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2012 Draft Recap: AFC North

This is the 3rd of 8 divisional recaps.

AFC East Recap
AFC South Recap

Cincinnati Bengals – Despite having the smallest scouting department in the NFL, the Bengals have done a pretty good job drafting the last few years. 2012 was an important draft for them if they want to build on a successful 2011 campaign and remain as a contender in a tough division. On paper, the Bengals made out extremely well though their draft strategy seemed to be to just draft the #1 player remaining on Mel Kiper’s big board at each selection. Almost every pick represented great value on paper, though trading down in the 1st and passing on David DeCastro (only to see him go to a divisional rival) was questionable. Dre Kirkpatrick fits perfectly with the Bengals scheme and addresses a position of questionable depth. Kevin Zeitler isn’t an exciting prospect but projects as a quality NFL guard. Mohammed Sanu and Brandon Thompson were both guys I felt were overrated as 1st or early 2nd rounders, but in the 3rd round they were nice pickups. Devon Still, Orson Charles and Marvin Jones were also guys who I thought could have gone a round higher than the Bengals picked them. George Iloka probably won’t amount to much but his size and special teams value are enough to give a long look in camp. It will be very interesting to watch this draft class and see how it plays out. One has to think that some of these “big name” prospects who were pre-draft darlings slid for a reason. Even in undrafted free agency, the Bengals stayed true to their strategy of adding well-known prospects, adding mercurial and controversial Vontaze Burfict. Kashif Moore and Julian Miller were both guys I liked as sleepers and could find their way onto the roster.

Cleveland Browns – The Browns got off to what I feel was a bad start, trading up to pick #3 to guarantee Trent Richardson seemed unnecessary. It’s true that the Vikings could have moved the 3rd pick to a team who would have taken the talented RB, but I’m of the belief that no RB is worth taking that early in the draft – especially for a bad team like Cleveland who figures to be a few years away from being serious contenders. Brandon Weeden later in the 1st has drawn a ton of criticism due to his age, but the Browns desperately need to upgrade from Colt McCoy sooner rather than later. If Weeden is a total failure, the Browns will be in a good position to land a top QB prospect next year. The rest of the Browns draft until the 6th round looks suspect. Mitchell Schwartz is a solid prospect but the Browns passed on a lot of good players at bigger positions of need. John Hughes was a downright bizarre selection, showing almost nothing in college to warrant drafting in the top 200 picks. Travis Benjamin doesn’t have the hands or ability to beat press coverage to ever be more than a #3 or #4 WR and isn’t the high-quality weapon the Browns receiving corps has been missing for many years. James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho were nice value picks and could add depth to the Browns mediocre LB corps. 6th rounder Billy Winn was a guy I liked as early as the upper 2nd round and his slide down the board was one of the more curious storylines during the draft. He could be a real steal, depending on what led to his fall down the board. Brad Smelley is a nice developmental H-Back/FB who is a natural fit for the Browns scheme.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers, like the Patriots and a few other perennial contenders, managed to improve themselves without having to try very hard. A team in desperate need of OL help got the best guard prospect in a decade – David DeCastro – to fall into their laps in the 1st round and then managed to snag the overrated but intriguing Mike Adams in the 2nd. Chris Rainey later on could be a nice complement to Rashard Mendenhall and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take Mewelde Moore’s spot on the roster. I’m not high on Alameda Ta’amu, but in the 4th round he offers a lot of value even if he is never anything more than a reliable backup. Sean Spence was an odd pick, given the Steelers scheme but he could fit as a pass-down LB and special teams ace. Grabbing Marquis Maze and Brandon Lindsey as undrafted players was a coup for Pittsburgh, though both face uphill battles to make the fairly stacked Steelers roster.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens, reportedly as a result of losing out to the Patriots on Dont’a Hightower, managed to trade down into the 2nd round and get a guy they had been linked to for awhile – Courtney Upshaw. Like 2010 2nd rounder Sergio Kindle, the Ravens are hoping Upshaw can add some youth to an aging edge-rusher position. With Terrell Suggs possibly out for the year – and Achilles tendon injuries tend to be career-altering – Upshaw will be pressed into duty early and often in Baltimore. Whether or not Upshaw can provide much in the way of a pass rush at the NFL level remains to be seen, but I’m doubtful he can be more than a 4 sack per year kind of guy. Kelechi Osemele could pay dividends as a late 2nd rounder, he certainly had the talent to go higher despite questions about his work ethic. 3rd rounder Bernard Pierce and 5th rounder Asa Jackson were guys I thought were undervalued going into the draft and could be nice steals for Baltimore. Tommy Streeter fell to the 6th round for a reason, and likely won’t make it in the NFL. Gino Gradkowski in the 4th was a headscratcher, one has to wonder what Ozzie Newsome and company see in him. QB John Brantley and DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen are among the more interesting undrafted players that the Ravens signed – both could make it in the NFL but will need time on a practice squad most likely.

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Recapping The Combine: 3 Up, 3 Down

March 1, 2012 Leave a comment

The general wisdom is that the Combine is used to confirm what you have seen on tape throughout the course of a player’s collegiate career. Too often, fans and even some experts overstate the importance of the week long scouting event in Indianapolis. A guy who runs a bad 40 has “seen his stock plummet!” and a guy who tears up the bench press is “a budding monster!”. Indeed, the physical drills at the Combine are less important than what happens behind closed doors in the physicals and interviews – things that the average fan, blogger and even most in the media are not privy to. It won’t be until the draft is over, or near over, that you’ll hear reports about “apparently player X failed a lot of his medical exams at the combine” or “player Y had character issues that came up.”

 
Still, there is definitely money to be made and lost and a few guys every year see their draft stock increase or decrease enough to make the Combine a compelling event for all fans of the draft. Here are some guys who helped and hurt themselves the most:

Three Up:

Harrison Smith – A lot of people seemingly didn’t know who Harrison Smith was 2 weeks ago. Even despite the poor crop of safeties in this draft, Smith was flying under the radar in draft circles. An impressive combine seems to have changed that to the point where one well known draft expert claimed Smith could work his way into late round 1. His instincts and size are near ideal with only some questions remaining about his athleticism. He didn’t blow anyone with his 40 yard time (looking nervous and stumbling a little) but he did enough to alleviate concerns about his fluidity and agility to the point where a top 40 pick seems likely. A team like the Patriots, desperate for a safety and with two late 1st rounders, seem like a natural fit for the Notre Dame safety.

Mychal Kendricks – Coming into 2011, Kendricks looked like a mid-round pick who had “Future Special Teams Ace” written all over him. However, he had a very solid year at Cal, showing that he has the tools and instincts to match his athleticism. He turned in one of the most impressive overall showings – being amongst the best in every drill except the bench press. Kendricks’ stock had been rising towards the end up the year and the Combine should help solidify him as a Top 50 pick who could sneak into the early 2nd.

Nick Perry – Most people knew about Perry coming into the Combine. A standout at USC, there isn’t much question about Perry’s talent at getting to the QB. What did surprise some people was how explosive he looked in drills and how well he moves his 6’3 271 frame. His size and lower body strength have answered some questions about his scheme versatility. He looks like an ideal 3-4 “elephant” who could also play RE in a 40 front. Seattle would love to have Perry to play Pete Carroll’s “Leo” position but Perry has probably solidified himself as a Top 10 pick now – surpassing former OLB/DE front runner Courtney Upshaw.

 

Three Down:

Mohamed Sanu – Sanu has been a consensus late 1st rounder for a long time and watching him on tape you can see why – he’s big, plays pretty physically and has reliable hands. The big knock on Sanu  is his lack of speed and explosion off the snap. Despite what some draft scouts say, I don’t see a guy who is a great route runner. He looks to have some stiffness in his hips coming out of breaks – and could struggle to separate from NFL CB’s. It’s one thing to dominate Big East zone coverages, and another to be able to beat press coverage at the next level. Sanu’s 4.67  40 yard time confirmed a lot of fears about his slowness and sluggishness. While he did a little better in the other agility drills, he doesn’t have the quick feet that will be needed to overcome his other shortcomings. He has potential as a #2 possession receiver, but he needs to go to a team with an established vertical threat. Even then, he might not be athletic enough to cut it in the pros.

Vinny Curry – Like Sanu, there were some questions about Curry’s fluidity and athleticism. He looks great at times on tape – a potential stat 3-4 OLB or 4-3 RE. Other times, he looks stiff and totally out of place on a football field. Curry’s combine did do much to allay concerns about his athletic ability. Compared to other potential early round OLB/DE options, Curry had a very poor showing. He ran a poor 40 (4.98) and didn’t really make up for it in other drills, though he did have a good showing in the 3-cone drill. There are a lot of concerns about Curry’s awareness and ability to react to plays rather than just pinning his ears back and getting after the QB. For a guy who isn’t a big factor in the run-game, a lack of explosion and speed is damning. Curry is probably a late 2nd or early 3rd rounder right now.

Vontaze Burfict – The Arizona linebacker came into the 2011 season with first round hype, some figuring he was headed for a top 10 pick in April. However, a poor year on-field and some well-publicized issues with his ability to take coaching had Burfict coming into the Combine with a lot to prove. Some still had him as a top 50 pick (perhaps going to the Ravens or Steelers at the end of round 1). Things went from bad to worse for Burfict in Indianapolis though. First, there were reports of him showing poorly in interviews, making excuses and failing to own up to his own shortcomings (i.e. lack of maturity). He followed that up with a disastrous showing in drills, running a 5.09 40 yard dash and putting up a 30 inch vertical. Absolutely nothing has gone right for Burfict since 2010 and it looks as if he has completely destroyed his stock. While he is sure to draw comparisons to Patriots LB Brandon Spikes – who had an awful Combine two years ago – Spikes had a much better final season at college and there weren’t the same concerns about coachability. Burfict will probably go earlier than some of his critics think, but it wouldn’t come as a total shock if he is still available on Day 3.

 

More thoughts on the Combine to come later this week.

 

Goodbye 2011 Season. Combine Here We Come.

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

(Originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)

The 2011 NFL season is just about in the books. There are a few loose ends to be tied up – the Giants parade, a few coaching/assistant vacancies, retirements, etc, – but for all intents and purposes we are ready to kick off the 2012 offseason. For many of us (especially those of us reading an NFL-draft themed website) the offseason is nearly (equally?) as exciting as the regular season. The first stop is the NFL Scouting Combine in just over two weeks. While some of us will be watching each and every drill and keeping our eyes and ears open for draft-related rumblings, others will just pay attention to the big daily headlines. Here are some things to watch:

1. The top of the DL class. Unlike in some recent years, there is no consensus Top 5 pick DL on the board. There are two guys – LSU’s Michael Brockers and North Carolina’s Quinton Coples – who have very high upside but question marks. Brockers, a redshirt sophomore, is thought to have elite upside but is very raw. Coples is a bit of an enigma, flashing top-end skills at times and disappearing at other times. In a draft class short on 5-techniques, and a league shifting more and more to 3-4 base schemes, both Coples and Brockers could draw a lot of interest early. It’s possible 4-3 teams take an interest in both guys, Brockers is probably atop the list of 3-techniques in the draft and Coples could play DE in some 4-3 schemes. After those guys, Devon Still, Dontari Poe, and others are looking to jump into the top half of the 1st round.

2. The WR class in general. If there’s a position which has a lot of moving and shaking in terms of draft stock at the combine, it’s the receivers. Can Alshon Jeffery run well and prove some of his naysayers wrong about his athleticism and speed? Can Michael Floyd interview well and show better-than-expected fluidity in drills? Is Kendall Wright really as impressive athletically as a lot of people are starting to think? Moving beyond the top tier of receivers, the Combine could help shape the 2nd tier of WR’s. This draft is loaded with speedy, dynamic playmakers: Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, T.Y. Hilton to name a few. Not to mention some bigger guys who could boost their stock with good 40 times: Juron Criner, Rueben Randle, Mohamed Sanu. This is a class which will be very deep in WR prospects and a superlative Combine showing can theoretically make a WR a lot of money. Conversely, with so many good prospects, a bad combine could cause a WR to slip a lot.

3. The “other” QB’s: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Brandon Weeden. Like with the WR’s, there is a bit of a muddle after the first tier of WR’s. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are obviously the #1 and #2 guys. After that, there isn’t much of a consensus on anyone. Seeing how some of these guys do in drills and how they interview will probably cause one or two to shoot up the board and possibly one or two to slide into Day 3 territory.

4. Smaller school guys. Guys like Appalachian State WR Brian Quick, Midwestern State OT Amini Silatolu, Louisiana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green, Cal Poly DB Asa Jackson and Montana DB Trumaine Johnson are among the lesser known prospects (to many) who the casual draft follower or college football fan might not know about. There are usually one or two such players who see a boost in their stock by performing well in the drills or interview process.

5. Character or injury guys. How does Ryan Broyles’ knee check out? Is Alshon Jeffery’s work ethic bad or just a myth? This portion of the process goes largely unseen until the draft itself when you hear cryptic comments from a so-called expert about how “from what I understand, Player X didn’t do well in the interviews” or “Player Y apparently has some drug issues in his past” or “Player Z’s injury is more worrisome than many thought”. However, as we have seen in the case of Aaron Hernandez (drugs) or Rob Gronkowski (spinal injury), sometimes these red flags can be too highly considered on draft day. We all remember the hoopla about Cam Newton’s comments (“I’m an entertainer and an icon”). Many labeled him a diva or character risk based on those comments and his issues at Auburn. Luckily, Carolina was smart enough to trust their own interview process and make him their franchise QB.

6. Position conversion projects. With the increase of 3-4 teams in the NFL, but no real increase in college, there are more and more teams looking to convert college DT’s to 5-techniques and college DE’s to OLBs. In many cases, teams project these conversions with very little tape to go on. The drills at the combine (and pro days) can go a long way. Guys like Whitney Mercilus, Melvin Ingram, Vinny Curry, Cam Johnson, Andre Branch and the like will need to show well in LB drills to be considered by 3-4 clubs. Some DB drills could also help scouts identify CB’s who could flip to safety (especially important in this weak safety class).

All in all, it should be an interesting kickoff to a 6 month offseason.

Mock Draft 3.0

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

(Originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)
The Senior Bowl is in the books and for all intents and purposes, the 2011 college football season is behind us. With less than a month until the scouting combine and less than three months until the draft, things are starting to come into focus a bit. Here’s a mock draft of how I see things shaking out if the draft were held today:

*Note that I am not projecting trades for the purposes of this mock draft

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

No brainer. Next.

2. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The Rams will likely lose Brandon Lloyd in free agency (he’s said he wants to follow Josh McDaniels, and the Patriots seem likely to be interested) and need to give Sam Bradford an elite weapon to utilize. St. Louis will probably try to move out of this pick, as there will be demand from QB-starved teams who covet Robert Griffin III. Sliding down a few spots should still allow the Rams to get their man Blackmon, who is the consensus #1 WR on the board.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC

The Vikings could go in a few directions here. They could use a CB and perhaps even a WR if they love Blackmon and he is there. However, protecting 2nd year QB Christian Ponder has to be a priority. Matt Kalil has a high upside and should keep Ponder’s blindside clean for the foreseeable future

4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Cleveland cannot pass on Griffin if the Baylor signal caller is sitting there at #4. Colt McCoy hasn’t established himself as a franchise guy and Griffin’s upside is too high to pass up for the mediocre McCoy. If Griffin goes #2, Blackmon could make some sense here for the Browns.

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

It remains to be seen whether or not new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano will want to deal with his troubled, but talented, CB Aqib Talib. Even if he is willing to give Talib a chance, Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his great career and the Bucs need quality DB’s to compete in the NFC South against the likes of Steve Smith, Julio Jones and Marques Colston. Claiborne is the top CB available and would be a welcome addition to an already young and promising defense.

6. Washington Redskins – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

The Redskins find themselves in no-man’s land here. Griffin is gone and their #2 need (WR) doesn’t give them good value. Washington seems like a good possibility to move up to grab Griffin, but if they stay put a talented OT like Riley Reiff makes a lot of sense. Jammal Brown hasn’t been able to get back to the level he was playing at before his hip injury a few years ago and could be on the way out. Reiff could bring long-term stability to the Redskins’ OL.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

If the Jaguars want to develop 2nd year QB Blaine Gabbert, they need to do a better job in keeping him upright – as he got rattled early and often in 2011. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin is an instinctive and powerful blocker who did a great job keeping Andrew Luck upright over the last 3 years. Martin’s also a talented run blocker and should be able to open running lanes for the Jaguars’ talented Maurice Jones-Drew.

8. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DL, LSU

Brockers caught a lot of people off guard by declaring for the 2011 draft as a redshirt sophomore. He definitely is a raw prospect who will need some refinement before he realizes his immense upside. That said, Brockers is an extremely talented DT who can play inside in a 4-3 front or slide over to the 5-technique in a 3-4.  The young LSU DL has a great motor and uses his impressive lower body strength to power past OL in both the run and pass games. He’d provide the Panthers an elite presence in their interior line that they’ve lacked for many years.

9. Miami Dolphins – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

Upshaw measured in a little smaller than expected at the Senior Bowl, but he’s still the premier edge rusher in the 2012 draft. The Dolphins will most likely be shifting to a 4-3 next year and need a DE to play opposite Cameron Wake. Unless the Dolphins make a move to grab Griffin, and give themselves the franchise QB they’ve lacked since Dan Marino, Upshaw should be their guy

10. Buffalo Bills – Nick Perry, OLB, USC

The Bills will be reportedly staying with a 3-4 alignment (for now) and desperately need a pass-rushing presence to complement their talented DL (Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus). Perry is a good looking pass rush prospect who could play standing up, or go back to DE if the Bills revert back to a 4-3 scheme.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Jamaal Charles is coming off a serious knee injury, Thomas Jones is old and Jackie Battle is mediocre. The Chiefs will likely remain a run-heavy team under now full-time coach Romeo Crennel. Richardson is an elite RB prospect with an excellent combination of vision, power and athleticism. While RB doesn’t make sense for a lot of teams in the 1st round, the Chiefs would greatly benefit from having a talented back like Richardson. If Charles comes back healthy, the Kansas City running attack would be a real force to be reckoned with.

12. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Like the Redskins, the QB starved Seahawks find themselves in an awkward spot. They could use an edge player to play in Pete Carroll’s “LEO” position, but there isn’t a great fit here at #12. Tannehill will strike some as a reach, but he has great upside and the Seahawks could try to skate by with Tarvaris Jackson for another year while Tannehill develops.

13. Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

The Cardinals find themselves in the opposite position of the Seahawks – they should have top players available at all of their positions of need. DeCastro is, perhaps, the best interior OL prospect in 15 years and could be the first guard since Chris Naeole to go in the top 10. If he’s sitting here at #13, he is close to a no-brainer for Arizona – who badly needs an upgrade on their OL. If they pass on DeCastro, a WR like Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright could make sense. A LB could also be in play here.

14. Dallas Cowboys – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

The Cowboys OL has been a problem for a long time and always seems to hold them back. They grabbed Tyron Smith in the 1st last year, and this year grab Wisconsin Badgers center Peter Konz. Current starting C Phil Costa is not a realistic long-term solution and upgrading that spot would go a long way to letting Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ offense realize their potential.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

DeSean Jackson is unsigned and unlikely to come back. The Eagles haven’t had a quality “big” receiver for awhile and Michael Vick needs a reliable down-field target. The 6’3 220 lbs Notre Dame WR plays with good physicality and is athletic enough to consistently separate from defenders. Floyd also has good run-after-catch abilities and can contribute as a blocker in the run game.

16. New York Jets – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

The Jets need a big WR like Floyd or Alshon Jeffery, but Rex Ryan’s defense also needs an infusion of talent in the LB corps. Bart Scott is old, declining and a good bet to be a salary-cap casualty. Dont’a Hightower plays a downhill, hard-hitting style which fits well in New York’s scheme. He also has better athleticism than people give him credit for and is the premier 3-4 ILB in the draft.

17. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Leon Hall is coming off a serious Achilles injury and Nate Clements is a free agent after 2012. Kirkpatrick is a tough and aggressive CB who fits a big need for the Bengals. There is some talk that he might be a better fit at safety, which also is a need for the Bengals with Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson as underwhelming starters.

18. San Diego Chargers – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Malcolm Floyd was a disappointment playing opposite of Vincent Jackson and the Chargers need an upgrade at WR. There will be plenty of questions about Jeffery’s athleticism and work ethic between now and the draft. If he checks out and runs well, he will likely end up in the mid 1st round. At #18, he is a good value for San Diego and would help Philip Rivers rebound from a mediocre 2011 season.

19. Chicago Bears – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The Bears have needed an elite playmaking WR for a long, long time. Kendall Wright is shooting up draft boards now due to his speed and athleticism. He would give Jay Cutler a great deep threat and take some pressure off Matt Forte (if he returns) and the Bears’ running game.

20. Tennessee Titans – Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

Coach Mike Munchak has stated his desire for a playmaker on defense. Zach Brown has elite speed and athleticism and is the best 4-3 WILL backer in the draft. Playing alongside 2nd year players Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy, Brown would give the Titans one of the youngest and promising LB corps in the NFL.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

The Bengals could use a RB to replace Cedric “3 yards and a cloud of dust” Benson but they could find better value in the 2nd or 3rd round. They need a boost along their offensive line and Cordy Glenn is an impressive prospect who has shown the ability to play a few spots along the line and an impressive run blocker. Playing in the physical AFC North, the Bengals would welcome a road grader like Cordy Glenn

22. Cleveland Browns – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

The Browns hit a home run in 2011, grabbing Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard to give them a pair of young talents on their DL. While they could use a playmaker on offense (perhaps Lamar Miller, David Wilson or Mohamed Sanu), passing on the talented-but-inconsistent Coples would be a mistake. He’d give the Browns an imposing defensive line which could wreak havoc in the AFC North for years to come

23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Lions loss to the Saints in the playoffs demonstrated just how badly they need to upgrade their defensive backfield. Janoris Jenkins is an elite talent with a lot of off-field baggage who would go a long way in improving Detroit’s pass defense. If the Lions are comfortable with Jenkins’ character he will be too good to pass up at this point in the draft.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona

The Steelers need to replace the aging James Farrior. Burfict is a “love him or hate him” type of prospect. His athleticism isn’t in doubt, but his attitude and instincts have drawn a lot of criticism this year. Playing for the no-nonsense Mike Tomlin and alongside veterans like James Harrison, Burfict could mature into a star LB.

25. Denver Broncos – Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

The Broncos have a few needs on defense, but could also benefit from giving Tim Tebow another weapon to use on offense. Allen is a well rounded TE prospect who can help block in the run-heavy Broncos offense and also give Tebow an excellent short/intermediate target to utilize. A CB such as Stephon Gilmore or Chase Minnifield could also make sense for Denver here.

26. Houston Texans – Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

The Texans don’t have a ton of holes on either side of the ball. However, they could use someone to line up opposite star receiver Andre Johnson. Sanu has nice size (6’2 215) and pretty good athleticism. He is a fairly reliable target, with big soft hands and long arms to snatch errant throws. He’s not a polished route runner, but has pretty good quickness in and out of his breaks. He can line up either inside or outside and contribute in all areas of the field.

27. New England Patriots – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

A NT doesn’t seem to be atop the Pats’ wishlist. But coach Belichick is a believer in Bill Parcells’ “Planet Theory” – the idea that there aren’t a lot of large guys who are athletic enough to play (and play well) in the NFL. Dontari Poe is both very large and deceptively nimble for a 6’5 350 lbs DT. Drafting Poe would allow the Pats to slide Vince Wilfork to 5-technique in a 3-4 front, which they have done with some success over the last few years. In a 40 front, Poe could eat up blockers alongside Wilfork, replacing current Pats DT Kyle Love.

28. Green Bay Packers – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Charles Woodson is getting old and Tramon Williams gave up more yardage than any other CB in the league. Alfonzo Dennard is a physical and tough CB who fits well with Dom Capers’ scheme. Dennard is a very talented DB who seems to be sliding a bit due to questions about his athleticism and speed. If he runs well at the combine, he is likely gone by the 28th pick. If he’s here, he has to be Green Bay’s pick.

29. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

The Ravens’ biggest needs, C and ILB don’t really match the value on the board. They could try to trade down or they could grab talented Ohio State OT Mike Adams. Michael Oher has been a disappointment at T and Jah Reid might not be the long term answer either. With a lot of wear on current LT Bryant McKinnie, the Ravens could stand to add some reinforcements up front.

30. San Francisco 49ers – Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State

San Francisco was below average in protecting their QB and need to upgrade their OL. Osemele has a terrific package of size, strength and athleticism for an interior lineman. He is an aggressive run blocker who also plays well in the passing game. He’d fit in well in John Harbaugh’s offense. The 49ers could also consider a 2nd tier WR prospect here although they’d probably get better value in the 2nd round.

31. New England Patriots – Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

The Pats need a boost in their secondary. Drafting a CB will allow New England to keep Devin McCourty at safety or perhaps shift 2011 2nd rounder Ras-I Dowling to FS to partner with Pat Chung. Minnifield’s father, Frank, played under coach Bill Belichick in the early 1990’s and Belichick is sure to like the younger Minnifield’s combination of size and athleticism.

32. New York Giants – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Every draft has a guy who slides a bit more than projected. While Kuechly is generally projected in the top 20 (and could very likely go there), it wouldn’t surprise me if he slides a little. He was extremely productive at Boston College, but is unlikely to impress in combine and pro day drills. The Giants, and former BC coach Tom Coughlin, love Boston College players and Kuechly would fit the Giants’ defense well.

Mock Draft V. 2.0

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

(Originally posted at Mocking The Draft)

With the college football season in the books, it’s time for another mock draft. While things are still very fluid, an early picture of the 1st round is starting to form. At this point, it looks like the 1st round will be heavy on offensive talent with perhaps as few as 12 defensive players being selected. Here’s how I see things playing out as things stand right now:

*Note that I am not projecting trades

 

1. Indianapolis ColtsAndrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This is a no-brainer at this point. Unless some team offers the Colts an absolutely staggering package of picks/players, Luck will be Peyton Manning’s heir apparent

2. St. Louis RamsJustin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The Rams could go in a number of different directions here. If Brandon Lloyd is to be believed, he will be following Josh McDaniels to New England. Sam Bradford desperately needs a high caliber weapon to throw to. Blackmon might not be the 2nd best player in the draft, but he’s a top talent at a position of glaring need. In reality, the Rams will probably be fielding offers for this pick from teams who want to grab Robert Griffin III.

3. Minnesota VikingsMatt Kalil, OT, USC

The Vikings have needed a long term solution at LT for a couple of years and Kalil is an elite prospect at the position. He’s probably not in the Joe Thomas/Jake Long class but he’s close. He can start from day 1 and protect young QB Christian Ponder’s blindside for the foreseeable future

4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

It’s doubtful that Griffin is still around for the Browns, but if he is, they cannot pass on him. Colt McCoy has looked pedestrian (on his best days) and while McCoy doesn’t have much to work with, he hardly elevates the game of those around him. The presence of McCoy allows the Browns to develop Griffin slowly as opposed to other teams who might need to rush the raw QB into action early

5. Tampa Bay BuccaneersMorris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Aqib Talib is a great talent at CB, but he has obvious and significant character issues. It remains to be seen if their new coach will want to deal with Talib’s problems. Ronde Barber is near retirement. Claiborne can be the cornerstone on an otherwise awful defense.

6. Washington RedskinsRyan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

This will strike a lot of people as being a reach but the Redskins simply cannot go another offseason without securing a long-term solution at QB. If they can’t go up to get Griffin, Tannehill makes sense. While he might not have Top 10 talent, he is a guy who is slowly creeping his way into mid-late 1st round consideration and a good combine could get him selected a lot earlier than some are expecting. Tannehill is raw, but clearly a step ahead of most of the 2nd tier options.

7. Jacksonville JaguarsRiley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Despite spending some recent high picks on OL, the Jaguars are shaky up front. As their fans found out last year, Blaine Gabbert doesn’t handle pressure all that well. To build up his confidence and let him mature as a passer, the Jags need to build a better wall in front of their young signalcaller. Reiff isn’t the most athletic OT you’ll find, but he has terrific strength and a high football IQ. He will test well at the Combine and solidify himself as a surefire Top 10 pick

8. Carolina PanthersQuinton Coples, DL, UNC

The Panthers have struggled with mediocre (at best) DT play for awhile now. Coples is a local guy who can step in and provide them with some push in the middle. Ron Rivera has the type of personality which should motive the enigmatic and inconsistent defensive lineman.

9. Miami Dolphins – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

While a QB is probably atop the Dolphins’ draft day wishlist, both of the top options and the backup plan are off the board. Shifting gears, they grab an immediate upgrade to their RT spot in Martin. The Dolphins were stuck with Marc Columbo at RT last year and needless to say, it didn’t produce the desired results. Martin, who plays with a mean streak, is as solid of a run-blocker as you’ll find in this draft. He will help pave the way for 2011 2nd round RB Daniel Thomas

10. Buffalo BillsDre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Bills have a few holes they need to fill but CB is amongst the most pressing. Terrence McGee has battled injuries the last 2 years and neither Leodis McKelvin nor Drayton Florence inspire a lot of confidence. Kirkpatrick is a big CB (6’2,190) who should be able to match up well with division rival receivers such as Brandon Marshall.

11. Kansas City ChiefsDavid DeCastro, G, Stanford

DeCastro is possibly the best offensive guard prospect in 15 years and has a shot to be the first guard drafted in the top 10 since Chris Naeole in 1997. While the Chiefs really need an upgrade at QB, there is nobody left who makes sense at #11. Instead, they take the imposing road grader from Stanford. He will help keep the pocket clean for whichever QB the Chiefs settle on and should be able to create running lanes for Jamaal Charles and company.

12. Seattle SeahawksDevon Still, DT, Penn State

The Seahawks find themselves in no-man’s land here. The QB’s are gone and it’s probably too early to consider any of the remaining DE’s (to play the LEO position). If Marshawn Lynch departs, a RB would be a possibility. However, their pass rush is lacking, especially from the interior DL. Devon Still gives them a big guy who can push the pocket and should take some pressure off Brandon Mebane.

13. Arizona CardinalsKendall Wright, WR, Baylor

The Cardinals have been looking for a #2 WR since trading Anquan Boldin. Early Doucet is a free agent and might not return and Andre Roberts probably isn’t the answer. The fleet of foot Wright has been rising up draft boards in the wake of an excellent 2011 season and would make an excellent option opposite Larry Fitzgerald.

14. Dallas CowboysAlfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Terence Newman is overpaid and declining and the Cowboys pass defense ended up being their undoing this season. Dennard is a physical CB who plays the style of football that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan likes. Dennard can play outside or inside and could even help out at safety, if needed. While he isn’t as hyped as his former teammate Prince Amukamara was last year, he’s pretty close in ability.

15. Philadelphia EaglesLuke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

The Eagles’ LB corps is amongst the worst in the league and Kuechly is the best 4-3 LB on the board by a wide margin . He’s a natural fit for their defense and should be a highly productive, if unspectacular, LB for Philadelphia for a long time.

16. New York Jets Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama

The Jets have needed a pass-rusher for awhile, and while Aaron Maybin provided a surprising amount of pressure last year, he’s not a 3-down player. Upshaw’s ability to contribute in both the run and pass game, as well as play as either a DE or LB gives him the versatility that Rex Ryan covets.

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

It would be surprising to see Richardson slide this far, and the Jets might be very interested at #16. However, as enticing as Richardson’s potential is, there aren’t a lot of teams who are both in the market for and willing to spend a top pick on a running back. The Bengals need an upgrade from “3 yards and a cloud of dust” Cedric Benson and Richardson should be able to immediately come in and take some pressure off young Andy Dalton.

18. San Diego Chargers Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis

The Chargers could be hoping that David DeCastro slides this far, as they need a replacement for Kris Dielman but that scenario seems unlikely at this point. Antonio Garay wasn’t as effective in 2011 as in 2010 and is unsigned. Poe is an impressive physical specimen with a rare combination of size and athleticism. In the run-heavy AFC West, a monster NT will come in very handy.

19. Chicago Bears Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

It’s no secret that the Bears need a WR. They haven’t had a franchise receiver in forever and Jay Cutler needs a reliable target. Jeffery is a guy who has a lot of questions surrounding his work ethic and athleticism. If he runs well and shines in the interview process, he will be long gone by #19. However, there is a good chance he slides a bit on draft day. The Bears would be remiss to pass on him at this spot. If Jeffery can stay motivated and productive, he should add an element to the Bears offense which has been missing for awhile.

20. Tennessee TitansWhitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

A late bloomer with only one year of top collegiate production, Mercilus flashed a lot of pass rush ability this year at Illinois. The Titans have a glaring hole at DE as former 1st rounder Derrick Morgan has been a disappointment and neither Dave Ball nor William Hayes seem like quality starters. At this point, he’s the best option at DE for a 4-3 scheme and a good fit for the Tennessee defense

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Mark Barron, S, Alabama

After their playoff loss to the Texans, current safety Chris Crocker is likely to be run out of town. Even if Crocker returns, the Bengals need an upgrade in their secondary. Barron is the best of a pretty bad safety class, combining good size with solid instincts. He’s not an elite playmaker but has deceptively good hands and should be a sturdy defender in the Bengals’ defensive backfield.  A CB could make some sense here too, with Leon Hall coming off an Achilles tendon injury and Nate Clements on the wrong side of 30.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

Having already snagged Robert Griffin III earlier, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren decide to give him some help in the backfield. Incumbent Peyton Hillis is coming off a very disappointing season and is a free agent. Montario Hardesty can’t stay healthy and no one else is a possible starter. Miller gives the Browns a quality back who adds some speed and athleticism to an underwhelming stable of RB’s.

23. Detroit Lions – Zach Brown, OLB, UNC

The Lions got some surprising production from 2011 free agent acquisitions Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch but DeAndre Levy is upgradeable and Tulloch is unsigned for 2012. As a group, the 3 LB’s combined for only 5 sacks (2 from the OLB spots). While the Lions need some help along the OL and in the secondary, it would be tough to pass on Brown. The UNC ‘backer has excellent athleticism and plenty of upside. He would immediately add some pass rush to a LB group which has under-produced in that department for a long time.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

James Farrior is old and in rapid decline and the Steelers need an infusion of young talent in their LB corps. Hightower plays with the hard-hitting, downhill style that Pittsburgh fans have grown accustomed to seeing from their LB’s. He projects as a top run defender with some ability in the pass game and would be a great complement to the smaller, more athletic, Lawrence Timmons.

25. Denver BroncosStephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Champ Bailey is old, though still productive. The rest of Denver’s CB’s aren’t starter material. Andre Goodman has been targeted frequently and effectively by opposing QB’s. Cassius Vaughn, Jonathan Wilhite and Chris Harris are spare parts and not suited for a starting role. Gilmore is a smart, athletic CB with good size who would be an excellent fit in Dennis Allen’s scheme.

26. New York GiantsCordy Glenn, G/T,  Georgia

The Giants OL proved to be shaky in protecting Eli Manning at times and unreliable at opening running lanes for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Glenn is a big, athletic OL who can help out at RT but is probably best suited inside. His pass blocking needs some work and he could use some coaching to improve his technique, but he has elite upside and is an attractive option at this spot in the draft.

27. Houston TexansMichael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

As if the Texans offense (with a healthy Schaub) wasn’t dangerous enough? Gary Kubiak’s passing attack needs a better option opposite Andre Johnson and Floyd could create some real match-up problems for opposing defenses. At #27, the tall Notre Dame WR is simply too good of a value to pass up.

28. San Francisco 49ersMohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

San Francisco has been searching for a top WR for a long time. Michael Crabtree didn’t work out as expected and the veterans they have brought in haven’t fared much better. Sanu isn’t the downfield threat some 49er fans covet, but he’s got a great skill set and a knack for finding holes in the opponent’s defense. He’d be a perfect fit in Jim Harbaugh’s West Coast Offense and will give Alex Smith a quality receiver other than TE Vernon Davis.

29. Baltimore RavensZebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

The Ravens don’t have a ton of needs, and their biggest need (ILB) isn’t really a fit value-wise for the #29 pick unless they want to roll the dice on the mercurial Vontaze Burfict. However, Bryant McKinnie is getting up in years, Michael Oher hasn’t fulfilled his potential and Ben Grubbs is a free agent who might not return. Sanders’ ability to play on either side of the line and his athleticism make him a good project for Baltimore who can let him sit and learn for a year if needed.

30. Green Bay Packers – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

Green Bay needs some help up front, especially someone who can get to the QB. They could look at a 5-technique to slide in next to B.J. Raji but grabbing a guy like Perry to play opposite Clay Matthews is irresistible. Matthews saw a decline in his production this year as he faced more double teams than ever before, partly due to the ineffectiveness of Erik Walden. Perry was one of the top pass rushers in the nation in 2011 and should be able to make the conversion to OLB.

31. New England PatriotsFletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Regardless of which scheme Bill Belichick employs in 2012, one thing is for sure: he needs more talent up front. If he runs a 3-4 base, he needs a 5-technique to play next to Vince Wilfork. If he’s running a 4-3, Belichick could use a DT to upgrade from 2009 undrafted free agent Kyle Love. Fletcher Cox can fit either scheme and has the ability to disrupt the QB which the Pats’ big guys are missing. Cox also has a sturdier base than some other 1st round DT/DE types and should hold up in the run game.

32. New England Patriots (From New Orleans) – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Anyone who follows the draft knows that it’s unlikely Bill Belichick keeps both of his 1st round picks. One of them is almost certain to be traded for a few of 2011 picks or a 2012 first rounder. However, if he does keep both, he needs to replace veteran center Dan Koppen. While Koppen has been a reliable fixture inside for the Patriots, he’s old, declining and coming off a broken leg. Fill-in’s Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly have held up surprisingly well but the Pats need a long term answer. Konz is the best center in the draft and solidifies the position for the Patriots for the next 5+ years

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