For those of you who don't know, here are the rules of a Witty Mock Draft:
1) It all revolves around what Tampa Bay does. I don't care about the rest of you, your teams can draft Punters in the First for all I care. All that matters is that Tampa Bay drafts the way I SEE IT. bwha.
2) When in doubt, draft Offensive Line
3) When you doubt the need for Offensive Line, draft Defensive Line
There. That should help.
WARNING: This mock draft contains what might possibly be the craziest trade situation in the history of Mocking The Draft. It may cause irritability, coughing fits, nausea, rage, and an uncontrollable urge to reach through the Intertubes to strangle me. As such, I probably won't be logging on much after I post this for the next week... or month...
So. After the jump, the mockery begins:
1. Cleveland Browns (trade with Indianapolis) - QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
This is based on the premise that Peyton Manning stays with Indy at least one more year, maybe two. While Luck may be a sure-fire QB selection off the bat, Indy has more dire needs at other spots that a First Rounder pick could fill: keeping Luck on the bench 1-2 years diminishes the value of this pick. Meanwhile, I'm wagering that St. Louis is going to be asking for too much to teams desperate to trade up to get QB Griffin at the 2. spot, so all Indy has to do is quietly offer a decent trade (switching Firsts, picking up a team's Second and later round picks this draft, maybe getting a Second (or even First) from next year's draft) to a team that can afford to make such a deal. Cleveland is a team - they have TWO First Round picks this year - that can afford to make such a deal: and they are in the market for a franchise QB (again). Meanwhile, Indy only moves down a few spots, stuns everyone else with the move, and picks up more draft spots to fill needs across the board.
2. St. Louis Rams - OT Ryan Kalil, USC
While the Indy trade is gonna be a stunner, and will most likely get other teams eager to draft Griffin - Washington, Miami, maybe even Seattle - desperate to trade up... as I said earlier, St. Louis may well be asking too much in a trade, and will be stuck using this pick. Since they have a franchise QB already in Stafford, they'll be getting the next best draft value: a franchise Left Tackle to protect said QB.
3. Washington Redskins (trade with Minnesota) - QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
They'll either win a trade war with Miami, or Miami won't be in the mix if they get QB Flynn from the Packers during FA; which reduces the number of QB-hungry teams fighting over Griffin. While Tampa at the fifth overall won't be dealing for a QB, Washington may be worried that Indy now at the fourth overall could either pick up Griffin (instead of Luck) or trade even further down (it can happen).
4. Indianapolis Colts (trade with Cleveland) - WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.
While there are a few weapons on offense still, we're talking about an aging WR corps that may lose Reggie Wayne over the FA period. Keeping Peyton means making sure he's got someone to throw to that can scare the crap out of opposing defenses. Blackmon is the best available WR this year.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
For all you haters out there thinking running back is a sore need, I gotta tell ya: OUR SECONDARY SUCKS. IT SUCKS BLUE WHALE. IT SUCKS LIKE A BLACK HOLE THAT IS POWERING GOD'S VACUUM CLEANER. Gasp. Okay. I'm calm now. The biggest reason the Bucs' offense was terrible last season was that our coaches kept relying on the wrong personnel for the wrong schemes. And by season's end the Bucs were getting down so early that sticking to a running game was meaningless. Another consideration: getting a starting RB is easier in the later rounds (at best by Third Round) than it is getting a starting CB. Claiborne is one of the top corners this year.
6. Minnesota Vikings (trade with Washington) - CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
One reason why the Vikes could afford to trade down was that either Claiborne or Kirkpatrick would be here at the sixth overall spot. The team has serious woes on defense that kept them from securing wins in the Second Half of games, and beefing up the secondary goes a long way toward fixing that.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Figuring out what Jacksonville needs was one of my toughest picks. Need at WR is there but no receiver past Blackmon is a value at this pick. Corner is a need but Claiborne and Kirkpatrick are both off the boards in my mock, and again there's no CB of value at this point. The next need scouts are focusing on is at Defensive Line, especially Ends, even though the Jags picked DL early the last two years. I'm gonna go with the scouts on this, mostly because after the crazy trades I've already predicted I don't see any other teams trading up in desperation for anybody.
8. Miami Dolphins - OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
Phin fans better hope Miami gets a QB like Flynn via Free Agency before the draft, because their best option for QB once Luck and Griffin are off the board is trading down (and as I said with the Jags, once the top QBs are gone I don't see other teams desperate enough to trade up). They can do the next best thing, which is signing a franchise-caliber Left Tackle for the O-line to protect whichever QB they will have in 2012. This is also a need, as talent is weak on the line and they may lose players to FA.
9. Carolina Panthers - OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
The first instinct of any team with a franchise rookie QB (hi, Cam!) is to build around said QB in the following draft, either with O-line improvements or getting weapons at WR or RB to help. Carolina's problem last season wasn't with the offense however; it was defense. Giving up a ton of rushing yards means either beefing up the D-line or LB corps. Upshaw may be the best value pick at this spot on the boards, and can anchor that LB corps for the next 5-7 years.
10. Buffalo Bills - OLB/DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Buffalo needs help on the defense, and word is they're shifting their scheme to 4-3. Either way, getting a hybrid outside guy like Ingram fits either OLB or DE pretty well.
11. Kansas City Chiefs - OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
Chiefs need to beef up their O-line. Reiff can fit either Left or Right Tackle spot (at this value on the board, he better fit on the Left!), and is the best available OT left on the boards.
12. Seattle Seahawks - MLB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
Seattle may be in play for QB, but failing to trade up for Luck/Griffin the smart move is to wait here and get defensive help. Especially as the team can lose a player or two from their LB corps. Hightower is someone who could play middle or outside, depending on which need is highest on Draft Night.
13. Arizona Cardinals - OT Mike Adams, Ohio St
Arizona has a few glaring needs (CB and LB), but overall improvement to the O-line is the major step. Adams is the best LOT left on the boards.
14. Dallas Cowboys - CB Stephen Gilmore, South Carolina
It's possible Gilmore may be off the boards when the real draft rolls around, as he's the best value pick for Cornerback after Claiborne and Kirkpatrick. Janoris Jenkins may be more talented but he's also more of an off-field liability. And Dallas seriously needs more character guys on the roster.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
DeSean Jackson could well be gone to greener (money) pastures. There's always the possibility that Wright benefited from being in the same offense as Heisman winner Griffin, but Wright does have talent and does fit a need.
16. New York Jets - DT/DE Michael Brockers, LSU
If there's any trading activity at this point in the draft, it would be the Jets trading down if all the top DEs or OLBs are off the boards at this point. Rex Ryan likes his pass-rushers on defense, and help on the outside may be a bigger priority than the DT or MLB spots. However, Ryan may be forced to go with a DT here but will go with the one that can play like a DE, and that means Brockers. I expect the Jets to try to shift him to the DE spot and see if that works.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
While Mel Kiper and 10,000 other mockers may bemoan the fate that a Heisman-caliber RB slips this far in the draft, my response is LIGHTEN UP FRANCIS. Running backs in the modern NFL are interchangable: they get shifted in and out more often than WRs, fer crying out loud. While Richardson is a threat to run as well as receive in screens (and can block if needed), most of the teams earlier in this draft were well enough with RB depth (yes, even Tampa Bay, shut up Mel!) that they could wait for later rounds to fill the RB need. Cincy is the first team on the board with a serious need at RB to boost a young-but-talented offense.
18. San Diego Chargers - MLB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
San Diego has an aging and questionable linebacker corps at the moment, and getting best available MLB at this point would help.
19. Chicago Bears - WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
I'm not too sure which WRs are best past Blackmon (I went with Wright earlier because of the "glow" of being on a Baylor unit graced by Griffin), so this is pure speculation from here on. Chicago's got a lot more needs elsewhere (the O-line still needs help), but they've got a serious lack of weapons at the WR corps. Floyd may be the best fit here... at the moment.
20. Tennessee Titans - OG David DeCastro, Stanford
Tennessee may have needs with Defensive End but for some reason I've got in my head that their Offensive Line have needs as well, and this is where getting best-available Guard makes a ton of sense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - OT/OG Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
While the Bengals have the benefit of two First Rounders to where they can use any pick here for an indulgence at other positions - say on defense - what I said earlier about teams wanting to build around their franchise rookie QB fits here. Cincy will want to beef up their O-line to give both QB Dalton and just-drafted RB Richardson the time and space to make their big plays.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) - WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina
If Cleveland was smart in their trade-up to get Luck, it was holding onto this pick and not trade it away to Indy (they'll have coughed up later round picks instead). Even if they don't trade up or get a rookie QB and are still with Colt McCoy, the team has a need for WR, and Jones is one of the names left on the board that doesn't have major question marks (sorry, Ash Jeffrey).
23. Detroit Lions - OT/OG Corey Glenn, Georgia
Is this team ready to draft this late in the First? Just kidding. If you glance back at past year's mocks - outside of the no-brainer pick for Suh - you might see a lot of mockers saying Detroit's gotta draft an OT early (and/or often). Especially because their QB gets abused like a pinata. Glenn is the best available OT on the boards at this point, and while he may be a better fit at Guard they should at least try him at Tackle first...
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - DT Devon Still, North Carolina
Steelers gotta start thinking about their aging defensive line. What's the status on Casey Hampton, anyway? While need at CB and O-line is here as well.
25. Denver Broncos - DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
For all the griping about THE TEBOW struggling at QB, the Broncos' real problem was with a porous defense. Get a stingier defensive line going, and opposing offenses won't score more than 24 points (and give THE TEBOW time to move the ball and score 27 points...).
26. Houston Texans - DE/DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St
For once, Houston doesn't have glaring needs... unless they lose people to Free Agency. This is a pick that can go in any direction, but beefing up the D-line never hurts, especially if you can improve the DT spot so DE Mario Williams can have more fun.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - OLB Nick Perry, USC
At this point, the Pats can draft for best available defensive player across the board and not feel bad about it. They could go with CB here but the best available is Janoris Jenkins at this point and unless Belichek is convinced Jenkins won't be a distraction I don't see him going here.
28. Green Bay Packers - DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
The only real need Green Bay has is with their defensive line (depending on how FA rolls). There's been problems keeping their DEs healthy so getting best available End works. Mercilus has been ranked higher on draft boards, but I have him slipping because the earlier teams had need for either DT and DE, so I had the hybrid guys like Brockers go early.
29. Baltimore Ravens - MLB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona St
Baltimore didn't look like a team with too many glaring holes, so it depends on FA (as always) to see where major holes develop. Either way, Ravens have to be thinking of what the post-Ray Lewis era is looking like, so getting a solid inside Linebacker like Burfict makes some sense here.
30. San Francisco 49ers - WR Ashlond Jeffrey, South Carolina
Now that they got Alex Smith to function like a QB, he's gonna need more weapons. Best available receiver at this spot is the best bet.
31. New England Patriots - CB Chase Minniefield, Virginia
Need at Corner is there, and I still don't think any team is going to risk a First Rounder on Jenkins...
32. New York Giants - WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
The Giants are certain to lose WR Mario Manningham to free agency, so getting best available WR works here. There's always the possibility of beefing up the O-line (something I say to all the Super Bowl winners, just because...)
So what do you think, sirs?