It’s another one of my mock drafts just as the playoffs are underway. I have added team needs for this mock draft and round two will be involved in the next mock I make. Matt Barkley and Landry Jones have been removed because they both decided to stay in school. As always, feel free to comment with your own opinions on what your teams should do.
1) COLTS (QB, OL, S) – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
The Colts have a few directions to go with this pick. They can trade the pick, take Luck and trade Manning, take Luck and keep Manning, or take someone else and keep Manning. Ultimately I see the Colts taking Luck because even with Peyton back and healthy I believe they are multiple pieces away from returning to dominance. They need to revamp the offensive line, restructure a pathetic defense and somehow hold onto Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in the next two years if they want to win a championship with Peyton at the helm. Peyton is out, Luck is in.
2) RAMS (WR, OL, CB) – Matt Kalil, OT USC
I will probably flip-flop on this pick at least five times before the draft in late April. Kalil is extremely talented and easily the best offensive lineman in the draft. He is quick, very strong, and an incredible pass protector. However, Justin Blackmon is a big time wide receiver and dominated in the bowl game vs. Stanford. Kalil is the pick, for now.
3) VIKINGS (CB, WR, OL) – Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
Many Vikings fans reading this pick might be scratching their heads. With Blackmon on the board, why would the Vikings not take him? I agree that Blackmon is a monster, but the Vikings desperately need help in their secondary. Claiborne has the size, speed and man coverage ability to play in this league for a long time. Because the Vikings are a primarily running team, their need for wide receiver can wait into the second round. If Claiborne slips because of a poor combine, Blackmon would become the selection. Right now, I’m going with Claiborne.
4) BROWNS (WR, DE, RB) – Justin Blackmon, WR OK St
Blackmon is an absolute monster. He reminds me a lot of Terrell Owens. Blackmon has incredible size, speed, route running and is a decent run blocker for a wide receiver. He will drop the occasional pass, but Blackmon makes a ton of big plays. He’s Owens without the character flaws. Win, win scenario for the Browns.
5) BUCCANEERS (CB, OLB, WR) – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB ALABAMA
The Bucs need help in their secondary and Krikpatrick can go a long way towards fixing it. Kirkpatrick plays great man coverage and has locked down every receiver he has faced this year. He has incredible size for a corner and is the obvious pick for the Bucs.
6) REDSKINS (RB, QB, DT)- Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
The Redskins could use a quarterback, but they can’t pass up on Richardson’s talent. He is literally a reincarnation of Adrian Peterson. He has size, strength, incredible speed for a bigger back, breaks tackles that most humans couldn’t dream of making. Plus he’s going to fall in this draft due to most teams at the top not needing running backs, just like Peterson fell to seventh overall in 2007.
7) JAGUARS (DE, WR, OL) – Quentin Coples, DE UNC
The Jags need a pass rush. Coples is the best pass rusher in the draft. Hmmmmmmmmmm…….
8) PANTHERS (DE, WR, CB) – Melvin Ingram, DE South Carolina
The Panthers are another team that needs a pass rush. Ingram has good size and great pass rushing ability. He also plays the run extremely well (44 tackles on the season) and has good athletic ability. Ingram will help a poor front seven get to the quarterback much better in 2012.
9) DOLPHINS (QB, OL, DE)- Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
The Dolphins have to pick a QB here, despite how well Matt Moore played down the stretch. RG3 has great deep ball accuracy; he’s a great athlete and has very good arm strength. He has made a number of fourth quarter comebacks and has shown incredible leadership for a college player. RG3 has a major issue, however. He is incredibly undersized. Generally speaking undersized quarterbacks do not make it in the NFL and despite his Heisman, he might suffer the same fate.
10) BILLS (OL, OLB, WR) – Jonathan Martin, OT Stanford
The Bills, despite giving up the fewest sacks this year, need to find a true left tackle for the present and future. Martin is a great run blocking offensive lineman and would fit the Bills system quite well. Where he sometimes struggles is in pass protection against blitzes. Playing in a division with Rex Ryan and his exotic blitz packages, Martin will need to improve in this aspect of his game, regardless of what team he goes to. However, because of his size and strength, he makes sense for the Bills.
11) CHIEFS (DT, OL, DE)- Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
Reiff is one of the underrated offensive linemen in this draft. Reiff is an excellent run blocker, as are most offensive linemen to come out of Big Ten schools. What separates Reiff from other tackles in this draft, minus Matt Kalil, is his incredible footwork. Reiff is so quick that despite the fact he may struggle at points in time against the better blitzers in the NFL, midway through his rookie year he should be able to block almost anyone. Reiff is this year’s Nate Solder, incredibly underrated and will succeed for a long time.
12) SEAHAWKS (QB, OLB, DE) – Andre Branch, DE Clemson
Branch stormed onto the scene late in the college football season. He has a motor that never quits and an incredible first step off the line. Branch is a dominant pass rushing end and reminds me a lot of Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap is a monster against the pass and has done wonders for the Bengals pass rush this season. The Seahawks struggled to get to the quarterback and Branch could go a long way to fixing what by all accounts is a mediocre front seven at best.
13) CARDINALS (OL, WR, OLB) – Courtney Upshaw, OLB Alabama
The Cardinals have a few options here. They had a solid defense last year and could be aggressive and take a wide out to play opposite Fitz. However, the Cardinals could use to beef up their linebacking core. Upshaw is a great run stopper and a textbook tackler. Where he could make this defense great and make a difference is his pass rushing ability. Upshaw along with Dockett and Campbell would make that pass rush very good, and with Peterson, Wilson and Rhodes in the secondary, this defense would have the potential to be one of the best in the league.
14) COWBOYS (S, CB, OL) – Mark Barron, S Alabama
Barron rounds out what is an impressive draft class from the University of Alabama. He is easily the best safety in this draft and one of the more underrated players as well. He is a ball hawk, a good tackler and a great run stopper. He needs to improve on his zone coverage but can be a prototypical strong safety from day one. The Cowboys have a poor secondary and Barron will help them a lot in 2012.
15) EAGLES (OLB, ILB, OL) – Luke Keuchly, ILB Boston College
The “dream team” was anything but that this season. They were abysmal on defense, especially against the run. They missed easy tackles, couldn’t cover, and were just a mess all season. Keuchly is the best tackling linebacker in this draft and by far the best run stopper. He has a great nose for the football and is an incredibly intelligent player. Keuchly needs to work on his coverage a little, but he is the obvious pick for a team desperate for linebackers.
16) JETS (WR, OLB, S) – Vontaze Burfect, ILB Arizona St
The Jets actually have many more needs than I listed, but it all depends on what they do in the off-season. I see the Jets answering their wide out needs in free agency, as well as their need for a safety. The Jets are reportedly debating on not bringing back Bart Scott. Regardless, Burfect can play both outside and inside linebacker because of his athletic ability. He is a prototypical Rex Ryan defender; great athleticism, great tackler, great sideline to sideline speed, great pass rusher. I love Vontaze Burfect, as I have stated my previous draft, and the Jets would be thrilled if he was there for them to select.
17) BENGALS VIA RAIDERS (WR, RB, S)- Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
Yes, the Bengals do need other positions. But they have a second first round pick to address those. The opportunity to put the next great wide receiver opposite… the next great wide receiver, AJ Green, is something they shouldn’t pass up. Floyd is an absolute monster, a phrase synonymous with most of the wide receivers in this draft. He has breakaway speed, incredible leaping ability, great route running and incredible hands. He displays amazing body control in the air, allowing him to make insane catches. He also can run block very well. Think Randy Moss when you think Michael Floyd.
18) CHARGERS (CB, OL, DE)- Devon Still, DT Penn St
Yes, defensive tackle is not one of their listed needs, but truthfully they need help across their defensive line. Still was another late bloomer this season, playing very well for a Penn St squad that went through so much turmoil this season. He has the build for a prototypical defensive tackle and is very solid against the run and the pass. I don’t see a lot of intangibles with Still, however. I think what you see is what you get with him. He’s not explosive, he doesn’t have the killer instinct and he isn’t dominant in any aspect of his game. But he is a very solid player and should be a productive pro.
19) BEARS (RB, WR, OL) – Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina
Jay Cutler in the off-season will be begging for the front office to get him a true number one receiver. He might also need a running back depending on what the team decides to do with Matt Forte, but we’ll hold off on that for now. Jeffery is a physical specimen; 6’4 232 lbs and has great speed. He makes every big play his team needs him to make and has incredible work ethic. For those who can remember back to the days of Lynn Swann, this guy is a spitting image. Jeffery has incredible leaping ability for a guy his size and while he isn’t the best route runner, he is the number one Jay Cutler has been asking for.
20) TITANS (DT, OL, OLB) – Michael Brockers, DT LSU
Brockers is a third year sophomore, making him draft eligible if he were to choose to enter the draft. Brockers has dominated opposing offensive lines this season and while he may not have the flashy stats, he has all the tools to be successful at the next level. He is strong, quick and has a great nose for the football. Brockers excels against the run and does an excellent job of freeing up pass rushers. The Titans have been searching for a dominant defensive tackle since the departure of Albert Haynesworth and I believe Brockers can be that guy.
21) BENGALS (RB, S, OL) – David Wilson, RB Virginia Tech
Let’s face it, Cedric Benson isn’t the long term answer at running back. Wilson played very well in the bowl game against a much improved Michigan defense and showed the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and break tackles. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he is a tough runner, a smart runner, and a better pass blocker than many give him credit for. Wilson may not have the immediate impact like some of the other players in this draft, but long term he could be a very productive back.
22) LIONS (CB, OLB, OL) – Alfonzo Dennard, CB Nebraska
Dennard is another player that I love in this draft. He isn’t the best tackler and is slightly undersized for a corner, but Dennard is very good in coverage and very solid at pressing at the line of scrimmage. He reminds me a lot of his counterpart from last season, Prince Amukamara. Obviously when you allow 480 yards to Matt Flynn you need help in the secondary, so Dennard makes the most sense for the Lions.
23) BROWNS VIA FALCONS (DE, RB, OLB) – Kevin Riddick, OLB UNC
The Browns need a lot of help on both sides of the ball. At the fourth pick, they addressed their need for a big play wide receiver. With this pick, the Browns address their need for a linebacker not named D’Qwell Jackson. Riddick has had a few temperamental issues and stupid penalties on the field, but don’t question this guy’s talent. Riddick is an impressive pass rusher and a sure tackler. He isn’t the fastest guy, but he has a great nose for the football and covers sideline to sideline very well. Riddick reminds me a lot of Lance Briggs because of how good he is at stopping the run and his superior tackling ability. He could wind up being one of the better players in this draft.
24) STEELERS (CB, OL, ILB) – Brandon Boykin, CB Georgia
The Steelers team needs, minus cornerbacks, are based solely off of the age of their players. Boykin had a dominant bowl game against Michigan St. He tackled a receiver in the end zone for a safety, returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown from quarterback Aaron Murray. Once again, Boykin is undersized for a corner, but he has top end speed and is a good zone coverage defender. He can become better at man coverage, but he is a big time playmaker in the return game and makes big plays in the secondary. He fits into Dick LeBeau’s system very well and makes the most sense for the Steelers.
25) BRONCOS (QB, WR, CB) – Kendall Wright, WR Baylor
This pains me to say, but Tim Tebow has earned himself the right to be next year’s starting quarterback. With that said, the Broncos should and will look for a quarterback later in this draft. If Tebow, or any quarterback for the Broncos is going to succeed, he will need a big play wide receiver. I think Kendall Wright can be that guy for the Broncos. Yes, the Broncos have gotten solid production from Thomas and Decker, but they need a true number one with breakaway speed to stretch defenses and open up the option run. Wright is not a big guy (5’10 194 lbs) nor does he have great intangibles, but he has top end speed and is a home run threat on every down. Think Desean Jackson without the character flaws. Wright is the pick, but I hope for the Broncos sake they pick a quarterback in this spot instead.
26) GIANTS (OL, OLB, ILB) – David DeCastro, G Stanford
What a steal this would be for the Giants. DeCastro is one of the best offensive linemen in this draft. He is a solid pass blocker, a tremendous run blocker, and a very smart player. He definitely has top ten talent, but based on team needs and availability of other players, he fell in this mock. Giants’ fans should be wishing for this scenario because DeCastro would be one of their best offensive linemen immediately.
27) TEXANS (WR, DT, S) – Dontari Poe, DT Memphis
Poe is a massive defensive tackle. At 6’3 330 lbs, Poe is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Texans team who is a good defensive tackle away from having one of the best front sevens, if not the best front seven, in the league. Poe is strong against the run and has good lateral quickness for someone this big. He does need to improve as a pass rusher, but has serious raw talent and athleticism. When you have Mario Williams, JJ Watt, Brian Cushing and the emerging Conner Barwin (11.5 sacks this season) rushing the passer, a big guy to clog the middle and free up your pass rushers is a great pick.
28) 49ERS (CB, DT, OL) – Janoris Jenkins, CB Northern Alabama
Yes, Jenkins has a number of character flaws that I have spoken about in my other mock drafts. However, the 49ers will not shy away from Jenkins character flaws. They took Aldon Smith last year who was a borderline thug. Jenkins is slightly undersized, as are most of the mid to late first round corners in this draft, but he plays stellar man and press coverage. My issue with Jenkins is that he doesn’t handle success well. He had a dominant season in 2009 with the Florida Gators, and then got kicked off the team for two DUI’s in a three month span. Will he be able to learn from his past issues, or will he be the next “Pacman” Jones?
29) PATRIOTS VIA SAINTS– Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU
The Patriots need defense; all of it. Every position minus defensive tackle, where Vince Wilfork is both a dominant run stopper and a ball hawk in coverage, is a necessity. Mingo is a very good pass rusher and since the Pats wind up leading in a lot of games and forcing teams to throw to score with them, he could thrive in this system. He reminds me a lot of Robert Mathis, undersized as a defensive end in terms of weight, but in the right system can be a dominant pass rushing defensive end. Mingo has the size to play in this league for a long time and if he were to add some weight could become a dominant all-around end.
30) RAVENS (OT, ILB, OLB) – Zebrie Sanders, OT Florida St
Zebrie Sanders is a very solid offensive lineman. He isn’t the best as a pass protector, but has prototypical size and is a good run blocker. The Ravens do have some offensive line question heading into the offseason. Can they resign Ben Grubbs along with Ray Rice and does Matt Birk retire? They could use some youth on the offensive line regardless and Sanders fits their run blocking scheme very well.
31) PATRIOTS – Ronnell Lewis, OLB Oklahoma
Lewis has things that Bill Belichick loves in players. He is a strong tackler, a smart outside linebacker, and a strong pass rusher on third down plays. He also has the ability to play the run very well. Lewis could use to get faster and doesn’t have an elite frame to take on better blockers, but Lewis can become extremely effective in Belichick’s system.
32) PACKERS (DE, OL, ILB) – Dont’a Hightower, ILB Alabama
The Packers don’t need much and most of the good offensive linemen are gone by the time they pick. Most of their defensive stats lie because they are winning by so much, they generally go into prevent defenses. So why not sure up your front seven? Hightower has a great nose for the football, he is smart, a good tackler and seems to make every big stop against the run. He is an ideal 3-4 middle linebacker and for a team that likes to run multiple defenses, he can contribute right away. He is a hard worker and a team leader and shows signs of becoming a very good pro.