GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: (L-R) Brandon Weeden #3 and Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrate after Blackmon caught a 17-yard touchdown reception from Weeden in the fourth quarter against the Stanford Cardinal during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SB Nation's NFL bloggers have completed the first round of their 2012 NFL mock draft. Follow each pick here.
The first round of SB Nation's 2012 NFL mock draft is complete. SB Nation NFL bloggers put on their GM hats and made the picks for their respective teams. No one follows their team quite like fans so I think these are well-informed, reasonable selections across the board.
There weren't any major head scratchers but a few highlights:
- Browns pick Justin Blackmon at No. 4: They could've gone Ryan Tannehill here, too. What's really interesting about this pick is that the Browns picked another receiver, Kendall Wright, with their second first-round pick.
- Dolphins pick Ryan Tannehill at No. 8: I'm not sure he falls all the way to No. 8 on draft day -- Cleveland is a threat to take him -- but if he does, then I think this is what the Dolphins do.
- Four offensive tackles in the top 13 picks -- Matt Kalil (3-Vikings), Mike Adams (10-Bills), Riley Reiff (11-Chiefs) and Jonathan Martin (13-Cardinals).
- Dontari Poe falls to the Texans: Some have Poe going as high as No. 9 to the Panthers, while a lot of others connect him to the Chiefs (11) and Cowboys (14). In this mock draft, he falls all the way to No. 26 where the Texans pick him up.
- Brandon Weeden is not picked in the first round: I figured he might be, maybe with the Browns' second pick.
The first round of the SB Nation's NFL bloggers mock draft is below. You can also follow the second round of the mock draft at SB Nation's Mocking The Draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts - Stanford QB Andrew Luck (via Stampede Blue):
Peyton Manning is in Denver, and the Indianapolis Colts can now FINALLY close a chapter on one era and begin writing a new one. Make no mistake, Luck is being drafted to replace Manning, not to simply succeed him. Luck's success will be critical in helping the Colts establish a true connection with the Indianapolis community, a community that some feel views Manning as bigger than the Colts. If Luck doesn't thrive and win over fans, the Colts will become an afterthought in the Hoosier State, just as the Reggie Miller-less Indiana Pacers have become.
Related Video: Andrew Luck Scouting Report
Well, Washington finally has a franchise QB. Redskins fans have had to endure 20 different starting quarterbacks since the glory years including such names as Jeff George, John Beck, Heath Shuler, Jeff Hostetler, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey ... I think my point is clear. No one wins without a quarterback. I'm tired of the "Trent Dilfer" logic since the game has evolved since then. The Redskins made a bold move to trade away two extra first round picks and a second this year, but frankly it was a trade they had to make. Griffin's high character background (military parents), work ethic (graduated college early and already working on Master's), and athletic accomplishments make him a much less risk of a "bust" where previous quarterbacks failed in these departments. I think of Ryan Leaf over-sleeping a meeting with the Colts. With a defense that has a knack for forcing turnovers, a quarterback that can protect the ball and make smart decisions will certainly add wins. At the very least, fans have something to be excited about. Sorry, Cleveland.
Related Video: Robert Griffin III Scouting Report
With the highest pick the team has had in a quarter-century, the Vikings find themselves in a position to take the best non-quarterback prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, whoever they deem that prospect to be. It just so happens that the three biggest areas of need for the Vikings - cornerback, wide receiver, and offensive tackle - intersect with three blue-chip prospects in Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon and Matt Kalil. With the team being in a prime position here, they might be able to trade back and accumulate some more picks for their rebuilding process, but if they do stay here, Kalil is the smartest play, in my opinion.
The Vikings have some youth in their secondary and at wide receiver that they could potentially develop, but the one thing that we know for sure is that the Minnesota Vikings absolutely, positively can not go into the 2012 NFL season with Charlie Johnson as their starting left tackle. The Vikings have placed their future on the shoulders of Christian Ponder (and/or Joe Webb for the "true believers" out there), and they're never really going to know what they have in either of those quarterbacks if they have to scrape themselves off of the turf at the rate they did in 2011. Kalil would immediately be the starter at left tackle, moving Johnson to one of the guard spots and improving two spots on an offensive line that was woefully deficient in 2011. Kalil showed in his time at USC that he was head and shoulders above every other offensive tackle prospect in the nation, and some of the experts have him graded the same (or higher) as current Cleveland Browns' offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has developed into one of the NFL's elite left tackles. Not only would this serve to protect Ponder, it would also help to open holes in the running game for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, particularly if the former is slow in coming back from the torn ACL that he suffered on Christmas Eve against the Washington Redskins.
While Blackmon or Claiborne would be a fine pick for the Vikings as well, the ripple effect of improvement that Kalil would have on the Minnesota offense makes him too good to pass up with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Related Video:Matt Kalil Scouting Report
4. Cleveland Browns - Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon (via Dawgs By Nature):
Losing out on Robert Griffin III (in the attempted trade with St. Louis) couldn't have been easy to stomach for team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert. That doesn't mean the draft is a loss for the Browns, though. They have two first-round picks at No. 4 and No. 22 overall, and if the chips fall Cleveland's way, they'll still be able to improve upon an offense that was downright unbearable last season.
I'm not making excuses for quarterback Colt McCoy, but the only way he is going to have a chance at getting better this coming season is if he has better talent around him. That's where Justin Blackmon comes in. The Browns are thin enough at receiver where Blackmon would start immediately, probably alongside last year's second-round pick, Greg Little. In the long-term, hopefully fans can look back at last year's trade with Atlanta that allowed the Falcons to select Julio Jones and say, "Cleveland was better off because they still got a defensive player in 2011 and got a solid receiver in 2012."
The other positions to consider here are quarterback and running back. The Browns' front office wanted to trade the farm for Griffin, not another quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) at such a high pick. Running back Trent Richardson is an option too after the departure of Peyton Hillis, but Cleveland needs receivers more than they need a running back.
Related Video: Justin Blackmon Scouting Report
After a flurry of high-profile free agent signings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have managed to fill a number of needs, eliminating a few prospects from consideration for their fifth overall draft pick. The team still has two major needs it must fill, though, as they need a new starting linebacker and a third-down back who can act as a complement to the limited Legarrette Blount. However, no linebacker or running back on the board would represent great value with the fifth pick. While Luke Kuechly and Trent Richardson are both terrific players, picking 4-3 linebackers or running backs in the top 5 seems like a thing of the past. The Bucs haven't viewed these positions as particularly important in the past, either, mostly relying on mid- to late-round draft picks.
Instead, the Bucs are more likely to select cornerback Morris Claiborne. While the Bucs don't have a huge immediate need at the position with Aqib Talib, Eric Wright and Ronde Barber under contract, the team does not have a lot of certainty at cornerback. Ronde Barber has had a great career, but he's been steadily declining for years. Aqib Talib's various legal problems have been well-documented, and it's not even clear whether the former first-rounder will be able to enjoy his freedom during the season. Add to that possible discipline handed down by Roger Goodell, and the fact that he's entering the final year of his contract and he can't be counted on.
All of this means the Bucs must find a long-term, reliable starter at cornerback at some point in the next year, and Morris Claiborne could easily fit the bill. The LSU cornerback is the best cover cornerback to come out in years, and could immediately start in case of an Aqib Talib jail sentence and/or suspension. Barring that, he'd get a season to learn the ropes with Ronde Barber as a mentor, before becoming a likely starter in 2013. Either way, the Bucs get a good, young player who could be a long-term starter at a position in dire need of stability.
Related Video: Morris Claiborne Scouting Report
The Rams desperately need skill players on offense. Blackmon is a better fit given the need at receiver, but Richardson is a superior talent. He compares well with Steven Jackson, who has since lost his speed and explosiveness as a result of being leaned on so heavily in the last five years. Richardson can be a feature back or a one-two punch with Steven Jackson. The offense can use the pairing to create mismatches and draw the attention of defenses, which would ideally free up some space on the field for their receivers.
Related Video: Trent Richardson Scouting Report
Picking Coples at seventh overall has become the cliché, boring pick for the Jaguars, but with Morris Claiborne off the board, it's really the only player that makes sense. The Jaguars have lacked a legitimate pass rusher since ... well, forever. Tony Brackens was quite the pass rusher, but he hasn't been on the team since 2003. The failures of Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves from the 2008 Draft only further stagnated the pass rush.
Jeremy Mincey emerged for the team in 2011 with eight sacks, but he's less a pure pass rusher and more an every-down player that forces quarterback pressures with his high motor. Even if he does continue to improve in 2012, though, there is no pass rusher on the roster to have much faith in on the other side of the line.
A 6-6, 284 pound athletic freak like Coples is a risky, home-run type of pick, but the Jaguars need more star power and need to swing for the fences to find stars. In my opinion, the best idea would be for the Jaguars to trade down 10-15 picks and go after another pass rusher like Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus.
Related Video: Quinton Coples Scouting Report
Taking Tannehill here may not be a popular choice among Miami Dolphins fans. He's a reach at the eight spot, and I would agree with many fans that he may not be worth taking here. But, the Dolphins need a quarterback, and he's the top one left on the board.
There's a good possibility that the Dolphins could look at Melvin Ingram at this position as well, and I would love that pick. He's the perfect pass rusher the Dolphins need to pair with Cameron Wake. But, in the end, the need for a quarterback outweighs the pros for picking Ingram.
The Dolphins know Tannehill, having his head coach, Mike Sherman, as the team's new offensive coordinator. If they believe he is capable of being a franchise quarterback, then I am all for this pick -- even if it is a reach in a down quarterback draft year.
There is no question the Panthers will look to bolster the defense with this draft, and that starts up front at DT where the Panthers were terrible at stopping the run last year. Though the Panthers would prefer an elite pass rusher like Quinton Coples, with Coples off the board, instead they take Fletcher Cox as the best DT in the draft. In spite of Dontari Poe getting all the hype from the combine Cox was just as impressive and is a better fit for the Panthers scheme.
Cox can play anywhere along the 4-3 front line, plays with a relentless motor and is the best DT in this draft getting off his blocks and making plays against the run and pass. Cox played against top flight competition and is a strong, agile and athlete DT who can make plays in the backfield and might end up the best interior pass rusher in this draft. Another big plus is no one questions his effort and he enters the NFL as a high character guy with no red flags.
Related Video: Fletcher Cox Scouting Report
10. Buffalo Bills - Ohio State OT Mike Adams (via Buffalo Rumblings):
Bills GM Buddy Nix is one of the most transparent personnel evaluators in the league, always willing to tell some degree of the truth when speaking with reporters. In discussing the draft this winter, two themes have emerged: Nix has a desire to pick up an extra draft pick if possible, and he's not particularly fond of the top of any positional group this year in terms of valuing those prospects worthy of a Top 10 pick.
Translation: the Bills seem ready and very willing to move down. Had I had that option in this here mock draft, I'd have most certainly explored it. I considered no fewer than 16 players with this selection. Every one of them felt like a reach.
In that light, knowing I'd be reaching, I decided to reach for a player that seemed like a Nix type of prospect. With Demetrius Bell looking like a sure bet as a free agent departure, the Bills have exactly one left tackle on the roster in second-year pro Chris Hairston - and the team admits that he's probably not ready to be handed a starting job yet. He needs a competitor for that job, and the 6'7", 323-pound Adams fits Buffalo's size requirement (the nine linemen Nix has acquired in just over two years are, on average, 6'6" and 331 pounds) better than other similarly-skilled prospects at the position.
Yes, Adams is highly inconsistent and has some red flags. No, he is not franchise-caliber. But he's experienced, had very strong performances against top competition, and would be playing in a Bills offense that emphasizes getting the ball out of Ryan Fitzpatrick's hands as quickly as possible. He's mobile enough to move around in the Bills' spread-type attack, get to the second level as a run blocker out of those alignments, and can be polished up into a quality starter by line coach Joe D'Alessandris.
Adams fits what the Bills are looking for at tackle better than the likes of Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin, in my opinion. Could they get him lower? Absolutely - and again, a trade down is looking like the Day 1 goal for Buffalo. They may even be able to do better in a pinch if they're forced to stay at No. 10; Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Melvin Ingram, Luke Kuechly and Dre Kirkpatrick, among others, all make sense. But on a roster that suddenly looks like it could be playoff-competitive, finding quality depth at left tackle is an absolute must. The earlier they address it, the better their chances of finding a guy that can push to start.
Related Video: Mike Adams Scouting Report
The Chiefs are stunned when they see Reiff, considered by many to be a better prospect than Mike Adams (No. 10 to Buffalo), still available with the 11th pick. This is a best player available type of situation and the Chiefs select Reiff knowing full well they have two NFL starters already on the offensive line.
Reiff is the future replacement for LT Branden Albert, who is entering the final year of his contract. Reiff's availability means the Chiefs don't have to give Albert a long-term deal and could entertain trading him. Reiff comes from Iowa, where he was coached by Kirk Ferentz, a close friend of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. Iowa linemen are noted for how well-coached they are and Reiff is no different. He pushes for playing time immediately but he's not truly in the plans until 2013.
Related Video: Riley Reiff Scouting Report
Seattle's priority in round one has to be improving the team's outside pass rush, as it currently relies too much on Chris Clemons. Pete Carroll will be looking for someone who can fit as a DE/OLB hybrid, get to the quarterback and provide solid run support. Courtney Upshaw played the exact same role for Alabama and in many ways is ideal for the Seahawks. Don't be surprised if they make him the 12th overall pick.
Related Video: Courtney Upshaw Scouting Report
The offensive line is clearly the Cardinals' greatest need. With both David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin on the board, the decision is tough. DeCastro could be an elite guard. Martin has great film, but has one glaring weakness -- his weakness (lack of strength). In the end, Martin is the guy to go with because the Cardinals seek a tackle, especially someone who could play left tackle. Martin's technique is great, his athleticism is without question and if strength is the only thing lacking, he can acquire that with John Lott, one of the best in the business at strength and conditioning.
Related Video: Jonathan Martin Scouting Report
The Cowboys interior offensive line was a problem last season, and with the release of Kyle Kosier at guard last week, the position is truly in flux. Dallas did pick up a couple of veteran guards in free agency, but the future of the position is still in question. Enter David DeCastro, who many scouts have said is the best guard prospect to come along since Steve Hutchinson. He's got every skill you need and is a fierce run-blocker. Blessed with agile feet, he's extremely good on the move, and in the Cowboys run-blocking scheme the guards are often asked to pull. DeCastro is projected as the kind of player you pencil into the starting lineup for the next decade. Dallas picked up their tackle of the future last year with Tyron Smith, they could do the same at guard this year with David DeCastro.
Now that the Eagles have traded for DeMeco Ryans, every mock drafter on the planet has seemingly checked linebacker off the list for the Eagles and moved on. Not me. If you watched the Eagles at all last season, you'd know their problems at LB were more than just the man in the middle. In reality, the Eagles could probably use an upgrade at all three spots. So for me, Ryans is just the start of the overhaul. The chance to add a guy like Kuechly here is just too good to pass up and in the course of one offseason could turn this teams' biggest weakness into one of its most talented units.
While Kuechly is most often projected at middle linebacker, he really played all over the place at BC, so I see no reason why he couldn't slide over to SAM with Ryans next to him at MIKE.
Related Video: Luke Kuechly Scouting Report
Even though Rex Ryan is known for his love of getting after quarterbacks, the Jets have not made getting pass rushers a priority during his tenure. They have opted for developmental players (Jamaal Westerman), cheap veteran signings (Jason Taylor), and scrap heap pickups (Aaron Maybin). Rumors are swirling that Ryan wants to change that and add a difference maker at outside linebacker and loves Ingram. It makes sense. He loves to move his pass rushers all over, and Ingram lined up at linebacker, defensive end, and defensive tackle at South Carolina.
Related Video: Melvin Ingram Scouting Report
Even though the Bengals have loaded up on cornerbacks in free agency by bringing back Adam Jones and signing Jason Allen, Cincinnati needs to address the future of the position and figure out how they're going to replace Johnathan Joseph, who left in free agency before the 2011 season. The only way to do that is in the draft and with the talent at the cornerback position in the 2012 draft class, the Bengals are lucking out. Gilmore is a talented, mature and team-oriented corner who could contribute right away and take over as a starting cornerback down the road opposite of Leon Hall. With Gilmore and Hall in the secondary, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will be able to be much more creative with the front seven when it comes to the pass rush.
Related Video: Stephon Gilmore Scouting Report
The plan with this pick after all the free agency moves was to go best player available. Mark Barron is that guy. The scouts over at Bolts From The Blue have been watching Barron closely since the beginning of the 2010 season. He's shown himself to a be a good playmaker, great at diagnosing plays and very good in run support. The Chargers have a prospect in Darrell Stuckey ready to take over the SS position, but Barron is a better talent. The Chargers need a player like that playing next to Pro Bowler Eric Weddle and helping out their corners who got exposed at times last year. One of the team's top priorities for the offseason was fixing their defense so that they are no longer last in the league on 3rd downs. This is a step in that direction.
Related Video: Mark Barron Scouting Report
Just imagine... 2011: Devin Hester (5'11, 190), Johnny Knox (6'0, 190), Earl Bennett (6'0, 200). And then 2012: Brandon Marshall (6'4, 230), Michael Floyd (6'3, 225). Sure, the Chicago Bears offensive line still needs some significant work, but seeing a WR like Floyd fall in their lap in the first round would be too much to pass up.
At one point, there were concerns that Floyd's lack of speed could be an issue heading into the Draft, but registering a 4.47 40-yard dash during his Pro Day laid that issue to rest. Floyd is a very physical receiver, and loves to go up and fight for the football, something that has been sorely lacking in Chicago for several seasons.
Drafting Michael Floyd after trading for Brandon Marshall (and sprinkling in a bit of Hester, Knox, and/or Bennett) could potentially give the Chicago Bears one of the best WR corps in the league. ... And undoubtedly help take some heat off a QB that has been sacked 110 times in his first three years in the Windy City.
The Titans need help at almost every spot on defense. Most people believe they will take the best defensive player available, and Dre Kirkpatrick is just that in this scenario. He has top 10 talent, but has been sliding down the draft because of his arrest earlier this offseason. Kirpatrick's weakness is that he isn't a very good man coverage guy, but the Titans don't play very much man. He would be a perfect fit for their system. Adding him would allow them to keep Alterraun Verner in the slot where he is best.
Related Video: Dre Kirkpatrick Scouting Report
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Georgia OL Cordy Glenn (via Cincy Jungle):
Heading into the 2012 season, one of the biggest needs for the Bengals was at guard. They lost Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn in free agency (which nobody is complaining about) and Bobbie Williams' contract is up. They addressed the position by signing free agent Travelle Wharton, who will likely start at left guard, but they still need help at right guard. Cordy Glenn could jump in and start from day one and give the Bengals one of the better offensive lines they've had in the last few years. If that offensive line could keep Andy Dalton protected and open holes forBenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals could find themselves pushing for a spot in the playoffs again in 2012.
Related Video: Cordy Glenn Scouting Report
22. Cleveland Browns - Baylor WR Kendall Wright (via Dawgs By Nature):
It might seem unconventional for the Browns to go with two wide receivers in the first round. That was not the ideal case, as the team is without a starting right tackle. Mike Adams was taken earlier than expected, and it is no surprise that Jonathan Martin didn't fall this far. Cleveland could also use an additional pass rusher, but there aren't enough intriguing linebackers remaining worthy of a first-round pick. I don't believe the Browns will take defensive end Nick Perry in round one after drafting a defensive end last year and signing two defensive ends as free agents during the offseason.
The concept of drafting both Blackmon and Wright is one that says, "let's just start over at receiver already." For several years now, the Browns' group of wide receivers has been regarded as one of the worst in football. If the Browns stick with Colt McCoy at quarterback, the only chance he has at growing is if the receivers around him do a better job at getting open. Between Wright, Justin Blackmon, and last year's second round pick Greg Little, Cleveland will have patched the position they were sorely lacking at, and that's just in the first round -- they'll have 11 more picks after this to continue rebuilding the team via the draft.
As tempting as it was to go defensive line in the first round for the Lions for the third year in a row and select somebody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus, I couldn't pass up the chance to improve the Lions' secondary. A year ago, when it was suspected that Janoris Jenkins would go pro, many people had predicted the Lions to take him with the 13th overall pick. Then he decided to stay in school and ultimately landed at North Alabama after being kicked out of Florida.
There are definitely several character concerns surrounding Jenkins, but the Lions have a very strong locker room, especially on defense. There are a lot of leaders on the team who would take Jenkins under their wing, and he is talented enough to select, even with the concerns. He has been compared to Asante Samuel, who the Lions nearly acquired last summer and were briefly linked to at the end of March. Rather than give up a few draft picks and a high salary to trade for Samuel, the Lions' best bet is to draft a player like Jenkins. He would fill a big need at cornerback and immediately improve the Lions' pass defense.
Related Video: Janoris Jenkins Scouting Report
James Farrior is old. Real old. It's a wonder the 36-year old quarterback of Dick LeBeau's defense has been able to play at as high a level as he has in recent years, but it's about time to pass the torch. Lawrence Timmons is quite the talent and still has room for considerable improvement, but I don't think too many fans are confident that he's best suited to be the play caller and extension of LeBeau that is expected of the position. Hightower, however, would be a great fit. He called the plays for Nick Saban's defense last season at Alabama. Though he may be somewhat inexperienced defending the pass in zone schemes, he takes fantastic angles to the ball, so I assume he'll be a quick learn and be ready to take over the reigns as a starter as early as the second part of the 2012 season.
Related Video: Dont'a Hightower Scouting Report
This would probably be some kind of best-case scenario for the Broncos. The board has played out that the only defensive tackle off the board is Fletcher Cox. That seems somewhat unlikely to me, but Cox is not the top DT on my board so for the Broncos, this could be ideal and could result in a move down. From what I've been told, the Broncos would like to trade down if they can, so this would be the ideal scenario to do so. However, it'd be very tough to pass on the talent that Michael Brockers possesses. He is my top-ranked DT this year, and I think he's going to be an absolute stud in the NFL. I read that he was given a late-first to early-second round grade by the draft advisory committee, but based on potential alone I think he is a top 15 grade. At 25 overall, this is a steal and Broncos fans would be dancing and jumping for joy.
Lost in the Texans' defensive improvement last season was that the defense was still weak up the middle against the run, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has ever seen Shaun Cody or Earl Mitchell play. Enter Dontari Poe. While Wade Phillips does not normally use a NT with 2-gap size, he's done so when the talent was available (Ted Washington, Jamal Williams). Poe would give him that talent, but with the added bonus of having the speed and agility to play the 1-gap style that Wade prefers, especially on passing downs. There was some discussion that perhaps the Texans should look at Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry due to the departure of Mario Williams, and there were some concerns about Poe's possibly being a Combine warrior. In the end, however, we simply couldn't pass up improving the NT position with the unreal combination of speed, size, and strength that Poe brings to the table.
Related Video: Dontari Poe Scouting Report
Heading into the 2012 NFL Draft, the Patriots desperately need to add a dynamic pass rusher to their front seven. Mark Anderson, the team's co-leader in sacks in 2011, departed to the division rival Buffalo Bills on a contract that the Patriots determined was too steep to match. His pass rush counterpart from 2011, Andre Carter, remains an unrestricted free agent on the open market, as he is still recovering from a quad injury that landed him on injured reserve late last season.
The Patriots will likely want to add pieces at wide receiver, running back, interior offensive line, and 5-technique at some point in this draft. However, at 27, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus possesses too much value to pass up at a position of need. While some are labeling Mercilus a "one year wonder," there's no denying his talent or explosion as a pass rusher. He is relentless getting after the quarterback, and is always playing all-out in effort (unlike another prospect I considered, Penn State DT/DE Devon Still). He still has some work to go on his technique, but the athleticism and potential are definitely there. He has the size/speed the Patriots look for in their outside linebackers (6'4", 261 lbs, 4.68 40 yard dash), and even if he did not work out as an outside linebacker, he'd still be able to play a majority of the team's snaps in four man fronts and sub-packages. At some point, the Patriots need to take a risk on a pass rusher who has high potential. Mercilus would be the perfect candidate for that.
The Packers are one of those teams that can truly go best player available. With that in mind, it was fair and away Still, who also happens to be a good fit for their 3-4 front. There was no defensive tackle in the nation that played better than Still in 2011. He's a powerful player, but has the arm length and enough athleticism to line up at end.
The Baltimore Ravens need to find a replacement for left guard Ben Grubbs, who bolted for the big bucks in free agency to the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens have mentioned trying last year's 3rd round draft pick, Jah Reid, into that position, one that he has never played before. Ironically, the choice here was between Zeitler and his Wisconsin teammate, center Peter Konz. Konz is leaving college after his junior year and has been recovering from a dislocated ankle that kept him out of the second half of the 2011 season, and disappointed at the Combine in the bench press, putting up only 18 reps. Zeitler, which had 32 reps at the Combine, is a mauler while Konz is more of a wall-off blocker, which is not what the Ravens need in putting a lot of emphasis on the running game. Zeitler led the nation for knockdown blocks with 142 and had 33 blocks that led to touchdowns. This draft pick will be the type that the Ravens "plug-and-play" right away as soon as he hits the team's practice field.
The San Francisco 49ers have put themselves in a position where they can draft with the long-term future in mind, as opposed to getting immediate big production. The 49ers added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss this offseason, but even if they both play well this year, the only receiver signed beyond 2013 is Michael Crabtree. Stephen Hill is a very raw prospect, but the 49ers are in a position where they can develop him without rushing him. At the same time, his performance at the Combine and his YAC this past season show a guy who can make significant contributions at the next level. The 49ers are looking for Moss to stretch the field, but if the veteran receiver shows his age, Hill could be the guy who can stretch things out. Other possibilities at this spot include Coby Fleener, offensive line help, or trading down.
31. New England Patriots - Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes (via Pats Pulpit):
After picking up Illinois defensive end / outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus with the 27th pick, I have the Patriots continuing to upgrade their front seven with the selection of Connecticut defensive lineman Kendall Reyes with the 31st pick. While the Patriots could very well trade out of one of their two first round spots, they have a pressing need to add talent at the 5-technique position this draft. While Brandon Deaderick,Jonathan Fanene, and Ron Brace can start as needed, none have a very high ceiling. Kendall Reyes would offer that for the Patriots. He's got good size (6'4", 299 pounds), athleticism, and work ethic. He could probably jump into the defensive line rotation as an one-gap interior rusher as a rookie, and be a starter at defensive end in the base 3-4 by year two.
32. New York Giants - Wisconsin C Peter Konz (via Big Blue View):
The Giants could go a lot of different ways here: offensive line, wide receiver, running back, linebacker, and cornerback. Konz seemingly doesn't fill the need for an offensive tackle, but he is the best offensive lineman and best value left on the board. Giants GM Jerry Reese is all about value, so Konz is the choice. Besides, he could end up starting at left guard.