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1. Indianapolis Colts- QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
Not much to say here. The Colts have already announced Andrew Luck as the pick.
None: There is no other option. Andrew Luck will be the pick.
2. Washington Redskins- QB Robert Griffin (Baylor)
He hasn’t been formally announced as the selection, but I would be very, very, very surprised if they took anyone other than Griffin. They didn’t trade up not to get a quarterback.
None: There is no other option. Robert Griffin will be the pick.
3. Minnesota Vikings- OT Matt Kalil (USC)
Everyone and their dog has had Matt Kalil here since the Redskins traded up for Griffin…everyone except Adam Schefter. Schefter has maintained all along that the Vikings are looking at all their options here and really like 3 players, Kalil, Justin Blackmon, and Morris Claiborne equally, even going as far as to say that Kalil only has a 28.3% chance of being the pick (don’t know where he got that number). Schefter is almost also right, but I’ve maintained for weeks that he’s wrong simply because there wasn’t anyone else who agreed with him.
Now people are starting to agree with him. ESPN Minnesota’s Tom Pelissero reported a few days ago that there is something to the Claiborne to the Vikings rumors and Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer press has said that he would be “surprised” if the Vikings took Kalil. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week that he didn’t see left tackles as offensive “game changers” because they don’t score points (what?!) and both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have Claiborne here in their mocks. GM Rick Spielman has maintained all along that they like all 3 players at that spot.
I’m just going to come out and say it: the Vikings would be morons to take Claiborne. The main reason for that is that they just spent the 12th overall pick on a quarterback, one that was considered a reach. Why reach for a quarterback if you don’t plan on giving him every chance to succeed and giving yourself every chance to evaluate him?
The Vikings aren’t going to win very many games this season no matter what they do here. But Kalil at least gives them a chance to be able to know in 12 months time whether or not Ponder is the right guy going forward. You simply can’t accurately evaluate a quarterback who has no offensive supporting cast. You can’t. Blackmon makes some sense in this regard and I wouldn’t hate that pick, but Kalil is a better player at a position of higher value.
Besides, both this wide receiver class and this cornerback class are extremely deep this year, whereas the left tackle class is not. It’ll be a lot easier to find a wide receiver or cornerback in the 2nd or 3rd round than a left tackle and they do need all 3. If they were to take Claiborne, he’d be the first cornerback to go in the top 3 since 1997 and he’s nowhere near good enough to get that honor.
He’s a good cornerback, but there’s a Morris Claiborne in every draft. There may be a Matt Kalil most drafts too, but Matt Kalils go in the top 3 way more often than cornerbacks. There have been 6 offensive tackles to go in the top 3 since the last time a cornerback went there (5 wide receivers). Furthermore, elite cornerbacks are frequently available in free agency. Elite left tackles never are.
Teams want to lock these guys down because, outside of quarterback, there isn’t a more important position. Every position always has some elite guys hit the free agency market…except quarterback and left tackle. And the two positions with the highest average salary and franchise tag…you guessed it, quarterback and left tackle. Finally, the Vikings are a cover 2 team so cornerbacks shouldn’t have as much value to them. That’s kind of the whole point of a cover 2 system.
So what am I getting at? While the Vikings may be considering all of their options here and while they may be perfectly fine and moving down to somewhere they can get one of the 3, I think if they stay put, Kalil is the guy. I think all of the Claiborne love by them has been smokescreening and that Kalil is the leader in their clubhouse (maybe not by a lot, but the leader). I wouldn’t rule out someone moving up here to grab Richardson, but gun to my head, I say the Vikings stay put and take Kalil. The Vikings can’t possibly be that stupid. Right? Right?
CB Morris Claiborne (LSU): I go into detail above, but Claiborne is definitely an option here.
WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): The other option for the Vikings here.
RB Trent Richardson (Alabama): Only if they trade out. Richardson might be the best non-quarterback in this draft class, but with Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have absolutely no use for him.
4. Cleveland Browns- RB Trent Richardson (Alabama)
There’s 4 options here for the Browns, Richardson, Ryan Tannehill, Justin Blackmon, and Morris Claiborne. I’m going to eliminate two of those guys right away. I can’t see them going Claiborne because he’s a defensive player. Their defense wasn’t that bad last year, but their offense was absolutely miserable. It’s completely devoid of play makers. I’m also going to rule out Tannehill. I list Tannehill because if you’re in love with the quarterback Tannehill, you take him here at 4. But everything I’m hearing says they aren’t. They sound more interested in adding Brandon Weeden later in the draft.
So that leaves Richardson and Blackmon. There’s some evidence for Blackmon. Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, who knows the Browns well, is saying this will be Blackmon and just today Mike Mayock, who is always tuned in on these things, mocked Blackmon here, though he acknowledged Richardson would be the best decision. However, Mike Holmgren is calling a lot of the shots here in Cleveland and in his 7 drafts in Seattle, he didn’t take a receiver before the 5th round. Most people agree that Richardson will be the pick here and I’m sticking with chalk and putting Richardson here.
QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M): If they’re in love with Tannehill, they’ll take him. That just doesn’t sound that likely anymore.
WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): Only because Mary Kay Cabot has had him here for forever and she is pretty knowledgeable on the Browns. Mike Holmgren has never put value on the wide receiver position, but he’s not the only one with a say.
CB Morris Claiborne (LSU): Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer came out of nowhere today to say Claiborne would be the pick here. But no one else seems to agree and I’d be shocked if they didn’t do something to fix their offense here.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- CB Morris Claiborne (LSU)
Staying chalk here. The Buccaneers have their eyes on two players, Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne. Unless Minnesota does something to screw everything up, they’ll get a chance to take one of those two here. If Minnesota goes Claiborne and Cleveland goes Richardson, the Buccaneers then have a dilemma. Do they take BPA in Matt Kalil even though it’s not their biggest need? Or do they reach for a defensive player like Luke Kuechly or Fletcher Cox?
The most logical choice in that scenario is to move down to 10 with Buffalo, picking up an extra 2nd round pick in the process. Buffalo would then take Kalil. Reports said earlier today that the Bills would be fine parting with their 2nd rounder if it meant getting Kalil. That might not to get them to #3, but it’d probably be enough to get them up to #5.
Anyway, the Vikings make the right choice in this scenario so the choice is easy for the Buccaneers. They’ll just take whoever Cleveland doesn’t. They’re probably preferring Richardson and may even jump Cleveland to 3 to take him, but they’ll be fine with Claiborne even how bad their defense was last year. They had the 2nd worst pass defense in the league in terms of YPA. Eric Wright alone doesn’t fix that.
MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College): Only if Claiborne and Richardson are gone and they can’t move down.
DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State): In the aforementioned scenario, Cox would make sense too, though Kuechly fills a bigger need.
6. St. Louis Rams- WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State)
And more chalk. St. Louis is probably going to end up with Blackmon one way or another. It’s highly unlikely he goes before 6. They may be a candidate to move up to 3 to grab Richardson, who they reportedly love, which would make Steven Jackson, who just demanded a new contract, available through trade. Even if that happens, Blackmon is a likely choice here for Minnesota assuming Kalil is off the board. No matter what happens in the top 5, I like Blackmon at 6 to someone.
The consensus is that there are 6 blue chip prospects in this draft class and Blackmon is the last of the 6. That’s the reason the Rams were so willing to move down to 6, but had some concerns about moving down to 8 in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, who were also interested in moving up to 2 for Robert Griffin. Blackmon is an ideal fit for the Rams, whose leading returning receivers from last season are Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander.
DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State): I’ve seen some mocks with him here, but Sam Bradford might just retire if they don’t use this pick on an offensive player. Stupider things have been done before and with so many needs, they’ll be going solely by their board, which could have him first.
QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M): Obviously not to St. Louis, but they’ve traded down with a quarterback needy team before and they have so many needs that they wouldn’t mind doing it again. The trick is getting a taker.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (TRADE)- DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)
Here’s where the draft gets interesting. The top 6 prospects in this draft, in some order, are Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Richardson, Claiborne, and Blackmon. Those 6 are almost definitely going to go, in some order, in picks 1-6. The Jaguars are the ones with the bad luck as they’re picking 7th. There’s a chance someone like Blackmon falls to them and I think they’d pounce in that scenario, but that’s not the case here. It’s no surprise the Jaguars are desperately trying to trade down.
Another reason why the Jaguars are trying to move down is that their needs don’t match what’s available here. This is going to be an offensive heavy draft in the top 6 (5 of the top 6 could easily be offensive players). The Jaguars desperately need an offensive player. Their defense is fine. It’s not without needs, but it’s fine. There just isn’t an offensive player worth taking at this point because of an early run on offense.
Their offense is a mess around Blaine Gabbert. Like Minnesota, they need an offensive player so that they can properly evaluate Blaine Gabbert. All of the offensive players would probably be reaches at this point, except maybe Michael Floyd, but the Jaguars like clean character guys and Floyd was almost kicked off the Notre Dame football team for alcohol issues.
So who moves up? How about Philadelphia? They are never shy about moving up on draft day and with 2 2nd round picks, they have the ammunition to do so once more. They also reportedly love Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, but he won’t here there for them at 15. So they trade up and grab a fast rising prospect who would be a perfect fit at defensive tackle next to Cullen Jenkins in their wide 9 defensive scheme.
DE Melvin Ingram (South Carolina): If the Jaguars stay put, I think Ingram is the pick over Gilmore. They reportedly love Gilmore, but if so why are they so desperate to trade down with a team like Kansas City? Gilmore could easily be gone by then. Sounds like a bit of a smokescreen.
CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina): Gilmore is obviously the other option for Jacksonville here.
QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M): Not to Jacksonville, obviously, but Philadelphia has interest in him. Maybe they trade up and take Tannehill over Cox, but I doubt it. Some other quarterback needy team like Kansas City or Seattle (or Miami just to make sure no one else moves up), could move to 7 to take Tannehill. Again, I doubt it.
8. Miami Dolphins- QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M)
There’s some chatter than the Dolphins are not as interested in Tannehill as once believed. I don’t think that’s quite true and I would be very shocked if they passed on Tannehill. Owner Stephen Ross not so secretly loves him and it makes sense. After whiffing on every available quarterback this offseason, he needs something to get the fan base excited. GM Jeff Ireland may defy him and take someone else, but he’s doing that at his own risk. Ireland is in a contract year and may find himself out of a job if he defies the owner and it doesn’t have immediate results.
The fit in Miami is natural for Tannehill. They need a franchise savior, but they have two stopgap quarterbacks who can play immediately so Tannehill won’t be rushed out there. They also have a decent supporting cast and their offensive coordinator is Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s head coach at Texas A&M. This will greatly shorten his learning curve as he won’t have to learn a new system.
DE Melvin Ingram (South Carolina): Miami interestingly has never worked out Tannehill privately. Maybe it’s because of Mike Sherman’s familiarity with him and it’s worth noting that the Dolphins didn’t work out any of their top picks from 2011. However, what if they pass? In that case, Ingram, who they have worked out, makes a lot of sense as they try to get a 2nd pass rusher for their hybrid scheme.
DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina): Miami Herald’s Jeff Darlington mentioned Coples as the likely selection if they pass on Tannehill. I see him as a bit of a reach at this point.
WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): Whoever the quarterback is will need someone to throw to. They’ve also worked out Floyd.
S Mark Barron (Alabama): Barron is a rising prospect and Mike Mayock floated his name as a possibility in this spot if they pass on Tannehill.
9. New York Jets (TRADE)- RLB Melvin Ingram (South Carolina)
I’ve had Fletcher Cox here since February when everyone said this was too high. Now it appears this is too low. This is probably his floor on draft day. His name has been floated around as a possibility at 5 and 6, though that’s a little rich. 7 to a team trading up (or Jacksonville themselves) makes a lot more sense, but Carolina will take him if he’s still here, still a possibility.
If not, well they have a few options of defensive players. Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram would give them a bookend defensive end opposite Charles Johnson, Luke Kuechly would give them the draft’s best linebacker and fill a position of need, and Stephon Gilmore, a rising prospect, would fill a need at cornerback. However, they don’t have a 3rd round pick so they’ll probably want to trade down and grab a defensive player later in the first round.
So who would want to move up to this spot? How about the Jets? Like the Eagles, they’re never shy about moving up. There’s some speculation about them moving up for Trent Richardson, but that’s a little out there. Melvin Ingram, who they love, is another option they could move up for. They give up their 2nd rounder to do so, but they add a much needed edge rusher and a player they love.
CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina): If the Panthers stay put, Gilmore is an obvious option for them given their 32nd ranked pass defense in 2011.
MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College): The Panthers could use another starting linebacker and Kuechly might be best available.
DE Quentin Coples (North Carolina): Coples is another option as they seek to boost their pass rush opposite Charles Johnson. He could also play inside on passing downs.
10. Buffalo Bills- CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina)
The Bills really need a left tackle, which is why they have interest in moving up for Matt Kalil. However, if that doesn’t happen, they probably won’t take a first round tackle, unless they trade down (with a team interested in Barron perhaps). Reports say that don’t think any tackle other than Kalil is worth the 10th overall pick and the only one who possibly could be, Riley Reiff, hasn’t even been to One Bills Drive for a visit. They always work out players they take, even CJ Spiller. Reiff hasn’t worked out with them, while Kalil, Jonathan Martin, Cordy Glenn, and Mike Adams have all had private workouts. They don’t seem interested in him.
So who do they take if not a left tackle? Stephon Gilmore, Mark Barron, and Luke Kuechly are the highest rated players that they’ve worked out and they’ve all been mentioned by credible sources as options at this point. Gilmore is probably the best of those 3, which is why I had him here in my last update. People in the know are swearing he won’t get out of the top 15, even the top 10. There was also a report today that Barron and Kuechly speculation here is “BS,” though you never know with these things. However, gun to my head, I’m picking Gilmore here.
S Mark Barron (Alabama): Another guy they’ve worked out who fits the range, but I don’t see the need at all. Of course, these are the Bills. They didn’t need CJ Spiller either.
MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College): Kuechly is someone else they’ve worked out and there’s been some talk of him going in the top 10. The Bills do need linebacker help.
WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): They haven’t worked him out, but they went after seemingly every free agent wide receiver this offseason.
11. Kansas City Chiefs- G David DeCastro (Stanford)
There are 4 options here. Luke Kuechly, David DeCastro, and Mark Barron are all great players at so called “luxury” positions. The Chiefs don’t have a lot of pressing needs so they could take any one of these 3 guys. Besides, they took a “luxury” position guy at 5 in 2010 when they took Eric Berry and they weren’t as well off in terms of scarcity of needs as they are now. Dontari Poe is an long shot option. He’d fill their biggest non-quarterback need, but he’d be a reach. I don’t think they necessarily take a nose tackle in the first round, but they’ll take one at some point in the first 3 rounds.
Mike Mayock has Mark Barron here, but I don’t see that making any sense because safety is really not a need. Kendrick Lewis does a fine job next to Eric Berry. You can say the same thing about middle linebacker and Luke Kuechly. Jovan Belcher does a fine job next to Derrick Johnson. Guard, however, is a bigger need.
It would also fit their offseason strategy of becoming a more physical team. They clearly want to lead the league in rushing again like they did in 2010 when they made the playoffs. They’ve signed a power running back (Peyton Hillis), a power blocking tight end (Kevin Boss), and a power blocking right tackle (Eric Winston). Now they get arguably the best run blocking guard prospect of the last decade. For my interview with David DeCastro, click here.
MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College): Kuechly is commonly mocked here. I just don’t get it. Kuechly and DeCastro are both luxury players and the Chiefs have the luxury to take either because they have so few needs, but guard is a bigger need than middle linebacker, where Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher do a fine job.
S Mark Barron (Alabama): The other “luxury” option for the Chiefs. Safety isn’t a need whatsoever, though.
NT Dontari Poe (Memphis): Maybe they fall in love with him. It’s certainly their biggest non-quarterback need.
12. Seattle Seahawks- MLB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)
David DeCastro might be one of the best guard prospects of the decade, but Luke Kuechly is one of the best middle linebacker prospects of the decade. Most in the know thing he’ll come off the board somewhere between 9 and 12. He’s an option to Carolina, Buffalo, and Kansas City, and I doubt Seattle will pass on him. They desperately need a new middle linebacker with David Hawthorne gone so unless the top pass rusher, Melvin Ingram, falls here, they’ll take Kuechly if he’s available.
DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina): The Seahawks will take a front 7 player. Coples rushes the passer, which Kuechly doesn’t do, so that may put him ahead of Kuechly, but at the same time, I think Kuechly is the significantly better player.
DE Chandler Jones (Syracuse): The other pass rusher they’ll consider.
13. San Diego Chargers (TRADE): S Mark Barron (Alabama)
Mark Barron is a rising prospect. This is such a bad safety class and so many teams need safeties. Barron is by far the best one. There was a time when Mel Kiper called him a top-16 lock. Then it sounded unlikely he would get past Dallas at 14. Today Adam Schefter reported he wouldn’t even get there. He’s a rising prospect and a legitimate option at 8, 9, and 10. I’m following what the all mighty Schefter said and not letting him get to Dallas.
San Diego is a team that never does what you think they’ll do. Everyone thinks they’ll be taking a pass rusher, but you need to be on your toes when mocking players to this team. Last year they took Corey Liuget, even though he wasn’t seen as a great fit for their scheme. Two years ago they traded up many spots for Ryan Matthews. The year before that, they took Larry English even though they already had Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman at outside linebacker. The year before that, they took Antoine Cason even though they already had Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer at cornerback. The year before that, they took Buster Davis, a 2nd round prospect. And that’s just in the 1st round.
There’s been some talk of them moving up for Mark Barron, and that would constitute as a surprise pick that would wreck mocks. If Barron falls out of the top 12, they’ll probably be working the phones hard to move ahead of Dallas for Barron. They’ve been searching for a new strong safety since Rodney Harrison left and this is a bad year for safeties. Arizona doesn’t have a 2nd round pick, so they’d be more than willing to move down, especially since there isn’t a clear player to draft here.
Riley Reiff is the best available player at their biggest need, but Cordy Glenn is someone they reportedly like even better. Then there’s Michael Floyd, who could be tops on their board. He’s also someone Larry Fitzgerald has requested and they’ve followed his requests before (when they brought in Kolb). If they stay put, I think they’ll take Floyd for that reason, but I think they’ll try to move down.
WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): As I just said, if they stay put, I think Floyd is the pick.
OT Riley Reiff (Iowa): They really need offensive line help.
OT Cordy Glenn (Georgia): Glenn helps fix their offensive line and might be higher on their board.
14. Dallas Cowboys- DT Michael Brockers (LSU)
I’ve had Dontari Poe here in recent weeks, but his stock is falling some of late. They also haven’t worked him out and they always work out their first round picks privately. There were a couple of reports a while ago that they loved him and one that said they hadn’t worked him out privately so they wouldn’t call attention to him, but there’s little buzz about Poe to the Cowboys so that’s not the pick here.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw, and Michael Brockers are all players they’ve worked out. Actually, this pick is pretty straight forward in my mind. If Barron is here, he’ll be the pick in a heartbeat. They worked him out privately. However, if he’s not, which he isn’t here, it sounds like it’ll be Michael Brockers as they try to get another impact player on their defensive line next to Jay Ratliff.
NT Dontari Poe (Memphis): Jerry Jones spoke glowingly of Dontari Poe, but that may have been a smokescreen. He hasn’t worked him out privately, which he always does with first round picks, and there is no buzz about him here.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama): Kirkpatrick is another player they’ve worked out that would fit the range.
RLB Courtney Upshaw (Alabama): Copy and paste what I said above.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE)- OT Riley Reiff (Iowa)
This is a better situation to be in for the Jaguars than 7. They desperately need an offensive player and there have only been two picked since their original spot at 7. They have a choice between two wide receivers, Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd, and an offensive tackle, Riley Reiff. Floyd might be the consensus best available, but he probably won’t high on Jacksonville’s board because of his off the field concerns. Meanwhile, Kendall Wright might be a reach here, though the Jaguars have done stranger things. That leaves Riley Reiff, who is a major upgrade over Guy Whimper at right tackle. Whimper allowed 14 sacks last year. Eben Britton stays at guard.
WR Kendall Wright (Baylor): I think Wright would be the pick over Michael Floyd because he has cleaner character.
WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): Floyd still has an outside shot to be the pick.
16. Carolina Panthers (TRADE)- DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina)
Trading down works out pretty well for the Panthers. Quinton Coples will be considered at 9 as a bookend for Charles Johnson, but he’s a much better value at 16. They also have a chance to take Chandler Jones here, another highly rated defensive player they’ve worked out that would be a reach at 9, but I think Coples would be the pick over Jones.
DE Chandler Jones (Syracuse): As I just said, Jones is an option here.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama): Cornerback is another need of theirs so Kirkpatrick is an option here.
WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): Floyd is someone else they’ve worked out. They have a bigger need on the defensive side of the ball, but Floyd could easily be BPA so they may just so ahead and take him. Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger.
Go on to 17-32