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Rattle and Hum’s NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Free agency has drastically altered the draft strategy for many teams, and there are many changes in my 3rd edition of the 2012 NFL Mock Draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Peyton Manning is officially done in Indy. The beginning of the Andrew Luck era starts now. There isn’t much drama surrounding the 1st pick of the draft any longer. Even contract negotiations shouldn’t be too strenuous as the new rookie salary cap has put a halt to preposterous guaranteed contracts for unproven players. It still seems unfair that the Colts get the best QB prospect since John Elway on cue as the legend Peyton Manning departs. If only God loved Cleveland this much…

2. Washington Redskins (Traded from Rams)- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

This pick should belong to the Cleveland Browns. There is no reason, in my mind, that the Browns shouldn’t have traded up for RG3. They have the most ammunition (#4 and #22 pick) and they have been wallowing in quarterback mediocrity since their return to the NFL. However, according to Mike Mayock, the Browns believe that Ryan Tannehill is a better fit than RG3 (we’ll get to that below).

As a result, the opportunity to snatch Robert Griffin III has fallen right into Daniel Snyder’s hands. After reports surfaced that Peyton Manning is not interested in playing for the Redskins, this has got to be great news to Washington Redskin fans. RG3 is the type of player who makes everyone around him better. With him, the Redskins will be one of the top 5 rushing teams in the NFL next season, guaranteed. Griffin is a leader and an ultra-high character franchise quarterback around which a team can be built. He is the reason that people even talk about Baylor football these days.

3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil, OT, Stanford

Christian Ponder needs help, and lots of it. Matt Kalil is the perfect fit for the Vikings. Charlie Johnson and Phil Loadholt, the tackles for the Vikings, were both really bad in pass protection in 2011. Matt Kalil can step in right away to possibly allow the Vikings to shift either Johnson or Loadholt over to guard.

Recently, NFL Network asked Twitter followers who the Vikings should take with the #3 pick. Seriously? I tweeted a response: “If the Vikings don’t take Matt Kalil, Christian Ponder should quit on the spot.” NFL Network aired my tweet, and yes, I’m proud of it.

4. Cleveland Browns- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

I honestly don’t think that Tannehill will go this high, but the way things are shaking out, it looks as if the Browns are the most likely team to nab him, as Seattle and Washington have both filled their holes at quarterback. Miami could potentially be in play for Tannehill, but it is looking likely that Alex Smith may be their man (I know how excited Dolphins fans must be. Yay!!).

Cleveland will likely be able to trade down to select Tannehill and pick up some additional draft picks, but who they trade with is a mystery until draft day. A team that really likes Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne, or even Trent Richardson could make the leap to number four and allow Cleveland to move back.

The Browns have to make this choice, unfortunately. Colt McCoy just isn’t the answer at quarterback, and it is time to start rebuilding around a new man under center. They don’t have a ton invested in McCoy, as they only spent a third round draft pick on him, so it’s not like it will reflect poorly upon management if they decide to move on.

Tannehill has ideal size for an NFL QB at 6’4”. He lacks experience at quarterback, having only started 1 ½ seasons at Texas A&M, but many could argue that this simply means he has more room to grow than a quarterback who spent four years in a pro style system in college. Either way, he has a very steep learning curve to go through, and he will have some growing pains as he makes his way through the NFL.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Tampa Bay signed free agent cornerback Eric Wright last week, and guess what? I don’t care. Eric Wright is really bad. There is a reason Detroit’s secondary was so terrible in 2011, and Eric Wright was one of them. Wright finished dead last in the NFL in receptions allowed with an astronomical 75. He finished 4th to last in yards after catch allowed with 319. The list goes on, and on, and on. Tampa absolutely, positively, MUST take Morris Claiborne.

Trent Richardson seems to be the recent trending pick here, but if the Buccaneers are smart, they will take Morris Claiborne. Ronde Barber has reached the end of the line, and Aqib Talib is an idiot. Even with those guys, Tampa Bay gave up 8.2 yards per attempt last season, worst in the NFL. The only reason opponents didn’t pass for more yards against the Bucs was because they were up by 2 or more touchdowns so frequently. This defense has a long way to go to get better, but a lockdown corner is a pretty good start.

6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Brandon Lloyd just signed with the New England Patriots, and that means that with their current roster, I could probably start at wide receiver for St. Louis in 2012. They certainly don’t want me starting at wide receiver, so they’ll take Justin Blackmon, the best wide receiver in the draft.

The Rams have a need at tackle, as Rodger Saffold has been awful, but the need at receiver is much greater. Just as Andy Dalton blossomed because he had a stud like A.J. Green to throw to, so Sam Bradford should benefit from having a dynamic talent like Blackmon.

Sure, Blackmon doesn’t jump out at you with his measurables. He is 6’1”, 207 lbs, but you cannot argue with production. Blackmon had 121 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 TD’s in 2011 for the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. What I love about Blackmon is how effortlessly he catches the ball, then turns and runs. He watches the ball all the way into his hands, catches it away from his body, and has great elusiveness in the open field. He reminds me a whole lot of Andre Johnson in that sense.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Jacksonville signed Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson to a multi-year deal, and according to Jaguar fans I’ve talked to, they apparently think that will solve their wide receiver problems. Umm… whatever. Unfortunately, the front office probably believes that they can get by with Robinson as the answer now, so it is highly unlikely they will go with a receiver here.

NEWSFLASH: Just because the Jaguars re-signed Jeremy Mincey, doesn’t mean they don’t have to worry about the pass rush anymore. The Jags recorded just 31 sacks with Mincey last season. Don’t get me wrong, re-signing Mincey was huge, but he needs a premier pass rusher opposite him, and Quinton Coples has the most potential out of all the available defensive ends here.

I believe that Melvin Ingram is a great talent worthy of the #7 pick, but he just doesn’t fit in well with Jacksonville’s 4-3. He’s a little undersized and I believe he projects better to a 3-4 or a 3-4 hybrid defense. Coples, on the other hand, will be an ideal fit for the 4-3 defense in Jacksonville, and he should really help improve a struggling pass rush.

Coples is a 285 lb. ferocious pass rusher. The UNC product has been knocked for his inconsistent effort, but if Jackonsville’s coaching staff can get this kid to focus, he could be an absolute monster. Coples has long arms, is very athletic, and is stout against the run. He is very strong, and once he gets ahold of a ballcarrier, they generally don’t escape. If he can figure out how to keep his motor running for an entire game, he will be instantly be the best pass rusher in Jacksonville.

8. Miami Dolphins- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned, did it?

Miami’s offseason is going up in flames. The Dolphins went all in on the hopes of acquiring Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. They even traded away their best wide receiver for two 3rd round picks to help make the locker room a more friendly place for Manning. Whoops.

Now the Dolphins are stuck with the possibility of Matt Moore or Alex Smith at quarterback, and Davone Bess as their best wide receiver. Because of the Marshall trade, wide receiver has now become a gigantic need in Miami. I mean, unless their strategy is to score as few points as possible in 2012.

Michael Floyd is a big target at 6’3” 225 lbs. He projects as a #1 receiver who has the skillset to do it all. Floyd ran in the mid 4.4’s on his 40, so speed is certainly not an issue for him, and while he occasionally drops balls he shouldn’t, the ability to make the spectacular catch is certainly there. Floyd has strong hands and he is not afraid to run crossing routes. He’s a big receiver with the ability to beat press coverage. He’s had some off the field issues in the past, but if Floyd keeps his head on straight, he should be the total package for the Phins.

9. Carolina Panthers- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Sure, the Panthers have plenty of defensive tackles on their roster, but Terrell McClain really sucked last season, and the Panthers got decimated at the line of scrimmage consistently.

Dontari Poe is an intriguing prospect here simply because of the physical specimen he is, but Michael Brockers has more upside at this point. Plus, rumors have linked Brockers to Carolina and it is said that the Panther coaching staff really likes him. I don’t blame them.

Brockers is a big body. At 6’6”, 305 lbs, Brockers will likely bat down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage, much like J.J. Watt did for the Texans in his rookie season. Brockers is highly disruptive, showing the ability to get skinny and get in the backfield as well as take on double teams. This is a great fit for the Panthers, as Carolina’s defensive tackles were by far the worst group in the NFL at stuffing the run in 2011. They also failed to get any pressure on opposing QB’s. Siona Fua and Terrell McClain combined for 1 sack.

10. Buffalo Bills- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

The Bills addressed their need for a pass rusher by signing free agent stud Mario Williams to a massive $100M dollar deal. I could honestly see the Bills trading down from this spot, as there are no players at positions of need that make sense in this scenario at #10, but I’ll keep them here for now. The Bills could use some wide receiver help, but until Kendall Wright improves his 40 time, I can’t put him this high. Plus, it’s not like the Bills couldn’t use some more help on defense in a division with Tom Brady (who just got a new toy in Brandon Lloyd).

Sure, Poe probably projects best to a 3-4, but I’m not so sure he can’t be just as effective in a 4-3. Despite his massive size, Dontari Poe is freakishly athletic for a man his size, and adding him to a line with Marcel Dareus, Mario Williams, and Kyle Williams could make Buffalo’s D-line insanely scary. Poe can be rotated in and out with both Dareus and Williams, so I don’t think that the fact the Bills already have two effective DT’s on the roster rules this pick out.

Seriously, how many times do you see a 345 pound man run a 4.9 second 40 yard dash? Oh, and he pushed out 44 reps on the bench press. This guy is a physical freak of nature and he has rightfully been compared to Haloti Ngata already. He is the type of pick that could potentially change a defense completely.

Some have claimed that the number 10 pick is too high for a tackle like Poe, no matter how talented he is. Really? Haloti Ngata, the player that Poe is being compared to by Mike Mayock (and myself), was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He had eerily similar measurables coming out of Oregon. At 338 lbs, he ran a 5.1 40 yard dash and he pushed out 37 reps on bench press. Poe weighs 7 pounds more and he easily bested both of those numbers. He is the rare three down nose tackle that is worth every bit of the #9 pick in the draft

11. Kansas City Chiefs- Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

The Chiefs just signed Texans right tackle Eric Winston, so Matt Cassell doesn’t have to have nightmares about defensive ends shoving Barry Richardson out of the way anymore to kill him. That was a huge get for the Chiefs, and it gives them the luxury to address other needs. The Chiefs also signed running back Peyton Hillis to help take the load off of Jamaal Charles, so running back is no longer a need either.

Now the Chiefs can focus on what they really need: A player who can sack quarterbacks besides Tamba Hali. Kansas City recorded just 29 sacks in 2011, and Tamba Hali had 11 of them. Hali is consistently double teamed, and yet he continues to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Just imagine what he could do if the Chiefs had someone else on their roster that opposing offensive lines had to account for?

That’s where the best pass rusher on the board, Melvin Ingram, comes in. Melvin Ingram, who would play outside linebacker in Kansas City’s 3-4 defense, showed he has the speed to do it in the NFL at the combine. He’s a little short at 6’1”, but that’s ok as long as he isn’t at defensive end. Ingram has plenty of speed for pursuit, and he’s quite strong for his size, showing the ability to hold his own in run support.

12. Seattle Seahawks- Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

If middle linebacker David Hawthorne isn’t re-signed, then that position becomes an immediate position of need for the Seahawks. Now that Seattle has addressed their need for a quarterback with Matt Flynn, they can turn to improving their defense, and Kuechly is the best player on the board.

Luke Kuechly tested excellently at the combine, running a 4.5 40. He also has prototypical size for an inside linebacker at 6’3” and 240+ lbs. The Seahawks have many different needs, including more pass rushers, but passing on Kuechly would be crazy at this point. He is the model of consistency; a sure tackler, great instincts, extremely high character, elite athleticism, and his great size all combine to make him one of the most pro-ready draft picks in 2012. Kuechly should bring stability to the linebacking corps for years to come.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Arizone is extremely fortunate to find Riley Reiff on the board at #13. If it weren’t for Matt Kalil, Reiff would easily be the best offensive tackle prospect in this draft, so Arizona is getting incredible value here.

It’s hard to come up with an adjective to describe how bad Arizona’s pass protection was last year. They need upgrades all over their line. Adam Synder was signed, but he’s not the answer and should provide depth at most. One thing’s for sure, Levi Brown cannot be allowed to start at tackle in 2012. For some reason, Arizona re-signed him, but he gave up 11 sacks and 40 hurries in 2011, so I think Ken Whisenhunt will have no problem replacing him with Riley Reiff. He better. It’ll be awfully hard for Kevin Kolb to improve as a passer if the Cardinals give up 54 sacks again next year.

Reiff is 6’6”, 300 pounds. What I like about him is that he really has no holes in his game. He doesn’t jump out at you in terms of his athleticism, but he is a very intelligent football player that seems to understand not only blocking schemes, but what the defense is trying to do as well. He projects as a future solid to spectacular NFL left tackle, something that will make Mr. Kolb quite happy.

14. Dallas Cowboys- Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

The Dallas Cowboys have quietly had one of the better offseasons in the NFL thus far. The Cowboys had big needs at cornerback and linebacker, and they addressed them both by signing CB Brandon Carr and LB Dan Connor, respectively.

Now for the bad part of the Cowboys’ offseason: I really think David DeCastro would be a perfect fit here, but for some reason, the Cowboys committed $30 Million to two guys named Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Huh? Obviously, the Cowboys think these two guys can help the line, so I find it hard to believe that they would also use a 1st round pick on another guard. But hey, it’s not like adding Mark Barron will be a bad thing.

Barron is the top safety in this year’s draft class, and adding him along with Brandon Carr could potentially transform this secondary. Mark Barron projects as a strong safety in the NFL, and he is definitely better in run support than in coverage, but that doesn’t mean he is a slouch in coverage. For a strong safety, he has what it takes to hold his own, and he has great instincts, as shown by his 12 career interceptions at Alabama.

Barron has a solid build at 6’1”, 215 lbs., and he is known as a hard hitter. Cowboys fans will have fun watching him light up opposing ballcarriers.

 

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi State

I sure hope the Eagles address the linebacker position in free agency, because we all know Andy Reid sure won’t draft one. Unless, of course, they smother themselves in brown mustard and relish; then they’d be too tempting to pass up. (Love ya, Andy).

Even if they don’t sign a linebacker, Fletcher Cox is the superior prospect to any linebacker left on the board, and the Eagles need to get better up the middle, period, whether that’s at middle linebacker or the defensive line.

At 6’4” 300lbs, Fletcher Cox can be moved all over the defensive line, and he will be a much needed physical prescence to go alongside pass rushers Jason Babin and Trent Cole. Cox is extremely strong in his lower body and he is tough to move. Nationalfootballpost.com even said that he has a “bubble butt” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—An ode to Walter Cherepinsky).

With Philly’s crazy defensive scheme, Cox’s versatility and ability to play virtually anywhere on the line of scrimmage will be a huge plus. He will make the Eagles’ defensive line tougher, which is exactly what they need.

16. New York Jets- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Nobody will love this pick more than Mark Sanchez. How is he ever going to have a successful modeling career after football if Wayne Hunter keeps letting him get pounded by pass rushers?

Martin can be plugged in at right tackle immediately, and Hunter can be shown the door. This is a necessity, as Hunter was literally that bad last year. Just ask Jets fans. Wayne Hunter allowed 11 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 32 hurries in 2011. That translates to over three times per game that Mark Sanchez has to run for his life as a direct result of Wayne Hunter’s incompetence.

Martin is 6’6”, 305 lbs, with an excellent frame. While he’s not an overpowering player, he plays with excellent leverage and technique and could transform into a leader on the offensive line. Martin protected Andrew Luck’s blindside at Stanford, and he did quite a good job at it. This should help solve the Jets’ pass protection problems from the right side.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from the Oakland heist)- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

You can’t tell me Hue Jackson kept a straight face when he decided to accept a job as an offensive assistant for the Bengals. First, he trades away all of Oakland’s draft picks for a crappy Carson Palmer, then he gets fired, and then he signs on with the team that he traded all of his picks to. I personally think it’s hilarious. Cedric Benson should be on the outs, so he’ll need a replacement. Enter the #1 running back in the draft. This is a steal at #17, and it gives the Bengals a young core of Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Trent Richardson. Oh, and they have a great offensive line and a solid defense. Watch out, AFC North.

Trent Richardson is an elite running back prospect, and the Bengals will be very fortunate if he falls this far. I have a hunch that some team may attempt to trade up for him and take him earlier in the draft, but I won’t attempt to predict that. We all know that trades completely screw everyone’s mock drafts up on draft day, anyways.

Richardson is 5’11”, 225 lbs. of pure beast. He has the speed to get outside, but he’s even better running between the tackles. He is an every down back in every sense of the word. He can carry a full load and take a pounding, yet hold up for the entire season.

18. San Diego Chargers- Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

Other than Antwan Barnes, nobody mustered more than 4 sacks last season for the Chargers. With the 18th pick, the Chargers take Courtney Upshaw out of Alabama. Upshaw measured out at 6’2” 272 lbs. at the NFL combine, but he didn’t run. While Upshaw has been viewed as an outside linebacker prospect, the fact that he has gained so much weight concerns me. Upshaw was not really asked to drop back in coverage much at Alabama, and he definitely won’t be able to do it very effectively in the NFL. That could limit some of what the Chargers can do defensively, but there’s no question Upshaw can rush the passer.

While the inability to drop back in coverage hurts, Upshaw makes up for it with a relentless motor and a wide variety of good pass rush moves. He is very strong and he also does a nice job holding up against the run. Upshaw’s upside, combined with his ability to play the run and rush the passer, make him a great pick here for the Chargers.

19. Chicago Bears- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

It would be a shame if DeCastro were to fall this far, but with the way things have shaken out in free agency, it looks like it could be a distinct possibility. The Bears surely won’t mind, though. Decastro is the most complete guard prospect to come out of college in almost a decade. He is going to have a very long career in the NFL and he instantly upgrades any offensive line that takes him.

The Bears’ offensive line was a disaster in 2011. They had players playing out of position all over the line, and they allowed Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie to constantly get harassed. Chris Williams was like a revolving door, allowing 30 quarterback hurries. Roberto Garza struggled playing out of position. The Bears need stability, and David DeCastro is the answer.

DeCastro has power and agility. He was often asked to pull and trap in Stanford’s offense, and he excels at getting to the second level of the defense. He is highly intelligent, seeking out defenders and lanes for ballcarriers downfield. Matt Forte will love having this beast to run behind.

20. Tennessee Titans- Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

Tennessee has yet to address the pass rush in free agency. They lost another defensive lineman in Jason Jones, so the front seven becomes even more of a priority. The Titans have no pass rush and if they expect to get a leg up on the Texans in the AFC South they better get one.

Nick Perry is a highly active pass rusher, and one of the best left on the board at this spot. Perry had a fantastic combine, showing that he has the speed and agility to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He’s 271 lbs. and he ran a 4.5 40, with a 38.5” vertical leap. Yikes. He has largely been known as a speed rusher, and considering the fact that he showed up to the combine 20 pounds heavier than his listed weight, he will fit in at defensive end in Tennessee.

Derrick Morgan has yet to reach his full potential, but if he can get fully healthy from his ACL tear a year ago, pairing him with Perry could give the Titans a nice 1-2 punch. Perry is solid in run support, and that was when he weighed around 250 lbs. Adding the extra bulk will only help him anchor at the point of attack.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Bengals just signed Jason Allen away from Houston, and while he is a solid player who could start and be effective if he needs to, the Bengals should look to upgrade if they have the chance. With two picks in the first round, they should jump all over it. Leon Hall is coming off of an Achilles tear and there are no guarantees that he’ll be the same player he once was.

Stephen Gilmore of South Carolina has seen his stock rise recently, and he is currently the higher rated corner still on the board, but people all too quickly forget just how talented Janoris Jenkins is. If he had stayed out of trouble and stayed at Florida, he could have been up for consideration as the top corner taken in this draft.

Jenkins has gotten in a lot of trouble over the past couple years, but supposedly he has gotten his life back on track. He even said that he doesn’t even hang out with people that smoke weed anymore. Wow. Good for you, Janoris. Anyways, the Bengals have never been scared off by character issues, and they won’t be this year, especially considering the dire straits they face at the cornerback position. Pacman Jones and Kelly Jennings are both free agents, but even if they are retained they aren’t the answer for Cincinnati.

Jenkins has elite cover corner skills. He’s a bit undersized for a corner, but he makes up for it with his speed and physicality. He isn’t afraid to come up in run support and he is a confident young player. He has the upside of an All-Pro cornerback if he is a good boy.

22. Cleveland Browns- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

The bright side about not trading up for RG3 for Browns fans is that they get to keep their #22 pick. It’s not much, but hey, beggers can’t be choosers. The Browns re-signed cornerback Dmitri Patterson, so it’s unlikely they will draft a corner in the first round. They also gave Frostee Rucker $20 Million for some reason. Apparently they believe Rucker and his 4 sacks in 2011 will be the answer to their pass rush woes.

One area the Browns haven’t addressed? Running back. The Browns can’t go in to the 2012 season with Montario Hardesty as the answer at running back, especially if Ryan Tannehill, or Colt McCoy for that matter, is starting. The Browns desperately need a running game if they want to score any points at all, because the passing game just won’t be there next year.

Cleveland finished last in the NFL in 2011 with 3.7 yards per carry as a team. They also finished last in rushing touchdowns with 4. No, that is not a typo. Four. The Browns had a hard time getting into the redzone as it is, and even when they did, they couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown because they had no running game.

Lamar Miller would be an excellent compliment to Hardesty and would give the Browns the type of playmaker they so desperately need on offense, as they simply don’t create enough explosive plays with their current roster. Miller is viewed as a speed back, but he’s no pushover. At 5’11”, 215 lbs, Miller has an excellent frame and he is a load to bring down. Miller has great burst, hitting top speed with quickness, and he displays excellent lateral agility. He also has shown the ability to be a good pass catcher out of the backfield, something that will benefit a young quarterback, whether it’s McCoy, Tannehill, or someone else.

23. Detroit Lions- Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

It’s no secret that the Lion’s secondary stinks. Eric Wright was a huge disappointment, leading the league in completions allowed with 75. For some reason, the Buccaneers thought that cornerbacks are SUPPOSED to lead the league in completions allowed, so they gave Wright $37.5 Million. I’d be pretty disappointed if the Lions don’t draft a corner or safety in the 1st round. Stephen Gilmore’s stock is rising by the day, and he is the best corner prospect on the board at this point. While I could potentially see Mark Barron as a possibility here if he falls, cornerback is a higher priority position and it is too big of a need to pass up for Detroit.

It’s not like Gilmore is a slouch, either. Gilmore has excellent size for a corner at 6’, 190 lbs. He showed off his speed at the combine, running a 4.44 40 yard dash with a 1.5 second 10 yard split, showing he has the burst to keep up with the fastest wide receivers. He also faced some pretty darn good competition in college playing cornerback in the SEC.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

Mike Adams will be charged with helping Big Ben stay out of a walking boot, something the Pittsburgh O-line seems to be incapable of doing as of late. Big Ben is a much better QB when he isn’t running for his life (imagine that).

While Adams still has some developing to do, and many don’t think he is quite ready to step into a starting lineup, he surely has the talent to do so, and the Steelers desperately need him. Adams is the top tackle on the board at this point, and the Steelers really need an offensive tackle for the future. I could see Cordy Glenn going here, but offensive tackle is the most important position on the field, outside of quarterback, offensively.

Adams is enormous, at 6’6” 320 lbs. The one disconcerting thing about Adams is that he inexplicably was only able to push out 19 reps in the bench press event at the Combine. However, combine results are usually overrated, so I’m not going to read too much into that. He can’t be that weak, because he managed to stand out against some great competition in the Big 12 throughout his career. Adams will need to work on his technique diligently, but he has all the raw tools a team looks for in a franchise left tackle. Pittsburgh is a veteran team where Adams will be encouraged to stay disciplined and work hard, the perfect environment for a young football player.

25. Denver Broncos- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Denver has so many needs to address, but Kirkpatrick is the best player left on the board at a position of need, so he’ll be the pick if he’s here. Champ Bailey was solid last year, and Andre Goodman wasn’t good but he wasn’t terrible either, but they are both approaching their mid-30’s and the Broncos have nobody waiting in the wings.

Kirkpatrick is a tall corner at 6’2”, and along with Mark Barron helped to form a formidable secondary during his time at Alabama. He’s extremely physical and receivers consistently have problems getting separation when matched up with Dre. While he doesn’t intercept many passes, Kirkpatrick makes up for it by blanketing receivers and being stingy around the endzone. Kirpatrick gave up just one touchdown in 2011, the first of his entire college career.

While Kirkpatrick isn’t the only upgrade that the Broncos need on the defense, he will at least give them some youth in the secondary and something to build upon for the future.

26. Houston Texans- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The Houston Texans took a big hit to their offensive line in free agency, losing right tackle Eric Winston to the Chiefs and guard Mike Breisel to the Raiders. Cordy Glenn is available here, but he’s stuck somewhere between a tackle and guard prospect at this point, and he doesn’t possess the measurable and skillset that the Texans traditionally look for in their zone blocking scheme.

The Texans other need is at wide receiver, and Kendall Wright is the best prospect on the board. While Wright disappointed at the combine, he should run better than his 4.61 40 at his pro day. How well he runs will ultimately determine whether or not I’ll bump him up further in my next mock draft.

The Texans desperately need some explosiveness on offense, and they need a legitimate #2 receiver opposite Andre Johnson. It’s also important to remember that Johnson won’t be around forever. He may have two elite years left in him, but it’s just a matter of time before his play begins to decline, and the Texans need to start thinking about who’s going to replace him as the main threat in the passing game.

While Kendall Wright is undersized at 5’10”, he still has the ability to be a potential #1 receiver in a passing game. Despite his poor 40 time at the combine, if you watched any Baylor games, you know how fast Wright is in game speed. If he gets in space, watch out. Wright gives the Texans something they don’t currently have, and that’s a player that can score on any given play from anywhere on the field. He produces tons of yards after the catch and he can be used out wide or out of the slot, something that Texans’ coaches will enjoy tinkering with, as the Houston offense is effective because of its deceptiveness.

The Texans run lots of play-action bootlegs, and they love to take deep shots down the field, and a player with Wright’s speed can easily get over the top of a safety who bites just a smidgen on a play action fake.

27. New England Patriots- Devon Still, DT, Penn State

The Patriots really need to start addressing the defensive line and their pass rush. Actually, they just need to address the defense, period. Devon Still is a tall, violent DT. Standing 6’5”, 305 lbs, Still excels at collapsing the pocket and getting into opponent’s backfields. Still had 17 tackles for loss in 2011, a testament to his ability to recognize plays and get to the ballcarrier before they develop.

Still’s versatility is a large part of why he could be the pick here for the Patriots. He can play a traditional defensive tackle in a 4-3, but he could also be effective being moved around on the defensive line, as he is stout against the run and can take on multiple blockers.

The Patriots lost Mark Anderson to free agency, so adding talent to the line has become a necessity.

28. Green Bay Packers- Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson

The Green Bay Packers finished dead last in pass defense in 2011. Part of the reason for this is that they generated just 29 sacks, despite having Clay Matthews on their team. Offensive coordinators simply game planned to stop Matthews, and it worked. Adding a player like Branch would help spell Matthews, making opposing teams pay for focusing solely on Goldilocks. Branch would play OLB in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. He weighed in at 259 lbs. at the combine and he has great length, standing 6’4”. Oh, and he ran a 4.6 40 as well, showing the ability to drop back in coverage when asked.

29. Baltimore Ravens- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

I know that Ray Lewis is coming back, but if Hightower were to fall this far, I think he’d be too good of a talent for the Ravens to pass up. Baltimore doesn’t really have any pressing needs to address in the draft, so they have the luxury of taking the best player available. Plus, middle linebacker will likely be a position of need in 2013, so why not take care of that now when you have the chance? A year under the tutelage of Lewis won’t hurt, either.

Hightower isn’t just your average run stopping middle linebacker. He’s extremely physical and very mobile for a linebacker his size. He’s 6’2”, 265 lbs. and he ran a 4.6 40 yard dash at the combine. Hightower has the ability to rush the passer and he meets the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. He also has the fire and leadership ability that will fit in perfectly with the Baltimore clubhouse.

30. San Francisco 49ers- Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

Right guard Adam Snyder departed to division rival Arizona, but he wasn’t that good anyways. Regardless, the 49ers will need a replacement. Now that they have addressed the wide receiver positions in free agency by signing Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, they can afford to use this pick to do it.

Cordy Glenn is easily the best offensive lineman left on the board, and he will really solidify the right side of this line. Glenn is a massive body at 6’5” and 345 lbs, and I could easily see him making the eventual shift to tackle with his 35 ¼” arm length. He displayed unusually good straight line speed for a man of his size, but the question will be whether he has adequate lateral agility. Either way, he will start the season at right guard for San Francisco.

31. New England Patriots- Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

The Patriots really couldn’t draft enough defensive players this year. Like I said, they need help all over. The Pats were terrible at defending the pass last season, and Devin McCourty has been extremely disappointing after showing lots of promise in his rookie season. McCourty gave up 62 receptions and 1,004 total receiving yards, with an astonishing 16.2 yards per reception. That has to be addressed.

Hosley doesn’t appear on many mock drafts yet, but there’s always that one guy that gets drafted in the 1st round that nobody expects to get drafted in the 1st round. Hosley blazed a 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine and his stock is on the rise. He’s a little undersized at 5’10”, but he had great production in college with 12 interceptions and 32 passes deflected his previous two seasons. I really like his ball skills and I think he definitely has a chance to sneak into the 1st round conversation.

Mike Mayock likes Josh Robinson better, but he’s even more undersized, and while he blazed an unofficial 4.29 40 at the Combine, he wasn’t on many radars before that for a reason. Robinson doesn’t have the physicality to be a corner on the outside, in my opinion, and I project him to be a day two pick to a team who needs a corner to play the slot.

32. New York Giants- David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

The Giants recently cut running back Brandon Jacobs, so they’ll need to draft a replacement for him, especially considering the amount of time Ahmad Bradshaw has missed throughout his career.

David Wilson should help rejuvenate the Giants’ running game with some freakish athletic ability. Wilson had a phenomenal combine in Indianapolis, showing off his incredible athleticism. He ran a 4.40 40 yard dash and he jumped out of the building with a 41” vertical leap. He also led all running backs with an 11’ broad jump. Wilson is very stout at 5’10” 205 lbs, and he has the makings of an every down back. He will add even more explosiveness to the Giants offense and make them that much scarier for opposing defenses.

New York really struggled to run the ball for most of the season in 2011, ranking among the NFL’s worst in rushing, but they turned it on come playoff time. They need to get more consistent, though.

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2 Comments

  1. Jared Huntley says:

    Did you even read my description on the Tannehill pick? I agree, I wouldn’t draft him in the 1st round either. I cited his lack of experience at quarterback in my description. If you would have actually read it, you would have seen that. But guess what? It’s probably going to happen whether you like it or not. Tannehill and the Browns have been linked and they absolutely cannot go into 2012 with McCoy as the only viable option at QB. Also, your wrong about the running backs. At least two will be taken in the 1st round, HOWEVER, in the wake of the Green-Ellis signing I’ll likely change that pick. This mock was done before Green-Ellis was signed.

  2. Tommy Smith says:

    Thanks for chippin in Dave! That is what this is all about! Who would you rather the Browns take? I agree running backs are dicey picks in the top of the first round or the first round at all. TR is a special player and SHOULD be a great back in the NFL. I could see Cleveland trading that pick to someone who wants Richardson. Love to hear your thoughts…