It’s that time of the year ya’ll. In less than a month 32 GM’s will decide the fates of the talented college football players who entered the draft this year. Here’s my uninformed opinion on how the first 32 picks will pan out.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB: Stanford:
This is a done deal. Owner Jim Irsay has made his man-crush for the Stanford QB who some say is the best prospect since Elway very public. The Colts cut hall of famer Peyton Manning to make way for the young Cardinal signal caller. The Colts are in full rebuild mode and what better place to start than with a face-of-the-franchise quarterback?
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB: Baylor:
Bruce Allen and Mike Shannahan saw the writing on the wall after last year’s grossman/Beck debacle. They made a power move and traded 2 1st round picks and a 2nd for the #2 overall pick and the right to select the stud QB from Baylor. Griffin has exceptional arm strength, has a high football IQ and great work ethic. The skins already have a pretty good defense, if they can protect griffin and add some playmakers on the outside they can get themselves out of the cellar of the NFC east.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT: USC:
It’s not shocker that the Vikings need to add some beef to the line. They lost Bryant Mckinie and Charlie Johnson did a less than stellar job of keeping rookie QB Christian Ponder upright. Kalil, the brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, is by far the best blindside protector in the draft. The Vikings are also very thin at CB, so LSU CB Morris Claiborne is also a possibility here.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB: Alabama:
I know a lot of people think that Blackmon or Tannehill are the logical selections here, but I disagree. First, if history is any indicator GM Tom Heckertt would much prefer to trade back and stockpile draft picks. While this strategy has seemed to only net the Browns mediocre talent, they have a history of favoring this move. Second, they selected UNC wideout Greg Little last year who is a very similar prospect to Blackmon. Neither are burners, and both project as Anquan Boldin-esque physical receivers. Richardson is an absolute monster in the mold of Adrian Peterson. Mike Mayock says he’s the best blocking back in the draft, and his receiving skills and breakaway speed are undeniable. In my opinion, he’d be much more of an asset to their offense and Colt Mccoy’s maturation.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB: LSU:
I think GM Mark Dominik will throw a fit in the draft room if/when the Browns take Richardson, but the Claiborne is not a bad consolation prize. Ronde Barber is likely back for his last year and Aqib Talib has been a mess of the field. Clairborne is an elite talent who will excel in the Bucs’ cover 2 scheme. They could really use a LB but the value just isn’t there at 5. If they don’t trade down and the draft plays out like this, I think it’s a no-brainer.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR: Oklahoma State:
This would have to be the dream scenario for GM Les Snead. This would net young QB Sam Bradford the #1 Wr he so desperately needs. He’s been working with #2’s and 3’s his whole career and this would give him a go-to target to help open up defenses. Other possibilities here are DT such as Donteri Poe.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB: South Carolina:
The Gamecock pass rusher is exactly the prospect Jaguars GM Gene Smith likes. Safe pick, talented player with good character. While they could really use some weapons for Gabbert or someone to replace Guy Whimper at tackle, I think Smith will opt to beef up a DE position that needs help. There are some questions as to whether Ingram has the size to hold up full time at defensive end, but his talent is undeniable and his non-stop motor will appeal to Smith.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB: Texas A&M:
The Dolphins are quickly becoming the running joke of the NFL. No marquee free agents want to go to South Beach. After getting left at the altar by both Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, the Dolphins will shift their attention to the Aggie signal caller. Tannehill is very raw and has only 19 starts at QB under his belt, but his upside is high. Add to that the fact that new Miami OC was Tannehill’s college coach and the fit seems perfect. The ‘phins could also use a WR so Michael Floyd is an outside possibility.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT: Mississippi State
Carolina had the 25th run defense in 2011 and to call their interior d line porous would be generous. They spent two third round picks on DT’s in 2011 but they are desperate for an impact player at the position. With Steve Smith an impending free agent and little talent at WR outside of him, Michael Floyd is a possibility but I think that Cox will be hard to pass on here.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT: Iowa:
Current starter Demetrius Bell is currently unsigned, and the Bills could use to add some bulk to their offensive line. Reiff could step in right away and start at the tackle position and help keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright. The Bills have made some serious improvements to their pass rush this off season, and their defense looks like a force to be reckoned with. A defensive back is also a possibility, and had Flloyd not landed in Carolina he would have been a great fit.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Keichly, OLB: BC:
The Chiefs most glaring weakness is at NT, but there aren’t any true Wilfork-like protypes in the top of this year’s draft. Scouts have said that Dontari Poe would be more suited to play end in the 3-4 base defense that the Chiefs run, and they already have Glen Dorsey and Tyson Jackson locked up there. Keichly would be paired on the inside with Derrick Johnson to improve on an already stout Romeo Crennell-led defense. He’s instinctive and athletic, as demonstrated by his outstanding combine results. Cornerback and o-line are also possibilities, but the value just isn’t here at this spot.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE: UNC:
The Seahawks recently locked up Red Bryant at the defensive end position, but as the Giants showed you can never have too many good defensive ends. NFL film guru Greg Cosle recently compared Coples to a raw Mario Williams, who has all the athletic ability but needs to play up to his potential and develop a pass rush repertoire. This is great value for the Seahawks here. They could also use a corner back so dre kirkpatrick and stephon gilmore are other possibilities at this spot.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB: Alabama:
The Cardinals defense lacks any impact pass rushers at the OLB position. While there are questions as to whether Upshaw is a true 10+ sack guy, he has the talent to excel in the Cardinals 3-4 defense. The Cardinals also have serious needs along the offensive line, but Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams would not be good value here, unless the Cardinals decide to trade down.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, Safety: Alabama:
The Cowboys have done a good job this offseason of upgrading a porous secondary by signing free agent CB Brandon Carr. Selecting Barron will be another step in improving a pass defense that was torched in 2011. Barron is a true playmaker and would be an instant upgrade over Gerald Sensabaugh at the free safety position. The ‘Boys could also use some help in the pass rush department to upgrade over Anthony Spencer, but the value isn’t here at this spot.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dont’a Hightower: LB, Alabama:
The linebacking corps was easily the biggest weakness for the Dream Team’s defense in 2011. The Casey Mathews experiment failed horribly and the position needs upgrade badly. While Hightower might not be ideal value here, he can step in at MLB from day one and improve the Eagles defense. The loss of Jason Peters made tackle a huge need, but I’d imagine the Eagles will address this in free agency with either Marcus Mcneil or Demetrius Bell. Another possibility would be SC CB Stephon Gilmore, with the impending release or trade of Asante Samuel.
16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR: Notre Dame:
With the recent addition of Tim Tebow, the Jets made it clear that they are not supremely confident with Mark Sanchez as their signal caller. In Sanchez’s defense, the Jets are thin at WR. Plaxico Burress proved to be slow and washed up after his stint in the bin, and Santonio Holmes isn’t a true #1. The Jets really need an pass rusher but with the three best pass rushers off the board the value isn’t here. With Mark Barron gone the Jets will look to add a go-to guy for whoever ends up being their starting QB next year.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: ‘Dre Kirkpatrick, CB: Alabama:
The Bengals made a mistake last year by letting Jonathan Joseph leave via free agency. After Leon Washington had a season ending injury they were paper thin at the position. Kirkpatrick is a solid cover guy, in spite of some concerns that his ideal position is safety. Even if he ends up having to move to safety, that’s also a position of need for the Bengals so it will be a solid pick either way. They could also use some help along the offensive line, so Cordy Glenn could also be the pick here.
18. San Diego Chargers: Michael Brockers, DT: LSU
After being a perennial contender the Chargers roster has been depleted and the team is in somewhat of a rebuild. After cutting Marcus Mcneil and losing Vincent Jackson to free agency AJ smith needs to restock the cabinet. After selecting Corey Liuget last year, AJ Smith will select the LSU DT to play the other DE position. Brockers is big, athletic and can rush the passer. Other options here would be a WR like Kendall Wright or an offensive linemen.
19. Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn, OT: Georgia
The Bears really need to improve an offensive line that got Jay Cutler killed the past two years. Gabe Carimi should be healthy this year and step back in at right tackle. Mike Tice is the new offensive coordinator in Chicago and as former NFL offensive lineman he’ll sure be running a ground and pound attack. Glenn is a swing tackle who can also play guard. This would enable the Bears to move Chris Williams inside to guard and would vastly improve one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. Defensive back is also a big need so Stephon Gilmore could also be the pick.
20. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Gilmore, CB: South Carolina:
After losing Cortland Finnegan to free agency, the Titans will look to add a playmaker to their secondary. Gilmore is a big, physical corner who will fit their bump and run coverage scheme. They could use an infusion of talent at WR so Baylor WR Kendall Wright is another option at this spot.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR: Baylor:
With the 1st round pick acquired from the Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade, the Bengals will add another playmaker for young QB Andy Dalton. Wright didn’t run fast as expected at the Combine, but he plays much faster on tape. He’ll be paired with stud AJ Green to give Andy Dalton a potent 1-2 punch at WR. The bengals could also use an offensive guard, so David Decastro from Stanford would also be the pick here.
22. Cleveland Browns: David Decastro, G: Stanford:
The Browns will look to beef up their offensive line to protect their new franchise running back. Decastro is an aggressive mauler and will instantly upgrade the Browns o-line. While they could really use a WR at this spot, I think rueben randle would be a slight reach and Stephen Hill might be too much of a project for the Browns liking. They could also really use a pass rusher so Vinny Curry and Nick Perry would also be options here.
23. Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins: CB, North Alabama:
The Lions’ playoff loss to the Saints, where their secondary got utterly torched, was a glaring example of how they really need to upgrade their secondary. Their best cover guy Eric Wright left via free agency and they absolutely have to add some talent at the position. Jenkins is a mess off the field, getting kicked out of Florida and fathering 4 children by the ripe age of 22. Still, talent overrides a lot and I think the Lions will take the talented cover guy. They could really use a tackle, but I think Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin would be reaches here.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Zeitler, OG: Wisconsin:
The Steelers offensive line has been the team’s weakness the past few seasons. Aside from stud center Maurkice Pouncey, they lack elite players at the position. It’s been a revolving door at tackle, with players like Flozel Adams and Jonathan Scott handling the duties the past few seasons. While I think Cordy Glenn would be the Steelers dream, they’ll settle for the rough and tough interior Badger lineman. I think if Dont’a Hightower were to fall he’d be a perfect replacement for James Farrior, but if not they’ll opt to reinforce the trenches.
25. Denver Broncos: Dontari Poe, DT: Memphis:
With DT being a huge weakness going into last year’s draft, many including myself projected Elway to select Marcel Dareus with the team’s #3 overall pick. They opted for Von Miller, who looks like he’s going to be one of the top 5 defensive players in the league for years to come. This year, they’ll go with the boom or bust tackle from Memphis. After his outstanding combine, many are starting to take a second look at Poe’s lackluster game tape, and he’s drawing comparisons to former busts Ryan Sims and Jimmy Kennedy. He had only 1 sack last year coming against Austin Peay, so he has certainly not lit it up against legitimate competition. Still, I think the potential is too big to pass up on at this point. I could also see elway pairing Demerius Thomas with fellow Yellow Jacket Stephen Hill to give Peyton another big target to throw to.
26. Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin, OT: Stanford:
The Texans lost a lot of key players this year via free agency and trade. RT Eric Winston was released and signed with the KC Chiefs. The offensive line, which led the way for the league’s best rushing attack, needs to be replenished. Martin is athletic and not your typical mauler, and he’s a perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak runs. He can replace Winston and give the Texans bookend tackles. The Texans are also looking for a complement to Andre Johnson, so don’t rule out Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle.
27. New England Patriots: Vinny Curry, DE: Marshall:
The Patriots started implementing more 4-3 defensive looks last year, and actually generated some pass rush with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. Anderson left via free agency and Andre Carter is coming off of a serious leg injury. I know a lot of people project the Pats to take pass rushers every year, and they seldom do. This year I think this will change. They made some nice free agent additions with Robert Gallery, Stephen Gregory and a few WRs. Curry is ideal size at 6’4” 265 and was productive all four years at Marshall. He’d be a nice addition to a team that could use some impact pass rushers at the position.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE: Illinois:
The Packers defense, which was one of the best in the league in 2010, really regressed last year. Losing Cullen Jenkins proved to be pretty detrimental and teams double and tripled teamed Clay Mathews, as he was the only real threat off the edge. While there are some ‘one year wonder’ concerns about Mercillus, he racked up 16 sacks playing in the big 10 last year and is explosive off the edge. I also could see Ted Thompson adding another threat for #12 and selecting Stephen Hill, but ultimately I think he’ll go with a pass rusher.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C: Wisconsin:
The Ravens heartbreaking playoff loss to the Patriots made two things clear: they need to beef up their offensive line and they need to add a true #1 WR. I am really torn on this pick, but with the 37 year old Matt Birk on his last legs and guard Ben Grubbs signing with New Orleans, I think Ozzie Newsome will opt to take a lineman with this pick. Konz could come in and play guard this year and then take over at center when Birk hangs up the cleats for good. Stephen Hill, Reuben Randle, Alshon Jeffrey and a pass rusher line Andre Branch could also be the pick here.
30. San Francisco 49’ers: Stephen Hill, WR: Georgia Tech:
The 49’ers have one of the most talented rosters in the league, and do not have many glaring holes on the roster. They could use another elite cover corner, but the value isn’t there at this point in the draft. Many say that the signings of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham make receiver a low priority, but no one knows how much the 35 year old moss has left in the tank and Manningham is a #3. Michael Crabtree is looking to be a top 10 bust and they still need a study #1 for the future. Hill is raw, and did not have a ton of experience playing in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. Regardless, his upside is undeniable and I think the 49’ers would be wise to take a flier on him at this point.
31. New England Patriots: Jerel Worthy, DT: Michigan State:
The Pats will add another explosive defensive lineman with this pick. He would be an upgrade over Kyle love and would give the Pats some bulk and athleticism next to Vince Wilfork. The Pats are always liable to trade down, so that shouldn’t be ruled out. Depending on how confident they are with Shane Vareen, I could also see the Pats taking a running back like Doug Martin or Lamar Miller.
32. New York Giants: Andre Branch, DE: Clemson:
The rich get richer as Jerry Reese goes back to the formula that has produced two Lombardi’s in the past five years: more pass rushers. Osi is in his contract year and Justin Tuck showed serious signs of breaking down in the first half of last year. Branch could come in as a rotational pass rusher and eventually succeed Tuck and take over the spot opposite JPP. A lot of people have the Giants taking an outside linebacker like Zach Brown, but the Giants simply don’t invest premium picks on linebackers. Colby Fleener is another name gaining some buzz, but the signing of Martellus Bennett and having Jake Ballard back next year makes this illogical. I would also not be surprised to see a WR like Alshon Jeffrey or Reuben Randle, or possibly a DT like Penn State’s Devon Still.