Here is my final Mock Draft before the big day. I hope you readers have enjoyed my Draft Coverage and the Mocks over the last couple months. For my final Mock Draft, I’ve included a few trades in Round 1 which I believe could happen, so be on the lookout for that, but the rest of the draft is the same format as the last few (Rounds 1-3 all teams, Rounds 4-7 Steelers). Let’s dive right in now:
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. Luck is the selection and there’s no mystery anymore.
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.
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: Trent Richardson RB (Alabama)
Even though they will not select “RGIII,” Cleveland will be in a perfect spot to give Colt McCoy some weapons with the #4 selection. I personally believe their selection will be Trent Richardson of Alabama. Richardson’s 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 on the ground and 21 TD’s to boot. Plus, the fact that Richardson is an above-average receiving threat out of the backfield only makes him worth more to a team that runs The West Coast Offense like the Browns do.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne CB (Louisiana State)
The Buccaneers are going to need some help at Cornerback, because Ronde Barber is entering his 16th season and Aqib Talib just can’t stay out of trouble on a consistent basis. Coming from the “Defensive Back Factory” at L.S.U., Morris Claiborne has a solid frame (6′ 185 lbs.), great speed, and terrific instincts to succeed in the N.F.L.. And last season, 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.
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.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: (Trade w/Jacksonville) Fletcher Cox DT (Mississippi State)
Philadelphia has expressed interest in moving into the Top 10 of this Draft. If they want to get the Top rated Defensive Tackle, they just might need to do it. 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.
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.
9. New York Jets: (Trade w/ Carolina) Melvin Ingram OLB (South Carolina)
The Jets are apparently very interested in Melvin Ingram, and could be willing to move up to help bolster their inconsistent and aging pass rush. Ingram illustrated a 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.
10. Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd WR (Notre Dame)
While Buffalo may have filled their immediate need for a pass-rusher by over-paying Mario Williams, there are still some glaring holes which must be fixed on their roster. In the event that the Bills do not select an Offensive Lineman at #10, Michael Floyd could be a viable option to give Ryan Fitzpatrick another weapon. 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 pairing him with Stevie Johnson would give opposing Defenses fits.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro OG (Stanford)
The Chiefs could be tempted to move down, but they could stand to get younger on the interior of their Offensive Line. David DeCastro is one of the best Guard prospects to emerge in the last half decade, and should help to open holes for the explosive Jamaal Charles and the rest of Kansas City’s running game as a whole. At 6’5″ 316 lbs., DeCastro plays nasty and would be a perfect pick for a running team like the Chiefs.
(Previous Selection: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis)
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.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff OT (Iowa)
In the event that Riley Reiff falls to Arizona, he would give the Cardinals an immediate upgrade at a position of need. Reiff 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. The 6’6″ and 313 lb. Reiff was a three year starter and All-Big Ten performer at Iowa, and is thought by many to become yet another solid OL churned out by Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa program.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron S (Alabama)
Before they can make more upgrades to their lowly Offensive Line, Dallas must first find a way to stop the opposition through the air. Dallas had the N.F.L.’s 23rd Ranked Pass Defense in 2011, and their ineffectiveness really cost the team at some crucial points in meaningful games (both Giants contests). That being said, Mark Barron (6’2″ 218 lbs.) is the consensus #1 Safety in this 2012 Draft Class, and could help Dallas’ Secondary right away. He is an All-SEC player, gets turnovers, and was the anchor in the Tide’s Secondary as a collegian. If Dallas is going to compete with the likes of Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and even “RGIII” for the next half decade, they need to draft more Secondary help.
(Previous Selection: Dre’ Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars: (Trade w/Eagles) Stephon Gilmore CB (South Carolina)
While I believe that Stephon Gilmore is a 1st Round talent, he is not a Top 10 player and is not the cover-Corner that Morris Claiborne is. Nevertheless, if Jacksonville trades down to the middle of the 1st Round, Gilmore (6’1″ 193 lbs.) should be available, and the CB-needy Jaguars could use a tough play-maker on Defense like him. Plus it does not hurt to acquire multiple picks in the process as well for a team with a great deal of needs like the Jaguars have.
16. Carolina Panthers: (Trade w/Jets) Dontari Poe NT (Memphis)
At #9, Dontari Poe would be a reach, but at #16, Carolina would get solid value by selecting Poe, and get more draft picks in the process. At 6’4″ 350 lbs., Poe could be a solid 0 or 1 Technique Defensive Tackle, and help shore up a major position of need for Carolina heading into this season. While he is a bit raw technique wise, Poe has body-builder strength and with the right coaching could develop into a destructive force at the next level.