NFL Mock Draft 2.0
The NFL Draft is just around the corner, and Gridiron Experts is zeroing in on who we think each team will take. Of course, one trade on draft day and an entire mock draft is thrown out the window. Odds are that at least one of the teams at the top of the draft will move back, and with rumors flying, we thought a Mock Draft that merged with a readers poll would allow everyone to add their two cents.
#1 Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB
The Andrew Luck pick is a lock for the Colts first overall. The only vote here should be who will the Colts grab at pick 34 overall? With many team needs, including offensive line help, the Colts better think about getting Luck a new OT to avoid having a “David Carr” NFL rookie season.
But with so many team needs and a lack of offensive line talent, who would you pick at #34?
#2 Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III, QB
The Redskins will get their franchise quarterback, but only time will tell on whether or not they gave up too much to move up only a couple spots in this year’s NFL draft. I know you’re never supposed to throw games in the NFL, but a couple late season losses last year and the Redskins would have saved a world’s wealth in draft picks.
#3 Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT
The Vikings, in my opinion, will select Matt Kalil 3rd overall. This year’s crop of offensive talent is below average when compared to previous draft classes, so it only makes sense to take the cream of the crop if it’s a pressing need.
Still, passing on Kalil or trading down to gain extra picks is very tempting. The Vikings are probably looking at other offensive linemen as we speak. Moving back would essentially allow the team to pick another first round player, while still gaining the offensive talent they so desperately need.
The Vikings have reportedly narrowed their choices to Kalil, Justin Blackmon, or Morris Claiborne. What are your thoughts on a possible trade, or would you rather pick someone else here?
Update: It looks like the Vikings may pull the trigger on Claiborne, or try to get the Bucs to trade up here to get in front of the Browns to select Richardson. As of now, the pick looks like Claiborne
Trent Richardson is one of the best players of this year’s NFL draft. Cleveland has a huge need at running back after losing Peyton Hillis in free agency, and former teammate Montario Hardesty can’t seem to stay healthy.
I have been preaching all year that the Browns have smart minds in the war-room and that a plan is in place. Gaining a ton of extra draft picks from trading back out of the top of the draft last year has put the team in the prime position they are now. Rumors are that the team would consider doing something again this year, yet eventually you have to make a pick. Having two first round selections is plenty of power in selecting prime talent; if the Browns move back yet again it better be for additional picks this year. No more future picks are needed, elite talent is needed.
I believe the Browns will entertain offers, but remain here at pick 4 and add this years must-have fantasy rookie.
Tell me what you think, vote in the poll and check out Trent Richardson’s Profile Article
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB
Do you really care about the Wonderlic score? Claiborne is an elite corner and is the best available player here. Tampa Bay has a need at cornerback and would love to add this shut down blue-chip talent to start week one.
Aqib Talib is in serious legal troubles and on the trading block, while Ronde Barber will be 37 at the start of the 2012 season. It makes too much sense not to draft Morris Claiborne here. If for some reason the Vikings beat them to the punch, Kalil would also be welcomed with open arms.
Claiborne is the best cover corner in the draft and may be a better all around player than former teammate Patrick Peterson, who was selected with the 5th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Update: If the Vikings do indeed select Claiborne, the Bucs could go in a number of different directions, from Stephon Gilmore to Fletcher Cox or even Justin Blackmon. Don’t be surprised if it’s Gilmore, the red hot #2 ranked corner.
#6 St Louis Rams, Justin Blackmon, WR
It gets really interesting here. The Rams have already come away with a jackpot of wealth, courtesy of the reaching Washington Redskins desire to make RG3 their guy. The taste is still in the mouths of the St. Louis war-room, and the team could easily consider making yet another deal to gain more picks.
If you have been living under a rock, the Rams acquired two 1st round picks and a 2012 2nd rounder just for trading back from the 2nd overall pick, and are now in a prime position to draft an elite wide receiver.
Justin Blackmon would give quarterback Sam Bradford a much needed weapon, and would also help out Steven Jackson as teams would no longer be able to sell out on stopping the run.
The most interesting aspect of needing a receiver in this year’s class is who’s on the top of your board? Blackmon is tops on Gridiron Experts Top 200 Prospect Board, yet many have Michael Floyd and even Alshon Jeffery ranked high.
Check out: Justin Blackmon’s Profile Article here.
What would you do if you were making the call? What’s your NFL Draft Strategy for the Rams at pick 6?
UPDATE: If Blackmon is gone, the Rams are likely to look at Fletcher Cox or Melvin Ingram. Don’t be shocked if they find a way to get Richardson either. Good chance the move down to accumulate even more picks.
#7 Jacksonville Jaguars, Melvin Ingram, DE
Trade Alert: There’s a strong possibility that the Jags are going to trade down in hopes of selecting a wide-out at a more appropriate spot. Inside rumors are that they are smitten with Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill.
The need for a wide receiver was high on everyone’s boards a couple weeks back. Yet, with the additions of Lee Evans and Laurent Robinson, the panic button to spend a high pick on a wide receiver has been turned off.
The team is likely to continue fixing their pass rush problems. As long as I can remember, Jacksonville has needed some kind of monster on their defensive line to draw double teams, and the search may continue this year. 2011 was the first time in 3 years the team cracked the 30 sack mark on defense (31 total). The Jags have been burned by high investment draft picks in the past with players like Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves, yet Melvin Ingram has been one of the hottest NFL Draft Stocks as of late.
What do you think of Melvin Ingram? Would you draft someone else? Vote right and comment below!
Update: The Jags are reportedly hot to trot for Justin Blackmon.
#8 Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill, QB
Matt Moore or David Garrard? Gimme a break. The Dolphins have been without a franchise signal-caller for over 12 years now, since the great Dan Marino retired. Clearly drafting a quarterback in the second round is also not working for the Phins. Ryan Tannehill will need time to learn how to read NFL defenses, but he is the best option for the team moving forward. Another thing to consider, Miami’s new offensive coordinator is no other than Tannehill’s head coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman. The goal has to be getting Tannehill, no vote on this one.
#9 Carolina Panthers, Fletcher Cox, DT
The Panthers did a fantastic job building their offense in the 2011 draft. Now they’ll look to improve on the defensive side, where the clubs lack of pass rush and sparse run defense are glaring weaknesses. To be competitive in a division where you play two games each against Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, the Panthers will need stronger play along the front of their 4-3.
Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox has seen his draft stock soar, and he’s a perfect fit on the inside of the Panthers D-line where his athleticism would allow him to likely occupy the opposing center and guard. Fletcher Cox, Luke Kuechly, and Mike Brockers are all defenders who could make sense to the Panthers brain-trust.
#10 Buffalo Bills, Riley Reiff, OT
Fans of the Buffalo Bills are really excited about this team, for a change. The club’s fast start last year and huge free agency haul have the Bills Mafia in a frenzy and expecting a contender in 2012. With Buffalo’s glaring need at defensive line taken care of thanks to the signing of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the team can now concentrate on protection.
Iowa’s Riley Reiff is clearly the second best tackle prospect in this draft, and with the team committing so much money to Ryan Fitzpatrick, protecting him is the top priority for this draft. Reiff should be a starter from day one, protecting Fitzpatrick’s blind side at the left tackle spot. Fan’s will cry for a deep threat wide-out target to help move the chains, but the priority list starts with letting your quarterback drop back into coverage without getting killed. There are plenty of value players that the Bills can add in the later rounds that will help out the offense.
#11 Kansas City Chiefs, Dontari Poe, NT
When GM Scott Pioli was in New England, he championed the Patriots selection of monster nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Now Pioli will hope to make the same type of impact pick by grabbing the top nose tackle in the 2012 draft class. Memphis NT Dontari Poe combines massive size, strength, and rare athleticism for a 346 pounder. He also has the versatility to play either in the middle in a 3-4, or inside in a 4-3.
Stanford G David DeCastro is another strong possibility at this spot, but it’s unusual to see an interior offensive lineman selected this high. Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly is also an option.
Update: It’s looking less likely that Poe will be the option here. The Chiefs could use a strong nose tackle, but Pioli might not want to take a chance on the risk that some feel Poe represents. Barron, Brockers or Kuechley are strong options.
#12 Seattle Seahawks, Luke Kuechly, ILB
Rumblings out of Seattle would have you believe that the Seahawks are very interested in Ryan Tannehill and won’t hesitate to pull the trigger if he inexplicably dropped to twelve. Don’t buy it. With Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, and newly acquired Matt Flynn already taking snaps, there’s no way they add another young signal-caller.
Instead they’ll settle for the top inside linebacker of this draft class, Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly. A tremendous athlete and incredible tackler, Kuechly draws favorable comparisons to James Laurinaitis. He’d be an excellent fit at the MLB spot in Seattle’s 4-3 defense. News of Barrett Ruud being expected to start at the middle linebacker position is a great sign the team is getting their defensive depth chart in check. Ruud played with Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley on the Buccaneers back in 2007-08, he will be a vocal leader moving forward. Adding a player like Kuechly now could be a great way to hit the ground running. Ruud will be 29 in May and will need an understudy.
Other candidates for the spot could be the top rated pass rushers on the board, such as Quinton Coples, Courtney Upshaw, or Fletcher Cox.
If Kuechly is off the board, look for the top remaining DE.
#13 Arizona Cardinals, Michael Floyd, WR
Surprising pick, but as we all saw last year, the Cards offense struggled to consistently move the ball. The team plans on having an open quarterback competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, but they will need to surround their signal-caller with better talent if either of them is to have success. When Anquan Boldin was in his prime in the desert, opposing defenses weren’t so easily able to double-team All-Pro wide-out Larry Fitzgerald. Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd is a big-time talent and huge upgrade over anyone currently on the Cardinal’s roster.
Update: Reily Reiff is a strong candidate if Kalil slides.
#14 Dallas Cowboys, Mark Barron, SS
This selection is popular amongst mock drafters because it just makes too much sense, just like when most of us knew the Cowboys would select Tyron Smith last season. Dallas did well to add ILB Dan Connor and CB Brandon Carr to shore-up other defensive weaknesses. Now they can draft the top strong safety prospect in this draft to fill a void that has plagued the franchise for many years.
Jerry Jones and company are very likely to draft a defender in the first round. Other candidates that could make some sense are defensive lineman Dontari Poe, Michael Brockers or Quinton Coples. The only realistic offensive candidates for the ‘Boys would be along the line, so don’t rule out Stanford guard David DeCastro or Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn.
Update: Brockers and David DeCastro also very likely here.
#15 Philadelphia Eagles, Quinton Coples, DE
The rumors about going after a quarterback are not rumors, the team is looking towards the future. If Matt Barkley had declared, I’m sure the Birds would have had a great shot at a guy like Ryan Tannehill 15th overall, but with such a high demand, Tannehill will be snatched up much earlier. The price to move up into the top 7 to 10 range on the draft board is too much for a team that is accustomed to picking further back. The Eagles have been aggressive in the past and may move up at the right price, but odds are it will be for a player like Fletcher Cox. Fortunately, there is a high number of big uglies to choose from.
One of Andy Reid’s trademarks is depth along the lines, and Coples fits the Philly defensive scheme well. He has the versatility to play outside run-stopper and to move inside to rush the passer on third downs.
#16 New York Jets, Whitney Mercilus, DE
The Jets are a dark horse team, they’re solid throughout much of their depth chart and have no pressing needs. Adding depth to the offensive line would be nice, some more receiving talent would also be a great addition, but in this mock draft I feel the Jets take the best player available, and Whitney Mercilus at 16 is a solid bargain.
Reportedly the Jets love Ingram and are willing to consider moving up to acquire his services. In this scenario, he’s not available, so they take the next best fit for their defense.
#17 Cincinnati Bengals, Stephon Gilmore, CB
Easily could be drafted in the top 10, but Mock Drafts aren’t always about best player available, sometimes you have to evaluate the teams needs while making assumptions for what best suits a club. The Bengals had to hear all season how losing Johnathan Joseph made the Texans season and how bad of a decision it was to let him walk. Stephon Gilmore fixes everything with his impressive height and toughness. A three-year starter for the Gamecocks, Gilmore has also gained some deep experience against top competition and should excel in the pros.
Who would you select with the Bengals 17th overall draft pick?
#18 San Diego Chargers, David DeCastro, OG
Kris Dielman’s unfortunate early retirement will cause the interior line to be a major off-season focus for the Chargers. Stanford’s David DeCastro is the top guard prospect we’ve seen in the draft in quite some time, and appears to be about as safe a pick as there is in the draft. He has the look of a perennial Pro-Bowler who could anchor the San Diego line for the next decade.
Other needs that the Chargers could consider here include a pass rusher or in the secondary. Michael Brockers or Courtney Upshaw make some sense, and there’s been some talk of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick being considered as well.
#19 Chicago Bears, Kendall Wright, WR
From a perpetual area of weakness to strength in one off-season. The trade for Brandon Marshall and this selection of the electric Baylor wide-out will finally give Jay Cutler some formidable receivers to throw to, much to the lament of recently departed offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Both Marshall and Wright are huge upgrades over any receiver on the Chicago roster, and their arrival gives the Bears the offensive firepower to hang with division powers Green Bay and Detroit.
Offensive line is also a major concern for the Bears, so they could select David DeCastro should he fall this far, or take a tackle such as DeCastro’s teammate Jonathan Martin, or Georgia’s Cody Glenn.
#20 Tennessee Titans, Courtney Upshaw, DE
The Titans don’t have a lot of glaring holes, so they’ll be open-minded in their draft approach. Here they get the chance to grab the best available pass-rusher to fortify their defensive line. Upshaw would be an upgrade over Derrick Morgan and would likely start opposite of the newly acquired Kamerion Wimbley.
Other candidates for the Titans to consider include cornerback, where Dre Kirkpatrick is the top available option, or along the offensive line where Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin could make some sense.
#21 Cincinnati Bengals, Chandler Jones, DE
Having already drafted to fortify their defensive backs, the Bengals would be ecstatic to also be able to add a talented defensive tackle to their formidable defense. Jones is one of the hottest names out there and he’s a good fit for what the Bengals like to do with their defensive line.
Should the Bengals pass on a corner at #17, they’ll grab Dre Kirkpatrick here. Other positions they could consider are offensive line and wide receiver.
#22 Cleveland Browns, Jonathan Martin, OT
Having committed at least one more season to trying to win with QB Colt McCoy, the Browns will now have to surround him with better talent (see Richardson, Trent) and do a better job of protecting him. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin is the consensus top offensive lineman on the board, and his addition (along with Richardson’s) means the Browns walk away from the 2012 first round with a much improved running game.
The Browns are also paper thin at wide receiver and it’s entirely likely that they could really consider one of the hottest commodities in this draft, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill.
#23 Detroit Lions , Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
In a perfect blend of fit and need, the Lions end their long cornerback drought and select the top player on their draft board. Kirkpatrick is an excellent fit for the Lions scheme and fills a huge need. He had some off the field issues in college, but the charges were eventually dropped. That sort of stuff doesn’t seem to worry the Lions too much, anyway.
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers, Dont’a Hightower, ILB
Alabama ILB Dont’a Hightower is a perfect Dick LeBeau player: big, mean, and fast. The Steelers parted ways with longtime ‘backer James Farrior this offseason, so Hightower fills an immediate void. Hightower has the versatility to play inside or outside and projects to be a premium gap-plugger and pass rusher.
#25 Denver Broncos, Michael Brockers, DT
Denver doesn’t have the best track record at selecting defensive tackles, but after a significant addition to their offense in Peyton Manning, they’ll look to fill the biggest need they have on the defensive line. John Fox will be making a big push to improve his defense, and the big tackle from LSU is a huge step in that direction.
Should The Broncos bypass their most glaring need, it’s entirely possible that they could go in a number of different directions. Offensive line is also a big need, as are tight end, secondary, and even receiver.
#26 Houston Texans, Nick Perry, OLB
What a difference a year can make. The Texans nearly went from worst to first in total defense, thanks to some solid 2011 draft selections, and true team MVP, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. In this scenario, the rich get richer. Houston lost Mario Williams to Buffalo, so grabbing an elite 3-4 outside linebacker like USC’s Nick Perry gives Houston arguably the top linebacking corps in the league. Not to mention the devastating Trojans 1-2 punch of Perry and Brian Cushing.
Gary Kubiak likes to utilize a lot of two tight end sets. It would not be a surprise to see the Texans nab the top tight end prospect in this draft, Stanford’s Coby Fleener. They also lost the entire starting right side of their offensive line, so an elite tackle or guard are also priorities. Other areas of concern in Houston include nose tackle and depth in the linebacking corps. Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter both remain sub-par receiving options, so Stephen Hill would also be a fantastic fit.
#27 New England Patriots, Shea McClellin, DE
The Pats’ defensive front continues to be an area of concern. Bill Belichick loves versatile pass-rushers, who are capable of playing in the complex New England scheme that incorporates elements of the 3-4 and the 4-3. Boise State’s Shea McClellin has the intelligence and versatility that make him an excellent fit for the Patriots.
There’s always the possibility that the Pats could trade out of this spot, but the most likely scenario is they stay here and move out of their own pick (#31).
#28 Green Bay Packers, Kendall Reyes, OLB/DE
The Packers have one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers in Clay Matthews, but they are a little thin on the other side. The Green Bay defense went from a strength to a major concern in 2011. They had problems in the secondary and their pass rush ranked fifth from the bottom. Reyes would be an excellent fit in the Green Bay system, and would help restore some balance to a team that was far too one sided last year, as we saw in the playoffs.
Ted Thompson subscribes to the “best player available” approach to the draft. If they feel a defensive lineman fits their system, they’ll likely select him, regardless of needs. Other areas that could be options are along the offensive line and in the secondary. Running back is also a need, but unlikely in round one.
#29 Baltimore Ravens, Peter Konz, C
Offensive line is the biggest need for the Ravens, and it just happens to turn out that the top center prospect in this draft falls into their laps. Baltimore re-signed long-time center Matt Birk, but lost guard Ben Grubbs to free agency. Birk is nearing the end of the line, so Konz could be an immediate upgrade at both center or guard.
The Ravens are always in the market for more pass rushers, and they do an excellent job selecting them in the draft. Should a lineman or linebacker that fits their system slide to this spot, Ozzie Newsome won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith or an offensive tackle could also both be candidates for this selection.
Drafting Peter Konz makes the most sense for the Ravens, but who do you really want?
#30 San Francisco 49ers, Amini Silatolu, OG
Silatolu is the classic Division II “diamond in the rough” type of NFL prospect. He’s favorably compared to other small school lineman like Larry Allen, Mike Iupati and Jahri Evans. Silatolu measured out well and had a good performance at the NFL combine. He’s a mauler who projects to be the type of mean and tough guard that fits well with what the 49ers like to do on offense.
Should the Niners bypass their line, they have been linked to Stanford tight-end Coby Fleener, a player that head coach Jim Harbaugh recruited and coached in college.
#31 New England Patriots, Stephen Hill, WR
The most likely scenario for this pick is for the New England Patriots to trade down. With Bill Belichick and company already acquiring a pass rusher at 27, they could easily trade down with a receiver-hungry team and stockpile future draft picks- a now common ploy of the Patriots draft manifesto.
Stephen Hill is one of the hottest commodities on the market and he’s not expected to make it out of round 1. It wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Patriots to actually draft Hill. Other candidates for this pick include DE Jerel Worthy and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
#32 New York Giants, Coby Fleener, TE
Late last season, both Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard suffered ACL injuries. With the recovery times of both of them possibly leading into the regular season, the Giants are rather thin at the position. They’ll jump at the chance to grab the draft’s top tight end prospect, Stanford’s Coby Fleener. Fleener is a light-blocking, dependable receiver who would make a nice addition to New York’s high flying pass attack.