Now that the Free Agency period has begun, draft boards and needs have shifted for almost every team League-wide. That being said, it’s time for a new Mock Draft this week. This new edition will have the same format as my last Mock Draft (3 Rounds), with one extra addition: I’ve included the Steelers’ picks in Rounds 4-7 with some short write-ups on each prospect and why Pittsburgh should target them.
Each NPC mock draft will be featured in the following mock draft databases listed here: DC Pro Sports Report, WalterFootball.com, Sports Jabber, hailredskins.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 new Mock Draft:
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck QB (Stanford)
This pick is a no-brainer. Luck is probably the best and most NFL-ready QB prospect to be draft eligible since Peyton Manning. The 6’4″ 235 lb. Luck ran a pro-style system in college, can make every throw, and has fantastic athleticism for a guy his size. There is no way Indianapolis passes him up, and he could be signed before the Draft even begins.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III QB (Baylor)
Mike Shanahan is staking his career on RGIII panning out, because he gave up a “King’s Ransom” to acquire the Heisman winning QB from Baylor. Griffin III throws the best deep ball in this draft class, and brings so much to an Offense from an athletic stand-point. While he didn’t run a pro-style Offense at Baylor, Griffin III is a smart, mature, and heady player that should not have a problem fitting into Shanahan’s system which requires a lot of mobility and accuracy from its QB, both attributes Griffin III has.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil OT (Southern Cal)
The Vikings were terrible up front in 2011, and they will need to address the Tackle position in either Free Agency or in the 2012 Draft. If they are truly committed to Christian Ponder and want to see Adrian Peterson finish his career healthy and in Minnesota, rebuilding their Offensive Line must be their top priority. The 6’7″ 306 lb. Kalil established himself as a terrific all-around Tackle for the Trojans during his career, and earned 1st team All-America honors in 2011.
4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne CB (Louisiana State)
Even though they will not select “RGIII,” Cleveland will be in a perfect spot to upgrade their already improved Secondary and Defense with the #4 selection. Morris Claiborne has a big frame (6′ 185 lbs.), great speed, and terrific instincts to succeed in the N.F.L.. He 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.. Pairing Claiborne with Joe Haden would make teams weary of throwing the ball against the Browns in the future.
(Previous Selection: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State)
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson RB (Alabama)
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. I’m sure many of you are saying: “The Bucs. already have LaGarette Blount, so why would they need Richardson?” Well, it’s a “2 Back League” at this point 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.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon WR (Oklahoma State)
Even by trading down, the Rams still will emerge as winners in the #6 spot. If Justin Blackmon is available, there is no way he will get past them. . As Warren Moon so eloquently put it: “He’s Dez Bryant with brain cells.” And all the film and games I’ve watched with the 2x Biletnikoff Award Winner (The 2010 Alamo Bowl comes to mind), Moon’s assessment seems to hold some weight. If Sam Bradford is truly St. Louis’ “guy,” the Front Office must make a commitment to him in this Draft by getting him pass catching weapons and OL protection.
(Previous Selection: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram DE/OLB (South Carolina)
Jacksonville finished tied for 25th in the League in Sacks last season with a paltry total of 31. If the Jaguars wish to stop Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, and Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker six times every season, they had better bolster their pass rush. Melvin Ingram 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 reminds me of a more athletic LaMarr Woodley. Not bad considering Woodley is a Pro Bowl player.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill QB (Texas A&M)
New Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman was Tannehill’s Head Coach at Texas A&M, and Miami is looking for a QB. I personally don’t believe that Tannehill warrants a high 1st Round selection (decision making, experience, experience at QB, and accuracy at times, ), his athletic ability, arm, and upside have pushed his stock into the high 1st Round. Although he played WR for half his college career, Tannehill understands kind of Offense Sherman wants to run, and at #8 Miami could be looking to select him. They couldn’t acquire Flynn, Manning, or even the rights to the #2 pick, so Tannehill makes sense here.
(Previous Selection: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa)
9. Carolina Panthers: Riley Reiff OT (Iowa)
Carolina may have Pro Bowler Jordan Gross at Left Tackle, but because of Jeff Otah’s injury issues, they’ll be looking to acquire some depth and a potential starter at Right Tackle at some point. The three year starter and All-Big Ten performer Reiff became yet another solid OL churned out by Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa program. Protecting franchise QB Cam Newton is an absolute must, and having a stout Offensive Line is of the utmost importance to the Panthers now. At 6’6″ and 313 lbs., Reiff could play RT right away and then transition to the other side when Gross ends up calling it a career in Carolina over the next few seasons.
(Previous Selection: Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State)
10. Buffalo Bills: Quinton Coples DE (North Carolina)
Even though they signed Mario Williams, Buffalo must still upgrade their paltry pass rush which accumulated only 29.0 Sacks last season. 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 284 lbs., Coples has the perfect size and enough experience to wreak havoc from the DE spot in a 4-3 set.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe NT (Memphis)
Kelly Gregg is entering the twilight of his career at this point, and if Kansas City must find a replacement soon. If the Chiefs are going to have any sort of stout Defense against the run in 2012 and beyond, they might want to look in the 6’4″ 350 lbs. Poe’s direction. The Chiefs’ Run Defense was ranked 26th in the League last season in YPG, and Romeo Crennell could inevitably see “The Gold Medalist of the Underpants Olympics (The Combine)” Poe as a raw Vince Wilfork type of prospect which he can’t ignore.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly ILB (Boston College)
Because the Seahawks re-signed Red Bryant, they likely will not have to go Defensive Line in Round 1 now. Nevertheless, Seattle should consider upgrading their Defense, and Luke Kuechly would be a terrific B.P.A. selection at #12. Kuechly has the size (6’3” 242 lbs.), athleticism, intelligence. and positional flexibility to play the MLB or OLB spot in a 4-3 Defensive set. Kuechly was a tackling machine in college, and should be a solid addition to the Seahawks’ Defense which is steadily improving.
(Previous Selection: Devon Still, DT, Penn State)
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin OT (Stanford)
Finally, a top tier O-Lineman for Russ Grimm to work with. Martin could come in right away and play Right Tackle, or if he performs up to a high standard, could switch places with Left Tackle Levi Brown and protect Kevin Kolb/John Skelton’s blind side in 2012 if selected. At 6’6″ 305 lbs., the 2011 All-Pac-12 performer Martin could instantly step in on Day 1 for the Cardinals and improve Arizona’s Rushing attack which ranked 24th in YPG, and also upgrade a Line which gave up 54 Sacks, only one less than St. Louis’ League leading 55.
14. Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro G (Stanford)
Dallas needs help on the interior of their Offensive Line, there’s no doubt about it. In the event that David DeCastro is available at #14, I don’t believe that the Cowboys will pass on one of the most highly touted Guard prospects to come out since Steve Hutchinson over a decade ago. At 6’5″ 316 lbs. DeCastro is an imposing force that can blow holes open for Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray in the run game, and also has the ability to keep Tony Romo upright whenever he drops back to pass.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox DT (Mississippi State)
“The Dream Team” sure could use some upgrades on the Defensive side of the ball after last season’s disaster. One area in need of help is on the Interior of the Defensive Line, and the Eagles could be interested in Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State. At 6’4″ 295 lbs. Cox can play a 4-3 Defensive Tackle and is solid against the run. But one of Cox’s best attributes is that he can get to the QB and can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Cox racked up 14.5 Tackles For Loss and 5 Sacks in 2011 while earning First Team All-SEC honors from the A.P.. Having a guy that can bust up things in the trenches would allow the “Wide-9″ sets employed by Philly to actually have a chance at working when teams attempt to gash them inside.
(Previous Selection: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College)
16. New York Jets: Michael Floyd WR (Notre Dame)
Whether or not it’s Sanchez or Tebow taking the snaps, both guys will need a down-field target to throw to if the Jets wish to have any success on Offense in 2012 (Ranked 26th in Yards Per Attempt last season with 6.5). Dustin Keller and San-smokio Holmes are adequate options underneath, but adding Michael Floyd to that combo would be huge. Even with his off-field issues (D.U.I.), Floyd played incredibly at Notre Dame during his 4 year career in South Bend. Floyd has the body type (6’3″ 224 lbs.), the speed, the route running ability, and the attitude to make it in this League, and he could very well be New York’s selection at #16.
(Previous Selection: Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB Alabama)