2012 NFL Final Mock Draft – Round 1

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.

Other Possibilities:

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.

Other Possibilities:

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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

PREVIOUS PICK: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB – Illinois

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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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.

Other Possibilities:
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

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks?
Let me hear ’em!!

And as always, please follow me on Twitter @can_of_corn




2012 NFL Mock Rough Draft with Edits

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

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

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

THE 1ST ROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE 2ND ROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!
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Breaking down the Bracket

WRITTEN BY: RODNEY SCEARCE

One great aspect of Can of Corn Sports is the opportunity we provide our readers to contribute to the conversation and tell their own stories.  Middle Relief stories are those written by guest columnists.  If you would like to write something for Can of Corn or have a great idea – please tweet @can_of_corn or email us at canofcornsports@ymail.com.

I’ve taken my time, I’ve analyzed my picks, and I’d like to assure you that I’m confident with my selections.

But, I’m not.

This is by far one of the toughest brackets I’ve ever had to deal with.  There are so many wild cards in play this tournament season.  Here’s a few to keep in mind:

1.)    More mid-majors (and dangerous ones, too) – I’m counting eight (nine, if you want to include the Bonnies) that are all easily capable of winning one game.  A couple of them will surely make the Sweet 16.  Unfortunately, there are so many this year that we see last year’s Cinderella (VCU) set to take on one of the mid-majors most likely to make some noise, Wichita St.  That’s disappointing because both of them could have made a run.  The other six to be careful of when filling out your bracket: St. Louis, Long Beach State, Murray State, Creighton, Ohio, and Belmont.

2.)    UCONN – Which team are we going to see out there?  They’re extremely talented.  The have all the athleticism and size to take on anyone, but they so often this year have played like goofs and made their team look like a joke.  Calhoun is back and they seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  Watch out for them in the second round against Kentucky, they may just break everyone’s bracket.

3.)    Henson’s wrist – I’m a Tar Heel fan and I’d like to say they are going all the way, but if Henson’s wrist limits him, my guys won’t make it out of the Sweet 16.  If something amazing happens and they do, Kansas will destroy them in the Elite 8.  Yes, Henson’s wrist on his non-shooting hand is that big of a deal.

4.)    Fab Melo – This guy just doesn’t get it.  He can’t keep his grades up (“up” is a deceiving word here) and has now effectively ruined his team’s chances of a run.  With Melo now ineligible, when does Syracuse lose?  I think they still cruise in to the Sweet 16, but Vandy takes them easily.  The first team with an effective inside game will beat them.  Hell, we may even have our first 16-seed take down a #1.  I highly doubt it, but I’ve seen Asheville play and they are no joke.  Still, at the same time, I feel bad for Melo.  Syracuse is a really good school and it’s probably much more difficult for him to keep up his grades there than it would be at most other schools.  I bet he now wishes he had taken that signing bonus at Kentucky.  If Calipari can get DeMarcus Cousins through eligibility, he can do it for anyone.

I’ll run through each of my brackets.  With the wild cards in-play and all of the uncertainty, I folded and went with my gut opinions.

South

As much as I’d love to write down UCONN for my Sweet 16, I can’t convince myself to gamble against Kentucky so early.  Unfortunately for Indiana, they aren’t playing in the state of Indiana and quite frankly, they stink anywhere else – I’ve got Wichita State matching up against UK in the Sweet 16.  This one is no problem for Kentucky and they cruise to the Elite Eight.  The bottom half of the bracket is much less competitive.  Baylor and Duke, no doubt about it.  I’ve got Baylor taking Duke because no one on Duke will be able to defend Perry Jones III.  Unfortunately for Baylor, Kentucky can defend Jones and Kentucky will subsequently represent the South in New Orleans.

West

I don’t care who wins between Memphis and St. Louis because at the end of the day, neither beat Sparty.  I keep hearing about New Mexico making a run.  I just can’t convince myself that they will beat both Long Beach and Louisville.  I’ve got Louisville making the Sweet 16.  Murray State is good, but one win against St. Mary’s didn’t do it for me – Marquette tramples them.  Florida wants to welcome Missouri in to the SEC in a potential Round of 32 matchup.  Not happening – Missouri works them and Bradley Beal chucks up the deuces to Gainesville because he’s headed to the NBA.  Missouri over Marquette and Michigan State easily beats Louisville.  The Missouri and Michigan State matchup will be a tough one to call.  In one bracket I’ve got Missouri and another I’ve got Michigan State.  If I had to bet, I’d go with Draymond Green and Coach Izzo.

East

Syracuse makes it to the Sweet 16 because Kansas State isn’t big enough to take advantage of no Fab Melo.  Wisconsin will try to slow down Vandy and turn it in to another drawn-out boring game, but it won’t happen.  Vandy wins this one, no problem.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they don’t get to play UNC and Duke each game so even if you have them making it to the Sweet 16, they won’t beat Ohio State.  Ohio State will take on Vandy in the Elite Eight because a Melo-less Syracuse can’t compete with them.  Ohio State wins this game.  It’ll be tough, and Vanderbilt could pull it out, but I still like the Buckeyes.

Midwest

I like UNC to beat Creighton and take on the Wolverines in the Sweet 16.  NC State will roll over the Aztecs, but hit a wall against the Hoyas as Georgetown moves on.  Kansas will not have a problem against St. Mary’s or Purdue and I’ll still take the Jayhawks over the Hoyas as they move on to the Elite Eight.  UNC will beat Michigan because Michigan can’t run with them, end of story.  The UNC/Kansas winner will rest solely on Henson’s wrist.  If he’s healthy, the Heels will match up just fine against the Jayhawks in this rematch from the Final Four in 2008.  Roy Williams will get his vengeance and the Heels will march on down to New Orleans.

My predictions for the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, & National Championship

Final Four

Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, and North Carolina will make up my Final Four.  From these 4, I believe we’ll see a rematch from the December 3rd game in Lexington – the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels.  Kentucky is more talented and by all accounts, they should win.  However, I will NEVER pick Kentucky over the Tar Heels.  EVER.  I say the Heels get their revenge from the one-point loss at Rupp and cut down the nets for their 3rd time in 8 seasons.  You can discount this as me being a homer, but let’s be honest, the Heels have a real shot and I’m not making any drastic predictions.  However, I’ll go back to my wild cards – if Henson’s wrist is not 100%, UNC will be lucky to even make the Final Four and you may see the Wildcats get Calipari his first championship (only to be taken away a few years later following another NCAA investigation).  – Sorry, had to say it.

Enjoy the tournament.

Comment below with your Final 4 picks and remember to click here and  join Can of Corn’s FREE NCAA Bracket Challenge There will be a prize for the winner!

Rodney Scearce is the Public Relations Coordinator for a major professional sports team.  He earned his bachelor’s from the University of North Carolina and received a Master’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Sport Business Management from the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida.  Having grown up in the Research Triangle, Rodney was born into a basketball culture.  He grew up a fan of the Charlotte Hornets but his passion is college basketball.  He was in the heart of North Carolina for the golden years of Dean Smith and Coach K.  He understands the Tobacco Road rivalry and considers his own involvement a badge of honor.  Though he strongly dislikes Duke, his respect for the program and the rivalry is second to none.  Rodney is a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Carolina Panthers, but will tell you that his expertise lie within college basketball and everything involved with it.   You can follow Rodney on Twitter @rscearce.

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+

Was It Only a Dream? : The Story of Wilmeth Sidat-Singh

In honor of Black History Month, we will be releasing a story every week about a black athlete or team whose story has rarely been told.  In order to appreciate the array of sports we have today, I feel that it’s important to understand where they have come from and to sing the praises of those contributors whose stories have mostly been forgotten. 

“With his head hung and a towel draped over his head, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh sat on the sidelines in College Park, Maryland, humiliated. He suffered the pain of hatred and bigotry as he just sat there; helplessly; watching his team’s hopes of an undefeated season grow fainter with every snap of the ball. Syracuse was a much better team than Maryland but Sidat-Singh, their star halfback, could not go out on the field and lead the Orangemen to victory as he had all season. After all, he was black, and at the University of Maryland blacks were not allowed to compete in intercollegiate sports.”

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“Did you see that thing?
That’s Wilmeth Sidat-Singh!
The Syracuse Walking Dream!
Oh, he was amazing!”

  ~ Attributed to Grantland Rice1

PHOTO: RL Young, 2005

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was born in Washington, D.C in 1918 as Wilmeth Webb, the son of Elias and Pauline Webb.   When Wilmeth was seven, Elias Webb died of a stroke and his mother then married Samuel Sidat-Singh, a doctor from the West Indies.  Wilmeth adopted his stepfather’s surname and the family moved to New York City.2   Wilmeth Sidat-Singh grew up in the Big Apple with an incredible love for sports.  He learned how to play basketball, football, baseball, and tennis on the sandlots of Harlem near the place Dr. Sidat-Singh practiced medicine.  Young Wilmeth spent hours discovering how to throw a football and shoot a basketball along childhood friends John “Wonder Boy” Isaacs, Eyre “Bruiser” Saitch, and Jazz legend Duke Ellington’s son, Mercer.  Wilmeth quickly grew to be an extraordinary athlete.  Isaacs recalled that he once saw Sidat-Singh throw a football “60 yards, flat-footed” and that on the basketball court he was a fast, powerful, and dynamic player.   Sidat-Singh was a rare talent and Isaacs was not the only one who noticed.3

As he grew and went on to attend a DeWitt High School in New York, Sidat-Singh became a two-sport standout in football and basketball.  Whenever Wilmeth had a ball in his hands, it seemed that he was capable of anything.   John Isaacs once explained that, “anything he [Wilmeth Sidat-Singh] put his mind to, he would do it.”  Sidat-Singh became renowned for his explosiveness on the basketball court when he led DeWitt High School to a title in 1934.  In 1935, Sidat-Singh made the all-city team3 and led the Govs to a second consecutive preparatory championship.1 After his senior year; Wilmeth was awarded a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University.   Though everyone in his hometowns of Washington, D.C. and Harlem, New York knew he was black, people began referring to him as a Hindu.3

Nobody took much notice of Sidat-Singh his freshman year at Syracuse because in the 1930’s, freshmen were athletically ineligible.  The following year when Sidat-Singh was able to play for the basketball team, he picked up right where he left off at DeWitt.  The athletic superiority of the player wearing number 19 was immediately noticeable1 and papers began writing about Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, the “Manhattan Hindu”.2 Sidat-Singh facilitated the offense and had a great ability to lead his team on the floor and control the pace of the game.  For all three seasons that he was at Syracuse, number 19 led his team in scoring and brought Syracuse basketball to prominence.  They had three straight winning seasons with Wilmeth at the helm.  His senior year at Syracuse the “Manhattan Hindu” led his team to a 14-0 record and an unofficial national title.3

Though he had no Hindu descent and was born and raised in the U.S., the African American Wilmeth Sidat-Singh became largely known as the nation's premier Hindu athlete. Photo Courtesy of Jack Rimer.

Although Sidat-Singh was a great basketball player, he was not taken seriously as an athlete.  He was viewed as more of a novelty than anything.  Even though he was Syracuse’s greatest star he was demeaned because of his race and forced to live off-campus in the poorest parts of the college town.  In the media, the press continued to have misconceptions about his race as they deemed Wilmeth the nation’s only “Hindu Basketeer”.  They did not recognize his unmatchable talent on the court, only his mistaken racial association.  Sidat-Singh had never claimed to Hindu and had even tried to explain at one point that he had “never been to India” but regardless, the press continued him a “full blooded Hindu” and that was what made him newsworthy, not his athletic talent.1 Syracuse tried to perpetuate the misnomer by asking Wilmeth to wear turbans and traditional Indian garments but Wilmeth refused.4 If all Sidat-Singh had accomplished was an exceptional basketball career, the only mention of his name may have been the continued cases of mistaken racial identity.  However, Syracuse assistant football coach Russell Simmons, Sr. saw something in Sidat-Singh in 1936 that was going to make Wilmeth a household name.5

As previously mentioned, Wilmeth had been a multiple sport standout throughout his youth and high school career.  Though he was brought to Syracuse on a basketball scholarship, Sidat-Singh participated in a number of intramural sports, football among them.   During the fall of 1936, Coach Simmons decided to go watch a touch football game between two of the Syracuse dormitories and became intrigued with the young man who was calling the plays for one of the team.5 He was only about six feet tall and 190 pounds3 but he had a vibrant playing style, was quick on his feet, and every pass of his was on target.  As the game progressed, Simmons figured out that the young man calling the signals was the school’s basketball star Wilmeth Sidat-Singh.  Coach Simmons recalled that he immediately halted game play and went down on the field to Wilmeth and said, “Singh, you don’t belong here.  You belong down on that other field with the varsity.”  Sidat-Singh had always enjoyed the game of football and after his sophomore year, despite his basketball coach’s worries; he took Simmons up on his offer and decided to become a two-sport athlete at Syracuse.5

Wilmeth quickly excelled on the football field and showed that he was just as talented on the gridiron as he was on the hardwood.  The arm that Simmons had admired and the speed that made him a basketball phenom made Sidat-Singh a perfect fit for Syracuse’s single-wing offense.  Wilmeth played the halfback position which was a hybrid position that demanded the swiftness of a running back and the throwing ability of a quarterback.1 Throughout his collegiate football career he exhibited dominance over every team he faced.  In any athletic endeavor he pursued, Sidat-Singh seemed invulnerable and his abilities were unparalleled.  On the basketball court, he established supremacy with his quick feet and ability to score quickly.  On the field, his passes were on target and he was able to get by any line that he matched up against.  That is, until t Sidat-Singh tried to run past a line called the Mason-Dixon.1

In the week leading up to the Syracuse game, Sam Lacy from The Washington Tribune ran the story, “NEGRO TO PLAY U. OF MARYLAND, THEY CALL HIM A HINDU”.  The article explained how Sidat-Singh had been born Wilmeth Webb and how his mother, Pauline, had remarried.  At the time many schools in the South, including the University of Maryland, had a strict segregationist policy that they did not play against black teams or athletes in any sport.   Days earlier this same exclusion had not applied to an alleged Indian, but now was being applied to a black star.  Maryland refused to let Sidat-Singh play on their field and Syracuse conceded to their demands.2

When the day of the game arrived, Sidat-Singh had traveled to Maryland with the team but the Orangemen would take the field without their star player.  With his head hung and a towel draped over his head, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh sat on the sidelines in College Park, Maryland, humiliated.  He suffered the pain of hatred and bigotry as he just sat there; helpless, watching his team’s hopes of an undefeated season grow fainter with every snap of the ball.  Syracuse was a much better team than Maryland but Sidat-Singh, their star halfback, could not go out on the field and lead the Orangemen to victory as he had all season.  After all, he was black, and at the University of Maryland blacks were not allowed to compete in intercollegiate sports.1

“Seared in the flames of withering injustice”; 10 miles away and more than 30 years later that is how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech would phrase

PHOTO: Courtesy of SU Athletics

the sting that Sidat-Singh felt.Syracuse running back Marty Glickman looked on in disgust, because a year prior, he had felt it too.  Glickman had been invited to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as a member of the 4 x 100 relay team.  Right before the race, he and teammate Sam Stoller were taken off the team and replaced by Ralph Metcalfe and Jesse Owens.   Glickman and Stoller were both Jewish and the relay team they were a part of was a favorite to win the gold medal that year (which it eventually did, setting a world record that would stand for 20 years).  It was believed by many that United States Olympic Committee had replaced Glickman and Stoller at the request of Adolf Hitler who did not want his athletes to suffer the embarrassment of losing to a couple of Jews.  Glickman had been denied the greatest honor an athlete can know because of his race.7 He had been seared in the flames of intolerance.  Now, just fourteen months later, Marty Glickman stood yards away from his teammate and friend Wilmeth Sidat-Singh as the inferno of prejudice continued to smolder.3

Glickman had considered whether or not to take a stand and sit out the game as well but was afraid of being depicted as a “trouble making Jew”.  The decision to play against Maryland was one that he regretted all his life.3 The Terrapins defeated Syracuse 13-02 and their victory was credited to being better able to handle the field conditions but it was clear that Sidat-Singh was the difference. Following that game, Sidat-Singh returned to the line-up and became the nation’s best two sport athlete.  In his senior year, he would defeat the legendary Sid Luckman’s Columbia squad 13-12.  He was so famous by then that Maryland and Duke both lifted their racial exclusions for the Syracuse game.  He defeated Maryland at Syracuse 53-01.  His greatest triumph came when he scored a major upset against the Rose Bowl bound Cornell Big Red by throwing six passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the game’s final six minutes to lead the Orangemen to a 19-17 comeback victory.  This performance prompted writer Grantland Rice to jot down the lasting words, “Did you see that thing? That’s Wilmeth Sidat-Singh! The Syracuse Walking Dream! Oh he was amazing!”8   Sidat-Singh was amazing as Rice had written but he would never escape the discrimination of college sport as his senior year he was forced to sit out of a basketball game against the U.S. Naval Academy due to the color of his skin.4

The Syracuse Walking Dream was amazing and one of the best athletes of his era. Upon graduating with a degree in zoology, Sidat-Singh began looking for opportunities to play sports professionally.  It was well-known that the National Football League (NFL) had never allowed blacks among their ranks.  As a result, Wilmeth decided to return to basketball and play the game that had brought him to collegiate athletics in the first place.1

He immediately signed with the Syracuse Reds and instantly became a star.  In December of 1939, Sidat-Singh and the Reds defeated the Original Celtics 40 – 37.  Sidat-Singh led the scoring with 14 points.  Wilmeth only spent one season with the Syracuse Reds before he left to join childhood friends John Isaacs and Eyre Saitch as members of the Harlem Renaissance.9 He had moved back to Washington, D.C. after graduating from Syracuse in 1939 to live with his longtime girlfriend Marjorie Webb (no relation) and regularly commuted to New York to play with the Rens.  By the time that the “Syracuse Walking Dream” joined the Rens, they were no longer what they once were.  The team had grown older.   Clarence “Fats” Jenkins and Charles “Tarzan” Cooper were gearing up to retire.  Coach and owner Bob Douglas planned to build his team around younger stars such as Isaacs, Saitch, William “Dolly” King, and Sidat-Singh.  Douglas hoped to make Sidat-Singh the focal point of his offense.10

As the 1940’s arrived, the Harlem Renaissance ran into fiscal concerns and broadcaster Hal Jackson pursued Sidat-Singh for his up-start Washington Bruins basketball team.   Jackson was able to recruit the hometown hero and made him the first major signing of his new team.   Jackson was excited to have his first big star but Bob Douglas insisted that Sidat-Singh was still under contract with the Renaissance.   Sidat-Singh opted to pursue every possible athletic opportunity that he could while he waited for the expiration of his contract.  He played semi-pro football with the U Street Lions, won a Colored City Championship with the Treasury Department fast-pitch softball team, and even played singles tennis.1

By the time that Wilmeth was contractually eligible to play with the Bears it was 1941 and Jackson had assembled a cast of collegiate all-stars, former Globetrotters, and former Rens to complement Sidat-Singh.  Jackson had lured Tarzan Cooper out of retirement to act as a player-coach for the newly named Washington Lichtman Bears (after team sponsor Abe Lichtman).   In the season opener, Sidat-Singh led the Bears with an unheard of 18 points (at a time when an average score for a winning team was around 30) as the Bears easily defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He served as the center of the Bear’s offense that entire season as the team played won several games before packed houses.1 When he was not running down the hardwood; Sidat-Singh walked the beat as a member of the Washington, D.C. Police Department.3

The following season, several of Sidat-Singh’s former teammates from the Rens joined Wilmeth in Washington John “Wonder Boy” Isaacs, William “Dolly” King, and Eyre “Bruiser” Saitch all drove down from New York on the weekends to play for the Bears.  That season Sidat-Singh averaged 20 points a game and in a game against the Baltimore Mets, he scored, a record at the time, 28 points in the same state where years earlier he had not been allowed to play football.1 The Washington Bears were an elite basketball team during the 1942-43 season.  They finished the season 66-0 and went on to beat the Oshkosh All-Stars in the World Championship Tournament in Chicago.  Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was not at Chicago Stadium to share in his team’s glory.   In August of 1942 (mid-season), Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, feeling an incredible sense of duty to country, had decided to join the United States Air Force.10

Sidat-Singh left sports behind to defend a country whose ideals and freedoms were not available to him. PHOTO: "Washington City Paper", 2008

Before the 1940’s, it was extremely rare for blacks to fly airplanes – especially for the U.S. military.  Nonetheless, in 1942, the American commitment in Europe and Asia had escalated and the U.S. Air Force wanted any pilot they could find.  Just like American society, the military was segregated.  Wilmeth was designated for assignment with the all-black 332nd Fighter Group.3   Today, many know the Fighting 332nd as the Tuskegee Airmen.  In May of 1943, Sidat-Singh graduated from flight school and was ready to serve his country.1

Not long after his graduation, the news broke that the “Syracuse Walking Dream” had gone missing during a training exercise.1 On May 9, 1943, Sidat-Singh’s P-40 plane failed while he was flying a routine mission over Lake Huron.    His flight trainer, C.I. Williams saw the whole thing happen.  He claimed that Sidat-Singh did not deploy his parachute in the free fall and had drowned with his plane in the lake.Many refused to believe that Wilmeth was dead.  Among those convinced he was still alive was John Isaacs who remarked, “If you saw him swim … you’d understand.”1 Six weeks after the crash, divers found the body of Wilmeth Sidat-Singh wrapped up in his parachute and stuck to his plane.3At the young age of 25, a great competitor and a greater person had been lost.  He was an athlete who had unmatched talent and a person who had unparalleled resolve.  The Syracuse Walking Dream was almost too good to be true.  It was as if he could do anything that he put his mind to.  That is unless, he put his mind to eating at a white lunch counter, sitting in the front of a bus, playing football in the state of Maryland, or being treated as an equal.

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh died for a nation that was founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” but had never lived up to that creed.  The Syracuse Walking Dream had left his own endeavors behind because he believed in a concept that did not seem to believe in him.  He chose to stop playing the games he loved and excelled at to fight for a democracy that for so long had fought against him.  He protected freedoms that he had always been denied.  He defended a dream that society would never allow him to realize.   For a country that had made him, and those who looked like him, a pariah, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh made the ultimate sacrifice.  He gave his life and just like that, the dream was over before it had ever really begun.

Courtesy of Devan Dignan+

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1 Dave McKenna, “The Syracuse Walking Dream”, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2008.

2 Ron Fimrite, “Sam Lacy: Black Crusader”, Sports Illustrated, October 29, 1990.

3 Luke Cyphers, “The Lost Hero”, The Daily News, February 25, 2001.

4 Gerald Horne,“The End of Empires: African Americans and India”, Temple University Press, 2008.

5 Sal Maiorana and Scott Pitoniak, “Slices of Orange: Great Games and Performers in Syracuse University Sports History”, Syracuse University Press, 2005.

6 Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”, August 28, 1963.

7 Larry Schwartz, “Owens Pierced a Myth”, ESPN.com, Accessed June 9, 2010, http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016393.html.

8  “SU to Honor A Pioneer — Wilmeth Sidat-Singh”, Syracuse University Athletics, Accessed June 7, 2010,  http://www.suathletics.com/news/2005/2/24/sidat-singh.aspx.

9 “Countdown to Kickoff: The Legend of Wilmeth Sidat-Singh”, Syracuse University Athletics, Accessed June 7, 2010, http://www.suathletics.com/news/2003/8/9/sidat%20singh.aspx.

10 Hal Jackson with Jim Haskins, “The House that Jack Built”, Colossus Books, 2001.