Something bothers me about mock drafts. For whatever reason, most mockers refuse to entertain trade scenarios in their forecasts. Why? I don’t get it. Well, I figure I can complain about it, or I can do a mock myself… while mocking myself. Just go with it.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: I’m not going to insult you by trying to pass something off as analysis here. It’s a foregone conclusion, he’s Peyton’s heir to the throne, either right away, or after a season or two in the future Hall of Famer’s tutelage.
2. Cleveland Browns – RG3, QB, Baylor: The Rams trade this pick down a couple spots. Rams management has been so incompetent in recent years that a Vontaze Burfict pick here is not out of the question, but I don’t think Cleveland will let a chance at a franchise QB pass, and with two first rounders, they have the most attractive trade bait for the Rams. The Browns might also stand pat, and if the Redskins trade up to take RG3, they may take Alabama’s Trent Richardson with Peyton Hillis’ future undecided.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC: There is a ton of first round tackle talent this year, but Kalil is probably the best of the bunch, and the Vikings O line has been dreadful. They have other pressing needs, like the entire defense not named Jared Allen for example, but opening holes for all-universe Adrian Peterson (assuming a recovery from a bad knee injury) is the top one.
4. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Trading down again for more picks and hoping to land offensive line help like David DeCastro or Jonathon Martin would have been the smart move, but when have the Rams ever done that? So they’ll go with Blackmon to try to give Sam Bradford a weapon. Blackmon has ability, but in general is a little overrated. Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd is better.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Richardson is an unfathomable value here. I think he’d go first overall in a year that didn’t have two awesome quarterbacks headlining the draft. As you can probably surmise from their lofty draft position, Tampa has multiple needs, but backs like Richardson don’t come along all the time. In fact, they almost never do.
6. Washington Redskins – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: They’ll be annoyed that the Rams took Blackmon, whom they wanted, but little do they know they have a gem here. Floyd is huge, has great hands, and is fast enough to run the deep route. There are no weaknesses in his game.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Reilly Reiff, OT, Iowa: Yikes, what a disaster this team is. I’ll be honest, they have so many holes, I have no idea where they’re going to start plugging. But if it were me, I’d start by picking a very good lineman to help find out whether Blaine Gabbert can play any better if he’s actually kept upright.
8. Miami Dolphins – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Remember Robert Quinn, the DE the Rams disastrously selected in the first round last year? Coples is Quinn, minus the character and brain tumor issues. The Dolphins were better than their record last season, but need playmakers on defense, especially with the retirement of Jason Taylor.
9. Carolina Panthers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: Run defense is an equally pressing need, but Claiborne is a rare combination of attributes at cornerback. Big enough to rumble with the physical receivers, fast enough to keep up with the speed demons, and good enough to excel at both. They will not be able to pass on him here.
10. Buffalo Bills – Devon Still, DT, Penn State: In a division other than the AFC East, maybe they don’t take Still. But this is one division in which you can’t get away with not being able to get pressure on the quarterback. There are good pieces in place in Buffalo, even if they overpaid by about 50 million for Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they can improve their interior defense, they’re a contender.
11. Seattle Seahawks – Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford: Notice how Andrew Luck spent most of last season comfortably on his feet? Martin was the guy who ensured that on Luck’s blind side. So when the Seahawks overpay to win the Matt Flynn sweepstakes, they’ll at least know his “six” will be in good hands.
12. Kansas City – Vontaze Burfict, MLB, Arizona State: Talent-wise, this is not a reach. A potential Ray Lewis-type franchise linebacker will be too much to pass up, especially with the awesome Eric Berry patrolling center field behind him. There are some “character questions” here, but wouldn’t you want your middle linebacker to have a bit of a temper?
13. Arizona Cardinals – David DeCastro, G, Stanford: Believe it or not, the Cards are not horribly far away from being good. Upgrading their interior line with this beast of a player will help. DeCastro could immediately be one of the top five guards in the NFL. He’s that good.
14. Dallas Cowboys – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: They might have snagged David DeCastro here, but for Arizona plucking him from under their noses. Kuechly is a solid player across the board, and an outstanding tackler. Plus, you can bet your bottom dollar Philly wanted him with the next pick and you’re kidding yourself if you think that doesn’t play into this decision at all.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The Eagles couldn’t stop the run last season and it brutally murdered their playoff aspirations. They wanted Kuechly but that obviously isn’t happening. Brockers with his freakish athletic ability should help, though. He can play any D line position and is capable of playing well against good competition as you may have seen in the BCS Championship Game… you know, if you watch that kind of garbage.
16. New York Jets – Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: Part of the reason Mark Sanchez looked pretty sucky last season was the lack of real reliable target outside of Dustin Keller, whom he underutilized anyway. Santonio Holmes is a problem child, and Plaxico Burress’ best years were behind him, but adding Jeffery will give Sanchez a viable red zone target and a go-to guy if the problems between he and Holmes are not solved.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia – Football drafting 101. When you brilliantly nab yourself a franchise quarterback and a stud receiver in one draft, surround your aforementioned franchise quarterback with a solid line. Glenn might be a slight reach here but he’s very good and versatile to boot.
18. San Diego Chargers – Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State – Jared Gaither can’t be the answer to the Chargers’ offensive line woes, right? It sounds dumb to say that Adams is big. He’s a tackle, he’s supposed to be. But Adams really is humungous, and has good technique. Again, there’s some “off-field” stuff that follows him around like a cartoon raincloud, but it’s only enough to drop him below Jonathon Martin, not out of the first round altogether. Especially with how many teams need tackle help.
19. Chicago Bears – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois – Yes, yes, I know. They already have Julius Peppers. Yes, they have perceived holes elsewhere. But they got a gift with the resignation of OC Mike Martz. For all his wizardry on offense, Martz gets quarterbacks killed by not leaving any tight ends or backs in to help block. His departure means Jay Cutler will be protected, and therefore more accurate, Forte will be healthy again so the offense will be good. Another defensive playmaker to complement Peppers? Could mean a return to the elite for this once glittering unit.
20. Tennessee Titans – Brandon Washington, G, Miami (FL) – When Chris Johnson had his monster year, he was able to both hit the homerun ball on runs around the edge, AND pick up meaningful yardage between the tackles. Since, his interior line has not opened holes as well. Washington is underrated because Miami wasn’t great this year, but that wasn’t his fault. He’s better than a lot of linemen ranked ahead of him and I’m betting the Tennessee front office recognizes that.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama – It stands to reason, if you’re a really good linebacker on a really good defense, you’ll have suitors. Upshaw is an excellent pass rusher, solid against the run, and a proven winner in college. The Bengals don’t have a LOT of needs, but after adding Glenn four picks ago, they’ll see this defensive playmaker available still and jump at the chance. The Bengals might win 12 games next year.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Cle.) – Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama – They’re just a bit north of the national champs, so they must be just as good, right? I know, I’m hilarious. But Jenkins is a top ten talent with a troublesome history, but the Rams cornerbacks are not good, and IF Jenkins can keep his nose clean, he’ll be a solid NFLer.
23. Detroit Lions – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska – The Lions will have resisted trade offers from New England, who likely also wanted Dennard. But if anything was learned in the season finale where Packers’ backup QB Matt Flynn decimated the Lions secondary to the tune of a gazillion yards and 5 touchdowns, it’s that the secondary needs help. Dennard has great tools and should succeed nicely if he gambles a little less at the next level.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bobbie Massey, OT, Ole Miss – Big Ben got battered from pillar to post last season, and still hung in there. But the human body can take only so much pounding and if the Steelers want their franchise quarterback to survive next season, they need to protect him. At first glance, Massey might look like a reach, but what a player this guy is. Much like Alshon Jeffery, don’t judge a player too harshly just because the guys around him aren’t very good.
25. Denver Broncos – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – I personally think that with his size, Kirkpatrick translates better as a safety in the NFL as a cornerback. But Champ Bailey ain’t gonna be around forever and the Broncos know it. And as long as you don’t expect Kirkpatrick to single cover the little waterbug speed demons like Mike Wallace, he’ll hold up as a corner too.
26. Houston Texans – Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers – Houston is in a great position. Great defense, superb running back… but their lack of anyone to properly complement Andre Johnson at receiver was magnified when Johnson was hurt last season. The trio of Johnson, Sanu, and Owen Daniels will give Matt Schaub a nice array of weapons for four weeks, and then whomever is the backup for the next thirteen weeks after Schaub gets placed on IR with a hangnail.
27. New England Patriots – Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia – The Pats need secondary help and are masters at getting maximum value from their draft picks (last year’s Ryan Mallett pick notwithstanding) and Minnifield may end up looking like the best cornerback from this draft, and not just because the expectations are higher for the other, more highly regarded CBs. He’s a perfect fit in New England.
28. Green Bay – Mark Barron, S, Alabama – Another team who needs to improve in the secondary. This draft isn’t exactly ripe with safety talent but Barron is good enough at all aspects of his job that he doesn’t need to be hidden anywhere, and the Packers’ already good run defense will allow him to focus more on his coverage responsibilities. Fearless forecast, Barron leads the NFL in interceptions in 2014.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama – In the unlikely event Burfict falls to here, they’d prefer him. Hightower isn’t mean enough to fit the Ravens mold at inside ‘backer. But he’s a complete player, cerebral, and a very good tackler. He only dropped this far because all the teams with needs at linebacker also had far more pressing needs at other positions.
30. San Francisco 49rs – Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina – You can slot several wide receivers into this spot for San Fran, as that’s clearly their biggest need. There’s no real logic applied here as to why I picked Jones. The only logic is that it’s not Kendall Wright. The Niners already have Crabtree and Ginn as deep threat/return guys. They need a Mr. Reliable with good hands and Jones is that guy.
31. New England Patriots – Juron Criner, WR, Arizona – I don’t think the Pats need a wide receiver as much as everyone says. Welker is terrific and their two tight ends practically play like receivers. But that said, Criner is another one of those guys on a crappy team who still was able to perform. They probably wanted Chase Minnifield here… oh… right. They already got him. I freakin’ hate the Patriots…
32. New York Giants – Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina – Chase Blackburn may have made a terrific interception in the Superbowl, but he’s still Chase Blackburn. And Tom Coughlin is a big country music fan, especially that song Brown does about leaving that girl behind in Colorado. Wait, different guy? Oh. Well, THIS Zach Brown runs like Jamal Charles and tackles like a younger London Fletcher. At linebacker. He needs some refinement, but wow.
I know there are some snubs here, but when you have 45 first round talents available with only 32 slots, some guys are gonna get shafted. That’s just the way it is.