1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford – Scouting Report
Jim Irsay recently stated that the Colts will consider both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but there is no reason to think he won’t settle on Luck in the very near future (if he hasn’t already). Luck has all the tools necessary to ensure a smooth transition out of the Peyton Manning era – something which most franchise struggle with for years after losing a franchise quarterback. Griffin is an elite talent, potentially with even more upside than Luck, but he isn’t even in the same ballpark as Luck in terms of NFL readiness.
2. St. Louis Rams – Matt Kalil – OT – USC – Scouting Report
The Rams will certainly be tempted to trade this pick, especially if the Browns offer up both of their 1st-round picks. However, if the Rams move down they likely miss out on Kalil. And while they need help at a number of positions, if they’re truly committed to building around Sam Bradford then they must address the offensive line first. Kalil may prove to be the only elite left tackle prospect to come from this draft class.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Riley Reiff – OT – Iowa – Scouting Report
If the Rams take Kalil, the Vikings will likely begin serious trade talks with the Redskins, Browns and possibly the Dolphins, all of whom would like to move up for Robert Griffin. But whether they say put or move down a few slots, Reiff figures to be high on their draft board. He isn’t in Matt Kalil’s class, but he does have the ability to take over for Charlie Johnson at left tackle and anchor their line as a quality starter for the next decade.
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. If someone else where to leapfrog the Browns and select Griffin, they would become a strong candidate to trade down and target someone such as Michael Floyd or Trent Richardson in the mid-1st-round.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne – CB – LSU – Scouting Report
Cornerbacks don’t often come off the board in the top five, but players like Morris Claiborne don’t come around often either. And while anyone should consider Claiborne if he were to fall to this point, the Bucs also have a glaring need at cornerback. Ronde Barber is a free agent, and turns 37 in April. Aqib Talib has shown promise, but he can’t stay out of trouble off the field and there’s no guarantee that the new regime will be willing to put up with his antics.
6. Washington Redskins – Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama – Scouting Report
Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who enjoys picking running backs off the scrapheap and turning them into 1,000-yard backs. While there is some truth to this, it’s also true that Shanahan has rarely, if ever, been given the opportunity to fill his need for a franchise back with a prospect like Richardson. Unless the ‘Skins are able to trade up for a Griffin, it will be difficult to justify passing on Richardson here.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma St – Scouting Report
The Blaine Gabbert era didn’t exactly get off to a blazing start, and if the Jaguars are going to avoid him turning into a bust they need to supply with him the weapons he needs to succeed. Mike Thomas has proven to be a reasonably effective deep threat, but he isn’t the type of receiver that can help a young quarterback develop. Justin Blackmon is a true No. 1, and his presence alone should allow Gabbert to improve by leaps and bounds in 2012.
8. Carolina Panthers – – Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor – Scouting Report
The consensus seems to be that the Panthers will address the interior defensive line with this selection if Blackmon and Claiborne are off the board. But I suspect GM Marty Hurney won’t be so quick to give up on his pair of 2011 3rd-round picks Sione Fua and Terrell McClain. They compliment each other well, with Fua at nose tackle and McClain as the penetrating three-technique. Instead of addressing the defensive line, I believe this draft will be all about surrounding Cam Newton with weapons. This may appear too early for Wright, but he is rumored to be the top receiver on some draft boards and would be a great fit in Carolina.
9. Miami Dolphins – Michael Brockers – DE/DT – LSU – Scouting Report
The Dolphins haven’t officially disclosed what base defense they will run under new coordinator Kevin Coyle, but are expected to use some form of a hybrid defense, working mostly out of the 4-3. An effective defense featuring multiple fronts requires some versatile players, which can be difficult to find. Michael Brockers, who primarily lined up a defensive end in LSU’s 4-3 defense, has the size and athleticism to be an effective penetrating three-technique tackle in their 4-3 sets, as well as at end in the 3-4.
10. Buffalo Bills – Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina – Scouting Report
The Bills have officially announced that they will be transitioning to a 4-3 base defense under new coordinator Dave Wannstedt, which means some personnel changes are coming. There are a few options for them to consider here, but it’s clear that Coples is the cream of the crop – at least in terms of raw talent. While Coples has the highest ceiling, he was terribly inconsistent during his time at North Carolina, which could push the Bills to consider Nick Perry or Melvin Ingram instead.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly – ILB – Boston College – Scouting Report
A strong case could be made for an offensive lineman here (DeCastro, Martin or Adams) but Kuechly represents the best value at a position of need. The Chiefs can still find an adequate offensive lineman in free agency or in the 2nd round, but Kuechly is special and would be an enormous upgrade over Jovan Belcher at inside linebacker.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Nick Perry – DE – USC – Scouting Report
Until free agency starts, it will be tough to predict which direction the Seahawks may go with this selection. They have four free agent defensive ends, including starter Red Bryant, and five free agent linebackers, including starters David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill. Given the potential need for an end, and the depth in this year’s class, I’ll match them up with Nick Perry for now. He’s the top end on my board, and could team with Chris Clemons to give the Seahawks a dangerous pass-rush duo. Oh, and he played for Peter Carroll at USC.
13. Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro – OG – Stanford – Scouting Report
For a team that went 8-8, Arizona sure has a lot of holes to fill. The first priority, however, needs to be fixing the offensive line. With Beanie Wells in the backfield, the Cardinals have the potential to feature a dangerous power running game to compliment their down-field passing attack, but have never supported Wells with the physical offensive line he needs to succeed. DeCastro is an old school type of lineman who is as nasty as the come in the running game.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Dre Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama – Scouting Report
Rob Ryan recently stated that he wants the Cowboys to focus on the secondary this offseason, and I suspect Jerry Jones will listen. Charges were recently dropped against Kirkpatrick in his marijuana arrest, which help alleviate any concerns teams may have about his character. Then again, the Cowboys aren’t the type of franchise that pays much attention to those types of concerns to begin with, and for that reason Janoris Jenkins may be an option here as well.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame – Scouting Report
In a perfect world, Luke Kuechly would fall to the Eagles and solve their issues at inside linebacker. But with Kuechly off the board, the Eagles must go another direction unless they chose to reach for Vontaze Burfict or Dont’a Hightower. One of their secondary needs is receiver, especially if the disgruntled DeSean Jackson chooses no to re-sign this offseason. Michael Floyd would be a nice addition in Philly, giving Michael Vick a more reliable possession receiver to work with.
16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw – LB – Alabama – Scouting Report
When Calvin Pace is your top pass rusher, opposing quarterbacks aren’t exactly fearing for their life when they drop back to throw. The Jets defensive scheme has been able to create pressure, but they still lack that one guy who can get after the quarterback. There isn’t an elite pass rusher in this year’s class, but Upshaw should be an intriguing options for the Jets. Unlike most 3-4 linebacker prospects, who are often collegiate defensive ends, Upshaw already has experience playing in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme. He should be able to step into a starting role without missing a beat.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn – OG – Georgia – Scouting Report
from Oakland – The Bengals running game struggled this year, in part due to the ineffectiveness of the interior offensive line. Changes need to be made, and free agents Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams may not be re-signed. Ideally, David DeCastro would fall here, but if he’s off the board the gap behind him and Cordy Glenn is negligible. Glenn, who played left tackle this past year at Georgia, has the skills to be an elite interior lineman at the next level due to his combination of size and athleticism.
18. San Diego Chargers – Melvin Ingram – LB – South Carolina – Scouting Report
While Shaun Phillips remains among the game’s best 3-4 outside linebackers, the Chargers have been searching for an adequate compliment to him since the decline of Shawne Merriman. Antwan Barnes has emerged as an effective pass-rush specialist, but the Chargers still need to find a more complete linebacker to start opposite Phillips. Ingram doesn’t exactly look the part, but it’s hard to argue with his production. Additionally, his experience lining up all over the field at South Carolina should be of interest to a team like the Chargers. He has the potential to be an Adalius Thomas-like hybrid end/linebacker.
19. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Martin – OT – Stanford – Scouting Report
The addition of Gabe Carimi in the 2011 draft was a step in the right direction, but the Bears offensive line still needs work. J’Marcus Webb was arguably the game’s worst left tackle this past year, and even if Carimi takes over in 2012, there’s still a hole on the right side. Martin is slightly overrated, partially due to the fact that he shared the field with Andrew Luck, but would be a valuable addition in Chicago, giving them two young bookend tackles to build around.
20. Tennessee Titans – Whitney Mercilus – DE – Illinois – Scouting Report
The Titans defensive line was a major disappointment in 2011 and, aside from Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan, no one’s job is secure for 2012. They simply can’t afford to have another season in which backup defensive tackle Karl Klug leads the team in sacks, which makes every available pass rush an option here. In this scenario, Mercilus is the best available and would immediately be plugged into a starting role on the opposite end of the line from Morgan.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Doug Martin – RB – Boise State – Scouting Report
Once Trent Richardson is off the board, it’s anyone’s guess who or when the next running back will be selected. But one of the fastest risers right now is Doug Martin, who may have played his way into the late 1st-round consideration at the Senior Bowl. This would definitely be viewed as a slight reach, but if the Bengals identify Martin as their guy – and I think he’d be a perfect replacement for Cedric Benson – there’s no guarantee he’ll still be on the board when they’re up in the 2nd round.
22. Cleveland Browns – Andre Branch – DE – Clemson
From Atlanta – The Browns would undoubtedly love for one of the top three receivers to fall to No. 22, but that seems unlikely at this point. Their next best alternative would be to add to their rapidly improving defense, potentially by finding a defensive end to plug in opposite Jabaal Sheard. While Sheard had a strong rookie year, he’s a bit of a one-dimensional pass rusher. For that reason, the Browns would be wise to target a guy like Branch who, while his upside may not be as high as Sheard’s, is a more well-rounded prospect.
23. Detroit Lions – Mike Adams – OT – Ohio 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. Mike Adam has been one of the fastest risers early in the draft process, and established himself as a potential mid-to-late 1st-round pick. He’s somewhat soft and inconsistent, which will cause some teams to drop him on their draft board, but it’s impossible to deny his upside based on his elite athleticism for his size.
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 – Devon Still – DT – Penn State – 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. Opinions on Still range from the top-10 to 2nd round, but someone will definitely like him enough to make him a 1st-rounder. He’s inconsistent, but has the skills to be an effective starter in Denver’s system.
26. Houston Texans – Mark Barron – S – Alabama – Scouting Report
The Texans defense improved by leaps and bounds this past year, but they’re not done with the rebuilding process yet. Glover Quin and Danieal Manning are still weak links in the secondary. Mark Barron’s stock may fall slightly due to his reported hernia, but he is still the only 1st-round prospect at his position and someone is likely to roll the dice on him. He would be a significant upgrade over Quin at strong safety in Houston.
27. New England Patriots – Chandler Jones – DE/LB – Syracuse
From New Orleans – The Patriots primary concern this offseason the secondary, but this is a fairly deep class of cornerbacks and there is little difference in talent between the guys on the board here and those who will be available in the 2nd round. There is, however, a steep drop off in talented pass rushers once the top guys have been taken off the board. Jones is raw, and may take some time to fully develop, but should be an effective situational pass rusher immediately.
28. Green Bay Packers – Janoris Jenkins – CB – North Alabama – Scouting Report
The Packers typically don’t roll the dice on guys with character concerns, but when you’re this close to a championship you tend to take risks. Based purely on raw talent Jenkins is a top-10 prospect, but will likely still be on the board here. Sam Shields and Charles Woodson each had rough years, and there’s been talk of moving Woodson to safety.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Peter Konz – C – Wisconsin – Scouting Report
35-year-old Matt Birk is considering retirement and even if he doesn’t call it quits this year, there will be a gaping hole in the center of their line in the coming years. Konz is clearly the cream of the crop at his position in this year’s class, and possibly the only one ready to step into a starting role from day one.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Alshon Jeffery – WR – S. 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 England Patriots – Fletcher Cox – DT – Mississippi State
Vince Wilfork is arguably the game’s best nose tackle, but he’s been surrounded by an ever-changing supporting cast over the past few years. Cox would be a nice addition to the Patriots defensive line due to his size and athleticism, which would allow him to shift between tackle and end in Belichick’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive scheme. Cornerback is also an obvious need, but many of the players they would consider here will still be around when they’re on the board in Round 2.
32. New York Giants – Coby Fleener – TE – Stanford
Jake Ballard was a pleasant surprise for the Giants this year, but they still clearly missed Kevin Boss. The tight end has been a critical piece of the Giants offense during Kevin Gilbride tenure in New York, and it’s tough to imagine them moving forward with Ballard, Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum. Fleener’s athleticism would add a new dimension to the passing game, potentially opening things up on the outside for Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.