1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford - Scouting Report
There was a brief wave of Robert Griffin III supporters trying to create a debate, but it was short lived. Andrew Luck is head and shoulders above Griffin as a prospect and, despite Tony Dungy’s support, Griffin has no shot at going No. overall. If anything keeps Luck out of Indy, it would have to be a trade offer the Colts simply could not refuse.
2. St. Louis Rams – Matt Kalil – OT – USC - Scouting Report
The will be trade rumors involving this pick right up until draft day, but I truly believe the Rams will stay put. Matt Kalil is a franchise left tackle, and the Vikings wouldn’t hesitate to select him at No. 3. If the Rams trade down with the Browns or Redskins, they’ll miss out on Kalil, and Justin Blackmon is not an adequate consolation prize.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Morris Claiborne – CB – LSU - Scouting Report
There will be a push among Vikings fans to select Justin Blackmon, but Claiborne is probably a safer pick here and also fills a glaring hole. The Vikes have talent at cornerback, but keeping everyone healthy has been a serious problem. If they do want Blackmon, they could trade down with Redskins, who may want to jump up for RGIII.
4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III – QB – Baylor - Scouting Report
I’m not convinced that Colt McCoy is a bust, but this should still be an easy decision for the Browns. Griffin is an elite playmaker who has the ability to change an offense from day one. With Griffin in the fold, and possibly another offensive playmaker added later in the draft, the Browns offense would be unrecognizable in 2012.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama - Scouting Report
This is a tough one to figure out. The Bucs would love for Kalil or Claiborne to fall, but if both are off the board they don’t have an obvious option. The Bucs would probably be content to move forward with LeGarrette Blount at running back, but it will be tough to pass up Richardson, who has Adrian Peterson-like potential.
6. Washington Redskins – Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma St - Scouting Report
The Redskins desperately need to fix their quarterback situation and will probably consider trading up for Robert Griffin. Assuming that doesn’t happen, they should turn their attention to other areas of the offense. Richardson would be a great fit if he’s on the board, but in this scenario they have to settle for Blackmon. This isn’t the ideal pick, but it makes sense in this situation.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dre Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama - Scouting Report
Kirkpatrick’s recent arrest on marijuana possession puts his status as a potential top-10 pick in doubt, but in the right scenario the Jaguars could be a suitor. Rashean Mathis is a free agent and coming off a season-ending knee injury, putting his future with the team in doubt. Kirkpatrick may be a slight reach, but fills a very obvious hole.
8. Carolina Panthers – Riley Reiff – OT – Iowa - Scouting Report
I’m going out on a bit of a limb here. When healthy, Jeff Otah is an elite right tackle and a great bookend to Jordan Gross. However, he’s played just 29 of 48 career games and his replacement, Byron Bell, was an absolute disaster this past year. Reiff gives them insurance for Otah, and either he or Otah could move to guard if everyone’s healthy.
9. Miami Dolphins – Michael Brockers – DE – LSU - Scouting Report
If Reiff were on the board I wouldn’t hesitate to place him here. But since he’s gone the Dolphins have a tough decision on their hands: reach for Jonathan Martin or settle for the best available? Brockers will be the top rated defensive end on most draft boards for teams running 3-4 defenses, which the Dolphins will likely continue to run under Joe Philbin.
10. Buffalo Bills – Nick Perry – DE – USC - Scouting Report
GM Buddy Nix has been trying to put together a roster capable of playing a 3-4 defense, but the recent promotion of Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator indicates they may be sticking with the 4-3. Either way, they need to find the right personnel for the scheme. Assuming they go with the 4-3 system, Perry would be significant upgrade to their pass rush.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Mike Adams – OT – Ohio State
The offseason hype machine is in overdrive pumping up Mike Adams and, while I think he’s among the most overrated prospects in the draft, he’s a decent fit in Kansas City. The Chiefs need an upgrade at right tackle and, due to the running style of Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, would benefit from having an athlete like Adams at the position. He would be an immediate upgrade over Barry Richardson.
12. Seattle Seahawks – David DeCastro – OG – Stanford
Robert Gallery was a huge bust for the Seahawks last offseason and I would not be shocked if he were cut loose, especially if the Seahawks were to land DeCastro here. In 2011, the Seahawks ranked as the 5th-worst run blocking team according to ProFootballFocus – a problem which DeCastro could help solve immediately.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor - Scouting Report
Wright’s evaluation will vary from team to team but, despite his small stature, he has the playmaking ability to be an instant-impact rookie. Andre Roberts and Early Doucet failed to step up this year, leaving the Cardinals with a hole to fill at receiver. Wright’s ability to stretch the field makes him a perfect compliment to Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Luke Kuechly – ILB – Boston College - Scouting Report
The Cowboys and Eagles picking back-to-back creates an interesting dynamic, as both could be interested in some of the same players, including Kuechly. Bradie James (31) and Keith Brooking (36) are both free agents and clearly aren’t part of the Cowboys long-term plans. The addition of Kuechly would give Dallas two of the best young interior linebackers in the game (along with Sean Lee).
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Mark Barron – S – Alabama
Mark Barron is another player that could interest both the Eagles and Cowboys. Kurt Coleman has been a steal considering he was selected in the 7th round, but he isn’t the Eagles long-term answer at strong safety. Barron is a much better fit in the Eagles defense due to his ability to step up in run support, which Coleman, due to his size, struggles with at times.
16. New York Jets – Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame - Scouting Report
This is a tough spot for the Jets, who really need a pass rusher but don’t have an impact player on the board. Santonio Holmes is good as gone, and Plaxico Burress is a free agent. Even if Burress is re-signed, the Jets would be left with little depth at receiver and in desperate need of an upgrade at the position.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Devon Still – DT – Penn State - Scouting Report
[from Oakland] The Bengals have an adequate interior defensive line, but it’s a unit that has been in need of an upgrade for awhile. This year’s class is fairly deep, and a quality defensive tackle should be on the board here. It isn’t the Bengals top priority, but if a player like Still is available, he’ll definitely be in the mix.
18. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Martin – OT – Stanford - Scouting Report
Martin reminds me somewhat of Bryan Bulaga – a dominant run blocker and a decent pass protector, but not athletic enough to play left tackle. For that reason, I expect Martin to slip on draft day, just like Bulaga. San Diego would be a perfect landing spot, where he could step into a starting role on the right side immediately.
19. Chicago Bears – Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina - Scouting Report
With Blackmon, Floyd and Wright off the board, the Bears don’t have the option of taking a receiver here and instead settle for the best available player. Coples has the potential to beat out Israel Idonije for a starting job, but, more importantly, the underachiever would have an opportunity to learn from Julius Peppers.
20. Tennessee Titans – Peter Konz – C – Wisconsin
Chris Johnson’s struggles were partially his fauly, but his offensive line did struggle to open up running lanes. And it all starts with Eugene Amano at center, who was ranked among the worst at his position for the second straight year by ProFootballFocus. Konz is one of the best prospects at his position in recent years, and would be an immediate upgrade in Tennessee.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn – OG – Georgia
There will be plenty of speculation that the Bengals will target a running back with one of their 1st-round picks. But the Bengals would be wise to wait until the 2nd round for a player like Doug Martin or Lamar Miller. Cordy Glenn would be a safer option, and fills an even more glaring hole. Both starting guards, Nate Livings and 35-year-old Bobbie Williams are free agents and the Bengals likely won’t rush to re-sign either.
22. Cleveland Browns – Courtney Upshaw – LB – Alabama
From Atlanta - The Browns would undoubtedly love for Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright to fall to No. 22, but both are likely to be off the board. That will leave them with a tough decision: reach for Alshon Jeffery or Mohamed Sanu, or settle for the best available. Courtney Upshaw likely wouldn’t start right away in Cleveland, but would be 32-year-old Scott Fujita’s eventual replacement at strong-side linebacker.
23. Detroit Lions – Zebrie Sanders – OT – Florida State
The Jeff Backus era may finally be ending in Detroit. Backus has started all 176 games of his career in Detroit, which has made him valuable for his durability, if nothing else. But the 34-year-old is a free agent, and may not have a future with the Lions. Zebrie Sanders has been one of the fastest risers early in the draft process, and established himself as a potential late 1st-round pick. He may ultimately be better suited for the right side, but could be given a chance to replace Backus in Detroit.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dontari Poe – DT – Memphis
There will definitely be a push from Steelers fans to target a cornerback, such as Alfonzo Dennard, with this pick. But they’ve needed to upgrade the secondary for two or three years, and GM Kevin Colbert refuses to spend high picks or big money on the position. One that Colbert does do, however, is fill holes before they open up, and the Steelers are about to have a gaping hole at nose tackle once 34-year-old Casey Hampton retires. This could be the year they look to find his replacement, and Poe is a prime candidate.
25. Denver Broncos – Brandon Thompson – DT- Clemson - Scouting Report
Lost in all the Tebow-mania was the amazing job John Fox and his staff did turning around the Broncos defense. But despite the performance, there’s still relatively little talent on that side of the ball and a number of players, including both starting tackles, are set to become free agents. Thompson fits Fox’s scheme perfectly. He’s limited athletically, but plays with an intensity that NFL coaches will love.
26. Houston Texans – Andre Branch – DE/LB – Clemson
If the Texans re-sign Mario Williams this won’t happen, but there is a very realistic possibility that the Texans let him walk. Unfortunately, this isn’t a strong year for pass rushers, which limits their options here. The best fit for Wade Phillips’ scheme is probably Andre Branch, one of the more underrated prospects in this class. He isn’t the next Mario Williams, but can definitely be an effective pass rusher in Houston.
27. New England Patriots – Brandon Boykin – CB – Georgia
From New Orleans - Playing Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman in the secondary just isn’t an option for 2012. Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty should be penciled in as the starters for 2012, but there isn’t an obvious third option. Boykin probably won’t be the third-rated corner on most board, but he’d be a good fit in New England. They could use a smaller, quicker corner to compliment McCourty and Dowling and to matchup with some of the quicker slot receivers in the league.
28. Green Bay Packers – Stephon Gilmore – CB – South Carolina
The Packers secondary took a noticeable step backwards this past year, and I have to wonder if their strong performance during the Super Bowl run was just a fluke. Charles Woodson is nearing the end of the road, and there’s talk of him moving to safety. Sam Shields, who had a breakout performance in 2010, struggled and saw progressively less playing time in 2011. There will be plenty of options for the Packers in the late 1st-round, but I’ll give the edge to Gilmore, with Alfonzo Dennard and Chase Minnifield also in the conversation.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower – ILB – Alabama
The Ravens used Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe interchangeably in 2011, which seems to indicate they don’t view either as Ray Lewis’ replacement. Additionally, both are free agents (although Ellerbe is restricted). This isn’t a great class of linebackers, but in the late 1st round the Ravens may be willing to take a chance on a guy like Hightower. He already has experience playing in a 3-4 defense, which should interest the Ravens who run a hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Alshon Jeffery – WR – South Carolina - Scouting Report
After the NFC Championship Game, it’s painfully obvious where the 49ers attention needs to be focused this offseason. Their receiving corps is among the weakest in the league, and should invest at least one draft pick in the position. Alshon Jeffery has a ton of talent, but is terribly inconsistent. That will scare off some teams, but the 49ers could be one of the coaching staffs who are willing to gamble on him.
31. New York Giants – Jerel Worthy – DT – Michigan State
The Giants really don’t have any glaring holes, which makes them a candidate to simply add the best available player. There should be plenty of options for the Giants in this year’s defensive line class, which works well because they could use some depth at tackle – Jimmy Kennedy and Rocky Bernard are both set to become free agents. Worthy is a fringe 1st-round pick, and could be in an ideal situation in New York where he could ease his way into a starting role.
32. New England Patriots – Whitney Mercilus – DE/LB – Illinois - Scouting Report
Once the Patriots add to their secondary, the focus should turn to their pass rush. There isn’t an elite pass rusher in this year’s class, but there are a few defensive ends who would be able to excel at linebacker in the Patriots defensive scheme. Mercilus is one of the better athletes at his position in this year’s class, and should be able to provide the Patriots with a decent edge rush, even if he is only used in passing situations early in his career.