30th March, 2012 - 1:41 pm
CLASSICS: Who Will Draft The Newtons And Who Will Draft The Russells?
Abu Mara returns for his sixth annual Stars, Sleepers and Overrated of the NFL Draft.
TEAM RANKINGS: Final NFL Power Rankings For 2011
The final 2011 NFL Power Rankings have very few surprises, with the Packers, Texans, Ravens, Steelers, Saints, 49ers and Patriots in the top-seven.
PLAYER RANKINGS: Pre-Bowl Big Board For The 2012 NFL Draft
Heading into Bowl season, identifying the top-five prospects at each position for the 2012 NFL Draft.
LOCKER TALK: Brady: Injury Was A Blessing In Disguise
Tom Brady has watched his Patriots fight their way to a 5-3 record through the first half of the season, and in actuality, he's pretty darn happy with where he currently stands.
MARCUS ALLEN: How GMs Build Winning Rosters
While everyone focuses on the marquee players that will be drafted on day one this Saturday, the key to building a winning team is by acquiring 5-7 impact makers. It was Marques Colston last year, who will it be this year?
By Jeff Risdon
I do one of these every year to enlighten readers more on how I feel about certain players and what I think teams should do.
Part of the exercise here is that I'm trying to place myself in the GM seat and make decisions based on the specific situations of the franchise. Some of those go beyond what would seemingly make the most sense on the field, including ownership pressures, managing fan expectations, coaching staffs, and upcoming free agency decisions I'm going to have to make.
This mock in no way attempts to predict any sort of actual draft order. If you send me comments like "Player X would never last that long" I'm going to publicly chastise your inability to read. I stopped the comments at #40 because, well, it was taking way too long.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. RG3 might have a higher ceiling, but I'm more confident that Luck will hit his lofty ceiling. He is as can't miss as any player I've ever seen and the type of guy you dream about building a franchise around.
2. Washington Redskins (from STL): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. I believe that the Skins need a franchise identity more than anything. RG3 can be that identity. This transcends whatever he might do on the field, and what he does on the field has the chance to be very special in its own right.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. I'm a firm advocate of building to win your own division. The NFC North features Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall, and right now the only viable CB on the Vikings is 34-year-old Antoine Winfield. Claiborne brings potential lockdown corner ability. His wrist surgery does not concern me.
4. Cleveland Browns: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina. The concept of pairing Ingram with last year's excellent rookie Jabaal Sheard gives the Browns young bookend pass rushers that can really create headaches for opposing offenses. This move would give them a better chance to compete right now, as Tannehill isn't yet ready at QB and I'm not sold enough on any of the wideouts here. The extra first round pick gives lots of leverage to take the best impact talent here, and Ingram is that player for this defense.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. I'll admit to having several names listed here before "settling" on Richardson. In the end I went with the player who I think best gives their division opponents problems. I've never been a believer in Legarrette Blount either. As I've said for months now, Richardson reminds me of a young Eddie George, only faster. That kind of threat in the backfield gives the Tampa offense balance and eases the pressure off Josh Freeman to try and win games on his own, which did not work too well a year ago.
6. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Floyd is the top WR on my draft board and the Rams need to surround Sam Bradford will all the talent they can. I prefer Floyd's size and downfield prowess to Justin Blackmon in this offense, though it's not an easy choice. I would take Ingram or Claiborne if they were still available.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. The physical Blackmon is a nice fit with Blaine Gabbert, a QB that likes to (and needs to) get the ball out quickly on shorter routes. Blackmon is the kind of receiver that can turn a simple slant into a big play. He's also got a manic wildness to him that can provide this staid offense with some needed energy and panache. Selling more tickets has to factor into the draft equation or else this will be the LA Jaguars before 2015.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Patience is rewarded and the Dolphins get the franchise QB they so desperately covet. Honestly if Tannehill is still on the board there really isn't an option but to take him, or else the owner is going to fire the GM. Since I'm playing GM, this one is about self-preservation as much as making my team better. I actually prefer Tannehill to Sam Bradford--just not in 2012--and Matt Moore makes a solid bridge.
9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. He's wrongly miscast by many as a nose tackle, but Poe is a 4-3 3-technique with awesome size. He needs some development but Carolina has the coaching staff to make that happen. Poe can turn the biggest weakness--interior defense--into an asset. This was one of the easier picks of the round for me.
10. Buffalo Bills: Matt Kalil, T, USC. I'm more bearish on Kalil than most, but he is the best tackle in this draft and represents strong value here. It says a lot that no teams have rushed to sign free agent Demetrius Bell, the erstwhile starting LT in Buffalo. Kalil is smart and ready to start right away. GM Buddy Nix has publicly declared a desire to get better at tackle, and I agree. I was hoping Tannehill would fall here as a developmental/insurance policy.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina. He's not the greatest positional fit playing 5-technique, but Coples has the ability to provide an upgrade over Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson at the spot. Romeo Crennel would make a great coaching fit for the enigmatic Coples; if Romeo can' get him to play hard, nobody ever will. Too high for Luke Kuechly or Matt Cassel's eventual replacement here.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. Impact pass rushers from major programs like Upshaw don't often fall this far. He has the size and strength to play end in passing downs, the quickness and instincts to play OLB in base packages and blitz situations or the "elephant" role a la Willie McGinest.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia. The massive Glenn can play either right guard or right tackle, and Arizona needs help at both spots. That trumps the need to add more pass rushing oomph and get an inside backer to play with Daryl Washington.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Even after signing the underrated Brandon Carr, corner remains a sore point in Dallas. I'm tempted to find OL help here, but Kirkpatrick is well-heeled from Bama and will help in run support on the edge. He has size and aggression that cannot be coached.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Cox is a projection pick, because right now the elevator of his football skills stops at about the 3rd floor of a 10-floor building. If he ever gets above about the 7th floor, look out. A deep DL rotation is integral to the Philly defense and I rate Cox higher than any of the remaining end prospects.
16. New York Jets: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. The #1 wideout, Santonio Holmes, is vocally opposed to The Sanchize. The #2 WR is Jeremy Kerley. They don't really have a #3 (sorry Chaz Schilens). Wright is very similar skill-wise to Holmes, which could be redundant but could also force an endgame to the ugliness with Santonio. Wright is the best deep threat in this draft.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. Kuechly is a tackling machine with great instincts and good range. He's also a Cincy local and could pass a criminal background check; in short, he's an ideal fit for the Bengals.
18. San Diego Chargers: David Decastro, G, Stanford. I'm not as thrilled with Decastro as some others, but I do think he's the best G prospect in this draft and worthy of a 1st round pick. Kris Dielman is going to be tough to replace, but Decastro is the best man for the job. This entire Chargers draft will be heavy on both lines.
19. Chicago Bears: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska. The rangy David is a perfect schematic fit, and his added bulk eases my worries about his ability to handle the rigors of the NFL. Briggs and Urlacher can't play forever, it's time for some reinforcements.
20. Tennessee Titans: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama. Obviously his off-field issues are a significant drawback, but I'm going to trust Coach Munchak and DC Jerry Gray to keep him straight. If Jenkins can stay clean, he is no worse than the 2nd-best CB in this draft between the sidelines. It's a risk but it's a risk I'm willing to take for a player with Jenkins' potential.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon Boykin, CB/RS, Georgia. Boykin is smaller than ideal but very feisty and technically proficient. He has the speed and footwork to play either in the slot or outside. His return ability is a pleasant bonus for the Bengals.
22. Cleveland Browns (from ATL): Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. If Weeden were Colt McCoy's age he would have gone at least 15 picks earlier. His downfield accuracy and delivery motion are exceptional, but he's older than Aaron Rodgers. Since Peyton Manning can have 4 neck surgeries and expects to play at 36, I see no reason why Weeden can't start for a decade. The Browns have to do something at QB, and this is perhaps the last opportunity to make that something actually count.
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin. With Dominic Raiola on the downside, the Lions need to get an interior upgrade. Konz has enough size and strength to play guard as well, and the Lions only have one guard (Rob Sims) under contract beyond 2012. Not the flashiest pick and not the most pressing need, but Konz is the best player available. It's nice as a Lions fan to not have to chase need.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama. The Pittsburgh defense desperately need to get younger and fresher. Hightower fits best as a 3-4 ILB and that's where the Steelers need youth the most. He is a steal at #24 overall.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. He's a bit of a project as a pass rusher, but Brockers is already a strong run stuffer and has flashed potential at collapsing the pocket. Denver lost Brodrick Bunkley and needs more capable young bodies all over the defense.
26. Houston Texans: Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson. Branch draws the unenviable task of replacing Mario Williams. Fortunately the Texans have a lot of help and Branch gets to play as part of a strong rotation. The deep WR class allows me to quench that thirst later.
27. New England Patriots (from NO): Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech. New England must add at least two new starters to one of the worst secondaries ever seen, where the backup slot WR was their best corner down the stretch. Hosley is tough, smart, aggressive, and confident.
28. Green Bay Packers: Mark Barron, S, Alabama. I cannot count on Nick Collins coming back to his old self, and the concept of Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett as the starting safeties is deeply disconcerting. Barron isn't an elite athlete but has a great football IQ and offers versatility, the two hallmarks of a Dom Capers defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. At times Gilmore looked like he should go much higher than here, but other times the tape revealed a 3rd rounder at best. If I'm Ozzie Newsome I trust my strong coaching staff and defensive culture to bring out the best in this athletically gifted cover man.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina. I'm really hoping to get the 2010 Alshon Jeffery that was clearly better than Julio Jones, not the 2011 Jeffery that was lethargic and disappointing. The former is a steal here, the latter a monumental reach. There is no middle ground. The Niners can afford to take the risk for that potential reward.
31. New England Patriots: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech. I'm skeptical of making such a lofty projection for a guy coming from the stone age GT offense, but the Pats must get someone outside that can lift the lid off a defense. Hill has the speed and burst to do that right away while Team Hoodie teaches him how to play in an offense that features the forward pass.
32. New York Giants: Riley Reiff, T, Iowa. I'm not his biggest fan, but Reiff can step right in and present an upgrade at either tackle spot and thus restore some harmony to the Giants offense. I wanted a RB here but Doug Martin is redundant with Bradshaw and I don't see any other backs that merit drafting this high.
33. St. Louis Rams: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State. Building skill position players around Bradford. It can only help.
34. Indianapolis Colts: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State. He and Angerer in the middle of the new-look 3-4 could be great.
35. Minnesota Vikings: Kelechi Osemele, G/T, Iowa State. Adding functional beef and depth up front is paramount.
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zack Brown, LB, North Carolina. Has the range and speed needed to help the back 7.
37. Cleveland Browns: Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State. Worth the potential here, he and Little could develop together.
38. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Adams, T, Ohio State. Can't be any worse than what they've got at RT already, could be a great one.
39. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Dwight Bill Bentley, CB, LA-Lafayette. Good schematic and personality fit for Jeff Fisher's defense.
40. Miami Dolphins: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Ask Ohio U. if Sanu can make plays; strong all-around talent.
41. Buffalo Bills: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
42. Carolina Panthers: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
43. Seattle Seahawks: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
44. Kansas City Chiefs: Alameda Ta'Amu, NT, Washington
45. Dallas Cowboys: Kendall Reyes, DE, UConn
46. Philadelphia Eagles: Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State
47. New York Jets: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
48. New England Patriots (from OAK): Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
49. San Diego Chargers: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
50. Chicago Bears: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
51. Philadelphia Eagles (from ARI): Bobby Massie, T, Ole Miss
52. Tennessee Titans: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
53. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami FL
54. Detroit Lions: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
55. Atlanta Falcons: Jeff Allen, T/G, Illinois
56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
57. Denver Broncos: George Iloka S, Boise State
58. Houston Texans: Devon Wylie, WR/RS, Fresno State
59. New Orleans Saints--forfeited
60. Green Bay Packers: Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
61. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State
62. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
63. New England Patriots: Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
64. New York Giants: Colby Fleener, TE, Stanford
65. Indianapolis Colts: Trumaine Johnson, CB/S, Montana
66. St. Louis Rams: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
67. Minnesota Vikings: Marvin Jones, WR, California
68. Cleveland Browns: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
69. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M
70. Washington Redskins: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
71. Jacksonville Jaguars: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
72. Buffalo Bills: Joe Adams, WR/KR, Arkansas
73. Miami Dolphins: Ladarius Green, TE, LA-Lafayette
74. Chicago Bears (from CAR): Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
75. Kansas City Chiefs: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
76. Seattle Seahawks: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
77. Philadelphia Eagles: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
78. New York Jets: Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina
79. Oakland Raiders--used on Terrelle Pryor in Supplemental Draft
80. San Diego Chargers: Brandon Mosley, T, Auburn
81. Miami Dolphins (from CHI): Kelcie McCray, S, Arkansas State
82. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
83. Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
84. Tennessee Titans: Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
85. Cincinnati Bengals: Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia
86. Atlanta Falcons: Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
87. Detroit Lions: Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
88. Pittsburgh Steelers: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State
89. Denver Broncos: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
90. Houston Texans: Mitchell Schwartz, T, California
91. New Orleans Saints: B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga
92. Green Bay Packers: Mychael Kendricks, LB, California
93. Baltimore Ravens: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
94. San Francisco 49ers: Ryan Steed, CB, Furman
95. New England Patriots: David Molk, C, Michigan
96. New York Giants: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
97. Oakland Raiders: Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
@JeffRisdon on Twitter, Jeff.Risdon@RealGM.com for email