One more mock draft. Tomorrow, you’ll get the real thing. One thing to note though. This draft could be trade central. There are so many teams early on who’d be willing to trade back and plenty of teams with the ammo and poorly placed draft slot to trade up. There are tons of talented DEs in this draft, so it’ll be interesting to see when the run occurs. The same goes for CB. This mock draft assumes NO trades, which obviously (and hopefully) won’t be the case (draft day is always more exciting when there’s wheeling and dealing to be had!). However, after each pick, you’ll see a short description of the players and moves these teams might consider.
Lastly, this mock draft goes out to Lionel Joel. After seeing his mock draft on B&T a few days ago, I knew I had to step my game up. Joel, you’re the man to beat, but don’t stop reading now, because I’m coming for you.
Let’s do this.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, LT, USC – There’s too much talk about Kalil not being the pick for it to be true (can you spell smokescreen?). While I do believe that the pick truly comes down to Kalil and Claiborne (and don’t count out Blackmon out either), and in fact, I think the Vikings have a bigger need at cornerback and might not be ready to give up on Charlie Johnson (who is only 27 and was widely lauded as a great free agent signing last year), I just can’t help but think that all this Vikings-not-taking-Kalil talk is trade-fueled so they can move down behind the Bucs to grab Kalil and an extra pick (Joe Thomas and to a lesser extent, Donald Penn, virtually guarantee Kalil doesn’t get picked by the Browns or Bucs). But Charlie Johnson has played LT, RT, and G in his short career and the Vikings released both their starting guards earlier in the season — so Johnson becomes the Uche Nwaneri of the Vikings and Kalil becomes the Joe Thomas… or Jason Smith of the Vikings.
4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU – This is too high for a project like Tannehill, and I’m not convinced that the Browns are willing to give up on Hardesty just yet. There’s more than enough high talent / depth at RB for them to pass here, and moreover, an elite RB is a difference maker for a great team, not a poor one. If they love Blackmon, he’s the pick here. But they need an elite deep threat, as Greg Childs has the potential to be a solid possession receiver, so Floyd could be a darkhorse even this early. I think they would love to trade back and be able to grab a guy like Reiff and Wright/Stephen Hill to try to fix RT and WR. But if there are no offers, Cleveland is going to maximize value by picking an elite talent, and if they don’t think Blackmon is as elite as Richardson or Claiborne, Cleveland goes Claiborne.
5. Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama – The Bucs, I think, are pissed. They’ve lost their guy, in Claiborne, and they could’ve traded up (to 3) to get him. They now have to decide whether they’re going to grab Richardson, or pick another elite talent and grab a complementary back to Blount later in the draft (Lamar Miller?). The other arguably elite talent left is Blackmon, but the Bucs spent $50+ million retooling their WR corps, which has talent in Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams, and Preston Parker (to go with Vincent Jackson). The biggest need they have that could be addressed here is at safety, where Mark Barron could be a huge surprise pick. But the Bucs in the last few years have shown to be a value oriented team, and they’re not going to pass on an elite talent. They go with Trent, and St. Louis and Jax breathe a sigh of a relief.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State – So many needs. Especially at the offensive line. But WR is one of the biggest and they get theirs.
7. Jackonsville Jaguars: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College – Who will it be? The names have been thrown out – Cox, Gilmore, Ingram, Floyd, Reiff, Coples. The list is goes on… because I’ll add another – Luke Kuechly. I know it’s not a position of need, but this guy has the size, speed, and sheer competitiveness to make Gene Smith pick him. LB is not a dire need, but our LB’s are injury prone, so you’d get a part time starter with him as the pick. Another guy I like to get consideration here – Mark Barron. He’s got the pedigree, the tools, everything you’re looking for. At the end of the day, who is the best player at this pick? I think it comes down to Cox, Kuechly, and Barron. Positional value and draft depth throws out DeCastro, and Ingram and Floyd are ranked just a little lower. I think it comes down to Kuechly and Cox, and I just can’t see Gene missing out on a guy that’s everything he wants in a player.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M – Is Miami faking by not being sold on Tannehill?? I don’t think so. They legitimately understand that a player that’s only played 1 season probably isn’t worth the 8th pick. And I get the feeling that Barron would be another player who is a perfect fit here. But honestly, Tannehill compares pretty favorably to Blaine Gabbert as a prospect, and at the end of the day, they risk too much by getting cute and trying to jump the Browns for Weeden. So Tannehill it is.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi St. – Great need and Great value.
10. Buffalo Bills: Mark Barron, S, Alabama – The guy that keeps getting considered goes here. A questionable luxury-esque pick for the Bills that have plenty of other more glaring needs, but they get arguably the BAP here.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa – Is Riley Reiff an LT? The Chiefs say yes and the offensive line enters the season looking solid, with Brandon Albert at guard and Eric Winston at RT. Darkhorse: Dont’a Hightower.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC – Do you risk it with potential or go safe where there is depth? Coples and DeCastro both fill a need, but Pete Carroll and Co. think they can handle Coples and continue making splashy draft picks.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame – What do you do? Fill a desperate need that the face of your franchise has been publicly pining for, or go for the best OLB prospect in the draft, who some people have going as high as 7? With two promising young OLBs already on the roster, the Cardinals appease Fitzie and get a potential starter.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, South Carolina – Dallas is in the perfect spot. Barron is gone, but they have so many great choices here at 14. The three ‘Bama players should all be in play, as will Gilmore. But I like Melvin Ingram here. Too much value and will look great next to Demarcus Ware.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU – BAP time and despite how talented their D-line is, this still fits a need. If not, the Asante Samuel replacement might be taken here, but they’re looking for man cover corners and the best of those is Jenoris Jenkins. So, unlike any of Jenoris’s baby momma’s, they pass on giving Jenoris a chance and try to keep adding to that infamous Philadelphia Pass Rush. Darkhorse: Dont’a. Super Darkhorse: Lavonte David. (Yeah, they need some help at linebacker).
16. New York Jets: Cordy Glenn, RT, Georgia – Early for a RT? Maybe. But this guy is incredibly gifted as an athlete and was a punishing guard in college. He struggled a little as a LT last year, but he’ll find his home on the right side protecting Tim Tebow.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford – At this point, it’s crazy to think that the Bengals won’t take a cornerback given how their defense was exposed once Leon Hall got hurt last year. But I’m not in love with any of them, so at this point in the draft, I think they’re getting a better value and filling a more glaring need by taking one of my favorite players in the draft.
18. San Diego Chargers: Dontario Poe, NT, Memphis – Poor Chargers. They need offensive line help so bad, and they had a pretty good shot at getting Glenn or DeCastro. But they go back-to-back and Mike Adams, Jonathon Martin, and Peter Konz aren’t at the same level, making SD a prime trade-out candidate. The D-line could really use some help here, and at 18, SD pulls the trigger on the combine’s most impressive athletic specimen.
19. Chicago Bears: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina – A big play DB. Not the perfect man cover cover they’re looking for, but Gilmore could turn out to be the spitting image of Charles Tillman.
20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois – They could use a corner, but DE is a bigger need. They could go upside with Chandler Jones, but I think Mercilus is the pick here.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – They gambled that either Chicago or TN would choose a DE over a CB and they were right. The Bengals make their two first rounders count.
22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor – They didn’t address WR or QB with their first pick, but they do so here. While this draft is WR deep, its deeper in the possession receiver category than in the elite speed, separation, playmaking category. They make the wright pick here (sorry, I had to do that). But knowing what you do now, would you go Claiborne-Wright, like they did or go Blackmon-Jenkins?
23. Detroit Lions: Mike Adams, T,Ohio State – Do they go OT here – they desperately need one? Do they go corner – they desperately need one? Do they go safety – the need isn’t as great, but Harrison Smith could be the best available player here (that doesn’t have Jenoris Jenkins concerns) given their needs. Despite being a BAP team, Detroit reaches a little and takes Mike Adams, knowing that this could be one of the last times they have a chance to take a tackle prospect with elite pass protection abilities.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama – Talk about a perfect fit. I know the Steelers have huge offensive line concerns, and perhaps Jonathon Martin should be the pick here. But they also have a huge need at ILB, and Hightower will fit in perfectly with that defense.
25. Denver Broncos: Jenoris Jenkins, CB, N Alabama / Florida – They need a big, clogging defensive tackle, but there isn’t one worth it here. The more penetrating, disruptive guys could be found here, with Kendall Reyes being my favorite. But I think the Broncos take a chance here. They have a solid mix of young talent and veterans on this team, and you can’t find a better mentor in the league than Champ Bailey to help Jenoris Jenkins become a professional.
26. Houston Texans: Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford – They could use some serious help at WR, NT and OLB depth, so I expect to see Stephen Hill and Shea McClellin get some love in the war room. But O-line is in dire need of some help after losing Winston and others this offseason, so Houston takes the last real first round LT prospect.
27. New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame – For such a good team, they have some significant needs. Harrison Smith would be perfect here, although they really need a safety whose strong suit is coverage. Lavonte David should once again get some consideration to put some speed on the field at LB, but the real need here is for a pass rusher. Upshaw, Jones, McClellin, and Branch should get some love here. If they like them all about the same, the Pats gamble and take Smith and hope that one of them will be available in round 2. But I think they love Upshaw or McClellin here so don’t be surprised if they go here – they’re both scheme versatile and very instinctive.
28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State – Harrison Smith would’ve been perfect here, but New England snatched him up right before Green Bay could, so they turn to the pass rush. They’re looking for pure pass rush, and McClellin, Andre Branch, and Ronnell Lewis all fit here.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Andre Branch, OLB/DE, Clemson – They need ILB and the O-line is a mess. But Peter Konz is the only pick on the O-linen worth it here, and although he’s rated at the best center in the draft, he’s got enough question marks to slide into round 2. Baltimore has made a living off of grabbing players who drop during the draft, but the only player who has dropped this far is Upshaw, and I don’t think he fits as well as Branch does. .
30. San Francisco 49ers: Amini Silatolu, G/T, Midwestern St – Last year, SF took prospects that had elite skills, athleticism, and raw potential. So we’re gonna look in that direction again. Look for a trade back here, but barring that Stephen Hill and Amini Silatolu are those types of players. Guard is a bigger need, but Hill is the better prospect. SF was so close to the big dance last year, so they lean a little more towards need. A mistake.
31. New England Patriots: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama– New England’s gamble pays off and they get their man. The Upshaw fall finally ends, and NE might be snagging two huge impact players in this first round.
32. New York Giants: Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska – They could force an O-line pick, where they need some help, but the Giants are smart and will go with a value pick here. Lavonte David and Chandler Jones would be great fits here, and with Kiwanuka potentially moving back to DE, I like David here.
Despite the drop-off after pick 5 and 6, I like the Jaguars taking Kuechly at 7. The ESPN article about him was awesome, and despite not playing at a glaring-need or ultra-valuable position, he’s the type of clean, gritty, well-rounded, elite-ish prospect that we should be considering at 7. I’d love to trade back and get some picks or find a WR / DE worth drafting at 7, but who are you going to be truly comfortable taking there? As we know from our Derrick Harvey, Reggie Williams, and Matt Jones experiments, the most important thing in Gene’s retooling of the Jags roster is to not miss with a first round pick, and I don’t think we’d miss with Kuechly (although I bet the Seattle Seahawks hate themselves for thinking that about Aaron Curry a few years ago). I look forward to reading your comments after Thursday night, especially yours Lionel Joel!