Hello friends! Below is my first mock draft of the year, just in time for the NFL Combine in a few weeks. As we know every year, players rise and fall, so in a month or so this list could resemble high comedy. The first four players in this draft are the safest to stay where they are. Please enjoy, digest and comment.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck – QB, Stanford
This needs no explanation. Dark Horse Pick: None. Give the Colts credit for picking the perfect year to bottom out. I’m not sure if Manning can be traded, but if they can get anything for him; it would be a coup on the part of Jim Irsay. Look for the Colts to add more offensive pieces in the 2nd round and beyond.
2. St. Louis Rams
Matt Kalil – OT, USC
An awful offensive line protecting a #1 pick quarterback. This will go a long way to protecting that investment. I was tempted to put the obligatory Cleveland-Trades-For-RG3® up here, but the Rams canNOT afford to miss out on Kalil. Free agent wide receivers are always out there, a franchise left tackle is far
more rare. Dark Horse Pick: trade down to number four and still get Riley Reiff.
3. Minnesota Vikings (traded to Cleveland)
Robert Griffin III – QB, Baylor
Here comes The Trade. I have Cleveland moving up here to grab RG3 QB Baylor, and after it shakes out; Minnesota should end up with at least the two first round picks of Cleveland. Cleveland is in the unenviable position of having to burn that extra first rounder to move up a single spot in order to prevent the Skins from leapfrogging them into this slot. Dark Horse Pick: Someone will have traded up here if it is not Cleveland. Washington is in play, but regardless, Robert Griffin the Third will be gone come this pick.
4. Cleveland Browns (Traded to Minnesota)
Justin Blackmon – WR, Oklahoma State
Still get the player they need and all it cost them was an extra 3 minutes while Cleveland handed in their draft card. Cha-ching. Dark Horse Pick: Since its Cleveland’s pick in a non trade scenario, Trent Richardson makes a lot of sense while they take Tannehill with their 2nd pick in this round.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne – CB, LSU
One of the few teams with worse corners than Buffalo adds an elite cover corner. Dark Horse Pick: Quinton Coples to pair with Gerald McCoy and DaQuan Bowers on the line, which would scare teams for years to come.
6. Washington Redskins
Riley Reiff – OT, Iowa
This is where I see Peyton Manning playing in ’12, likely on condition that the offensive line gets beefed up. Of the two remaining first round OTs, (with Stanford’s Jonathan Martin being the other) Reiff is the better pass protector. Dark Horse Pick: Morris Claiborne just might be available if things end up unexpectedly, and he could be incredible with that fierce Redskins pass rush.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Quinton Coples – DE, North Carolina
The Jags have a new owner and what I’d imagine to be an angry fan base over how bad Blaine Gabbert was last season will lead the Jags to go for the homerun pick in Coples. Jacksonville plays a 4-3 defense, and Coples is the ideal speed rusher in that set. Of all the picks so far, he is probably closest to being our first player chosen with greater than a 20% chance of being a bust to some degree due to the across the board panning of his poor work habits. To be fair to him, it must be noted that he completely dominated the strong competition during Senior Week. Dark Horse Pick: Riley Reiff so that Gabbert stops wetting himself when he sees the pass rush.
8. Carolina Panthers
Alshon Jeffery – WR, South Carolina
The Panthers have a number of needs, they do not possess a very good defense, and are very thin at DB, but if I were the Carolina GM, I would make sure that Cam is taken care of. Steve Smith is a fine receiver, but Cam needs weapons, and I can see a slight reach to grab the next best available receiver. Dark Horse Pick: so many needs, Dre Kirkpatrick will likely be available, or DT Devon Still to shore up a wretched rush defense, but imagine if you will what a pair Cam Newton would make with Trent Richardson. DeAngelo Williams is the current Panthers running back, but Richardson would be a powerful upgrade, and paired with Newton would give defensive coaches nightmares for years to come.
9. Miami Dolphins
Jonathan Martin – OT, Stanford
This is where the blood starts traveling from my head, because I can see the Dolphins and the Bills going after the same player in Courtney Upshaw. Miami has a world class left tackle in Jake Long, and a fine OLB in Cameron Wake, and they will likely look to add a bookend to one of these units. They could go with Upshaw, but adding Jonathan Martin or Riley Reiff if he’s available to right tackle would be just about all the Dolphins would need for a ridiculously good offensive line for years to come. Regardless of which Matt they have at quarterback (Flynn or Moore) next year, with the emergence of Reggie Bush, they could look to collect Martin’s superb run blocking ability. Dark Horse Pick: Courtney Upshaw joins a sneaky good defense, and Miami has a top three set of OLB’s. (For the record, Washington and Denver have the other two, in some order.)
10. Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw – DE/OLB, Alabama
This brings us to the much debated Buffalo pick. I have seen 5 different players
mocked here, OT, OLB, DE and WR have all been represented by other mocks. Buffalo’s defense has some real pieces they can start adding to, and with Chan Gailey’s announcement that they are reverting back to a 4-3 defense, if it is not Upshaw, it will be Coples to put on the left side, assuming Chris Kelsay will be the right side end. I will be giving a much more in depth look at what I feel the Bills should focus on with their 8 picks in the draft. Dark Horse Pick: if they go with OT, I hope its Martin as opposed to Reiff due to the fact that Martin is a better blocker for the run game.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Michael Floyd – WR, Notre Dame
I doubt Dwayne Bowe is sticking around for the long haul with the wholly underwhelming prospect of hitting his best years with Matt Cassel lobbing the ball under him. KC will grumble all the way to the podium having to use this on a position they thought they were all set at. Dark Horse: Trent Richardson, the most talented non-QB skill player in the draft makes Cassel less of a factor as he runs circles around Arrowhead Stadium.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Michael Brockers – DT, LSU
Seattle is putting together a pretty decent defense, and is happy that Brockers falls to them at this spot. It will be very difficult for teams to run on the mighty Brockers. He’s an instant starter on this team, and possesses the incredible strength you need from an inside lineman. Dark Horse: Brockers may very well not be around come time for the Seahawks to pick, and Devon Still of Penn State offers only a small drop off from Brockers.