Note: This is one of my favorite things to do every year. Not just because I get to pretend to be the GM of all 32 teams based on all of the tape I watch, but because most commenters don’t understand what I’m doing and say things like “team A would never draft player B. ur stupid” or “player A at slot B?” or players A not in the top X, wut a retard.” This is not what I think will happen. This is what I would do. This link is what I think will happen.
1. Indianapolis Colts- QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
This is pretty obvious. Their top quarterback right now is Drew Stanton and Andrew Luck is the only prospect I have given a perfect 100 score to in 5 years of scoring (previous high: Ndamukong Suh 99).
2. Washington Redskins- QB Robert Griffin (Baylor)
Andrew Luck might be a once in a decade prospect, but Griffin would be my top quarterback 9 years out of 10. Before Luck and Griffin, the highest grade I had ever given a quarterback was Matt Stafford: 97. The Redskins traded a lot for him, but there’s a very good chance it’ll pay off.
3. Minnesota Vikings- OT Matt Kalil (USC)
Some years Matt Kalil might even be the top prospect. He has a 97 grade which would have made him the 2nd highest ranked prospect last year (Patrick Peterson: 98) and would have tied for the highest ranked prospect in 2009 (Matt Stafford: 97). He’s the 3rd best offensive tackle I’ve graded (Russell Okung and Jake Long). He plays the 2nd most position and the position of biggest need for the Vikings as they build around Christian Ponder. In this draft class, there’s a big drop off from the top 3 prospects to #4 on.
4. Cleveland Browns- RB Trent Richardson (Alabama)
Normally I do not suggest using a top 10 pick on a running back. In fact, since 2008 I have never given a running back a top 10 grade. However, Richardson is the best running back since Adrian Peterson and the Browns have a massive need at running back. He’s the 4th best player in a class devoid of elite talent after the top 3 and since I’m not in love with any of the remaining quarterbacks, I’ll take Richardson here.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- CB Morris Claiborne (LSU)
This pick has to be defense. The Buccaneers’ defense was one of the worst of all time last season in terms of yards per play allowed and they spent most of their offseason resources on the offense, signing Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. With the exception of overpaying Eric Wright, they haven’t done anything for the defense. Whitney Mercilus grades out as my top defensive player, but he doesn’t fill a need after they used their first 2 picks on defensive ends last offseason. Morris Claiborne is the 2nd ranked defensive player and fills a major need at cornerback.
6. St. Louis Rams- WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State)
The Rams absolutely need to take Justin Blackmon in this spot. Luke Kuechly, Robert Quinn, and Whitney Mercilus all have higher grades, but they don’t really have major needs at any of those positions, especially not in comparison to wide receiver.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois)
You won’t see Whitney Mercilus atop many defensive end boards, but he’s atop mine. He had an incredibly productive and consistent season last year as a junior. He only has one year of production, but he’s only been in the starting lineup for 1 year. If he had returned for his senior season and continued to produce, he probably would have been a top 3 prospect next season on my board. Instead, he’s a top 5 prospect in a year devoid of elite talent outside of the top 3.
He’s an excellent athlete and an elite pass rusher who had 22.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks last season, along with 9 forced fumbles. He had a tackle for loss in every game except one and a sack in every game except two. He had a great game against Mike Adams of Ohio State and Ricky Wagner of Wisconsin, two potential future first round picks (Adams in 2012 and Wagner in 2013). He’s also solid against the run. He’s a great fit for the Jaguars, who have a huge need at defensive end.
8. Miami Dolphins- WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)
Michael Floyd is my top available prospect other than Quinton Coples and Luke Kuechly. Kuechly doesn’t fill a need for the Dolphins at linebacker and Coples wouldn’t be a good fit in their hybrid defense because he couldn’t play rush linebacker and because they don’t have a need at 3-4 defensive end. Brandon Marshall is gone and since I’m not in love with any of the available quarterbacks, I’ll take a wide receiver for whoever the quarterback of the future is.
9. Carolina Panthers- DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina)
Quinton Coples and Luke Kuechly are my top 2 prospects available. Kuechly is one spot higher and would fill somewhat of a need as they could move Jon Beason to outside linebacker and cut Thomas Davis, who is coming off 3 ACL tears. However, Coples and Kuechly have the same 91 grade and Coples fills a bigger need at a position of higher value. Coples can start opposite Charles Johnson and move inside on passing downs, when Greg Hardy, the incumbent, can play at defensive end.
10. Buffalo Bills- MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)
They have bigger needs, but Kuechly is too good to pass on. They’re switching to a 4-3 defense. They have 4 candidates for 3 spots at linebacker, but none are that special. Kirk Morrison and Arthur Moats are pretty mediocre. Nick Barnett is decent, but aging and Kelvin Sheppard was a 3rd round pick. Kuechly would be better than any of those 4 and could be an instant starter at middle linebacker and play all 3 downs with the other 4 competing for the 2 outside spots.
11. Kansas City Chiefs- G David DeCastro (Stanford)
Riley Reiff is a higher ranked prospect at a position of higher value, but I’d rather draft DeCastro and play him at left guard and keep Branden Albert at left tackle than draft Riley Reiff and move Albert to guard. In one situation, you have a player who is probably going to be top 5 at his position in the near future at guard and a solid left tackle and in the other one, you have a raw rookie left tackle and a conversion guy at guard.
12. Seattle Seahawks- OT Riley Reiff (Iowa)
James Carpenter is going to be moving to guard in place of Robert Gallery, who was cut. That leaves them with Breno Giacomini at right tackle. He’s not that great and Reiff would be a huge upgrade. He’s the best available player and he plays a position of high value. Russell Okung is a very good left tackle when healthy, but he rarely is so Reiff can play there if and when Okung gets hurt next season.
13. Arizona Cardinals- MLB Zach Brown (North Carolina)
Fletcher Cox is the best available prospect, but he fills absolutely no need with Darnell Dockett and Calias Campbell already at the position. That leads us to Zach Brown, my 14th ranked prospect, an underrated prospect with elite athleticism. He can play inside linebacker for the Cardinals in their 3-4 next to Daryl Washington. He reminds me of NaVorro Bowman, who the Cardinals are familiar with because he’s a very talented player for division rival San Francisco.
14. Dallas Cowboys- 3-4 DE Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)
Cox doesn’t fit for the Cardinals, but the Cowboys could desperately use him. Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are pretty mediocre players at defensive end and Cox is the best available prospect. He’s the best defensive tackle in a deep class. He reminds me of Arizona’s Darnell Dockett.
15. Philadelphia Eagles- DT Devon Still (Penn State)
This is a pretty big reach on my board, but Kendall Wright, Nick Perry, Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Jonathan Martin, and Stephon Gilmore don’t really fill needs. The three defensive ends don’t fill any need and neither does Jonathan Martin after the signing of Demetrius Bell. Kendall Wright doesn’t make sense either because they resigning DeSean Jackson.
Stephon Gilmore was an option, but the reason they’re trading Asante Samuel is because they had 3 outside cornerbacks last season and no inside cornerbacks. They didn’t have anyone to line up on the slot because Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and Asante Samuel don’t have that kind of skill set and Asomugha is too talented to put inside full time. Gilmore is also more of an outside cornerback so I would take Still, solidify the inside of my defensive line, and take a more specialized inside/slot cornerback in the 2nd or 3rd rounds.
16. New York Jets- RLB Courtney Upshaw (Alabama)
It’s between 3 pass rushers, Upshaw, Perry, and Ingram, but I think Upshaw is a better fit for the 3-4 because of his experience at that position. Rush linebackers do have a high rate of busting in recent years, but ones with experience at the position in college tend to do well. That’s why I like Upshaw here for the Jets, who desperately need rush linebacker help. Kendall Wright is rated higher than all 3 and an option, but he’s too similar to Santonio Holmes. Their real need is for a big, possession receiver.
17. Cincinnati Bengals- WR Kendall Wright (Baylor)
Wright is the best available remaining prospect and fills a need for the Bengals at wide receiver. Andre Caldwell is gone and Jerome Simpson is probably gone. Kendall Wright can be a #2 receiver opposite AJ Green and allow Jordan Shipley to stay inside at slot where he’s best.
18. San Diego Chargers- RLB Nick Perry (USC)
Nick Perry and Melvin Ingram are the two best available prospects and both would fill need, but I have Perry rated higher and I think he’s more athletic and a better fit for the 3-4 than Ingram. Aside from Antawn Barnes, a nickel rusher, no one had more than 3.5 sacks for this team last year. Shaun Phillips is aging and injury prone and Jarret Johnson is great against the run, but not much of a pass rusher.
19. Chicago Bears- OT Jonathan Martin (Stanford)
I thought about Melvin Ingram here because he’s a higher rated player, but Martin is only one slot lower and fills a much bigger need. J’Marcus Webb is one of the worst left tackles in the league. Martin can be an instant upgrade and gives them a good pair of young bookend tackles, assuming Gabe Carimi bounces back from an injury filled rookie season. He was good when healthy.
20. Tennessee Titans- G Cordy Glenn (Georgia)
Glenn is a minor reach, but Melvin Ingram, Dont’a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore, and Mark Barron don’t fill nearly as big of needs. Ingram could be a nice rotational end with Kamerion Wimbley, who could struggle against the run in his first full season as a 4-3 down lineman, and Derrick Morgan, who is starting to look like a bust, but I’d rather add help for that position in the 2nd round.
Stephon Gilmore could be their replacement for Cortland Finnegan, but I like Alterraun Verner’s chances as a full time starter with Jason McCourty. They just need depth at the position. Hightower might be a good fit as the 3rd linebacker they need, but I don’t love him in a 4-3. Barron was the most intriguing, but, while safety is a need, it didn’t make sense to take him when Glenn is just one spot lower. He fills a major need at guard. LeRoy Harris pretty mediocre and Steve Hutchinson is getting up there in age.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina)
Stephon Gilmore is the best available who fills a need. Jason Allen and Nate Clements are just veteran stopgaps, while Leon Hall is no sure thing after an Achilles tear in November. Gilmore is my 2nd rated cornerback because of Janoris Jenkins’ and Dre Kirkpatrick’s off the field problems.
22. Cleveland Browns- QB Brock Osweiler (Arizona State)
This is my biggest reach yet, but there’s no shame in reaching for a quarterback as long as it’s not a massive need. I think the Browns would be best off trading Trent Richardson at 4 and Brock Osweiler at 22 rather than taking Ryan Tannehill at 4 and a complimentary player at 22. Both are projects, but Osweiler has the better arm and can be had later in the draft. He probably won’t play much as a rookie, but Colt McCoy is a capable stopgap for a few games.
23. Detroit Lions- DE Melvin Ingram (South Carolina)
Ingram is the top rated player on the board and while he might not fill an obvious need, the Lions can save a good amount of money if they cut Kyle Vanden Bosch, an aging player. Ingram can take his spot in their defensive end rotation and start opposite Cliff Avril.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers- MLB Dont’a Hightower (Alabama)
In my real mock draft, I’ve had the Steelers taking Hightower for months. In fact, this is one of the most popular picks of the first round in the mock draft community. It wouldn’t be a bad pick at all. Value lines up with need as Hightower is my highest ranked prospect and they desperately need a new starting middle linebacker after cutting James Farrior.
25. Denver Broncos- DT Michael Brockers (LSU)
Brockers is the top available prospect on my board other than Mark Barron and fills a major need for the Broncos. They needed help at defensive tackle before they lost Brodrick Bunkley to the Saints. Now it’s a position of desperate need, especially as they still haven’t resigned Marcus Thomas. Barron is an option, but Brockers makes more sense. They already have 2 young safeties and a veteran stopgap. Barron would be better than all 3, but there’s more value for this team in drafting a defensive tackle like Brockers.
26. Houston Texans- S Mark Barron (Alabama)
The Texans take Barron, best available. Glover Quin wasn’t awful in his first season at safety, but he could definitely be upgraded by Barron, the best safety in a weak safety class. He makes a lot of sense for a team with very few needs.
27. New England Patriots- CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama)
Kirkpatrick is the best available prospect. He could fill a hole for the Patriots at either cornerback or safety, two positions of major need for them.
28. Green Bay Packers- RLB Shea McClellin (Boise State)
McClellin is a rising prospect who I have had as a borderline first round prospect since the season ended. Stephen Hill and Coby Fleener are rated higher prospects, but neither would fill any sort of need for the Packers.
29. Baltimore Ravens- C Peter Konz (Wisconsin)
Hill and Fleener don’t fill a need here either, though I thought about Hill as a future long term starter opposite Torrey Smith for whenever the aging Anquan Boldin is gone. Doug Martin doesn’t fill a need either, so it’s on to Peter Konz, the next best prospect. He can immediately start at guard and play center long term in place of the aging Matt Birk. I think that makes more sense than Hill.
30. San Francisco 49ers- WR Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech)
Hill fits much better here. Neither Mario Manningham nor Michael Crabtree are #1 receivers in my book, though Crabtree can pass as one. Meanwhile, Randy Moss doesn’t have much left in the tank, iuf he has anything. Hill can be their #1 receiver of the future and, at worst, he could be a nice 3rd receiver after Moss is done.
31. New England Patriots- S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame)
This is a minor reach, but he’s the best available who fills a need. Coby Fleener doesn’t fill a need because they don’t need another tight end. Doug Martin doesn’t fill a need because they drafted 2 running backs early in 2012. Kevin Zeitler would fill a minor need because of Brian Waters’ age and Logan Mankins’ torn ACL, but only a minor need. Dontari Poe would fill a need by position because he’s a defensive tackle, but he’s too similar to Vince Wilfork. Casey Hayward doesn’t make any sense because they just drafted a cornerback and while they could move either him or Kirkpatrick to safety, they’d be best off taking Harrison Smith, a natural safety.
32. New York Giants- TE Coby Fleener (Stanford)
Coby Fleener is the best available prospect and fills a need for the Giants. Both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tore their ACL in the Super Bowl and they needed help at the position before that. Just because they signed Martellus Bennett in free agent, doesn’t mean they don’t still need help at the position.