Mock Draft 3.0 (Pre-Combine Edition, 2 Rounds): Steelers Select ILB Dont’a Hightower and OG Kevin Zeitler

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Dont'a Hightower is a solid choice for the Steelers at #24, Image Courtesy of Kelly Lambert-US PRESSWIRE

The N.F.L. Combine interviews began yesterday, and the rest of the Combine activities will continue until the 28th.  With the Combine starting and Draft season rapidly approaching I figured it would be a good idea to do an updated version of my Mock Draft for today that includes a 2nd Round.  So if you are interested in Mock Drafts, you’ve come to the right place:

Each NPC mock draft will be featured in the following mock draft databases listed here: DC Pro Sports ReportWalterFootball.comSports Jabberhailredskins.com and fftoolbox.com.  All of these sites keep track of a large 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.  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.

If St. Louis opts to trade back with a team hell-bent on acquiring Robert Griffin III, they will be in perfect position to select the top WR on the board in Justin Blackmon, the #2 rate OT in Riley Reiff, or even Morris Claiborne to help fix their issues at CB.  St. Louis has a multitude of options at #2, and we likely won’t know where they go until the day of the Draft.

 

3. Minnesota Vikings: Riley Reiff OT (Iowa)

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 that Minnesota holds onto the #3 pick, I see them going after Iowa’s Riley Reiff.  A bit of an overdraft I understand, but I’m not sure the Vikings would be willing to sacrifice the #3 overall pick on a Cornerback wen they hold the 35th Pick overall as well.

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.

Some would say that #3 is too high to select Reiff, and if Luck and Kalil are off the board by #3, Minnesota could try and help their beleaguered Secondary by selecting Morris Claiborne.  As I stated before, 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: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State)

 

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: Morris Claiborne CB (Louisiana State)

With Ronde Barber likely on his way out in Tampa after a borderline Hall of Fame career, the Buccaneers will probably be looking to fill a hole at CB.  Then you combine Barber’s nearing exit with the fact that Aqib Talib can’t stay out of trouble, and Tampa will be desperate to find some young and talented Corners to fill out their roster.  Luckily for them, Morris Claiborne has a very good shot of falling to them.

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..  If Tampa Bay is serious about fixing their Defense, they will not hesitate to select Claiborne at #5.

(Previous Selection: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama)

 

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.

 

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): Jonathan Martin OT (Stanford)

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 Stanford Offensive Tackle Jonathan Martin.

At 6’6″ 305 lbs., the 2011 All-Pac-12 performer Martin could instantly step in on Day 1 and help Miami’s Offensive Line that has some holes at Guard and Right Tackle.  Adding Martin 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, and allow whichever guy is taking the snaps to receive adequate time to get rid of the ball.  It’s a luxury to have a guy with an LT skill-set swing over to RT, and with Martin and Long, Miami could have one of the League’s best Tackle duos.

(Previous Selection: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa)

 

9. Carolina Panthers (Flip): Devon Still DT (Penn State)

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: Melvin Ingram DE/OLB (South Carolina)

Let’s be honest, the Bills are one of the worst teams in terms of pressuring the QB in the entire N.F.L., by recording a paltry 29.0 Sacks in a 16 game season.  Thus, Buffalo must look to upgrade their pass rush over the next few months.

Ingram, a DE in college who could end up playing there in a 4-3 or switch to OLB in a 3-4 once he gets to the pros, has illustrated a solid knack to get to the QB during his tenure at South Carolina, and his Sack numbers are indicative of his success:  10.0 Sacks in 2011 and 9.0 Sacks in 2010.

At a short 6’1″ but a stout 276 lbs, Ingram might need to be moved around a bit to find his true position in the N.F.L., yet I see him as a quicker but shorter version of the Steelers’ LaMarr Woodley.  Nevertheless, Ingram’s athleticism and pass rushing ability could pay huge dividends for the Bills.

(Previous Selection: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford)

 

11. Kansas City Chiefs (Flip): Trent Richardson RB (Alabama)

I can’t believe I have the nation’s best RB falling this far, but with the teams ahead of Kansas City all having bigger needs to fill, the Chiefs would snap up Richardson in an instant if he fell to them at #11.

Why would Kansas City take a RB with guys like Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles, and Dexter McCluster on their roster?  Well first, 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.  Most importantly however, Thomas Jones in entering his late 30′s, Charles is coming off of knee surgery and only one successful season, and McCluster isn’t a 15-20 carries a game type of guy.

If Richardson is available at #11 the Chiefs will think long and hard about Drafting him or trading down (and collecting a bunch of picks) with a desperate team in need of a RB.

(Previous Selection: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama)

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