Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time for fans of every team to start talking Free Agency and the Draft. With the final 2012 Draft order essentially set (aside from the compensatory picks), I thought it would be a great time to roll out another edition of a 1st Round Mock Draft:
Each NPC mock draft will be featured in DC Pro Sports Report, WalterFootball.com, Sports Jabber, hailredskins.com and fftoolbox.com mock draft databases. All of these sites keep track of a huge number mock drafts all over the web, so you can get different opinions and takes on certain players and figure out for yourself where your favorite team might be thinking about going this April. Also be sure to check out NFL Mocks and With the First Pick for comprehensive NFL draft coverage year-round. So without further delay, here’s my mock:
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck QB (Stanford)
By cutting ties with the Polian Family and Head Coach Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis will likely be looking to start a new existence in the A.P. period (After Peyton). Then when you factor in Manning’s health issues and the fact he is due a $28 million dollar bonus in March, it makes sense for both sides to finally go their separate ways.
Indianapolis did however pick a great year to start playing lousy, because Andrew Luck is the best and most N.F.L. ready QB prospect to be draft eligible since Peyton Manning. Unless a team comes calling with an offer which Indianapolis “can’t refuse” for the 1st pick, the Colts will select Luck and start anew.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil OT (Southern Cal)
The Rams have so many options with their #2 overall pick that we might not find out what direction St. Louis goes in until Indianapolis is actually off the clock (trade/no trade). St. Louis needs to protect their young QB Sam Bradford by either acquiring weapons for him to throw to, or find an Offensive Tackle to replace 2009 2nd Overall pick/washout Jason Smith.
I think the Rams will look to replace Smith first, and help their anemic Offensive Line by drafting the consensus #1 Tackle in the form of Southern Cal’s Matt Kalil. If St. Louis doesn’t want to watch Bradford get planted week after week, they’d better think about investing in some sort of Offensive Line help this offseason.
Bradford’s career path will inevitably follow the likes of David Carr and Tim Couch if he continues to take beatings like he has been issued over his first two seasons. Thankfully, if St. Louis is smart, they can plug in the 6’6″ 295 lb All-American in at Left Tackle and maybe Bradford will stay healthy in 2012.
(Previous Selection: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State)
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne CB (Louisiana State)
If the Rams hold onto the #2 pick and select Kalil, Minnesota could also be looking to deal their 1st Round selection for a wealth of selections to help their down-trodden team. In the event Minnesota stays put at #3, I see them selecting Louisiana State’s Thorpe Award winning CB Morris Claiborne.
Minnesota’s Pass Defense last season was pathetic, and I’m being kind here. The Vikings Ranked 26th in Total Pass Yards Allowed, 29th in YPA Allowed, and gave up the most Pass TD’s in the entire League (34). The fact that the Secondary only picked off 8 passes the entire 2011 season is downright ludicrous.
Claiborne has a terrific frame (6′ 185 lbs.), great speed, and terrific instincts to succeed in the N.F.L.. Moreover, Claiborne anchored the Secondary for the Tigers dominating Defense, and week in and week out he proved he could hold his own against top competition in the S.E.C..
Some would say that #3 is too high to select a CB, but if Luck and Kalil are off the board by #3, Minnesota could try and help their beleaguered Secondary. In my personal opinion, the Vikings would be better off trading down to help fill the exorbitant amount of holes on their roster. But hey, I don’t work for them.
(Previous Selection: Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal)
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III QB (Baylor)
Reports have circulated that Cleveland’s F.O.wants “RGIII” and are looking acquire a franchise QB. I can’t blame them considering the fact that Colt McCoy is as frail as a 9 year old kid that gets pelted by the mean kids in Gym Class with dodgeballs, and has a throwing arm of a 15 year old softball pitcher. If this season didn’t prove that McCoy isn’t the long term answer, than I don’t know what will.
I’m not quite as sold on Heisman Winner “RGIII” as most scouts and fans are. He hasn’t played in an N.F.L. Offense, he took almost zero snaps from under center at Baylor, and the Defenses in The Big XII weren’t what you’d call “juggernauts.” Nevertheless, there are a lot of aspects to “RGIII’s” game which I think are terrific.
Griffin III can make every throw on the field, and throws the prettiest, most accurate, and most catchable deep ball of any of the prospects in 2011. Moreover, Griffin can make plays with his feet, and like a Big Ben or Aaron Rodgers, he can scramble and improvise when need be and catch the Defense napping for huge gains when coverage breaks down. This will be a great attribute since he could face Deebo, Woodley, T-Sizzle, and Cincy’s always pressuring D-Line up to six times per season.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson RB (Alabama)
While the Bucs are in need of CB help, there is no CB worth taking at #5 if Claiborne is off the board. Dre Kirkpatrick essentially dropped his stock out of the Top 10 with his recent drug arrest, so I don’t think that Tampa will be looking in that direction at #5. If Tampa does not elect to trade down with somebody like Cincinnati looking for Trent Richardson’s services, I could actually see Tampa taking Richardson as the Best Player Available (B.P.A.) at #5.
Granted, I’m sure many of you are saying: “The Bucs. already have LaGarette Blount, why would they need Richardson?” Point taken, but Blount’s bruising style will only last him four to five years tops. It’s a “2 Back League” at this point and time, and if Tampa not only wants to get the most mileage out of Blount, but also select a more talented back to pair with him, they could help themselves by selecting Richardson.
Let’s be honest here, Richardson might be the best and most complete RB to come out in the Draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007. His size and speed combination (5’11 and almost 225 lbs.) is ridiculous, and he tore up the S.E.C. this past season (and his entire career) to the tune of 1,679 yards and 21 TD’s to boot.
(Previous Selection: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State)
6. Washington Redskins: Justin Blackmon WR (Oklahoma State)
I think Washington will be more inclined to enter the “Peyton Manning/Matt Flynn Sweepstakes” rather than having to trade an exorbitant amount of picks to acquire “RGIII.” Washington has too many needs on both sides of the ball to give away their future, and luckily for them, I could see Justin Blackmon falling to the Redskins at #6.
What better way to help a new QB than to acquire a player that Warren Moon described as “Dez Bryant with brain cells.” The two time Biletnikoff Award Winner would instantly upgrade the Redskins WR corps, and take some of the pressure off of Chris Cooley as well.
Washington seriously needs to improve upon their pass-catchers. The group consisting of Jabar Gaffney, Santana Moss, and Leonard Hankerson strikes fear into the hearts of units like the Vikings, but that’s about it. If the Redskins want to help their new QB, whoever it may be, they had better think about giving him some legitimate threats to throw to in 2012 and beyond.
(Previous Selection: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples DE (U.N.C.)
The Jaguars have been attempting to rebuild their Defensive Line since Marcus Stroud and John Henderson left town, and they may be looking that way in the 1st Round in 2012.
Coples has had experience playing all along the Defensive Line while at North Carolina. Due to the Tar Heels’ pressing need for Defensive Tackles in 2010, Coples filled in admirably and was named first-team All-ACC and amassed 10.0 Sacks. In 2011, Quinton went back to his more natural spot of Defensive End, yet still kept terrorizing the opposition’s QB’s and had himself a good week at the Senior Bowl.
At 6’6” and close to 280 lbs., Coples has the perfect size and enough experience to wreak havoc from the DE spot in a 4-3 set. Moreover, Coples has the body frame to be a 5-Technique 3-4 DE if he puts on another 10-15 lbs. as well. This combination, as well as Coples’ success at both the DT and DE spots in college should entice Jacksonville to bring him in to help in their rebuilding project along the Defensive Line.
8. Miami Dolphins (Flip): Riley Reiff OT (Iowa)
With Matt Barkley and Landry Jones staying in school, and Matt Moore buying himself another year as the starting QB, Miami should look to upgrade their Offensive Line by selecting Iowa Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff.
The three year starter and All-Big Ten performer Reiff became yet another solid OL churned out by Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa program. The 6’6″ 300 lbs. Reiff is considered with Jonathan Martin to be tied for the consensus #2 Tackle spot on most boards.
Adding Reiff to a Line consisting of C Mike Pouncey and All-Pro LT Jake Long will give Miami a road-grader to open holes for RB’s Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. It’s a luxury to have a guy with an LT skill-set swing over to RT early in his career and not throw him in the fire immediately. And if Miami looks to upgrade their Line in Round 1, they should reap the benefits if they decide to go after Reiff.
(Previous Selection: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford)
9. Carolina Panthers (Flip): Devon Still DE/DT (Penn St.)
The Panthers have a lot of 4-3 personnel on their Defense left from the John Fox era. While Head Coach Ron Rivera has helped to run a 4-3 in Chicago, he also ran a lot of 3-4 in San Diego as their Defensive Coordinator as well. At some point Carolina will have to find a system which fits its players and Coaching Staff the best, and Devon Still would be an excellent selection no matter which Base Defense Carolina decides to run.
Standing 6’4″ 310 lbs., Still has the frame to play either a DT in a 4-3 system as he did in college, or even spend some time as a 3-4 DE (or even smaller NT) in the professional ranks if Rivera wants him there. If Carolina wants to compete against the high octane Offenses of the Saints and Falcons, they must improve on the Defensive side of the ball and find ways to get to the QB with their Defensive Linemen.
10. Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Martin OT (Stanford)
One of the biggest reasons that Andrew Luck wasn’t Sacked much over his collegiate career is the fact that he has a solid O-Line in front of him. And a lot of that had to do with Luck standing behind a great OT and and overall athlete like a Jonathan Martin.
Martin 6’6″ 305 lbs., was an All-Pac-12 performer in 2011, and could step in Day 1 to help the Bills at either Left Tackle or Right Tackle (depending on the status of Demetrius Bell). Buffalo has kind of avoided selecting OT’s early over the last couple of seasons, but if Martin falls to the Bills, I would assume that the Bills would go in his direction. Protecting their $50 million dollar man Ryan Fitzpatrick is a must, and getting a player like Martin could make the Bills’ already improving Offense even better.
(Previous Selection: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama)
11. Kansas City Chiefs (Flip): Courtney Upshaw OLB (Alabama)
In the event that the Top 3 Tackles are off the board at #11 (Kalil, Reiff, Martin), Kansas City could be looking to acquire one of the Draft’s most versatile LB’s and a terrific play-maker in the form of Courtney Upshaw.
The 6’2″ 265 lb. All-American Upshaw seems like a total “Pioli/Belichick/Crennel Guy” in terms of his versatility and tenacity. He could come off the edge as a down lineman in a 4-3 system, or he could stand up as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme. Pairing Upshaw with Tamba Hali would give opposing Offensive Tackles nightmares leading up to Sundays. Furthermore, this combination could allow the Chiefs to have a pass rushing duo the likes of which Kansas City fans haven’t seen since Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith.
(Previous Selection: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama)