Mock drafts are notoriously difficult. It’s hard for just a couple people to keep up with what’s going on with 32 teams, what all their needs are and who they’ve been visiting with. So we’ve enlisted some help.
We spent a couple months breaking down team needs with our “In Depth” posts. Now we’re again enlisting the team blogger community for help in putting together a mock draft. Will it be any more accurate than one we pull out of the air by ourselves? Time will tell. But it’s something we’re going to try to do every year going forward. So without further adieu, welcome to the First Annual Team Blogger Mock Draft.
Explanation: This pick is a no brainer. Andrew Luck is not only the best quarterback in college right now, he’s one of the best prospects in recent memory. He’s been considered the next Peyton Manning. Coincidentally this will be the second time a first year general manager will have the first overall pick and the top player is a quarterback. The last time it happened was in 1998 when the Colts took Manning. Luck possesses a strong arm and top-notch accuracy. He also has great mobility, he’s smart and he reads defenses. He is the reason why Stanford is so good. This is one of the safest picks you could make.
Explanation: Washington finally has a franchise quarterback. Redskins fans have had to endure 20 different starting quarterbacks since the glory years, including such names as John Beck, Heath Shuler, and Tony Banks. No one wins without a quarterback. I’m tired of the “Trent Dilfer” logic. The game has evolved since then. The Redskins made a bold move to trade away two extra first-round picks and a second this year, but frankly it was a trade they had to make. Griffin’s high character background (military parents), work ethic (graduated college early and already working on Masters), and athletic accomplishments reduce the risk of him being a bust. With a defense that has a knack for forcing turnovers, a quarterback who can protect the ball and make smart decisions will certainly add wins. At the very least, fans have something to be excited about.
Explanation: The draft really begins with the Vikings as it was a foregone conclusion that Luck & RG3 would go one and two. Over the past couple of weeks general manager Rick Spielman has suggested the team wants to trade down, but if the Vikings go that route it better be for a hefty package of draft picks and finding that trading partner would be easier said than done. Kalil is a top-shelf left tackle who would allow incumbent left tackle Charlie Johnson to kick inside to his natural position of guard. Johnson looked out of place blocking the likes of Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews in the NFC North. A huge storyline for the Vikings’ 2012 season is the development of young quarterback Christian Ponder. No need for Spielman to get cute with this pick and run the risk of turning Ponder into another Joey Harrington or David Carr.
Richardson has been dubbed one of the few “sure things” in this year’s draft. Plus Cleveland has a gigantic need at running back. These factors make Richardson a no-brainer. Throw out the notion that selecting a running back so high is unwise – it’s the perfect match for the Browns as they rebuild an offense in the brutally tough AFC North.
Explanation: If Richardson were available, there would be fights breaking out across the Tampa Bay area. About one-third of the fan base is desperate for the Alabama tailback. But the Browns just made life easy and united Bucs fans. Claiborne fills a huge need at cornerback with the uncertain futures of starters Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber. Plus the Bucs really need a returner, a role Claiborne can share.
Explanation: With Richardson, Kalil and Claiborne all off the board, and no trade partners to be had, the Rams have a tough decision to make. Many expect Justin Blackmon to the Rams’ pick if the first round plays out this way. Floyd is a much better fit for the Rams’ needs at receiver. The team is already stocked with possession types. Floyd gives them a tall, sure-handed target that jumped up draft boards after answering some questions about his deep speed this spring.
Explanation: With the signing of Dallas’ Laurent Robinson, the Jags brought in a much needed #2 receiver. Having the ability to draft Blackmon to play at #1 allows the Jags to slide Mike Thomas back into the slot position where he has excelled in the past. Blackmon allows the Jags to have a very consistent receiver for Blaine Gabbert to throw to and develop with, hopefully bringing the Jags up from the bottom of the league in passing and providing much needed balance to the offense.
Explanation: 13 years the Dolphins have been trying and failing to find their franchise quarterback. Jeff Ireland will try one more time with Tannehill, a duel-threat quarterback in high school who converted to wide receiver at Texas A&M and then back to quarterback. With the Phins switching to a West Coast offense under Mike Sherman, they need an athletic quarterback who makes quick decisions and throws accurately. That describes Tannehill. The Dolphins have the luxury of giving Tannehill time to learn, having both Matt Moore and David Garrard signed through next year. Tannehill has all the raw skills you look for in a franchise QB, excellent arm strength and accuracy, great decision making skills and a team-first attitude.
Explanation: Cox is easily the best defensive tackle in the draft. Dontari Poe and Quinton Coples have been speculated on in many mock drafts, but Poe never performed in college and Carolina doesn’t have a pressing need for a defensive end. Cox will easily improve the Panthers’ horrid run defense of last season when placed next to Ron Edwards. He’s a big tackle at 6-4 298, and he plays even bigger. I could see Carolina wanting to trade back but not getting any takers. Thus, they take Cox and solidify their defensive line.
Explanation: Bills General Manager Buddy Nix is a tough man to predict on draft day. He is a firm believer in “best player available,” so if his draft board is a little different than most we could see a shocker here. With the top two wide receivers off the board, the Bills could pick an offensive tackle or defensive end. But I’ll say they nab Kuechly, the tackling machine out of Boston College. Kuechly has some limitations, but he’s a big-time run stopper, which the Bills still really need. He could play in the middle or maybe even the outside of Buffalo’s new 4-3 defense.
Explanation: Considering the way the board has played out, taking DeCastro here is the safest option for the Chiefs. Ryan Lilja has hit his 30s and he struggled last year. DeCastro is an immediate upgrade to what could eventually be the best offensive line in the NFL. The 11 spot traditionally is high to select a guard but DeCastro has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler. This guy is just too good to pass up.
Explanation: The Seahawks need help both at linebacker and in generating a pass rush. Ingram helps with both needs. Ingram is a versatile player who will be able to play weakside linebacker in the base defense, then move up to defensive end in the nickel or obvious passing situations.
Explanation: At 6-6 and 313, the tackle from Iowa has great footwork and is flexible enough to be move around on the line if needed. As a left tackle, he has also played defensive end and tight end. The one issue scouts are not thrilled with are his short arms. I think it’s an issue easily enough overcome. He also rarely gets beat on pass protection and is a great blocker in the open field.
Explanation: The Dallas Cowboys’ draft strategy under head coach Jason Garrett has been to draft talent over need. Nothing proved this point more than when those chose running back DeMarco Murray in the third round last year. Despite the Cowboys’ obvious holes in their defensive secondary and offensive line, ultimately their biggest need is pass rush. So, if Quinton Coples is still on the board here the Cowboys will be elated. Arguably a top-five talent, Coples would fit in perfectly beside Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. And he would provide an instant upgrade to Rob Ryan’s pass rush. Although safety Mark Barron could be the safe choice here, Dallas’ recent signing of Brodney Pool will allow them more time to develop a young safety or find a more permanent solution in the free agency market next year.
Explanation: Philadelphia’s defensive line was one of the team’s few bright spots last season, but coach Andy Reid is always looking for ways to improve the interior of his defense. Brockers does that. He is an ultra-athletic and massive force that has yet to realize his full potential. The Eagles have done their homework on Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but won’t mortgage their other picks to move up for a first-round quarterback. Under this scenario, the team could consider cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick or safety Mark Barron, but with the depth of quality defensive tackles available early in the draft, it would be somewhat shocking to see the Eagles pass on Brockers.
Explanation: The Jets badly need help at the safety position. In 2011, starters Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith were outmatched in coverage and repeatedly taken advantage of by opposing teams’ tight ends. LaRon Landry was signed but he will play primarily in the box at strong safety, Barron will give them an athletic safety with the range to help in pass coverage and also be solid in run support. Barron has a higher ceiling in Rex Ryan’s defense than end/linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who also remains on the board.
Explanation: The Bengals need a cornerback to ensure the future of their secondary. They have signed Jason Allen and Terence Newman to help out, but after the 2012 season, only Leon Hall and Allen will be on the roster, as both Newman and Nate Clements, aging corners, will be free agents. At that point, Allen would be the team’s third cornerback and Kirkpatrick could start opposite of Hall. This year, Kirkpatrick could have a large role as well as Hall is recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury and may not be back to 100 percent when the team takes the field on Monday Night Football in Baltimore. Kirkpatrick was the choice over Stephon Gilmore because he’s better in run support, which will be important in the AFC North, and because he only allowed one touchdown in his college career.
Explanation: The pick comes down to either Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry. Since AJ Smith is making the pick, he is not afraid to put his neck out on the line and draft a player like Hightower over Upshaw. The Chargers need help putting pressure on the quarterback and they can use the versatility that Hightower brings. Hightower can be used on the edges to get after the quarterback and he can be used in the middle to take over for Takeo Spikes in a year. He is a leader and a player the Chargers need.
Explanation: The Bears need to give Julius Peppers some help on the opposite side and defensive end Whitney Mercilus from Illinois can do just that . With Henry Melton on the inside line alongside veteran Matt Toeania and intriguing second-year player Stephen Paea, the Bears have solid pass rush ability from the inside. Peppers racked up 11 sacks last season. Israel Idonije provided some pressure with 5.0 sacks, but the Bears need to add another defensive end to the mix. They need to find that speed rusher who can really complement Peppers’ abilities. Mercilus can be that second end that the Bears need to take their defense to the next level. Corey Wooton and Chauncey Davis are solid depth at defensive end, but Mercilus could be the game changer Chicago was lacking last season opposite Peppers.
Explanation: With players like Ingram, Cox, Coples, Kirkpatrick, Mercilus and Barron off the board, the Titans really only have one way to go: defensive end Nick Perry. They need a star end on the line and Derrick Morgan’s status is up in the air. Kamerion Wimbley certainly has potential, but this is the first time in his career that he’ll be playing defensive end full-time. With Perry being the best remaining option at the position, the Titans will take him. Perry has shown great athleticism and the ability to put on lots of muscle weight fast without affecting his speed or anything else. He has a high ceiling and fits Jerry Gray’s scheme well. The Titans would have been interested in Mercilus had he been there, but he also has too many question marks. The Titans will be happy with Perry. He gives the team serious potential as he gets thrown into rotation during his first year. With Morgan, Wimbley, Dave Ball and now Perry, the defensive end position is pretty well solidified.
Explanation: The Bengals addressed a major need at cornerback with the 17th pick and now they can address another one at 21. The Bengals allowed (willingly) Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn to leave in free agency. They also have not re-signed Bobbie Williams and showing many signs that they will, likely due to his age. They have signed Travelle Wharton, who will be the team’s new left guard. But that leaves a hole at right guard. By adding Glenn, the Bengals get a 345-pound mauler who knows how to move people. He lacks the talent and upside of David DeCastro, but he has the potential to be a solid starter at the NFL level. With Andrew Whitworth, Wharton, Kyle Cook, Glenn and Andre Smith as starters, the Bengals would likely have their best offensive line since 2005. Adding Glenn would go a long way toward opening holes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and providing Andy Dalton with a clean pocket.
Explanation: By addressing their need at running back with the fourth pick, the Browns are able to turn to another position of need here at wide receiver. Kendall Wright seemingly slipped down the draft board after a disappointing showing at the NFL combine, but his pro day left plenty to be excited about. He is more than ready for the NFL and, while his size is lacking, he is the right pick for the Browns.
Explanation: A run on other players the Lions would likely consider turns their focus to the best center in the draft. Dominic Raiola still has some football left in him but there is no candidate to replace him already on the roster. Konz can compete for playing time at guard before the Lions are ready to install him as starting center.The Lions have more pressing needs, particularly at cornerback, but those can be addressed in the second and third rounds. This draft has good depth at cornerback and the selection of Konz is a better value than the remaining choices at offensive tackle.
Explanation: Are you ready for the biggest hypocrite of the mock draft? The selection of Dontari Poe will draw mixed cheers and boos from Madison Square Garden. I’m a hypocrite because I just wrote 700 words comparing Poe to former potential stud Greg Oden of the NBA. Domination in the lower levels is at the very least sort of a prerequisite for Steelers first round draft picks. It’s a bit tougher to categorize an overall level of dominance for a nose tackle, but Poe’s freakish athletic ability and the Steelers’ track record for developing defensive linemen in their 3-4 scheme with something of a redshirt process their first year or two will bode very well for the raw Poe. Pittsburgh wouldn’t expect him to step in on Day one and get dozens of snaps every game, but in time, with some hard work and luck, they could find a more athletic version of Casey Hampton to lock down the zero-technique for another 11 years, like Big Snack did.
Explanation: Jenkins is a reach by any definition, but he won’t be available by the time the Broncos pick in the second round. The one thing Denver won’t do is pick for need. They’ll go “best player available” at every opportunity, regardless of position. Jenkins’ clouded past is what prevents him from going higher in the draft, but in a locker room full of men like Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins he will be just fine. The emphasis on Jenkins’ past is likely disinformation so an interested team can pick him up later than he deserves to be chosen.
Explanation: The national media is convinced that the Houston Texans will take a wide receiver in the first round. With virtually no weaknesses going into the offseason, that made sense. The problem is that Houston has a beast there in wide receiver Andre Johnson and when he missed half the season, all the Texans did was average 27 points a game. Wide receiver is not a first-round priority for the Texans. If Kendall Wright had been available you could make the wide receiver argument because he does everything well. He’s a great route runner with good hands. The other name that the pundits are suggesting is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. Hill is a solid blocker with elite size, something Houston absolutely covets. But they put a bigger value in well rounded guys. Hill has too many unknowns coming out of a run-happy offense. I expect Houston to look to add depth at one of two areas, the right side of the offensive line, where they lost both tackle Eric Winston and guard Mike “biscuit” Brisiel, or outside linebacker, where Houston looks to backup fourth-year man Conner Barwin and second-year weakside pass rusher, Brooks Reed. In real life, we are hoping Whitney Mercilus, whose aggressive motor is a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense, falls to 26. Since both Mercilus and Wright are off the board in this mock, I see the Texans looking to develop that right side of the offensive line. The problem is there is no player at that position that makes sense at the 26th pick. The Texans love tight ends and this time it’s not their fault. Coby Fleener from Stanford is truly the best player available in this scenario. Since a stud receiver isn’t available, a stud tight end makes just as much sense. Kubiak uses tight ends better than anyone in the league and Fleener fits the locker room as well. Besides, we really want Mohamed Sanu in the second round.
Explanation: Upshaw has received some flack due to poor interviews and questionable hustle during workouts. However, his production on the field is undeniable. He is a game-changing outside linebacker that the Patriots need dearly and he can start from day one. He’s a top 20 talent who, luckily, has fallen down to the end of the first round. While he may not be as athletic as Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley, Upshaw’s skill set fits what the Patriots would want from this spot – a stout run defender who can cause pressure on passing downs. He has the strength to stonewall tackles on running downs and the violent arms to get by them and make plays. Upshaw’s speed is not elite, but is sufficient. He also fills a perfect role on the Patriots. He can play opposite of Rob Ninkovich, complementing the latter’s coverage skills. Additionally, Upshaw has the versatility to play multiple spots on defense: 3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 end, 4-3 tackle, 3-3 end and maybe even some inside linebacker and special teams. His instincts are top notch and there will always be room for a player like him. Any character concerns will be held in check by the Patriots’ strong locker room. Upshaw presents great value at the end of the first and the Patriots are lucky to have him.
While many people noticed that B.J. Raji wasn’t very good in 2011, it should be pointed out that he had little help from his teammates on the defensive line. Ryan Pickett is still a good run stuffer, but it’s questionable whether any of the other defensive lineman even deserve a roster spot in the NFL. Still is probably ranked below Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy on most mock draft boards, but I prefer Still because he outperformed Worthy on the playing field last season. There’s also a lot of mock draft support for USC defensive end Nick Perry, but the Packers really need a lineman who could play as a 4-3 defensive tackle or as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Perry could be a very good 4-3 end but it’s questionable whether he could convert to linebacker. Otherwise he doesn’t fit in with the Packers defense. While linebacker is a need too, the defensive line needs the help even more. Devon Still would immediately become the second best defensive lineman on the roster if he were selected.
In the words of Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, the Ravens scouting department looks at the 2012 NFL Draft as a “depth draft.” That may be an indication that the Ravens will move back in an effort to acquire more picks. And if the draft unfolds like this mock version has, the temptation to do exactly that will be strong for Ozzie Newsome and company. However, if committed to the pick and if they stick with their long-time best player available approach, it will be hard for them to pass on Gilmore. Gilmore provides a nice combination of size and speed and he brings a great attitude and work ethic. His tenacity and willingness to improve match up perfectly with Coach John Harbaugh’s style. The rub here for the Ravens is that they invested a first round pick in 2011 in CB Jimmy Smith and $50 million in CB Lardarius Webb. If Newsome views this as an embarrassment of riches, a trade back is likely or they might opt for Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill.
Explanation: The biggest need the 49ers have left to address is the offensive line. Martin is someone the 49ers have had their eye on for some time now and his abilities at the position and his relationship with Jim Harbaugh makes this a smart move. The biggest weakness of the team last year was the offensive line and teams like Baltimore and New York exposed that. Martin will start his rookie season and clear paths for Frank Gore and newcomer Brandon Jacobs, but the biggest reason he starts will be his ability to to keep Alex Smith off his back. While Martin is truly a left tackle, he could spend his rookie year on the right side just to make the offensive line better as a hole.
Explanation: The Patriots’ secondary was deplorable last season due to the lack of depth at safety. They were forced to play mroe than seven different players at free safety due to injuries and a dearth of additional talent. The Patriots have added some depth through free agency with the signing of Steve Gregory, but they still need another player or two to solidify the position. With Mark Barron off the board, Smith is the next best safety to be selected. Smith is an under-appreciated athlete with fantastic instincts. While he may seem slightly limited as a center fielder, his versatility at both safety positions makes him more valuable and a perfect addition for the Patriots backfield.
Explanation: The Giants could go in a lot of directions here. They could take Boise State running back Doug Martin. They could take one of several offensive linemen. They could grab a defensive end like Nick Perry or Chandler Jones. General Manager Jerry Reese loves unusual athletes with tremendous upside, though, and Hill fits the description at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with sub-4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. The Giants have no reliable third receiver right now. Hill could be that — and more.