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MOCK DRAFT - 1ST EDITION
Posted Mar 20, 2012 by Luke Easterling
Updated Mar 20, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Here is the first edition of my mock draft, which will be revised at least once more before draft day. As always, I don’t predict trades.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford – Nobody should get this one wrong come next month. If Luck ends up being anywhere close to what Manning was to this franchise, this pick will be a success.
2. Washington Redskins (from STL) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – Everyone should go 2-for-2 this year, at least. Griffin becomes the face of a franchise desperate for a renewed identity.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU – The Vikes have plenty of needs, but everything I’m hearing out of Minnesota points to Claiborne, rather than USC OT Matt Kalil or Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. This pick will definitely start the domino effect that will run through the first ten picks.
4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama – I know, I know…no running back is worth a top-5 pick. Well, that maybe true most of the time, but Richardson is the exception to the rule, and would make Colt McCoy’s life much easier.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Matt Kalil, OT, USC – If Claiborne and Richardson are off the board, look for the Bucs to become much more aggressive in trying to trade down. If they were to stay here, though, it’s clear that the best value would be Kalil, who could start from Day 1 at left tackle and allow the team to move incumbent LT Donald Penn to the right side.
6. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State – This is the dream scenario for the Rams. They wanted to trade down, but stay high enough to get a shot at the top receiver in this class. Sam Bradford would be one happy man if things shake out this way.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE/DT, South Carolina – The Jags are still in desperate need of a serious pass-rushing threat, and while most have UNC’s Quinton Coples pegged here, I’m going with Ingram, whose versatility sets him apart.
8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M – The Dolphins whiffed on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn in free agency, lost and recent signing David Garrard is definitely not the long-term solution at QB. Tannehill is still very raw in a lot of ways, but he’s likely the pick if the Dolphins want to take a stab at finding a future franchise QB.
9. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU – Carolina needs to improve on the interior of the defensive line, and could also use someone to take some attention away from DE Charles Johnson in pass-rushing situations. Brockers has the versatility to play both tackle and end, and would be a dangerous weapon in both stopping the run and getting after the quarterback.
10. Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa – The Bills could go in any number of directions with this pick. Even if unrestricted free agent Demetrius Bell is retained, the Bills need a young left tackle to build around, who doesn’t come with Bell’s durability concerns.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis – The Chiefs upgraded at right tackle by signing free agent Eric Winston, so they can now focus on solidifying their defense’s front seven. Poe is the perfect fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, where they Chiefs will soon need to replace aging veteran Kelly Gregg.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina – The Seahawks want to land a top pass rusher with this pick, and they would be ecstatic to see Coples still available at this point. He is the best pure pass-rush specialist in this class, and is stout enough against the run to be an every-down standout.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama – The Cardinals have a solid 3-4 front, but need a pass-rushing presence off the edge. Upshaw is the top 3-4 edge rusher in this class, and would make an instant impact.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S, Alabama – The Cowboys have filled a couple of glaring needs through free agency (Brandon Carr, Dan Connor), but they still don’t have a safety to get excited about. Barron is far and away the best in this year’s class, and would likely start from Day 1.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College – This is a popular pick among draft enthusiasts, and for good reason. It’s easily the Eagles’ biggest need, and Kuechly is the easily the best 4-3 MLB in this class.
16. New York Jets – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame – The Jets have filled their need at safety with free agent LaRon Landry, so they can now turn their attention to getting Mark Sanchez a big, strong target who will fight for jump balls and be a threat in the red zone. Floyd would be the perfect complement to Santonio Holmes.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK) – David DeCastro, G, Stanford – This is exactly how the Bengals are hoping things will play out in the first round. They have a huge need at guard, and DeCastro is the best of a solid class this year. Expect him to start immediately.
18. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford – The Bolts let injury-prone left tackle Marcus McNeill walk, and will hand that job to Jared Gaither. However, the right tackle spot could use some attention, and without a 3-4 edge rusher worthy of this pick, Martin would be a solid pick who could come in and be given every opportunity to start right away.
19. Chicago Bears – Fletcher Cox, DT, South Carolina – The Bears also need a left tackle, but with Martin going just before this pick, they’d be better off not reaching for the next best one. Cox would be a stout presence on the interior of the defensive line, and could take some attention away from DE Julius Peppers.
20. Tennessee Titans – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois – This is easily the Titans’ biggest need, and they’d be more than happy to fill it with Mercilus, who was as dominant as any defensive end in college football last year.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre’ Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – This is a luxury pick for the Bengals, so going with the best player available is likely what they’ll do. Kirkpatrick has the size to frustrate even the biggest NFL receivers, and his long arms and nose for the ball make him a consistent play-maker in pass defense.
22. Cleveland Browns (from ATL) – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor – Colt McCoy would be one happy man on draft day if this comes to pass. After filling the need at running back with Richardson, the Browns could grab Wright who, while undersized, is a play-making deep threat who can stretch the field and inject some life into a bland Cleveland passing game.
23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama – This was an area of need before the Lions lost starting cornerback Eric Wright to free agency, and now it becomes even an even more important hole to fill. Jenkins has had his off-field issues in the past, but has top-10 talent and could end up being the steal of the first round if he can keep his head on straight.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia – The Steelers need to do a better job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger, and while youngsters Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert are a good start, they need to continue to build a young fortress along the offensive line. Glenn would be a solid choice as the next piece of the puzzle.
25. Denver Broncos – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State – With the signing of Peyton Manning, there’s no telling what needs the Broncos won’t fill with free agents thanks to Manning’s presence. In any event, there’s improvement needed at defensive tackle, and Worthy is coming off a solid junior campaign and pro day performance.
26. Houston Texans – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina – Andre Johnson turns 31 before next season, and his body is starting to show signs of wear. Jeffery is a risk, but the possible payoff might be too much for the Texans to pass up with a late-first round pick.
27. New England Patriots (from NO) – Ron Brooks, CB, LSU – This is a surprise pick, but the Pats definitely have a need at corner, and they are seemingly in love with Brooks.
28. Green Bay Packers – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin – With the free agency departure of Scott Wells, center becomes one of the very few areas of need for the Packers. Konz is the top center in this year’s class, and would make plenty of sense if Green Bay doesn’t end up signing a veteran at the position.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama – It’s time to start grooming the heir apparent to Ray Lewis, and the Ravens could end up hitting the jackpot with Hightower, who is a perfect fit and could develop into the leader of the next generation of great Ravens’ defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Devon Still, DT, Penn State – There are very few holes to fill for San Francisco, but they could use some youth at defensive end, which is where Still, who played defensive tackle in a 4-3, would move.
31. New England Patriots – Nick Perry, DE, USC – Again, teams picking this late don’t have many holes to fill, so it’s all about taking the best players available. Perry would move to OLB in the Pats’ 3-4 scheme, and provide some useful pass-rushing ability.
32. New York Giants – Andre Branch, DE, Clemson – The Giants never seem to have enough pass rushers, and with Osi Umenyiora possibly departing, taking a great value at defensive end like Branch makes plenty of sense here.