As some of you may know I have a radio show and tv show. My partner in crime, Mark, is a huge Buffalo Bills fan. What this means is he has ample time to study the draft. For years now he has sent me huge packets of mock drafts, and this year is no different. After the jump is 7 pages of NFL Mock Draft Glory for the 1st round
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck Stanford
This is essentially a lock pick at this point. Although there have been miscellaneous rumors regarding the Colts' interest in Robert Griffin III, I think in the end Jim Irsay will go choose the prospect with the higher potential floor than the higher ceiling. Luck has all the intangibles and is undoubtedly the most pro ready prospect scouts have seen since the former face of the Colts Peyton Manning. Honestly, there isn't much to debate here. Maybe Griffin has more intriguing physical skills, but he doesn't come anywhere close to Luck's feel for the game.
2. Washington Redskins -->QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor.
The blockbuster deal in which the Redskins gave three first round picks has now set the stage for Robert Griffin III to become the face of a Quarterback hungry franchise. For anyone doubting the abilities of the Heisman Trophy winning passer dubbed "RG3" who put the Baylor football program on the map, may I refer you to the game film from his 67 -point extravaganza in the Alamo Bowl. What separates him from other run-oriented Quarterbacks is his technically sound throwing motion and his ability to throw from inside and outside the pocket. That being said, he also has the pocket presence that helps him to determine when to take off and run. If for some unfortunate circumstance Griffin does not work out, this trade will go down as one of the most infamously lop-sided deals in league history. Otherwise, Washington may have just secured them a star in the making.
3. Minnesota Vikings OT Matt Kalil, USC.
If the Vikings do in fact hold their ground and stay at number 3, it would be smart for the Minnesota front office to address their porous offensive line that allowed 49 sacks this past season. The release of OT Bryant McKinney before the start of the season came as a surprise to most fans and after a rough season it is clearly evident that the Vikings are in need of a franchise anchor on their offensive line. USC's Matt Kalil is the undisputedly most talented tackle in this year's draft. While Kalil is less than 300 lbs., his 6-7 frame can be filled out and his sound footwork and technique would definitely be beneficial for a struggling Viking team.
4. Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson, Alabama.
Mike Holmgren has spoken out on several occasions against drafting a Wide Out with his first round pick. Why that is? I'm not exactly sure, I assume he believes he can find equal value in later rounds. The two prospects that stick out to me here (if Blackmon really isn't a possibility) are Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne. Although (because I'm a Bills fan) I am well acquainted with Dick Jauron's obsession with defensive backs, I cannot see the Browns taking another after last year’s secondary success. That leaves the hole left by Peyton Hillis at running back that Richardson can easily fill with his excellent blend of size and speed.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Morris Claiborne, LSU.
I may sound like I'm repeating myself here, but the Bucs have to be one of the most disappointing teams of this past season. After a 10-6 campaign that nearly led this seemingly young and talented team to the playoffs, Rahim Morris and his "Youngry" squad in 2011 failed to live up to their hype, forcing Morris out of town in favor of Greg Schiano from Rutgers. That being said, the Bucs have several options with this pick. They could address their mediocre ground game and compliment LeGarrette Blount by taking Trent Richardson from Alabama. Or they could help out their franchise Quarterback Josh Freeman by drafting Justin Blackmon who would surely aid their inept passing attack. But I believe General Manager Mark Dominik will address his aging secondary by drafting Morris Claiborne from arguably the best college defense at LSU. The 6-1, 185 lbs. Claiborne has the skill set to be the next big shut down corner among the likes of Revis, Woodson and Rogers despite scoring horribly on his Wonderlic.
6. St. Louis Rams WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State.
It looks like the Rams lucked out with the Washington trade anyway. Many people believed that St. Louis traded down too far to be able to get a guy like Blackmon or Kalil that could have been there had they stayed at two. But in this scenario, things really worked out. Blackmon is a tremendous talent that will make an immediate impact in the pros. His route running is superb; mixed with his size and speed, Blackmon can be a star for St. Louis.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars OLB/DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina.
The Jaguars may have been tempted to take Ryan Tannehill in this spot, but there's simply no way they'd take two first round Quarterbacks in a row. The signing of Laurent Robinson in free agency also has me thinking that the Jaguars will probably pass on Michael Floyd in order to focus on their lacking pass rush. Although they did re-sign Jeremy Mincey, the Jaguars are still in desperate need of an edge rusher. Ingram may not have the perfect measurements of a true NFL pass rusher, but his speed off the edge and solid block shedding technique make him a very intriguing prospect.
8. Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M.
The Dolphins are just another team that will fall victim to the top heavy Quarterback class on 2012. In failing to acquire either Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn, the Dolphins were essentially forced to pick up David Garrard in free agency. However, I don't think that stopgap measure signing will prevent Miami from looking at a Quarterback in round one. Tannehill from Texas A&M is a product of an excellent series of winter workouts that elevated his stock to being a top ten pick. Although the Dolphins do have to be careful and get their due diligence done because there may be several teams looking to trade up higher than the eight spot to try to draft the now bright prospect in Ryan Tannehill.
9. Carolina Panthers DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State.
Despite the best year passing (and rushing) by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, the Carolina defense neutralized all hope for a winning season. The Panthers were 25th in the league against the run last season, most likely because of their blatantly aging and talent deprived interior defense. Cox has been battling it out with Dontari Poe for the title of top “defense tackle in the class” for a couple months now. But what has me thinking Cox here rather than Poe is the fact that Carolina would require their man to operate out of a 4-3 DT spot. Ironically, Poe’s gigantic size may not be suitable for Carolina and as a result might push him out of the top 10. Cox has the build of a Jay Ratliff kind of player; built but not so big that he lacks pursing ability. He can rush the passer, stop the run and create holes for Carolina’s linebackers for years to come.
10. Buffalo Bills LB Luke Kuechly, BC.
With the promotion of Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator after the firing George Edwards on "Black Monday", the common consensus in Buffalo is that the defense, after a two year failed experiment, will switch back to a 4-3 defense. It seems to be the most logical solution to the Bills' defensive struggles. In doing so, the Bills made a big splash in free agency, signing the all-pro sack master Mario Williams to play left defensive end to the largest contract for a defensive player in NFL history. Lining up next to him at DT will be Marcell Dareus, who matched expectations during his rookie season at both the 3-4 defensive end and later at nose tackle, proving he can play pretty much any defensive line position. In addition, Veteran Kyle Williams who will also play the interior, made a name for himself on the Bills' defensive line when they were in a 4-3 but struggled after his switch to nose tackle. Clearly, Williams' build is better suited for a one-gap responsibility at 4-3 defensive tackle. With Dareus next to him serving the same role, and Mario Williams and Mark Anderson from the outside, it's almost certain that the Bills will be able to stop the run more consistently.
Now, with the Bills at least somewhat fortified on the front four, I think Buddy Nix will be looking for complete his front seven by adding another linebacker. As of right now, Kelvin Sheppard holds the Mike backer spot and Nick Barnett holds the Will. However, the Sam backer spot is currently in question, with Kirk Morrison at the top of the depth chart having done nothing for the Bill last season. While one can argue that receiver is a bigger need at 10, Nix has stressed several times that there is a significant amount of talent in the second or third rounds to be had. One can also argue that OT is a bigger position of need, but it does not seem as though Nix is infatuated with any of the first tackles other than Kalil.
So that leaves Cornerback and Linebacker for the Bill here at 10, and based off his sheer instincts and intelligence, I think the Bills will go with Luke Kuechly with their first round choice. Kuechly will be able to offer the Bills much more production from the start next season than Dre Kirkpatrick of Stephon Gilmore would. He would immediately solidify a hole in their linebacker core and would ultimately complete the Bills front seven.
11. Kansas City Chiefs DT Dontari Poe, Memphis.
This might strike some people as a bit of a surprise pick, but it's really not. Kelly Gregg is contemplating retirement and the Kansas City will be looking for a legitimate nose tackle in the first three rounds. Poe is definitely a better fit in Kansas City’s 3-4 defense than in Carolina’s 4-3. All the best nose tackles in the game (Wilfork, Hampton, etc.) have similar builds to Poe. It’s about being in the right scheme at the right time, and Poe can find that in KC.
12. Seattle Seahawks WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame.
I understand the Seahawks have other pressing needs to address, but it should be hard to pass up a talent like Floyd. Also with a new starter coming in (Matt Flynn), Seattle should want to make his as comfortable as possible with the weapons around him by the time OTAs come along. Not to mention how disappointing Sidney Rice was last year despite not having a consistent passer to get him the ball. The Seahawks have failed drafting Notre Dame Wide Receivers in the past (see Golden Tate) but Floyd's productivity in South Bend despite having a few off the field issues should speak to how good a football player he can be.
13. Arizona Cardinals OT Reilly Reiff, Iowa.
The Cardinals probably would have preferred to select Melvin Ingram with this pick to bolster their front seven, but with the Jaguars taking him seventh overall that obviously will not happen. With that being said, it's now time for Arizona to address their offensive line that all struggled to provide Kevin Kolb with time to read the defense in 2011. They can start by drafting Reilly Reiff, a technically sound prospect form an Iowa program known for producing quality NFL linemen. Levi Brown may currently have the left tackle spot, but there are legitimate questions as to who will play opposite him on the right side. Let Reiff step in there for next season, let him blossom, and I believe he has the potential to shift back over to the left side and anchor Arizona's offensive line.
14. Dallas Cowboys G David DeCastro, Stanford.
DeCastro was another Cardinal who put on a show at the Stanford pro-day this past March. Dallas, despite their record in 2011, is a team that does not have any significantly lacking areas of need. With that being said, they'll be looking for value here and for an impact player who can step in immediately. DeCastro is a player with the intelligence that will allow him to start from day one and stimulate a Cowboy's running game that struggled at times last season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles S Mark Barron, Alabama.
Although Jason Peters, the Eagles' starting LT in 2011, will be out for 2012, Philadelphia went out and signed another former-Buffalo Bills tackle in Demetrius Bell. I personally don't believe Bell is the kind of starting tackle you'd want to be responsible for Michael Vick's blindside, but then again I'm not in the Eagles' front office. Moving on from the offensive line, I can definitely see the Eagles addressing the safety position. Philadelphia hasn't gotten consistently productive play from their safeties since Brian Dawkins left town for Denver. Barron not only comes from a pro-style defense at Alabama, but he was Nick Saban's unquestioned leader and playmaker for the national champion Crimson Tide.
16. New York Jets OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama.
The Jets did absolutely nothing to address their lacking pass rush in free agency. I hate to break it to you Jets fans, but Aaron Maybin is not even close to being the answer to your problems. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are merely stopgap players; solid starters, but not the kind of pass rushers Rex Ryan needs to get pressure on opposing Quarterbacks. With Coples still on the board, the Jets may be very temped to look his way, but I don't believe his build and style of play will fit well at a 34 OLB. Upshaw comes from the best defense in all of college football, not to mention he also played in a pro-style 3-4 scheme while at Alabama. He may not make a huge immediate impact on the Jets, but he's the most sensible pick here for New York's second-class team.
17. Cincinnati Bengals DE Quinton Coples, UNC.
Defensive End may not be the most pressing need for Cincinnati, but with two first round picks, the Bengals can afford to look for pure value. With Frostee Rucker leaving town to play for Cleveland, it might be a smart pick regardless to take Quinton Coples. Despite an exceptional week of practice at the Senior Bowl and a solid performance at the Combine, scouts are still skeptical of Coples because of his lackluster senior season. Although there are questions about his work ethic, his size and strength are too promising to pass up at 17.
18. San Diego Chargers OT Jonathon Martin, Stanford.
This may seem a little far down for Martin to go, but he'll find himself in a good position in San Diego. Now that Marcus McNeil is no longer the anchor of the Chargers offensive line, Martin will have a starting spot from day one. Although Martin won't dominate his man physically on every play, he will provide Norv Turner with consistent smart and well rounded play.
19. Chicago Bears TE Coby Fleener, Stanford.
Chicago struggled again last season upfront offensively, but with Reiff, Martin, DeCastro and Konz all off the board, I can't see the Bears going with a lineman here. Greg Olsen's departure last season was clearly exhibited in Chicago's offensive play in 2011, but Coby Fleener from Stanford can certainly replace him. Fleener fits the mold of a modern day tight end; using his big frame and relative speed to separate himself from defensive backs. He can be a star in this league in the next few years.
20. Tennessee Titans CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina.
Cortland Finnegan's decision to follow his former coach to St. Louis will certainly have the Titans looking for a cornerback with their 20th overall pick. With Morris Claiborne going off the board early, I can definitely see Tennessee taking Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina. A proven three-year starter in the SEC, Gilmore has both the coverage and ball skills to fit the role that Finnegan left in Nashville.
21. Cincinnati Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama.
Oh hey, it's the Bengals again, and luckily for them, there's still some tremendous talent left here at 21. Cincinnati's defense was stellar in 2011, but I think it would be wise for the Bengals to again draft a defensive player. The Bengals' secondary, although superb in 2011, is really getting up there in age. Dre Kirkpatrick's potential is almost limitless. At 6-2, 200 lbs., he possesses the type of size and agility that can turn him into one of the game's next big ball-hawks. But then there's the issue of maturity following an arrest for possession of marijuana that has many questioning his work ethic and dedication to football. Cincinnati, having had struggles with troubled corners (see Adam "Pac-Man" Jones) will have to do its homework on where this kid is mentally, but there's no denying he's a special talent.
22. Cleveland Browns WR Kendall Wright, Baylor.
The question for the Browns with their fourth overall pick was between Blackmon and Richardson, and they decided to go with the latter. Luckily for Cleveland, they have a pick eighteen slots later with which they can select a wide out. Kendall Wight has exceptional speed and was a proven target for RGIII back at Baylor. He's a safe pick for Mike Holmgren, and the Browns can still get Colt McCoy a weapon despite taking Richardson at four.
23. Detroit Lions CB Janoris Jenkins, Northern Alabama.
The Lions made amazing strides on the front seven in the two seasons and now it’s time to address the back end. With number one cornerback Eric Wright leaving for the big bucks in Tampa Bay, it seems almost certain the Lions will be looking for a shutdown corner at 23. With Stephon Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick both going off the board recently, the Lions may have to reach a little bit for Janoris Jenkins. Like Kirkpatrick, Jenkins has had a troubled past that has prevented him from being the type of athlete he could potentially become. Lions will have to do their due diligence, but Jenkins seems to be a good fit here.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama.
An aging Steelers linebacker core could really use an injection of youth, especially now that it appears that James Farrior will not return in 2012. Hightower himself is an interesting prospect. Some believe his large frame is better suited for a 34 OLB, while others feel as though he's better off staying at the mike linebacker spot. Pittsburgh can get a lot of value here, and I'll stress it again: an Alabama defensive prospect is always a safe one.
25. Denver Broncos DT Michael Brockers, LSU.
It's really hard to address what Denver needs going into this year's draft. They made the biggest splash of any team by going out and signing Peyton Manning to a five-year deal. On the defensive side of the ball, it might be wise to aid an aging secondary, but with so many corners off the board already, I can't see them reaching for one. Defensive tackle may not be the most pressing need for Denver, but Brockers can provide some serious push at the 43 DT spot and could only improve an already stellar Broncos front seven.
26. Houston Texans WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech.
It was a rough offseason for the Texans. In order to cut down the cap (for whatever reason) they decided to release the talented veteran Eric Winston who essentially anchored a Texans O-Line that has blossomed in recent years. Then they lose their former first overall pick and star pass rusher to Buffalo (kudos to them by the way). With that being said there are some holes to fill. In regards to Williams, they already have his replacement in Brooks Reed who did a bang up job filling in for him last year. Replacing Winston doesn't seem very logical in the first round with the three big named prospects off the board early. That leaves finding a number two receiver for Andre Johnson and they may be able to find that role in Stephen Hill. Hill, who has the combine to thank for his ascension to being a top prospect, has blazing speed and will be able to draw coverage off on Johnson every once in a while.
27. New England Patriots DE Shea McClellin, Boise State.
Knowing New England, there's a 70% chance that this pick will be traded away in compliance with the typical Belichick stockpile ideology. However in the event that New England does draft here at 31, I believe they will address their front seven after the departure of Mark Anderson, their best pass rusher in 2011. It's been a pass-rusher-heavy draft already, but the Patriots may pick up some serious value by taking Shea McClellin. McClellin measures in at 6-3, 248 lbs. and although he's not exceptionally quick off the ball, he has the type of work ethic that will blend well in Foxboro.
28. Green Bay Packers OLB/DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois.
Other than their running game (which is almost useless with Aaron Rodgers playing the way he does) the one weakness of the Green Bay Packers in 2011 was their pedestrian pass rush. Anyone that watched the NFC divisional championship game against the Giants can attest to how much time Eli Manning was given to dissect the Packers' secondary. The opposite OLB spot to Clay Matthews has been an area of relative ineptitude for a couple years now, even during their 2010 championship campaign. Whitney Mercilus from Illinois might be able to fix that. Although his status as a one year wonder is troubling, Mercilus' humble upbringings has given him a hard working mindset that mixes well with his textbook pass rushers’ frame.
29. Baltimore Ravens C Peter Konz, Wisconsin.
This would be a very solid pick for Baltimore this late in the first round. Current center Matt Birk is now on the wrong side of 35 and it's time for the Ravens to find his successor. Like Alabama is for 3-4 defensive players, very few schools in the country produce more solid offensive line prospects than Wisconsin. Konz is a very reliable blocker who takes advantage of his 315 lbs. frame. Center may not be the most pressing position of need, but the truth is Baltimore was one missed field goal away from going to the Super Bowl last season. In all honestly, they do not need to change much.
30. San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Perry, USC.
San Francisco can pretty much do whatever they want here at 30. To be completely honest this team is set. They're in no place to take a QB in the first round after almost running Alex Smith out of town. All in all, passing on a Quarterback this high in the draft while avoid any possible locker room drama that would occur. One thing they might want to look into the depth defensive end core. Justin Smith had an All-Pro season last year, but he's on the wrong side of 30. Besides both Justin and Aldon Smith, there isn't much talent at defensive end. Perry is one of the best defensive linemen in this year's draft in terms of size. Bring him in, let him learn behind two pro bowlers and see what happens.
31. New England Patriots S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame.
New England has been reportedly interested in trading up to draft safety Mark Barron from Alabama, but assuming that is not the case I think the patriots will look to Smith as compensation. New England could have taken Smith a few picks earlier, but the Packers have been said to be interested in McClellin and the Patriots would be wise not to wait until 31 to take him (especially because Smith should be here anyway).
32. New York Giants OT/OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia.
When you win the Super Bowl, you're pretty much allowed to do whatever you want in the next year's draft. For the defending champion New York Giants, it may be smart to address an injured and aging offensive line. Cordy Glenn himself is an interesting prospect that might go early off the board for a team desperate for a tackle. Luckily for New York in this scenario, no one has decided to do that and Glenn is there for the taking. This wouldn't particularly change much for the Giants right of the bat, but Glenn can certainly be a solid starter for New York in the years to come.