Greetings, draftniks and draftnikas! It’s once again time to celebrate the NFL draft, as well as the dominance of the NFL – which will draw better ratings for its player allocation ceremony than other leagues draw for their opening-round playoff series.
In an effort to emulate the way that most NFL teams set up their draft boards, I took a shot at creating a ‘big board’ for prospects that seem likely to be selected in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. The concept of the board is to compare players both within and across position groups by separating them into tiers – it’s also a very handy thing to have when putting together a mock draft. I tried to give the tiers reasonably descriptive names, and you’ll notice a few players highlighted in yellow (ones I judge to have a higher than average bust potential) and red (ones with publicized character concerns). The sequencing of players is basically my own ranking (having drawn heavily from scouting reports of guys I like including Mike Mayock, Greg Cosell and Wes Bunting), but the mock below is my best shot at predicting what the teams will do and how THEY feel about the players.
Here’s the big board:
|ELITE – Franchise Changers||Andrew Luck|
|NEAR-ELITE||Michael Floyd||Matt Kalil||David DeCastro (OG)||Fletcher Cox||Morris Claiborne (CB)|
|DIFFERENCE MAKERS||Ryan Tannehill||Stephen Hill||Trent Richardson||Cordy Glenn (G/T)||Dontari Poe||Melvin Ingram (3-4 OLB)||Stephon Gilmore (CB)|
|Michael Brockers (DT)||Luke Kuechly (ILB)||Mark Barron (SS)|
|Quinton Coples (DT/DE)||Whitney Mercilus (3-4 OLB)|
|Chandler Jones (DE)||Shea McLellin (3-4 OLB)|
|Nick Perry (DE)|
|PLUS STARTERS||Brandon Weeden||Reuben Randle (WR)||David Wilson||Riley Reiff||Kevin Zeitler (G/C)||Devon Still (DT)||Andre Branch (3-4 OLB)||Dre Kirkpatrick (CB)|
|Coby Fleener (TE)||Doug Martin||Jonathan Martin||Peter Konz [C]||Brandon Thompson (DT)||Courtney Upshaw (3-4 OLB)||Janoris Jenkins (CB)|
|Dwayne Allen (TE)||Amini Silatolu (G)||Billy Winn (DT)||Bruce Irvin (3-4 OLB)||Trumaine Johnson (CB)|
|Kendall Wright (WR)||Brandon Brooks (G)||Jerel Worthy (DT)||Dont’a Hightower (ILB)||Jamell Fleming (CB)|
|Alameda Ta’amu (NG)||Zach Brown (4-3 OLB)||Brandon Boykin (CB)|
|Vinny Curry (4-3 DE)||Lavonte David (4-3 OLB)||Brandon Taylor (FS)|
|Harrison Smith (SS)|
|SOLID STARTERS||Brock Osweiler||Lamar Miller||Bobby Massie||Ben Jones [C]||Kendall Reyes (DT)||Vernon Olivier (3-4 OLB)||Trevin Wade (CB)|
|Kirk Cousins||Mohamed Sanu (WR)||Mike Adams||Philip Blake [C]||Jared Crick (DT)||Ronnell Lewis (3-4 OLB)||Jayron Hosley (CB)|
|Chris Givens (WR)||Jeff Allen||Kelechi Osemele [G]||Sean Spence (4-3 OLB)||George Iloka (SS)|
|Brian Quick (WR)||Mitchell Schwartz||Brandon Washington [G/T]||Mychal Kendricks (4-3 OLB)|
|Jeff Allen [G]|
And here’s the mock:
1) Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford – No surprise here – despite some attempts to manufacture drama, the Colts were never going anywhere else with their choice to succeed Peyton Manning.
2) Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – Another one where the drama was put to rest weeks ago. I’m thrilled to have another talented player that I like end up on the Redskins – seriously, just thrilled.
3) Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, T, USC – This is where the draft could start to get interesting, but despite Minnesota’s best efforts to gin up a trade I think they end up staying put and grabbing a potential franchise LT to protect their stable of dramatically sub-franchise QBs.
4) Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama – I don’t know if any back other than AP or a reborn Marshall Faulk really carries enough value in today’s NFL to warrant a Top 4 selection, but Richardson should at least provide a substantial upgrade to the Browns’ ground game and bring the toughness to take wallops from the Steelers and Ravens four times a season.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU – Here’s another pick that could get auctioned off to a number of teams, but in the end Tampa Bay decides to add the peerless Claiborne to its CB collection of the ageless Ronde Barber, the talentless Eric Wright and the felonious Aqib Talib.
6) St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State – It wouldn’t shock me to see Jeff Fisher grab Fletcher Cox here instead, but most of the signs point towards giving Sam Bradford a legitimate weapon in Blackmon in order to soup up the Rams’ ‘three yard hitch and a cloud of dust’ passing game.
7) Philadelphia Eagles (TRADE with Jacksonville Jaguars) – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State – The Eagles realize that A) the New York Giants’ ‘overwhelm you with pass rushers’ approach is a good one and B) incompetent DC Juan Castillo needs all the help he can get and use one of their two second-rounders as ammo to trade up and nab the draft’s scariest interior rusher. Cox has the athleticism to be a big end on early downs and kick inside to form a hellacious pass-rushing trio with Trent Cole and Jason Babin bearing down from the wide 9’s.
8) Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M – Not the choice I’d make to say the least, but Miami’s owner seems besotted with Tannehill and with former coach Mike Sherman in the house this looks to be Tannehill’s landing spot. He certainly looks the part – almost as well as Heath Shuler and Rick Mirer did.
9) Carolina Panthers – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina – The Panthers’ D needs help all over, and with question marks surrounding the top remaining DTs they elect to patch a leaky secondary with the fast-rising Gilmore. He can look forward to a decent pass rush from the Panthers’ DE tandem, as well as a training camp sucker punch from WR Steve Smith.
10) Buffalo Bills – Mark Barron, S, Alabama – By all reports, this is around the spot where the tremendously hyped Barron is likely to go. Will it be to the Bills, or one of numerous suitors apparently clamoring to trade up? With needs at left tackle, WR and other spots I think it would be smarter for Buffalo to trade down, but they seem tremendously infatuated with Barron themselves. If he could put the clamps on the Patriots’ Gronkowski and Hernandez it would certainly be a worthwhile choice, but that seems to be an iffy proposition.
11) Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College – Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers have to be tempting here, but the Chiefs may have had their fill of LSU d-linemen and Poe may be too risky for Scott Pioli’s tastes. If the Chiefs go safe it’ll be Kuechly or David DeCastro – both would be substantial upgrades.
12) New England Patriots [TRADE with Seattle Seahawks] – Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse – I’m jumping on the rumor mill with this one as there’s some late smoke about the Pats reaching out to Seattle about the #12 spot, with fast-rising Chandler Jones the apparent object of their desire. With DE Andre Carter old and possibly out of the picture and Mark Anderson off to division rival Buffalo, the Pats certainly need an edge-rushing terror to help correct their defensive woes.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame – Arizona has an absolutely crying need at both tackle spots and could be well served trading down or just going with Iowa’s Riley Reiff, but they appear enamored with Floyd and have visions of an unstoppable tandem of Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Visions of the Matt Millen Lions may be more appropriate if they go WR-heavy rather than bolster the trenches, but that’s why they’re the Cardinals.
14) Dallas Cowboys – David DeCastro, G, Stanford – The Jones Boys resist the temptation to get cute and grab possibly the decade’s best guard prospect to pair with young superstud LT Tyron Smith. With Jerry sticking to the board and drafting ‘un-sexy’ OL two years running, we gain further strong evidence that the Mayans were onto something.
15) Jacksonville Jaguars [Pick acquired in trade with Philadelphia] – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois – The Jaguars have a fetish for grabbing guys built to be 3-4 OLBs and trying to convert them into 4-3 ends. This experiment didn’t work out too well with Aaron Kampman and Matt Roth, but maybe third time’s a charm?
16) New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina – The ideal player to energize the Jets’ 3-4 pass rush falls to Sexy Rex Ryan at 16. Mrs. Ryan will begin dousing her feet in the celebratory edible coating (strawberry marmalade mixed with M&M’s and some slightly stale Peeps from Easter) as soon as the pick gets handed to the Commish.
17) Cincinnati Bengals – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU – With a hole at DT and a fetish for big SEC athletes, the Bengals make the move to grab Brockers and hope that he fulfills his destiny as a possible Richard Seymour clone.
18) San Diego Chargers – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa – Frustrated in their attempts to trade up, the Chargers nonetheless have to be happy with the opportunity to grab Reiff at #18. Reiff is a good fit, as there are questions about LT Jared Gaither’s commitment to football and no questions whatsoever about RT Jeromey Clary’s outright ineptitude.
19) Chicago Bears – Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia – Jay Cutler will rifle a football off the head of the Bears’ GM should the Bears pass on Glenn here – he’s a massive body with good feet that could help fill one of Chicago’s gaping wounds at guard or tackle. In fact, Glenn might be large enough to play both simultaneously.
20) Tennessee Titans – Quinton Coples, DT/DE, North Carolina – Seeking to bolster a very anemic pass rush, the Titans roll the dice and stop Coples’ slide down the draft board. Similar to how Fletcher Cox may be employed, Coples has the athleticism to play end on early downs and then kick inside to let newly-acquired pass rush specialist Kam Wimberly come off the edge.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama – This is another rumor mill job, as the Bengals are reported to be in love with Upshaw. There are some other players that might fill more immediate needs, but Upshaw could be a very interesting piece for Marvin Lewis to play with while helping the Bengals continue their policy of keeping the incredibly talented Carlos Dunlap off the field at all costs.
22) Cleveland Browns – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech – With a runner in the fold, the Browns (finally) concentrate on fielding an NFL-caliber offense by selecting Hill, who drew Randy Moss comparisons for his ability to effortlessly snatch deep throws.
23) Detroit Lions – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – Once thought of as a top ten selection, concerns about character and top-end speed/quickness have moved Kirkpatrick down the board. Relieved to learn that Kirkpatrick is not actually Irish, the Lions grab him to help patch a leaky secondary that’s still awash in its own blood after January shreddings at the hands of Matt Flynn and Drew Brees.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Donta Hightower, LB, Alabama – In 2010, Steelers owner Dan Rooney made a difficult decision. Rather than cut QB Ben Roethlisberger for his rapetastic ways, Rooney would instead punish him by subjecting him to weekly beatings behind a tremendously inept offensive line. Passing on a pro-ready guard in Kevin Zeitler to select Hightower lets Rooney keep the Steelers’ linebacking tradition alive while also suffusing him with a warm sense of justice.
25) Denver Broncos – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis – Poe is a raw talent with very inconsistent tape, but the potential offered by his size and athleticism is too tempting for a team that needs to replace a run-stopping force in the departed Brodrick Bunkley. Bereft Tebow fans swiftly convert to Greek mythology and worship Poe as the Titan Cronos.
26) Houston Texans – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor – After one Jacoby Jones brainlock too many, the Texans decide to upgrade the spot opposite Andre Johnson with the speedburning Wright. There are questions around Wright’s route-running savvy, but he’ll get to pick up right where he left off at Baylor catching wide-open play action bombs. With two Baylor Bears selected in the first round, the Mayans look to be on a real run.
27) Seattle Seahawks [Pick acquired in trade with New England] – Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin – After the failed acquisition of Robert Gallery from Oakland, the Seahawks have a hole at guard. Zeitler, fresh out of the Wisconsin Badgers’ Run Blocking Finishing School, steps right in to help ensure many a Skittles shower for Marshawn Lynch in 2012.
30) San Francisco 49ers – Reuben Randle, WR, LSU – Silatolu would have been a great fit for San Franscisco, but with him on the board they grab the tall and athletic Randle to combat the inevitable flameout of Randy Moss and the increasingly apparent mediocrity of Michael Crabtree.
31) Cleveland Browns [TRADE with New England] – Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State – Mere hours after lulling Colt McCoy into a sense of happiness by providing him with actual, talented offensive weapons, the Browns gleefully shaft him by selecting Weeden. They trade up a few spots from the second round to ensure that they land their man and also to attach a first-round pedigree to Weeden for what promises to be a completely fair and impartial training camp battle *cough cough*
32) New York Giants – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford – Don’t let the Giants’ offensive success last season fool you – they were getting terrible play at both tackle spots. Martin doesn’t have elite feet for the left side or elite power for the right side, but he’d be an upgrade at either spot over what New York trotted out in 2011.
SPECIAL BONUS COVERAGE – A ROUND TWO MOCK IN TABLE FORMAT!!!
Just because I love you – but not quite enough to write out another entire round of commentary – here’s a bonus Round Two mock in table format to give me even further opportunity to be wildly incorrect:
|33.00||St. Louis Rams||1,050.00||Doug Martin (RB)|
|34.00||Indianapolis Colts||1,020.00||Coby Fleener (TE)|
|35.00||Minnesota Vikings||1,000.00||Bobby Massie (OT)|
|36.00||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||980.00||Zach Brown (4-3 OLB)|
|37.00||New England Patriots (T)||965.00||Janoris Jenkins (CB)|
|38.00||Jacksonville Jaguars||950.00||Brandon Brooks (G)|
|39.00||St. Louis Rams||935.00||Devon Still (DT)|
|40.00||Carolina Panthers||920.00||Jerel Worthy (DT)|
|41.00||Buffalo Bills||905.00||Alshon Jeffrey (WR)|
|42.00||Miami Dolphins||890.00||Nick Perry (DE)|
|43.00||Seattle Seahawks||875.00||Dwayne Allen (TE)|
|44.00||Kansas City Chiefs||860.00||Alameda Ta’amu (NG)|
|45.00||Dallas Cowboys||845.00||Peter Konz [C]|
|46.00||Jacksonville Jaguars (T)||830.00||Alshon Jeffrey (WR)|
|47.00||New York Jets||815.00||David Wilson (RB)|
|48.00||New England Patriots||800.00||Brandon Thompson (DT)|
|49.00||San Diego Chargers||790.00||Andre Branch (3-4 OLB)|
|50.00||Chicago Bears||780.00||Vinny Curry (4-3 DE)|
|51.00||Philadelphia Eagles||770.00||Lavonte David (4-3 OLB)|
|52.00||Tennessee Titans||760.00||Trumaine Johnson (CB)|
|53.00||Cincinnati Bengals||750.00||Jamell Fleming (CB)|
|54.00||Detroit Lions||740.00||Bruce Irvin (3-4 OLB)|
|55.00||Atlanta Falcons||730.00||Mike Adams (OT)|
|56.00||Pittsburgh Steelers||720.00||Billy Winn (DT)|
|57.00||Denver Broncos||710.00||Ben Jones [C]|
|58.00||Houston Texans||700.00||Orson Charles [TE]|
|59.00||Green Bay Packers||680.00||Harrison Smith (SS)|
|60.00||Baltimore Ravens||670.00||Mohamed Sanu (WR)|
|61.00||San Francisco 49ers||660.00||Brandon Boykin (CB)|
|62.00||Seattle Seahawks (T)||655.00||Kendall Reyes (DT)|
|63.00||New York Giants||650.00||Mychal Kendricks (4-3 OLB)|
(The numbers in the third column relate to that PlayTheDraft game – ignore those).
That’s double dose of mock draft goodness – tune in this evening for BC’s live blog of the first round, complete with a couple of special guests!