Updated: January 19
1. Indianapolis Colts:
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Easy selection here for the Colts at the top of the first round. Andrew Luck is not only clear and away the best prospect in this draft class, but he might be the best prospect the NFL has seen in the past decade. Drafting Luck while the team has Peyton Manning might not make sense to most, as Luck is an NFL ready quarterback, but both Luck and Manning would demand a ton of attention in the trade market should the Colts want to deal one.
2. St. Louis Rams:
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Rams once again find themselves with a top ten pick. Key needs for St. Louis are wide receiver cornerback and offensive tackle. Brandon Lloyd has been solid but Sam Bradford could really use an explosive playmaker like Blackmon going forward. Blackmon has dominated Big 12 defenses notching over 100 receptions the past two seasons (111 in 2010 and 113 and counting in 2011) and is the clear best wide out prospect this year. Morris Claiborne could be an option but corners are never taken in the top 3. With a now formidable supporting cast on offense, the pressure will be on Bradford to step it up in his third season.
3. Minnesota Vikings:
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings have pretty much been in free fall mode since reaching the NFC Championship game just a couple seasons ago. Christian Ponder is shaping up to be the quarterback of the future in Minnesota. In order to protect their asset in Ponder, the Vikings will look to add the draft’s best offensive tackle here in the top three. Kalil headlined a stout USC Trojan offensive line that only allowed eight sacks as a unit in all of 2011. As an individual, Kalil did not allow a sack throughout the entire 2011 season. Impressive stuff.
4. Cleveland Browns:
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Colt McCoy was given a chance to be the franchise quarterback but the Browns offense is still as feeble as ever. RG3 tore up the Big 12 this year and became a household name winning the Heisman trophy. Really the Browns need more playmakers all over the offense, but that won’t matter until they find one at QB. Griffin put up crazy stats against admittedly not the best defensive conference but 37 tds to only 6 interceptions with a 72.4 completion percentage is impressive (higher completion percentage and less interceptions than Andrew Luck for those of you that like comparisons). Recent rumors suggest Cleveland could be looking to trade up with the Rams to grab Griffin which would be a good idea, because even though the Rams and Vikings are unlikely to draft a qb, plenty of other teams would be willing to part with multiple draft picks to secure RG3.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Something’s not right in Tampa Bay. I’m not exactly sure how the youngest squad in 2010 could regress in 2011 with the same players and coaching staff. Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber are both solid corners at their position. However, character concerns are always a concern for Talib, and Barber isn’t getting any younger. In today’s NFL, three above average corners are becoming more of a priority than a luxury. Claiborne was part of a stout defensive unit at LSU and figures to be one of the first (if not the first) defensive player off the board.
6. Washington Redskins:
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Redskins are probably the team most disappointed that Matt Barkley chose to return to USC for his senior season. The ‘Skins are desperate for a serviceable quarterback and would be historically reaching to draft any qbs not named Luck or Griffin here. Don’t be surprised if they try to persuade St. Louis to part with the number 2 pick. Offensive tackles are always in high demand come draft day and look for Washington to go with one here if they can’t move up for a qb. Jonathan Martin has been a regular starter since his redshirt Freshman year and earned 1st team Pac-12 this past season.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars:
Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
Every year there’s a pick in the top ten that makes people scratch their heads a little bit, and the Jaguars are all too familiar with the phenomenon. In 2010, the team reached for Tyson Alualu in the top ten when he was widely regarded as a late first round pick. Despite changing ownership, the man who pulled the trigger on the Alualu pick, Gene Smith, is still in the general manager role. If Smith likes a player, he has no qualms about reaching for that player. Alshon Jeffrey could be that player in 2012. With Blaine Gabbert getting the look as a franchise quarterback, the Jags could look to add Jeffrey to make his job a little bit easier.
8. Miami Dolphins:
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Dolphins are another team that would like to draft a quarterback only to find none worthy of being selected so high. The offense does have some talented players such as Brandon Marshall and even Reggie Bush showed he could handle being an every down back. Marc Colombo was the weak link of an otherwise solid offensive line. The dolphins would be getting good value with Reiff as many see him to be just as good as Jonathan Martin.
9. Carolina Panthers:
Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Carolina struck gold with the selection of Cam Newton in 2011. As the NFL season progressed, it became increasingly clear that Cam is developing into the next poster child for the NFL. However, with that being said, Superman can’t play both ways. Adding a blue chipper on the defensive side of the ball would be the ideal scenario for the Panthers in the first round, and they have exactly that in Quinton Coples. Furthermore, Coples (or any defensive end really) would mean increased productivity for Charles Johnson and his new lucrative contract extension. Owners and GMs generally like when big money decisions they make pay dividends, and drafting an end to play on the other side of Johnson could go a long with in justifying his extension.
10. Buffalo Bills:
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bills finally got their offense off the ground this season but still found themselves picking in the top ten due to their atrocious defense. Dre Kirkpatrick is a big, physical corner at 6’3” 190 lbs. and would help Buffalo improve its 26th ranked defense. Sidenote: Kirkpatrick recently arrested for marijuana possession could be something that hurts his draft stock. Teams will certainly place more emphasis on his interview and character evaluation when determining his overall value. Other options for the Bills could be offensive tackle and linebacker.
11. Kansas City Chiefs:
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Back when the Chiefs used to be relevant, they were led by a potent rushing attack behind what was basically an all-pro offensive line. Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson had field days running through the holes opened up by Brian Waters and his fellow offensive linemen. Regardless of who is under center for the Chiefs in 2012, they will look to be led by a powerful rushing attack with Jamaal Charles healthy and Jackie Battle. While Battle didn’t exactly set rushing records in 2011, he did show that he would be capable of lightening the load off Charles. Adding DeCastro will be a valuable addition to the offensive line, as the Chiefs look to regain their rushing identify.
12. Seattle Seahawks:
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tarvaris Jackson clearly was not in Seattle’s long term plans when they traded a second round pick for Charlie Whitehurst. He hasn’t exactly panned out either. Ryan Tannehill is definitely a reach here but the Seahawks don’t have many other options at this point. Having said that, Tannehill is the best quarterback in the class without a year of ncaa eligibility left (Andrew Luck could have come back for one more year at Stanford). He managed pretty good stats throwing for 3,700 yards and 29 td’s and at 6’4” 220 lbs. he’s got prototypical QB size.
13. Arizona Cardinals:
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Last year the Cardinals were actually pretty frisky when John Skelton was under center. I’m not sure what that means for Kevin Kolb and his contract extension, but Skelton just knows how to win football games. That being said, the Cardinals will approach the 2012 season with a healthy Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams in the backfield, Skelton/Kolb under center, and Fitzgerald split out wide. That’s pretty solid core of weapons, and I imagine that putting points on the board will only come easier for the Cards as their young players progress. (Sidenote: I can’t wait to look back in a year at this explanation and wonder why I talked myself into an offense led by John Skelton or Kevin Kolb. But again, call me crazy, but I don’t think the unit will be that bad.) As for pick number 13, Melvin Ingram enters the draft as a classic 34 outside lienbacker. South Carolina’s defense was tough to beat in 2011, and Ingram played a huge part in that.
14. Dallas Cowboys:
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
Like most Cowboys draft picks, Janoris Jenkins is talented but character concerns could cause other teams to pass on him. He started at the University of Florida as a true freshman but was dismissed from the team after separate arrests for fighting and marijuana. On the field however, he is the best cornerback available here and Dallas certainly could use another cb. The secondary was clearly the weak link of the team this past season with Terence Newman looking increasingly injury prone. If the ‘Boys can get their secondary locked down they might not lose so many games on last minute drives from the opposition.
15. Philadelphia Eagles:
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
I’ve been following the Eagles my whole life, and everything I’ve learned throughout the Andy Reid era tells me that Hightower (or any linebacker for that matter) will not be the pick. Traditionally, Andy Reid just doesn’t value linebackers as highly as he should. However, this year the neglect of the linebacker position resulted in Casey Matthews and company looking at the back of the running back’s jersey more often than not. Quite frankly, I just can’t see how they don’t take a linebacker here. With rumors of Steve Spagnulo being brought in as the defensive coordinator, he is going to want bigger linebackers that could step up and play the run. At 6’4″, 260, Hightower fits that mold nicely.
16. New York Jets:
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
The Jets are really a mess right now. Between players calling out Mark Sanchez anonymously and the lack of a franchise quarterback fans are growing weary of Rex Ryan’s unfilled Super Bowl promises. Jets management, at least publicly, refuse to admit their need for a quarterback so they will take the best defensive player available here. Despite drafting Muhammad Wilkerson the Jets still need more pass rushing options along the line. Another player to look out for here would be Trent Richardson, who could surely excite the New York fans and (somewhat) make them forget about their disastrous past season.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (f/OAK):
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson slides a bit in our mock draft, but certainly not to the dismay of Bengals fans. Running backs are not as valuable as they once were, and after the Redskins pick, one would be hard-pressed to find a team that really needs a running back. Remember, in 2007, Adrian Peterson went 7th overall, and Trent Richardson is not on the same level in terms of college football running backs. Furthermore, as previously stated, the running back position has dropped in value since the 2007 draft. Will Richardson drop to 17? Probably not. But is it inconceivable? No way, as evident by this projection.
18. San Diego Chargers:
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Chargers turned in a disappointing season for many reasons, one being Phillip Rivers’ inconsistent play. San Deigo can only hope that this year was an aberration for him as he usually leads an explosive offense. Certainly a healthy Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd wouldn’t hurt. The real trouble is the defense which just isn’t great. They could use help at all three levels and would be best served taking the best defensive player available which in this case would be Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw was a sure tackler and helped lead Alabama to the National Championship by playing suffocating defense.
19. Chicago Bears:
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
There are only so many times Jay Cutler can hit Roy Williams directly in the hands with a 40-yard pass, and have him drop it, before you draft a wide receiver. Michael Floyd can make a strong argument as the second best wide receiver behind Blackmon. In fact, in the unofficial S2S position rankings for the wide receiver spot, Floyd is better than Alshon Jeffery. I’m not sure how many other people that cover the draft feel that way (or more importantly, how many people around league circles making the decisions), but the two should be in a battle to be the second wide out off the board. Pairing Floyd with Earl Bennett, then doing anything with Roy Williams that does not include him being a starting wide receiver would set the Bears up nicely for the future.
20. Tennessee Titans:
Peter Konz, OL, Wisconsin
This pick should have a lot to do with Chris Johnson’s performance. Either CJ2K got plain lazy after signing his mega-contract, or the Titans offensive line play just was not up to par. I like to believe that with an upgraded line Chris Johnson will be back to threatening the 2,000 yard mark again next year. Konz anchored the best offensive line in collegiate football last year and has the skills to play any of the interior line positions.
21. Cincinnati Bengals:
Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
The Bengals are pretty solid across the ball. Running back and addressing the offensive line are probably the two areas where the Bengals could upgrade. After stealing Trent Richardson with their first pick, the Bengals could look to add a big body up front to provide some holes for Richardson to run through. Cordy Glenn looks to be the second best natural guard in this draft class behind David DeCastro.
22. Cleveland Browns (f/ATL):
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
If the Browns can reel in two athletes as explosive as Robert Griffin III and David Wilson, it would be the perfect antidote for an offense slowed by a lack of playmakers. Wilson is not a fully polished running back just yet in that he does not have great vision and occasionally try to cut plays back ending up with big losses. He did however break Virginia Tech’s single season rushing record held by Ryan Williams (drafted in the early 2nd round last year). The combine will highlight is best attributes, straight line speed and overall explosiveness, pushing his draft stock into the first round.
23. Detroit Lions:
Mark Barron, S, Alabama
In their first truely relevant season in over a decade, the Lions proved that they have a lot of parts in place for the future. When healthy, the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection appears to be everything for which the Lions have hoped. Defensively, however, there is a lot to be desired. The young defensive line in Detroit should figure things out over the years, so this pick should be used to shore up the secondary. Mike Barron was part of a defense in Alabama that could see multiple prospects come off the board in round one. He would fit in nicely next to Louis Delmas.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers:
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Not too many franchises would be disappointed with the season the Steelers turned in, but Pittsburgh is one of them. They have been very good for a long time but many of those players are beginning to show their age. Vontaze Burflict would seem to be a perfect fit in the “burgh, toeing the line between aggressive and dirty play at times. Probably the most ferocious tackler in the draft, Steelers fans will love Burflict if he can bring the same intensity to the NFL. Side note, Roger Goodell can just mail Burflict his illegal hit fines along with James Harrison’s.
25. Denver Broncos:
Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Denver appears to be building their team around Tim Tebow, which could have a number of draft implications. For starters, a team built around Tim Tebow needs a stout defense and running game in order to win football games. Trent Richardson would be a nice to have here in the first round, but unfortunately (fortunately?) the Broncos won too many games to make that become a reality. Imagine going after teams with a rushing attack of Tim Tebow and Trent Richardson? Not to shabby. Instead, Denver will look defense. Luke Kuechly could be a nice acquisition to solidify the Broncos defense after a highly productive career at Boston College.
26. Houston Texans:
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Interesting spot for the Texans here late in the first round. One could easily make the argument that had Matt Schaub been healthy, the Texans, not the Ravens, would be facing the Patriots this coming week. Defensively the Texans are pretty sound across the board, and that’s the first time I’ve been able to write that in their brief history. Expect the Texans to address the wide receiver spot opposite Andre Johnson late in the first. Wright is a local product from Baylor who could see himself slip into the first round as the draft process progresses.
27. New England Patriots (f/N.O.):
Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
This should be a pretty clear cut pick. Converted wide receiver Julian Edelman saw significant playing time in the secondary. Devin McCourty is a solid player but the other defensive backs in New England were burned routinely. Even though it may seem like that doesn’t matter when you have Tom Brady leading your offense, I’m sure Mr. Brady would appreciate not having to score 50 points a game to win.
28. Green Bay Packers:
Brandon Thompson, DE, Clemson
The Pack have the fewest holes of any roster across the league but as the New York football Giants have shown, you can never have too many pass rushers. Thompson played defensive tackle for Clemson but could be a good fit as one of Green Bay’s 3-4 ends.
29. New York Giants:
Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
The Giants are making their playoff run behind a tremendous pass rush and stellar play from Eli Manning. The offensive line is playing well, but the best move for the G-men in the draft after spending so many first round picks on defensive lineman and secondary players would be to build some depth up front to protect their most valued asset, Eli Manning. Zabrie Sanders was a four year starter at Florida State and should have the experience to contribute immediately at either tackle spot. With Eli playing well and two star wide outs in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, maintaining a strong offensive line should be the first priority in New York.
30. Baltimore Ravens:
Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama
The Ravens were so desperate for a tackle this year they took on the Vikings deadweight Bryant McKinnie. Even if McKinnie was still playing well, now would be the appropriate time to draft an offensive tackle to groom for the future. There is nothing worse for a team with a quarterback as immobile as Joe Flacco than a turnstile at left tackle.
31. San Francisco 49ers:
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Offensively the 49ers seem pretty set in their ways. They’re going to pound the ball with Frank Gore and eliminate turnovers, while putting just enough points on the board to win football games. Defensively, however, this team is a machine. The 49ers are a team built on strong defensive play in order to win games and adding a corner here would make sense. Alfonzo Dennard is the second Cornhusker defensive player to come off the board in the first round, joining fellow teammate Jared Crick.
32. New England Patriots:
Devon Still, DL, Penn State
The Patriots opt for Devon Still here with the second of their two first round picks. Realistically, the Patriots will probably make some sort of trade in order to gain future picks. They always seem to enter drafts with multiple picks in the first round but wisely only seem to use some of those picks. Still could transition into a 3-4 defensive end, and he could prove to be a valuable asset along the Patriots defensive line.