wideouts who had big playoff performances last season (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas).  He is a 6’4″ wide receiver who ran a 4.36 40 and has an unbelievably high ceiling.   If he develops into the kind of receiver he has the potential to be, this pick will be an absolute steal.

The Patriots are in need of some defensive help.  They were a couple minutes away from their 4th Super Bowl trophy this century but had no way to match up against the Giants wide receiver corps or to put pressure on Manning. Mercilus is a linebacker that lives up to his name.  While he played defensive end in college, many see him being an outside linebacker in the NFL.  He’s an explosive player who knows how to get to the quarterback and that could serve the Patriots very well in trying to rebuild their defense.

Last season the Packers defense was absolutely awful and posted the worst sack rate in the NFL.  An inability to create pressure and sack opposing quarterbacks is the reason the Packers were sent home 3 weeks earlier than anyone expected them to be.  Their very dynamic offense overshadowed the Packers defensive woes but they need some help creating pressure.  LaVonte David has surged up the draft boards as of late with his speed and tackling ability. Despite concerns about his size, he is a talented open field talented who is 100% hustle and plays sideline to sideline.

All-Pro Center Matt Birk was expected to retire.  Though he just signed a three year deal with the Ravens last week, I fully expect that this will be his last season.  The Ravens must find an heir apparent to Matt Birk and Konz is the best center in the draft.  Konz is a very strong, athletic center that could be the cornerstone of their line for the next 10 years and Baltimore should not hesitate to grab him here.

The 49ers came within two muffed punts of making the Super Bowl last year and they did so with a receiving corps that did not catch a pass before the 4th quarter.  San Francisco had no ability to convert on 3rd down and leaned heavily on tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to provide any kind of offense.  Even with the recent additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the 49ers could use some help in their receiving corps.  Considering there are no nose tackles worthy of taking with this pick, San Francisco will address the receiving corps.  Randle is a large physical redzone threat and represents the best wide receiver left on the board when this pick rolls around.

The Patriots have four picks in the first 63 and will most likely use them to rebuild their ailing defense.  This may be considered a bit of a reach but New England needs help at the safety position and after Smith there is a dropoff at this position.  Smith will not be available when the Patriots pick again.   Smith had a great showing at the NFL Combine and shows extreme athleticism and versatility that could make him a force in the secondary.  He is an excellent open field tackler with the potential to create big turnovers.

Coby Fleener has established himself as the best tight end in this year’s draft class that’s pretty thin at the position.  The Giants are in desperate need of a playmaking tight end.  The Giants lost both of their tight ends to injury last year and even though they signed Martellus Bennett, taking the best tight end in the draft makes sense for New York here.  Fleener is a tight end with great hands and surprising speed.  He could be a great red zone threat for Eli and is a tight end who can battle defenders for the pass and will come down with the ball.

THE 2ND ROUND

After Melvin Ingram, I don’t believe there is a better pass rusher out there than Nick Perry.  He has dropped some on the draft board due to concerns in his size but the Colts have a number of needs and one of them is putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  The other three teams in the division have their franchise QBs and the Colts must put pressure on them.  Nick Perry is a great value at the beginning of the 2nd round.

The Rams have a number of needs on their roster greater than running back but Steven Jackson is starting to near the end of his career and the Rams must balance his workload.  Thanks to the recent devaluation of running backs, the 2nd best running back in the draft is available at the beginning of the 2nd round.  With so many needs the best thing the Rams can do is draft the best player available for them and that’s LaMichael James.  I could also see the Rams taking Clemson’s Andre Branch with this pick.

For the Vikings they will be deciding between two South Carolina players at this pick – Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffrey. The Vikings got some very good news when last week CB Chris Cook was acquitted of domestic violence charges. Nonetheless, the Vikings need secondary help and Stephon Gilmore is the last of the top tier of cornerbacks.  When the Vikings have an opportunity to take a top-20 talent at 35th overall the Vikings won’t hesitate.  The wide receiver class is deep enough that the Vikings can still find good talent in later rounds.

The Browns really need a quarterback but there are no prospects worth taking here.  Running back is also a need for the Browns and Lamar Miller is the best on the board.  He has the tools to be an all-purpose running back and a smart pick for Cleveland.

The Bucs made some big splashes in free agency but still need help on the defensive side of the ball.  Andre Branch is a great athlete who can play either defensive end or outside linebacker.

Defensive tackle is a big need for the Rams and in recent weeks Kendall Reyes has shot up the boards.   He is a strong tackle who should solidify the Rams’ defensive line.

If you can name two or more Jacksonville receivers, you are probably a Jaguars fan. The Jaguars gave up a lot to get their franchise QB last year and now they need someone for him to throw to.  Jeffrey is a big, physical first round talent who drops some because of concerns about his ability to separate from defenders. Nonetheless who is a large, physical receiver with great hands.  He’s the kind of guy you can lob a ball into the endzone and he will be the one who comes down with it.  He will make a perfect complement for Laurent Robinson.

The Dolphins could target a wide receiver with this pick given the Brandon Marshall trade but Terrell Manning gives them an opportunity to put more pressure on Tom Brady.

Think of how good Cam Newton was last year.  Now imagine what he could do if he had 2 wide receivers instead of 1…

They already got Mario Williams in free agency and now they get to bookend him with one of the best defensive ends in the draft.

The Chiefs are a young team ready to win and their biggest need is clearly nose tackle.  This pick is a bit of a reach but given the scarcity of quality at this position it’s the right pick for Kansas City.

Since the Seahawks didn’t address their pass rush in the first round, they must address it here.  Especially if Peyton Manning joins the division…

The Eagles have shown interest in Ronnell Lewis.  They continue to use this draft to rebuild their defense.

The Cowboys have some holes on their interior offensive line and get the opportunity to pick up the 2nd best center in the draft with the 46th overall pick.

The Eagles taking a quarterback in the 2nd round when they have an established starter? Here we go again…

The Jets need to solidify their offensive line and a strong, physical tackle like Sanders in the 2nd round is a perfect find for the Jets.

The depth at the cornerback position in this draft is unreal.  Hosley has the potential to be an elite corner and tighten up the Patriots’ secondary.

Alfonzo Dennard’s draft stock has dropped in recent weeks but he is still a great option for the Chargers in the 2nd round.

The Bears makeover of their offensive line isn’t done yet.  Bobby Massie is a physical athlete whose stock has risen lately and could potentially be a first round talent.

The Titans have a glaring weakness at the middle of their offensive line and will be looking to add a center or a guard in the 2nd round.

Regardless of whether or not they add a running back via free agency, the Bengals need depth at the position.  David Wilson is a top 5 running back that can help Cincy immediately.

The Falcons have the greatest tight end of all-time on their roster but Tony G. is getting up there in years and the 2nd best tight end on the board gives them a perfect opportunity to develop Gonzalez’s heir and provides Matt Ryan with yet another weapon as they try to finally win a playoff game.

The Lions franchised Cliff Avril but they still need to find a long term answer at the position and the Lions are hoping that Jones can be it.

The Steelers are trying to get younger on both sides of the line of scrimmage and with the 56th overall pick, Worthy is a steal.

Whether it’s Tim Tebow or Peyton Manning throwing the ball, he’s going to need some weapons.  Chris Givens is a perfect replacement for the departed Eddie Royal.

Osemele was a great offensive tackle in college who will most likely be a guard in the NFL.  He has the talent to go about 25 picks earlier and would be a great find for the Texans here.

The biggest need for the Saints this offseason is obviously outside linebacker.  With no first round pick and very little cap room the Saints must address that need here.  Zach Brown was once projected to be a late first/early second rounder but has recently dropped as other prospects have leapfrogged him.  He’s still the best possible pick for the Saints here.

Aaron Rodgers spends a lot more time on his back than he should.  When your division has Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, and Cliff Avril the Packers need to really address their offensive line issues.

The Ravens are a pretty complete team that are just getting older at key positions.  The Ravens hope that Mychal Kendricks can one day take Ray Lewis’ place.

The 49ers biggest need at this point is nose tackle as they have not yet recovered from the departure of Aubrayo Franklin.  Josh Chapman is the 3rd best pure nose tackle in the draft and a great pick up for San Fran here.

The defensive overhaul continues for the Patriots. Once Still was projected to be a top 15 pick, his stock has fallen in recent weeks but he’s still the best defensive lineman left on the board at this point and fills a need for the Patriots.

With the release of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants (who are a run-first team) must find a complement to Ahmad Bradshaw and Doug Martin is a top 5 running back in this class and the best running back left on the board at this point.

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

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

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

THE 1ST ROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Green Bay Packers defense was absolutely abysmal last season and had the lowest sack rate in the NFL.  Few realized this because of how explosive the offense was.  The Packers could not create any pressure on opposing passers without sending blitzers which forced the offense to have to put up 30 + a game to win.  Mercilus is a linebacker that lives up to his name.  While he played defensive end in college, many see him being an outside linebacker in the NFL.  He’s an explosive player who knows how to get to the quarterback and that could serve the Packers very well in trying to re-vamp this defense.

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

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

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

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

THE 2ND ROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? SNIDE REMARKS?
Let me hear ’em!

Courtesy of Devan Dignan+

Any Road wins this weekend?

Last week we saw all 4 home teams win their wild card match-ups and advance to the divisional round.  With that in mind, does the first road win of the playoffs occur this weekend?

2011 NFL Predictions

The crystal ball is kind of foggy when looking at this NFL season but some things have really cleared up as of late.  As key injuries fall to the wayside, and the season approaches it becomes more clear how this season should shake out.    Some things to keep in mind is that the last time a team repeated as NFC Champions was Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in 1997 and 1998.  Also, on average, 5 new teams make the NFL Playoffs every year.  I considered offseason improvements in my grades as well as the number of returning players and offseason activities given the lockout situation.

Two key offseason injuries were Peyton Manning (Colts) and Tony Moeaki (Chiefs).

Without further ado, my NFL predictions –

* denotes playoff teams

NFC North –

1. Green Bay Packers*

2. Detroit Lions*

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Chicago Bears

NFC East –

1. Philadelphia Eagles*

2. Dallas Cowboys

3. New York Giants

4. Washington Redskins

NFC South –

1. New Orleans Saints*

2. Atlanta Falcons*

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4. Carolina Panthers

NFC West –

1. St. Louis Rams*

2. Arizona Cardinals

3. Seattle Seahawks

4. San Francisco 49ers

AFC North –

1. Baltimore Ravens*

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Cleveland Browns

4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC East –

1. New England Patriots*

2. New York Jets*

3. Miami Dolphins

4. Buffalo Bills

AFC South –

1. Houston Texans*

2. Indianapolis Colts

3. Tennessee Titans

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West –

1. Oakland Raiders*

2. Kansas City Chiefs*

3. San Diego Chargers

4. Denver Broncos

NFL MVP –

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

3. Phillip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

4. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player of the Year –

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

2. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys

3. Clay Mathews, LB, Green Bay Packers

4. Albert Haynesworth, DT, New England Patriots

5. Darelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

Comeback Player of the Year –

1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

2. Albert Haynesworth, DT, New England Patriots

3. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

4. Cedric Griffin, CB, Minnesota Vikings

5. Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Rookie of the Year –

1. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

2. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

3. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

4. Lance Kendricks, TE, St. Louis  Rams

5. Torrey Smith, WR Baltimore Ravens

Defensive Rookie of the Year –

1. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

2. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

3. Marcell Dareus, DE, Buffalo Bills

4. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

5. Phil Taylor, DT, Cleveland Browns

Coach of the Year –

1. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

2. Bill Bellichick, New England Patriots

3. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

4. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams

5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

PLAYOFFS –

Wild Card Round –

(3) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (6) Detroit Lions

(4) St. Louis Rams vs. (5) Atlanta Falcons

(3) Oakland Raiders vs. (6) Kansas City Chiefs

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) New York Jets

Divisional Playoffs –

(1) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Atlanta Falcons

(2) New Orleans Saints vs. (3) Philadelphia Eagles

(1) New England Patriots vs. (6) Kansas City Chiefs

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (5) New York Jets

NFC Championship –

(1) Green Bay Packers vs. (2) New Orleans Saints

AFC Championship –

(1) New England Patriots vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

Super Bowl –

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots

Champion –

New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl MVP: Drew Brees