1. Indianpolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 6’4″ 234 lbs.
Begin stitching the No. 12 Colts’ jerseys with the name Luck on the back.
Also a pick written in stone, needing no explanation or analysis at this point.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, LT, USC 6’7″ 306 lbs.
Fans have been debating for months whether the Vikings should spend this pick on a future franchise LT in Kalil, or a No. 1 receiver in Justin Blackmon. With the Vikings releasing Gs Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera last week this pick became very clear; Kalil will be the choice.
4. Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State 6’1″ 207 lbs.
The Cleveland Browns are in a great position to not only draft the best player available on their board, but also at a position of need. Blackmon, Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne are all viewed as elite prospects, and all can fill major voids with this team. In the end I believe Cleveland gives Colt McCoy one last chance to become the franchise QB with a No. 1 WR.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 5’10″ 228 lbs.
Much like the Browns, Tampa Bay is also in a great place to land a top prospect at a premium need position. The Bucs went from 8th in the NFL in rushing in 2010 to 30th in 2011; they need an upgrade over LaGarrette Blount who is not explosive enough to be a starter. They could easily chose Morris Claiborne here as well, but new coach Greg Schiano knows what having an elite RB can do for a football team.
6. St. Louis Rams – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU 5’11″ 188 lbs.
Not only do the Rams get two more first round picks and the No. 40 pick this season from the Redskins, but they also still get the opportunity to draft the last elite level prospect in Claiborne. He will start immediately for the team and help their porous secondary.
This pick may be a bit of a reach, and the Jaguars also have a big need at DE, but the team has been without a 1,000-yard WR since Jimmy Smith in 2005. The team also needs to give QB Blaine Gabbert a reliable target on the outside to determine if he truly is the franchise QB they hope he is. Floyd has the potential to be a perennial pro-bowler and could team with Gabbert for years to come.
8. Miami Dolphins – Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama 6’2″ 273 lbs.
The Dophins clearly need a QB but I cannot see them making it through free-agency without signing Matt Flynn. The Dolphins next biggest need is an OLB to play opposite elite pass-rusher Cameron Wake. Upshaw is the perfect fit not only to anchor the edge opposite Wake, but also to put a hand down when the Dolphins do use a four-man front. Upshaw is quite simply a football player and someone I could see GM Jeff Ireland falling in love with.
9. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU 6’5″ 322 lbs.
The Panthers spent two 3rd round picks on DTs in the 2011 draft, but neither Terrell McClain or Sione Fua did much to suggest they will become great players. The team also has little depth behind them making DT one of the teams biggest needs. Brockers can play either 3-technique or NT, and although very raw, he has tremendous potential.
10. Buffalo Bills – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina 6’6″ 284 lbs.
The Bills have needs at OT, OLB and WR but will find the most value in drafting my best rated player still left on the board in Coples. DE also happens to be a problem area for the Bills who have been searching for pass-rusher since drafting Aaron Maybin in 2009. The Bills are also rumored to be in on former Texans DE Mario Williams, further proving the need for an elite DE.
Kansas City’s biggest needs are at NT and OT and could address either here. In the end I think they go with Poe, a massive and athletic player who really opened eyes after running a sub-5 second 40 at the combine. Poe is not the most consistent player on film, but he has outstanding potential to become an all-pro NT in the Chiefs 3-4 defense.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M 6’4″ 221 lbs.
Vikings fans know that you can not consistently win with Tavares Jackson at QB. Tannehill, a former WR at Texas A&M, is an athletic, big-armed QB. He will need a few years to learn all the nuances that go into playing QB at the NFL level, having only played there for one and a half seasons while in college.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa 6’6″ 313 lbs.
The Cardinals would be running to the podium if Reiff is still available when they pick. The tackle from Iowa is a massive player with the potential to become an elite LT. He may go the route of former Hawkeye Bryan Bulaga and start his career at RT before moving to the blindside. Arizona is in desperate need of both a LT and a RT and Reiff could fill either void.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama 5’10″ 193 lbs.
Even before the release of CB Terence Newman the Cowboys were in need of adding an impact man-to-man cover corner. They may address this need in free agency, but the team should still look for another CB because you can simply never have enough good ones. Jenkins has had plenty of off the field troubles for teams to worry about, but his talent is obvious. Jerry Jones got burned in 1998 for not drafting a player with character problems in Randy Moss and showed in selecting Dez Bryant he has learned his lesson.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College 6’3″ 242 lbs.
Philly is another team that would be running to the podium holding a card with Kuechly’s name on it if he were available at 15. The Eagles are loaded with talent throughout their roster, but are missing impact, scratch that, competent players at LB. Kuechly can step in and be a leader from the MLB sport for the next decade.
16. New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina 6’1″ 264 lbs.
The Jets will be getting great value here at a premium need position. Rex Ryan’s defense is already good without a pass-rushing threat. Adding Ingram would give the Jets one of the NFL’s top-3 defenses. Ingram played DE at South Carolina but has shown great athleticism through workouts and has plenty of speed to fit in perfectly at OLB in the Jets’ 3-4.
The Bengals are in a great spot to improve on their team with two mid-first round selections after a 9-7 campaign in 2011 landed them in the playoffs. The team is letting free agent RB Cedric Benson test the market so a RB like Lamar Miller could make sense here, but I see the Bengals addressing that need in the later rounds of the draft and instead taking the best player available in David DeCastro. Several pundits believe he is the best G to come out in the last 10 years.
18. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford 6’5″ 312 lbs.
After releasing LT Marcus McNeil and fill-in Jared Gaither set to hit the free agent market, San Diego will be looking to solidify one of their tackle spots early in the draft. They need look no further than northern California to find the answer to their OT problem. Martin has been falling down many boards due to concerns over his toughness but is still a great talent worth this selection for the Chargers.
19. Chicago Bears – Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia 6’5″ 345 lbs.
The Bears could also be looking to add a WR who is a red-zone threat such as South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery or Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, but the team needs to upgrade its offensive line first to open holes for Matt Forte and keep Jay Cutler safe. Glenn can play inside or out giving them options
20. Tennessee Titans – Nick Perry, DE, USC 6’3″ 271 lbs.
The Titans tried to address this problem by moving Jason Jones from DT to DE last season. However, that experiment failed and the team is in need of another young DE to team with former 1st round pick Derrick Morgan. Perry is an excellent athlete and is capable of playing either DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina 6’0″ 190 lbs.
The Bengals regrettably let franchise CB Jonathan Joseph walk away in free agency a year ago and watched as he helped turn around the Texans defense. The team is in need of another play-maker to team with Leon Hall, who in his own right is very good. Gilmore is built much like his fellow Gamecock Joseph, and has the potential to develop into a player of his caliber as well.
At this point Barron is my highest rated player still available and at a need position for the Browns as well. He should be able to step in from day one and improve the Browns’ last line of defense. Barron is a big hitter who is improving in coverage. He also brings some leadership qualities to the defense. His stock is slipping a bit with injury concerns, but his talent should be too much for the Browns to pass up.
23. Detroit Lions – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama 6’2″ 186 lbs.
The Lions have been searching for a lock-down corner for over a decade. Kirkpatrick is not the most fluid athlete in the draft, but he has excellent size and good technique. He would fit perfectly in the Lions press-zone coverage, and help solidify their porous pass defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama 6’2″ 265 lbs.
Keeping up with the theme of Alabama defenders; Hightower is a player seemingly tailor-made to for the Steelers. At 6’2″ 265 lbs. he definitely has the size to hold up on the inside. However, Hightower also brings experience as an OLB and could play either position with the Steel Curtain. He hits like a tank and is a leader on the field. The Steelers are in need of a player to replace the aging James Farrior and Larry Foote.
25. Denver Broncos – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin 6’5″ 314 lbs.
Pro Football Focus listed Broncos starting center J.D. Walton as the NFL’s worst center in 2011. The Broncos must upgrade this position to give QB Tim Tebow and their running attack any chance at improving in 2012. Konz is huge for a center, but brings excellent strength along with it. Konz will help solidify the Broncos o-line from the inside out.
When star WR Andre Johnson went down with an injury in 2011 the Texans passing game went from one of the NFL’s best, to the bottom half of the league. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are decent players but the Texans need another down field threat. Concerns were raised when Wright ran a 4.61 40 at the combine, but his speed on tape is much greater than that and shouldn’t scare too many teams away.
27. New England Patriots – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois 6’4″ 261 lbs.
Whether the Patriots switch back to a 3-4 or stick with a 4-3 defense, a young pass-rusher is needed. Fortunately for New England Mercilus can play in either system and that is exactly the type of player Bill Belicheck loves. Mercilus came out of nowhere last season to lead the NCAA with 16 sacks. He is a good athlete and his versatility is something the Patriots covet.
28. Green Bay Packers – Chandler Jones, OLB, Syracuse 6’5″ 266 lbs.
The Packers have few holes but their most glaring hole is opposite Clay Mathews. OLB Erik Walden did the best he could, but should not be a starter in the NFL. Fans have been wanting another pass rushing OLB to team with Mathews, but a better fit would be someone who can stop the run. Jones is not the greatest athlete, but is flying under the radar and picking up steam. He could offset Mathews’ weakness against the run and improve the team’s front-seven.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Fletcher Cox, DE, Mississippi State 6’4″ 298 lbs.
The Ravens are in danger of losing DE Cory Redding during free agency and need to get younger along their defensive line. Cox played DT at Mississippi state but should be able to make the transition to 5-tech in the Ravens 3-4. He has great quickness and agility, two things needed to be a two-gap stopper.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech 6’4″ 215 lbs.
The Niners need to find another WR to complement TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree. Davis does well working the middle of the field, and Crabtree underneath, but the team needs to add someone to stretch the field. Hill can do exactly that as evidenced by the 4.36 40 he ran at the combine. He is raw and needs to work on running other routes besides the go and post, but could help improve the 49ers passing game immediately.
Johnson is a guy who is most certainly flying under the radar. The big and athletic CB from Montana is raw and some are questioning his maturity, but he would be a great gamble for the Patriots that would pay off over time. The Patriots are in need of improving their defensive backfield, so addressing this need here makes perfect sense. Then again nothing Bill Belicheck does makes perfect sense
32. New York Giants – Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson 6’2″ 314 lbs.
The Giants made their run to become Super Bowl champs on the back of their defensive line and will look to improve it even more for 2012. The offense is in good shape with Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but the defense still needs work. One piece the Giants dominant D-Line was lacking was a space eating NT tackle. Thompson can provide that for the G-Men during running downs, much like Pat Williams used to do for the Vikings.